MY LIFE by BERNARD ELKIN
From a transcription for his 90th birthday
Having been urged by my children and family for many years to write my memoirs, I have at last decided to comply
with their wishes.
To relate everything that has happened in my lifetime would be a physical impossibility, so,, in writing my life-story I
will confine myself to incidents which are implanted in my memory which I consider to be of importance and trust
they will be of interest to you.
One of the most important things you have always been anxious to know is the true date of my birth, but here I am
somewhat stuck even before I start as that great event is certainly not implanted in my memory as you will well
understand. So I can't help you there, nor can I refer to any evidence as in those days birth certificates didn't exist in
Russia, nor were there any records to which I could refer. So I had t6 rely on working back from the date of my "bar
mitzvah", which I reckoned to be January 29th, 1888. Although this date seems to be in conflict with the information
supplied by my father when he took out his naturalization papers. At that time he gave the year of my birth as 1886. It
was only when he died in 1934 that a slip of paper in Yiddish was found which stated that the year of my birth was
1888. A life insurance company accepted this date when I "took out my last insurance. However, when taking out my
first passport in 1926 I naturally gave the registered date 1886. Be that as it may, the fact that I was born is a certainty.
The town where the event took place is Ponevesh, Lithuania. I believe that it is still on the map, and was not
completely destroyed during the second world war, and that there are still some Jews who survived the German
My father was born in Latvia, in a town called Denenburg which was changed to the name of Dvinsk by the Russians
when they occupied the Baltic state Life for the Jews was very hard there, as they were compelled to live in restricted
areas or ghettoes under the most difficult economic conditions, the harsh Russian laws, persecution and pogroms which
made life intolerable. So anyone who was able to scrape together enough money emigrated—mostly to the United
States of America, where the gates were wide open to everybody and immigrants most welcome. Others went to South
Africa, where gold and diamonds were discovered, and fortunes were made and lost overnight. Father, who wasn't
really a very ambitious man, nevertheless, felt that the chances of making good were better in South Africa than
America. Consequently, he migrated here in 1898, and settled in Johannesburg.
Rapid developments were taking place in South Africa, and with the little means he had, and with some assistance
from "Landslite", he managed to start a small soap-making business in a primitive sort of way - a trade in which his
family were occupied in Russia, and of which he had some knowledge, In fact, during the Boer war, he made his
contribution to the war effort by making soap for the Boer forces, as he had remained in Johannesburg during the
To ease the burden on my mother, my father took me to stay with his parents in Dvinsk, which is on the way to Libau,
a seaport on the Baltic Sea, from where he sailed en route to South Africa. I spent three happy years with my
As there were no travel or shipping agents in those days, the fare had to be paid in cash when boarding. I remember
carrying the cash for my father's fare under my shirt on the train to Dvinsk, for fear of being robbed, which was a daily
occurrence. Amongst other incidents which I recall during my stay with my grandparents was the assistance I used to
render to my great grandmother. She was in her late nineties, and I would help her' to walk to the steam baths on a
In 1901 father returned to Ponevesh, mainly for my "bar mitzvah", but also to prevail upon my mother to come back to
South Africa with him. But he failed in his efforts as mother who was very "frum" wouldn't dream of going to live in a
"Treifeland". So he remained home for about 18 months, but having tasted the good life in South Africa he just
couldn't make a go of it, so he returned to South Africa. I thank our lucky stars for his decision, as otherwise we
wouldn't have been here to tell the tale.
Shortly after my "bar mitzvah", mother was able to get me accepted to the famous yeshiva in Slabodky, a suburb of the
city of Kauna, which was an achievement for a boy of my age. But, I rebelled against the bigotry and the stringent
orthodox laws prohibiting the use of Hebrew except when related to the study of the Talmud. In fact, I was nearly
expelled when I was caught reading the Hebrew paper - "Hatsphira", edited by the late Sokolov. The only reason they
didn't do so was because I was financially independent, having received one pound a month (10 rubles) from my
father. I lived well on it, and was even able to help some of those less fortunate, and who depended on "tag" (charity).
