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Demolition of Businesses PDF Print E-mail
Prior to the forced relocation of thousands of people under the Group Areas Act, business in South End flourished. Many businesses were already well-established and had, in fact, become hallmarks of a particular neighbourhood. One example of this is the Gresham Steam Laundry – a business that Dispersal of South Endstarted as a simple, semi-detached wooden-iron structure at No. 76 Upper Valley Road, South End. The business was purchased by Reuben Seluan George in 1900 and was quickly built up to the point where it became one of the leading laundry firms in the Eastern Cape. It laundered for all of the larger hotels in the area, as well as the Army and Navy during World War II. At the height of business, the Gresham Steam Laundry employed 60 people and acquired 10 panel vans and 4 motor cars. It would have made sense to encourage such profitable trade to continue. But, instead, the government chose to expropriate the property and business under the terms of the Group Areas Act, forcing the Gresham Steam Laundry to shut down on 19 May 1966.

Gresham Steam Laundry was not the only business to suffer. Though it had very humble beginnings, Makans had grown to the extent that it had become a landmark in Walmer Road. Originally a cobbler, the shop owner later managed to purchase rejects from Mobs, California and other shoe factories. He then repaired and sold these at a good price. In time, he was able to branch out into other items of clothing and slowly build an empire. At the height of his career, Makans owned four shops and sold shoes and clothing for adults and children. Unfortunately, all that is left of this legacy today are the photographs of the shop front taken some time before the business was destroyed.

Most businessmen suffered terrible financial losses shortly after the Group Areas Act forced the majority of their customers into areas that were so far removed from their business premises that it made it almost impossible for them to continue to support the shopkeepers. In due time, the businesses that did not close as a result of this were told to move to more appropriate areas. Many business owners realised that reopening would be useless and so many businesses never bothered trying. Those that had previously depended on the ocean for their livelihoods now found themselves forced to live too far away from viable access points to continue to make a living off of selling fish. Thus, they now had to find new means of employment. Many of the people employed by factories, hotels and other establishments found that commuting to work became almost impossible and very expensive. It was a time of great anxiety for the people of the city.

Nevertheless, original South Enders remained to be very enterprising and they worked hard to keep living despite the circumstances that had been forced upon them. Under what came to be known as Separate Development, they continued to conduct business and trade and eke out a living.

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