In July, 2012, YMCA Port Elizabeth would be celebrating fifty-four years of service to the City. The following have taken place since its founding.
One of the last public ceremonies performed by Clr I E Struan-Robertson , the retiring mayor of Port Elizabeth, was to formally open the YMCA building in Havelock Street on 3rd September 1958. The Official take-over of the building which was formerly the Malvern House Hotel, took place on the 1st July, 1958. The building was known as the Metropole Hotel, when first built.
This was not the first time that the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association) had a presence in Port Elizabeth. The Eastern Province Herald Newspaper carried an advertisement the 14th June 1870, inviting the public to lectures which were to be given by various ministers during the period June to September. Another advertisement on 12th September 1871 to a lecture by Rev T E Fuller of Cape Town on the subject, “Building and Pictures in Venice”. The lecture was given in the Grey Institute.
An extract from the Port Elizabeth directory of 1873, indicates that the YMCA had a membership of 50 and that ordinary meeting were held every Tuesday at 19:00. There were also elocution classes and debates on alternate Thursdays.
In 1882, the Eastern Province Herald Newspaper reported that, “This well meaning Association is to be congratulated upon the success which has attended the promotors efforts since its establishment not long since. The object of the Association is a most worthy one, viz.” To unite young men for their spiritual, mental and social welfare,” and so far as the operations have extended, they have not been unsuccessful. At the associations premises in Havelock Square there are reading rooms and classes, whilst lectures and wholesome recreation is provided.”
On 11th August 1882 the debate was “Theatres; are they a fit place of Recreation.”
By 1905 the YMCA had moved into a building named Ashley House after Lord Ashley from England, at 12 Havelock Street. This building is still in use as a boarding house. Lord Ashley was a leading figure in YMCA circles in England. At the same time the YMCA used the top floor of the African Banking Corporation in Main Street for recreational purposes. The bank was later incorporated into Standard Bank. The building was eventually demolished and replaced by Garlicks Stores.
The Algoa Motor and Mechanics and Drivers Association held its first meeting at the YMCA at 12 Havelock Street.
In The Grey Magazine of 1919 a graphic account of a cricket match between The Grey and The YMCA is given. The YMCA is recorded as having lost the match by 102 runs, and that six batsmen had failed to score! At a later match, The YMCA redeemed themselves by scoring 112 runs. The Grey were put in twice to bat, but managed to score 81 runs in all.
For a period of some years from 1909 onwards, the General Secretary was Mr T C White, who came from Taunton, England. He resigned sometime before 1919 to establish his own business. He became a Town Councillor, eventually becoming Mayor and then president of the Port Elizabeth Rotary Club in 1924. His position as Secretary was taken over by Mr Hutchinson on a part-time basis. He was educated at The Grey Institute and worked for a while at the Guardian Assurance Co, then took up a position at the E.P. Herald. Unfortunately he was killed, trying to save a friend form an approaching car. It must’ve been some time after this that the YMCA closed down its activities.
RE-ESTABLISHMENT OF THE YMCA
In 1955, the P.E. Rotary Club’s Youth Committee, under the chairmanship of Mr Charles Anderson, sent out a questionnaire to many firms and individuals asking their views to start a YMCA. The response was unanimously in favour of doing so. The Malvern House Hotel at 31 Havelock Street was purchased and occupied on the 1st of July 1958. The building had previously been known as The Metropole Hotel. Some of the sugar bowls still in use date from this period.
The first General Secretary was Mr Henry Schumann, who had previously been a Lt. General in the British Navy.
While on a visit to Port Elizabeth in 1958, Moira Lister, the famous actress, gave a performance in the Crispin Hall, in aid of funds towards the purchase of the building. Another fundraising initiative was the presentation of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” by Harold Slater in June 1961. This was sponsored by the Rotary Club.
For several years there was a major struggle to obtain sufficient funding to repay the loan required to purchase the building. So much so that at one stage the Board met to seriously consider “calling it a day”, but in an act of faith, decided to keep going.
In May 1960, Mr Schumann and Mr John Stadler, who had previously been on the staff at YMCA Johannesburg, took over as General Secretary. During the years that followed the YMCA became increasingly involved in the life of the City.
With the restructuring of the Port Elizabeth Association during the previous year, the Aubrey Street Complex has become the centre of local activities, being ideally situated in Parkside to effectively perform this role.
The Complex continued to provide accommodation for groups of ‘students’ being trained by Government Departments and adjacent local authorities. Sports teams, religious bodies and educational tours mainly from the disadvantaged communities have continued to use the facilities but with a lesser number of enquiries for accommodation from private individuals.
The Educare Centre situated within the Complex continues to provide a useful pre-school educational facility for the community. It has made considerable impact on the local community, having reached into over two thousand homes since its inception some twelve years ago. This YMCA project remains viable and sustainable.
BACKGROUND / PREAMBLE
Origins & Reasons for Existence – Eluvuyo Creche
In 1982 the Young Men’s Christian Association answered the call to the plight of the poor, suffering and the needy among children and their families by establishing 12 creches in the New Brighton, Kwazakhele and Zwide areas. This work continued until further funding was refused because of sanctions being imposed.
The Eluvuyo YMCA Pre-School/Creche is one of a survival story, and we are glad to have been instrumental in the continuance of this project. Although conditions have improved in the area since the coming of, “Ten Years of Freedom and Democracy”, there are still many in the area that need the services of which we are providing at this institution.