My mother's hopes of my becoming a "rov" were shattered when after 18 months I left the yeshiva and refused to go
back. What an escape the Jewish community had - can you imagine me being a rabbi?
My heart was set on going to South Africa, and with the help of my elder sister, Rosa,- we managed to prevail on
mother. But, it was really a most difficult task, as my brother Louis decided at the last moment to revolt against
leaving. With only a sofa left by the furniture removers for shipping, he parked himself on this and refused to budge -
wild horses couldn't move him, so we had to use force with the help of the furniture movers. He finally gave in and we
only just managed to catch the train to the coast.
When father left to seek his fortune in foreign lands, we were a family of 6 - mother and 5 children, all of tender age.
My sister, Rosa, was the eldest (10 years of age), myself, Louis, Annie, and George. Eva, the youngest was born in
South Africa. Mother, who was a very intelligent woman continued running a small grocery business adjoining our
home which we owned. This business provided us with the bare necessities, until father was able to supplement our
income from South Africa. It wasn't much at first, but enough for our modest means. This struggle for existence
implanted- in us a sense of thrift, which was never/eradicated.
It was in 1904 that we left with all our worldly possessions, such as the:-were, and with the limited money father was
able to provide. The only way that we could afford to travel was steerage. There was nothing cheaper. To add to our
discomfort, there was no Kosher food on board. So we subsisted on bread, cheese, herring, and smelly eggs for
twenty-four days on a ship called the "Braemar Castle", sailing from Southampton to Cape Town. How we envied the
goyim indulging in delicious food from which we were deprived by our mother who was so "frum". I realized then the
meaning of the phrase "Jews are born to suffer"! However we survived, and revived with the gefilte fish and all the
other delicacies at the Kosher hotel in Cape Town. Oh, how wonderful the food tasted then, although I didn't think so
when I ate there on a visit to Cape Town three years later.
Father, who was a healthy and contented type of man, was to a certain extent financially comfortable. But, the cost of
bringing out a large family strained his finances somewhat. So being the eldest of three brothers, I felt like fending for
myself as soon as possible. Whilst staying with my parents for a few months-during which time I tried to learn
English-I was helping an uncle who stayed with us, and was being mostly supported by father. Nevertheless, my uncle
was able to pay me a shilling a week for helping him to pack pipe tobacco in bags for the native trade. I did feel that I
was underpaid, but not belonging to a trade union, I had no means of redress! However, although it was hardly enough
to enable me to launch out in business on my own, the experience stood me in good stead, as you will see later.
In a short time, I was able to find a small grocery business situated in Charles St., Doornfontein, near a municipal
native compound. By borrowing 15 pounds from Leon Levson, (who was then courting Rosa) and father guaranteeing
my accounts with the merchants in Market St., I was able to go into business. My start was not exciting - just enough
to live on, but certainly better than the previous owner who had gone bankrupt there. The business consisted of selling
groceries and provisions to the natives working -in the compound. Amongst the native customers were snuff
merchants who visited the shop carrying large bundles of leaf tobacco for their trade. I made -a study of the kind of
leaf tobacco they used, and became quite an expert in the line so much so that in time I developed quite a big trade and
became known all over the Reef. This became my main profitable line, and when I sold the business after 18 months, I
had saved up 1,400 pounds. To me, it was a fortune - I felt like a millionaire and almost lived like one.
