Street names reflect history 9 – O

by | Aug 25, 2021 | Forgotten Heroes, People, Street names | 0 comments

A descendant of Swedish immigrants, a doctor – who was also a magistrate – and a blacksmith have been honoured by the town in these street names.

Ockerse Lane (Central), also spelled Ocherse and Orcherse was named after Mr WC (Cookie) Ockerse, for many years assistant-town clerk who played a prominent role in town planning. Later he acted as legal advisor to the city council.

Olen Lane (Central) was named after Mr Charlie Olen*, long-time councillor of Potchefstroom and mayor in 1938, the year Potchefstroom celebrated its centenary. He was also the first president of the Western-Transvaal Rugby Union and a prominent businessman. He was a descendant of the Scandinavian settlers and his father had a transport business in the square right next to Olen Lane. The street was formerly known as Olen Yard. See my articles on the pets of Potch on The Heritage Portal and the mills of Potchefstroom.

*The name was originally spelled “Olen” but the adding of a diaeresis apparently to make it “Olën” was adapted at some time. In documents published in Mr Charlie Olen and his father’s lifetime the name is spelled without the diaeresis.

Mr Charlie Olen was a descendant of the Scandinavian immigrants who came to Potchefstroom in 1864. Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

This is an advertisement of Olen Bros in the brochure Beautiful Potchefstroom that was published in 1912. Olen Bros was situated where Olen Lane is today.

Olivier Street (South) was named after Mr GJ Olivier, a blacksmith. In 1952 he built a house on Erf 282 and requested the town council that the road between Jeugd and Botha Streets be named after him. Mr Olivier and his brother, HW Olivier, had a smithy on the south-western corner of Wolmarans and Van Riebeeck (Peter Mokaba) Streets.

Oosthuizen Street (Heilige Akker) was named after Alderman Johan Oosthuizen (1930-2017) who was a member of the city council for more than 30 years. He was mayor of Potchefstroom for nine years.

Capers of a Potch boy

Oswald Pirow Street (Dassierand) was named after a South African cabinet minister. Oswald Pirow (1890-1959) was Minister of Justice from 1929-1933 and Minister of Defence from 1933 to 1939. He was born in Potchefstroom and grew up here, where his father was a doctor. Their house was situated in Walter Sisulu Avenue about where the northern wing of the West Acres shopping centre is today. He wrote the novel Piet Potlood about the adventures of a Potchefstroom boy during the Anglo-Boer War.

Adv Oswald Pirow grew up in Potchefstroom and later became a government minister. He also wrote a youth story set in Potchefstroom during the Anglo-Boer War.

Piet Potlood (Piet Pencil) was the nickname of a scrawny boy, who appeared half-witted. His capers as a master spy in Potchefstroom during the War, make fantastical reading. Piet Potlood helped to move ammunition for the Boers right under the British soldiers’ noses. He assisted a Boer who was holed up for three days without food or water in an empty underground grain store to escape. With the aid of a box of firecrackers, he and all the women in town, raided food supplies at the British military base at the cantonments. The Brits wanted to blow up the food so that it does not end up in the hands of the Boer women and children. They were thwarted and the food were collected by the townspeople on carts. What was left over was saved to be distributed to those who did not join in the looting.

The same kind of firecrackers, seven oxen and a mule with a bell around its neck, aided Piet and his helpers to recover some 250 horses from the British. All these horses were rounded up on Boer farms. The horse camp was on the eastern bank of the Mooi River across from where the Fanie du Toit Sports Grounds are today. The area was known as “Oom Bossie se bos”. The area is still wooded today.

Piet Potlood is a fictional story, but peppered with real-life people who actually lived in Potchefstroom. It paints a vivid picture of Potchefstroom during the Anglo-Boer War. It is, however, impossible to differentiate between facts and fiction.

Dr Carl Bernhardt Ferdinand Pirow practised as a doctor in Potchefstroom during the Anglo-Boer War. His wife was Henriette Jasmine Marine (néé Tomby). Oswald (centre back) was the oldest child. Their other son is Hans (later Dr Hans Pirow). According to the caption on the back of this picture he at one time was Secretary of Mines. Their daughter, Sylva, married the architect Gerhard Moerdyk, who designed the Voortrekker Monument near Pretoria. Daphne Hurndall (1905-1999) mentioned in her memoires that “she had rather large feet”. The photo was taken by the Potchefstroom photographer, Fred Coop. Photo: Potchefstroom Museum.

Oswald Pirow was known for his sympathies towards the fascists. He met Hitler in 1933 and was an overt Nazi sympathizer. In 2011 the street in Cape Town leading from the N1 into the foreshore, originally named after Pirow was renamed after Dr Christiaan Barnard, the first man in the world to perform a heart transplant.

Otto Street (Baillie Park)
Dr WJ Otto was the second doctor to serve Potchefstroom, after Dr Bernardus Poortman (see below) and came to Potchefstroom around the second half of the 1850s. He had a lively interest in matters concerning the community and also served as magistrate. With his colleague Dr Poortman he was a member of the Transvaalsche Maatschappij van Landbou and Veeteelt, which organised the first agricultural show in Potchefstroom in 1867. When the first municipal council for Potchefstroom was elected Otto formally transferred his municipal duties as magistrate to the council at a meeting on 12 January 1869. Dr Otto was also the organiser of the first horse races in Potchefstroom in 1866. The racecourse was where the northern part of Potchindustria is today.

Owen Lane (Central) was named after Mr Fred Owen who had a bakery in the area where the street is. Next door his brother, Max, had a grocery shop. According to Mrs Daphne Hurndall, the Owen brothers came from Australia.

The original source of these articles is a series of 13 columns written by “Senex” for the Potchefstroom Herald on the origins of the street names of Potchefstroom, published from 17 December 1974 to 24 June 1975. Senex was the pseudonym of Mr Jurgens Smith, a long-time history teacher at the Potchefstroom High School for Boys. Smith’s primary source of information was the research of Mr TC de Klerk, who studied the origins of the street names of Potchefstroom to write a master’s dissertation in the 1960s. He sadly passed away before completing his studies. Some of De Klerk’s research is kept in the Archives of the Potchefstroom Museum, which otherwise also provided a rich source of information.

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