Thursday, July 5, 2012

Leaving home for CAPE TOWN


Cape Town. South Africa.
Located on the shore of Table Bay , Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company  as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck's arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa.

South African Railways-Suid Afrikaanse Spoorwee.

Cape Town Station.

After spending almost 24 hours on the train from Bloemfontein, I was exhausted but also very excited. It was a beautiful sunny morning and I was very aware of the enormous Table Mountain behind the city. Having lived  in the Transvaal and Orange Free State I was not used to mountains.

With my stomach in a knot, I dragged my luggage to the taxi rank and found one to drive me up to Kloof street where Saasveld -the Dutch Reformed hostel was located.

Kloof Street .Cape Town 1854.

Kloof Street 1915.

Kloof Street 1969


 The building beside the Huguenot Memorial Museum in Franschoek  is actually a reconstruction of Saasveld, the old Cape Town home of Baron Willem Ferdinand van Reede van Oudtshoorn.
He was the son of The Governor of South Africa- Baron Pieter van Rheede van Oudtshoorn tot Nederhorst. Saasveld was designed by Louis Michel Thibault, the most important architect in the history of the Cape of Good Hope. Thibault was French-born & -trained, but came to South Africa while an officer in the Regiment de Meuron, Swiss mercenaries in the service of the Dutch East India Company. Thibault joined with sculptor Anton Anreith  and architect Hermann Schutte to form the sacred triumvirate of the Cape Dutch style —
The house stood in  what is now Kloof Street in Cape Town, and came into the possession of the Dutch Reformed Church, who decided to demolish it in 1954. Happily, they were eventually persuaded to allow the building to be dismantled instead of demolished, and it was reconstructed next to the Huguenot Monument  Franschoek in 1957.

It was named after the Castle of Saasveld near Utrecht in the Netherlands. It was ancestral home of  Baron Pieter van Reede van Oudtshoorn , who was  the Governor of South Africa  in 1773.
Baron Pieter van Rheede van Oudtshoorn tot Nederhorst can claim direct
discordancy from both Charlemagne, and Alfred the Great, the first person to be styled King of England, with lines that extend back into the early 7th century.

Saasveld. Kloof Street with Table Mountain .

Cape Town is  the legislative capital of South Africa .The Government travels from Pretoria for the Parliament sitting that lasts for  about 6 months of the year. Saasveld was started as a hostel for unmarried employees that travelled back and forth  between Cape Town and Pretoria .
By this time they opened it up to other people ,so there were students, working people as well as Government employees living there. The ground floor had a lounge and  dining room . Breakfast, as well as dinner, was included in the price. Over the weekends we were served breakfast and lunch .

Saasveld double room.

On the first floor  the rooms and bathrooms were for the female residents. The second and third floor were reserved for the male lodgers .Men could visit the first, floor but women were not allowed on the top floors .In the beginning I  had to share a room but after staying there for a year ,I applied for a single room and as soon as one became available I moved in . I even had a view of the mountain. Bathrooms and showers were communal. We would spend a lot of time on the first floor, visiting from room to room , having coffee and rusks after dinner -or during the weekend. If somebody wanted privacy the door to their room would be closed, but when it was open it meant one was welcome to come and join the conversation. What started off as a two person chat ,would end up as a party.

Clifton beach.

One was never lonely .There was always somebody to talk to. If some guys were off to the beach there was always and extra seat if you felt like going along .During the summer months the sun sets very late so we would go to the beach late Friday afternoon and stay until dark. Saturday the same thing.  A weekend felt like a week's vacation by the time Monday rolled along. I had to sing in the church choir on Sunday morning but after church we were off to the beach again .Sunday evenings after church we would go to the Symphony Concert in the City Hall .

Little did I know that almost 30 years later ,Renee Fleming the American Opera Diva would be wearing one of my gowns on that same stage!

Renee Fleming September 2009. Cape Town .City Hall .
Mr. and Mrs.Volsteedt were the house parents ,but we saw very little of them -only when we came down to breakfast or dinner .They had a house at the back of the property. We had a resident's board  that to took care of problems amongst the tenants.Everyone staying there were very responsible and there were no problems with people misbehaving.

Cape Town double decker bus.
Mrs.Volsteedt received me that first morning  ,and as a cousin of my father  knew her, she treated me with kid gloves and told me that my Aunt Nietie  was there the previous day to find out if all was in order for my arrival. It made me feel much better. She showed me to my room and I had to unpack quickly and take a shower, as I had to be at the Fashion School at 10:00 am for orientation.
I rushed downstairs and caught the bus, that stopped in front of Saasveld, downtown to Strand Street where the American Academy of Technology was located.

