Southern African Buses and Coaches - Trams Anecdote - Pretoria - 1930's

Pretoria Trams Anecdote
(about)1933 - 1937

The following anecdote was very kindly sent to me by Mr Courtenay Smithers, who is in the process of writing notes of his early days in Pretoria for his family.  I found it fascinating as it gives us a glimpse into the history of Trams in Pretoria, something we are sadly lacking on the internet  as there is so little information out there.  It will be especially interesting for viewers who are from Pretoria or who knew Pretoria in those days.  Perhaps even to encourage others to share their stories and memories with us.
Mr Smithers writes :-
In 1913 my parents moved to 555 Vermeulen Street, in Arcadia, where Coral (b. 1913), Brian (b. 1914), Lila (b.1916) and Noel (b. 1917) were born and where they lived for about seven years.
One reason for the move might have been that it was much nearer, in fact a matter of only a few minutes walk, to the Union Buildings where Bob had his office. Skinner Street, in Sunnyside, was probably less convenient when it came to daily travel to the Union Buildings. He would have had little choice other than to walk from Sunnyside. I donít recall a tram service which would have enabled him to ride directly from Sunnyside to the Union Buildings.

There were, in fact, rattley old trams which ran to the Union Buildings but they ran along Leydís Street to and from Church Street where they connected with trams from Church Square, at the centre of town.  For most of the day (and only on working days, if I remember correctly) there was only one tram which made the short run from Church Street to the Union Buildings and back, a small one which could carry only half the number of passengers which the usual "big" trams could carry.
For most of the day it seldom carried more than one or two passengers on each trip and was often empty.

For many years the driver and conductor of the small tram were always the same men and we came to know them quite well. The conductor was a big, jovial, man who chatted to us as we ran alongside the tram but the driver was a much more surly character who didnít like us at all. He would shout at us when we did so but this, of course, only encouraged us all the more to run alongside the tram and chat to the conductor.
The driver could do little to stop us. This small tram ran along Leydís Street to Vermeulen Street and then wound its way up the hill to join the road which ran along in front of the Buildings.

Now there is a road which follows the curving route up the hill where the little tram took its slow climb up the hill, making a whining noise in its low gear. Keeping up with the struggling tram was easy for us. In those days the tram line passed between the pine trees of the plantation which grew on the hillside. One of the boys who lived in Hamilton Avenue was a good shot with a "catty" and he enjoyed showing off his skill by bringing down a dove or two from the pines. The driver of the train didnít like the boy; I suspect he was worried in case the boy let fly at him or the tram, but he never did.
Small boys usually know where to "draw the line". Inevitably, small boys being small boys, we sometimes put a little stone on the line for the tram to crush (with a loud bang, of course) as it went over it. We had our special hiding places amongst the trees where we couldnít be seen but from where we could have a view of the tram. The surly driver never caught us at our mischief but he must have suspected that we were the culprits.

We occasionally sacrificed a penny from our meagre pocket money and put it the line so that it was squashed and flattened. Occasionally we lost our penny because it stuck to the tram wheel and was taken away instead of sticking to the rails. This was a sad event;  we thought it quite unfair that we should lose our penny;  sometimes we did find it further up the track.

At peak passenger times, when the office workers arrived and left the Union Buildings, the small tram was supplemented by a couple of big trams to provide enough space to cope with the extra passengers to and from Church Street where they could catch trams which took them into town and elsewhere.

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