The beginnings of Johannesburg are a world away and yet yesterday. When John Wentzel’s family moved in 1909 to The Towers in the Valley Road, Parktown (three miles from the city centre), they moved to the country. The author has unearthed records of the early dealings of Hermann Eckstein and the Braamfontein Estate Company, showing the origins of Parktown and nearby suburbs and that man-made forest, the Sachsenwald. He describes the building of such great houses as Hohenheim, Pallinghurst, Glenshiel, Northwards, Brenthurst, Dolobran, on the northern ridges, these houses, set like diamonds in a tiara, that were to become the focal points of Johannesburg’s social life, and his own childhood among the colourful company that inhabited them.
Here with childhood’s sharply recalled detail, is an urbane, humorous, yet nostalgic survey of the robust days on the Rand in the first quarter of the century, the years of the First World War and the Armistice, the excitement for a small boy of the 1922 Revolt, his pleasure in music hall and early talkies, live Houdini and the extravagant spectacles that a mining town demanded as a relief from the squalor and hardships of its daily living.
The Towers has vanished now, under the M1 (John Wentzel makes a plea for the preservation of at least some of the past, and he himself has most vividly preserved in his book the very flavour of those years.
Authored by John Wentzel and published by David Philips Publishers of Cape Town in 1975. Hard cover bound this First Edition copy is in Very Good condition, covered in plastic. Dust jacket is slightly frittered along top edge and rubbed along rear hinge, closed chips 20×20, 16×7 mm. Book is starting to brown from outside edges inwards. The size of the book is 249x184x13mm. Illustrated throughout with photographs in black & white and sepia.