Boston House, Strand Street. Cape Town 

Marie Koopmans de Wet House.

The Fashion School was on the ground floor of Boston House  opposite the beautiful  Marie Koopmans de Wet House .The first morning I arrived there were about 30 students in the class. To my amazement I realized I was the only male student. Most of the other students could sew and I felt like a green horn. I was never interested in sewing ,so this came as a shock to me .I wanted to learn pattern making and designing but most of  theses girls were hell bent on cutting dresses and sewing them .I realized I had a lot to learn. The Morgan's were quite a pair:- Mr. Morgan we saw now and then, mostly when our class fees were due. They lived in Rondebosch ,that was a very English suburb. Mrs Morgan  would spend most of the time in her  office with the intercom on. After she gave us our morning  lecture she would listen in to our conversation. If it got too loud she would holler over the loudspeaker and we would quite down for a bit. She enjoyed  a glass of wine -or something stronger- and after lunch you were on your own. If it got very quite  ,and  it was a great beach day, we would slip out and go to the beach. The next day the older ,and more responsible students. would tell is that when they left at 4:00 pm- the she was still missing in action. So we were OK.

One of our beach picnics. Margaret, Linda, Henry + Doreen.
Be as it may -Mrs. Morgan  was a great teacher and very strict when it came to exams. We got our money's worth when it came to learning pattern making!  I took to it like a fish to water. I loved going to classes and took it all in like a sponge. At last I was doing what I really wanted to do!

Those day -during the late sixties fashions were very simple .(Think of Jackie Kennedy). Dresses had two side seams and not difficult to cut. Mrs Morgan would have nothing of that and would teach us patterns with Magyar- and Raglan sleeves and with gussets under arms. If she was teaching a Magyar sleeved dress-she would rock up in  (mostly) a printed cotton dress with a Magyar sleeve. She would proudly announce that the dress was 25 years old and we would just roll our eyed and snicker behind her back. They were very difficult but thanks to her we were taught pattern making and not fashion trends.She knew what she was doing and I learned a lot from her.

Rawsonville Cape .South Africa

I immediately made friends with some of the girls .\Anne du Preez was from Rawsonville and her parents owned a beautiful wine estate Excelsior at the foot of the Du Toit's Kloof pass. She was at Stellenbosch University for one year but decided she wanted to study fashion .We worked for a year or so in clothing factories opposite each other after school. She got a good post as a children's wear designer. After she married Andre, who is a lawyer, they moved to Worcester were she had a Cut Make and Trim operation for many years, giving work to the local Cape population .They now own a beautiful B+B in Worcester.

Anne Du Preez

Andre de Wit.

Andre en Anne de Wit.

Henry +  Anne.    Blauwbergstrand 2012
Taken 44 later

Prime Spot  B+B .Worcester. Cape

Anne's friend was Marlene. She also studied at Stellenbosch University. Her boyfriend, Pepe, also lived in Saasveld. She was rather snobbish, but OK once you got to know her .
Christina was from Moorreesburg and came in every day by train from there. She was very good and sewing and was a top student.She worked in the fashion industry for many years very successfully .She was very down to earth and we had a good relationship.

Moorreesburg, Cape

Marietjie Neethling.

Dirkie en Marietjie.

Later Marietjie Neethling  joined us and she became part of the gang.
She changed from a rather plain country girl into this sophisticated  city girl very quickly and she had a grand career in fashion travelling to Europe and America regularly. We were the Afrikaans speaking group in the class. Having spent some time growing up in Johannesburg ,I could speak English many of the other student
s were not that fluent.

 Margaret Henry + Linda.

Margaret and Rita were a bit older than the rest of us. Margaret Atkinson loved opera as well and we had that in common. She was divorced and needed a new career to keep herself and her son going.She and Mrs. Morgan were always at it.She was very serious about her studies.

Bruno + Rita Cavegn during a visit to New York.
 Rita was from Switzerland and worked at the United Nations in Switzerland .She came back to Cape Town to be with her parents.She invited me home to have some cheese fondue with her family. Her parents were very kind- just as Rita is .She lost her brother at that time when he drowned in the ocean.We still keep contact .She is married and living  in St Gallen Switzerland with her husband Bruno, and son Lucas.

St.Gallen, Switzerland.

Linda Fine invited me and Rita home once .She taught me a lot about the Jewish religion that I did not know much about.

