Conversations at 7th Avenue

My father was born in Benoni but they moved into Union Cafe and the house above it on 7th Avenue in Alberton a soon after that.

It was an old style house built in the fifties. There was no front garden to speak of, with the front veranda facing the short garden wall with wrought iron work edging the road. There was a central half circle that extended to the front gate, but you had to walk up steps on either side. There was a wire garden table and chairs where my grandmother would sit and knit, in the alcove of the half circle.

The front door was central as  well, yellow painted wood with a four pane glass section in the upper quarter. This was frosted, so you could not see in but from the inside you could see the size and shape of the visitors. As you entered, always under a cross burnt on the frame of the door by the priest who blessed the house every year, there was a room on either side. Each open entrance was edged by two simple columns.

The room on the left was the dining room, with an oblong table and red covers on the wooden chairs with rounded backs. There was an ornate display cabinet at the end, with rounded glass that distorted the few fancy silver and crystal items proudly stored inside.

The room on the right was the lounge. On the left was a three seater couch, and opposite two single seater loungers in the same now retro style. The curvaceous arm rests ended in a built in wood coffee table. I remember they were covered in a burnt red material that had fine ridges that add texture to the memories. The fireplace at the end was flanked by a server sized record player.  Above the fireplace and one the sides were paintings of village and harbour scenes in Greece. I have two of these oil paintings hanging in my house now. My lounge is bigger, fancier I suppose, with a fraction of the character of that old room.

The floor was pine, yellowed and pock marked by the stiletto heels of ladies dancing at New Year and other parties. If you passed the entrance of the dining room on the left and the lounge on the right, you faced the edge of a short passage. On the far left was the bathroom. Just off that corner was the entrance to three bedrooms. You had to pass from one to the other; there was no passage. Just to the right was another single bedroom, initially my grandmother’s and later Uncle Piet’s.  And to the right in the corner was the kitchen.

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