There is an intersection in the middle of Johannesburg that was important to me. It is where Jeppe (now Rahima Moosa) crosses Joubert Streets. On the one corner was International House, or Ansteys (it seemed to have two names), on the other, Manners Manners, and on the third corner (northeast) was Rand Central. You entered Rand Central through an arcade, at the bottom of which was Show Service on the right, and the Cheza coffee bar on the left. The corner table of Cheza on the arcade seemed to be the permanent home of an elderly man with a long brownish beard, and who smoked a Meerschaum pipe. In those days, you could smoke anything anywhere.
I don’t know who he was, or why he had this privileged position.
I saw him often as was the stage manager at the Alexander Theatre. Service. Show Service sold tickets until about 5 pm. After that, I had to drive into Show Services, collect the unsold tickets and take them back to the theatre. There I had to load them carefully into wooden racks, and check them against the seating plan, so that the cashier at the Box Office could show patrons what seats were available on the plan, and then reach behind carefully, and take the right ones out of their slots.
No computers, no Comiputickets, just manual. Just Hollerith cards. Now there’s a word you don’t see often
Scary people worked at Show Service: Percy Tucker, Aubrey Louw, and Pat Bray. I’m not saying they were voodoo monsters. It was just that I was barely 21, and I held in total awe these people who knew everything. I was young and knew nothing. I would cheerfully have crawled on the floor and licked their shoes. I was scared of them. That’s why “scary”.
There were two important people in Manners Mansions. The building had a corner island shop, Smokers Corner. I never went in there. That was a connoisseur shop, and I’m sure they never sold Peter Stuyvesant or Westminster 85. They sold exotic tobaccos, briar pipes, pipe stands, and those Swiss army type implements that pipe smokers used to scrape the filthy gunge from their pipes, and then band the pipe on the heel of their shoes, usually over the Persian carpet.
They also sold unusual cigarettes like Idlewild menthol. Sobranie, and McGillavry’s Export cigarettes. And Consulate in tins. I remember McGillavry’s because the radio advertisement used “The Scottish Soldier” in the background.
In numbers 31/32 of Manner Mansions was the Benedicta Bonacorsi Drama Studio, which was to play such an important place in my life. Somewhere on the 4th or 5th floor was the flat where Muriel Alexnader lived.