Southern Africa Jewish Genealogy SA-SIG
The Sanders Story
A Family Saga
by Derrick J. Lewis © 2003
Editor: Dr Saul Issroff
Copyright © 2003 Saul Issroff, Mike Getz, SAfrica SIG
and Jewishgen Inc.
Updated: 23 July 2003
Our story begins in the year of 1842, in the town of Mitau. Situated 41 km from the city of Riga, on the banks of the Lielupe River. Mitau,now known as "Jelgava", was home to many "Courlander Jews" as well as the summer home of the Duke of Courland. The duke built a spectacular baroque palace here, between the years 1737 and 1769. As early as 1824,a Jewish day school had also been established in Mitau. Apparently, Jews enjoyed permanent status in Mitau, as long as they paid taxes.
In 1842 a son was born to Laser and Sara Sanders. He was named Wulf. Wulf was one of four sons. According to records of the town "Tukums" the brother’s names were: Marcus, Schapse and Nachmann. However, in Wulf Sanders, Laser and Sara produced a son who was to make them both proud and full of "naches". Like the story of "the wandering Jew", Wulf was to travel the world in search of riches and establishing a secure home for his future family.
In 1861,to avoid military conscription, Wulf decided to leave Latvia and head for the "New World". Although he did not have official travel documents, Wulf managed to trick the border guard into letting him cross the Latvian border. He eventually reached London, where he found work as a bookkeeper in the East End. Here he saved up for the next leg of his journey. In the following year, Wulf purchased a ticket to New York. Early July of 1862 he set sail for the "Goldena Medina". Shortly after sailing, the ship ran aground on a sandbank, but fortunately re-floated on the following high tide.
"Daar kom die Alabama!"
After landing in New York, Wulf apparently continued his journey, per the steamship "Ariel", which was heading for Panama. Wulf was probably going to work in the tanneries there, which were owned by Jews. En route the ship was stopped and captured by the Confederate raider, the infamous "Alabama". Few ships in recent history have captured the imaginations of so many. Built in England, as a 1016 ton steam-and-sail cruiser with six 32 pounders, one rifled 100-pounder, and an 8-inch gun. Afloat on the high seas by the summer of 1862, the CSS Alabama harried Yankee traders and took nearly 60 prizes, dealing a blow to the American merchant marine from which it never truly recovered. Commanded by Capt. Raphael Semmes and manned by a crew of 149 men, she represented a peak of achievement in both design and performance and became the most feared raider in the world at that time. She destroyed 58 union vessels during her two year career. On the 7th December, 1863, the Alabama came across Wulf’s ship, the Ariel, bound from New York to Aspinwall. This is how the first officer of the Ariel, a Mr Thomas, reported the exploits with the pirate Alabama:
On the 7th of December, at 1:30 P.M., when rounding Cape Mayasi, the eastern point of Cuba, we saw a vessel about four miles to the westward, close under the high land of Cuba, barked-rigged and under canvas. As there was nothing in her appearance indicating her to be a steamer, her smokepipe being down, no suspicions were aroused, till in a short time we saw she had furled her sails, raised her smokestack, and was rapidly nearing us under steam, the American flag flying at her peak. Such was her speed in comparison to ours, that in about half an hour she had come up within half a mile of us, when she fired a lee gun, hauled down the American ensign and ran up the rebel flag. No attention was paid to the summons, and the Ariel was pushed to her utmost speed. She then sailed across our wake, took a position on our port quarter about 400 yards distant, and fired two guns almost simultaneously, on shot passing over the hurricane deck, between the walking-beam and smokestack, and the other hitting the foremast, and cutting it half away.
A body of United States Marines, consisting of 126 men, passengers on board the Ariel, had been drawn up and armed; but the officers in command deemed it worse than folly to resist, as we could plainly see they were training a full broadside to bear upon us, and Capt. Jones gave the orders to stop the ship and haul down the ensign.
A boat then put off to us, and the boarding officer, on coming aboard, at once assured the passengers that none should be molested, and that all baggage and private property should be respected. He then demanded the keys of the special locker, together with all the ship’s papers and letters, and informed the captain he must be in readiness to go on board the Alabama with him, where he was detained as a hostage until the next day.
The money in the ship, amounting to $9,500 was taken off and the prize crew, 20 in number, all well armed, put on board. The engine-room was taken in charge by two engineers from the Alabama. The officers and marines on board the Ariel were paroled, and there arms taken, as well as some belonging to the ship.
Finding it was dangerous to venture into Kingston, Jamaica, to land the passengers, Capt Semmes took a bond for $260000, payable six months after the recognition of the Southern Confederacy, and released the Ariel. Capt. Jones carried the Ariel safe into Aspinwall, and arrived at this port on the 28th December, 1863."
On the way to Aspinwall, Wulf came down with yellow fever or "Panama fever" as it was called. He was locked up next to the boiler room, under quarantine, to sweat it out! Thankfully, Wulf survived. We are not sure how long he remained in Aspinwall, Panama, but it appears that America was his destination.
The civil war was at an end and opportunities must have existed for young men, like Wulf to make a new beginning. He eventually made his way to Memphis, where there was already a small Jewish community. Lodgings where found at a local boarding house, where Wulf gave the "inn keeper" his valuables to put into safekeeping. However, the following day when Wulf asked for some of his money, this crooked innkeeper denied ever receiving anything from him! Wulf decided to go to the president of the local shul and ask for help. The president, Mr Jacob K. Franklin was a storekeeper, who in partnership with his brother, Fischel Franklin, ran a general store, Franklin Bros, at 399 Vance Street. He assisted Wulf by offering him a job in his store.
And so Wulf Sanders settled down to life in the "Deep South", working at Franklin Bros general store. Memphis was to be his home for approximately the next seven years.
Meanwhile events were happening in Europe, that would eventually have a direct bearing in the course of Wulf Sanders’ life. In the town of Suwalki, situated in the province of Bialystok, North Eastern Poland, a family by the name of Lasowski, decided to send their eldest daughter, Lena to America, where she would stay with an aunt, a Mrs Jacob Franklin of Memphis, Tennessee.
About 1867, before Lena left her shtetl of Suwalki, the local fortune teller was consulted. It was predicted that Lena would be involved in a terrible accident in the far-off land of America. She was told to sit in the last carriage of a train because the others would "go over a cliff". She would survive and a young Jewish man would come to her assistance, who she would marry!
Josiel Lasowski, Lena’s father, originally came from a town called Krasnopol. In 1846 at the age of twenty-eight, he married twenty-one year old Chaia Rivka Sejnenska of Suwalki. The couple eventually had nine children. Lena, the eldest daughter, was born in 1848. Why her parents decided to send her to America and not her older brother, Israel Lasowski, is uncertain. We are also not sure how she is exactly related to Mrs Jacob Franklin.
Strangely, the majority of Lena’s siblings only arrived in America at a much later date. The last to arrive were her parents, Josiel and Chaia, who landed in New York on the 19th September, 1889, more than twenty years after Lena! The ship’s manifest stated the following:
Arrived New York per the S.S. Galia (4808 tons) via Liverpool and Queenstown:
Jassel Lasowsky - 70 years - Peddlar - Russian citizen, resident of Poland.
Chaye Lasowsky - 66 years - wife.
Samuel Lasowsky - 11 years - child.
Samuel must have been their grandson.
In 1868, when Lena arrived in New York, she took a train to Memphis. En route a huge flood took place causing one of the rail bridges to collapse. Lena’s train went hurtling down the river gorge, but miraculously, her coach, being the last, remained on the line! Out of the blue, a young man came to poor Lena assistance and helped her out of the train. Her English must have been very limited and one can only imagine her joy in discovering that this young man could speak her home language. To top it all, he was Jewish! Lena was amazed when she discovered that this man, Wulf Sanders, actually worked for her uncle, Mr Franklin of Memphis! And so, a relationship began and a prophecy was fulfilled. Two years later Lena fell pregnant and Wulf, being the gentleman he was, married her on the 19th May,1870. The marriage service was conducted by the Rev Chs. Rawitzer, who originally came from Breslau, Germany.
Although, at the time, Memphis was a city of over forty thousand people, the young couple decided to leave, to save them the embarrassment of the pregnancy. They intended to return to Europe, where they hoped to visit their respective parents. On arriving in London, Wulf found lodgings at number 2 Dorset Street, Spitalfields. Three months later, on the 4th August, 1870, Lena gave birth to a son, who was given the very English name of Henry. On Henry’s birth certificate, Wulf’s occupation was stated as a "traveller with jewellery"
Lena registered the birth herself, on the 29 August, with an "X", being her mark. It appears that she was illiterate. It seems that Wulf decided not to return to Latvia, but rather investigate what the British colonies had to offer. The Cape Colony and Australia took his fancy.
August of 1870, just before the birth of Harry (Henry), Wulf sailed off to the Cape Colony, leaving his young pregnant wife behind. It was his intention, that should he find suitable business opportunities and a place to stay in the Colonies, he would bring his family out, to join him, once everything was set up.
His arrival in Cape Town was not to be, not at this stage of his travels. To Wulf’s surprise he was told that his ship had bypassed the Cape and that the next port of call would be Melbourne, Australia!
At the beginning of 1871, Lena and her baby left London to join Wulf in Melbourne. On their arrival off the Australian coast, the ship’s cook was found to be suffering from a case of small pox, preventing them from docking in Melbourne. As a precaution, the ships passengers were put into quarantine on Kangaroo Island, off the Australian coast. Eventually, Wulf, Lena and their baby boy Henry(now nicknamed Harry) were reunited. The family set up home in Melbourne North at 5 Rathdowne Terrace, Carlton.
Wulf Sanders traded as a commercial traveller, calling on farmers and what was then known as sheep stations, selling his wares. Lena gave birth to her second child on the 11 March, 1872, a little baby daughter named Annie. The following year on the 2nd October, 1873, another son, named Moses, was born. By the time a fourth child, Bella, was born on the 30th April, 1875, Wulf was described as a "Store keeper" on the birth certificate. Wulf had obviously prospered enough, to be able to open his own business, a general store in Swanston Street, Melbourne. In 1877 another son was born, called Lazarus, who was known as Lazie. By 1878 the Sanders family had moved from the suburb of Carlton to then up market suburb of Sandridge, situated on Hobson’s Bay, about 1.25 miles from the city centre and 2.5 miles by road.
"The streets of the town are wide, and laid out at right angles. Sandridge is well drained and lighted and the footpaths are mostly either flagged or asphalted".
On the 30th November of that year another child, Samuel Sanders was born. The family was growing and all seemed to be well. However, Wulf received the news that his father, Lazarus had died. Lena had never met her in laws and Wulf felt that the Jewish life and culture of Melbourne was not good enough for his growing family!
It seems they had forgotten what the restricted life was like in Latvia. However, the family decided to sell up everything and return to Riga! What a decision to make, especially in those years! With the opening up of the Suez Canal however, the trip to Latvia was shortened considerably.
In October of 1881, the Sanders family said farewell to Australia, their home for the past 10 years, and set sail for the Black Sea and Russia. Amazingly another child was born on board ship, on the Black Sea, en route to Russia. On the 15th November, 1881 Minna, known as Minnie was born to Lena, her 7th child. In her adult years, Minnie battled to obtain a passport, as it appeared that she was born stateless on international waters.
One can only imagine the exciting and emotional welcome Wulf and Lena must have received on their return to Riga! For Lena this was probably the first time that she would have met her mother in law and those of the Sanders family still living in Latvia. Wulf must have received a hero’s welcome and was probably considered an "Anglo American" international businessman.
The family remained in Riga for only two years. We are not sure if Lena travelled to Poland, to visit her parents in Suwalki. Wulf found he could not stomach the corruption and the anti-Semitism in Latvia. He longed for the open lifestyle of Australia. A decision was made: the Sanders family would return to Melbourne, but not before another child was born! On the 12th January of 1882, Max Sanders arrived. Once again the family set off, first to London, where Wulf set up Lena and her children with suitable lodgings at 26 Stewart Street, Spitalfields. He went on ahead to find a new home for his somewhat larger family, than the one that left Melbourne, two years previously!
The Union Steamship "Danube" sailed from Southampton, on the 3rd March, 1882 with 233 passengers on board, Wulf being amongst them. This time however, his ship docked, 25 days later in Cape Town,on the 28th March, 1882. He fell in love with this "Fairest Cape" and made up his mind there and then to settle in Cape Town and not continue to Australia. A letter was posted to Lena, giving her the news and instructions to purchase tickets on the next steamer. An application to allow Lena to join him in Cape Town was made. Wulf stated in this document that his residential address was 26 Hout Street, Cape Town. Once again, Lena had to pack up and move, this time with eight children in tow! On Friday, the 1st September, Lena and her children arrived at Southampton to board her ship, the Union Steamship Nubian. Such a hustle and a bustle!
It was pouring with rain and there was an unusually large crowd of officials at the wharfside. What was going on? "His Majesty" the Zulu King Cetywayo and entourage were also boarding the Nubian. Cetywayo, who had been captured by the British in Natal, had been taken to England to meet Queen Victoria and was now being returned to Africa dressed "in the garb of an English gentleman".
Twenty-four days later, on Sunday 24th September, 1882, the Nubian arrived in Table Bay. Imagine how impressed Lena and her family must have been; the unique and beautiful Table Bay with the impressive Table Mountain in the background. Yet as beautiful as the Peninsula must have looked, the worry of a small pox epidemic at the Cape, must have been cause for concern. Of the 300 people who had assembled on the pier to greet Cetywayo, not one was allowed to board the Nubian. Bella Sanders in relating stories to her own children and grandchildren, always embellished the story of the" big black Zulu Chief" who "accompanied" her on her trip as a little seven year old girl, on her way to the Cape Colony.
The report in "The Cape Times", Monday, September, 25, 1882, states that on his arrival Cetywayo ...
