SHORT HISTORY OF THE CLOVELLY COUNTRY CLUB
Author, date of publication, and publisher not given.
By R D Ackerman, President.
The idea of a club history has been in the minds of many connected with Clovelly for some time. Those who recall the Club in its early days when it was virtually a club without a clubhouse, and later, in the immediately pre-War years when things were a little easier, during the War years, the post-War years, the post-fire years and so on, are convinced that Clovelly does have, moreover, a ‘history’ which thoroughly deserves the telling.
The writer of the present one has, indeed, told the Chairman that, although the name Clovelly was formerly nothing to her except a suburban railway station ‘somewhere out Fish Hoek way’, she has since realised that its history, for sheer drama, variety, and as a record of progress against seemingly overwhelming odds, beats that of the Crusades, the Norman Conquest, and the Great Trek.
Naturally she would not have been able to carry out this assignment had it not been for the co-operation of a great many people who gave up their time to tell her about the Club in other days. Pre-eminent among these were Mr I Joelson and Dr E Greenwall, together with a great many past Chairmen and others who had assisted in getting Clovelly on its feet, ladies who had been instrumental in building up the ladies’ bowling and golf sections and, of course, Phyllis and Maurice Bodmer. She was also fortunate in obtaining the co-operation of Westlake Golf Club, which made it possible for her to ‘fill in’ many of the details of the Club’s earliest history which would otherwise have been missing.
Our Club historian, Pat Dickson, says that there is very little to say about her – as yet – as she is a career girl who hasn’t had a career, at least not the one she wanted. She describes herself as being ‘on the run from the teaching profession’, having featured in the latter for eight years, first in her home town, East London, and then in the Cape, before she returned to the University of Cape Town to further her studies.
The purpose of this was to obtain qualifications which would enable her to move from high school teaching into teacher-training, but although she finally achieved this goal in 1972, becoming an instructor in a training school under the Administration of Coloured Affairs, the writing of two theses (the second being for a Master’s degree, obtained in 1970), in addition to the unexpected success she enjoyed as a free-lance writer of magazine articles during her post-graduate student days, convinced her that she would rather be a professional writer of business histories than a teacher, instructor, or lecturer in anything, to anybody.
In retailing, one speaks of the ‘target customer’. In bringing out a history of this nature it is hoped to appeal to two kinds of ‘target readers’: the more senior members who actually lived through this history (and who may quarrel with certain details of the story at times!), and the newer members, who found a ‘ready-made’ club, and may have wondered how it got that way.
Clovelly is the embodiment of a certain spirit, compounded not only of good fellowship and a mutual interest in promoting the ends of sport, but also of a special kind of tolerance, and the determination that was needed in days gone by to maintain this good fellowship and this tolerance.
Other clubs may have their histories, but that of Clovelly, like the club itself, is unique. If therefore, those who have joined this Club since World War II would like to know why Clovelly is as it is, one hopes that they will find most of the answers by dipping into the Short History offered here.
Chapter one. From Klein Tuin to Country Club.
Chapter two. From nine to eighteen holes: or From farmhouse to clubhouse, April 1932 to December 1934.
Chapter three. Clovelly: the early years, or From the Official Opening to the death of Michael Pevsner, January 1935 to October 1941.
Chapter four. The rest of the war and the post-war years, or From the death of Michael Pevsner to the eve of the fire, November 1941 to June 1955.
Chapter five. Clovelly: the years of change, or from the Great Fire to the death of Gus Ackerman, July 1955 to August 1966.
Chapter six. Clovelly marches on, or from the death of Gus Ackerman to the present, September 1966 to January 1974.
FROM KLEIN TUIN TO COUNTRY CLUB, January 1900 to April 1932.
Before the end of the nineteenth century, practically every beauty spot in and around the Peninsula had been discovered, praised, and written about – exploited, even. Still, there remained one which was, as yet, unnamed, virtually unnoticed, and certainly unsung.
This was an area lying a few hundred yards inland to the north along the coast from Fish Hoek, and comprising the lower reaches of the Silvermine River valley. It was known as Klein Tuin, a farm which had been owned by several generations of the De Villiers family until, there being no son to succeed, it had passed to a certain De Kock, who had married one of the De Villiers’ daughters.
The coastal road in those days stopped at Kalk Bay because of quicksand further along the shore, and the only road into Fish Hoek was Die Ou Kaapse Weg which passed over the mountains. Much of what is known today as Clovelly consisted of sand dunes on which scant vegetation had taken hold, and farming operations were only practicable in this area when a regular supply of water could be obtained from the Silvermine River.
The last owner of Klein Tuin was the widowed Mrs de Kock who, angered by the interference of farmers further up the valley with her precious water supply, brought a case against one of them in the Water Courts of those days. Unable to meet the costs of this litigation, she was forced to sell out to a property development company, Cape Estates Ltd, in 1920. Although the name ‘Clovelly’ had been in common use since just before the Great War, it was only applied officially to this area in 1920 when the company registered their new purchase as Clovelly Estates. By now the quicksands had dried up and the coast road had been extended to Fish Hoek and beyond. The railway line from the southern suburbs, moreover, went as far as Simonstown, and the station now named Clovelly was then Trappies (Little Steps). Clovelly Estates had, therefore, been bought with a view to developing it as a residential area.
Unfortunately, it excited little interest among potential homeowners, on account of its relative remoteness, and the sandy terrain of which much of it consisted. Those who have seen its namesake, the small village in north Devon, one street of which descends four hundred feet [122 m] down the side of a wooded cliff, have remarked that it is not ‘a real Clovelly’, although, like the original, it is a place of hills and valleys close to the sea. The Devon village was named by the Romans during their occupation of Britain, Clausum Vallun, the closed glen, a name which underwent a change in the local dialect after the legions had departed.
When the efforts of Cape Estates to attract land buyers proved unavailing, they decided to consider an offer by a group of naval men in Simonstown to lease the land for the purpose of building a golf course there. From 1903 onwards, there had been a golf course of nine holes in Simonstown on a site which had formerly been a Boer POW camp. There was little room for expansion, however, and its amenities were negligible. Finding that Cape Estates was willing to lease what seemed a promising stretch of country the navy then moved in and set about founding the Clovelly Golf Club with, for a start, a nine-hole course.
Because no naval officer could count on being stationed at Simon’s Town for long, support for the new club was canvassed among local golf enthusiasts. In the early years there were, at most, one hundred members and a greenhouse served as the first clubhouse, though a simple cottage was subsequently built.
Informality was the keynote of the new club, especially in regard to dress. This, perhaps, was only to be expected, because the dunes, for the most part, were still bare, and after completing a round of golf – with red balls, which were easier to find in the sand – members usually took their turn in going out to plant grass on sections of the course.
During the ‘Twenties, though the course was not extended beyond its original nine holes, Clovelly Golf Club came to constitute an important feature of Fish Hoek life, and practically every well-established local family numbered among its one or more members.
In 1929, however, the Depression set in, and the Annual Report of 1931 drew the attention of Members to the fact that Cape Estates was about to go into liquidation. Mr Louw of Syfret, Godlonton, & Louw was to be appointed to watch the Club’s interests. That was at the beginning of June 1931.
By the end of October, however, Clovelly had become uneasy about its future. The Club had been informed that £1,000 would be required to purchase the land that it had hitherto leased, and at an Extraordinary General Meeting in the Kalk Bay schoolhouse, Mr Tudhope, who had been co-opted as a member of the Committee, ‘most carefully explained the position’ and placed certain proposals before the Members.
The gist of these was that, if they wanted their Club, Members would have to dig into their own pockets to raise £1,000, and a scheme for an unsecured loan was discussed. At that stage, it is possible that the Committee understood that they alone, as lessees of the land, would be given the option to purchase.
While the Committee was anxiously searching for ways and means to raise this sum, however, events were being set in train which would bring on to the scene two well-known Cape businessmen who, at that time, had never seen the Golf Club at Clovelly.
One of them, Mr Michael Pevsner, was at that time Chairman of a large tobacco concern, Herman Carnard and Company. Many years before, as a Russian immigrant, he had arrived in Rhodesia just as the first experiments in tobacco planting were in progress. He had begun in a small way as an auctioneer of odd lots – of furniture, produce, and livestock – but had turned to tobacco planting himself within a few years, and had been the first to introduce Turkish tobacco into Rhodesia, where it thrived.
He had also helped and encouraged other planters in those early days, for it was fifteen years before success came to him, along with others, and the Rhodesian tobacco venture was well and truly launched. Soon after that, he sold his plantation in Rhodesia and moved to the Cape in order to enter the manufacturing end of the industry.
The other, Mr Gustave (‘Gus’) Ackerman, a South African by birth, had been born in a small country town in the Cape Province but had come to the city when he was very young and, after serving in World War I, had started the country’s first chain of soft goods stores. In his youth, he had been a Western Province soccer player, and his interest in sport did not diminish even after a motor accident left him with a partly disabled left arm. He took up golf, became a member of Mowbray Golf Club, and by 1932 had been a regular and enthusiastic player for some years.
Known to both these men was a genial Irishman named Ralph King, who was a member of Clovelly Golf Club, and among King’s cronies was Arthur Barlow, then an MP and with a long career as a newspaper editor behind him. (First of the Bloemfontein Friend and subsequently of Arthur Barlow’s Weekly and the Sunday Express.) They were related by marriage, as Mrs King (born Allawm, in County Cork) was a niece of Mrs Barlow (born Lillie Nathan), who, like Ralph King, originally hailed from Dublin.
A story is told of how, during these uneasy months in the second half of 1931, King and Barlow were playing golf at Clovelly one Sunday morning when they became irritated at the slowness of the couple ahead of them. Barlow was also of Irish extraction and the tempers of both men simmered at these continual delays.
Eventually Barlow remarked testily to King that there was only one possible solution: ‘We should buy the Club and then fix the rules!’ Although this had been intended, on the whole, light-heartedly, they mentioned it to the Secretary on their return to the clubhouse. He, with some surprise, informed them that the estate on which the Club was situated was, in fact, up for sale on the open market. He referred them to Syfrets, who were handling the sale for the primaries who were then in Britain. Early in the new year, the Committee, having managed to lay their hands on a bare £1,000, wrote to the liquidators of Clovelly Estates, notifying them of an offer to purchase. By this time, however, Messrs Barlow and King had obtained an option to purchase.
In view of Barlow’s quoted remark, it can be assumed that they intended, if the sale went through, to renew the lease of their Club on the section of the estate which it occupied, and then to sell off the rest in the form of plots.
