Read of the Week

Forgotten Cape Town

Researched by: Tony Grogan

Don Nelson Publishers

Review: Brian Joss

One of the rare photographs dated 1912, in this book subtitled, A Visual History of Cape Town 1850 to 1950, that intrigued me, was of a well-staffed bookstand at the old station including the number of different newspaper titles available to readers.

Among them The Star (“the Journal of the North”), The Cape Argus and The Week-End Argus (“the Success of the Century”) and the Town and Country Journal, a weekly paper. On the same spread there are two other images: bibliophiles browsing at a second-hand bookstall on the Grand Parade and another of a buzzing Grand Parade, which on a Wednesday became a thriving market for everything from flowers to evangelists preaching fire and brimstone to anyone who would listen.

The frenetic activity shown in the pictures makes you forget that in those days the Mother City was a place of calm. When there was no gridlocked traffic and Melkbosstrand was a remote coastal farm called de Melkbosch.

Forgotten Cape Town is a visual history down memory lane and while the scenery has certainly changed, you may recognise some of the buildings that still exist today. The Green Point Common has been replaced by the Urban Park and the old sports arena has been replaced by the Cape Town Stadium. One picture dated 1947 shows how the face of Cape Town has changed in the past 60 years.

There is no sign of the massive apartment blocks in Sea Point and Mouille Point, in the distance is the unspoilt Blaauwberg coastline.

Chapters are City Bowl, Atlantic Seaboard and West Coast, Southern Suburbs and South Peninsula. The foreword is by the Wanderer, David Biggs and the 334 pictures were chosen from the National Library of South Africa, the Western Cape Archives and Arthur Elliot and AG Howard collections.

In producing this volume, Grogan, an author, artist and cartoonist (Crack of Dawn), has ensured that Forgotten Cape Town will be remembered with fondness. It’s a valuable addition to the history of the Mother City.