Taking a walk down memory lane

New Year‘s Day in Claremont in the 1960s typically saw families gathered in Second Avenue with their camping chairs and food to watch the coons in their colourful splendour and celebrate the new year.

“Those were the good days,” said Salegga Mustapha, while going through old photographs of her family in Claremont, which she hopes to put on display at the upcoming Claremont Histories reunion.

“It was fun. The guy who stayed on the corner (of York Road), Pops, had his own coons group who were in the parade. The ‘Atchas’ would run in the street and scare us. We were scared of them but it is a lot of fun,” said Ms Mustapha, casting her mind back to those times.

She and her family were among those forcefully removed from the area in the 1970s under apartheid’s Group Areas Act.

Her eyes glistened as she recalled the joy of living in Claremont before her world was torn apart.

Ms Mustapha, now 70, was born in York Road and shared a home with her parents and eight other siblings. However, she said, the family stretched into the community as everyone’s home became your home and families ensured that their neighbours were taken care of.

“If someone went on maternity leave, my mother would make extra food for that family. We were reared to help our people, your children was my children. It wasn’t about money. We were thrown out of the area when I was 24; it really broke up society.

“Today we complain about problems in poor areas, but people were displaced, they were far from work and schools and the atmosphere of being a close community was broken,” said Ms Mustapha, with her hands clenched.

“A lot of people didn’t make a plan and were sent to Lavender Hill or Hanover Park. The old people cried. They were losing each other. My dad got us a place in Wetton. We were forced to accept R3 000 for the house. It is still there and it looks the same as it used to.”

The house, she said, was now owned by an estate agency.

“The rent is R6 000 a month. They’re making its worth over and over again. I haven’t been inside the house again,” said Ms Mustapha.

She spoke of a small “bubby” convenience store called Holiday’s with a nearby lane where young couples would sneak off to “smooch”.

She also spoke of a row of flats called “Langrye” which, she said, had been a bit “deurmekaar”.

“If you saw police drive down the road you knew they’re going to Langrye and that there is drama there. When it was coon times, they were the happiest of people,” said Ms Mustapha with a smile.

She and members of the Claremont Histories group have sponsored a reunion for the former residents of Claremont, former pupils of Livingstone High School, as well as those with connections to Claremont before the removals.

It will be held at Rooikrantz Sport and Recreation Centre, on the corner of Italian Road and Rooikrantz Avenue, Grassy Park, on Saturday May 13. It will be a chance to socialise, reminisce and reconnect for those who lost their homes and communities.

Contact Faye Alkana at 074 994 7440 or visit
www.claremonthistories.co.za/home.html for more information.