The Mason Family
Memories of the Mason family
Gillian Mason writes as follows
My husband's memories as a child growing up in Parktown North go back to a time when the only tarred roads in Craighall Park were Jan Smuts Ave and Buckingham. He seems to recall that Jan Smuts Ave used to be known as the Pretoria Rd.
We recall, in the mid-40s when Parkhurst was being developed for returning 2nd WW servicemen, that was when they started tarring the streets and installing street lights and waterborne sewerage in Parktown North and Craighall Park. Previously, without the facility of service lanes as in Parkview and Norwood, night carts drawn by mules used to carry the waste. As a young lad my husband learnt to swim in the Braamfontein Spruit, had kleilat wars with the "hooligans" from Linden and stole fruit from the many small orchards in Craighall Park.
There was a large pond in what is now the Hugh Wyndham Park, big enough for the local kids to paddle home-made corrugated iron canoes on. The pond was fed by a stream from higher up in Dunkeld and has now been canalised underground, but still exists below Buckingham flowing through private properties until it can be seen in the park area below Deansgate Home, joining the Braamfontein Spruit lower downstream. This was the boys' favourite place for "birding" and collecting clay. This stream also has no name; maybe there should be another stream-naming competition.
We moved into our house in May 1964 (one could buy a property for less than R10 000, although some smarter houses were selling for as much as R20 000 in Craighall Park and R35 000 in Craighall which was regarded as a lot more up-market). There were many simple little farm houses along Buckingham, all in line at the northern end of the south facing properties, built of mudbrick with walls as thick as 50cm at the base and tapering somewhat as they rose; some still exist as out-buildings and even as part of new extensions. The roofs were of corrugated iron imported from Wolverhampton in the UK via Delagoa Bay during the time of the Transvaal Republic (in Paul Kruger's time) and presumably transported to Jhburg by the old ZASM. This was borne out by markings/labellings inside the original old corrugated roofing of our house. I have wondered often if these were market gardener's homes, as the land sloped down to the aforementioned river and the soil is dark and deep and must have been ideal for the growing of vegetables.
When we came to live here, there were many trees, but mostly fairly young and the suburb was much sunnier than now. An old avenue of acacias in Buckingham is all but gone, many of the huge trees falling in heavy rains over the years, due to their shallow rooting system and large lower branches.
In about 1965 -69 - I cannot be sure of the time - I think it was John Massey, the well-known pianist, who built a number of houses on speculation on the south side of Buckingham Ave off the corner of Norfolk Ave. Shortly thereafter excessive rains brought the little stream from Dunkeld down in flood and the new houses were deluged with water pouring down the street over the pavement and down through the buildings. I remember the owners carrying sodden carpets and furniture out to try and dry rain-soaked belongings in the sun. The property on the eastern corner of Buckingham and Norfolk Aves where they join used to be almost hidden under heavy growth of water-loving plants until the river was contained, when a house was built and new garden developed.
Many residents will recall the rather scruffy little group of shops in Grafton Ave off Roxburgh where Mr and Mrs Bocus had a small butchery on the corner which changed hands after they left and both died, becoming a fishmonger amongst others. The horsemeat butcher was never a pleasant aspect of the area. This was at the opposite end and next door to a cafe which was also never very popular. Mr and Mrs da Costa ran the little greengrocer there for many years; he would sell one a single carrot if that was what one wanted. He died and somehow the whole place sank into dejected neglect before a new developer moved in and made the pleasant little centre we know.
On the subject of vegetables, when we first came into the suburb, I used to buy our greens from a moving shop in the shape of a truck with sides which could drop down to display the wares. We fondly called this our vegetable Sammy, but the Indian owner's real name one never knew. He would drive through the streets and call and we would go out and meet him and buy our weekly greens, probably costing no more than what one might pay for a day's supply now.