used to be a special school train carrying only scholars to their homes in
Northern Rhodesia. The journey
from Bulawayo to Broken Hill took a day and a half to cover the 600 miles.
When the train stopped at the various stations on route, the whole
population of that area was there to meet the train.
What excitement there was! As
we grew older towards the end of our schooling, we used to help in the store
(not always fun). On returning to school, we always took with us well-filled
tuck boxes! Our pocket money was 10/- per month. I left school (St.
George’s, Bulawayo) at the end of 1924 to attend an engineering course in
my return to Broken Hill, I started my apprenticeship on the mine.
I spent a year in the drawing office before going out in the workshop
where I completed my training and became a qualified tradesman early in the
was well respected in Broken Hill, and it was a proud day for him indeed
when he was accepted in the local Masonic Lodge.
He never refused any request for charity, and was inclined to be a
bit easy in granting credit to customers. In those days, all your business
was done on credit. There was
one occasion when the railway workers went on strike and were out of action
for a considerable time and many could not pay their monthly accounts. But Dad never turned a single one away during that period.
will go back in time, for I would like to describe Broken Hill from the
early 1920s and its growth and development thereafter. When Dad first arrived there, it was a small mining
camp, which owed its existence to the lead mine “The Broken Hill
Development Co." The
village was divided into three distinct areas.
There was the mine and admin office and housing area.
Then there was the railway camp i.e. the Railway Station and workshop
and its residential area. Finally
there was the Business area and what little housing there was.
To start off with, there was no electricity supply, nor laid-on water
or sewage. Water was drawn from
the village pump. Your house staff normally employed a young boy whose main
job it was to carry water. There
were no toilets as we know them. They
were was simply built over a hole in the ground and later a bucket.
Hot bath water was heated in 40-gallon drums.
Your water boy also served to collect your firewood from the bundu.
mine and railway towns were each responsible for their own services.
At that stage, the total white population was not much more than
about 200. There were not more
than two or three Jewish families and a maybe a couple of single men working
in the native stores. The roads if they existed were gravel roads.
The rail heading to the north ended in Kapiri n Pashi about 60 miles
further north. From there on, the transport was by Nature Carrier and the
official load was 60 pounds per head. Later on, heavy transport was
undertaken by motor lorries to out-lying districts and via the Great North
Road through Tonga and north to Kenya.
the height of Broken Hill’s development, the population might have been
2000 whites. ‘Round about 1930, the Jewish population was about 45 souls.
As far as I can remember they were: the Jacobson family
(6), Rosen (3), Herbstein
(5), Thal (5), Feigenbaum
Bill (2) Wacks
(2), Jowel (2), Hochstein
(5), Samuels (2). The
bachelors were S. Lakofski, Teddy
Herr, David Pinhassowich, Harry Girst, Mike Berr, Shwartz, Fisher, Sugarman
and Waks. Naturally the
Jewish population was involved in business.
I won’t say that anti-Semitism did not exist, but it was no more
rife there than anywhere else. The
Jewish shopkeeper extended credit and generally there was a friendly
relationship. We played sports together and membership to the various clubs
was not restricted. We drank at
the same pubs, we danced together, however there were no social
get-togethers in each other’s homes.
the early days we attended the regular dances at the hotel or club as a
family. There were no separate
tables i.e. you sat on chairs arranged around the hall against the wall.
At a special ball, you had a program and had to book your partners
ahead for the whole program.
the beginning, the main center of social activity revolved around the Mine
Club where they showed a film once a week. The projector was worked off a
Ford car engine. To get there
at night, you walked with the aid of your mlonda (watchman).
He led holding a paraffin lamp and always held an assegai.
He brought you to your destination and waited there until you were
ready to come home. Not only did the vicinity abound with wild animals, but also
it was mosquito ridden and malaria fever was rife. To combat the fever, anti-malaria pills (quinine) were made
available by the government without charge.
development projects started in the north around about the late 1920s
(27/28). The Anglo American
group had obtained miners’ concessions and was busy with the geologists
exploring the country for minerals. Up
until then, Broken Hill was only producing lead.
It was later discovered that the mine was also rich in zinc and
vanadium. To develop and
produce the metals, a good supply of electricity was required and that was
when the Mulangushi power stations were brought into being.
was situated about 25 miles from Broken Hill, and the construction of the
power plant provided employment for many Europeans as well as Africans.
Then the construction of the zinc and vanadium plants also involved
hundreds of laborers, engineers, tradesmen and admin staff all of whom had
to be housed, clothed and fed. So
things began to buzz. Roads had
to be built as well as transmission lines to carry power to the mines. All this was not accomplished overnight but took a few years.
population grew and the boom was on. The
village grew into a town as the population increased.
Boons Hotel came into being, to be followed by a second hotel Rawson’s,
which opened on the corner opposite Jacobson’s store.
From one butcher shop became two.
The Wackses opened
the hardware store, and Oscar and Esther Jowel opened
a bakery. Esther worked in the mine office as a typist and secretary.
Maurice and Celia Thal and
family came on to the scene with a grocery store, the Herbsteins
started a mineral water factory and a chemist shop came into being.
Contis and Moreton started
a vegetable market and we even had an Indian gent’s hairdresser.
were hundreds of Africans employed on the mines, and the half dozen or so
African shops grew to about thirty. In
the early thirties, Jewish bachelors staffed a lot of these. (Harry
Gersh, Micky Brin, David Pinhassovich, Aubrey Cohen, Old Man Shwartz, young
Fisher, Sugerman, young Wacks
and others whose names I have forgotten.) Celia Thal
was a very good pianist, and was instrumental in starting a dance band.
Dances were held regularly at the Railway and Mine Recreational Club
and occasionally at one of the hotels.
capital of Northern Rhodesia was originally Livingstone, but was later
transferred to Lusaka which was 90 miles from Broken Hill.
In the meantime, the Railway workshop and Admin offices for all of
Northern Rhodesia were established in Broken Hill which also accounted for
the growth in population. As construction of the mine was completed and production at
last commenced, there was a slight drift of population. This all coincided with the development of the copper mines
in the north. Here again the
Anglo American Mining group were responsible and three large copper mines
came into being at Nkana, Chingola and Roan Antelope.
some time, the prices of base metals (zinc, lead and copper) were dropping
and production on the mines was being curtailed. This resulted in a cutting
down of staff, and a slight recession set in.
about 1937/38 the influx of Jewish refugees from Germany and Eastern Europe
started to arrive, thanks to the powers that be.
The government permitted a limited entry only into the country.
Amongst those that arrived in Broken Hill were Sydney
Marcus and Rosenfield who entered into
a partnership in a dry-cleaning business. They subsequently gave up the
business and took on shiftman’s jobs on the mines. I remember Josef
Roth who with his wife went into the
bakery business, and the Stern couple who were charming people.
He got a job in one of the legal firms and she opened a fancy goods
shop. The Jablonki family
arrived and started a hardware store. There
were many others whose names have slipped my memory. They all arrived with
no cash but with well made clothes.
of the refugees got jobs on the mines and earned good money.
They all became useful members of the community and began a new