Soon after securing this option, however, Ralph King, while lunching with Gus Ackerman, a friend of many years’ standing, told him of this project. As the purchase price had now been fixed at something over £4,000 (which included the purchase of the clubhouse, the property of the Clovelly Club), and as this was a considerable sum at the time, King and Barlow hoped to bring in Ackerman as a local partner.
Ackerman indicated that he might be interested, and agreed to inspect the site. This he did informally as King’s guest at the Club the following weekend. It was evidently a fine day, and although the grass was still thin on the dunes that made up the course at that time, and most of the Club’s facilities were of a utilitarian nature, Gus Ackerman saw its tremendous potential, set as it is amid such a grand sweep of hill and vale and sea and sky, not only as a property investment, but as the site for a fully-fledged country club. This was a pet scheme which he had been secretly nursing for some time.
King and Barlow were members, however, and Ackerman probably foresaw that, should his dream be realised, they might be seriously embarrassed by what he, an outsider, proposed for the future club. He thus offered to take over their option, but in order to meet the price which the liquidators were asking, he needed a partner with plenty of capital and who, moreover, would be likely to share his views as to the desirability of a new kind of club to be established there.
King knew such a man, a friend since his Rhodesia days: Michael Pevsner. Although not a golfer himself, Pevsner would, he was sure, welcome the idea of a club where he could spend his leisure and entertain friends and business associates.
This proved to be the case, for Pevsner, on being approached, gladly gave Ackerman his full support. King and Barlow ceded their option, and the two new holders immediately offered £3,000 for Clovelly Estates, the sale of the clubhouse to be negotiated with the Committee of Clovelly Golf Club as soon as the deal for the land should have been concluded.
There had been only one other offer, and that was the £1,000 which the Club itself had managed to get together. It was with some dismay that the Committee learned that Ackerman had topped this by £2,000. It was now mid-way through February 1932, and they knew that time was running out if they could not raise a good deal more before the liquidators closed with Ackerman. A General Meeting was scheduled, but the Committee felt that it behoved them to try to negotiate directly with their competitor, if this proved possible: ‘In view of the uncertain position and the desirability of giving information to the Members before the General Meeting it was decided that the sub-committee get in touch with Mr Ackerman and ask him, if possible, to arrange a meeting with the Committee for the following Monday (the 29th of February).’
Details of this meeting, if indeed it took place, were not minuted, but the report of a meeting held on the 18th of March 1932 indicates that Clovelly Members felt their situation to be growing desperate. Their £1,000 offer had been refused, and they were hard put to add to it. Signed undertakings to contribute were obtained for an additional £430, and five Members who had already contributed volunteered to bring this up to £1,000. They had tried to obtain a loan from the Board of Executors on bond of the property, but this had been refused and ‘efforts to obtain similar facilities in other quarters had been unsuccessful, the reason being the entirely altered condition of the money market and its effect on securities’. (The country, it should be noted, had just gone off the Gold Standard.)
In so desperate a situation, desperate remedies were called for. The sub-committee offered to purchase ‘if the sellers would allow part of the purchase price to remain on bond’; no reply was received to this offer. The sellers, it was known, were prepared to consider the offer made by Ackerman on behalf of himself and Pevsner, but notified the Committee that if it could meet this offer (of £3,000) within forty-eight hours of receiving this advice, it would consider their offer above his.
The only course left open to the Clovelly Golf Club’s authorities was a last-minute appeal to the City Council, but this was also ‘without success’: ‘It was ascertained that to buy the property by means of a loan redeemable over twenty years would entail an annual repayment of approximately half the Club’s annual revenue, which was not considered a practical proposition.’
There was nothing more to be done, and the Committee were informed that the Club’s lease on their present land would expire in August. Dr J O Hayes, a dentist who practised in Muizenberg and then a Member of the Committee, had long purchased milk and cream from a Coloured dairyman named Hendricks who owned a small farm on the other side of the mountain. This was Raap Kraal, later to become the site of Westlake Golf Course, and at an Extraordinary General Meeting on the 31st of March 1932, Messrs Hayes and Cleghorn described the place and asked the meeting to vote on a resolution that negotiations be entered into for the purchase of this land on which it was proposed to found another club.
There had been discussions between the Clovelly Committee and the Provisional Committee of the new Clovelly Country Club, which was in process of being established, but these had come to nothing because the former viewed the proposals of the latter that ‘the existing organisation and members be absorbed, with certain reservations’ rather warily. Although no details were given, the Committee reported back to Members that: ‘Your Committee have not overlooked the possibility that the terms which may ultimately be put forward may not be acceptable, and we are (therefore) examining all other prospects in case it be decided to remove to another site. In this connection, (the Committee) are investigating a property within easy access … etc, etc.’
Ackerman and Pevsner had bought Clovelly with a definite aim in view. This is made clear, in the first instance, by the wording of the deed by which they donated the land to the club-to-be. Their stated purpose was: ‘That the aforesaid land shall only be used for sporting and other activities of the Clovelly Country Club from the membership of which no European shall be barred by reason of race, religious denomination, or creed.’
It is restated in a slightly different form in the current Constitution and Rules of the Club, under OBJECTS: ‘The Club is formed to fulfil all the usual objects of a Sports and Country Club and to do all such things and carry out all such undertakings as may be necessary for and incidental to such objects, and to provide and maintain all the facilities of a Club, on the estate donated by Mr G G Ackerman and Mr M Pevsner, without regard to nationality or creed.’
At a Committee meeting on the 4th of April 1932, proposals by which ‘the present organisation and members’ might be– absorbed by the Country Club – these having been put in writing by the latter – were considered briefly, but by this time the resolve on the part of so many to remove the Club to Raap Kraal/Westlake was now a firm one: ‘It was proposed that any offers of the Country Club to members desiring to join that body be circulated to Members, but it was decided that the same was no business of the Committee.’
Ackerman and Pevsner’s hour had come. They completed arrangements for the purchase of the land as soon as might be, each retaining a half-share of the property. A provisional committee was quickly set up, and it was decided that the old name of ‘Clovelly Golf Club’ should be amended to ‘Clovelly Country Club’, so that it would still be applicable when the scope of the Club was broadened, as was the firm intention of the first Committee.
Gus Ackerman was, from the start, the moving spirit behind the new enterprise. Energetic and determined, he set about organising the new club on an ambitious scale, which reflects his dictum that, ‘If something was worth doing, it was worth doing well – and if it wasn’t worth doing well, there was no sense in beginning in the first place’. Fellow committee members found him a demanding leader but a fair man to work with, as straight as a die, and a man who never spared himself when there was any obstacle to overcome.
Many who remember him as he was during these first years can recall nothing of him but a severe figure, of whom even one of those closest to him remarked that ‘he wasn’t exactly the hail-fellow-well-met type’. It is possible, however, that he deliberately reserved the lighter side of his nature for that part of his life which was lived away from Clovelly, for he had a regular lunch date at Stuttafords’ restaurant with three other men, one of whom recalled recently that he always brought a few good jokes with which he enlivened the company.
He was widely regarded as one of the best-dressed men in Cape Town and a former garment industry executive has said that, ‘knowing something of the tailoring as I do, I always suspected that he got his suits in Saville Row when he was overseas on business. You couldn’t have got the hang of a coat, the sit of the shoulders, the lapels and so on, even in a custom-made suit in this country at that time.’ Thus, with Gus Ackerman to see that things got moving, it was no wonder that Clovelly Country Club was in operation by the middle of that year.
Only one matter remained to be settled and that was the sale of the clubhouse and shed, without fixtures or fittings, which presumably were to be removed to Westlake. The Golf Club fixed a price of £850 upon their immovable property, and Mr E Jacobs was deputed by the Country Club to negotiate the sale. He offered the Golf Club £700, and this sum was eventually agreed upon.
FROM NINE TO EIGHTEEN HOLES OR FROM FARMHOUSE TO CLUBHOUSE, April 1932 to December 1934.
The Country Club was now well and truly established. For a purchase price of £3,000, it had acquired an area of 200 morgen [233 ha] and roads traversing the property. All the legal formalities were handled by Mr A Friedlander, who was subsequently elected to the Provisional Committee. A glance down the list of members of that committee today reveals that several of their names are still household words around the Club; there was, of course, an Ackerman, a Friedlander, a Joelson, and a Jacobs, to name only a few.
The law was well represented on this committee, not only by attorneys such as A Friedlander and I B (‘Boetie’) Joelson, (Boetie Joelson was subsequently elected Men’s Golf Captain and held this position for a eight years, which is still a record.) but by Judge Herbstein and the remarkable Archie Shacksnovis. He was an advocate, and a man of varied interests who, many are convinced was just such a prodigious intellect as Jan Hofmeyr, Smuts’s one-time minister. (Hofmeyr was a prodigy who matriculated at thirteen, was principal of a university at twenty-four, and Administrator of the Transvaal at thirty.)
Notable also among the members of that first committee was C S (‘Clive’) Corder of E B Syfret & Son. He was a business friend of Gus Ackerman, whose invitation to join the Club, and then to serve on the committee, he had gladly accepted, although he was already a member of Royal Cape.
The leading lights were Ackerman and Pevsner, however, and the latter served as President from the Club’s inception until his death in October 1941 at the age of sixty-five. Although already in failing health, which did not allow him to take much part in any sport except bowling (the Pevsner Green below the Club commemorates his activities on behalf of the Club and the interest he always took in this game), the Club was always very dear to his heart. His generosity towards it in the early days was on a princely scale. Whenever there was a shortage in the Club’s funds needed to pay staff salaries and running costs, Pevsner and Ackerman would unhesitatingly offer to meet it jointly out of their own pockets.
Apart from their generosity, however, another reason why the Club survived during those years against forces which would have defeated almost any similar organisation, was the fact that those members of the committee who were not men of law were men of business. Mr L H (‘Harry’) Lewis, for instance, carried a heavy load, both during working hours when he was General Manager of Ackermans Limited and when he was, strictly speaking, at leisure. From its earliest days, he served as Treasurer of the Club, so that on to him fell all the donkey work of husbanding the infant Club’s finances when there was little to spend and a lot to do.
Although, as President, Pevsner had no vote, his ‘strong will and level-headed arguments’, together with the ‘sound advice which was always there when required’ was invaluable to those involved with the running of the Club.
In true European fashion, he preferred entertaining at his Club rather than at home, and one of his largest and most lavish receptions was given when, just before World War II, he brought home his new bride, formerly the concert pianist Ania Polakoff. Mrs Ania Pevsner has, ever since, taken a great interest in the progress of the Club, and attends the celebrations on Founders’ Day (once called Pevsner Day) whenever able.
