Ready for some time-travel? 1876. Fish Hoek: Sand dunes only. Kalk Bay: A tiny fishing village and whaling station. Visitors complain it’s smelly. Ex-pupil of Bay Primary, Roddy Metcalf takes us there:
“Mr Stephens – who used to have a hardware shop in Kalk Bay – he told me that before they built the railway line [in 1883], the sea came right up to where the Main Road is now.
There lived a wealthy property owner at that time, called D.P. Morgenrood. He had a church built with a house for the Dominee, and two store rooms for a makeshift school.
There were two rooms at the back of the Dominee’s house – at the back towards Leavis Street. I think there are two rooms there even now”. – Roddy Metcalf
“Most of the pupils were children of the fishing folk. By 1899, the classrooms were so run down that the education department threatened to close down the little school. In the following year, a new school board of all denominations opened. They were allowed to use the land behind the outspan‚ for a public school with a playground area – on condition that they build a ‘hard road’ leading to the school. Roddy’s older sister, Olive Hurst, who attended the school from 1936 to 1944, remembers: “The outspan was behind where The Money Tree is today, on the corner of Main and Clairveaux Roads. “We used to play cricket in the outspan,” recalls Roddy. On the 21st July 1900, Mr W Runciman, mayor of Simon’s Town, formally opened Kalk Bay Public School. Sadly, the new school board was racially exclusive. Coloured children were now barred from attending the school. They moved to the Holy Trinity and St James mission schools. One of the Dominees resigned from the school board in disgust, but it did not help: as you know, only in the new South Africa did the schools become non-racial once again”.
Peter Schutte, an ex-learner wrote: “I stayed in Windsor Road, which was half coloured, half white. And we were all friends, we used to play in the park or the harbour. One of the sad things was they had to go to a different school the next day. But their kids have subsequently gone to Bay with my kids!”
“Kalk Bay School was small – ‘villagey’ – and poor. In 1919, the principal could afford to rent only a small room with his housing allowance. Parents were applying for fee remissions, malnourished children received daily plates of soup. Children from Sub A (Grade pre-R) to Std 7 (Grade 9) had two teachers, one of whom was the principal. A third teacher eventually joined the school in 1929. Between 1910 and 1960, there were an average of about 70 pupils per year, with numbers sometimes dropping as low as 30, sometimes reaching 90. From the 1960s onward, more pupils joined. There were about 124 pupils per year between 1964 and 1979”. Olive Hurst remembers.
“The school was commonly known as Kalk Bay University. I think it was a joke, because we were just local kids, while some of the more posh kids went to Wynberg Junior or Rustenburg”.
Daphne Metcalf, who joined the school in 1941 in her Standard 3 (Grade 5) year, says that: “We had 4 classrooms. One teacher taught 2 classes. Our subjects were English, Afrikaans, Arithmetic, Geography, Nature Study, History, Hand-work and Cooking. For cooking we had 2 blue flame [paraffin] stoves in the passage”.
Olive reminds us that these were the war years:
“There was a shortage of meat, so we cooked stews – nothing very glamorous. And at school the teachers had none of this beautiful equipment they have today. They had blackboards and chalk and globes and maps, which they would pull down over the boards during a geography lesson. We used to have projects and we’d have to collect pictures of, say, the produce in a particular province, and we’d sneak into our mothers’ pantries and pull the labels off the vegetable tins, and our mothers would wonder, now what’s in this tin?”
Joan Dell, who attended from 1942 – 1946, describes the feeding schemes during the war:
“All the state schools – we had, in the winter months, we got cod liver oil shoved down our throats, and oranges. And our parents – it was 2 shillings sixpence per term – and you got a quarter pint of milk.”
Olive confirms that the milk was “served to us in summer out of great steel cans. They served it out of a kind of measure, you all got the same amount.”
“They used to sound the siren, and we’d run up the mountain very fast as far as we could. Each big one had to take a little one. Then we’d come down very, very slowly, as slowly as we could. Eventually I think Mr Paris made us hide under our desks.” – Daphne Metcalf
“Mr Paris was our principal,” says Joan, “he insisted that we say it Parie.” Daphne recalls: “He made every lesson interesting. I learned more from him than at high school.” Olive says:
“Mr Paris used to have extra lessons for a few of us after school, in Latin, Algebra and Geometry, if we were going to the high school. Lots of kids didn’t go on. You could finish in Std 6 in those days and go and work in shops or do apprenticeships”.
