The Strand History (Part 3)

...continued from The Strand History (Part 2)

The Strand History Part 3:

As the sands are very fine and the beach shelving, it is a thousand pities nobody has been enterprising enough to start a dozen of bathing-machines, so to improve its great natural capacities as a watering-place'. Some twenty years later, despite the lack of bathing-
machines, the Cape Argus reported that 'Somerset West Strand is as popular as ever . . . it is chock full of visitors as usual from the uttermost parts of the colony and beyond'.

The prolific harvest of the sea at Mosterd's Bay - catches of 55 000 to 100 000 harders were not unknown in the early days - allied to its charm as a holiday resort - were the basic reasons for its initial arrival on the map. However, there were two main factors which led to its eventual development. It was made more accessible by the extension of the railway line beyond Somerset West to Sir Lowry's Pass (1890) and the opening in 1906 of a branch line to what had by then become the Strand, while the establishment of de Beers Dynamite Factory in 1902 brought an increase in the number of permanent residents. More and more summer visitors flocked to the Strand as hotels, boarding-places and holi­day houses mushroomed. At about this time too a wooden bridge was built across the Lourens River replacing the rickety planks which had formerly spanned it.
Conspicuous among the modest dwellings built at this time was the large double-storeyed house put up by Mr Sam Kerr, of Vergelegen. Standing alone among the sand dunes on the southern edge of the town, it soon earned the nick-name Die Spookhuis (The Ghost House), and so it has remained ever since. It is said that delivery carts had such difficulty in reaching this house through the heavy sand that arrangements were made with the occupants that a red flag should be hung from the balcony when provisions were re­quired. Today it is a rooming-house in a well-populated area, and the dunes are a thing of the past.

World War One:

During World War I Strand residents did much for the entertainment of convalescent soldiers. On one occasion in April 1917, sixty-five wounded soldiers from the Alexandra Hospital were brought out to the Strand in 'thirty side-car outfits and nine motor cars' to 'sojourn by the sea' for a day. Local hotels supplied tea and meals to the visitors and, after lunch an outdoor concert was held in the park.
The Strand was particularly hard hit by the Spanish 'flu epidemic of 1918. Doctors and chemists (not to mention ministers of religion and undertakers) were worked off their feet. A newspaper of 18 October described the position at the Strand as 'very serious' with a death toll of 58, including 11 Europeans, and the number of'dangerous cases' on the in­crease.
However, those residents lucky enough to escape infection rose to the occasion and organised a soup kitchen and other services. The Boy Scouts did splendid work, helping at the soup kitchen, delivering medical and other supplies and even assisting with the burial of the dead. By the time the epidemic had begun to abate towards the end of October, deaths at the Strand totalled 83, 27 of which were Europeans.
At the Dynamite Factory (AECI) 67 natives died. Their burial place is between the mouth of the Lourens River and the Factory Compound and is marked by a cross. (If any one knows where this is please let us know)With the epidemic ended and armistice declared, the Strand took part in the general rejoicing. Flags were flown, bonfires lit, church bells rung and a holiday was declared. On 20 November (year ?) a poem - expressing the feelings of all at the cessation of hostilities -appeared in the Cape Argus. It was entitled 'The Dawn of Peace', and its author was Alice M. Withers, wife of the Wesleyan Minister at the Strand.
By the 1920's the Strand was beginning to expand in the direction of the Cape Explosives Works. Houses sprang up inland towards the big salt pan, haunt of wild birds, and the h'ttle vegetable farm nearby. The pan was drained, and during the Voortrekker celebrations of 1938 the only reminder of its existence - Salt Pan Road - became Sarel Cillers Street.

In time the Melk Bay dunes were bulldozed off the face of the earth, the river bridged with concrete and a beach road skirting the entire beach front was built. There has been much development in and around the Strand since the end of the Second World War. Few traces remain of the early 'watering place' and its simple pleasures. Gone are the days when fish could be bought fresh from boats, from the stalls near the jetty, or from a fish cart. Modern hotels, towering blocks of fiats, imposing public buildings, residential developments, shops and factories now cover the area where, over two hundred and fifty years ago the farm of David and Claudina du Buisson stood in splendid isolation.

This Article was sent to The Helderberg Basin Blog by Beryl Baleson now living in Israel, Many Thanks Beryl

*Note: Author Unknnown

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