Western Cape

With the demise of so many magazines during the Covid-19 pandemic, it brought to mind one which sadly disappeared a decade ago this month, Village Life.

Beginning life (sorry) as a community newspaper in Stanford in the Cape, it quickly expanded to the surrounding towns, then the Overberg region, when Annalize and Maré Mouton took over. It subsequently became a very respected and useful glossy magazine.

 

JC Smuts was born on the farm Bovenplaats, part of Ongegund near Riebeek West, in the then Cape Colony, and what is now the Western Cape, to parents Jacobus Abraham and Catharina Petronella (nee de Vries) on 24 May 1870.

 

William Froude was born on 28 November 1810, in Dartington, Devon in the South West of England. After graduating from Oxford University he worked with Isambard Kingdom Brunel as a railway engineer and was responsible for several innovations. He was what today would be called a “lateral thinker”, but with a rigid scientific approach.

Although Cape Town has had a port for hundreds of years, it has never been a port city like, for example, Istanbul. It was started as a result of human necessity by the Dutch East India Company in the 17th Century as a half-way house and watering hole on the long voyage to India. However, by the fifties, the richer, mostly white population had moved away from the exfoliating atmosphere of tar and sea- winds of the docklands and made for the more salubrious suburbs with their welter of lush green lawns and stench of privilege.

We are used, now, to the rugby players of Western Province and the Stormers visiting Hermanus for training at the start of the annual competitions. Like any other sporting codes coming to our town to exercise and train, they bring revenue into many businesses and boost the image of health, outdoors and ‘clean air’ that attracts many other tourists as well. 

Around the town stone age tools are found on the disturbed, agricultural lands, and more so alongside the Diep River and streams, telling us of human occupation over many millions of years.

The San also left evidence, in paintings on nearby Kasteelberg, and even though a transhumant people, the Khoekhoe too left similar indications of their presence. In today’s aware world, these people altered the environment little and must be considered to have had a balanced existence.

 

This photograph has been in my wife’s Goles family since it was taken by Ravenscroft in about 1919 (click here to read more about Ravenscroft). Standing in the doorway of the Olympia Café is my wife’s Greek grandfather Athos (Arthur) Goles – who owned and ran it from the day it opened. To the right is the Olympia Picture Palace the then new bioscope that, as can be seen, is advertising the film The Vigilantes released in the USA in 1918.

Between 1910 and 1943, five “Governors-General” represented the British reigning monarch in South Africa. Each Governor-General played the role of the personal representative of the British King, while the “High Commissioner” interacted with the South African government on political, economic and diplomatic issues. 

One of the obvious features of Hermanus history is the large number of famous and well-known people who visited the town during the 20th century. Some came only once, for instance the internationally known English woman pilot, Amy Johnson, who rested for a few days at the Marine after her record-breaking solo flight from London in the 1930s.

Saldanha Bay, with its perfect setting for a harbour, was always constrained by the lack of fresh water. With the Khoekhoe's transhumant existence, the Vredenburg Peninsula formed part of seasonal grazing, which was dictated by the seasons, with summer providing little rainfall and winter being the opportunity to graze cattle and sheep. The early seafarers and explorers who entered the safe haven found that the lack of a permanent fresh water source restricted any concept of settlement.

At five o clock in the afternoon of Saturday 19 December 1925, a wisp of smoke was seen to rise lazily from the thatched roof near the kitchen of the Groot Constantia Manor House. Moments later the huge thatch roof caught fire creating an uncontrollable inferno. With no brandsolder to contain the flames, the blaze crashed through to the boarded ceilings of the rooms below and through that to the main floor.

The Adelphi Cinema was built by the Allen family in 1916 and was owned and managed by Simon Allen, one of the sons of David Allen and a grandson of the original Allengensky. The first member of this family to come to South Africa was Adel Allengensky, who arrived in Hermanus from Latvia, via Cape Town and Greyton early in the 1890s.

Does anyone remember Pyott Biscuits? They were the makers of Salticrax, Romany Creams, Iced Zoo and many other SA favourites. Today they’re all branded under the Bakers label and the Pyott name has largely been forgotten.

A public meeting held at the Castle of Good Hope on Saturday 16 March, which, attended by residents and members of SAHRA to discuss the heritage declaration of the Bo-Kaap, was stimulating and productive.

 

Cape Town in the early 1950s was a place where we grew up, and spent weekends rambling and scrambling over Table Mountain. My brother Adrian, a friend and I soon got to learn of the existence of quite a few caves in the Wynberg area, and decided to explore. The first time we entered Wynberg cave was a bit scary, mainly because we had no torches, and we were not properly equipped at all. Later that afternoon round the campfire, we discussed the possibilities of continuing with this – the answer was a definite YES.

It is fortunate for posterity that Group Captain Rupert Taylor, a Johannesburg businessman in 1964 became interested in the old Simon’s Town Seaforth Cemetery or the ‘Old Burying Ground’, as it is called. Like his war-time contemporary ‘Sailor’ Malan he began his service career in the Navy before switching to the Airforce during the Second World War. While in the Navy he used to occasionally sit under a plaque to Midshipman Hammill in this cemetery admiring the sea view.

What do names such as ‘Astoria, Regal, Plaza, Victory, Pigalle, Empire, Roxy, Odeon, Vaudette, Regent, Apollo, Ritz, and Bijou’, mean to you?

Generation Z will probably think they are apps and Millennials that they are computer games. Generation X will think of them as names of men’s suits, restaurants or maybe small-town hotels. Only the Baby Boomers will recognise the evocative names of long closed and largely forgotten bioscopes.

Sometimes an interesting question is asked. ‘Which Cemetery is the most venerable in South Africa?’ Not so easy to answer as one may think. There are some strong contenders but the Tana Baru in the Bo-Kaap, the oldest Muslim Cemetery in Cape Town, can certainly stake a very credible claim. This is the only historical cemetery in South Africa of which an informative book has been written, The History of the Tana Baru, by Achmat Davids.

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