Throughout the Thirties, however, there is no doubt that the moving spirit behind the Club was Gus Ackerman. A man still in middle life and a forceful personality, he practically willed the Club to ride a series of storms during those early years. Whatever time he could spare from his many business commitments he gave to the Club, and in fact it has been said of him that ‘there were only two aspects of his life: Clovelly, and Clovelly’.
Membership fees were practically the only revenue which the Club could count on, however, so one of its first concerns was to attract new members. These came, or were brought in, in a variety of ways. Dr E A (‘Eddie’) Greenwall followed Gus Ackerman from Mowbray. Mr M (‘Mitch’) Ackerman naturally joined his brother. Mr H (‘Harry’) Klein was related to Ralph King.
Somehow, the word must also have reached Mr B J (‘Bernard’) Shub, for his name is recorded on the first list of proposed new members. Provision for ‘Temporary Members’ in the Club Rules – which, like its constitution, had been drawn up by judge Herbstein and Archie Shacksnovis – made special mention of His Majesty’s Forces. This meant, in fact, naval officers from Simonstown, who were always offered a home-from-home – and, on occasion, house room, with hilarious consequences – at the Clovelly Country Club. They were admitted without an entrance fee, and on payment of two guineas per quarter.
Shortly before the War, several Japanese officers were entertained in this way, and to show their appreciation presented the Club with a small painting of an English country cottage and garden, which still hangs in the main lounge. In due course, Clovelly became the haunt of a great many naval personnel who were stationed at Simonstown for varying periods ‘for the duration’.
Considering that the Club, at the outset, was faced with a dire need for three things – namely, members, money, and amenities – it is perhaps surprising that the last-named got first priority. It had previously been, it will be remembered, a nine-hole golf course, thinly grassed in some places – but then it will also be remembered that its founders were men accustomed to quick action.
Hard though it may be to believe, by the end of 1932 it was already an eighteen-hole course, and four tennis courts had been built. The landscape was particularly suited for the development of a golf course, except for two things: water was hard to come by, and grass was difficult to grow. The vegetable farmers further up the Silvermine River were in the habit of draining off much of its water for their crops, and were not eager to share this stream with a mere golf course who happened to occupy the lower reaches of this valley.
The only alternative was the sinking of bore-holes, and this meant drilling through the Table Mountain sandstone series but seemed to offer (according to the Minutes of the 23rd of November 1932), the only ‘economic means of obtaining water’. A reliable source of water has to this day, however, remained one of the Club’s perennial problems.
It was not easy to induce grass to grow on sand-dunes either until a member appeared who, it was soon discovered, had developed grass-growing in the most unlikely places to a fine art. Advocate R (‘Bobbie’) Lewin is said to have ‘virtually planted every individual blade of grass’ on some parts of the course. He says today, looking out over the acres of rolling lawn which form the course below his home, that he did all this merely for his own enjoyment: ‘I can grow grass anywhere, and compost-making is my hobby. I have a special formula for making it from seaweed. At the moment, the course looks well, but in the old days there was practically no soil – it was all sand and rock.’
Everyone who has visited Clovelly has agreed that, as to scenery, it is in a class apart; it might, indeed, be described as world-class. Mr H Klein has described how he once stood beside a friend as he prepared to putt and, looking about him, was so struck by the beauty of their surroundings that he deliberately misquoted a line from the Book of Job, telling his companion: ‘Your lies are fallen in pleasant places.’ (Job: 16 : 6: ‘The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.’)
The man who designed the course as it now stands was Dr C M Murray, regarded as one of the best golf architects of his day. It is perhaps surprising that a man with a practice to run should have found time for so demanding a hobby – and one which, like Advocate Lewin’s, which seems so remote from his professional activities – but none will doubt that he too did a fine job. He too was made a life member in recognition of his services. Minor alterations have since been made but the basic lay-out is still the same.
Of course, it was the members themselves who made the Club what it then was, and not all of those who contributed to the general esprit de corps were men who served on the committee or won club championships. What they contributed, however, was something intangible, yet something of value over and above its scenic advantages.
There were, for instance, J G Steytler, once a member of the old Clovelly Golf Club, and his son. There were Bob Simpson and George Calder, who still lives close by. One of the best golfers of the early days was George Young, a Scot who had come to the Cape via Rhodesia and worked as an accountant on the Cape Argus. His hours were such that he was free to play most afternoons.
One of Young’s closest friends at the Club was George Lowings, but on the course itself the two were sworn enemies, and many were the disputes that ‘Boetie’ Joelson was called in to adjudicate.
Lowing’s contribution to the maintenance of the Club was enormous, as he was adept at almost any kind of property repair. Once he retired, he became the official GOM of Clovelly, driving everywhere about the grounds in what can only be described as a fore-runner of the Land Rover – a car, at any rate – which would go anywhere – in working clothes, ‘checking on this job, putting another in hand, and maintaining the expensive equipment which had by then been installed’. ‘If you wanted anything done’, it was said, ‘ask George. In fact, just ask George, and it would be done.’
He was the Club’s ‘most treasured undisclosed asset’ and, unlike most assets, ‘did not depreciate even with the passing of the years’. George Lowings died in 1965, and even those who were present to share the general distress when he collapsed as result of a heart attack, felt later that ‘he couldn’t have died in a more appropriate place’; he succumbed during a committee meeting chaired by Dr M L Singer, and even the efforts of Dr Len Joelson, summoned at haste from Kalk Bay, could not revive him.
Once the golf course had been extended and improved, it became obvious that the next step should be the building of a bigger and better clubhouse. By the middle of 1933, the Country Club, with a growing list of members, was still using the original Golf Club’s tiny clubhouse, a converted dwelling house which is now the home of the grounds’ keeper. Committee meetings were held, as a rule, at the home of Mr L H Lewis, or of Mr E Jacobs in Beach Road, Muizenberg.
A new clubhouse, then, there had to be, but again funds were the problem, and since it was felt that such a building should be planned with a view to the further expansion of the Club, all members had to ‘struggle like the dickens’ to make ends meet.
The new Clubhouse when complete, however, was a triumph, both for the architects and for the planners who had specified what ambitious amenities it should include. It was appropriate to the landscape, its front windows gave on to the best views of the course and of Fish Hoek beyond, and all its features measured up to the criteria of what a first-rate clubhouse should be.
The Opening Day was the 1st of December 1934, when, before a large concourse of persons in holiday mood, judge Gardner drove off from the first tee. For the first time also, the beautiful beamed dining-hall was put into use, and members wandered everywhere, admiring the details of their Club’s new home. (The first committee meeting to take place on the premises had been held on the previous October the 20th.)
Apart from the work of the Committee in giving Clovelly a Clubhouse of which it could be proud, there were also the efforts of a great many individuals who gave of their time to bring this project to fruition, and no group so richly deserves praise as the ladies – some members and some wives of members – who helped with the catering.
There was no doubt about it: by the end of December 1934, Clovelly Country Club had found its feet. There were still certain difficulties to be contended with, and it would be many more years before they were entirely removed, but once it had been properly launched, the Club showed no signs of slipping back.
Its early Committee and rank-and-file Members have been called ‘a brave and resolute band of workers’, and with Ackerman and Pevsner at their head they kept steadfastly to the path they had set themselves, convinced that the principle upon which they had founded the Club should not be allowed to die, and that their labours would one day be rewarded – even if this was not to be during the lifetime of a great many of them.
CLOVELLY- THE EARLY YEARS OR FROM THE OFFICIAL OPENING TO THE DEATH OF MICHAEL PEVSNER, January 1935 to October 1941.
The Opening was more than a formal ceremony to mark the Club’s moving into more suitable premises. It was also the point at which, its teething troubles past, and with a solid body of members to support it, the Club began to be identified with a definite and distinguishable ‘Clovellian’ character. It was coming to be well-known locally not only for the sporting but for the social amenities that it offered.
Here the influence of the two founders was of paramount importance. Mr Pevsner, during his years in Rhodesia, had lived the life of a country squire, and his recreation had been found typically, in ridin’, huntin’, and fishin’. He and his wife had had little opportunity to attend purely social gatherings, and their lives had revolved around their five children on their own plantation. (On one occasion, his wife did not go into town for seven years at a stretch. His plantation was named Glenville Estate, and Glenville was the name that he subsequently gave to his seaside home in Muizenberg.) His first wife had died in March 1932, just as the Club was in process of being founded, so he had seldom attended social functions there for several years after that.
As a widower in the late Thirties, however, he sometimes appeared at the monthly dances at the Club, and his evident enjoyment of these occasions contributed not a little to the general good cheer.
Mr Ackerman also attended – but not entirely for his own amusement. He took his duties as Chairman very seriously, and believed that his presence was necessary to ensure that members and their guests were correctly dressed, which meant ‘black tie’ for the men, and floor-length evening gowns for the ladies. It was his endeavour to impress upon all that being a member was an honour as well as a pleasure.
Although they were never known to disagree, the two founders were strikingly different personalities. Pevsner was generous with his money but could not give much of his time when it came to assisting in its administration and promoting the Club’s interests, but he was invariably urbane, good-humoured, and ready to reassure despondent members that anything worthwhile took time. He was the complement of Ackerman – austere, dignified, a stickler for correctness at all times, and ‘a man who missed nothing’. (‘When he left, the staff relaxed.’)
During his years in the Chair, committee members were expected to be prompt and no drinks might be carried upstairs. His mania for certain radio serials was such, however, that meetings were timed so that they never began before the instalment of one of his serials had concluded. He ‘had everything at his fingertips’, checked on every detail of what went on around the Club and, after Pevsner’s death, not infrequently met the staff wage bill himself when the Club was in low water, and, in fact, ‘carried’ the Club for ten years.
At this stage of the Club’s history, it became necessary to arrange as many matches as possible with other clubs in the peninsula so that Clovelly members, many of whom were not experienced golfers, could get as much practice as possible, and become familiar with the rules and etiquette of golf. Surprisingly, Clovelly had had an excellent start in local championship golf, and it was its endeavour to repeat this fortunate fluke.
This had happened in 1933, the first year in which Clovelly had entered a team for the Bradshaw Trophy, an inter-club tournament for which each club picks its four best players. Two pairs of partnered players thus represent each club, a top couple and a second couple, and the matches are played level, with no strokes given or taken.
The first match was to be played at Milnerton, and the side originally selected by Clovelly was Archie Young (an accountant at the Cape Argus who lived at the Club for many years), George Lowings, H (‘Hymy’) Matthews, and another (who never played). The day before the tournament was due to start, this fourth player took ill and Clive Corder took his place and teamed up with Matthews.
