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Battle of the Books

Wagon-tracks and Orchards Early Days in Sandton, Juliet Marais Louw: Pictura Africana Series, published by AD.Donker, 1976. Juliet Marais Louw was the sister of  the prolific author , Eric Rosenthal and also wrote popular local social history.  She died in 2001, aged 90  , her lifespan marked huge changes in her city . She was a well known teacher in Johannesburg and lived on a farm in Sandown.  The charm of this book is that it was published when Sandton had just emerged as a "new municipality, north of Johannesburg" and tells the personal story of an early era of a rural remote community of homesteads and farm houses where independent , tough pioneers made a sociable life around cattle, chickens and children. The Driefontein farm and the Wilhelmi family appeals because the farmstead remains today , when there is so little to connect modern Sandton to its country life style roots. Filled with numerous black and white photographs this book is nostalgic and romantic. Who would have guessed,  even 50 years ago that Sandown and Bryanston would become the hub of the new Johannesburg of hotels, malls , banks and high rise office blocks?  

2015 Guide Price: R300 second hand book sources, fairly rare.  



When Johannesburg and I were Young, Juliet Marais Louw: Amagi  Books, 1991.  This is an appealing personal memoir about the Rosenthal family, written from a child's perspective, by the daughter of the family,  Juliet, who was born in Johannesburg in 1910. She writes as an adult looking back on her upbringing in a close knit  talented family through wartime trials and tribulations and peacetime prosperity. Her parents arrived as immigrants from Germany after the Boer War. Memories of life and schooling in Yeoville, Brixton,  Parkview and Emmarentia span the decades before 1930 and give a fascinating glimpse of early Johannesburg life for a middle class, professional, aspiring  family. The black and white photographs of Raleigh St, Yeoville, Observatory, Parkview, the old Park Station mix well with portrait and snapshot photos from the Rosenthal family album .  

2015 price guide: R200  readily available in second hand bookstores



I prefer the Johannesburg to the Sandton volume as it has become a classic memoir of an early 20th century Johannesburg childhood.  You can still find the streets , houses , schools that Juliet knew. The Sandton volume is story of the people and a community lifestyle that disappeared two generations ago. However,  the photographs of an early local photographer and resident Max Weber make the Sandton book a valuable record.

Kathy Munro is an Honorary Associate Professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at the University of the Witwatersrand. She enjoyed a long career as an academic and in management at Wits University. She trained as an economic historian. She is an enthusiastic book person and has built her own somewhat eclectic book collection over 40 years. Her interests cover Africana, Johannesburg history, history, art history, travel, business and banking histories.  She researches and writes on historical architecture and heritage matters. She is a member of the Board of the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation and is a docent at the Wits Arts Museum. She is currently working on a couple of projects on Johannesburg architects and is researching South African architects, war cemeteries and memorials. Kathy is a member of the online book community the Library thing and recommends this cataloging website and worldwide network as a book lover's haven.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 20:45
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