A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write it a memorial.
It was called “Jassat’s General Store” but we called it “Jockey’s”. I still don’t know why. Perhaps “Jockey” was the name of the Indian who owned the store. It was right across the road from my primary school and in my eight-year-old eyes, it was a perfect treasure emporium. The shop was narrow and dark, and the walls were piled ceiling high with whatever goods “Jockey” thought would please his customers. On the left, there were aprons and overalls among an assortment of other clothes. On the other wall, there was kitchenware – pots and pans and ceramic salt and pepper pots in the shape of animals. (I bought my Christmas presents there for a number of years and my granny loved the cow pepper pots!) An array of black forest cuckoo clocks adorned the back wall, tick-tocking loudly into the silence when the shop was empty. I loved them and longed to buy one for my mom, who also loved cuckoo clocks. One cabinet housed personal toiletries like after shave and perfumes and creams. Another contained watches and jewellery. I would gaze longingly at their crowded shelves for hours while deciding what to buy.
The owner was kind and attentive, even to a child such as myself. He didn’t rush me, and was quite willing to take things off the shelves for me to look at. We used to run across the road at break to buy sweets from him too. Then there would be a woman serving as well, and we children jostled and fought to be able to get our treat before the break bell rang and we had to go back to class.
Jockey’s had a special smell. It smelled musty and sometimes dusty, but always with a hint of incense. In my mind, it smelled Indian, and I loved it. Those were the days before supermarkets and hypermarkets in South Africa. You either went to a specialist shop, or a generalist, like the Indian shops. Jockey’s died for two reasons. The apartheid government made it illegal for an Indian person to own a store in a white area, and unless the owner could find a white person who he trusted to become the “front” for his store, he was doomed to forced removal to an Indian area. And even if he could do that, the arrival of large supermarket chains put the final nail in the coffin.
So I-m saying goodbye here, not only to a childhood memory and a special place, but also to an era. This is a goodbye to the days when the customer was always right, when service was the most important aspect of sales, and when people still looked at each other and saw people, not dollar signs.