"wore a double breasted black coat made of superfine diagonal cloth, and trousers of the same material, shirt and collar of spotless white, plain black necktie, and silk hat of Lincoln & Bennet’s very latest style. In his hand he carried a silver mounted cane, and bore himself without the slightest degree of awkwardness or restraint."
Wulf and his family had been apart for seven months. One can only imagine his joy at seeing them again. Wulf had rented a home in the suburb of Mowbray, where they lived for the following two years. During this time Wulf had made contact with the local established business community. He befriended a certain Mr Cleghorn of the firm "Cleghorn & Harris". Cleghorn convinced Wulf that it would be very profitable to open a store in the Karoo town of Oudtshoorn.
By 1882 the impact of the East European immigration had made itself felt, even in this comparatively remote inland district. The attraction was an economic one. Oudtshoorn was enjoying an ostrich feather boom at the time. The gross value of the trade in feathers had rocketed from £87,074 in 1870 to more than a million pounds in 1882. There was already quite a sizeable Jewish community in Oudtshoorn , "landsman" from both Courland and Lithuiania were living there.
By 1883 the Jewish population of Oudtshoorn was large enough to warrant the formation of a Chevra Kaddisha.
The 2nd September, 1883 saw the arrival of another baby boy, named Emanuel, born in Mowbray, Cape Town. Wulf decided to take the advice of Cleghorn and move to Oudtshoorn.
At the beginning of 1885, Wulf and his eldest son Harry left Cape Town to set up shop in Oudtshoorn. The firm of Cleghorns assisted with finance and acted as Wulf’s shippers. A home was found in Adderley Street, Oudtshoorn. Lena once more packed up and moved to join Wulf and Harry. Lena and her children sailed from Cape Town on board the "Mexican",at 4000 tons, the largest Union Mailship at the time. They landed in Mossel Bay on the 25th February, 1885. The Mossel Bay Advertiser of the day printed the passenger list of arrivals ...
From Cape Town per Mexican: Mrs Saunders and 8 children.
It appears that there was some confusion in the spelling of the Sanders name with the addition of the letter "U".
From Mossel Bay Lena and her children travelled by horse and cart over the Robertson Pass to Oudtshoorn. Interestingly, fifteen years later, the "Mexican" sank, 80 miles off Cape Town, after a collision with the steamship, "Wakefield".
The first mention of Wulf Sanders in Oudtshoorn appeared in the June, 1885 edition of the Oudtshoorn Courant, under the heading
Notice of Closing
On and after the 1st July next we, the Undersigned, have agreed to Close our Business Places in Town at 1 o’clock p.m. on every Wednesday till Thursday morning. Signed, W.Sanders.
Strangely, although there was quite a sizeable Jewish community in Oudtshoorn at that time, Wulf Sanders appears to be the only Jewish trader mentioned in this notice.
Later that year, on the 8th June, another son, named Simon, was born to Lena. Simon was to become the academic in the family.
Wulf opened up his first shop in Oudtshoorn at No. 33 St John’s Street, corner of St George’s Street. In 1887 he bought the building from a Mr M. Matroos. The municipal valuation was recorded as £600 pounds. This building still exists today, but has now been converted into a house by the present owner.
The Sanders family took their place in the Oudtshoorn Jewish community. Wulf joined the local Order of Freemasons, eventually becoming the Master of the Oudtshoorn Lodge No.48.
In religious affairs Wulf was also a leading light. In December, 1886 the Jews of Oudtshoorn decided that they would build a shul. A notice appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant of January, 1888 as follows:
The Foundation Stone of the New Synagogue
Will be laid by the Rev. A.F. Ornstein of Cape Town
on Thursday, 26th January, 1888 at 4 p.m.
All friends are invited to attend.
LOUIS FIELD, W. SANDERS, A.STUSSER
Wulf was appointed president of the building committee. The Rev. Myers Woolfson, who had just arrived in the Colony and who was actually intended for the community at Barberton, was appointed as the first Rabbi in Oudtshoorn, a community of about 250 people. He was to serve the "Queens Street Shul" and community for 50 years. The local community was made up of two factions. The one represented by the conservative and deeply religious Jews who came from Chelm, in West Central Lithuania. The other, in the main, who came from the more emancipated town of Shavli, preferred the more modern interpretations and ceremonials. This created a sharp difference of opinion and it is regrettable to note that a bitter dispute arose between these two factions. This resulted in a split between them and a decision that the conservatives ( or Greeners as they were nicknamed) would secede from the Queens Street community and establish a shul of their own in St John’s Street.
The Sanders family, had already travelled the world and were financially established. They were the "modern thinkers" or "Englisher Jews". The Queens Street Shul was consecrated on the 12th December, 1888 by the Rev A.F. Ornstein, of Cape Town, assisted by Rev M.L. Harris of Kimberley and Rev. M. Woolfson of Oudtshoorn. The Sanders family donated a beautiful pair of silver candelabras, which were mounted on the "Bimah".
The classic styled Queens Street shul built of Karoo limestone, is still in use today. The St Johns Street shul has closed and the Arc and furniture can be found in the C.P. Nel Museum. The Oudtshoorn community, like many other country communities, has shrunk to a mere 20 families from a peak of 1000 souls at the turn of the century.
The late Rabbi Abrahams writing in his book The Birth of a Community mentions the unique relationship the Oudtshoorn Jews had in the area.
|One of the most gratifying features of the early history of the Russian Jews in the Oudtshoorn district, was the friendly and hospitable reception accorded to Jews by farming folk. |
The bible was the great bond between them. The Afrikaner treated the Hebrew trader with the respect due to a scion of the People of the Book. Steeped in Scriptural lore himself, the Boer was able to view the Jew’s religious susceptibilities with understanding and sympathy. The Jewish "smous" was almost invariably made welcome at the farmstead. His horses were outspanned, stabled and given fodder; he himself was invited to have a meal, and was accommodated for the night. If his observance of the Jewish dietary laws prevented him from sharing the farmer’s meat, he was offered eggs, bread and coffee. Even if the visitor brought his own utensils, the "boerevrou" took no objection.
Meanwhile, Wulf prospered and his little general store expanded. From the Standard Bank Archives a bank report on W. Sanders, dated 9th August, 1888 notes the following:
|Sanders W. Respectable, & steady, & attention to his business. Owns village property, worth £1000 pounds free. Has stock in trade & outstandings due to him, worth together £1000 pounds. His only outside debts, are to Field & King to whom he is under a general Bond of £1000 pounds, & his indebtedness to them is under the amount of the Bond. Does a good business, & is making money. The bill for 75 pounds is for the accommodation of S. Lax & the P & f £125 pounds is for the assistance of the Hebrew Congregation.
Life in Oudtshoorn was quite a sociable affair, especially for the Sanders family, who now numbered 7 sons and 3 daughters. They could each play a musical instrument and in effect had their own orchestra! We know that Lazie played the violin, Emanuel the flute, Sam the clarinet and Bella the piano. A truly emancipated and cultural Jewish family!
The year 1889, a fourth daughter was born to Lena, who was now 41 years old. Always a danger at this age, Lena had to suffer the consequences of giving birth at this stage of her life. Little Sarah, known as Sarie and in her later years known as Aunty Sarie, was a downes syndrome child, born on the 8th September. She was loved and taken care of by her older sisters, especially Bella who had become her father’s favourite daughter. Little Sarie often accompanied her parents on their overseas trips. A postcard from England to her sister Bella, dated April,1905, Sarie wrote:
|Dear Bella, |
I am quite happy and see Ma and Pa sometimes. I send love to Moss and Julie.
Your loving Sarah.
Sarah, in spite of her condition, lived to the ripe old age of 58 years. She passed over on the 17th October, 1947. Interestingly, on the death of her beloved mother, Lena, in 1918, Sarah was bequeathed an amount of £2000 pounds and all her late mother’s furniture and household effects.
Annie the eldest Sanders daughter, was now 21 years old. Her parents were anxious that Annie should find a husband. Apparently there was a young suitor, but the engagement was broken! However, Wulf and Lena’s embarrassment was saved when a local Jewish ostrich feather buyer by the name of Isaac Nurick approached Wulf and told him how he admired Annie’s good looks, when he attended Shabat services and "observed" her sitting in the ladies section. Now if the truth were being told, Annie was slightly overweight and Isaac Nurick was certainly not of the same class and background as the Sanders family! His eldest daughter, jilted and as yet unmarried, what should he do? Against his better judgement, Wulf gave his consent and the marriage took place on the 28th February 1893. Possibly one of the first to be conducted in the new Queens Street shul.
This is how the newspaper reported the wedding:
|"On Tuesday afternoon the 28th February, there was quite a stir at the Synagogue, to witness the wedding of Mr Isaac Nurich, one of our ostrich feather buyers, to Miss Sanders, daughter of our respected townsman, Mr W. Sanders. The sacred edifice was crowded with spectators. The bride, who was handsomely dressed in a cream silk dress, was given away by her father, and accompanied by two bridesmaids and two pages. The Rev Woolfson delivered an address appropriate to the occasion. |
Immediately after the ceremony a dinner was given at the residence of the bride and at eight o’clock in the evening a ball was given in the Court Room, attended by numerous guests, among them were Mr George Hudson(Mossel Bay), and Mr Ball(Cape Town). Dancing was kept up with great vigour until the small hours of the morning. The happy pair left the next morning for Cape Town, where they intend spending their honeymoon."
The bridesmaids were, Bella and a family friend, a Miss Janover. Max and Emanuel were the page boys. Isaac was attended by his Uncle and Aunt, Jacob and Sarah Nochamson.
It appears that from the notice in the local newspaper of 15th March 1894, general dealer licences were granted to "Wulf Sanders, 33 St Johns St. and "Harry & Moses Sanders, Dysseldorp. It would seem that Moses and Harry had decided to branch out on their own and open a general store in the farming village of Dysseldorp, not far from Oudtshoorn. Sam, who now was 15 years old, probably had joined his father in the business, thereby enabling his older brothers to open their own business.
This was also the year that Wulf expanded his store. An advert that appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant of the 15th March, which was written in Dutch announced:
|W. Sanders, St Johns Straat, wescht zyn talryke klanten en het publiek bekend te maken, dat, daar hy nu bezig is zyn Besigheids Gebouwen to vergrooten ten einde plaats te maken voor nieuwe ontschepingen die dagelyks verwacht worden.|
Loosely translated, the announcement referred to the expansion of the building which Sanders wanted to bring to the notice of his clients and to the public. Wulf’s business relationship continued with the firm of Cleghorn & Harris.
The musical talents of the Sanders children were greatly enhanced with some of them joining the local orchestral society, under the direction of Mr George Hind. Minnie Sanders, like her sister Bella, had also taken up the piano. At a "A Grand Instrumental Concert" held on the Tuesday evening of the 5th November, 1895, at the Y.M.C.A. Hall, Minnie performed a piano solo "Alice" by Woycke. Bella played two Piano solos by Oesten called "Souveninde Marha" and "Fantasia Brillante". In the Oudtshoorn Courant of Monday the 11th November, it was reported:
The piano duets also were good considering that most of the players made their first appearance in public….The achievement of the pupils proves that there is a large amount of musical talent in Oudtshoorn which, if properly directed, bids fair to vie with any other part of South Africa.|
Wulf now decided that his son Lazarus (Lazie) needed to gain more experience and learn the systems of "Big Business". Lazie was sent off to Cape Town to work for Cleghorn & Harris. In a letter to his parents dated October 30, 1894 he wrote:
|"I am glad to say that I arrived this morning all well. I was very silly that I did not take a rug with me, because it was rather cold riding the turn out from Oudtshoorn I must say was very good the horses went splendid. I have had my first breakfast this morning at Mrs Hermann. I came out all right with my money. I have still L4 over. I hope you are getting on properly with the books. I am going this morning to see Mr Black. I have no more news at present, with best love.
Your Loving son
Best Love to Harry, Moses, Bella, Sam etc. Also Annie & Nurick
Two years later, Lazie was transferred to the Port Elizabeth branch of Cleghorns. In a most informative letter to Bella, dated 24th December, 1896, Lazarus wrote:
You must excuse me for not writing you before, as you can imagine how busy I was shifting. Well I arrived here Thank God well. As for my new place, things are a bit hard for me at present, as things are in such a state, and everything is in a mix up, I feel a bit uneasy about my work, but I’ll have to Jirk along until Mr Black comes down , and then he’ll give me a fair start. I am fairly disgusted with the town as it is so dull, there are no places of amusements of any kind at present, and the only thing to do after business is read and off to bed. I am staying in a Christian boarding house, as Jewish places are out of the town, there are several other respectable fellows at the same place, but its not the same as mixing up with your own kin, in fact I am really sorry that I left town, its all well and good I’ll get more pay, but what is the use of being misraeble.
I’ll make the best of it for a time, and if I don’t get over it I’ll politely ask to be replaced. I did not have much liking to go but I wanted to see what Port Elizabeth is like it is very soon to complain but I cannot help it. After all I’d prefer being in Oudtshoorn with all of you.
I am not in love with boarding House life, as almost every meal there is Ham on the table, and that takes away my appetite altogether.
I feel today so that I got a good mind to write to Mr Black to go back, of course they have paid my fare down but that does not matter, I can refund them the money. I wonder what Pa will think of it, show him this letter and write me at once what he says, now I’ll change the subject. Today Rhodes arrived here and a great reception was given, most of the stores have closed for the day on account of it, our has and I am off until Monday, I am awfully sorry as I have nothing to pass my time away with. If I am in business its all the better.
I caught sight of Louis Lyons to day he seems to be down in the world. I was told he has taken to the stage and is going to Uitenhage to perform.
I must now conclude with love to yourself, Pa, Ma and all the child From your loving Brother
I wish you were here to console me.
Poor Lazarus, all alone in a strange town and staying in a boarding house that served "Ham" every day! What a lovely piece of history in the making, with the "arrival of Rhodes".
