Friday, August 10, 2012

Living in Cape Town SOUTH AFRICA 1967-1970


Robben Island with Cape Town in the background.

Cape Town photographed from Blauwbergstrand.

Cape Town. Fore Shore 1968.

Cape Town in the late sixties, where not as crowded as it is today. The world had still not discovered its beauty and it was a rather sleepy and laid back town. It had a great historic background and very different from Johannesburg and even Bloemfontein -the only other two cities I knew in South Africa.

Groote Schuur Hospital 1967

A year earlier, on December 3 1967, Dr. Christian Barnard transplanted the first heart and Groote Schuur Hospital was becoming world famous. Slowly but surely the world was taking notice of this beautiful city on the most southern point of Africa.

Cape Malay Family.

The Cape Colored and Malay Communities gave it a unique oriental atmosphere that one did not find anywhere else in South Africa. There were very few Africans living in the Cape at this time. Afrikaans was spoken by these groups and they have a wonderful sense of humor.
Being a harbor city one saw many people from many countries. It also had a rather sordid night life because of so many sailors in town.

Clifton Beach.

 Camps Bay.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

It had great natural beauty .Cape Townians enjoy the outdoor life and were very athletic. The beaches and mountains offered many possibilities for relaxation. The wine farms of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschoek was a short drive away. It was available and free for all to enjoy.

"Boschendal" Stellenbosch

Wine lands. Stellenbosch


We went sailing and fishing ,visited the beaches, and climbed the mountains . Weekends felt like a week as the weekend started on Friday afternoons. The sun set late enough ,during the summer months, that one could get a few hours on the beach before the weekend even started. We were all tanned -and wore white....this was the 60's!

Rooi Els in False Bay.

Alikreukel Shell.

A bunch of us use to go to Rooi Els for fishing weekends. One of the guy at Saasveld worked for the Department of Forestry and had access to a beach cabin on the ocean in False Bay. In the late 60's there was no town- only this old wooden beach cabin. We had to take everything with us. I was no fisherman but enjoyed the outing. They guys would collect  Alikreukel. We would then beat it to a pulp and fry it in butter. Nothing better! We would also fry the fish that was caught -and for the evenings around the fire some rum and coke got our spirits very high. We had some great times there. I remember Ernst, Nick, Stoffel and Blackie as the guys that would catch the fish and save us from starvation.

Company Gardens with Table Mountain covered in clouds.

One watched the clouds over Table Mountain- to predict the weather for the day. If the table had clouds covering the top, we stayed at home, as it meant wind or rain. The South Eastern wind could play havoc . It was not called the Cape of Storms for nothing and many a ship ran ashore -and still do!

Cape winters were cold, rainy but cozy. One appreciated it when September came around to herald the warmer weather.

Cape Town Symphony.

Cape Town had a Symphony Orchestra that performed on Thursday and Sunday evening in the City Hall. We also had a great Ballet School -started by Dulcie Howes-that fed the Royal Ballet in London with many great dancers like Nadia Nerina, Monica Mason and David Poole.

Nadia Nerina and Rudolph Nureyev.

Plays by local and international writers where performed in several theaters and the opera season, during the winter months, were a great hit.

"The Lost Orchid" by Trechikoff

Vladimir Trechikoff the Russian born painter made his home in Cape Town and was very famous .
He was known as the" king of kitsch" but copies of his paintings were sold all over the world.

"Chinese Girl" by Vladimir Trechikoff

His famous "Chinese Girl", a 1950 painting featuring an Eastern model with blue-green skin, is one of the best selling prints of all time. Prints of the painting became widespread during the 1960s and 1970s, and the painting was featured in various plays and television programs: the original set of "Alfie" with a drawn moustache in one episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus " and an episode of Doctor Who."

Mount Nelson Cape Town

La Perla Restaurant in Sea Point .Cape Town

Constantia Neck Restaurant

Cape Town also had great restaurants during those day. La Perla in Sea Point and the Constantia Neck Restaurant being big favorites of mine. The famous Mount Nelson Hotel also had great restaurants.
 It was a much less stressful life than the folks in Johannesburg lead.

Stuttaford's Adderley Street.

I did not earn a lot of money, but one did not need a fortune to have a great time .Saturdays mornings I would go to the OK Bazaars for a Wimpy as a treat, or meet some friends at Stuttaford's for tea.