When the team was announced, the local newspapers pointed out that the tournament was a trifle absurd because Corder’s handicap was 13 and Matthews’s 9. They were drawn against the Captain of Rondebosch, Mr Tommy Welsh, with a handicap of 1 and Mr George Syfret, also with a handicap of 1. Two against twenty-two! In a game where all ‘played level’, it was ridiculous.
That Saturday night, however, the sports editors had to eat their words. The Clovelly players had lost, but only by a narrow margin. Lowings and Young had lost by only two, and Matthews and Corder (although it was the latter’s debut in championship golf) had only been beaten at the last hole. Early in 1937, Hymy Matthews once again approached Gus Ackerman with a special request on behalf of a society that was very close to his heart. This was the National Council for the Blind, and he asked Ackerman if it would be possible to stage a charity match to raise funds at Clovelly at the beginning of March. Ackerman’s recorded answer was a spontaneous: ‘A wonderful idea and a wonderful cause!’
Arrangements were put under way immediately, and £51 was raised that first year. Over the years, this figure rose steadily, and in the last few years it has never been less than R1,100. Over the years, the ‘Trophy of Light’ competition has attracted a large number of well-known local golfers including Bill Fowlis, Rita Levetan, and Ivor Dorrington.
Allowing for the way in which the value of money has changed over the last forty years, the cost of an evening’s entertainment at the Club in those days seems remarkably modest. A dance held on Saturday the 4th of April, 1936, for instance, is advertised as follows: ‘This dance is to be a SUPPER DANCE Double Tickets 10/6 Al Roberts orchestra to be engaged.’
Moreover, it is hardly surprising that Clovelly, despite its relative remoteness from town in those days, had no difficulty in filling its rooms, when one considers the rates charged to residents. Possibly they did not seem quite as low in 1935, for on the 12th of September of that year, the following terms were approved by a General Meeting: ‘From the 1st of November to the 28th of February Daily Rate: 15/-, Monthly Rate: £16 16s. Weekend: including Saturday lunch and Monday breakfast: 25/-, Members at present in residence are to be charged £10 10s for this period, provided they undertake to stay the full four months.’
By now, the Club’s gardens were an attractive feature of the landscape. Most of these had been laid out by two residents, Major and Mrs Apthorpe, helped by Mrs Chaimowitz, another foundation member. Shrubs and plants had been obtained from members’ own gardens, and practically nothing had had to be bought from nurseries. It was decided that the Secretary’s wife should make it her business to see that everything in the gardens was in order.
On one occasion, however, this led to an incident involving the Chairman which proved once again that Gus Ackerman was one of whom it could be said without fear of contradiction that ‘there was nothing he didn’t know’. He took an interest in the gardens, and just as it was Mrs Short, the Secretary’s wife’s duty to check on the flowers, so he considered it his duty to check on Mrs Short.
One day, Mr Ackerman remarked that he thought the carnations should be de-budded. The Secretary’s wife was a little peeved at what she took to be the Chairman’s admonition, so made a point of fetching a carnation in full bloom from a vase elsewhere in the Club, and placing it in a glass on the counter at the reception desk. When Mr Ackerman appeared, she greeted him with a bright smile.
‘Look, Mr Ackerman! A carnation!’ Mr Ackerman glanced sharply from the flower to the Secretary’s wife. ‘Mrs Short’, he replied icily, ‘Would you mind showing me where you picked that carnation. I didn’t see any in the garden.’
If proof were needed that the manners of that day were indeed starchier, and that attitudes now stigmatised as ‘Victorian’ were still prevalent in those far-off, pre-War days, it is to be found in the behaviour of one of the Club’s residents (about a dozen then occupied the upper storey of the Club) who, in his own sphere, seems to have been ‘another Gus Ackerman’ before he ever came to Clovelly.
This was Mr Burden-Martin, a retired school principal from East London, who was in the habit of spending about three months of the middle of every year in Britain and the rest at Clovelly. He lived a life of such regularity that, just as the citizens of Konigsberg during the eighteenth century could set their clocks by the movements of the philosopher Kant, so could the golfers on the Clovelly course set their watches by the movements of Mr Burden-Martin.
At 9.30 each morning he would arrive for breakfast. After that, he would take a short walk and then settle down with the newspaper. At noon he would come in and listen to the news – this was after a visit to the bowling green – and, needless to say, a certain chair was ‘sacred’ to him. After lunch, he slept. Then it was time for tea and a walk again. At exactly 6 pm he would settle down for the news and later digest the evening newspaper.
Returning from his after-dinner walk every evening, he would tap the barometer in the hall. As soon as the Secretary heard him tapping it he knew that he could close down officially because it had to be 9 pm. He bought his cigarette ration and a bottle of Aristocrat brandy each weekend. This he drank upstairs in his room, not being much given to idle conversation with people who ‘talked trash’.
Like Gus Ackerman, he had a harmless mania: cricket. On one of his trips to England, he queued for hours to see the great Don Bradman play at Lords. Arrived at the famous venue, he ensconced himself on a cushion, and settled down to watch his hero play the innings of his career, but it was not to be. Bradman was out after the first ball. Mr Burden-Martin’s disgust knew no bounds. He got up, folded his programme, and left the ground. Although he had a ticket for the second innings he did not return – only to read later that Bradman had scored a record 300.
Mr Burden-Martin was often visited by former pupils, and one of these, the present Rector of the Grey High School, Port Elizabeth, Mr S E Edkins, has paid him the following tribute: ‘He was a bachelor Headmaster and very proud of his school. (Cambridge High School, a suburban high school on the ‘King’ (William’s Town) side of East London, serving that area alone, and the population of smallholding farmers or the periphery of East London.)
He introduced a number of ideas in order to create spirit and loyalty to the school. He started a private boarding house in order to give country pupils an opportunity to attend his school. He introduced evening ‘prep’ for boys and girls who lived in homes where there was little quiet or where they had no special place to study.
‘He improved the school grounds and acquired further ground which we had to clear of thorn bushes before we could use it for sport. He was proud of his Cadet Corps which he paraded from time to time on civic occasions.
‘He was very strict when it came to boy/girl behaviour In fact, you were not allowed to walk alongside a girl, you had to walk behind them unless you had a sister! I was fortunate to have a sister. The same rule applied when you saw a girl home after evening ‘prep’. Whether this was carried out once they were round the corner, I do not know! He certainly lived for his school and gave his whole life to it.’
When the Great Fire of Clovelly broke out in 1955, Mr Burden-Martin was one of the hardest hit, although at the time he took the entire ‘incident’ with his usual stoic sangfroid. The fire was noticed just before noon, and amid the confusion of summoning the fire-brigade, someone remembered that he had not been seen for over an hour. The alarm was raised, because by this time his room had been gutted, but the staff’s worst fears proved unfounded. Mr Burden-Martin was eventually discovered in the men’s locker-room, quietly reading a book. After the fire, however, all residents had to find other accommodation. Mr Burden-Martin moved to a hotel in Muizenberg and remained there for the rest of his life.
Mr Edkins continues: ‘I was a student at Cape Town University from 1935 until the War broke out and during this period I saw him occasionally. I also saw him after the War and attended his funeral. It was sad to see only three old pupils and a handful of hotel staff paying their last respects to a man who had done so much for so many boys and girls. He was certainly a Mr Chips type of character and would have been more so had he been nearer the homes of so many of his past pupils. He was a learned man, a clever mathematician, and we stood in awe of him.’
Burden-Martin had spent a life-time dealing with adolescents. It is not recorded whether he displayed similar interest in children not even old enough to seek admission as junior members. More and more of them were seen in the environs of the Club after the official Opening, and one detects in the Minutes of some meetings of that era a certain doubt on the part of some members as to whether they ought to be seen, let alone heard – another Victorian survival which seems quaint by today’s ‘permissive’ standards.
On the 11th of July 1935, for instance, ‘the question of the admission of children during weekends came under a very long discussion’. Eventually on the proposal of Mr Joelson it was decided that children should be allowed into the Clubhouse during the weekends if they were over the age of twelve and accompanied by adults, and that they be served with tea in the dining-room if desired. It was further decided that this experiment be tried as an alteration to the Rules for three months.
Christmas being primarily a children’s festival, however, a party was arranged for the offspring of all members at the end of that year. A Punch-and-Judy show was mooted, mainly because the efforts of various talented members to entertain the children themselves had come to nothing ‘Mr H Nathan had promised to give a turn, but he was unable to get any other artists.’
Entertainment for the adults tended to be on the conservative side, and it is recorded the following year that ‘the question of permitting Gambling machines to be established in the Club was considered and refused.’
Another kind of entertainment, one which is still a feature of Clovelly Club life, was commenced at about this time, however, but not without considerable difficulty to the organisers. This is evident from the Minutes of a meeting held at the beginning of August 1935: ‘Bioscope performance’. The Treasurer reports that the Norwich Union Association had notified the Club that the Fire Policy could not be invalidated by the holding of Cinema Performances and that the Policy would be endorsed to that effect. The Chairman reported that the Bioscope evening was financially – a success but the showing of silent pictures was decidedly a failure. He said that Mr Stodel had no authority to give us ‘Talkies’. He (the Chairman) said that he was taking an early opportunity to interview Mr Schlesinger on the matter.’
Alas for Clovelly! Mr I W Schlesinger of the African Theatres organisation proved unnameable, and at the next meeting Mr Ackerman had to report that ‘the latter had said that under no circumstances could talkies be supplied for showing at the Club’.
Still, there was plenty of good fellowship – and good food – to be found at the Club nevertheless. Cold lunches and suppers during the summer months could be had for 2/- and 2/6 per head, and for those who found even this too heavy after their exertions, a fruit lunch was later added. This consisted of Fruit Lunch with Cream, Bread and Butter, and Tea or Coffee; cost: 1/6 per head. For those who required only a snack in the middle of the day, sandwiches were supplied at 6d per plate.
The ‘Indian summer’ atmosphere of the late ‘Thirties, remarked upon by so many observers of the time, both in South Africa and abroad, prevailed also at Clovelly – but with innumerable disquieting overtones. So many members had relations, close family even, in Europe. Mr Pevsner, for instance, had several brothers and sisters in Russia, some near Vitebsk (Pskov) where his family had farmed for generations, and others in Moscow itself. It was now more than forty years since he had left them, as a lad of 17, and made his way to London and, ultimately, to Rhodesia, where he had eked out a living as an auctioneer before turning his hand to tobacco farming.
He was only one of many at the Club who had reason to fear the increasing strength of the Third Reich even before August 1939. Once war had been declared, Clovelly made a point of opening its doors to naval personnel, as had been its practice from the beginning, but behind the brittle war-time gaiety and the universal determination to ‘do one’s bit’ lurked the prescience of tragedy for a number of families who had been associated with Clovelly since its founding. Before long, these fears had become reality, when it was learned that sons who had gone ‘up north’ to fight Rommel in the Western Desert would never return.
