“Then and now” in the Greater St Francis Region – #5

Submitted by Matt Gennrich

Schoenies heath (Erica glumiflora),

Fynbos growing on the present-day corner of Grosvenor and Arago St, Cape St Francis, in 1991. The yellow-hued shrubs halfway up the dune slope are Schoenies heath (Erica glumiflora), an endangered species with scattered, small populations on coastal dunes between Cape Recife and Sedgefield. Photo: Richard Cowling

tIrma Booysen Nature Reserve

The same view, in February 2020, the fynbos being long-replaced by homes. Fortunately, two populations of Schoenies heath grow in the Irma Booysen Nature Reserve, so the species is not extinct in our area. Photo: Timm Hoffman and Richard Cowling


have your say on St Francis TodayThis lovely article by Sandra Hardie is a must read. For long time residents it calls back the past that many will remember and indeed probably participated in. For those new to the village it is a lovely history of what St Francis was like way back when and a reminder that maybe we should all bring back some of the fun and village camaraderie and spirit that existed in St Francis in those early days

We have split the article ito two parts  so will publish.

Part Two tomorrow.

Lockdown has provided an opportunity to dig out all our Super 8 Cine reels and what fun we have had.   We were afforded such enormous privilege to be part of the beginnings of St Francis Bay.

I originally came to St Francis Bay with my parents about 1960.   We had a house in Harley Street.   When I say “house” the dwelling consisted of two rondavels joined together by a wall with a washtub in the middle.   There was not another building in sight.   Gas lights at night.

The area abounded with wildlife – Bushbuck, Duiker, Porcupine, Honey Badger, Otter, Bushpig, Mongoose, Caracal and Cape Leopard, together with prolific birdlife.   These creatures were unthreatened and comfortable to be amongst us.

Leighton would bring us our milk on a donkey cart every morning.   He was just starting the canals.   One has to wonder what this humble man with enormous vision would have thought of today’s opulence and ostentation.

George and I bought a holiday home in Lovemore Crescent in 1971.   It was the first spec house built by Cathy and Duncan Lethbridge and from its vantage point one looked down on a mile wide beach, the odd dirt road and only one other house, that of Joan Anderson.

We slept with the balcony doors open and whilst the dogs slept the wildlife came into the garden, such as it was, because there was no need of fences.   We went to the beach and left an unlocked house.   There was no enticement for criminals in those days.

Leighton built the hotel in the early 1970s and it provided a great asset for residents and holiday makers alike.   Every Saturday morning everyone congregated in the pub and Leighton would serve piping hot chips on a steel tray.  One of the de Vos family members from Goed Geloof Farm would arrive on his mule which would be tethered outside the pub.   He was often to be seen returning to Goed Geloof on the mule but this time facing backwards with arms around its belly.

There was one tiny shop and a big lorry would arrive with bread, milk and vegetables at 2pm when a bun fight ensued to be there first.   Of course there was no bridge so the open truck had travelled 30km on the dirt road from Humansdorp, with seventeen farm gates to contend with and its contents would be smothered in dust and the milk often tainted.   

It was then that we acquired our milk from the de Vos family who lived on Goed Geloof Farm, the original dwelling of the area.   They would also provide us with vegetables and sometimes a turkey at Christmas.   Farther down the road was Mr Olivier who kept chickens and provided us with eggs.

Every holiday we would make one or more treks to Humansdorp for steaks at Kontiki Restaurant.   They were the very best.   One sat in small cubicles with very upright backs so it was not the most comfortable place but it had such charm and we loved our outings there.   On the long drive back to St Francis the headlights would pick up countless wildlife and we would often stop to move a Nightjar.

Swiss Cottage was opened by Toby and that became a jolly place for an excellent Sunday lunch.   Toby would play several instruments and sing.   The Daces opened a restaurant in what is today Big Time Taverna which was beautifully appointed and also served excellent meals.   Overlooking the Marina Small Boat Harbour it was a most pleasant place to eat.

If anyone has photos from those days that you would like to share please send them to the editor at colin@stfrancistoday.com

Photos courtesy Sandra Hardie

Now read Part Two

Part Two

Surfing South Africa motivates for relaxing surfig restrictions

The Board of Surfing South Africa has submitted a motivation to the authorities to request that the current regulations preventing surfers from accessing the ocean, be relaxed or amended to enable all surfers to surf legally.

The motivation addresses recreational and competitive surfers,, coaches and surf schools. The economic impact that beach closure is mentioned but not detailed as this is beyond SSA’s current scope.

CAll to lift surfing restrictions

Our proposals, if accepted, would be most successful if all athletes, surfing structures and surf related businesses form co – operative relationships. These are outlined in the statement but until we receive a positive response, there is no point in providing comprehensive detail.

The authorities may not accept our proposed plan or they may request/suggest amendments which could lead to changes in the strategy.

Our proposal takes into account the adjusted Lockdown 3 amendments gazetted on 11 January.

SSA understands and supports the National priority at this time, which is to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 second wave. With this in mind, we request that all surfers and ocean users comply with the current regulations.

SSA does not believe that the changes we are proposing will in any way increase the risk of spreading Covid-19, provided the protocols we have recommended are complied with by the ocean users themselves.

SSA has very limited resources and we request that the surfing community appreciate that we cannot respond to individual requests for information on the current situation.

We will provide further updates as and when relevant information is to hand. This information will be communicated on social media and to the district surfing bodies as well as the disciplines that are part of SSA. We request that districts and disciplines distribute this information to their members accordingly.

Surfing South Africa appreciates the co – operation of our surfers and fellow ocean users at this time.

Surfing South Africa is the recognized governing body for the sport of surfing in South Africa and is a member of the SASCOC.

Media Release