Cape Town  -  Kalk Bay

Kommetjie in the 1950's

 Cape Town

Kommetjie as it today. The bay in the centre is the Inner Kom

Kommetjie in the 1950's was a really small one horse town. There were a few families staying in the village who had lived there for many years. As it was difficult to get to work in the city from there not many people thought of living there.

 Cape Town

The old rock building that was once the radio station

Kommetjie's claim to fame in those years was the radio station (Cape Town Radio) which was first established in a building made of rocks near the bottom of Lighthouse Road. In fact the old radio station was built about a 100 metres from the Kommetjie or Slangkop lighthouse. The station eventually moved to a new site because of the interference caused by magnesium in the rocks in the mountains above the station to their radio signals .

Cape Town

Kommetjie as it was in the 1950's. Building to the right is the new radio station

The new radio station was built off Kommetjie Road about two kilometres from Kommetjie and this building is also still there today. Back in the 1950's when I was a child I lived in one of the station houses close to the radio station.

  Cape Town

Naval barracks and radio station during the 1950's

During the war which ended in 1948 the navy shared the radio station with the post office and both navy personnel and civilian staff worked together until about 1965 when the station was moved to Milnerton. The radio station building is today still surrounded by its two metre high concrete wall built to protect it during the war.

  Cape Town

Trawler lying on the rocks to the left of the channel used by boats today

It was from this radio station building that shipping around the South African coastlines was monitored. There were many shipping emergencies over the years but the biggest and most exciting to me was when a trawler ran aground on our doorstep at about midnight one bright moonlight night.

My father who worked for Cape town radio was on duty at the radio station that night and when he came off shift at midnight he came rushing home (we now lived in the village in Lighthouse Road) and woke us kids to see the trawler on the rocks. The trawler sat on the rocks for months and was eventually pulled ashore by an engineering team lead by engineer George Calder who worked for Murray and Roberts. Once ashore the trawler was placed on wheels and towed to Cape Town where it was refloated.

  Cape Town

Trawler President Brand entering Kommetjie from Mountain Road

A couple of months before this incident Kommetjie had seen another trawler roll through town. This trawler had run aground near Scarborough and had been salvaged and was being towed back to Cape Town to be refloated. What was pretty remarkable was that this great big trawler was towed along the Mountain road above Kommetjie which is exceptionally narrow and has some tight turns as well. How they managed to navigate this road is still a mystery to me.

In those days there was a small Cape Dutch building with two classrooms situated near Imhoff's Gift Farm which was used as a school for Kommetjie's children.There were two teachers at the school, Mr W P Thiart who was the headmaster and taught standards 2-5 in one classroom while Mrs Lorrie Burger taught the younger classes from Sub A to Standard 1 in the other. In 1962 the old building was closed down and the school moved to the new building in Kommetjie which is still in use today. The Cape Dutch building was eventually pulled down and another school was built on the land.

  Cape Town

The lookout huts on the mountain overlooking Kommetjie

As children the young boys of the village often used to climb the mountain which overlooks Kommetjie. The small rock buildings on top of the mountain were used as lookouts for enemy shipping during the war years but were abandoned after the war. We kids spent many happy hours playing in and exploring them.

The barracks building where the lookout staff lived while on duty was just below the peak of the mountain. It was still there but had no roof as it had caved in or been vandalised. What was however very interesting about these buildings was the very secret pathway that lead to the top of the mountain to them. It was built in a zig zag fashion down the mountain and was placed behind trees so that people looking up at the mountain could not see people coming or going from the buildings on top of the mountain.

About two thirds of the way up the mountain there was a gate which allowed access to the buildings. The entrance to the pathway on Mountain road was well hidden and if you did not know where to find it you had to take the long and difficult way to the top. Sailors and supplies were however taken by truck to the lookout point. Trucks gained access to the mountain from the Scarborough side of the mountain more or less where the road between Ocean View and Scarborough is today.

  Cape Town

The mulberry tree where we picked our leaves to the right of the trawler

Kommetjie prior to 1950 had two hotels but by about 1958 the one had closed down and was being utilised as an old age home. The other hotel known as The Kommetjie Hotel is still in business today.

Back in those days the kids of Kommetjie all had silk worms and there was only one mulberry tree in Kommetjie where we could get leaves for the worms and that was in the grounds of the old age home.

There were some strange old people living in the home and they often took exception to us kids picking leaves off the tree and chased us. We often ran for our lives or so we thought but as soon as the old people turned their backs we were back to get our leaves.

 Cape Town

The Kom where we used to swim and test our canoes

One of the main things we did as kids was to fish and swim. The Kom as it was known then was our swimming pool and we had lots of fun in it. There were a lot of rules laid down by the local Divisional Council and one of them was no boats in the Kom.

In those days surfing was just becoming popular and the young guys in the village made themselves canoes out of corrugated iron and had to have flat water to test them for leakages and balance before taking on the waves in the inner Kom area. We often got thrown out of the Kom by the authorities but as soon as they left we were back.

At the time there were a couple of local characters living in the small community. Some of them used the hotel's bar quite excessively and then left for home on all fours. As kids we found this very funny but today we would most probably react differently.

People often played pranks on the regulars to the pub. One old chap used to ride his bicycle to the pub and park it against a tree outside. One evening when he left for home his bike was missing, he found it in the top of the tree. Those were the days when one could do things like that and get away with it.

Today however the village has grown out of its seams and has many more houses and residents than it had in the 1950's. It is still a popular place for catching crayfish and many boats launch off the beach close to where the trawler ran aground so many years ago.

Kommetjie is a surfing mecca, with Long Beach and the Inner Kom being the two top surfing spots in the village. In the summer months when the south east winds howl over False bay Kommetjie comes into its own.

If you have never been to Kommetjie its time you visited the area. The beaches are lovely, the scenery fantastic and the huts are still on the mountain waiting to be visited.

See you there soon!

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Email   Geoff Fairman    
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Monte Vista 7460
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Cape Town - Kommetjie 1950's
Page updated 1.6.2015






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