The reason for selling the business was that I wanted to carry on with my chemistry studies overseas (I had been
attending night classes). Before completing my preparations for travel, I learned that a soap factory in Johannesburg
had brought out chemist from England to resuscitate the business, which had been doing badly due to the lack of
technical expert knowledge. I managed to make contact with him, and he agreed to teach me the science of soap
making which by then had made big strides in the modern technique of soap making. I paid him 400 pounds for my
apprenticeship, and worked with him for almost a year, but when this was discovered by the managing director, we
both got the "boot"! He went back to England and I proceeded with my plans to continuing studying in Germany as
Arthur Lewinsohn, the elder brother of Leon Levson was an easy-going type of man - jovial, full of charm and
likeable, but not too sound as a business-man. Although he was running a very profitable wholesale provision
business,, it couldn't cope with his gambling activities, playing poker with toughies and backing slow racehorses - not a
paying diversion -so he had to resort to borrowing wherever he could. I happened to be one of his victims. I lent him
800 pounds, which was all I had left, to go to Cape Town to start a branch there. Little did I know then of his financial
position or his gambling activities, but believed in his promise of "good faith" to repay it at call. However, when I
arrived in Cape Town on my way to Germany, he told me that he was unable to repay the loan as he was financially
embarrassed. So I got stuck there, and became involved with a firm of dyers and cleaners in rebuilding a small soap
factory on their premises in Woodstock, with a plant and machinery which they had , and which had been moved over
from Cape Town. It was Arthur who had made the arrangements for me, knowing that he couldn't meet his
obligations. This was a complete change in my life's ambition to study, but not altogether to my material future, as the
experience gained stood me in good stead.
The arrangement with the company was that I was to draw 15 pounds a month and 50% of the profit which I never
got. It was swallowed up in the overhead, which they charged up to the partnership. So after struggling on for 3 years,
I gave up. Arthur then suggested that I join him in partnership in his business. I would take over the management in
Cape Town, and he would go back to Johannesburg to open up there again. I spent a little time with him to learn about
the business, which on the face of it appeared to be very profitable, but short of working capital as usual. For
assistance, in order to finance the business he gave me the names of a few of his friends from whom I could borrow
500 pounds each, also overdraft facilities from the bank for a similar amount. To my dismay, I found out that he was
hopelessly insolvent, which was obviously due to his gambling activities. As the business appeared to be a very
profitable one, I decided to carry on. In no time I was able to liquidate all debts, and at the end of one year I showed a
surplus of 3000 pounds. One of the lines we were selling was butter. There happened to be a bad drought that year,
and butter was in very short supply. So I concentrated on buying up all that I could (all over the coast) which was, of
course, a contributing factor to my success that year.
My heart, however, was not in the merchandising business, and I only used it as a stepping-stone to rescue the money
Arthur owed me, and to start in the chemical business again. With that in view, I went back to Johannesburg to find
out how the partnership was progressing there. I arrived there on Boxing Day, and after waiting the whole day to see
him, Arthur turned up, full of bounce, flushed and excited. He began to pour out a pocketful of money which he had
won at the races that day - to be precise it was 460 pounds. I remonstrated with him in no uncertain terms, reminding
him of his solemn promise to stop gambling. But I could see that it was of no avail. There and then, I decided to sever
my connection with him, and demanded the 800 pounds he owed me, plus the half share of the profit which was about
2,300 pounds in all. This was easier said than done. In fact, all I got out of him was 75 pounds with which I started a
small chemical works to make washing-soda; a plant which I bought from an insolvent estate. I was never able to get
any more money from Arthur; in fact, in a short time after that he went insolvent.
This was the start of my career, and the foundation of my fortune. It was a struggle from the beginning, with-a staff of
three - comprising myself, a native called Alfred, and a donkey which was forever hungry. With the meager ration I
could afford to feed him, he resorted to chewing up my straw chair, the only one I had, which was on the stoep.
