The way forward out of the depression

In the 1930’s Alberton was still growing with confidence and with the water scheme officially opened, residents enjoyed a lavish celebration with a matinee at the movies for the children, a dance for the adults and a formal dinner at the Hotel Alexandra in Germiston for special guests. The cost of all this was 31 pounds.

Although the great depression only drew to a close in 1933, Alberton was experiencing an upswing.

The committee acquired their first motorised vehicle, a tractor, in 1927 (the same year a telephone was installed in their offices) and found this an asset to the town – ideal for road making in the steep rocky areas of the town. Before this, the road grader, roller and water cart was pulled by horses, and the tractor was a huge improvement. Despite the improvement, it took the chairman of the Health Committee, Mr WT Lever (who was also the manager of Germiston Municipal Bus Service), two years to persuade the committee to invest in a truck. Towards the end of 1930, he was authorised to by a Ford lorry on their behalf. The total cost to this purchase was 282 pounds, eight shillings and three pence, including extras, interest and insurance. The monthly payment of 13 pounds 10 shillings was more than double the salary that some family men brought home at that time.

Vehicles in Alberton:

Although the committee owned two vehicles, one should not assume that Alberton was a town which had its streets filled with cars. There was Dr Trant’s motorbike, and no doubt Mr Atmore needed a lorry or two for his Torch Company, or Mr Krogh for his butchery. The Post Office was probably served by a motor vehicle, and there was Johnson’s Bus Service between Alberton and Germiston.

Mr Overbury of Overbury’s Shop was the first man in Alberton to own a motorcar, but that was back in 1918. Mr Johannes Cornelius van Bergen, also a pioneer in Alberton and early choirmaster, was the second.

Then there was Ds Stander as the third. A little interesting snippet about Ds Stander is the he was shot in the head during the 1914 rebellion and lost his licence to perform marriages as a result of his involvement, but regained it after an appeal by the public.

Park Garage:

In 1931 Mr Lever was rooting out his fruit trees and replaced them with petrol pumps and Park Garage saw the light of day as the first filling station in Alberton, situated on the northern-most street near the railway station.

Men before women:

The committee’s long devoted secretary, Rex McDade, died and Miss Vermeulen stepped back into the gap for two months. before Mr Nicholson got the job and Miss Vermeulen went back to be an assistant.

Financially things must have been on the upside for Alberton, since the town acquired a caterpillar tractor in 1932 for which the bill of 390 pounds was settled in one payment. During this time increases for the secretary and his assistant was recorded, and the town started an attempt to involve themselves to assist the unemployed and the destitute. Despite the positive trend, the depression was not yet over and the committee decided not to give Christmas bonuses, but rather engage four more men on relief work for another month.

First informal settlements:

More and more black women were seen in Alberton’s streets as domestic workers and in 1935, two local farmers just outside Alberton’s boundaries provided housing for their labourers on non-arable land. These soon grew to rambling informal settlements as the hungry and homeless came in search of employment.

While people celebrated the right of white women to cast their votes in 1936, black women in the Alberton district experienced their first forced removals.

The Health Committee purchased 45 morgen of land as a site for a black location. Farthing fails to mention what facilities, if any, were provided on this land, nor its exact location, but it became the official black township.

The spontaneous settlements on neighbouring farms were demolished and any ‘unauthorised’ residents were loaded onto lorries and carted off to Hammanskraal Bantu Reserve way beyond Pretoria.

Village Council:

Towards the end of 1936 the local authority was upgraded to a predominantly Afrikaans speaking Village Council and the town began to expand. The suburb Florentia (named after Cornelis Floris Meyer) was proclaimed and Parklands and New Redruth followed. A new town hall was in progress by 1938, designed by the architect of the Voortrekker Monument, Gerhard Moerdyk, and the Voortrekker centenary celebrations dominated civic consciousness. Street names were changed to honour Voortrekker heroes and Trekker titles sprang up wherever possible.

In counterbalance, the English speaking community stuck to the ultra-English street names in the suburb New Redruth and the Rand Sporting Club’s new premises opened in 1938. Built to replace the Newclare Race Cource, they gave this the name Newmarket. The agricultural holdings across the road had street names extolling a British horse-racing heritage.

Alberton was granted authority to raise in status to Town Council in 1939.

*Taken from An Alberton Album, published by the Alberton Town Council 1997

*Taken from An Alberton Album, published by the Alberton Town Council 1997

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