Linda +Henry

There was another Jewish girl in our class, Rene. Her parents lived in the every exclusive  Bordeaux Apartments on the ocean in Sea Point .Her father had a clothing factory and she just came to Fashion School to learn more about the industry .She did not need to find a job. She worried more about her nails , make up  and hair, than her studies. Sometimes she brought a white toy  poodle with her to class. The other girls were shocked but intrigued by her   She had a much older boyfriend and was quite open to me about her sex life. She invited us to her parents apartment one day, when we went to the beach. Up to that stage of my life ,I never saw such luxury. She really was a good person and rather sweet. I liked her.

Bordeaux Apartment, Sea Point. Cape Town.

It was a lovely group of people from all walks of life. We all had fashion in common she we bonded very well. The girls accepted me and we all got along very well.

One day Mrs. Morgan was giving us a lecture and as usual she would work at a big pattern table. She would  demonstrate and give us the draft for the patterns on the board. Marietjie tried to help her by  pulling the high chair aside so that she would have more space to work. Mrs. Morgan decided to sit down for while -but the chair was not there -and she fell backward onto the floor, her skirt over her head. Marietjie was horrified and could not do enough to help her up and apologize. We were all shocked into silence. Mrs. Morgan was furious and tried to get back her dignity- but it was rather difficult having her nether regions exposed to all and sundry. Once we realized she was OK and she left the room-Anne and I started to laugh so hard  that I was on the floor .I thought I was going to wet my pants. Anne had tears streaming down her face and had running mascara all the way down the front of her dress. The rest were still in shock but we could not help ourselves. We knew it was wrong but could not stop. It was like starting to giggle in church. You can't control yourself. Weeks after this episode we just needed to look at each other to be hysterical again. Poor Marietjie could not get over it. She was mortified!  I am sure the intercom was not on or else we would have paid dearly for this bad behavior!


When I got back to Saasveld the first evening, I went down for dinner. I stood on line to get my food and then went and sat at table by myself. Soon after a guy my age came by and asked if he could join me .His name was Johan Basson and soon some of his friends joined the table and before you knew it I knew 3 people already. Soon after that I met Stoffel, Nick and Blackie .Nick Bekker later had the room next to mine, and my alarm clock .He use to knock on my door when he got up to go to the bathroom for a shower in the morning. I then knew it is time for me to get going as well.
After dinner they asked if I wanted to join them for a walk so that they could show me the surroundings and point out certain shops etc. Some of the girls joined us and were about 6 that went for a walk as the sun set. I could not believe how beautiful Cape Town was and how friendly people were. The entrance to the world famous Mount Nelson Hotel was about two blocks away.

Orange Street.

Kloof Street.

Mount Nelson Hotel. Cape Town.
When I got back to my room I met my room mate Cobus Lotter. He was working for Parliament and they had a late session. He was a very decent and religious guy and we got along well. People were rather religious as it was the church  hostel. I never saw any drug or alcohol abuse in the thee years that I lived in Saasveld.

Cobus Lotter 2010

Cobus is in the back row second from left.
In the second row from the back third from the left is Ernst Kotzé ,who also was a friend, who lived in Saasveld with us .

House of Parliament .Cape Town. South Africa.

Henry + Elsa Wolfaard.

Henry +  Nellie Malan in the limousine of the Cabinet Minster Lourens Muller , who was married to Hannelie van Niekerk, the South African opera singer. Pottie was his secretary and when he married Carol ,one of our Saasveld friends, the minister and his wife came to the wedding.

Stephrie Geldenhuys, Marlene Huysamen , Annetjie and  Brahm Ross went to  the opening of "My Fair Lady " at the Alhambra in Cape Town .
They were all residents of Saasveld .Brahm en Annetjie got married later.

This photo was taken almost 35 years later.
Stephrie, Brahm, Lettie , Henry Elsa and Annetjie in red. 

Christo ,Brahm, Lettie, Henry, Steph
Annetjie, Marlene Carol + Maggie
I made some of my best friends during this time, and some of them I still have contact with.
Brahm en Annetjie Ross ,Marlene Huysamen , Hetna , Marita, Nellie Malan ,Maggie Roux, Beyers and Christo de Jongh.Stephrie Geldenhuys  was an architect student at the Cape Town University and we become good friends. Beyers Theron  was from Tulbach went to Art School .We also had a lot of common and I use to see him later when I lived in Johannesburg and he in Pretoria.
By this time my friend Philip from Bloemfontein's Art School as well as Lettie and Kobie also came to Cape Town. Lettie and Kobie came and stayed in Saasveld as well but Philip shared an apartment with another friend from Bloemfontein, Elidius Pretorius.I was thrilled to have them around again. We picked up where we left off! I was rather lonely at home and now I was surrounded by people of my own age .I felt so liberated. I will never forget the first night when I went to bed I thought- I could stay up the whole night and nobody would care. I was my own boss. It was a great thing but I also knew it meant that I was responsible for the choices I was going to make.