It was a struggle and a challenge, but by the time the first World War broke out in 1914, I was fairly well established. I
went from strength to strength, and became a strong competitor of Lever Bros., particularly of their well-known brand -
"Sunlight Soap”. I produced a similar line called "Herald Soap", which caught on in the market extremely well. By
the time Lever Bros. bought us out in 1926, I had a staff of almost 200 working for me. One of the conditions of the
deal was that I was to stay on with them as managing director for a period of 5 years, but I soon realized that their main
object in buying me out was to destroy the business and not to build it up. Their policy was a blow to my ego, and
after about 2 years I appealed to them to release me from my contract. They were reluctant to do so - and to quote the
chairman' words - "We bought you, not the business". Realizing that I would be there under sufferance, they decided
to release me from my contract. Having gained my freedom and having received the balance of the money due (which
was a substantial amount)! was fortunate that I doubled my capital within a year.
Before proceeding to relate my other activities, I would like to recall some amusing incidents which occurred during
my early days.
Being distantly related to Arthur and Leon Levson, I happened to be staying with-them, and would particularly like to
mention their mother, Shane, who was a delightful person with a high sense of humor. I remember arriving one day at
the house to hear the telephone ringing. It was one of the few telephones in operation in Cape Town, and when I
opened the door I saw her standing in the corner saying in Yiddish,"Do kenst platzen-Ich wil nicht den entwer" (you
can burst-I won't answer you). She was also not partial to the English language - to quote "What sort of a language is
English when everything is a kipper—housekeeper, storekeeper, hotelkeeper, and a kipper that you eat". I remember
taking her to the Yiddish theatre one night. She insisted upon buying a cheap seat, but headed for the front row, and
when I remonstrated with her, she said, "Why waste money! It wasn't worth even the money you paid for the back seat
as the play was not too good." And when the usher told her to move, she told him in no uncertain terms where to get
off. There were many more humorous incidents, but they would take too long to relate.
At another time, when I was staying with Rhona's parents for a little while, an incident occurred which she relates in
one of her books. This happened when she was a baby, and she may not have had the exact facts.
It was during the time that I was struggling and was only able to buy a second-hand motor car in partnership with her
father, Leon Levson, for which we paid 75 pounds (on terms). The arrangements were that I was to use the car for
business during the week, and he was to have it for the weekends. This arrangement worked well for a time. To own a
car was no small achievement. It happened that one Sunday I was going to take a girl to a party, and in order to show
off, I asked him to let me have the car that evening, even though I wasn't entitled to it. He gladly agreed and promised
to let me have the car at 6 p.m., as by that time he expected to be back from his outing. I waited till past 7 p.m., when I
gave up. Naturally I was annoyed with him for not keeping his promise, and more so when he refused to give an
explanation for it. It was only 6 months later that he confessed as to what had actually happened. He had taken Rosa
and Rhona to the Halfway House for tea. It was 5 p.m. when they got into the car to return home, but he found that he
didn't know how to use the reverse gear, so had to go to Church Sq., Pretoria to turn around to go home. So he didn't
get back till well after 7:30 p.m.
Another story to relate is about Native Alfred who worked for me for about 10 years.
It was in 1919 a year after I got married, that Muriel was born. He came to my office scratching his head, with a sad
look on his face. I asked him what was the matter, and these were his words, "You see. Master, you and I started this
business together! Alfred was young. Master was young. If a boy had been born, you and I could go farming? a girl no
good!" When 3 more girls were born, he took to drink, and I had to pension him off.
Although I was doing very well in the manufacturing business, I was never really able to invest in a home, as every
penny made was for the expansion of the business. It was only after selling out that I was able to buy Valbern, a home
in which we lived for about 30 years. Having spent a lot of money on rebuilding and decorating, it was one of the
show houses in Johannesburg, but I was forced to sell it on account of Mother's illness.