The 12th and last child born to Lena, (now in her 43rd year!), was Ethel, born in 1891. Like the rest of her siblings, Ethel was also very musical and became an excellent opera singer.
Great excitement! 1895, at last the first grandchild to Wulf and Lena, arrives! Annie Nurick gives birth to her first child (one of eight). She is named Sarah in memory of her late Grandmother, Sarah Sanders. Little Sarah is a most beautiful baby. She is nicknamed "Cissie". Amazingly, there was only four years difference between Cissie and her Aunt Ethel. They obviously became good playmates and in fact many years later, life took one big circle, when in 1948, Ethel went to live with her niece Cissie, who had married Abe Kaplan of Bulowayo. Ethel lived with Cissie until her death in 1974.
One wonders what the relationship was like between father and son in law, bearing in mind that originally Wulf was not too sure about Isaac Nurick. Interestingly, a memorandum addressed to the manager of the Standard Bank, Oudtshoorn from W. Sanders, General Dealer, St John Street, dated Feb 21st 1898 and signed by Wulf read as follows:
If bill in favour of I Nurick is presented for payment, please do not pay,
-----------By so doing you will oblige.
---------------------------------W. Sanders & Sons.
Was this just a bookkeeping problem or a more serious situation? Who knows? Annie and Isaac ended up having eight children! Their lives were closely intertwined with the fortunes of the ostrich feather industry. With the feather boom of the late 1890’s Annie and Isaac enjoyed a comfortable lifestyle. However after a slump in the feather market during World War 1, the Nurick’s fortunes dwindled and life for this large family became a struggle. Sadly after much suffering, Annie died of breast cancer in 1918, eleven months before the death of her mother, Lena. Shortly afterwards, Isaac left for London, supposedly to try and make a new life for his family.
Isaac left his children in the care of his eldest daughter, Cissie, who was now a qualified school teacher. Whilst in London, Isaac found a new wife and it appears that he neglected his children, as he did not return to South Africa until many years later. Harry, one of Annie’s sons wrote the following letter, to his Aunt Bella, regarding the death of his mother:
48 Cullinan Buildings,|
Johannesburg 13th March 1918.
Dear Aunt Bella,
----------------Thank you very much for your kind letter and I hope you and all your family are in the best of health.
----------------You cannot imagine how I wished that I could fly home, but what is the use of remorse, I feel that I should have stayed for there was never a sweeter or better mother than ours. Of course I go to shool everyday to say kaddish.
----------------I daresay Mossie will have grown into quite a big boy and will soon be writing his matriculation exam. Does Joe still want to be a rich man?
----------------How is business? I hope brighter. Should there be anything I can do for you up here let me know and perhaps some good business may result.
----------------I have no more to write so close with love to all from Lyle & myself.
--------------------------------Your affectionate Nephew,
Back to 1898, the month of October and tragedy strikes the Sanders family! A report appears in the newspaper of the 22nd October
Regretfully we record the sudden death of young Max Saunders, son of Mr W. Saunders of St John’s and High Streets, which occurred on Saturday afternoon, the funeral taking place yesterday afternoon. A ridiculous story, which has its origin in some wildered brain, got about that he had died from the effects at eating poisoned oranges, whereas the post mortem held by Drs. O’Hare and Truter showed the cause of death to have been rupture induced by overstrain in lifting too heavy a weight. Max, who was only 16, was beloved by all who knew him, Jew and Christian alike, for his bright happy disposition and his courteous behaviour, in fact he was a general favourite, and much sympathy goes forth to his bereaved home circle that so promising a young life should have been suddenly cut short. What adds to the grief of the family is the fact that the father is at present absent in Cape Town.
Bella recalled this sad day when her young brother, according to her, was showing off how strong his was by lifting a large coffee bag. It appears from his tombstone, that his given name was "Marcus".
Life continues for the Sanders family as their business prospers and Wulf, with the help of his sons Sam and Lazarus, take the decision to branch out. Harry had left his father’s store and was now trading in the village of Dysselsdorp, where he had taken for himself, a mistress, a local lady by the name of Sarah Sophia Nomdoe. He fathered six children with this woman and we are not sure if he supported any of them. According to family legend Harry had to leave South Africa in the early 1900’s to avoid embarrassing the family any further with his liaison with this "lady of colour".
Harry landed up in the town of Timmons in Northern Ontario, Canada, where he opened up a general Store in 1908. He couldn’t have found a place further removed from Oudtshoorn if he had tried! On 8th November, 1908, he married Sarah Fried with whom he had two daughters: Bertha, born in 1909 and Florence who was born in 1911. In 1923 he divorced Sarah and remarried another lady, with whom he enjoyed a happy marriage until his death on 6 January, 1947. His eldest daughter, Bertha became a nurse and emigrated to Palestine in the 1930’s where she settled on the 2nd kibbutz to be established in Palestine, by the name of "Degania Bet" Bertha married Issie Stav and was fondly known to generations of kibbutzniks as Sister Bertha. Florence, her sister, married a Mr Milan of Detroit.
The building and the business of "R. Lea & Co" situated on High Street Oudtshoorn was purchased by Wulf in 1889. This gave him the opportunity to expand and attract "main street trade". He advertised on the 9 March 1889 as follows:
"At last our new premises in High Street are completed and we will be open on Saturday, 18th March. We have not spared any expense in erecting a beautiful building for the convenience of the Public" Wulf continues to expand and another business was taken over by "W. Sanders & Sons" :
N O T I C E
We have this day disposed of our Business in Oudtshoorn to Messrs W. Sanders & Sons, and our premises will be closed one week from tomorrow, Friday, 16th inst., for stocktaking purposes.
Cleghorn & Harris
15 Feb., 1900
As this notice indicates, it appears that Wulf had managed to buy the Oudtshoorn branch of Cleghorns, the very people who had assisted him in the beginning! Up to the minute with the latest developments in business, Wulf advertises: "SEE OUR WINDOWS ILLUMINATED ON WEDNESDAY EVENING."
Not wanting his original store to suffer, Wulf wisely advertised:
|Old Friends must not be forgotten.
And consequently our old Establishment in St. John’s Street must not be overlooked, because we have enlarged our High Street Business. We are always receiving New and Seasonable Goods there, quite different to our other Branches, and are offering them at Prices never before heard of in St John’s Street.
To the Jewish Inhabitants:-
We have just unpacked a New Assortment of Crockery and Enamelled Ironware specially ordered for Pesach requirements.
Our cart will call daily for orders to anyone not being able to come or send for their requirements
W. SANDERS & SONS,
THE OLD STORE - - ST. JOHN STREET.
No flies on Wulf! He certainly knew retailing and the implications of expanding his business! By now Wulf was able to travel to London and Europe on an annual basis, combining both business and pleasure. On most occasions his wife Lena and usually two of his younger daughters, Sarah and Ethel accompanied him. Whilst in London, Ethel was sent to private schools, where she befriended the wealthy Sassoon family.
A report in the Oudtshoorn Courant prior to Wulf’s trip in 1900, stated:
|Mr Woolf Sanders, head of the firm W. Sanders & Sons leaves for Europe by Wednesday’s steamer. He is travelling principally in the interests of his business and expects to be away for three or four months. Previous to his departure his own intimate friends entertained him to a dinner, some twenty taking part in the pleasing function. A complimentary address was presented to him in behalf of the Jewish community who hold him in high esteem, first as am exemplary citizen and secondly as a zealous worker in religious, educational and social circles. Mrs Sanders accompanies her husband, we wish them a pleasant voyage and safe return. |
The children did not go with them on this occasion. Wulf however, kept in touch writing a wonderful letter to his favourite, Bella. He used a letterhead of the London offices of "Cleghorn & Harris".:-
CLEGHORN, HARRIS & Co., 85 Golden Lane, London, E.C.
21st June, 1900.
I have received your letter of 24th. May from which I am very pleased to see you are keeping well, and I am glad to say that we are both pretty well. Mother on her arrival here did not feel well, and had a swollen face for about three days, but, thank God, she is all right again. We are trying our best to enjoy ourselves as well as we can, but I can assure you that I find very little enjoyment at present as I am away all day at business, and mother being strange to London does not care about going about herself, so this confines her to the House during the day. We have visited several places of amusement, and enjoyed ourselves. We also found out a family called Rousengard. I am sorry to say the old people are dead and there are only four daughters left, two of whom are married, and two are single. We went to see them. We are also going out on Sunday to Mr Field’s, who lives a little out of London, and where we intend to spend Sunday.
I hope that you and the Children are quite well, and that our temporary absence from you does not make much difference.
If there is anything particular that you may require or anything for the children, please do not forget to let me know, as it takes three to four weeks to arrive here.
We intend to sail from London on the 1st of September in the same Steamer as we came with that is the "Kinfauns Castle". I must tell you that Mrs Valentine makes us very welcome and she is really a good woman. Tell Mr Valentine, if he is in Oudtshoorn, he ought to be proud to have a wife like her.
Mother and I intend to leave here on the !st of July for Germany, in which country we intend to stay close upon three weeks. I do not know whether I will be able to visit the Paris Exhibition, as Mother does not feel inclined to go to it.
Please let me know if Mr. Hiedisheimer has left Oudtshoorn.
I have made no acquaintances as yet, as I have been very busy in the office from morning till night. Tell the Children that they ought not to be angry that I do not write letters to each separately as you know very well that I cannot spare any time time to do so, therefore just let them see this letter which will satisfy them just as well.
Tell Simie I received his letter and I am glad to hear that he is attentive to school, and also makes progress in Music. If he wishes anything particular for me to bring him let him write to me and I will do. No more news at present. Best love to Minnie, Ethel, Sarah, Simie, Emmanuel, Harry, Annie & Neureka and their children.
Tell Annie I will not write to her until she writes a letter to me. I have not received a letter from her as yet and I think it is very wrong. I am anxious to hear how the children are getting on. Best regards to Valentine and his wife and child and all enquirers.
Your affectionate Father,
Reading this letter, one can certainly get an idea of the close relationship that existed between Bella and her father. Poor Lena must have suffered from either sunburn or some food allergy on her trip over to London! Amusingly, Wulf obviously attempted to down play the fact that, while the rest of his family were living in the little dusty Karoo town of Oudtshoorn, Wulf and Lena were enjoying the "high life" of London, "centre of the Empire". One does not doubt, however, that Wulf was also working hard in all his business endeavours.
Who were the "Rousengards" and what happened to the "old people", possibly their parents? The Mr Field mentioned was one of the shippers, probably employed by Cleghorns.
Travelling to Germany, possible visit to the Paris Exhibition, in the year of 1900, when most Jews of Courland were still struggling, shows how far Wulf had progressed in life! Also we note, that music continues to play an important role in the life of the Sanders family. Simie, "making progress in music", was the youngest son in the family and the first child born in Oudtshoorn, on the 9th June 1885, four months after their arrival in the town.
Emanuel was the first "South African" child, born in Mowbray, on the 22nd September, 1883. Emanuel attended school in Oudtshoorn and and later joined his father in the business. However, in 1905, Emmanuel decided to seek his fortunes in Australia, which had previously been home to the Sanders family for ten years.
A report appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant of 17th April, 1905 mentioning… "A cable has been received from Mr Wolf Sanders announcing his safe arrival in the little village of London (the editors humour) Mr Emanuel Sanders (son of the Wolf Sanders) leaves Oudtshoorn for Australia next week. Although Manuel was born in Australia (not true), he has grown up in our midst and we all look upon him as an Oudtshoorn boy and wish him hearty God speed"
A post card addressed to "Mrs Bella Israelsohn, St Johns Street, Oudtshoorn, Cape Colony and dated May 3, 1905, read as follows:
Just a few lines to let you know that I have arrived safe & feel none the worse for the accident over the mountains. Give my love to baby. I am off on Wednesday. Good bye.
Your loving brother,
Shortly after arriving in Melbourne, Emanuel wrote a letter to his sister Bella:
|39 St Vincent Place S|
Sept. 14th 05
Your loving letter to hand, was pleased to hear that you are all well. Melbourne at the present time is looking up, and as I am in business with the Albion Tailoring Coy, can see things greatly improved.
Last Saturday I went to Royal Agricultural show held out at flemington, as I can assure you it was a sight worth seeing. I have sent the "Austraelasion" to Mo, it will give you an idea of what was there.
The theatres are every night on, being tired of them I do not go so often as I used to. Although the prices are very cheap, imagine you can go & see any play in the best Theatre from 1/- 2/- 3/- 4/- etc at present they are playing the "Cingalee" & the J.P. Give my love to Mossie & congratulate him on my behalf on his birthday, mine has also just gone, 2nd Sept. I have received letter weekly from dear Parents & Ethel.
Will now Conclude.
Your loving Brother
Xcuse brief letter as I have to do a considerable lot of writing tonight.
It was here in Melbourne,in 1909, that Emanuel met and married his first wife, Evelyn Lucas, the marriage taking place in 1910. Their first child was born in 1911, but sadly, only lived for a few days.
Emanuel decided to return to South Africa after this sad experience and help his young wife start afresh, in a new country. He joined his brother Lazarus, who had married Ida Hammerschlag of Calvinia in 1902. Lazarus was now in business with his in-laws and was a director of the trading store "L. Rosenblatt & Co." of Calvinia, a little town in the Northern Cape.
Emanuel and Evelyn had another child, Wilton,named in memory of Wulf Sanders, who had passed away in 1910. Emanuel joined up during the 1914-1918 war. In 1927 he left Calvinia and went to Elgin, where he ran a hotel and bottle store. In 1931 he sold the business and took over an insolvent hotel in the railway town of Colesberg. Emanuel built up the Central Hotel, as it was called, into a thriving business and in 1935 sold out at a good profit.
