Stars share their memories of the ’Plain

Established in a tumultuous time in South Africa’s history 40 years ago, Mitchell’s Plain, despite its challenges, has produced many people excelling in different fields. This week the Plainsman features some of the people who have made their mark in the entertainment industry. They share their memories of growing up Mitchell’s Plain.

Mel Jones, comedian, MC and radio producer

When I was six years old we moved to Portland, in 1979. At the time the schools closest to us were already full and I had to attend school in Woodlands, which was pretty far away (or at least so it seemed for a tiny six going on seven-year-old).

I often lost my bus fare which was around 5c or 10c at the time, or sometimes spent it at the tuck shop, because I was always so irresponsible and carefree – so not much has changed there – so my sister and I had to walk home.

We travelled with the two girls who lived next door. For us everything was a game, we would laugh and joke all the way home and of course some days were more fun than others because the older girls got a lot of homework. They would get a little upset with me for being so careless.

By the end of the day, when all the homework was done, we’d be playing outside until our parents came home from work and if we saw my mom turn the corner with bags of groceries, we’d all run to help her carry them. All the kids who were playing outside would run to help.

Sometimes we would even fight over who would carry the bags and since I was the smallest, I would often lose that battle.

I remember when it wasn’t a school night, we would play outside later. Our parents often stood outside chatting while we played and sometimes they even joined in.

Hide-and-seek was always better after dark and I was really good at hiding because I was so skinny and small. When we got permission to play in the park (because we simply didn’t do certain things without getting our parents’ consent – nobody wanted to be in that kind of trouble) we had a blast. We got to play with the other kids from the next street and our little world expanded. Life was all about laughing and having fun back then. It was also about respect.

Respect for our peers, our parents, our friends’ parents, our teachers. And if we didn’t show respect, we’d have to deal with our parents (or someone else’s parents, because the whole neighbourhood was one big family). Those were good times. There were consequences for our actions, consideration and old-fashioned values.

There were no hashtags, no backchat, no WhatsApp and no Facebook. Chatting meant going to someone’s house or calling them on their landline or going next door to ask “can so-and-so please come outside and play”. Sometimes I hear the kids outside playing “Ek koop ‘* boksie metjies…” and I get excited, because that means they’re having fun. Not on their phones and trying to be all grown up before their time. And it feels nice to know that there’s a part of our old Mitchell’s Plain that still exists in every laugh and excited scream of every kid who plays outside.

Salome Damon Johansen, singer

Growing up in Lentegeur was truly the best time of my life. We moved to Mitchell’s Plain in 1979. I have fond memories of long-lasting friendships that still form part of my life today. The first time I ever held a mic in my hand was at Mitchell’s Plain Primary School, singing Whitney Houston’s The Greatest Love of all – what a game changer. That seemingly innocent act set the stage for the rest of my life.

My uprbringing was anything but opulent. My father was a fish monger and he taught us the art of compassion. He stressed the importance of always considering the next person.

My mother instilled a sense of strength and independence in us. She was the inspiration when it came to my singing career and pushed me to explore that avenue. I wouldn’t be where I am today without her, as I was a very shy and introverted young lady.

What I do remember and imagine happens in many families is fighting with my four sisters about wearing one another’s clothing. What a battle that was and still is today.

It saddens me to see how drugs and gangsterism have changed our city, including my home town. People feel unsafe in their own homes and on their streets now – it is so unbelievable and senseless when one looks back on years gone by. I couldn’t have felt more safe in my neighbourhood back then. The acts of rape, murder, armed robbery and so on didn’t even cross our minds. Yet, we have to live with it every day.

I believe that we can all make a difference in our communities, one day at a time. I have put into motion a plan to “give back” to Mitchell’s Plain and all shall be revealed soon. I will always be, just another girl from Mitchell’s Plain.

Chantal Stanfield, actress

I grew up in Strandfontein so most of what I remember about Mitchell’s Plain is watching the movie Powder in a rowdy cinema in the Town Centre and an uncle trying to sell me those anti-ant chalk things while walking through the centre from the taxi rank. We moved to the area in the mid-1980s. I remember going to the butchery in Westridge. I am glad to see that there’s been more investment in the area, especially with the opening of the Liberty Promenade Mall.

We need to continue showing the positive stories and role-models coming out of the greater Mitchell’s Plain.