Good ol’ days at the ‘Centre’

The Town Centre was originally built with spacious flats atop the shops.

Town Centre librarian Hadjira Sydow remembers taxi fare from her Westridge family’s home to the original central business district of Mitchell’s Plain being 5c.

She is one of six children to Abduragmaan Sydow and the late Wasiela, and she says going to the Town Centre during the 80s was the best trek.

Ms Sydow recalls their Saturday family excursion to the “Centre” as they called it.

“But because we were so many kids, my dad decided to walk with us early on a Saturday morning.

“We all would have our R2. Ready for our movie day at Nu Metro, the queue was around the corner, past LA Clothing. Ons staan, because two new movies are playing, and we have new clothes on; my brother got his ‘Beat It’ jacket on that mummy bought for him. We were all Michael Jackson fans, so we shared the jacket.

“Our tickets are bought. Man-man met ’* Yogi Sip, NikNaks, Big Jack Pies and some bubble gums from the change. Yes, that’s what we got from our R2. How excited we were — happy that we can spend time together with siblings.

“Sometimes we met up with school buddies. Those were the best days ever.”

The Town Centre was a “gold mine”, a safe place, you could walk freely and happily, she says.

Everywhere you looked were different stalletjies, selling various produce and everyone could go home with profitable takings for the day.

In later years, Ms Sydow’s brother, Ebrahim, and his wife, Fatima, sold curtains at a stall in the Town Centre — in front of Woolies, Nedbank and close to the bioscope.

“Chip rolls, Frulatti, and lekker music met entertainment. The whole family would end up in the Centre. Those were the best days of our lives. Love, laughter, food and lots of fun and togetherness”.

Hersister,GadijaSydow Noordien, says they would wake up early, dress up and it would be like an outing, “like going to Canal Walk”.

“The place was clean, with big green trees and benches to sit on, not a lot of hawkers. There was a Woolworths, Look Alive (LA) clothing and Peabody, just to name a few…There would be a band playing in the centre court. Legends, big names like Horizon, Ricardo and Zain Adams… Dance competitions would be held.”

She also performed there as a member of the The Oz Boys.

“The place was pristine, smelt fresh and was a buzz of people doing their shopping and just having a good time,” says Gadija.

The aroma of fresh produce, koesiesters, roti and curry hung in the air, and further down the lane were church “koortjies” playing from a stall selling cassettes.

“And the centre had a Nu Metro, a beautiful cinema,” she recalls.

“It is only when the sun is busy setting we would find our way back home. Filled to the brim of joy. Shared by community and culture Those were the days of The Town Centre.”

Hadjira fast-forwards to the early 90s, with her children and their cousins going to the Centre.

Her daughter, Waseema Sydow, remembers broking with her grandfather and eating fish and chips.

She recalls going to the bank, all the way up the escalators.

“I thought that was kwaai.”

Hadjira’s niece, Ragmah Jafta, says: “I can only remember ma buying us dite and ice cream. Oh, and with Boetie and Fatima selling curtains.”

Hadjira’s other niece, Mariam Bhyat, says her fondest memories were of going to the Centre with her grandmother. They would buy vienna-and-chip parcels with tomato sauce.

“While watching the people sing and dance.”

She also enjoyed lying on the floor at the curtain stall, looking at the people’s toes and making fun of them.