During the first year of the War, things began to look bleak for the Allies as Britain stood alone in the West, but somehow survived the Battle of Britain. In the middle of 1941, the Germans invaded Russia, and by the end of that year were less than twenty-five miles [40 km] from Moscow. Mercifully, perhaps, Clovelly’s ageing founder was spared the knowledge of the invasion of the country of his birth. It had given him little in his early youth under the rule of the Tzars, yet there were many still living in those parts who were dear to him and whose lot he tried to ease by the bequests made to them on his death, though it is doubtful whether they survived to receive them, or even learned of the death of the brother who had left them so long before and had made a fortune at the other side of the world.
When Michael Pevsner died on the 18th of October 1941, his passing sorrowed many, but was not unexpected, as he had been in poor health for several months. In his mid sixties, and an active man until a few years before, he was struck down by leukaemia, and was so ill that he required constant attention and was unable to communicate with his wife or his children for some time before his death.
Shortly before illness overtook him, however, Pevsner had made an attempt to put his affairs in order. For a man of such large means, this was no small task – as witness the fact that his will is contained in three thick files, each with a separate schedule, in the offices of the Master of the Supreme Court today.
He left a total estate of £760,000, of which 2% (£15,000) was left to charity. His death was reported in newspapers all over the country and in Rhodesia, and he was very generally referred to as ‘a pioneer’ of the tobacco industry in southern Africa.
He left money to Groote Schuur Hospital, to the Mayors of Cape Town, Bulawayo, and Salisbury (to be allocated as they saw fit to their various city charities), to orphanages, convalescence homes, and orthopaedic centres. He donated £1,000 to the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He also donated money for the founding of a seaside home in or around Muizenberg for the use of Rhodesian children.
No doubt he intended to do more for Clovelly – he had done so much already – but at the time when illness overtook him, he had made no special provision and, more important than that, he had not stated explicitly that his half-share of the land upon which it stood should pass to the Estate on his death. When this omission was discovered by his family, his widow and children immediately donated his half-share of the land by Deed of Gift.
Clovelly mourned the passing of its founder, and the Club was closed the following Sunday morning as a mark of respect. An official contingent from the Club was among the institutions represented at the graveside when he was buried a few days later.
The Club had now lost its President, but Mr Gus Ackerman remained at the helm as Chairman for another twelve years. By 1953, however, he had begun to feel that he had done his stint, and that after twenty-one years it was time to hand over the reins to someone else. He then became President, and remained so until his death, attending all meetings although he no longer had a vote.
Gradually the Club adjusted to the new order. There was a war on, as everyone was always reminding everyone else in those days, with many comings and goings, and plenty of young men in uniform about the Club.
Shortly before the War, Mr Ackerman had brought out Roger Wetherett, a British golfer of worldwide fame, for a season at Clovelly, and Bobby Locke had been a member of Clovelly since the late Thirties. It was his only Cape club.
A lot of golf was still played at Clovelly, although championship golf had been halted ‘for the duration’. A ‘middle generation’ of men were keeping the spirit of the Club going while the younger ones were in the forces, and it was their hope that, when it was all over, these returned soldiers would find the old place as they remembered it. It was thus their intention to go on investing their time and energies in Clovelly against a time when others would be back to appreciate the value of their ‘investment’.
Meanwhile, one of the Club’s best and most long-lasting investments was out on the course every day, ready to advise any player who wanted to improve his game. Maurice Bodmer, the son of a professor at Rhodes University College, had been engaged by the Club on the 1st of July 1935, while still in his teens and with some brief experience at the Royal Johannesburg Club behind him. His starting salary was £10 per month and his keep.
As the Allied armies began attacking rather than defending, winning rather than losing, and advancing rather than retreating, there was more optimism abroad – out at Clovelly, as much as on the front line. Old George Lowings drank sherry with Gus Ackerman before committee meetings – if his serials allowed – and before long it was ‘Business as Usual’ again.
THE REST OF THE WAR, AND THE POST-WAR YEARS, FROM THE DEATH OF MICHAEL PEVSNER TO THE EVE OF THE FIRE, November 1941 to June 1955.
More than a year elapsed before Michael Pevsner’s estate was wound up, and during that period Gus Ackerman decided that, in order to obviate any difficulties which might arise on his own death, he would, jointly with the executors of the Pevsner estate, transfer his own half share of the Clovelly land to the Trustees of the Club.
Thus, early in 1943, this was carried out. Because Pevsner’s share now formed part of a deceased estate, however, it was deemed to have a nominal value of £390, and was sold to the Trustees at this figure, in addition to the transfer fee. The Pevsner transfer is dated the 6th of January 1943, and on the 11th of February, Ackerman’s share was also transferred, both being subject to the following conditions: ‘That the aforementioned share only be used for the sporting and other activities of the Clovelly Country Club, from the membership of which no European shall be barred by reason of race, religious denomination, or creed … And that in the event of a breach of the above, Michael Pevsner or Gustave Ackerman or their Executors, Administrators, or Successors shall have the right and be entitled to receive a half share of the above land to be re-transferred to each of them free of any conditions whatever.’ In this way the almost 54 morgen [63 ha] which comprised the Club became, in effect, the property of the Trustees.
Meanwhile, for as long as the War lasted, Clovelly continued to keep open house for naval personnel, and there must be many men in different parts of the world who even today retain fond memories of days spent at the club between the mountains and the sea.
Just before the outbreak of war, for instance, some Japanese officers, including a Captain Utsumi, had been entertained at Clovelly, and as a gesture of gratitude had presented the Club with a picture of an English country cottage, which still hangs in the lounge.
Then, in 1941, while the Queen Mary was in Table Bay harbour, Maurice Bodmer happened to fall in with four Australian soldiers while in the centre of Cape Town, and although they were not quite ‘navy’, he decided that the exigencies of the time being what they were, no objections would be raised if he took them back to Clovelly.
At the end of a memorable evening at Clovelly, no-one felt much like taking them all the way back to the ship, so Maurice invited them to spend the night in a spare room next to his own. The following morning when he arrived with the tea they were just stirring, so he invited them to breakfast. At that stage, however, he began to have qualms about taking so great a liberty with the amenities of the Club, so telephoned ‘Boetie’ Joelson, who was then Golf Captain.
Mr Joelson suggested that they be invited to stay on free of charge as long as they paid for their drinks. This seemed reasonable to the Aussies, who remained four days in all and rejoined their ship at Simonstown.
Sad to say, the Queen Mary then set sail for Crete, where the ANZACs, together with Greek and British forces made an unsuccessful attempt to withstand the onslaught of German airborne troops. Many of the Australians, including a few of those who had stayed at Clovelly, were killed, and the survivors had to flee to Egypt. For years afterwards, however Maurice corresponded with those who had come out of the Crete debacle alive and who subsequently, no doubt, had spread the fame of traditional hospitality ‘down under’.
Of course, though Clovelly has always prided itself on seeing that its guests never lack for comfort, accidents can happen in even the best regulated clubs, and one of these led to the uproar over a certain Mr Berry’s bath.
One of the Africans then employed at the Club was a certain Justin, whose duties included waiting on residents. He was well qualified for this as he had formerly been valet to the Rhodesian magnate, Sir Drummond Chaplin. Among the residents was a Mr A L Berry, who had worked in the Ackerman’s organisation for years. Justin had orders to run his bath every morning and to summon him as soon as it was ready.
Unfortunately, Berry was in the habit of turning over for another twenty minutes’ sleep as soon as Justin’s call had awakened him. He would then arise and, when he got to the bathroom, be annoyed to find that the water was only lukewarm. Justin would then be upbraided for not making the bath hot enough.
At length Justin grew weary of these undeserved scoldings and devised a plan whereby Mr Berry’s bath would remain fairly hot for more than a quarter of an hour. This was done by means of filling it with near-boiling water, and then leaving it to cool off.
The first morning that this experiment was tried the fates were unkind to Justin, for Berry rose immediately and hurried to the bathroom and climbed straight into a tub-full of scalding water. There followed a yell which echoed round the Club, and he then sprang out and roared for Justin, who of course appeared promptly, looking a little confused. Berry then chased the unfortunate manservant all round the Club; yelling imprecations.
Clovelly was sorry to see all the naval men go after World War II ended in the spring of 1945, but with the new year came developments which were welcomed by all because they seemed to spell the end of an era in which Clovelly, for all its high aspirations in the sporting and social spheres, had nevertheless been regarded as ‘a rabbity sort of club’, whose members were chiefly weekend sportsmen who led sedentary lives during the week. They played their Sunday golf with more enthusiasm than skill. The Club, up till then, had produced no ‘stars’, but after the War it became apparent that this was going to be changed ere long.
Most of the credit for the improvement in the standard of play must go to Maurice Bodmer, for the Club’s long-standing professional was the patient and untiring coach of many junior members. Some credit, however, can also be attributed to the fact that, even in the ‘Thirties, Clovelly was the Cape ‘home’ of Bobby Locke, then the brightest, although still one of the youngest stars in the golfing firmament.
He was a personal friend of Maurice Bodmer, who had known him in his Royal Johannesburg days when Bobby Locke was the much-talked-of golfing prodigy from Brakpan. Their friendship endured over the years, even after Bobby became an international celebrity, and Clovelly was often to see the maestro in action during the post-war years. The association of so great a player with the Club was bound to prove an inspiration to its regular golfers and, more than that, to the rising generation of players who had the opportunity of watching Locke and other world-class players of the time in action at Clovelly.
Bobby Locke’s father had, for many years, kept an outfitter’s shop in Brakpan. In the middle of his shop was a display cabinet in which he had placed all the cups that his son had been winning since the age of eleven in his first Prentice Memorial tournament. Having watched Bobby win his third successive South African Open at the age of 21, a golf reporter recalled his earlier triumphs: ‘I first saw him play eleven years ago. He arrived in a school cap and shorts, and his father was carrying a bag of clubs as big as Bobby … It is still his kindly, pale-eyed father that thinks of when the battle is fierce. And it is for his father that he wins.’
Arthur D’arcy Locke went on to win the South African Open again – in 1939, 1940, 1946, 1950, 1951, and 1955. He won it everywhere but in the Cape, where he would have been assured of a larger-than-usual crowd of supporters swollen by Clovelly members to follow him round the course and applaud his displays of what was described in his hey-day as ‘machine-gun-like golf’.
