Fish Hoek is now a century old, and many of us never truly consider the age of a town, its origins or why it was built in the first place.
We tend to live in the present and seldom look back at what led us to this point. Fish Hoek was established through the sale of property in 1918, the year the First World War ended, and in the beginning it was a town without a large population, it had limited water and no electricity and, other than a beach, there was very little reason to come here at all. By all standards, Fish Hoek was a simple and innocent place.
In the beginning
It all began when a former teacher named Hester de Koch bought the land in 1883 and settled it as a farm; she was a woman before her time as women in those days were not encouraged to be in the property developing business, but this did not stop her. She piped in water and as the beach became more and more popular, she decided to capitalise on this influx of potential paying customers by renting out holiday accommodation on the farm. She began the tradition of older people watching the beach like a hawk to keep littering and bad behaviour to a minimum.
After Hester died, the property was sold off and began to develop incredibly fast. What was once a small holiday destination with rental accommodation available in a woman’s barn was fast becoming a place to buy up a piece of land and throw down a small wooden shack to keep your belongings safe while you go for a swim. The small wooden shacks eventually became more sturdy structures (obviously) and the town was born.
Fish Hoek was born
In many ways, the influence of the beach being right next door, was the reason for the developing town but it was what brought people to the beach that truly led to its growth: the railway. The railway was built to accommodate Simon’s Town and, by happy chance, it turns out that there was a cute beach along the way that people wanted to visit. It was a beach that was fated to be a popular holiday destination for decades to come.
From its early beginnings as a location for the horrible industry of whaling to a place in which people simply watch the whales during their annual mating season, has entertained young and old for over a century.
The Victorian Times (or simply “The Vic” to its regulars, aka students and old-school barflies) has survived the test of time and the condemnation of the controversial “dry laws” in Fish Hoek.
Fish Hoek’s existence as a “dry” town is often to the annoyance of those wanting to buy a quick bottle of something slightly stronger than Coca-Cola. The law was enacted following an old condition in the early deed to the property that claimed Fish Hoek was not to allow the establishment of a “public winehouse”. This was interpreted as a big NO to anyone thinking of selling alcohol in the town, and remains a hotly contested issue.
Early in the history of this small town we had an absolutely enormous police force that would easily dwarf any other municipality! We had three cops. Those police officers were also, at one point, the subject of a complaint seeing as two of them left town while on duty to visit the Kalk Bay cinema… it’s good to know that sometimes the past and the present bear striking similarity to one another. It is disheartening that the Fish Hoek Mardi Gras, as it existed in the sixties, does not exist any longer. While Wakefords and A.P. Jones have stood since practically the dawn of time in this town, the Mardi Gras fell from grace a long time ago. Perhaps it is time for that celebration to make a comeback. We are 100 years old after all! Fish Hoek is often described as a place for the newlywed and the nearly dead, and this may be true in many ways but that doesn’t mean that Fish Hoek should not be reflected on and appreciated. It has been 100 years of history, and when, in another century, another person writes a bi-centennial article, we’ll have to see what else has changed.
Compiled by Justin van Huyssteen, with excerpts taken from Joy Cobern’s book “Looking Back “.