OK Bazaars

OK Bazaars. Adderley Street. Cape Town

Wimpy Menu Ok Bazaars 1960's

After that we will be off to the beach for the rest of the day.
Saturday evenings there were always something going on. If not ,we went down to the ladies floor in Saasveld and find several friends with no plans. We would go to the movies or go out for a hamburger or stay put- drink coffee- and chat. Sunday mornings I had to sing in the Groote Kerk choir, but after church we were off to the beach or Ferdie and his family would pick me up for lunch somewhere exciting. After church on Sunday evenings we would go the Symphony Concerts that started at 8:45pm and ended around 10:00 pm .Work started at 8:00 am, so I had to get up around 6:00 am to give me enough time to get to the factory in Maitland. We worked overtime most of the week but I did get paid an extra few cents for that.

I was usually one of the first that would arrive for breakfast and by that time the kitchen staff would've been up for an hour preparing breakfast for the lodgers. The head of the kitchen staff was Koekie a Cape Colored woman and she would also dish up the food. After a while she got to know each of us and a little smile or compliment would get you an extra large portion of you favorite dish. As there were not much to do at that hour she would regale me with the up to date gossip about the staff and the other tenants. She knew it all.....One morning one of the kitchen girls , Ellie was sniffing and wiping her eyes .Koekie informed me that she was "innie anner tyd" - meaning she was pregnant without wedlock and Koekie was furious with her for throwing away her life-and was giving her hell ! A little later she married the father of her child and she had a big "stork party" with the women of Saasveld giving her a lot of gifts for her new baby.She gave birth on her way from work on the street and was back two days later .
The food was really  good and we ate well. After dinner we would hang around in the dining room until they threw us out or go upstairs and visit on the ladies floor. We had no need to run around as we were all friends and enjoyed each others company.

Me as a student in Cape Town taken on my 21st birthday.

Annetjie en Brahm

Annetjie's room was a mayor meeting place and her door was always open. Lettie and Carol's room was opposite hers and Hetna and Marlene was a little further down. Nellie's room was at the end of the passage.Brahm or Steph was also around so we would catch up on the events of the day and have coffee. If somebody was going out they would come and show off in the finery and we all would have something to say. Most of the girls could sew and made their own dresses or gowns. Soon Annetjie and Brahm decided to get married. Lettie and Neels followed as well as Steph and Tineke.

Neels en Lettie van Niekerk

I met Neels van Niekerk at a function and he asked me where I was staying. He just moved to Cape Town from Stellenbosch and needed a place to stay. I invited him to come and take a look at Saasveld the next evening. I introduced him to some of my friends. Lettie was one of them and soon her was asking her out. I was very possessive of Lettie and felt nobody was good enough to marry her. When she told me they were going to get married I was not thrilled. It was a childish reaction but never the less very real. They got married in Bloemfontein and went to live in Milnerton.After a while I got used to the idea and made my peace with it .They had twins a boy and a girl.

Neels, Lettie, Henry, Kobie

After Neel's tragic death ,Lettie married Ben Roets a couple of years later ,and moved back to Bloemfontein.

Kobie en Lettie

Ben en Lettie Roets

The combined Roets and Van Niekerk family

Ronel  Henry Lettie


Annetjie as well as Tineke asked me to help them with their wedding gowns -but the first bridal gown I designed was for Anne's sister Paula du Preez.
Paula was a tall and beautiful and I was thrilled. She was going to marry Charles Osche of  Paarl .
It was going to be a winter wedding in their home town of Rawsonville and the reception would be held at the Swiss Farm Excelsior in Franschoek.

Sketch of Paula's Gown.

Paula en her father entering the church in Rawsonville at sunset.

Charles and Paula Osche.

Paula's gown was made by Geoffrey Lee that worked with me at Hellas. We asked one of the seamstresses to sew it under his supervision.
It was made out of cream colored wool crepe. Over a slim fitting gown was a pointed front apron that formed a pointed train at the back. On the shoulders and down the sleeves it had small covered buttons. A very long veil fell over the train and dragged on the floor. Paula was very beautiful, tall and slim and she looked magnificent. I was very proud that she was my first bride.
Charles and Paula moved to a farm near De Doorns and had five boys.
About 14 years later the whole family was killed tragically 


When Brahm and Annetjie got married I designed a Silk Organza cape over a slim Silk Crepe gown for her to wear.. The cape had a full back and formed a train. It was trimmed on all the seams with a French Cuipere lace. The veil was caught onto a small pill box hat and trained behind her.