Groote Kerk. Cape Town.

I became a member of the Dutch Reformed Church of Cape Town .The church was officially consecrated on 6 January 1704 and acquired its first organ in 1737. This was replaced in 1853, and a vestry was added in 1744-45. The adjoining cemetery is the resting place of many of Cape Town's early burgers including Governors Simon van der Stel (1712), Ryk Tulbagh (1771), and Pieter Baron van Rheede van Oudtshoorn (1773). It was used for official government business like inaugurating the Presidents of South Africa.I started singing in the church choir  to get my feet wet. It was a professional choir and we were paid   a small fee. Wednesday evening we had choir practice .Sunday mornings an hour before church we had to be there to warm up.  Japie Malan was the organist and a very good choir master. The church was packed every Sunday.
Here a met some very kind people and Ferdie Smith comes to mind. He ,and his wife Edna, took me under their wing .They had three kids and they would invite me out almost every weekend to restaurants and  to do other fun things. In the morning they would pick me up at Saasveld, as they lived higher up in Kloofnek and we would go to breakfast together. Edna was a clerk in the High Court and Ferdie was in real estate. Their marriage was on the rocks and I think it was easier for them to have a third person around just to cope with each other for the kid's sake .I felt sad for them but did not mind being invited along wherever they went. We had a good time when we went out. Neither of them ever discussed this with me but soon after ,they got divorced.

Jan S. Marais,CEO Trust Bank  1970.

Ferdie was also a great friend of  Jan. S. Marais the CEO  of Trust Bank.
Several of the people in Saasveld worked for Trust Bank. Mr. Marais loved beautiful people to work at the bank and encouraged short skirts and heavy eye make up!


On the evening of September 29 1969, just past 8:00 pm, I was walking back to my room from the bathroom when I saw the  passage started moving .The walls started to sway and the passage starting moving like a swing bridge over a river .There was a noise of  rumbling rocks  under my feet that did not stop. I thought  it was Table Mountain  coming down on us .It went on and on and I started to panic . By this time other residents  came out of their rooms and we started to run  to the outside staircase .We then realized that is was an earthquake. By that time it started to subside and we  all calmed down. It registered as 6.3 on the Richter scale and 12 people were killed. It did great damage to the towns of Tulbach and Ceres, but not much in Cape Town.

Another event I do remember from this time was the evening of July 20 1969 when the Americans landed Neil Armstrong on the moon. I looked through the window at the moon and remembering feeling very insignificant .It was a great step for mankind indeed.

Lower down in Kloof Street, close to Saasveld, was a cafĂ© run by a middle aged lady with pitch black dyed hair. She had a little table with a oil cloth where she would sit and listen to the radio and have tea .When somebody came in she would go behind the counter to help them .A cat would lie on her feet. It seems that cafe was open 24 hours .I think she had a room at the back where she would sleep .The shop was like her living room so why not keep the door open and make some money?
There was an extra chair at the table and I would go in there and sit and talk to her.She was Afrikaans woman  and I think she had a rough life. She once had a  Portuguese man in her life and they opened this cafe many years ago. She did not talk about herself much. When he died -or left -she kept running the cafe .She had no children or family that I knew of. She was rather soft spoken and a kind person that was knocked around by life.
In the apartment block next to the cafe was a brothel. One use to see  sailors there at all hours of the day and night - mostly Koreans. Now and then the police would raid the place .but the next day it would be business as usual . Some of these sailors would move in for the time they are in port and spend the few days with their "girlfriend" spending their hard earned money. The cafe will then do a roaring business  These hookers would come in for cigarette's, milk  or tea and  they would asks  her  to write it on the book. She had a book where she would write down what each one owned her.She was very kind to them ,and I never heard of an incident where they screwed her out of money. She was like a mother to them that they perhaps never had-and very sympathetic.
 Sometimes the girls will be on drugs or drunk ,that the sailors brought in, and when they left she would click her tongue .She would take them to the front of the cafe, where I could not hear what she said, and confront them when they came back in. Not for the life they were leading ,or the money they owed her, but because of the drinking and drug use. She said you need to have your wits around you when you have these dangerous men around. Sometimes they would come in all beaten up. Some of the girls even spoke Afrikaans that shocked me.
I was growing up fast and I realized more and more what a privileged life I had growing up.
This lady was perhaps not the most well brought up woman -or a church lady, but her kindness to these forgotten girls were very  touching. She set an example for me who tended to look down on people like that.

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