Before the War put an end to national championships, he had added the Irish, New Zealand, and Dutch Opens to his laurels. At 22 he was appointed resident professional at Maccauvlei Club, near Johannesburg. After the War, he returned immediately to big-time golf, his skill undiminished (he was still under 30), and in 1950 won the British Open title as well as the South African. By this time, he was a world figure, who had even played a round with the Duke of Windsor at Palm Beach.
By this time, too, Clovelly had shown itself to be a nursery of young talent, for a nineteen-year-old girl, Rita Levitan, who had practically grown up on the course, had just won the South African Ladies’ Championship, having won the Western Province Ladies’ the previous year. Apart from Maurice Bodmer, who had coached her from the beginning, none was prouder of her achievement that the Clovelly Ladies’ Golf Captain, Mrs Sally Jacobs, who had guided and encouraged her for years.
Rita’s parents, Mr and Mrs M. Levitan, had five other children besides Rita, which is possibly one reason why she was able to slip out of the house so often and cycle to the golf course at an age when most little girls are expected to amuse themselves at least within earshot of their mothers. At eight, however, Rita was on the links at Clovelly, practising furiously. At sixteen, her handicap was 29, but three months later it had gone down to 17.
Throughout her schooldays, in fact, it was a daily sight, according to Cape Times sports columnist Dick Stent, to see her working on her game at Clovelly, for she was so keen to improve that ‘practice was to her no drudgery’: ‘There she was, a small, reddish-haired girl banging ball after ball from the Clovelly tees, trying out one iron and then another – and then a session on the putting green.’
The time came, however, when Rita’s dedication to golf raised the hackles of her principal and teachers at Wynberg Girls’ High School, for they felt that it was not matched by an equal dedication to her studies.
Maurice Bodmer remembers receiving a frantic telephone call from her mother on one occasion while he was in the middle of a coaching session with his prize pupil. ‘Where’s my daughter?’ demanded Mrs Levitan, ‘Is she with you? Well, she shouldn’t be, she should be in school!’
Rita’s first Open was played at Mowbray, so Clovelly was there in force to see its girl-wonder leading the field. A few years later, marriage to Peter Easton, whose career required his removal to Natal, took her away from the Cape, but she went on winning – in 1951, 1953, 1955, 1958, 1960, and 1968. On the last-named occasion, the championship was played off at the Royal Cape Golf Club.
In 1960 she turned professional, but in 1966 applied to be reinstated as an amateur. In 1968, she returned to the professional circuit and won again. In 1970 she retired, and a prominent sports journalist, echoing the sentiments of many, sighed mournfully: ‘The Rita Easton era is over’.
Although golf has at last taken a back seat, Rita today leads as active a life as in the days when she spent so many hours practising on the Clovelly course. She is now a businesswoman, and runs her own fashion store in Ramsgate on the Natal South Coast.
One of the finest matches which the Club has ever seen was played in 1947 when Maurice Bodmer partnered his old chum Bobby Locke against two other international golfers of the time, Sam Snead and Norman van Nida. It was an exhibition match, and ended 2-1 in favour of Bodmer and his partner.
Though they did not play a match at Clovelly, two leading US golfers, Walter Hagen and Joe Kirkwood, a trick-shot golfer brought to this country for a season by Michael Pevsner’s son, both practised there.
The year 1955 was to be an historic one in the annals of Clovelly, but even if it had not been for the main event that was to make it so, something else occurred which made Clovelly the centre of local interest for a day.
Simonstown was in process of being taken over by the South African Navy, and a helicopter flying over Clovelly elected to land on the first tee. It was under the command of Captain Butler, and was piloted by Lieutenant Michael Bingham.
Maurice Bodmer hot-footed it down to the beginning of the course to greet his unexpected guests, while back at the Club ‘the ‘phone never stopped ringing and the Natives went mad!’ Fish Hoek, apparently, was in an uproar, but in due course the helicopter, which had come from the flying-ship, HMS Anrphine, took off again – with Bodmer aboard – and a few minutes later landed on the decks of the battleship, HMS Protector.
Clovelly, it seemed, was by now the Club that had almost everything. It was well-situated; it had a fine course, a bowling green, tennis courts, a swimming-pool, and beautiful gardens; it had a magnificent clubhouse; it had produced one national champion (no mean feat for a club that was only 23 years old); and it had played host to naval men of several nations, to the Australian army, and now to the British fleet air-arm.
Literally out of a cloudless sky, however, disaster struck and for a time members feared that much of what they had worked for over almost a quarter of a century had been destroyed in a few brief hours.
CLOVELLY: THE YEARS OF CHANGE FROM THE GREAT FIRE TO THE DEATH OF GUS ACKERMAN, July 1955 to August 1966.
‘It was all so sudden and unexpected. I telephoned the Club to make reservations for lunch. By the time I arrived – and I lived only minutes away – the Club was all but gone.’
Like a great many fires, that which broke out at Clovelly on the 25th of July 1955 was caused by an electrical fault. Lunch had not yet been served, and the two Members (of the Committee?) who had spent the morning assisting in the office as the Secretary was ill had no forewarning of danger, since ‘the morning had been pleasant with a prospect of rain in the air, as the wind freshened from the north-west’.
Suddenly the headwaiter, who was known as ‘Softe’, burst in crying: ‘Fire! Fire!’ – his words were all the more blood-curdling, so one of the ‘temporary clerks’ later recalled, from being hurled at someone ‘peacefully poring over a ledger’.
They dashed out, to find the furthermost corner of the roof on fire, and having shouted orders to the Club servants to bring hoses, ladders and fire-extinguishers, they returned to the office to telephone the fire-brigade ‘and spread the alarm’.
One of those they called immediately was the Club’s Chairman, Mr I L (‘Ike’) Rosenberg. He in turn called up Mr ‘Boetie’ Joelson, and together they roared out to Clovelly at breakneck speed (they must have exceeded the speed limit at times because, starting out from the centre of the city, they were there in forty-five minutes!), to find that the dining-room leading off the entrance hall and the bedrooms on the upper storey had been destroyed.
The old dining-room is still spoken of with awe by those who remember it. It was a high-ceilinged room with wooden rafters like an English baronial hall. Unfortunately, its oak ceiling made it more than usually susceptible to the creeping flames, and the south-easter which had by then begun blowing down the valley fanned the blaze. Fortunately there were plenty of willing hands about the place to turn to and try to put it out, and witnesses reported that, ‘like a well-rehearsed team, as if accustomed to doing this sort of thing regularly, everyone jumped to stations’. The Club staff, supplemented by a crowd of caddies, hosed the roof with water and played the fire-extinguishers on the fire.
Mr Maurice Raphael (who was to become Chairman two years later) was also on the scene, and has described it as follows: ‘A call from Mrs Wright brought me out post-haste, to find the shingle roof ablaze. The fire brigade had been alerted and had to come from Muizenberg.
Happily, just when the fire started, the lookout at the Simonstown naval base – then British – saw the fire and immediately despatched its fire engine, which arrived BEFORE the one from Muizenberg, and battled bravely with the fire, which was then burning fiercely. Fortunately most of the buildings were saved, but the damage was immense.
There follows a section in the ‘official’ record of the fire in the August 1955 edition of ‘Clovelly Calling’on which doubt must now be cast. This reads as follows: ‘By the time the fire engines arrived, all the records of the Club had been safely removed …’
Unfortunately this was not the case, though those who were present removed what they could find. The following Minutes books are still available: From the 11th of September 1932 to the 22nd of April 1937, from the 29th of September 1948 to the 19th of March 1952, from the 23rd of February 1955 to August 1955, from the 29th of February 1956 to the 19th of December 1962, and from the 19th of December 1962 onwards. The last two, of course, date from the time since the fire, but the following cannot be traced: From March 1932 to September 1932. This section would have included the details of the founding of the Club and the earliest meetings. By the time that the first available book opens, Clovelly already has an eighteen-hole golf course, tennis courts, and a swimming-pool. From May 1937 to August 1948: This would have included the Club’s reaction to the death of Mr Pevsner. From April 1952 to January 1956: This period would have included contemporary observations on the Bodmer wedding, which took place ‘between books’.
‘Clovelly Calling’ continues, however: ‘The valuable club trophies were taken out of their display cases, and cars taken a safe distance away from the blazing building. The house staff were throwing clothing, linen, and anything movable out of the windows. Unfortunately, Softe, the hero of the day, found himself trapped in an upstairs room, and in jumping out of the window, broke his ankle.’
The flames ‘very quickly took control’, in spite of the efforts of the Fire Brigades from Wynberg and Muizenberg which (according to this chronicler), ‘were later joined by the naval fire brigade from Simonstown, brought over by Commander Kirkconnell’.
Water was by now being pumped from the swimming-pool and nearby hydrants, but it was obvious that there was no hope of saving the upper floor – ‘and soon only the charred remains of that beautiful facade remained as a grim reminder of what our beloved Clovelly had been before it was ravaged by the fire.’
Why, it was not quite twenty-one years since the Opening, and many who watched Clovelly smoking could recollect that sunny day when they had watched Mr Justice Gardiner drive off at the first tee. And now this! Into the words of the chronicler there creeps a note reminiscent of Greek tragedy: ‘It is impossible to picture the scene that presented itself. Dejectment (sic) and sadness were the only expressions on the faces of the many members who, by this time, had come tearing out from their offices, to render what help they could. They stood around like men stunned. Clovelly was lost! Their home from home destroyed! For ourselves we can say, it was as if our very self had been destroyed, and this must have been felt by most … What destruction, what tragedy!’
The aftermath of a big fire was evident wherever the onlookers turned their eyes – ‘charred embers, pieces of furniture, clothing, pieces of glass, hissing hose-pipes, lay around in wild confusion … The worst was over, however, and the fire was under control. The ground floors had been saved though for the moment they were under water. There was no time to be lost, and an action committee was immediately formed to deal with the emergency.
Only three days later, the weekend players who arrived found, somewhat to their surprise that, although for the moment there was no lounge or house service, the debris had been cleared away and there was no reason why their games should be postponed. Full services were restored within a week, and both staff and members were notable for putting a good face on it, in spite of what had happened.
The building was, of course, fully insured, and the chronicler was able to assure his readers that there was no need to worry about the Club’s insurance cover, as all reasonable steps had already been taken to safeguard their interests: ‘Clovelly will rise again from the ashes of destruction, to a better and perhaps greater level!’
Although this was true in a general sense, Mr. Raphael reveals that in another it was not the case: ‘When it came to the insurance company to step in to assess the damage they discovered that the architect, or possibly the builders, had not built the outside walls as high as they were shown on the plans, and so the buildings were restored not as they were planned but as they had been built.’