Shortly after I was released from my position of managing director, we left for overseas on holiday in order to
recuperate from all the strain and hard times that I had endured. We took Muriel and Zena with us, and left them in
Maidenhead, England, with our governess, Mrs. Tarr, who had accompanied us. The children stayed with her family
whilst we toured the Continent of Europe. After spending 6 months on our trip, we returned home, and I became rather
restless not being accustomed to inactivity. I then became involved with two people, buying up companies which had
large holdings in real estate in Johannesburg. Some of the properties the companies held were in Commissioner and
Fox Streets, right in the heart of the financial centre. To-day these properties are very valuable. Other properties held
by the companies were in Von Brandis St., as well as 759 stands in New Doornfontein. We sold out much too soon,
although we made big profits. One of the partners in these ventures was a man well-connected with the "big boys" in
the Rand Club, and on his information that Johannesburg was finished, we acted. Nevertheless, I wasn't at all panicky,
so much so that I bought on my own a four-story building, Cavendish Chambers, which was then the first medical
building in Johannesburg. A few years later I also bought the stand next to it, making 100x100.feet, on which the
existing building now stands. I demolished the original structure, and erected the present one in sections during 1948-
1952. One of the reasons that I chose that position was that I been informed that the new Post Office was going to be
built directly opposite in Jeppe St. I had many other deals in property and land during my life, and almost acquired
control of African City Properties, which owns most of Eloff St. But I was double-crossed by a company in London
who were with me in the venture. Although I failed to get control I nevertheless made about 30,000 pounds profit on
the shares which I bought on the open market.
One of the ventures in the real estate field was the acquisition of the property in Durban, which is now known as Trust
Buildings, and which I developed at the beginning of the Second World War in 1939-1951.
Before proceeding with my other business activities, I would like to refer back to my marriage, which took place on
June 12th, 19l8| and the romance leading up to it.
It was in 1917 when I met your mother and her family,' who were living on a farm outside Middleburg, Transvaal. I
was told about them by my old friend, John Massey, who met them a short time before, when they came out as
refugees from Russia. He was raving about the beautiful girl he had met-your mother. He prevailed on me to go there
one public holiday. I did, and also took with us in my Adler car, my cousin Sol Moshal. The trip was not trouble-free
as we got stuck in a river which was in flood. We had to walk for miles to a farmhouse to get a span of oxen to pull us
out so it was well past midnight when we arrived in Middleburg. However, the effort was worth it, as when I met
Valia I fell in love with her; which was mutual.
The wedding took place on the 12th June, 1918,in the big synagogue, Johannesburg - officiated by Dr. Landau. But it
was not without incident as a note delivered to Dr. Landau stated that Valia was a "shiksa" (no doubt, by some jealous
female friend of mine). So the wedding was delayed for an hour, much to our anxiety and the curiosity of the guests.
The reception took place at the Langham Hotel - a dinner for about 60 people, family and close friends. We issued no
invitations - it was Valia's wish to keep the affair small in view of her parents' financial circumstances. Although they
were very wealthy in Russia, they were able to salvage very little when they left as refugees.
Reverting back to my business activities - it was about 1930-1931 that I met my late partner, Ernest Capelli, during my
dealings on the stock exchange. We became very friendly and we had many successful deals together.
Amongst the outstanding ones were the flotation of Van Dyk goldmine and large holdings under option in the Free
State, which are now very rich in gold and uranium. After spending about 50000 pounds in option money, we farmed
it out to the mining houses, who kept it going for a few years, dropped it, and subsequently took it up again in
1942/1943. Fortunately, we retained some of the ground with the Union Corporation, adjoining the South Vaal and
Vaal Reefs, which has good promise and likely to be floated in the near future.
My partnership with Capelli lasted till his death in 1938 he was only 54 then, and it was a great loss to me. We had
established a great friendship - apart from our business ventures, of which some were very profitable, others not so. To
mention a few, such as:
1. A shark-fishing industry in Durban—having bought from Lever Bros a factory ship. The proposition was a good
one except that we couldn't induce the sharks to come to the nets!
2. A pre-fab construction company, which we started, built cheap homes in the Townships. We built large numbers in
Orlando alone, about 400/500, only to discover that we were working at a loss due to lack of management by the
inventor, and no supervision. Almost as many houses were built there with the material pilfered from the yards.
