Four generations of entrepreneurs

Brian Hayward


IT was in the mid-1800s when Charles Forlee made his first trip from Meixian, China, to Port Elizabeth aboard either The Ruys or Bosevan – an expedition which has given the city four generations of entrepreneurs. According to Charles’s grandson, James, who runs a restaurant in Lorraine, the trip was spurred by opportunities in Port Elizabeth at the time.


“After Charles arrived here, he met Florie, an Afrikaans woman, who he later married,” said James. Incidentally, according to James who every two years makes the pilgrimage back to Meixian, there are no Forlees back in China.


Charles was a polygamist and had family back in Meixian. From Charles’s Meixian family, he brought over his sons, George – James’s father – and Abie.


After marrying Florie, Charles had two more sons, Jimmy and Willie.


The couple started the Forlee Green Bus service, which James said was the city’s first private transport company. The government refused to issue new bus licences to the Forless – their competition – who were forced to turn to other avenues for an income. This was how they entered the fisheries business.


Fairview was home to the Forlees ever since Charles settled along where Willow Road now runs. It was where the family set up a factory to manufacture Joy Lollies and ice lollies, Flovourites. But forced apartheid removals saw the family move all over the city in the ’80s.

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