The final part of my trip into the Johannesburg CBD was to venture to the Carlton Centre and go to the 50th floor. I had been there once before, possibly shortly after it opened, but that was years ago and I hadn’t been near the Carlton Centre in years. The demographics of this area had changed and I suspect most of the shops that used to be in here have long closed. My mother even worked at the Garlics store before it too shut its doors.
The Carlton Centre, was considered to be THE shopping centre in JHB, it boasted an indoor skating rink, 5 star hotel, 50 story office block and numerous shops and boutiques. Due for completion in 1971, a 5 acre hole was excavated, and over a million tons of rock was removed. Throughout the construction of the centre we were able to view progress at the site when we paid our periodic visits to the bioscope in town. At the time it was one of the biggest construction projects in the world
When I got to the Carlton I was shocked at how busy it was. If anything it was even busier now than when I was young, and the mix of shops was more realistic instead of a heap of high class boutiques and specialist dealers. Those had long departed to the rarified air of Sandton City and Fourways. It only cost R15 for an adult and a swift trip in that high speed lift and suddenly I was 50 storeys up.
I attempted panoramic shots, but the scope of the area in front of me was huge and I then decided to grab bite sized shots instead. It is much easier after all. The view in all directions is magnificent, and I felt a perverse pleasure when I remembered seeing this building with a helipad on top of it in the movie “District 9”.
The weather was quite hazy and not as clear as I would have liked, and naturally there was the problem of grimy windows, reflections and nose prints to contend with. But they are not insurmountable.
Then it was time to head off home. My tasks completed, 2 sets of batteries flat and 391 photographs taken. It had been a mammoth mission.
I suspect many people will say “yes but….”
There are many things I can say about Johannesburg. It is not the city of our childhood. It is a different city, but a familiar one. You can find new discoveries behind every corner, and old memories on every block. Traffic is still chaos, parking is still scarce and many buildings are bricked up. However, the oldies are still standing, many in beautiful conditions. The Main Street area is spotless, Beyers Naude Square is beautiful, the pavements are crowded, and taxis rampage up and down. But I feel an odd sense of satisfaction after my trip. It’s as if I visited an old relative that I hadn’t seen in 25 years and discovered that they are older, but still young, and after a few minutes it all came back to me. I do however suggest that you do venture forth in a group, because there is always safety in numbers and you can share your experiences, once you feel more confident you may even be able to venture boldly where you haven’t been in years. And smile, because the people will smile back.