World War Two, and once again Emanuel joined the forces. His wife Evelyn had died. After the war, Emanuel settled in Durban where he married a lady by the name of Pat. Here he established an agency business, trading as "Sandersons African Agencies" In 1964, after returning from a days fishing at the Durban docks, bringing home "three big ones", Emanuel took ill. Pat took him to hospital at midnight, were he died at 4 a.m. the next day. Pat died 17 years later in May, 1981
Emanuel’s son Wilton, who at one time was a "station master" of a country railway station, married a nursing sister by the name of Elsa. The couple never had children but instead, adopted a boy, by the name of Kenneth.
Unfortunately, their adopted son turned out to be very nasty towards his adopted parents. Poor Wilton, who had had three strokes within three years, also suffered from heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Else nursed him all the time at home, until he went to hospital. He died 4th November, 1983. Apparently, their son Kenneth did not come to see his father during his illness, nor to the funeral, and he refused to help his mother pay for the funeral expenses.
A year previously, the following report appeared in the Johannesburg newspaper, the Rand Daily Mail of 9th September, 1982:
"Starving" dad seeks payment from son|
By David Capel
TWO seriously ill and "almost starving" pensioners are awaiting the outcome of a letter to their son instructing him to repay them the R38 000 his father said he gave him as the deposit for a luxury R115 000 home. And a prominent Progressive Federal Party MP, Mr Alf Widman, will act as the couple’s attorney in a court case which will be held if the money is not forthcoming. Mr Sanders said he gave his son, Ken, the money - his life savings - on the understanding that he keep his father in comfort in the house for the rest of his life. Mr Ken Sanders bought the mansion last year with the money his father received when he sold his home in Florida. The mansion was also furnished with his father’s expensive furniture.
But Mr Sanders senior, 63, was evicted from the house shortly afterwards. The elderly Mr Sanders, who now lives in a dingy flat at Lorna Court in Joubert Park with his wife Elsa, survives on a R267 a month pension and food from Meals on Wheels. City councillor, Mrs Molly Kopel said that Mr Wilton Sanders cried continually when speaking of the incident. Both he and his wife were in very poor health.
The years 1900 to 1907 were busy and exciting years for the Sanders family. Lena & Wulf were now travelling overseas on and annual basis taking Sarah and Ethel with them. Sam, who at this stage had a major interest in the business, also joined his parents on their overseas trips. W. Sanders & Sons was now fast becoming an important player in the economy of the Western Cape. By 1900 the main store in High Street, Oudtshoorn, had become a fully-fledged "department Store", offering mens and ladies wear, furnishings and drapery, stationery, millinery, groceries, schoolwear, furniture, dressmaking etc. Sanders advertised their dressmaking department as follows:
OUR HEAD DRESSMAKER
Who is due to arrive this week from England,
is a High-class Modiste, and is thoroughly conversant
with Fashions Latest Dictates
Has a reputation for ELEGANCE OF STYLE, CORRECTNESS of CUT and PERFECTION of Fit which we invite you to test.
This announcement from our Dressmaking Department is to remind you that our New Materials and Trimmings are now to hand and ask you to favour us with a call.
We unhesitatingly affirm that amongst the many brilliant conceptions to hand from the Continent’s great fashion creating centres, the requirements of every lady of cultivated taste can be filled to the highest degree of satisfaction.
In expressing our great appreciation of your valued orders in the past, we would respectfully ask a continuance of your patronage, to deserve which will always be our strenuous aim.
EVENING and THEATRE GOWNS, VISITING and RECEPTION DRESSES,
£ 3 15s. upwards.
Wulf and Sam had certainly done their best on their buying trips to the Continent! The adverts, albeit rather long winded, were a good example of the style of advertising at the turn of the century. One can just picture "Miss Hanna" measuring up all the leading ladies of Oudtshoorn. Two of her measurement notes have survived! Her records of "Mrs W. Sanders" state that Lena’s bust was 43inches and waist 30 inches. Bella’s measurements, not surprisingly, were near perfect: bust; 35 inches, waist: 22 inches!
1901 was an exceptionally busy year for the family. Lazarus became engaged to Ida Hammerschlag of Calvinia and Bella got engaged to a good-looking young man, Isidore Israelsohn. Isidore, who was born in the town of Bouska, Courland, had settled in Oudtshoorn together with his brothers, Meyer and Barney, having arrived in South Africa in June, 1893. Bella and Isidore married on the 23rd October, 1901 in the Queens Street Shul. The service was conducted by the Rev Woolfson. Dr Jacobson, the best man, supported Isidore. The Anglo - Boer War was still going on at the time and the young couple had to get special permission, from the local magistrate to travel.
They journeyed to Prince Alfred by horse and cart, to get the train connection to Cape Town, where they were intended to spend their honeymoon. According the story as told by Bella, on the way to Prince Alfred, they were stopped by some boer soldiers, who had infiltrated the Cape. On recognising Isidore, as the honest and kindly feather buyer whom they had dealings with, the boers allowed the couple to pass unhindered.
A most interesting letter was received by Wulf and Lena from Ida Hammerschlag, Lazarus’ future bride. She wrote:
|Calvinia, Aug 29th 1901|
My Dear Mother & Father,
I suppose you will think it great cheek on my part addressing you so.
We have been having a very miserable time here again as the boers are still round about here yesterday. They were about half an hour from here but do not venture nearer. I am sorry I could not be present at Bella’s wedding but only have to thank the boers for it.
The wire has been broken now for nearly a month, it is terrible being cut off from everything so long.
As the New Year is approaching I must wish you all a very happy and prosperous one, and only hope you will be spared for many more to come. They are expecting a convoy tomorrow. I only hope to get a letter from my dear Lazie. I do feel so sorry for dear Lazie always having to put off the wedding but as it is so unsafe to travel, I am too afraid to let him come. I only wish you will cheer him up. I will now end with love to yourselves and all others.
From Your Future daughter in law,
Poor Ida! Cut off from her beloved fiancé, Lazie (Lazarus Sanders), who had to postpone his wedding, "thanks to the boers". It appears from her letter, that Ida was in awe of her future in-laws. Eventually the couple, in spite of the "boers", managed to tie the knot on the 19th March, 1902. The local newspaper reported:
On Wednesday last, the Rev Woolfson, assisted by Mr Balkin, joined together in holy matrimony at the Queens Street Synagogue, Mr Lazarus Sanders of Messrs. W. Sanders & Sons, and Miss Ida Hammerschlag, daughter of Mr Joseph Hammerschlag of Calvinia.
The bride who was handsomely attired and who was attended by two little sisters of the bridegroom acting as flower girls, was given away by her father. After the interesting ceremony, a reception was held at the bridegroom’s residence in High Street, where crowds of friends attended to felicitate the happy pair before they started on their honeymoon trip to George. Many beautiful and costly were the wedding gifts received from Calvinia, Cape Town, Oudtshoorn, etc.
Lazie left W. Sanders & Sons shortly after his marriage and joined his father in law in the business of L.Rosenblatt & Co., "Direct importers, general dealers and buyers of Wool, Skins and Ostrich feathers at the highest market prices".
Lazie and Ida had three children, Julie, Sybil and Wulfie. Wulfie apparently died at a very young age. Julie at the age of 26, married a 2nd cousin, Wilfred Rosenblatt, who was a dentist in Cape Town. He lived at that time, at the "Hotel Riviera, Beach Road, Sea Point. The marriage took place during September, 1929. Sybil died a spinster. Julie never had children, so this part of the family tree came to an end! Unfortunately no information is available as to the exact date of Lazie’s death, but it is thought to be in the late 1930’s.
By 1896 Moses Sanders was no longer in partnership with his brother Harry in their store at Dysselsdorp, but had set up a business of his own, in High Street, Oudtshoorn, trading as "Central Stores." A report appeared during 1896 in the Oudtshoorn Courant:
Fire at the Central Stores
On Wednesday afternoon, shortly after closing time, about quarter past one, alarm of fire was given, and people were observed rushing towards the Central Stores, in High Street, under the charge of Mr M.W. Sanders. Mr George Wallis, jun. (agent for the Norwich Union, in which company the stock is insured) was fortunately in the neighbourhood, and was able to direct the excited crowd. A window was burst open and water applied to the flames, which luckily had not yet obtained a firm hold of the shop goods. Mr Sanders with the Keys of the Stores was quickly on the spot and it did not take long, with the assistance of willing hands to extinguish the fire. It is computed that the damage done by the fire and water is about 200 pounds.
Years later on the 8th March, 1924, the "Fine store of Messrs. Sanders & Sons" was totally destroyed by fire. A story as told by the Late Woolf Israelsohn, referring to a certain Mr Bud Schneider of Oudtshoorn "who has had no less than 20 years experience of fire-fighting in Russia". He who would assist Jewish shopkeepers by causing more water damage than was necessary, thereby increasing their insurance claims!
During 1903, Moses Sanders married Bella’s sister in law, Ella Israelsohn. The couple eventually had one child, a daughter named Rebecca, known as Ruby. Ruby was born in Oudtshoorn, on 1 September, 1907. Shortly after, Moses, or Mo as he was known, was diagnosed to be suffering from diabetes. His doctor suggested that he travel to Germany to try and find a cure.
A postcard received from Berlin addressed to "Mr M.L. Israelsohn c/o M Hotz & Co, Oudtshoorn, reads as follows:
|Sept 2 1908.
My Dear M.L.I.
Just a few lines to wish you a Happy New Year & hoping you are in good health. I am getting on nicely.
My Love to all,
Your loving Mo.
Sadly Moses died two months later at the Kaiser Wilhelm Kurhaus, in Neuenahr, Germany. He was just 34 years old. Moses was buried in Germany, far removed from his young wife Ella and their baby daughter, Ruby.
His obituary appeared in the local newspapers:
We regret to have to record the death of Mr Moses W. Sanders, second son of Mr and Mrs Wolf Sanders of this town. The deceased was a well-known figure in Oudtshoorn and was highly thought of and respected, especially amongst the members of the Jewish community. In August last, acting upon the advice of his medical adviser, he left for Europe and has been receiving treatment for that painful complaint diabetes at the Neuhardt Hospital, Germany.
Only so lately as Wednesday last his sister, Mrs Israelsohn, received a very hopeful letter from him telling how much his health had improved, but the very next day his parents had a cable conveying to them the melancholy intelligence that he was no more. We offer our sincere sympathy and condolence to his sorrowing parents and other relatives.
It seems the newspaper, overlooked the fact that Moses was survived by a wife and child! After this untimely passing, Ella and her baby returned to Bauska, Latvia. She had decided to stay with her remaining family who were still living there and benefit from the rental income from her home in Oudtshoorn, which was left to her by her husband.
Ella and her daughter were caught up in the Russian Revolution, having to cross and re-cross the border between Russia and Latvia a number of times! With the assistance of the family back in South Africa, Ella returned to Oudtshoorn during 1920, where Ella and her daughter Ruby finally settled. Ruby grew up in Oudtshoorn and at the age of 24, she married Joseph Wolff on the 29th December, 1931. Two years later, 1933, she gave birth to her only child, a son named Henry. In 1961, Henry married Judith Cohen. A year later Ruby, his mother, died at the age of 54 years.
Although Henry qualified as a lawyer, he worked as a journalist and at the end of 1971, Henry, his wife and their two daughters, Naomi and Avigail, settled in Israel. Here he was active in Public Relations at the Bar Ilan University. Because his name "Henry" was not considered "Jewish" enough, he was known to his Israeli colleagues as Moshe. In 1982 Henry, like his grandfather Moses Sanders before him, died at the relatively young age of 48.
Simon Sanders, the first "Oudtshoorn" child of the family attended the Old Oudtshoorn Boys High School, where he matriculated in 1903. In 1904, Simon moved to Johannesburg, where the call of the gold mining industry attracted him. He qualified as a mining engineer but on the advice of his doctor and the urging of his family, he changed careers. Simon had contracted a chest complaint, probably what was then known as "miners thisis". Towards the end of 1912, he went to London where he entered Guy’s Hospital as a clinical dental student. He qualified in 1915 and later took over a dental practice in the small town of Leighton Buzzard, 50 miles north from London.
He built up a very successful practice, which included several branch surgeries in remote villages. Visits, mostly in the evenings, coincided with those of a visiting doctor. His transport was a pony and trap. Against his parents wishes, he married a non-Jewish lady by the name of Ruby Louise Burton, on the 20th may, 1915. Ruby, who was affectionately known as "Doll" had four children: Wilfred, Helen, Audrey and John.
Things were going well for Simon and in 1921, he bought his first motor car. He owned a great variety of cars, which he drove at speed, much to the delight of his children. Doll loathed every minute and would scream with fear at the slightest thing!
During the same year, Annie Nurick sent her son Lionel to London, where he also went to "Guy’s" to study dentistry. He qualified at the end of 1924. Lionel and his Uncle Simon, became good friends and played tennis for Buck’s County, quite something in those days.
In 1929, Simon decided to turn to consultative dentistry. With this in mind he bought an old established practice in Bedford (started in the 1890’s). The practice did not come up to expectations, so Simon more or less had to start from scratch. He succeeded and by the end of 1932, the practice was flourishing. Simon had by this time given up tennis for golf. The golf course being only 800 yards from his home.
1933, and Simon and Doll decided to move to a village eight miles south of Bedford, called Ampthill. The couple provided a wonderful home in every way. Their children had a good education and were allowed to choose their future. John and Wilfred went to boarding school at St. Edwards in Oxford. In 1938, Wilfred followed in his father’s footsteps by studying dentistry at Guy’s hospital where he qualified in 1942. Thereafter, Wilfred joined the RAF dental branch until his release in 1947. After his discharge, Wilfred joined his father in practice at Bedford. By this time Simon was a sick man and had to go to hospital for an operation. The prognosis was bad, but with guts and will power, he survived and returned to his practice. Nine months later Simon had an eye operation to remove a cataract. He was not able to practice again and had another spell in hospital. He returned home but did not survive long. Simon Sanders died peacefully in his sleep on the 3rd October, 1952 at the age of sixty-seven, loved by all and respected by his community, but sadly cut- off from his South African family. However the contact between Simon’s family and Lionel (now known as Lyle) Nurick continued, as Lyle had also married "out of the faith". Lyle married Mary Chisholm and they had 4 children.