Roddy reveals that “the kids used to call Mr Paris ‘the ou’.” And Auntie Effie – the caretaker and tuck lady who made soup for the children in winter – used to bring Mr Paris a glass of hot milk:
“And if the children were talking, he’d wrap the skin around a pencil and flick it at a child to stop him talking”. – Roddy Metcalf
One principal – Mr Weich, who taught from 1912 to 1927 – was convicted for caning girls. For the rest, corporal punishment “existed, but – I don’t have any memories, either good or bad,” says Bill Symmonds. Peter Schutte reveals:
“We used to worry about the cane – we used to call it ‘Susie’. We used to walk down that passage – and you knew you were going to get ‘Susie’ – for bad behaviour, even long hair.
During the 1960s, the higher classes were still small enough to be combined; but the younger pupils were beginning to spill out of the classrooms”:
“Std 4 and 5 were together in one class. Std 2 was in one of the shops in Kalk Bay, because there was not enough space. – Bill Symmonds
“I was in the Std 2 class that was taught down the road from the school, on the corner of Belmont Road. We played in the park at break”. – Alison Brown nee Hitchcock
“And you know,” says Roddy, “the park used to be a council washhouse.” Pupils now did basket weaving, say Dean Matthews and Allan Metcalf, Daphne’s son. And your Lifeskills took the form of chores:
“There used to be this clay tennis court, and we [the boys] had to pull a mat across it and had to roll it with a big roller to keep it firm and mark it with white lines – they call them tram-lines – we’d do the whole thing. The whole tennis court – we had to maintain it”. – Roddy Metcalf
“Mr Anderson used to let the Std 5 kids mow the lawn and it was considered a privilege, because you’d mow while he was teaching”. – Geoff van der Merwe
“Us kids, we used to have to make tea for the teachers in the staffroom. We used to take turns every break to set the table, put out the biscuits and make tea and coffee”. – Lynette Swart
With her children all at the school, Daphne Metcalf joined the PTA, and:
“we organised for Mrs Curry to teach our children to swim. She charged 5 shillings per term per child and she made each child swim 2 miles without touching ground, any stroke, so long as they kept going”.
“There were two pools,” says Roddy. “One was the ladies’ pool, and the other was the men’s pool. The children were taught in the ladies’ pool.”
Lynnette Swart, who joined the school in 1965: “We walked from the school to the pool each week – the pool at the Brass Bell there, and she [Mrs Curry] came to coach us. The Brass Bell was just a little stoep with a cafe at the top, and the bottom was all changing rooms”.
“She made you swim in all weather conditions and water temperatures,” recalls Allan. Bill Symmonds remembers: “We used to have our galas at Clovelly Country Club, alternating with Kalk Bay tidal pool,” and Stephen Cruickshank says:
“We entered into an inter school gala which took place at Newlands Pool, competing against all the up the line schools. Us surfers from Kalk Bay pitched up in our baggies, while all the other competitors were very sleek in their speedos. I don’t think we came home with any trophies.”
“Sports days were an event at the school throughout the years – exercises we called it in those days,” says Joan Dell.
Peter Schutte: ‘When I was there [1962-1969] we played the first rugby game they ever played – we joined up with Paul Greyling and played a joint game.”
