The following is an interesting account of life in the Walkerville area in the 1920's and 1930's. As recounted to Stephen Smuts by Lizzie Sibiya in the late 90's

Back in the early 1920's as a pikinin of about 5 or 6 Lizzie came here with her family from the Free State. With no formal education, in her early teens she helped pack the apple crates - a layer apples, a layer grass. She says both red and green varieties. Apple Orchards really earned its name. It was a vast area under apple trees while Walker's Fruit Farms was the pear growing area. All the Apple Orchards and Fruit Farms, she thinks, belonged to "Old Man Walker". Fruit Farms and Apple Orchards were connected by a road that ran through what today is the commonage.

The fruit trees were irrigated from Scotch carts - a water tanker cart drawn by two oxen. The irrigation water came from the river at the bottom of the hill near today's Walkerville Vet or from the spring at the bottom of the Ohenimuri hill. The picked fruit had to get to market and Lizzie recalls the crates being loaded on the 'bokwa' - a wagon drawn by 12 oxen. Johannesburg was a 2 day drive away. Having crossed the Klip River at Jackson's Drift (Eikenhof) they would camp at today's Kilbler Park and continue the journey to market the following day.

In those days there were no Walkerville shops. The only building was the post office which she recalls had a thatch roof. There was also only a gravel road between Johannesburg and Vereeniging. Apart from commerce between the Walkerville area and Johannesburg, this gravel road was a highway to Durban. Weilbach's Farm was a staging post on this road - the next stop after Jackson's Drift on the way to the coast. It was also a road traversed by hunters who hunted on the plains north of today's Sebokeng. Lizzie says there was grazing game as far as the eye could see. She says often one saw these hunters returning to Johannesburg along the dusty road with a buck tied over the bonnet. "But those cars are not the same as today" she says. "You still had to start them with the crankhandle".

And what of shopping? With no shops, she says they procured supplies of eggs, sugar etc. from groups of wandering 'coolies' - Indians who walked around carrying bags of these supplies over their shoulders. You could get almost anything you wanted from the Indians who even carried dress material in those magical bags. This is the life Lizzie recalls in her teens. In her late teens/ early twenties Lizzie started work in Turffontein, Johannesburg as a domestic for a shilling (ten cents) a day. There was nothing easy about that as she still lived here in Walkerville. It meant getting up at 3am, getting ready then at 3.30am starting to walk - yes walk about 30 kilometres to work, ready to start at 7am, in summer rain and winter cold when the temperatures often drop well below zero. At night Lizzie and colleagues were able to get van Zyl's bus to Faraday but from there it was a walk all the way home again.

Apart from this discomfort, it was scary walking at night. Often they would surprise a wild animal that was sleeping which would explode away in fright from the equally scared walkers. There were however no dangerous animals around - the worst only being jackal. As far as wildlife is concerned Lizzie recalls there was rich wildlife in the area, particularly near Perdeberg which she knew as Aasvoelberg - Vulture Mountain. There was lots for these birds to eat - dead horses and cows as well as game. Wild animals that she remembers seeing were Springbok and Reedbuck, hares, porcupine and hedgehog, antbears and honey badgers. There is one she calls a Kommetjiekat which she says held its tail up while otherwise remaining motionless. It would defecate small droppings which would attract birds such as chickens and guinea fowl. When the bird got close up to eat these easy pickings, the Kommetjiekat would whip around and catch the bird.

My thanks to Lizzie for this insight into the 'good old days' of Walkerville of the 1920 and 30's. After the 2nd World War all was to change when the Walker family decided to cut up the farm into smallholdings to sell to returning troops, so heralding the Walkerville we know today. Today, Lizzie still remains active, dressed as smartly as any lady when a special occasion demands. Otherwise she passes in old clothes, unnoticed amongst her community, helping others by assisting to arrange pensions and funerals and resolve other problems. In doing so, she has become one of the characters and living legends of Walkerville.

Lizzie_Sibiya Lizzie_Sibiya

Lizzie turned 90 on the same day, in the same year as Madiba.  Stephen Smuts met up with her in 2008 for an update. 
He reported that "she is as spritely and mentally clear as always.  Other than poor sight, she doesn't appear to be a day over 60!"

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