Years later, Woolf Israelsohn, Bella’s son made contact with the Sanders family of England in a most coincidental way! Woolf, at the time was trading in the town of George, in the Southern Cape. His business was situated across the road from a "tea lounge" called "Pooles", owned by Norman and Pat Poole, who originally came from Bedford, England. In conversation with Pat Poole, Woolf told her about the "Sanders story". She remarked that her dentist back in Bedford was a Dr Dickie Sanders. Like his grandfather, before him, Woolf usually travelled to England and the Continent on an annual basis, combining business with "a lot of pleasure" Woolf you see, was still a bachelor! A telephone call and subsequent visit to Bedford proved that he was on the right track! "Dickie Sanders", was none other than Wilfred, son of the late Simon Sanders. In 1985, Wilfred and his wife came out to South Africa to meet his other "Jewish relatives". On a visit to Oudtshoorn he was entertained by the mayor of the town, who took Wifred and his wife through the famous "Cango Caves", as guests of the town council!
Sanders Silver Wedding
Meanwhile, back in 1894, Wulf Sanders and Lena celebrated their silver wedding anniversary. Quite amusingly, as a consequence of the "premature" birth of their first born (three months after the marriage), Wulf Sanders falsified the date of his marriage on all his children’s birth certificates! He backdated the marriage to 1869. The children never ever knew the true date and quite understandably took 1894 to be the correct anniversary year, by presenting their mother Lena with a beautiful silver tiara made of little leaves. Each leaf had a child’s name engraved upon it. A silver corsage was also presented to her. This heirloom has survived and has been donated by the family to the new Jewish Museum, which is due to open alongside the Great Synagogue, Gardens, Cape Town, in the year 2000.
Another beautiful heirloom has also survived: Wulf Sanders, on one of his overseas trips, had a magnificent ostrich feather fan made up for his favourite daughter, Bella, for her sixteenth birthday. The fan made of 21 of the finest plumes, had a handle of mother of pearl with Bella’s initials, "B.S" embossed thereon. This fan can also be seen in the new Jewish museum.
Bella, as we now know, was a beautiful and talented young lady, with a fine figure to match! Isidore Israelsohn was swept off his feet at their first meeting. After their marriage, Bella and Isidore settled down to life in the "boom town" of Oudtshoorn. The feather industry was at its height and Isidore prospered. He purchased a plot of ground in Adderley Street, Oudtshoorn and had a wonderful house built of stone for his young family.
At this time, Bella already had two sons, Moses, born in 1904 and Joe, born in 1906. A daughter name Deborah, was born in 1908. In 1911, Bella was expecting another child, so the building of this new home was of great importance to them.
The home featured two large front gables with three half round turrets joining each gable. The centre turret boasted a "Magen Dovid" - Star of David. A large front porch with wooden trellice work and banisters created a most pleasing effect. The Oudtshoorn firm of Simpson & Bridgeman built the home. On the 22nd of October, 1911, Bella gave birth to last child, a son name Wulf, named in memory of her father, who had passed away the previous year.
Wulf Sanders, who travelled the world and at the same time managed to take care of his wife and their large family of twelve children, had established himself as a leader of the community in Oudtshoorn. With the help of his sons, and especially Sam, Wulf built up the business of W. Sanders & Sons into the leading and most respected department store in the Southern Cape. Although fortunes were made, and lost, in the ostrich feather business, Wulf refused to get involved, preferring to focus on the retail trade. His store in High Street, boasted the first "show windows" in Oudtshoorn, as well as the first "illuminated displays". Although Wulf had been living in the Cape Colony for twenty years, he only applied for "Letters of Naturalization" on the 2nd September, 1902. On the 1 May, 1908, Wulf and Lena signed a joint will, witnessed by the famous Afrikaans writer, poet and attorney at the time, C.J. Langenhoven. In 1909, Wulf was elected Noble Master of the Oudtshoorn Lodge of the Grand Order of Israel.
Life seemed to be treating the Sanders family well despite the untimely deaths of their sons Max and Moses. Sam Sanders was now running the business, with Wulf taking a back seat. Harry was living in Canada and his brother Emanuel was living in Australia.
At the age of 68, Wulf was struck down. This is how the Oudtshoorn Courant reported the sad passing:
24 February, 1910.
THE LATE MR WULF SANDERS
As briefly stated in our last issue, the news that Mr Wulf Sanders, senior partner in the firm W. Sanders & Sons, drapers and outfitters, of High Street, Oudtshoorn, had died suddenly of apoplexy on Thursday morning, 24th February, came as a painful surprise to the inhabitants of this town. We understand that only the evening before he was at the Olympia Rink, apparently in his usual health and spirits, and chatted in his customary amiable manner with a number of friends.
When the seizure came Drs. Jacobson and Stusser were soon in attendance, but he was practically beyond human help before any assistance could be offered. The late Mr Sanders was born at Mitau, a town in the province of Courland, Russia, not far from Riga, in 1842, and was thus 68 years old at his death. He travelled practically all over the world, until in 1882, he finally settled at Oudtshoorn with his family. For many years he carried on a general dealer’s business in St John’s Street, but just a decade ago he and some of his sons took over the large business of R. Lea and Co., and Cleghorn and Harris, at the corner of High and St John’s Streets, and they soon, by their enterprise and energy, took front rank among the drapery and outfitting firms in the South-Western Districts - in fact "Sanders" has become a household word throughout the country-side. The deceased gentleman leaves a wife and large family of sons and daughters to mourn their loss. Of his many children several were born and educated in Oudtshoorn, and most of them are with us to-day. The late Wulf Sanders was a man of particularly agreeable manners and address. He has been a keen observer on his many travels, and was a pleasant conversationalist.A man not given to pushing himself arrogantly forward, but always, in his quite way, able to hold his own when argument was forced upon him; he was a loving husband and father, a sincere friend and an upright and honourable man of business. The very high respect in which he was held in Oudtshoorn was illustrated by the fact that his funeral on Friday afternoon was one of the largest witnessed in Oudtshoorn for may a long year, and that the business places in the town were closed.
What an obituary! It says it all. One can get a clear picture of this kind and wonderful man of the world. What a loss this must have been to Lena and her children! The newspaper further reported on the funeral:
At the time of his demise, Mr Sanders was Noble Master of the Oudtshoorn lodge of the Grand Order of Israel, and the members of that body took charge of the arrangements for the obsequies. At 4.30 p.m., over sixty members marched from the Municipal Hall, where a Lodge had been opened, to the residence of the deceased, the procession was headed by two brethren with wands joined by the "Shield of David", which was draped in black, and following were the 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree members, the Guardian, with drawn sword, and the officers coming last. Arrived at the residence of the deceased the files opened out and the Past Master, the Rev. E. Lipkin, Rabbi of the St John Street Synagogue, accompanied by eight brethren, entered and brought out the coffin, which was followed by the mourners and carried by alternate relays of 16 brethren to the Municipal Hall. There, in the body of the Open Lodge, Bro. the Rev E. Lipkin spoke a few deeply impressive words, and with his four sons chanted the mournful and pathetic Hebrew Prayer for the Dead. The coffin was then placed on the hearse, the horses outspanned and the same sixteen members of the Order who had carried it from the house drew it up to the cemetery. The long procession passed along High Street and turning up Rest Street halted at the Masonic Lodge Cango, No. 2088, E.C., of which the deceased had for many years been a member. The Masons here took the lead of the procession, in their usual formation, wearing white ties and gloves and carrying sprigs of acacia. Arrived at the grave, the Rev M. Woolfson, Rabbi of the Queens Street Synagogue, where the deceased used to worship, read portion of the Jewish ritual and delivered a feeling eulogy on the dead. This was followed by an address, prayer and Masonic oration by Worshipful Brother F. Muller Rex, Past Master of Cango Lodge. The brethren then sang three verses of the beautiful hymn "Days and moments quickly flying", and as Wor. Bro. Rex spoke the impressive "last words"
they dropped their sprigs of acacia into the grave and the ceremony was concluded
What an impressive funeral! A fitting tribute to this wonderful man. Interestingly, Bella Israelsohn, while relating stories to her grandchildren, recalled that when the coffin was placed on the hearse, the horses refused to move. No matter how hard they tried, the horses would not budge! It was then that the brethren of the Lodge carried the coffin all the way up the hill to the cemetery, which was quite a long distance from the Synagogue!
Bella was devastated at the loss of her beloved father. However, she now had her own family of four children, to keep her occupied. Isidore, her husband, had built her a beautiful home in Adderley Street, Oudtshoorn. On balmy Karoo summer nights, the children sometimes slept outside on the large porch. The turrets on the roof were a favourite place for the boys. They used to climb up there and pretend they were defending the "family castle" from invaders. Rugby was played on the front lawn and when the wind was blowing, the boys went up the hill from Adderley Street to fly kites.
The ostrich feather trade was good to Isidore. Feathers were exported to London and as a buyer/agent Isidore prospered. By 1914 the Israelsohn family became proud owners of their first motor car, a 15 h.p. Napier. Isidore had not learnt to drive, so a chauffeur was employed by the name of Andries Rhoode. Andries had the facial characteristics of a "San", and was the first so-called coloured person to obtain a drivers’ licence. Andries married the family cook, called Johanna and many years later after he left the Israelsohn employ, Andries started a taxi business, operating from the village of Pacaltzdorp, in the district of George. Reminiscing, Andries tells the story of how he and Bella’s son Woolf used to play together in the motor car. Young Woolf would get behind the wheel and Andries would sit in the back seat. Woolf would ask: "Andries, where do you want to go to?" "Please master Woolfie, drive me to P.V’s" (a shop in Oudtshoorn). Woolf would oblige and a wonderful imaginary drive with all the motor noises would take place.
Although Bella had two other sons, young Woolf was always called in, so a proud mother could show off her good-looking, blonde hair, blue eyed boy. Moses, or Moss as he was affectionately called, was the academic in the family.
Although the ostrich feather industry had collapsed during the First World War, causing great hardships for the Israelsohn family,(Isidore, with the help of his old farming clients, managed to open up a general dealer store.
Moss was sent off to medical school at the University of Cape Town. Brother Joe was left behind to assist his father Isidore in the store. Bella, who up to this point had lead a life of luxury, also "rolled up her sleeves" and assisted her husband in the shop. Young Woolf was still attending school at the Oudtshoorn Boys High (now the C.P. Nel Museum). Bella’s only daughter inherited the Sanders family musical genes. She was enrolled at the Oudtshoorn Music College, where she excelled at the piano. Like her mother, Bella, young Debbie Israelsohn became a wonderful pianist, enjoying experimenting with the new age of syncopation and jazz.
Many happy family gatherings took place in the evenings around the old upright German piano(a wedding gift to Bella from her parents) with Debbie behind the keys. Woolf some times accompanied her on the ukulele and young Joe, who had a lovely voice, sang along! Bella’s sister, Ethel, who had become an excellent opera singer also used to join in.
Ethel, who was born in 1891, the last child in the Sanders family, enjoyed the high standard of living that the family had achieved. She was included on the many overseas trips he parents made to England, where on weekends she occasionaly stayed with the wealthy Serfardic Sassoon family, at their country home. Stories of eating off gold plates with gold cutlery abounded. Ethel possessed a magnificent voice and much to her family’s disappointment, decided to give up a music scholarship to the London School of music and marry a "little" school teacher by the name of David Mann, who was the vice principal of a school in the small town of Vrede.
The wedding took place in Oudtshoorn on the 6th July, 1916. The report in the papers went as follows:
MANN - SANDERS
Yesterday there was a certain amount of summer warmth in the atmosphere, but this did not detract from the beauty of a wedding which was solemnised at the Jewish Synagogue, Queens Street, when Miss Ethel Sanders, daughter of the late Mr W. Sanders and Mrs Sanders, was joined in the bond of matrimony to Mr David Mann, M.A., Vice Principal of the Public School at Vrede, O.F.S. Punctually at two, the bride, leaning on the arm of Mr Sam Sanders, who also gave her away, entered the edifice, which was prettily decorated with creepers, overgreens and date palms. The Unterfuhrers were Mr and Mrs Sam Sanders and Mr and Mrs Isidore Israelsohn, the bride being attended by Miss Nurick as bridesmaid while little Miss Rhoda Sanders was the little flower girl. The bride and bridegroom’s parents, Mrs W. Sanders and Mrs Mann, smartly dressed in black, were also present. There was a host of friends at the Synagogue, and after the Ceremony in which Rev. Woolfson officiated, the bridal pair drove off in a carriage to the residence of Mrs Sanders, where the reception was held.The grounds were beautifully decorated with buntings and artificial flowers, making the scene reminiscent of early summer.
Here many forgathered to congratulate the happy pair and selections by the Municipal Band, which was in attendance, further added to the happiness of the festive occasion.The bride looked particularly attractive in a dress of ivory crepe-dechine with an over-bodice of beautiful lace and wore the orthodox veil, trimmed with orange blossoms. The long court train was lined with shell pink ninon which made it both delicate and very effective.
The bridesmaid looked very smart in a dress of pink satin crepe, effectively trimmed with silk ninon. The flower girl looked very sweet in a dress which was of accordion pleated crepe-de chine and shadow lace with large butterfly bow of ribbon at the back, a pretty picture.
