Gert Koen (photo from 2017) has been the maintenance manager at Woody’s Consumer Brands right from the start.
The butchery trade is in his blood. His mom called him Gert after the butcher she fell in love with a few years earlier. His dad was born on 27 April 1947 in Johannesburg as the oldest of 4 children and grew up poor. This is the story of Gert’s dad.
Old man Gert’s own dad, Ben Koen, passed away when his son, Gert was only 13. His mom got permission from the Department of Education for him to leave school at the age of 15. to find a job to provide for the family.
Gert went to stay with his Grandmom in Heidelberg, near Johannesburg and got a job with Escort on the pork slaughtering line. He worked here till the death of his Gradmom.
He moved to Mooiriver, Escort, in Natal to “study further.” Still working for Eskort, he was moved to the job of “stunner” on the slaughtering line.
A certain Mr. Blakeney had his own butchery in town. Gert worked for him over weekends to learn and I am sure, the extra income was handy. At the prompting of Mr. Blakeney, Gert became a Meat Cutting Technician and a Bacon Curer.
He later moved back to Johannesburg and got an apartment opposite his mom in Kensington. He was employed in Jeppe at a butchery. The photo below was taken here and he appears with Mnr. Cordier and Mr. Klinkhamer (standing on the far right) who later worked in Cape Town with Roy Oliver when Mr. Klinkhamer was the Managing Director of Braams in the Foreshore (c. 1972/1973). Braams had retail butcheries across Cape Town and Mr. Klinkhamer was based at the factory.
Below is another photo taken at the Jeppe Butchery where he worked with Mr. Klinkhamer. In the photo he is standing next to a slicer.
After this, he moved to a butchery in Mayfair, Johannesburg and then to one in Boksburg where he worked in Hartman’s butchery. Him and Mr. Hartman and Mr Hartman’s son Jackie, were very close and he rented his house till the day of Mr. Hartman’s death.
Him and Jackie shared another passion and this was horses. They stabled and rode together. It was here where he met his wife and her three kids on the 9th of October 1974.
He used to take them meat parcels. She was a single parent with twins of 1 years old and a brother, 4 years older than the twins. He said that he did this purely out of the goodness of his heart. When he would stop over at her place he was always invited for coffee. One thing lead to another and, as they say in the classics, the rest is history. They married and he adopted the three boys and 9 years later, in 1982, had his own son whom they also named Gert.
He was offered a management position at Spar in Glenanda. The picture below was taken there.
They later bought a house in Glenanda South.
He bought a butchery in Mondeor, “Royal Cash Butchery” from a German butcher, Kurt Hasert. Kurt became his best friend. Part of the deal was that Kurt retained users right over the equipment over weekends and here he made legendary German delicacies like Fleischkaese and Knakwurst.
Kurt’s father in law had a farm and piggery in Walkerville, just South of Johannesburg, where he had his own smoke room where they smoked everything, including Salami which was hung in the shower for “humidity control.”:-)
Kurt’s wife helped out at the butchery where she manned the counter. Later, Gert bought the butchery across the road as well, Mondeor Meat Centre. For 6 months he ran both businesses till it became to hectic. He consolidated and moved everything onto the premises of Mondeor Meat Centre, in Mondeor Boulevard.
The butchers trade, 7 days a week, 6 to 18:00, over too many years began taking its toll. Gert sold his business and tried to assist the new owners by agreeing to a payment plan which backfired when they disappeared with all the equipment.
He did what he knew. Bought another outlet and set shop up across Diepsloot Prison. Life was hard. Longer hours and still 7 days a week. To kick a man who was down, a manager disappeared with his car and R20 000 in cash which he took to buy stock. Back then it was a small fortune.
In between all of this, he had a heart attach and let go of the butchery.
As a skilled butcher, employment was not hard to find. He became production manager at BMR Foods who supplied Sun International with meat. He was happy till he was threatened with his life by a syndicate, after exposing them. He received a good severance package from them. He worked at a butchery in Lonehill and his own biltong shop till his passing on 10 November 1998.
What a remarkable life and an equally remarkable heritage. This is maybe why we feel so much at home between meat people. They are all hard working and real.
We are honoured to have Gert as part of the Woodys Team.
The photos below was taken in Jeppe street Johannesburg.
Information supplied by Gert Koen, 2017
Please contribute to this story by adding information about people and places mentioned in it. Mail your own story with photos to: firstname.lastname@example.org