3. A small goldmine in Nigel adjoining Sub Nigel, one of the richest mines on the Reef, but not much in our property.
4. A diamond venture in Namaqualand near where Dr. Marensky made a fabulous fortune} but although the geological
formation was there, the diamonds were elusive so after spending 20,000 pounds, I called it a day. One thing I made
sure of was that I wasn't.- going to be crippled financially by these speculative ventures. In fact, my policy was to limit
my losses to a maximum of 5% of my capital. Of course, that principle couldn't always be applied to share dealings,
but on balance I have always been in the "black".
It was early in 1939 when I took my first trip to the U.S.A. together with Valia, Muriel and Zena mainly to buy lifts,
air-conditioning plants and other requirements for Trust Buildings, Durban, which I had started ' to build. The trip was
not only most enjoyable, but also very profitable. It was whilst we were in London, (that I had some information
through good contacts), that we were aware that war was in the air. At that time, I had 50,00 pounds in the bank from
the sale of shares. I was able to borrow approximately another 50,000 pounds, with which I bought a 1 million dollars
at 4.86 to the pound. I invested it wisely in the U.S.A., but sold all the shares when I started building Cavendish
Chambers some ten years later. The cash, which was invested in the U.S. with a Finance company had to be brought
back when exchange control came in force during the wan I made 18% profit on this deal. I wish I had kept the shares
for a longer period.
We returned home just in time, before World War II broke out. Everything was in a state of flux, but I carried on with
the building operations of Trust Buildings, but I had a big struggle to fill up the offices, as all those who had previously
signed leases, cancelled them. It was 5 years before I showed a profit. It was eighteen years later that I bought and
built what is now known as Trust Arcade.
Before commenting on my farming and township activities, I would like to revert to Valbern Again. It was about
1936-37 when we felt that our house was getting a little cramped with a family of 6, governess, housekeeper and staff.
At that time Naomi and Pat, who looked so much alike that they were known as the Elkin twins, were also growing up.
This misconception involved me once in an argument - it happened at a school play when I heard some man behind me
saying “Here come the Elkin twins." I turned around and told him that they were not twins as there was a year and a
month's difference. He argued with me and it was only when I disclosed that we were their parents that I won.
We also did a lot of entertaining generally; and in particular our home was open to the Cherniavskys, entertaining all
the great artists he was bringing out at that time so what with one thing and another, the place was getting small. It was
a question of adding on, or building a completely new home elsewhere. I decided to build, and bought a 26-acre fruit-
farm, which is now known as Sandton, and is the site of the Civic Centre. I paid 8,000 pounds for the land, and had
plans prepared for a palatial home with swimming pool, tennis court, and even a golf course designed by the late Sid
Brews - rather clever - 18 hole fairways, 6 greens, and a riding row. After going to all the trouble and expense, Valia
decided against as she thought it was too far out of town, so I rebuilt Valbern, and took the plans to London (we spent
6 months there). I engaged a very good home-decorator, who designed everything including the furniture. He
supervised the making of it, the paneling, the lights, door furniture, indeed everything, even the colors of the walls, the
setting-out for which he had pictures drawn. It really was a beautiful home when finished, admired greatly by all.
What with the magnificent view, the swimming pool cut out of the rocks, the picture was complete.
It was a home that lent itself to entertaining, and the girls were married there, except Pat who married in California.
They all married wonderful men, and I would be failing in my duty, and I hope my sons-in-law will forgive me, if I
didn't single out Jack, who died at an early age. It was such a great loss to Muriel, her children and myself he was so
helpful to me in business.
I was therefore landed with a fruit-farm, where very selected fruit was grown even some export peaches for which I
received 20c a tray, selling in London at 30c each. It was quite a profitable business for the manager I engaged (who
was selling the fruit) retained 60% for himself. I didn't think it fair, so I engaged a private detective to watch him. His
efforts were not too successful, the reason being that he used a small car to follow my manager's big Chrysler so he
always lost him and was never able to find where he was selling the fruit. So I decided to get out of farming, sold the
place for 6,500 pounds, and called it a day. I now wish I hadn't, as the site to-day must be worth well over a million
rand. That experience, however didn't dampen my appetite for farming and land.
