EXTRACT FROM THE TEXT (Memoirs of William Powell)
Life in Johannesburg
– – We arrived at Park Station in Johannesburg at about nine o’clock on the 15th of October, 1902. We were expecting to go through the customs, but they hardly glanced at us. When we were on the train, the soldiers told us to take all the army blankets that we wanted but, as we expected to go through the customs formality, we declined the offer, not wishing to be found with Army blankets. I wished I had taken a couple, as I could have made use of them later.
From the station to the built-up part of the town, you had to go through a sparsely built section at that time. After checking our baggage, we set off to scour the town for a job. There was very little doing, as we soon found out.
Wevell Brothers was the largest firm in town. Bill Russell and I went in there, but he said, ”You try first, as I would rather work elsewhere, if possible.” I stepped in and asked the foreman, if he needed a body worker. He wanted to know where I had worked before. When I told him I had just landed, he said no, he had no openings, but that he knew that a man was needed at Krugersdorp. That was about twelve miles out of town and there were no means of transportation. Then he caught sight of Bill Russell and said hello to him, and told him he could start at once, if he wished.
We left Wevell Brothers and went up to the restaurant. It was called the Standard. It was across the street from the Standard Theatre. They opened for two hours, three times a day for breakfast, dinner, and supper. lt was table d’hôte. You could eat till you burst and then pay one shilling and sixpence as you went out. It was the same price, if you ate nothing.
Well, I did not burst, but I do not think they made any profit on my first meal there. I loaded up to capacity, as I knew I had only enough money for three loaves of bread, and two or three pennies left. (Incidentally, I put them in the plate at church . I noticed they looked at me as I did so, but at that time I was still financially embarrassed). I tried to buy a penny banana from a coolie fruit peddler. He shouted at me, and I never tried to spend pennies again.