A. Ross & Co. General Dealers in Harrismith had gone phut, sold out to OK Bazaars. Their big old building was being gutted. Dad enquired about the ‘pressed steel’ ceilings* and was told ‘You can have the ceilings gratis if you strip them and remove them within a week.’
He bought six ‘nail puller pliers’ like these:
. . and hired six men (not that he used a decent word like men), had them take down the panels, scrape them down, scrub them with wire brushes and seal them with clear varnish; then they painted them with a mix of glossy and matt white paint to get a lovely finish: not shiny, not dull.
He put them up in our huge lounge, our long passage and our spacious dining room of the old house at 95 Stuart Street.
He sold the excess panels to someone in JHB who paid and fetched.
Dad says while he was fitting them, Ouma paid us a visit from PMB. She would sit up with him as he worked till late at night. When it got late she would encourage him to stop: ‘Kom my seun, nou moet jy gaan rus. Gaan slaap nou.’
I’ve no pics of the ceilings . . The feature pic and these are from the ‘net. They give a good idea of the look.
When I was taking pictures of his old tools I lined up these pliers and he said ‘Oh, those aren’t old. I bought them.’ Yeah, I laughed; Like fifty years ago! He saw the humour in that.
*Tin ceilings were introduced to North America as an affordable alternative to the exquisite plasterwork used in wealthy European homes. They gained popularity in the late 1800s as Americans sought sophisticated interior design. Durable, lightweight and fireproof, tin ceilings were appealing to home and business owners alike as a functionally attractive design element that was readily available.
Important chaps like this one harumphed . .
. . that it was morally wrong and deceptive to imitate another material and blamed the degradation of society towards the “art of shamming” rather than honesty in architecture. Oh well . . we weren’t going to invite him for tea to 95 Stuart street anyway.
They were also popular in South Africa and in Australia where they were commonly known as pressed metal ceilings or Wunderlich ceilings;