Shivah Brochas were held in the Central Hotel in the evening, where a number of relatives and friends …..(faded)…terms by the Chair-man; the bridegroom responding in a brilliant speech. The toast of the parents and unterfuhers of the happy couple were in the able hands of Dr Jacobson, who spoke at length, a feature of his speech being the introduction of Tulmudical expressions. Mr Sam Sanders very ably replied, Mr I. Israelsohn gave the toast for absent relatives and friends, while Mr M. Hotz responded very briefly. Mr Harry Nurick proposed the toast of the bridesmaid and ladies, while Mr L. Nurick responded. The toast of the chairman was entrusted to Mr Sam Sanders, the chairman suitably responding. The toast to the caterer (Mr S. Lax) was also heartily drunk.
Mr and Mrs Mann left by this morning’s train for Cape Town, where the honey-moon will be spent.
The bride’s going-away dress was a creation worthy of a French Paquin, being a fine navy gaberdine costume, handsomely silk-braided. The bride, who is extremely popular, will be very much missed here both socially and in musical circles….. The dresses of the bride were supplied by Messrs. W. Sanders and Sons in their best style, under the able supervision of their Miss Masson.
After their honeymoon Ethel and David settled in Vrede, and a few years later moved to Johannesburg , where Ethel established a "Jewish" Boarding house for students, in Saratoga Avenue, Doornfontein. One of Ethel’s first student Boarders was Jack Kletz, whose memories of her were "of a kind hearted and gracious lady of standing". Jack recalled memories of Ethel entertaining her boarders every evening by playing the piano and singing to them.
During the First World War, Ethel gave live performances on the radio, singing opera and operettas. Mr Roger O’Hogen of the SABC remembers her as "quite a figure" during the war, at the broadcasting station. Who knows what would have become of Ethel’s career in opera, if she had taken up her scholarship to London!
Minnie Sanders, was born on board ship en route to Russia. She was the "romantic" daughter of the family. Like sister, Bella, Minnie was a good pianist, but unlike Bella, was always falling in love with one suitor or another! By 1903 both her elder sisters, Annie and Bella were married. Minnie was already 23 years old. A close friend of her brothers, Max Levenson, fancied her and soon succumbed to her charms. On the 6th November, 1903 the couple were married; a marriage that was to end in drama shortly afterwards! Once again a Sanders Wedding was reported in the local papers:
A very pretty wedding was celebrated last Wednesday in the Synagogue, Queens Street, Oudtshoorn, when, in the presence of a large attendance of relatives and friends, Miss Minnie Sanders third daughter of W. Sanders Esq., of Oudtshoorn was joined in wedlock to Mr Max Levenson. The bride was given away by her father and mother, and looked very charming in a rich dress of white China silk, with court train, trimmed with real lace and silk medallions, and wearing the usual veil and wreath of orange blossoms.
Her pretty shower bouquet consisted of white roses and ferns and was tastefully made up. She was attended by three flower girls, the Misses Sarah and Ethel Sanders, sisters of the bride, and her niece, Miss Sarah Nurick. They looked very sweet in white Japanese Empire dresses and carried shepherd crooks trimmed with white silk ribbon fastened by bouquets of white roses and violets. The bridegroom was very ably assisted by Mr and Mrs Israelsohn. The canopy supporters were:- Messrs. L. Levenson, M.L. Israelsohn, E. Sanders, and M. Israelsohn, a duty which was well performed by these gentlemen. The bride’s mother wore a beautiful navy blue shot silk gown with a bonnet to match and carried a lovely bouquet of white roses and ferns. The officiating minister was the Rev. Mr Woolfson, who was assisted by Mr Balkin.
Before uniting the happy couple the Rev Woolfson delivered a short and impressive address in which he said: "That they have assembled today there to enter into a very solemn conclave and one which is the most holiest of contracts. Under the canopy they will have to answer and promise to God as well as man to do their duties to each other. He trusted that they may have a very long and prosperous life. He reminded them individually of their respective duties and ended by saying that he will give them the same blessing as Jacob of old gave to his children, that is "May God bless you both." The ceremony was then proceeded with the bridegroom performing the final rites.
Congratulations then poured in from all sides on the happy couple and when they left the Church they were greeted with showers of rice and rose leaves. A reception was afterwards held by the bride’s parents at their residence in St John’s Street, where the numerous wedding presents were on view and much admired.
The writer of this wedding report seemed slightly confused with synagogues and churches! One wonders if the news reporter was a guest at these wedding ceremonies, or whether the family gave the newspaper the report. The description of the various outfits worn at the Sanders weddings were always very detailed.Minnie, who was an excellent pianist, was given a lovely Grand piano by her parents. According to the family, Max, for whatever reason, decided to leave his wife on their honeymoon and simply disappeared from Oudtshoorn, leaving poor Minnie pregnant with her first an only child. Minnie’s brothers were shocked and went in search for Max. Their search took them to the United States, where Max was apparently found. However he did not return to his wife. Minnie could never obtain a Jewish divorce as she was deserted by her husband. In 1904 Minnie gave birth to a son she named Nathan (Nattie). She was left to bring up her son Nattie on her own. Obviously the family must have assisted. Being the romantic she was, Minnie soon overcame the break up and according to family gossip, she had a number of love affairs. Who knows who was at fault in their marriage?
Nattie apparently joined the police force, becoming a detective. One wonders whether his choice of career had anything to do with the disappearance of his father. Nat apparently was the first Jewish detective in the Cape and was involved in a diamond case that he helped solve. Nat married and had two children, a son Leslie, and a daughter, Pat. Sadly, Nat died at the very young age of 44 in 1949. Leslie, Minnie’s grandson, became a doctor. Minnie was so proud! Leslie married Rose Spektor. The couple adopted a baby named Avril.
Sadly, Leslie and Rose were killed in level crossing accident. Their young child Avril miraculously survived and was found wondering around in the bush near the scene of the accident!
Sam Sanders inherited his father’s business acumen. He was now a leading member of the Oudtshoorn business community and on the death of his father, Sam took complete control of the business. In 1905 he married a German Jewess in Berlin, by the name of Truder Sacks.The couple settled in Oudtshoorn, much to the disappointment of Truder, who was used to the "cultural" atmosphere of Berlin.
One can sympathise with her, as Oudtshoorn was no comparison to Berlin. Sam, however, took greater interest in the affairs of his town and in 1916 was elected to the town council. In 1920, Sam was appointed Mayor of Oudtshoorn and entertained General J.C. Smuts, the then Prime Minister of South Africa, during his visit to Oudtshoorn in 1920. Now at least, Truder had "acquired" status, being the "Mayoress" of the town, albeit on a less grander scale than Berlin!
As a result of the First World War, and with the collapse of the ostrich feather industry, Isidore Israelsohn was forced to make a change in his career. As mentioned earlier, with the help of his old customers, he opened up a general dealer store in 1921. This is how Isidore advertised his shop in Dutch. (Afrikaans was not as yet accepted as the second language in South Africa).
De GOEDKOOP WINKEL,
HOOG STRAAT (naastaan Gebrs. Bowles)
______________ . ___________________
Nieuwe Zomer Goederen
Dres Materialen in Gewoon en Francie Kleuren
Voiles, Dres Linen, Galeteas, Nurse Cloth, Geruit
Japanese Zyden in alle kleuren, Tussore Zyde,
Crepe de Chine, Goede Zwart Dres Materialen,
Schoenen, Kousen waren, HOEDEN, ENS.
ALLE GOEDEREN TEGEN ZEER
Isidore and Bella worked hard in establishing their new business. Sam Sanders came to their assistance by granting them a notarial bond on their home in Adderley Street.
With the intention of selling the business, Sam transferred W. Sanders & Sons into the name of a company, in May, 1919. Two months later, in July, he appointed the two store managers, Mr Lumb and Mr Middlemas as directors of the company. Shortly afterwards Sam announced his retirement from active participation in the business, and he and his wife Truder took an extended holiday to the Continent. It is quite possible that Truder had something to do with Sam’s business decision. She was still missing her hometown of Berlin and must have persuaded Sam to consider the idea of leaving Oudtshoorn and settling in Germany. A year later in July, 1920, W.Sanders & Sons was sold to their old business colleagues, Cleghorn & Harris for the sum of £20000(twenty thousand pounds). Messrs Lumb and Middlemas remained on as joint managing directors.
In 1908, Truder gave birth to her first child, a son by the name of Aubrey. Two years later their daughter Rhoda was born. During Sam’s term of Mayor of Oudtshoorn, the Governor General of South Africa, The Viscount Buxton, paid a visit to the town. At a reception held at the Recreation Grounds, "little Miss Rhoda Sanders presented Lady Buxton with a handsome basket of flowers and a bouquet to the Hon. Alethea Buxton".
Unfortunately, to date, not much is known about Sam’s wedding in Berlin, to Getrude (Truder) Sacks. However a report in the Oudtshoorn Courant of 30th June, 1920 sheds some light on the matter:
AN INTERESTING VISITOR
BESTMAN AT MAYOR’S WEDDING
Captain D. J. Irving Scott, who left London for South Africa six weeks ago, is on a flying visit to Oudtshoorn. Captain Scott was bestman at the wedding of our present Mayor and Mayoress, Mr and Mrs Sam Sanders, in Europe and it was rather a curious coincidence that after writing his name in the Visitors Book while on a visit to the Caves, he should discover that the signatures immediately preceding it were those of Mr and Mrs Sam Sanders, who had evidently been there just before him.
We know now that Sam Sanders was a successful businessman, a loving husband and father, supportive of his family and interested in public affairs. Two post cards that he wrote, one to his brother Harry, and one to his niece Debbie, give us an idea of his character and sense of humour:
Postmarked "Hackney", April (year unkown) and addressed to:
Pleased to hear you are kept busy, so am I, but on a different scale.
With best regards to Moe, Wheeler & Millard. Trusting you are all keeping well.
H. Sanders Esq., |
In the other postcard from Cape Town and addressed to:
I have just a few minutes to spare, so send you this P.C. Your Uncle & Auntie are in great demand & invitations are pouring in from all sides. I can hear your Mother laugh and say: the Schnorohs ! She knows this French expression. Trusting you are all keeping well, with love to your parents and all the others
From your Aunt Trude, & Uncle Sam.
|Miss Deb Israelsohn,
c/o Mrs I. Israelsohn,
Finally, Truder Sanders wins the day and Sam decides to leave Oudtshoorn and settle in Berlin, where he intended to buy a tailoring business. Shortly before their departure, their only son, Aubrey had his barmitzvah at the Queens Street Synagogue on Saturday, May 7th, 1921. A notice also appeared in the newspaper as follows:
FAREWELL "AT HOME"
Mr and Mrs SAM SANDERS will be "at home" on Saturday evening, the 7th May, from 7.30 o’clock at the Good Templar’s Hall. All are cordially invited. No cards.
On the previous day, May,6th, a complimentary farewell banquet was given to Sam and Truder, "by a number of citizens" at the Imperial Hotel for about 50 friends. A ten course dinner was served in St Andrews Hall, chaired by the Mayor, Mr De Jager. In toasting Sam Sanders, Councillor De Jager said: "That in his association with Mr Sanders, he had always found him a strong colleague, a true friend and a courteous opponent. It was a pity they were losing him not only as a councillor, but as a citizen. As the Secretary and Treasurer of the Governor-General’s Fund he had done very arduous work and at a great sacrifice to himself.
He was generous to a degree and nobody appealed to him in vain….He coupled the name of that of Mrs Sanders in congratulating him in having won the esteem and respect of the town and took this opportunity of bidding them farewell. He felt sure Mr Sanders would be leaving with regret, and they would regret his departure and many would miss his geniality"
Sam was then presented with an illuminated address,surmounted by the Oudtshoorn Municipal Coat of Arms.
This was the handiwork of a Mr H. Jurisch. It was further stated that evening that "Sam Sanders departure would be very sadly felt by the Jewish community. He had been on almost every committee. He had as President of the Jewish Burial Society done good and noble work. As member of the Jewish Synagogue and on the Jewish School Committee he had proceeded to Cape Town at his own expense to interview the Administrator and was able to save the school from being closed. In conclusion he felt that all those good attributes had been put into effect by his wife"
Maybe Truder was good for Sam after all. These reported speeches certainly give one an excellent idea of what Sam Sanders was really like! One can say: "like father, like son". At the banquet, in reply, Sam said: "He thanked them very gratefully for drinking his health… He tried to do his duty without fear or favour, he had suffered the loss of one or two friends, ..His career in the Council had been both interesting and educative. Touching on the progressiveness of the town, he considered Oudtshoorn was backwards in many ways and they did not show the same progress as other towns in the Cape Province" (Is this Truder talking?) "Touching upon his 25 years in business, he had decided in May, 1919 to go out of it. In July the business was floated into a company and to be truthful he was not sorry he had taken that step. (laughter).
Speaking as a merchant as regards the present depression, he had been through worst times than these, things had brightened up and they had put matters on the right side."
Sam, his wife Truder and their two children, Aubrey and Rhoda, left Cape Town on the 13th May, 1921, sailing on the Union Castle Steamer, Walmer Castle. It is not known if Sam ever returned to South Africa, but after a short stay in England, Sam and his family settled in Berlin. His in-laws talked him into investing in a textile business that was virtually insolvent at the time. This venture proved disastrous and Sam lost all his money. He managed however to start up again and opened a mens boutique in Berlin, specialising in English tailored suits. Their son Aubrey, turned out to be a "rotter", defrauding his father, by forging his signature. When Sam died in 1936,in Charlottenberg, Berlin, Truder discovered that Sam’s bank account was cleaned out!
Her family in South Africa rescued the once proud Truder Sanders from Nazi Germany and after much planning, Truder and her children returned to Cape Town, just before the war. Truder’s daughter, whilst living in Germany met a a young man by the name of Jack Eisenberg. They vowed that should they both survive the war, they would meet up again and marry.
In 1948, Rhoda joined Jack, who was now in England. Before leaving for the United States, the couple married. They finally settled in New Orleans. Truder, who had been living in Cape Town, was sent a boat ticket to New York, to join Rhoda and her husband Jack. Sadly en route, crossing the Atlantic, Truder died on board ship. According to Rhoda, Aubrey, the black sheep of the family, settled in England, changed his name and it is believed that he made career for himself in the trade union movement.
