Market part of Milnerton neighbourhood

The old palm tree site at Woodbridge Island from about 23 years ago.

It started out as a few people selling second-hand goods from their car boots on Woodbridge Island in the late 1980s, but the Milnerton Flea Market has grown into an iconic part of the neighbourhood.

Come rain or shine, every Saturday and Sunday, thousands of people flock to the market along the R27 opposite Paarden Eiland.

Errol Baxter, the market’s former chairman, says about 4 000 people visit the market on a Saturday and that number doubles on Sunday.

It’s a big change from when the market first started. Back then, the traders were known as the Palm Tree Traders because they’d set up shop under the palm trees along Woodbridge Island. They would also catch their fair share of flak, says Errol, from councillors and nearby residents at the time.

Errol has been a trader for 25 years and served as chairman for 12 years. He had a full-time job but credits the market for helping him put his three children through university.

It’s been about 18 years now since the traders moved to the site at Paarden Eiland. Now the market is multiracial and not only limited to Milnerton residents as it once was.

The area has been tarred and fenced and stalls allocated for market members.

“The market is more organised nowadays. We are restricted to 209 stalls to keep it from overcrowding of traders,” says Errol.

He thanked Heather Brenner,

Tabletalk’s founder, for helping to get the market the recognition he feels it deserves.

Aletta Smit, the market’s vice chairperson, says traders run the enterprise and money made from renting out stalls gets ploughed into making improvements.

“The traders here pay R100 a day to be able to trade at their designated stalls,” says Aletta.

“We use that money for daily operations and for things like the mobile toilets we have here. The market didn’t have proper infrastructure as it was full of sand, but now there is tarring and it was paid for by the traders.”

But old-timer Louis Lieching prefers things the way they were.Louis is 87 years old and the oldest trader at the market with 30 years under his belt.

“Things are more difficult at this site because the place is growing, and there is a lot more competition, so I don’t make as much profit as I used to.”

He used to work as a back-of-house manager at the President Hotel and would spend his free time at the market.

“I would be off every second Saturday and I would drive to the market and sell second-hand work tools out of the boot of my car. I have seen a lot of change here at the market and in our country as I have lived through four governments.”

Louis was made an honorary member of the market in May, and he doesn’t have to pay a stall fee anymore.

André Venter sells ice cream at the market.

As a boy, he used to help out at his parents’ stall at the old palm tree site.

“It became a family thing that we did. I have since carried on the tradition as my daughter now helps out here.”