102 years ago, when the so-called “Spanish Flu” arrived in South Africa, there was no national health department, and no official guidance on what to do. By mid-October the death rate was so high that town councils decided to close cinemas and schools. Some schools, such as Benoni Central School, Vogelfontein school in Boksburg, and the Springs government school were converted into emergency hospitals to treat the overflow of patients who could not be accommodated in official hospitals.
On 5 May 2018, a small group of about 20 people gathered at Rynsoord Cemetery in Benoni to remember Esther Henry/Eaton who passed away on 11 January 1943 at her residence, “The Firs,” Main Road, Benoni. A plaque was unveiled in remembrance of the Benoni pioneer who was separated by law from her husband, George William (Bill) Eaton in death.
In the previous article the origin, course and outcome of the 1922 Rand Revolt were discussed (click here to read). In this follow-up article, some of the surviving sites from this event are reviewed.
In Fordsburg, passersby hurry through a nondescript market square bordered by Albertina Sisulu, Dolly Radebe, Mint and Central Roads, quite unaware it marks the final stronghold of armed strikers during the 1922 Rand Revolt.
Known as the 1922 Miners’ Strike, Rand Revolt or even Red Revolt, occurring merely five years after the Bolsheviks seized power in Russia, it remains the greatest violent political upheaval on the Witwatersrand (Rand).
Perhaps you recall the 1980s advert, ‘Where did you have your first Campari? – in Benoni.’ That was well before Charlize Theron made Benoni famous.
Well, you do not have to be a taphophile (someone who takes an interest in cemeteries and tombstones) or require a taste for Campari to visit the Rynsoord Benoni Cemetery.
There is a pub/hostelry in Benoni on the site where the original gold rush started in this region, now 6 km east of the Benoni City Centre. The Chimes Tavern was obviously built as a watering hole for the many expat miners that came to seek their fortunes. It was built in 1889 which makes it 127 years old (as of August 2016) and is thus one of the oldest pubs in South Africa, north of the Cape Province.
1922 is often seen as the year that South Africa teetered on the brink of civil war. Fighting broke out across the Rand following a dispute between mine owners and workers. The crisis only ended after martial law was declared and bombs fell from the sky. If you are ever looking for something to do on a Saturday afternoon why not take a drive and recreate a few of the scenes from this turbulent time. The following driving tour was created by the team from the Johannesburg Historical Foundation (now defunct) in the 1990s.
A few years ago we were involved in a battle to save historic Nedbank documents that were being thrown away by the company. For a while the future of the documents looked bleak but thankfully the story had a happy ending when top Nedbank executives got involved. The documents were moved to the Sandton head office and the execs committed to hire an archivist to go through the collection. The execs also committed to let the community know what was found and what would then be done with the documents.*
In 2009 local businessman Gerrit van der Stelt stumbled across a small demolition notice attached to a boundary wall of the highly significant Tait House in Benoni. What followed was a desperate struggle by the community to preserve the historic home. The Heritage Portal is happy to report that not only is the house still standing but it could also become a powerful symbol of the ability of old and new to coexist and thrive.