Jack and Rhoda set up home at number 6343 Canal Blvd., New Orleans, where, over the years, they entertained many friends and family from South Africa. Jack was a general manager of a group of department stores. On his retirement he and Rhoda travelled to Europe and South Africa on holiday. On the 22nd August, 1984, Rhoda had to undergo a leg artery by-pass operation and during the surgery, suffered a fatal heart attack.
The death of Sam Sanders in 1936 was also very tragic. Sam had recently undergone an operation to his eye and according to a letter written by Rhoda to her Aunts in South Africa, he had made a good recovery.
It appears that he contracted pneumonia and passed away after a brief illness. Sam was only 58 years old at the time. In the obituary notice of the Oudtshoorn Courant dated 18th December, 1936, it was stated: "The deceased was one of the younger sons of the late Wulf Sanders and became sole partner of the old established and well known firm W. Sanders & Sons, whose beautiful buildings at the corner of St John and High Streets, was destroyed by a disastrous fire in September, 1927."
The business as mentioned earlier was sold to Cleghorns. They continued to run it under the name of "Sanders & Sons". It is thought that an electric iron had been left switched on after closing time and this had been the cause of the fire in 1927. According to Michael Cleghorn, all documents were lost, includung customer’s account records. Cleghorns battled to recover its debts as some dishonest customers disputed the amounts owing! The store was never rebuilt and Cleghorns decided to call it a day in Oudtshoorn. After 42 years, the name of "Sanders" vanished from the Oudtshoorn business scene.
The floating of W. Sanders & sons into a company in 1919, was also partly as a result of the death of Lena Sanders the year before. Lena had inherited a share of the business on the death of her husband, Wulf, in 1910. With her passing away in December, 1918, Sam probably felt more comfortable with the idea of selling up the business.
Lena, the matriarch of the family, mother of twelve, and supportive wife of one of Oudtshoorn’s leading men, had led a full and busy life. From her little town of Suwalki, Poland to her marriage in America, setting up homes in London, Melbourne, Riga, Mowbray and finally Oudtshoorn, bringing up a large family, must have all been quite a strain on her! All this, plus the fact that Lena had not learnt to write, in today’s terms, was incredible! Her mind was apparently going and was most probably either suffering from altheimers disease or a brain tumour. However, in those years mental health was still an unknown factor. The family decided to send poor Lena for treatment, to the Valkenberg Mental Hospital in Cape Town. She must have felt totally lost in this strange place, so far removed from her loved ones back in Oudtshoorn. Sadly, Lena survived only a couple of weeks, before passing away on the 12th December, 1918. Her obituary appeared in the paper six days later:
THE LATE MRS. W. SANDERS
The death of Mrs W. Sanders, relict of the late Wulf Sanders, which we greatly regretted to record in last issue, died at the age of 70 years. The deceased lady went to Cape Town for treatment some few weeks ago, but unfortunately too late for any beneficial results to accrue. Her death has created a gap in Oudtshoorn, where she resided for 34 years participating actively in the benevolent work of the community.
The purity and beauty of her home was an inspiration to all who knew her and by her devotion to the highest spirit of Judaism earned the love and respect of all with whom she came into contact.
Affliction sore, some months she bore
All human skill was vain,
But God, her Chief, gave her relief,
And freed her from her pain.
She leaves several sons and daughters and grandchildren to mourn her loss and to them we extend our sincere sympathy.
Lena Sanders was buried in the Maitland Jewish cemetery, separated physically but not spiritually from her beloved husband, Wulf.
Bella and her husband were struggling to make a living in their store in Oudtshoorn. Their eldest son, Mossie had matriculated and was at medical school. Joe took on agencies and was "repping". Woolf, the youngest son was still at school. Isidore received a message from a friend living across the Outeniqua Mountains in the town of George. The friend, Alex Comay, had established a hardware business in the town, suggested to Isidore that opening up another shop in George, might be the solution to his problems. George’s economy was growing, as the town did not depend on the ostrich feather industry.
In 1925, Isidore made the move and opened a shop in Hibernia Street, George, opposite the Boys’ Primary School. After a shaky start, it was decided to close the Oudtshoorn shop and move the family to George. Bella’s youngest son Woolf, who was 16 years old at the time, joined his dad in the business and things started to improve. With the collapse of the German currency, in the 1920’s , the Israelsohns were able to settle their debt to Sam Sanders and have the bond on their Oudtshoorn home cancelled. The house was sold and the money was invested in their business in George.
Bella’s son Joe, who had been assisting his father as well as running an agency business, had managed to save up funds to attend university. Joe had always wanted to do dentistry, but the family , due their financial predicament at the time, were unable to oblige.
It must have been with a great feeling of satisfaction, that Joe found himself eventually on his way to dental school at Wits University in Johannesburg. His Aunt Ethel, who was running a Jewish boarding house, happily accommodated him.
Unfortunately this story does not have a happy ending. Bella received a letter from her sister, saying:
36 Saratoga Ave
July 8th 1929
My dear Bella,
Just a line to let you know how Joe is getting on. I am sorry to say he is not progressing as well as he should, as his ears & nose are giving him a great deal of trouble, & in consequence he is still running a temperature & not out of bed yet.
Both Dave & I have been very worried so thought the best thing to do was to get an ear specialist in to see him, which the hospital Dr already thought of doing. We went up to the hospital to find out all particulars & found that everything that can be done is being done so we can only wait & see. I am sorry to worry you about this, but think it only right that you should know.
I shall let you know how he is getting on in a day or two, with much love to you & Isidore,
Your worried sister, Ethel.
A report appeared in the George & Knysna Herald:
We are sorry to hear that Mr Joe Israelsohn, son of Mr and Mrs I. Israelsohn of George, has been critically ill at Johannesburg, as the result of a bad attack of scarlet fever. Last week his parents received telegraphic advice that a serious operation would be necessary, and they immediately left for the North. Later: The sad news is since received that Joseph passed away before his parents reached the end of the journey.
The following week this obituary appeared:
Last week we only had time to make a brief mention of the loss which Mr and Mrs Israelsohn of George, had sustained by the sudden death of their second son, Joseph, which took place at Johannesburg, following on complications after scarlet fever.
The young man was in the prime of his life, twenty two years of age, and had been assisting his father in his store for some time, but his mind was set in becoming a dental practitioner, and a few months ago he entered the Johannesburg University to study dentistry. Joseph was a popular young man in George, the picture of health, and we are told he carried that popularity with him when he went to University.
What a tragedy for poor Bella and her family! This must have been the saddest day of their lives. They overcame their grief and looked to the rest of their children for strength. A proud day for Isidore and Bella: their eldest son, Moss finally qualifies as a medical doctor. Moss, who during his final years at university, married a fellow student by the name of Bess Rodman. The couple settled in the "Boland" town of Robertson, where Moss began his first medical practice. Some years later they moved to an even smaller town, by the unusual name of "Hankey", situated not far from the city of Port Elizabeth. Moss and Bess Israelsohn had two children, a daughter, Wilma, and a son Joel (named after his late uncle Joe).
Meanwhile Isidore and his son, Woolf were building up their business in Hibernia Street, George. This is how they advertised in the George & Knysna Herald, June, 1927:
"For Sales may Come and Sales may go, but we go on for ever giving you the best values possible!…. "When out shopping call first at our Store. You will be amply repaid."
Woolf, who was a born salesman and an excellent businessman, decided to branch out an open on his own. He had different and more modern ideas about retailing than his father. Although Isidore’s shop was the first store in George to have window displays, lit up by a paraffin lamp (George had no electricity yet), Woolf wanted to open a store modelled on the lines of the big city "department stores". Woolf had befriended the Garlick family of Cape Town who in those years owned one of the larger department stores on Cape Town’s main business thoroughfare, Adderley Street.
One day during the year of 1935, Woolf met a Mr Gutstein, who was on his way to buy a consignment of footwear for his business in Port Elizabeth. Woolf told him about a vacant piece of land situated next to the George Post Office. This land, which belonged to the George Divisional Council, was being offered for sale. Woolf managed to persuade Gutstein to buy this property with the money he intended to use for the purchase of the footwear. With input from Woolf, Gutstein built three shops on this site. Woolf hired all three and converted them into one large store! Prior to Woolf opening up his new shop,
Isidore made Woolf a full partner in his existing business, "I. Israelsohn". The following notice appeared in the newspaper:
"Notice is hereby given that ISIDORE ISRAELSOHN, carrying on business under the style of I. Israelsohn, as a Draper and Outfitter of Hibernia Street, George, has admitted WULF ISRAELSOHN also of George, as a Partner in the said business, which shall continue to be carried on under the style of I. ISRAELSOHN, aforesaid.
It is hereby further notified that the partnership has taken over all the Assets and Liabilities of the said ISIDORE ISRAELSOHN in respect of the business heretofore carried on by him.
Dated at George, this 29th day of October, 1935.
MILLER & MILLER
Attorneys for the Parties. Hibernia Street, George
Woolf, at the age of twenty-four, opened up, what was the biggest department store in George, on Saturday, 30th November, 1935. He called his new shop "Ralsons", an acronym of Israelsohn. Like his grandfather, Wulf Sanders before him, Woolf built up his business, which became the a successful and well-known outfitting and drapery store in the South Western Cape! This is how the local paper the George & Knysna Herald reported this business development:
Ralson’s New Store
A notable addition to the shopping centre of George was opened on Saturday morning when Ralsons, the new and fashionable store of Messrs. I. Israelsohn & Son, in Hibernia street, next to the Post Office, threw open their doors to the public. This fine store is to be run on modern lines with its many departments, and to celebrate the occasion Messrs. Ralsons have stocked it with entirely new goods. Extremely well lighted and ventilated, the building is fitted with huge plate glass windows which, we have little doubt, will form an attractive display in the hands of this firm. Inside, each department is arranged with its own serving counter, and private fitting rooms are neatly arranged in inconspicuous corners. Ralsons bring to George a departmental store modelled on the lines of city firms.
It is interesting to compare, that as with the advise and help of another Cape Town department store, Cleghorns, in the opening up of Wulf Sanders’ shop in Oudtshoorn,in 1885, fifty years later, Garlicks helped Woolf Israelsohn by selling him their old counters and shopfittings in 1935. Furthermore they allowed Woolf to include some of his Ladies Dress orders with the Garlicks orders, thereby giving him a lower cost price factor. During World War 11, while Woolf was in the army, his father, Isidore ran the business. Isidore had closed down his own shop on the 5th May, 1936 and was assisting his son at Ralsons.
Woolf was back in George on leave in July, 1943, when he received a telegram from Mr Gutstein, then in Port Elizabeth, offering to sell him the building. Woolf and his brother Moss, who was now a country doctor, went to see the manager of Barclays Bank. Facilities were arranged, and Woolf bought the building for £6000, which at the time was the biggest property deal in the history of the town!
The new store was a great success from the start. With the outbreak of World War Two, the town of George enjoyed a mini boom. The Royal Airforce set up a training school at the George aerodrome. Eight hundred British trainee airmen were sent there. This move had a positive effect on the economy of the town. Woolf’s business enjoyed the spin off.
By the time the war was over, Woolf was fully established and enjoying the good life of the lovely "Garden Route" town. George and its seaside resort called "The Wilderness", was also experiencing a tourist boom.
The fame of Ralsons did not go unnoticed by another section of the population. Woolf, (with a sense of humour) advertised in the local papers:
Ralsons for a
Midnight RAID! Why?
A WISE MAN
always shows discrimination in his choice of articles. That is why some (unwelcome) visitors on Tuesday night passed by other stores and made a bee-line for ours in Hibernia Street. We commend their wisdom and discretion in picking on us. They knew, and it proves our claim, that
And the store for
They came all through the principal towns, too, and found our stocks the most attractive, so they did the job there and then at midnight, being too impatient to wait for the doors to open at 8 a.m. next day!
We do not expect you to act likewise - but take a tip from our nocturnal visitors - be attracted by our really modern displays, and come along any time between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. (Wednesdays 1 p.m., Saturdays 7 p.m.)
WE ARE KEEN TO GIVE YOU
SERVICE - VALUE - SATISFACTION
Next to Post Office
HIBERNIA ST. GEORGE
Isidore and Bella were now once again financially secure. After first renting homes in Meade Street, George, the Israelsohns were in the position to afford to buy their own home in 1934. House prices were depressed and it was a buyer’s market. Isidore bought a house situated at 72 York Street, George. This was to be home to Bella and her family (her son Woolf and daughter Debbie and after the death of Deb’s husband, Deb and her infant son) for nearly 50 years!
During the year of 1943, Isidore was elected president of the George Hebrew Congregation. On the 29th December of that year, an inter-denominational service was held at the George Synagogue. The Bishop of George, the Rt. Rev Gwyer, and Rev. A.R. de Villiers were present at this service. Isidore as president, addressed the congregation, which was reported as follows: "Mr Israelsohn stressed the need for every effort to be made to assist the war and to wipe out the last vestiges of Nazism. Everyone who could should join the fighting forces, and those others who could not do so, should assist willingly and generously with funds to carry on the fight."
Cleghorn & Harris, who had purchased the old business of Sanders in 1921, decided to follow the Israelsohn’s example by opening a branch of "Sanders" in George, in January, 1926. They opened up trading under the name of "W. Sanders & Sons". The branch was managed by a Mr A.W. Hird. In a advert they announced:
Our Milliner from Oudtshoorn is in attendance and will be pleased to interview Customers at their convenience. Our Dressmaker, Miss MASSON, will visit George on Thursday and Friday, 28th and 29th and we shall be glad to make appointments for those dates.
