Teenage Memories

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A historical investigation into the Sea Point beachfront as a public open space throughout the 20th century with special reference to memories of growing up along the Sea Point Promenade by Leila Emdon.

Chapter Two continued – The growth of a suburb: the Development of Sea Point in the late 19th century to the 1950s

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Childhood Teenage Memories Beaches Promenade

There are many beaches along the promenade. Each beach has a different feel to it and many people in Sea Point would have their particular beach that they would flock to in the summer. From the decades of the 30s and 50s, the beaches were markers for the social divisions in Sea Point.

Starting at the end of Sea Point with Saunders, where many people like Sandra and Sonia would go with their friends. Then closer to the pavilion is Queens beach where coloured people were allowed to go. After the pavilion is Milton Pool where a large tidal pool was made as still stands today. Along this beach, you can find Graafs pool. As you go further along the promenade, you will find Rocklands beach, my Sea Point beach of choice and the one where Sheila Vaughan as well as Rosemary Magid spent most of her youth.

It was not as though there was conflict between people but rather that you would go to the beach you lived close to and it became your ‘turf’.

Rocklands and Saunders Beach – The good old days

Rocklands BeachRocklands Beach Photo: Leonardo Solomon ©

Sheila Vaughn remembers the days spent on Rocklands beach: “We played together, caught fish, collected shells, made toy canoes out of a certain sea weed, with match sticks for seats. And of course, we swam. The boys, some of whom were older then most of the girls played games like ‘Bok-Bok’ which meant building high human towers with difficulty because they were always collapsing. The smallest boy would climb to the top. What a cheer went up when this was finally achieved. Boys also spent the summer holidays making sea worthy canoes from sheets of corrugated iron beaten out flat. Two sturdy strips of wood for each end a lump of melted tar. Scraped off the edge of the road on a hot summers afternoon. They used to paddle far out in calm weather, the favourite place being the wreck at Mouille Point. Many boys were masters at surfing in their canoes from way out starting with a budding wave and rising higher and higher, reaching the beach at a great and amazing speed.”32

Vaughan at RocklandsSheila (centre) with her friends on Rocklands beach (1942) Photo: Sheila Vaughan ©

Daniel Vaughan remembers; “In summer the beaches belonged to us, and homework would if at all possible be left to when it was too dark to swim or canoe. Our tin canoes, made from flattened sheets of old corrugated iron were the surfboards of those days and summer afternoons seemed endless with surfing or ‘reefing’ or just paddling about. It made no difference to our fun when the summer westerly blew; we learned to be careful in a strong south-Easter.

There were great gales off the coast in the mid nineteen-forties and Rocklands beach would be strewn with driftwood some of which we would drag up to the house, to be sawn and chopped small, and burned in the little bathroom furnace to heat our bath water.”33

Rosemary remembers how when she was a teen you were proud of your beach and remained loyal to it. “We were a clique of swimmers that became almost like family.

We would all meet on the beach every day. We would bring beautiful glasses and drink wine while we watched the sunset. That was our beach. Boating people went to Three Anchor Bay. The Saunders crowd was not me. I did not live that side, we walked to the beach. My friend was a Saunders rocks girl, she would not think of coming this side! The crowd at Saunders was more sophisticated.”34

Saunders BeachSaunders Rock Photo: Leonardo Solomon ©

Sandra’s memories of Saunders: “I have always been beach mad. I went to all the beaches along the beachfront. Although we never went to Clifton. I grew up on Saunders. Now we go to Queens beach. I remember Saunders before the wall was built and we used to slide down the sand bank to get to the beach, with our picnics and umbrellas and everything! People had made a rough path. It was very natural and safe. I never went to Rockland s, this was our corner. We went as families. We would take out the old fashioned flask and have tea and sandwiches, it was very special.”35

Queens BeachQueens Beach Photo: Leonardo Solomon ©
32 Sheila Vaughan, July 2008, written testimony 33Daniel Vaughan, 11th October 2008, interview via e-mail 34 Rosemary Magid, 10th October 2008, recorded interview 35 Sandra Sheinbar, 31st August 2008, recorded interview

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