The moved to Oranjesicht, not far from Saasveld ,and we all still went and visited them. Once they started a family, they moved out of the city, but by that time I was not living in Cape Town anymore. They have a boy and a girl.


When Steph and Tineke got married we had a lot of fun. Tineke was Dutch -tall and blond-a beautiful girl. Steph decided he was going to wear a white suit .This was the late 60's remember , and the Carnaby Street Look was hot! The color scheme was yellow and white.

For Tineke I designed a organza gown with satin trim around the hem, collar and sleeves. The head gear was a like horn of plenty at the back it opened up and the veil with ribbons and flowers attached to them, spilled down her back and formed a train. For Steph's mother ,we found a beautiful white and yellow French lace at Mayers and had a suit made .She wore a yellow turban to match. She was a beautiful woman in any case, but she looked great.

Dutch girls wearing a "Marken" costume

While I was in London, Steph and Tineke visited her parents in the Netherlands where they lived on Marken. They flew over to London as well and visited me for a few days.
After they got married they went to live in Somerset West and had two boys and two girls.


During this time I met a woman that would have a great influence on my life;-
Margaret. A. Smith.
Jean Brechin was the editor of The Buyer magazine, and as I was looking for fashion contacts in Europe, Jean decided to introduce me to Margaret. Margaret who lived in London and was a  freelance writer  for the South African press. She would cover fashion as well as other stuff they needed from London. Every two years she would visit South Africa and spend three months at a time there.

We all met for dinner Margaret, Jean ,Nellie and myself at the President Hotel in Sea Point.
I liked her very much but I got the idea that she was a bit careful taking me on as a protégé.

Penndennis Castle. Cape Town 1969 

She went back to London a few days later on the Pendennis Castle and I send her a bouquet of proteas to the ship. Nellie and I went to see her off as well. She agreed that I could use her address in London for my mail. When I arrived in London she was really very kind to me and we became great friends. We would have lunch very often and she took me along to lots of fashion shows and meetings while I lived there. When I went to Milan she also visited me there when she was visiting  Lake Como. I introduced her to Salome as well and Salome would visit her in London whenever she went to visit her daughter Suzie there.  Margaret  passed away in the 80's  of cancer and wrote me a farewell letter that I still have.

It was 1970 now and I have been living in Cape Town for three years. I enjoyed life very much there but was itching to get my career going. Hellas was a dead end for me and my Father promised me that after I worked in a factory for 2 years he would send me overseas to further my career

Me in Paris with my brown maxi wool coat.

At Hellas they made me a beautiful brown wool coat as a going away present. My mother knitted me some skinny polo neck sweaters in brown and black - and I was set. Arnold
 gave me two suede belts with great buckles too wear over the sweaters.

My parents gave me a year round ticket to Europe .I booked to fly to Rome, Milan, Paris and London.
I contacted the South Africa Wool Board and requested  the addresses of all the top designers in each city.I left with a list of designers in Rome, Milan ,Paris and London,

After saying goodbye to all my friends in Cape Town, I flew back to Bloemfontein to spend Christmas and the New Year with my family.

"Nabucco" by Giuseppi Verdi

A local radio station heard that I was leaving for Europe and they interviewed me about my coming trip to Europe. I also remember listening to the recording of the Verdi opera "Nabucco " over and over while working on a portfolio of sketched to take along. The idea that soon I would be in Italy where would be possible for me to go to a real European opera house was very exciting. After the New Year celebrations it hit me like a bomb that I had one more day left before leaving.

South African Airways Boeing 707.

I had to fly to Johannesburg from Bloemfontein where I would connect to my  flight to Rome via Luanda and Lisbon. Saying goodbye is never easy and I was happy it was behind me when the plane took off on the first leg of my journey.
After leaving Johannesburg's Jan Smuts Airport we landed in Luanda and were escorted off the plane between a row of soldiers with guns. Angola was in the midst of a Independence war since the mid 60's.This was the first time for me flying in a Boeing 707 that was the biggest passenger plane at that time .The overnight flight to Lisbon was uneventful and we landed early the next morning. Having left the South Africa summer we landed in a very cold and wintery Europe.

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