Rebuilding plans were slow in coming to fruition, and it was only in 1969, during the Chairmanship of Mr B Futeran, that the restoration was completed. Even so, much of what had been destroyed was not replaced. The ‘baronial’ dining-hall has lost its oak rafters for ever, and there are no more rooms for residents. The bar at the side of the lounge was rebuilt, however, and extensions to the side of the dining-room at the front of the building have recently been in progress.
Meanwhile, the Club, having weathered one storm, was compelled to face other, albeit minor, tempests. There was, for instance, the perennial difficulty of finding suitable secretaries – and of keeping them once they had been found. (‘This Club used to be known for its record turnover of Secretaries.’) Many were tried but most were found lacking in all the qualities needed in the running of so large an organisation.
At one time, the Club experimented briefly with the employment of a woman Secretary, but Mrs Marge Perring, though she was both well liked and able to make her presence felt, did not remain long. Less successful was the appointment of a man who, whatever aberrations he later displayed was, at any rate, an excellent caterer – ‘While he was at Clovelly the meals were wonderful’. Unfortunately, he also suffered, so he let it be known, from a serious stomach ulcer, which prevented him from taking alcohol. Notwithstanding this, he was once observed at a Christmas Ball to all appearances so drunk that he could barely stand – ‘Nevertheless, he gave us a marvellous buffet supper’.
A former Committee Member recalls: ‘We later became worried that our bar percentages were not what they should be, as they had fallen below the norm. Some time later, I had a phone-call from Mrs Phyllis Wright – now Mrs Maurice Bodmer – that the Secretary could not get out of bed that morning and was well and truly drunk! I immediately left my Cape Town office and flew out to the Club to find the sorry spectacle of our secretary sitting on the bed, and looking like hell. I gave him hell as well, and told him that after all I had done for him, and protected him, he should still turn out to be a drunk. I suggested that, in the circumstances, he would be wise to get off the premises immediately.’
The delinquent Secretary, however, was resilient as well as inebriate, and it was not long before he had saved the day – and his own job as well: ‘That horrid task done, I informed Mrs Wright at the office, but while I was still talking to her two people came in with the intention of joining. After a chat, they said they would like to play golf and stay for lunch. I said that was OK, but Mrs Wright then informed me that there was no chef on Mondays and no-one in the kitchens who could produce a meal. Having committed myself to these newcomers, I then went upstairs to talk to our Secretary again. I explained the predicament in which we found ourselves. In his slurred and drunken voice, which was hardly intelligible, he replied: ‘Just leave it to me!’
Then, miraculously, to all appearances, he proceeded to produce a meal. The newcomers were impressed, and on their way out stopped at the reception desk to say that, if that was the kind of meal the Club could produce on an off day when there was no chef, they would certainly like to join, which they did. The Secretary left soon afterwards, apparently of his own free will.
During 1957, Clovelly was saddened by the resignation of a number of its members who had decided to transfer to the newly-opened King David Country Club at Philippi. This was, perhaps, almost inevitable, as Clovelly was so far away from the homes of so many of its members in Gardens or Sea Point. It was practically at the opposite end of the peninsula from Bellville, where many members had businesses, and on Saturday afternoons it was so much easier for them to get from the Northern Suburbs to the Cape Flats.
In order to bring up the number of members to what it had formerly been, Clovelly announced a new policy of admitting members without their first paying the customary entrance fee. This proved successful, and soon a great many new faces were seen about the Club.
Even so, the older habitués worried a little about these new members, enthusiastic though they might be. After all, to most of them, Clovelly was just a good club; they could not look back on the early days, the hard times, the little incidents which by some metamorphosis in the re-telling, had attained to the stature of legends around Clovelly.
They could not be expected to smile over any of the anecdotes in circulation about the late Mr Pevsner, or know how the Club had gloried in the early triumphs of Rita Easton or shared in the general hilarity of the Bodmer wedding. (The post-‘57ers were practically the only ones who never called Mrs Bodmer
Mrs Wright!) Would these newer members, as the older ones became fewer, have enough understanding of the principles upon which the Club was founded to continue to carry the torch for these same principles?
Perhaps they would, some believed, if they knew a little more of the history of Clovelly. History has a bad public image, however, and is considered unpalatable in large doses. No-one had attempted such a thing since the two ‘History Lesson’ articles in the 1955 Volume of ‘Clovelly Calling’.
The general feeling at the time was that it would be wisest to give the new members a chance to settle down, to become part of the fabric of the Club, and ultimately to be a part of that history themselves before bombarding them with facts about people they had never known and events of which they had never heard.
The next nine years were therefore, to some extent, a period of ‘assimilation’, during which newcomers were allowed to find their feet at Clovelly. They responded admirably, and today some of them are numbered among the finest sportsmen the Club has ever produced. They have given every indication of having literally breathed in and adopted the traditional Clovellian character by the simple expedient of regularly frequenting the Club. Latterly, it has been felt, however, that they might welcome the opportunity to glance over a few facts about their Club’s origins.
It will be remembered that, although the Club had lost one of its founders towards the end of 1941, the other was still very much to the fore. Although in 1953 Mr Gus Ackerman had resigned as Chairman after twenty years in office and had moved up to the vacant office of President which had never been filled since Pevsner’s death, the fact that he had lost his right to vote did not diminish his interest in the conduct of the affairs of the Club. He still attended all Committee meetings, and his influence pervaded all their deliberations.
Mrs Freda Ackerman remembers that, year after year, when they were abroad during the European summer, he would insist on returning for the Annual General Meeting, even if it meant cancelling part of a projected tour. (His son, who became Chairman in 1973, has been known to fly down from and back to Johannesburg within the same twenty-four-hour period for the same purpose.)
By the ‘Sixties, of course, he was no longer the stern, almost Jesuitical figure he had been in those far-off, pre-war days. Though his hair was greyer and his manner milder, he was nonetheless just as meticulous about details of the Club’s administrative procedure as ever. It was said of him that he ‘had Clovelly to the marrow of his bones’, and that ‘without him it is pretty certain that there would have been no Clovelly’.
In 1966, he celebrated his seventy-second birthday, a man who had risen from unpretentious beginnings in Riversdale to become one of the country’s business leaders, Vice-Chairman of the Greatermans organisation, and something of a patriarch not only to his own children but to a large number of people who had known him in business or personally. He was considered a phenomenon, a man whom no obstacle could defeat and no disappointment depress.
Unlike Pevsner, his end was swift. His last attendance at a Committee meeting is recorded on the 22nd of June that year. At the next meeting, held on the 27th of July, the Chairman (Mr B Singer) ‘announced that Life President Mr G Ackerman was seriously ill in hospital’.
Gus Ackerman died of a bronchial infection on the 2nd of August 1966. A few days later he was buried, the previous year’s Chairman, Dr M L Singer, acting as one of the pall-bearers. The Club was closed that Sunday as a mark of respect.
At the Main Committee Meeting on the 24th of August, Dr M L Singer addressed the meeting ‘saying that the passing of the late Mr. Ackerman was indeed a sad blow for Clovelly, and that he would be sadly missed’. How inadequate the cold words of a Minute Book seem when recording the loss of a man of whom it could have been said (a la Louis XIV and his l’etat est moi’) that for many years ‘he was Clovelly’!
The publication of his estate subsequently revealed that he had remembered Clovelly along with a large number of Ackerman’s employees of long standing, his domestic servants, his sons’ old school (he had served for some years on the fund-raising committee of the Four Schools Trust), the congregation of which he had been a member, and the Community Chest. He had left R400 to Clovelly, the bequest to be used for the provision of miniature cups, and in addition he had willed to the Trustees two vacant plots which he had neglected to hand over in 1943. This land was valued at R1,100.
Considering the enormous amount of time which he had devoted to Clovelly’s affairs over the years, it is also remarkable to find that, during the war years, he had also made himself available to serve as Chairman of the Red Cross War Memorial Fund, the Governor-General’s Prisoner of War Fund, and the National War Memorial Fund. His prodigious energy had not deserted him until less than a month before the end of a life in which he could indeed be said to have ‘lived each day as if the last’.
After his death, it was decided that the office of President was one which the Club could dispense with. No-one in the Club had ever attained to the stature of either of the two founders, and it was felt that this ‘elder statesman’ position should remain vacant until such time as someone of their calibre arose at Clovelly.
Another era had ended. The second of the founders had died, leaving a gap never to be filled. It was now the task of the founding members, the oIder members, the post-War members, and the newer members to pull together in order to keep Clovelly what Gus Ackerman, Michael Pevsner, and all those who had supported their shaky enterprise in the ‘Thirties had hoped it would one day become.
CLOVELLY MARCHES ON, FROM THE DEATH OF GUS ACKERMAN TO THE PRESENT; September 1966 to 1974.
Michael Pevsner had lived for only nine years after the founding of the Club, Gus Ackerman for thirty-four – enough to set their joint enterprise on its feet and to ensure that when he, its main prop for many years, was removed, it would be able to carry on without him.
In the year of his death, Clovelly for the first time won the inter-provincial trophy, the Bradshaw Cup. Subsequently, in 1971 and 1972, it won the premier inter-club trophy, the Stephan Cup.
Bill Fowlis, Gordon Bunting, John Pickering, and Brian Lefson have all distinguished themselves in local, provincial, and national championships, the latter having been runner-up in the South African National Amateur Championships in the Sixties.
Gordon’s father, Mr George Bunting, is presently serving on the Western Province Gold Union Council. Advocate R (‘Bobby’) Lewin, who served on the same council for many years, was President from 1963 to 1965.
In recent years, the Club has provided the venue for a number of matches organised by another charitable organisation, the Nomads, while the National Council for the Blind continues to hold its tournament in which players compete for the Trophy of Light in February each year.
A number of major championships have been staged at Clovelly, and the visitors have never failed to comment favourably on the ‘country atmosphere’ of the course, which quite makes up for the fact that, unlike King David, it is not near the airport nor, like Mowbray or Rondebosch, right on the national road.
Just as the Club has been fortunate in retaining the services of Maurice Bodmer, the resident professional, for thirty-eight years, it has also been fortunate in keeping its Assistant-Secretary, once known as Mrs Phyllis Wright, for twenty-seven years. She came to the Club in 1947 as a widow with two grown-up children, but the fact that five years elapsed before Maurice led her to the altar should not be taken as an indication that it required any protracted efforts on her part to persuade him to give up his long-standing bachelorhood.
On the contrary, it was Maurice who pursued and Phyllis who retreated, insisting that he should set his sights on young girls and not on a serious-minded widowed lady like herself. Maurice was persistent, however, and eventually the wedding was planned for the 26th of March 1962.