“We had high jump and obstacle race courses. The cross country race went straight up Clairveaux Road up the mountain path onto Godfrey Road and along Boyes Drive down stairs further along”. – Rachel Moore
“On sports day my parents were there, my extended family – pretty much the whole village. 150 of us split between two houses – Protea (red) and Disa (blue). It was a whole day event and everyone was included”. – Alison Brown
“There was a 40m diagonal dash on sports day, cricket on inter house day, and we played rugby against each other”. – Dean Matthews. Other than athletics, the girls of the 30s and 40s did ballet with Miss Pamphlett, who created annual concerts at which the folding doors between the classrooms were opened. The netball courts and football posts were laid out and erected by that time, and later, the school built a cricket pitch. And later still, Alison’s mother taught Yoga after school. What you played at break-time or after school depended on which of the by-gone days you lived through: “We didn’t have toys, it was war time. But we had paper dolls we’d play with. In wintertime, I used to go up the mountain side with Daphne and we used to decorate small rocks with the foam from the waterfall above Boyes’ Drive there, and with red berries and leaves. We used to play for hours. Neither of us turned out great cake makers, I might add”. – Olive Hurst
“We played rugby at low tide on Fish Hoek beach – tag rugby, which is like touch rugby. It’s played with a tennis ball and the two goal posts are vertically split lorry tyres. You’d have to throw the ball into the inner rim of the tyre. We’d play 20mins a side in summer. In winter, we used to fly kites from Boyes’ drive, because the wind used to push it out to sea, and sometimes we used fishing rods to hold the kites. We all made them ourselves. We used to get bamboo from the bottom of Lae Road, it used to grow there. And the paper we used to get from Mr Wolfson’s shop, who was a general dealer in Harbour Road. His kids also went to Kalk Bay School.” Roddy Metcalf
‘[In the 1960s] we used to play on the road behind the school. We played in typical West Indies style – you know, no ball – so we played with a box or drum and used a garbage can as a wicket. […] And we played so many games of rugby. If we didn’t have a ball, we used to play with an empty jik container’. – Peter Schutte
“[In the 1970s] Children played elastic, marbles, ding-bats at break. We used to ‘fight’ over the tennis courts as everybody wanted to play mini-tennis on the 4 or 5 we had” – Rachel Moore
“We played tennis with wooden tennis bats”. – Alan Cruickshank
“And some game that most of the school used to play before school which took up the whole field – I think it was stingers with a tennis ball”. – Dean Matthews
“There was a group of us who would climb over the fences on Sundays to play soccer against the coloured guys from across the road”. – Alan and Stephen Cruickshank
Then as now, the school’s teachers and parents had to raise funds to enable it to continue and prosper. During the 1950s, salaries were paid in part by the school committee, and school fees remained nominal – Alison Brown remembers paying R5 per term for school fees. In 1958 one of the committee members raised 2 pounds by cutting each boy’s hair for 1 shilling. Through the 1960s, the secretary’s salary was R20 per term, but after 7 years it was increased by R5. With Daphne on the PTA:
“We had teas like never before. We had bioscope about twice a month, because we didn’t have TV then, and the bioscope in town was kaput. Anyway, we raised funds in this way”.
“Films were a highlight,” for little Rachel Moore. “We often watched nature/ National Geographic type films,” she says.
“The PTA also organised anybody that interested us to come to talk to us – for example, paper mache making, or when the Waldorf School first started, we got somebody to teach us all about that. And we got taught carpet-making from somebody from the Wool Board, all to raise funds for the school and because it interested us”. – Daphne Metcalf
The children continued to receive milk, although they were not always appreciative: ”In winter they warmed up the milk and then the milk would get a skin which us kids couldn’t stand. It used to get flicked around,” says Rachel Moore. Kathy Henderson confesses: “My least favourite was the soup skins flicked onto the woodwork benches outside the tuckshop.” A treat were the ‘pikkies’ – “which were triangular type of cardboard containers with condensed milk,” recalls Rachel, and Alison “loved the chicken noodle soup and the tomato soup was always creamy.” By that stage, Auntie Joyce had replaced Auntie Effie at the tuck shop. Bill Symmonds tells us that Auntie Joyce works at The Money Tree now, but unfortunately I could not locate her in time for this feature. Next year, I hope! She made the soup and served the milk. Apart from Auntie Joyce’s food, your health was checked by annual visits from school dentists and nurses.
“I remember the dentist coming round. He was a little old man with a nurse and we all lined up and used to sit in this chair and have whatever we needed to have – extractions, fillings, whatever”. – Lynette Swart
“The nurse used to come and make you cough. There was a test they used to do with boys to see if they were functioning correctly – they put your testicles on a teaspoon and made you cough, which was weird. But it was a standard test”. – Geoff van der Merwe
When asked about this test, Dr Phil du Plessis, practicing in Kalk Bay, replied that he “hasn’t the foggiest” what it might have been about; but you can guess that coughing will show what needs to show.
“We were a very happy little school,” says Olive, and thirty years later, Dean Matthews agrees: “I could not have wished for a better primary school experience.”
“I loved every day,” says Alison. “Even now we [past pupils] get together,” says Peter Schutte, “there was a very strong bond. And even my children have still got very strong bonds with friends they made at Bay. It really has to do with the teaching staff they’ve had at that school.” Roddy Metcalf still has a Christmas card from his teacher, signed “With love from C. Giblette”. Children and parents, teachers and principals of Bay School have kept the school alive by being responsive to life itself, as in this description:
“A beautiful two masted yacht sailed into the harbour one morning and was noted by our teacher. The class was interrupted and we all walked down to the harbour for our yacht lesson”. – Stephen Cruickshank.