One wonders how Bella reacted to this news, a store, in direct competition to her husbands, carrying the name of her late father. Strangely, the following year this banner headline appeared in the Oudtshoorn Courant:
Most Disastrous Fire in History of Oudtshoorn
MESSRS. SANDERS & SONS FINE STORE GOES UP IN FLAMES IN A FEW MINUTES
If Roof Collapsed Few Minutes Later Whole Street Been Burnt
Had a wind been blowing as it had the day before, nothing could have saved High Street, and, according to "Bud" Schnieder, who has had no less than 20 years’ experience of fire-fighting in Russia, had the fire taken place at night, owing to the difficulty of handling the outbreak, the result would have been equally disastrous.
Possibly, as a result of the fire in Oudtshoorn, Cleghorns decided to sell off their store in George. The shop was sold to a friend of the Israelsohn’s a Mr Meyer Schlugman. On a request from Bella, Meyer changed the name of the store to "Sanders & Co". This store was eventually sold in 1965 to a Mrs Mary Harris of George, who previously had a small business in Uniondale.
Bella and Isidore enjoyed the success that their son Woolf had made of Ralsons. Woolf was Bella’s favourite, her golden hair, blue-eyed boy. Woolf was also the favourite of many young ladies of the town! He had become an eligible bachelor and with his good looks every Jewish mother in the country were hoping to make a "shiddach" for their daughters. He was given the nick-name "Prince of Wales", due to an uncanny likeness to Edward, who gave up a throne "for the woman he loved". Woolf was in fact far better looking than the then Prince of Wales. He was an excellent golfer, a good yachtsman, an amateur photographer and a "charming" partner on the dance floor! Coupled with his business acumen and success in the retail trade, Woolf must have been quite a "Chup".
The year 1947, and everything looked rosy for Bella and her family. Great excitement! - Woolf had just come home from a visit to the General Motors factory in Port Elizabeth, driving his first post war motor car, a brand new Pontiac. The Wilderness was his playground and the golf course in George his exercise field. Bella and Isidore enjoyed taking walks in the country side of George. By 1949, their shop, Ralsons, was enlarged. New stockrooms, an office and garage for the "Pontiac" were added on to the existing building. Unfortunately, Isidore began feeling ill towards the end of September of that year. Maybe it was something he ate? Was it because of the High Holidays? All the "essing and fressing"? Isidore was taken to hospital for an examination. Appendicitis was diagnosed. Tragically, their surgeon was not in town and the family doctor, Dr Harry Mann was called in to do the operation. Harry had never done an operation since he left medical school. However, it was decided that he carry out this operation as Isidore was now suffering from an acute appendicitis.
Isidore survived the operation but his recovery was far from satisfactory. His health continued to deteriorate.
Bella telephoned her eldest son, Moss. Moss had by this time, established a thriving practice in the farming districts of Hankey and Patensie. He also had the contract to service the railway workers in the area and was known as the "Railway Doctor". At the same time, Moss was also a part time citrus farmer. Responding to his mother’s call, Moss immediately set off for George, in his new "Fluid Drive" Dodge.
It did not take Moss long to diagnose that his poor dad was suffering from peritonitis. Isidore returned to the George hospital for another operation, but sadly, it was too late. On the 6th October, 1949, Isidore died in hospital. This was the obituary that appeared the following day in the George & Knysna Herald:
A Long and Useful Life
It was with a sense of sincere regret Georgians heard on Friday morning that Mr Isidore Israelsohn had died the night before in the local hospital. His death came as a great shock to the public who knew him as a man of great friendliness and kindly nature. He was 76.
Mr Israelsohn was born in Courland, a former Balkan state, and came to South Africa at the age of 19; he settled at Oudtshoorn. He went into the ostrich feather trade, exporting to London. During the South African war he married Miss Bella Sanders of Oudtshoorn.
After the first world war, Mr Israelsohn started a drapery store at Oudtshoorn, and in 1925 opened a like business in George, which has developed into one of the town’s foremost emporiums.
For 52 years he was a Mason of Cango Lodge (Royal Arch) Oudtshoorn.
At the funeral service in the George Synagogue on Sunday morning, the Rev. I. Wolk said that Mr Israelsohn had been a man of great moral character, deeply conscious of the spirit and ideals of the Jewish faith and throughout his life he tried to live up to those ideals.
He served as president of the congregation for along period carrying out his duties in a most dignified and honourable manner. He lived a long and useful life and the traditions he left behind, his way of life, and the man himself would long be remembered and cherished.
The community will join with us in extending to Mrs Israelsohn and her daughter and two sons, heartfelt sympathy.
Poor Isidore’s death was a terrible blow to Bella. They had been happily married for forty- eight years. Her son Moss felt that his father’s death could have been avoided, if only a more competent doctor had operated on Isidore in the first place. It appears from documents that have been discovered, that Isidore was already suffering from the beginnings of appendicitis, as early as May, 1949. He was discharged from the George hospital on the 11th May, 1949. The hospital board secretary, Mrs "Oompie" Meyer wrote the following note on Isidore’s hospital receipt:
"I do miss your smiling face and may you soon get better. It is the smiles of the elderly people that keep us going and inspire us" signed by Mrs Oompie Meyer.
Once again, Bella had to mourn the loss of a loved one. She was now left with her son, Woolf, her daughter, Debbie, and her grandson, Derrick, all living together with her at her home on 72 York Street, George. At least she was not alone. Her eldest son, Moss returned to Hankey to his family. Of the original twelve Sanders children, 5 were still living in 1950. Bella was now the matriarch of the family, being the oldest child surviving. Her sister Minnie was settled in the Jewish Aged Home in Cape Town; Emanuel was living in Durban; Simon, who was living in England, passed away two years later, in 1952; and the youngest, Ethel, was living in Bulowayo with her niece, Cissie Kaplan.
In 1951, Woolf made his first, and one of many, overseas trips. As this was only six years after the war, his travels to Europe were reported extensively in the local newspapers. At the time it was rather the exception that the rule, for South Africans to travel abroad, especially from a country town, like George. This is how Woolf’s visit was reported in the George & Knysna Herald of the 10th August, 1951:
A GEORGIAN MEETS GRACIE FIELDS :
BATHES WITH THE DUKE
And Sees the Blue Danube
Seeing the marvels of the Festival of Britain and the British Industries Fair, meeting Gracie Fields who sang a request item, bathing with the Duke of Edinburgh and sitting beside the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at a casino, were some of the thrills of a four month trip to England and the Continent experienced by Mr. Wulf Israelsohn. Mr Israelsohn made the trip over on the "Dominion Monarch" and returned by air.
On Wulf’s return, he was the toast of the town, with all his colleagues waiting to hear the stories of his travels. During Wulf’s absence, his mother, Bella and sister, Deb, managed the business. As a token of his appreciation for the assistance that Deb gave him, Wulf sent her on her first overseas trip the following year, to South America.
Business and life for the Israelsohn family of "York Street" continued to be peaceful and prosperous. Members of the Sanders and Israelsohn families from far and wide came to George to visit "Aunt Bella". Wulf, who now spelt his name "Woolf", due to an error on his birth certificate, had become a leading businessman of the town. But unlike his grandfather Wulf Sanders, he never married and continued his life "in pursuit of the perfect woman"!
Bella celebrated her 80th birthday in 1955, in good health and with good humour. She had become a familiar figure in the town, taking her daily walk to "the shop", followed by a fair hike in the afternoons. The following year at the age of 81 years, she was the "belle of the ball" at her grandson’s barmitzvah. Bella and her grandson, Derrick Lewis, took the opening dance, at the function held at the George Hotel, much to the enjoyment and delight of the guests.
Summer holidays were enjoyed by the family, during the Christmas to New Year week, when they booked into the now famous Wilderness Hotel. Bella, in her youth, used to join her family on their annual summer holidays in Mossel Bay, which were spent in a tent near the beach! This was a tradition with most of the "Oudtshoornites". Decades later, Bella was quite often the centre of attraction at the Wilderness Hotel, keeping everyone enrapt with her stories of her youth and the stories of her father’s travels. She especially enjoyed retelling the story of how the famous confederate raider the "Alabama" stopped the ship her father was travelling on, and threatened to sink it, unless a ransom was paid! One listener, who was so impressed and obviously a little confused, remarked that Bella did not look all that old! (The happening took place 100 years previously).
On the birth of her great- grandson, David Lewis, in 1968, Bella remarked, "that when David learns to walk, I"ll be walking in heaven!" Six months later, at the age of 94, Bella passed away as a result of a heart complaint. She had lived to see many changes in the world, plus surviving a heart attack at the age of 85. Her passing was the end of an era.
The George & Knysna Herald reported the death on the 22nd November, 1968
Well-known woman dies.
George, Thurs.: Mrs Bella Israelsohn, well-known George personality who emmigrated with her parents from Australia in 1882 at the age of seven, died peacefully in her home at 72 York Street on Monday afternoon after a short illness. She was 94 years old.
Her father, Wulf Sanders was one of the pioneer Jewish businessmen to settle in Oudtshoorn where he established a large retail organisation and where Mrs Israelsohn in her youth was a pianist with the old Oudtshoorn Orchestral Society under the direction of Mr. Hinds.
She married Mr Isidore Israelsohn in Oudtshoorn in 1902(sic1901) during the Anglo Boer War and raised three sons and a daughter. The family settled at George in 1927 where Mr Israelsohn started a retail business opposite the Boys Primary School in Hibernia Street. He died in 1949.
Mrs Israelsohn is survived by her sons, Dr Israelsohn of Port Elizabeth, Mr Woolf Israelsohn, well-known George businessman and a daughter, Mrs Debbie Lewis, also from George.
With the death of Bella, the seemingly permanent structure of her family started to come apart. Woolf and his sister Debbie were at odds because of her inheritance of the family home at York Street. Deb left the home and went to Port Elizabeth to live with her sister-in law, Bess Israelsohn. Bess had lost her husband, Moss to cancer earlier in the year. (Bella was never told of the passing of her eldest son as she was in poor health at the time).
A solution was found for Deb’s financial predicament. Woolf purchased the home, giving his sister a steady income from the proceeds. Sadly, poor Deb, finding herself living in a strange home, albeit her late brothers’, plus the loss of her dear mother, resulted in her experiencing a nervous breakdown, from which she never really fully recovered. Amazingly a year later, Deb remarried but tragically only to suffer a fatal stroke a few months later. Within the space of two years, Deb, her brother Moss and their mother, Bella, all passed on! This left Woolf all on his own at 72 York Street George. His only close relatives were Derrick, and his cousins Joel Israelsohn and sister Wilma, who were both living in London. However, Woolf soon adjusted to living on his own and continued with his business Ralsons, albeit on a slower pace. He still travelled overseas regularly, visiting family and friends.
Woolf had by now become an "institution" in the town of George, still a bachelor, still looking good and still pursuing lovely ladies. He was also active on the golf course, being now the oldest living member of the George Golf Club. In December of 1969 the following report appeared in the Het Suid-Western:
Triumph for Wolfie in George golf
BY BASIL BARKER
GEORGE - Wolfie Israelsohn, who last week snatched the Hutcheson Floating Trophy, for the six best monthly medal rounds during the year, added to his laurels this week by winning the Annual Cup competed for by the winners of the monthly medals through the year.
Amazingly, ten years later on the 28th November, 1979, at the age of 68, Woolf scored a hole-in-one on the 15th at the George Golf Course. Two years later, July, 1980, Woolf sold his business to a Johannesburg buyer. The Outeniqualander reported this business transaction:
END OF AN ERA
By John Hartdegen
Ralsons, the mens’s clothing store in George with an international reputation, has been sold for an undisclosed price.
Mr Woolf Israelsohn, known as Woolfie to generations of George people, bows out at the end of this month. But it’s the end of an era in the commercial life of George. Said Mr De Bruin (The buyer) this week: "Woolfie has style. He’s built a fantastic business known to discerning people throughout the world, thanks mainly to his exclusive overseas buying trips and visits from overseas clothiers touring the Garden Route".
Woolfie, now aged 70, told me this week; "I preferred the bachelor’s life, so I never married. Now I have no one to take over the business - there’s a niece who is a doctor in London, a nephew who is a chartered accountant in London, and another nephew who has his own outfitting business in Cape Town".
The following year, 1981, Woolf sold the old family home at 72 York Street and moved to Cape Town, where he bought an apartment on the Sea Point beach-front. This became his home for the next fifteen years. He continued to enjoy good health, playing golf once a week and attending Rotary lunches every Tuesday. His annual holidays were spent on the Continent, the island of Ischia being his favourite holiday spot. On the 25th February, 1996, Woolf passed away after suffering a short illness. He had developed a carcinoma on the lung with small secondary tumours on the brain. Coincidentally, Woolf died one day after the date of his grandfather, Wulf Sanders’ death, which was on the 24th February, eighty-six years earlier. Woolf Israelsohn, the family icon was no more. A family legend in his own life time; an entrepreneur, a golfer, a yachtsman, a world traveller, conservative yet always very dapper, a romantic yet always concerned about family, worshipped his mother, yet was a true ladies man, but was able to charm his ladies’ men. As a wonderful post-script to his lifestyle and to the charming lover boy he was, this following letter sent to Woolf during the World War II years by some unknown lady friend gives one an excellent picture of what he was all about:
27 - 3 - 1944
Just a few lines to tell you the things I left unsaid. I am sorry if sometimes I appeared remote and rationed you, as you termed it. I only want to say that I regret that we didn’t have time to know each other more intimately, perhaps it is better, it leaves the sweet fragrant thought of what might have been.
This holiday, without you, would have been a bore but this way it turned out not as a pleasant holiday but as a charming & lovable interlude that I shall never forget. I wish to thank you for your kindness, understanding and love; can I say love? Yes, I think I can; I have been in love with you for the past few days & you in love with me, by this word I do not mean to apply the standard & recognised meaning but our own tender interpretation.
Think of me sometimes and au-revoir to one day in the near future.
All my love & thanks,