Saturday, 4 February 2012

Casbah Roadhouse

Today Joburg Photowalkers went Art Décor hunting in the East Rand. Why the east? Well in the 30s when the world was reeling by the Great Depression and started dropping the Gold Standard, money from the changing from gold flowed to the heart of the gold mining, Johannesburg’s East Rand. So the streets were literally paved with gold while the rest of the world went deeper into depression. Lots of immigrants especially from the eastern European regions flowed into the new towns of Boksburg, Benoni, Brakpan and Springs. With money readily available and shackles of imperialism broken the new immigrants started experimenting with the new form of architecture, Art Décor long before the rest of the world caught on a decade or two later.

The Joburg Photowalkers met at the gateway to the east, East Gate Mall and headed to Benoni as its Art Décor Town Hall was a good place to start as any. For readers who are not familiar with South Africa, they might know Benoni as the hometown of Hollywood movie star Charlize Theron but what intrigues me more about this town is the fact that it is the only town in the world ever to be bombed by its own air force. Yes in the 1922 Miner’s Revolt, the South African Air Force was sent in twice to bomb the miners. The revolt, led by the South African Communist party was too soon after the Russian Revolution, put fear into the the South African government and they left justified in crashing it out with a heavy hand but the revolt dragged on for a year. This Rooi Gevaar or Red Threat would surface again in the 80s as Russia started in crouching ever closer with Angola and Mozambique falling to the communists.

After visiting a number of places in Benoni, we then headed to Springs which is farther east to look at the Art Décor buildings there. The Central Fire Station was very impressive with its dragons as part of the design. I will post a few more images online on my Facebook album early next week. We ended our Art Décor tour of the east at the well known original Casbah Roadhouse in Brakpan. Although not Art Décor, the Casbah was started here in 1955 by an immigrant family and they never looked back with the family opening up Casbah Roadhouses Alberton, Wemmer Pan, Johannesburg, Malvern, Benoni, Vereeniging, Krugersdorp and Port Elizabeth. I am not sure about all the others but the original Casbah is still operational but not family owned.

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