It was in 1942 during the war when things looked bleak, that I decided to go farming as an insurance against
everything collapsing so at least I would be able to grow food. I became very interested in farming - it was one of my
joys in life and the most profitable one from the point of view of health. It added years to my life, although we didn't
live there, I nevertheless spent a lot of time there. I went to lectures at the agricultural school in Cedara, took expert
advice on soil conservation, planting of crops, livestock, etc., and really made it a. show place.
It was badly neglected when I bought it, as the man who owned the farm didn't live there, nor did he have the capital
resources. I paid 12,000 pounds for the place out of which he only got 1,000 pounds I had to pay the balance to the
It was well over 1,000 acres with 6 miles of river frontage, good trout fishing and a very nice home at least, it was after
I had spent a lot of money on it - making it look what it was. The house stood on 10 acres of fairyland, surrounded by
exclusive varieties of plants and shrubs. There were 4 avenues of trees and foliage. This was "Sheltered Vale".
We entertained a good deal there. The children spent most of their holidays on the farm—riding, bathing under the
waterfall, walking, and, of course,- eating—mostly food grown or produced on the farm. It did taste good it always
does when you grow it yourself. I even grew tomatoes, which were not usually produced in the area, and to this is
attached a tale which David often relates. When I picked the first crop, I packed 6 boxes and took them to Mooi River
on a Saturday morning to the farmers' market, where everyone brings their produce to sell. Loaded it into my 7-seater
Cadillac car, drove fifteen miles there and back, and realized R1.50 (15/-) This wasn't enough to pay for drinks at the
pub, let alone the cost of petrol (6 miles to the gallon), but I had my dividend in the fun and pride of the achievement.
Incidentally, the boxes were also made on the farm. When I thinned out the plantations consisting of about million
pine trees, and I sold the timber produced by the saw-mill, there were a lot of off-cuts left strewn about, so I erected a
box-making plant of bits and pieces, and cut boxwood which I sold at seventeen pounds a thousand. I also had a 7-acre
dam built for irrigation.
As I mentioned before, we entertained a large number of friends from Johannesburg and the neighborhood—had
shooting and game hunting parties on Sundays. My friends, the Cherniavskys, made a good deal of use of the farm.
One of the notable occasions was when I handed over the place to Sir Thomas Beecham and family for 10 days - they
enjoyed their stay there. The Midlands of Natal, where the farm was situated, was supposed to have the reputation of
being the 8th healthiest place in the world. Needless to say I was most reluctant to sell, which was due to Valia's
illness. In spite of the fact that I made a good tax-free profit, it was nothing compared to what the present owners are
making as they cut it up into 10-acre lots, selling to fishermen all along the river.
About the same time, in the early 40's I acquired a company that owned 400 acres in Sandton (now known as Khyber
Rock) for R40,000. Thirty per cent of it was laid off amongst my friends. Harry Herber, Harry Landau, and Maurice
Lisbowitz, all of whom have passed away, leaving their shares to numerous heirs who consistently urged me to sell the
ground at best. I resisted as long as I could, but when I got an offer of R250,000 from the Johannesburg Country Club -
who were forced to move from Auckland Park -I reluctantly accepted on condition that I retain 40 acres which is now
Khyber Rock Township Ext. 1. Under normal conditions the 26.5 acres could have been sold at about R20,000 each,
and the 17 acres of flat rights at R60,000 an acre; but due to the economic and political situation at present, I am
holding back the reticulation, waiting for better times.
I also have an interest in a large complex of business premises in the centre of Durban on Smith St. It is about 1.5
acres in extent, which I hope will be very valuable in the future.
This is in short a resume of my activities, which I hope will be of interest to you, my children, and your families.