After the ceremony in the tiny church at Kalk Bay, Mr and Mrs Maurice Bodmer returned to Clovelly where a reception had been arranged and a large number of uninvited, though not exactly unexpected guests appeared to congratulate them.
Had it not been for the presence of Mr Gus Ackerman, which lent the proceedings a more elevated tone than it might otherwise have enjoyed, the wedding party might have resembled one of the rollicking nights at the Club during the war years. Mr Ackerman made a fine speech, and so did various other members. The Bodmers were presented with a silver tea service on behalf of the Club, and this historic occasion is remembered as one of the happiest functions ever held at Clovelly.
The Club can now look back not only on its battles, its triumphs and defeats, its legendary figures, its eccentrics, its reverses, its advances, as ups and downs innumerable, its heroes and its few villains (who, of course, were not Members of Clovelly) but, since that late summer’s day in 1962, it can also be said to have had its classic romances.
Those who have read this short history without skipping so far will probably have noticed that the lady members have scarcely been given their due. They have their own sections for golf and bowls, and are proud that they have been ‘very independent financially’ from the beginning. The leading lady golfer and long-time captain in the early days was Mrs Sally Jacobs who really ‘got the ladies’ section going’. Notable players who came after her were Sylvia Kagan (née Levitan) the sister of Rita and also a good player who won the Western Province junior title twice and had a handicap of 4. Irma Kaganson won the Stanley Cup and later the Cecile Short Cup, and this latter trophy was subsequently won by Edna Burt.
Riva Hoffmann succeeded Mrs Jacobs, and the ladies continued to hold their AGM separate from that of the men and produced another champion in the person of Billy Lapidis, though her greatest triumphs were unfortunately won after she had ceased to be a member of Clovelly. Weekly competitions are held to raise money, and it has become the custom to invite the men’s golf captain to award the prizes to the lady winners.
‘Maurice Bodmer has done a lot for us lady golfers, especially since our numbers dropped off some years ago. During the captainship of Meg Hogan about three and a half years ago, for instance, he got together six or seven interested ladies who had never played golf before. The result is that they are all keen players today, and three of them are in the team.’
The golfing ladies are all agreed that at Clovelly one found ‘a fine bunch of players’, and that the fellowship they enjoyed off the course was an important element in their enjoyment of the game – ‘many of us have been finalists in various tournaments too, but haven’t been outright winners.’
The Ladies’ Bowling Section is of much later vintage, having been founded a few years after the War with not more than a dozen ladies, of whom Ester Kernoff, Leah Rosenberg, Golda Raikin, Bex Joelson, and Nancy Rosenberg are still frequenters at the Club. They were coached by Lou Sandler, who hailed from Johannesburg, and within a few years their section had grown to around eighty members.
In 1950 they gained one of their best recruits in the person of Mrs Gertrude (‘Galloping Gertie’) Goldberg. In 1954 and 1955, Clovelly won the Western Province Women’s Bowls district trophy. Only two clubs have ever won twice, and the other was in Paarl. Subsequently they carried off the district trophy at the South African National Bowling Tournament in Port Elizabeth, their team consisting of Gertie Goldberg, Betsy Salo, Leah Rosenberg, and Ann Bloch, with Golda Raikin as reserve.
Once started on this run of success, honours came thick and fast. In 1958 they won a section in the national tournament which was again held in Port Elizabeth. This time their team was Gertie Goldberg, Betsy Salo, Psther Kernoff and Miriam Raphaely. That same year they also won the Muter Cup in the Western Province competition. In 1960, they won this trophy again, something never before achieved in the Western Province.
Some new names now begin creeping into this glorious record – names like Leonore Bennett and Audrey Adler and Milly Sacks. In 1965, Betsy Salo was the runner-up in the Western Province singles. Unfortunately the section has now dwindled because other clubs have been formed in the Peninsula and Clovelly is the victim, Mrs Goldberg claims, of its ‘geographical position’. For all that it means coming all the way from her home in Sea Point at the weekend, however, Mrs Goldberg has no intention of changing clubs and is still a leading light in the Clovelly Ladies’ Bowling Section.
Mr Gus Ackerman, during his lifetime, was an exemplary master to his household staff, pensioned them off when they became too old to work and even, in one instance, ‘invented’ a job in one of his stores for his chauffeur, whose eyesight was failing but who did not want to give up driving the car. Clovelly’s treatment of staff of long standing who have given good service has reflected this attitude, with the result that ‘old Enoch’, who once worked about the grounds and is now nearly ninety, was retired a few years ago on a pension.
Still to be seen working around the grounds is another employee of long standing, Joseph Oliphant, a Basuto, who has been with the Club for more than forty years. He began as a worker in the South African Railways workshops in De Aar but, his job coming to an end owing to the onset of the Depression, he drifted down to the Cape and found work at the new Clovelly Country Club.
He can remember cutting the grass on the greens with oxen and later with mules, and also pumping water from the river to the greens with a hand-pump.
The bad old days of ‘a record turnover of secretaries’ seem to have gone, and prior to the beginning of 1974 Clovelly was fortunate in its Secretary, ‘Dick’ Hawkes, who foreswore a career in the hotel industry to take over the administration of Clovelly. During their stay at the Club, he and his wife Iris revived the early custom of holding Sunday-evening film-shows at Clovelly, but eventually the call of his erstwhile profession grew too strong and he and his wife have now departed to play mine host and hostess at the Foresters’ Arms in Newlands Avenue.
His place has been taken by Mr Denys Taylor, who has been associated with the Club for about twelve years and has been a full member for the last two. It is already evident that he intends to turn the Club into a model of a well-run organisation of its kind.
No Club worthy of the name could last long if its bar-staff were not efficient, and in this respect Clovelly is singularly fortunate. Practically everyone knows Freddie the barman and Kenneth, the assistant barman and wine steward. Joynt the ‘bar boy’ has a way of being where he is needed most. Charles, the locker-room attendant, hails from Rhodesia, and has previously worked in the kitchen and as a night-watchman.
John Luckes, the caddy-master, has a hard job which he has thus far handled extraordinarily well, for the Club has seldom experienced a shortage of caddies, even when a large function such as the Master Builders’ Tournament or that held annually by the Nomads is scheduled.
Another man who has done a great deal for the Club is Willie van der Meulen, who for more than forty years has put in a great deal of hard work looking after the course, has supervised all the handymen’s work, and has been green keeper for many years. Under the supervision of George Lowings, he even laid out the water reticulation on the course. Willie now lives in a fine Clovelly house on the hill above the Club, and feels that he still has many years to go.
One would have thought that the late George Lowings was virtually irreplaceable, but today the Club enjoys the services of Mr. George Peak who, since his retirement, has applied himself with a good deal of enthusiasm to the hundred and one odd jobs around a Club of this size which are not, strictly speaking, anyone’s province. He is nowadays known as the greens ranger, and is generally conceded to have ‘taken over where Ike Rosenberg left off’.
Although the Club has never known a Chairman who did not put all he had into his job while in office, Mr I L (‘Ike’) Rosenberg stands pre-eminent in that he did yeoman service during the period immediately after the 1955 fire, which took place during his Chairmanship. He was greens ranger for many years, and only relinquished this post when he moved to Sea Point. In recognition of his services, one of the greens was named after him.
Catering at the Club has often presented so many problems that foundation members must have wished sometimes that the number to be provided for was about that which had been fed by the ladies on Opening Day at the end of 1934. In an endeavour to solve recent catering problems there have been some changes. It is expected that the new holders of the catering contract will provide Clovellians with the kind of meals and service that has previously made members and guests completely happy to dine or lunch at the club.
Those who remember Clovelly in its early days can see many changes around the Club. Clovelly, they maintain, is not what it was; on the contrary, it is a much better club than it was at the outset, a place where it is easier than ever before to relax, or to find a good game of whatever one’s form of recreation is.
The host of new members who have come to the Club in recent years have breathed new life into Clovelly. Membership is not yet closed and it is hoped that even more will join during the coming year. The first forty years – some say – are the worst, but Clovelly has come through them, we are now well into the ‘Seventies, and the Club’s amenities, even at this late stage, are still being improved. Some clubs, once their founders have passed on, tend to go into a slow decline, but at Clovelly, one is assured ‘things are moving!’
For a start, the dining-room has been renovated and is proving extremely popular. The locker-rooms are soon to be extended – again. The caddie shelter is to be rebuilt. A tearoom is to be erected in the grounds. The swimming-pool area may be re-vamped after a long interval, sunbathing not having become the national pastime that it now is when the pool was originally built. The gardens are going to be extensively ‘cleaned up’, landscaping being also a relatively modern concept which was not fully considered when the first lawns and gardens were laid out.
When one sees the price on the original Deed of Transfer- £3,000 paid jointly by Ackerman and Pevsner, one understands why the present Committee is also trying hard to obtain a reassessment of this land which, in these days of continually changing ownership, has been in the hands of the Clovelly Trustees for over forty years. In view of this, it will be the endeavour of the Committee, once this reassessment has been obtained, to obtain building zoning in order to develop amenities in the future.
The energy of the Committee is matched by that of Members in every sphere of Club activity, and at present there is not one of the Club’s sporting bodies which is not showing a distinct upward trend.
The Tennis Section, never especially buoyant, is experiencing such an upsurge of enthusiasm that plans are already under discussion for the building of new tennis courts. Some sections of the National Bowls Tournament were held at Clovelly this year.
Under the enthusiastic captainship of David Sheldon, a warm personality who never fails to encourage promising players, everything augurs well for the future of men’s golf. Sheldon too, has the advantage of following on the heels of Henry Berman, who gave so many years unstintingly to the Club. In this connection mention should also be made of Ryno Greenwall and of George Bunting.
Because of all the fore-going, it has been felt that this is the time when Club members should sit down and, like the Ancient Romans, pay homage ‘to the ashes of their fathers and the temples of their gods’. After all, the changes at Clovelly are mostly superficial ones. The original Clubhouse – minus its guest rooms – still stands, in much the same shape as it was built forty-two years ago. The facilities are not really different, only better. And now it seems that the wheel has come full circle with the election of the late Gus Ackerman’s son, Raymond Ackerman, as President at the 1974 Annual General Meeting.
Those who have observed the Clovelly scene over the years are agreed that ‘there is a very good atmosphere at present’ and that ‘the spirit is better than it has been for a long time’. The social life of the Club is on the upgrade, which is always a good sign, because it did slump some time ago. Nowadays the catering system is under control, the staff position is fairly stable, and we have a Chairman who is the kind of man who can generate a good deal of enthusiasm. All in all, Clovelly has come a long way, and I don’t think it will ever slip backwards now.
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