The Tolken and Carstens history

I show a few historic fotos of the town to Albie and he recalls people and places.  The one photo shows the jetty of Mr Jaffe, a Jewish man who owned the place the sold fish next to the jetty.  He bought fish from local fisherman and sold onto the locals.  Today a diving school exists at this location.

I showed him a photo of the Hoedjiesbaai Hotel and he shares that in earlier years the hotel was situated a street back from the sea (where the old Standard Bank was located).  He tells that the Hotel had an annex (rooms where people lived permanently), one resident was Ant Rene Grimwood (de Jongh) who lived there for many years. And taught at Saldanha Bay Primary.  She was reared on the farm, Ystervarkrug, taught in Saldanha as a 20 year old and still live in Saldanha today at the age of 87. 

He explains that her brother, Haas de Jongh was a legend in the town.  He later sold the farm Ystervarkrug to Gideon van der Merwe and bought a house in Kusweg where he lived for many years.  That house is what we know as Janes Guest House today.

Talk of large scale develpment reached the ears of Gideon Van der Merwe (the owner of Anker Meubelhuis (A large furniture store)  in the late Sixties. That development was the Iron ore habour that is today a major export harbour.  This tip off mentioned that the farm Ystervarkrug would be earmarked as part of this development.  Gideon and his brother Frans then offered to by this farm for R150 000 00 from Haas de Jongh and bought it.  In those days, that would’ve amounted to a very large sum of money.

For more than 2 years they were stuck with this new piece of ground and struggled to meet the financial committments thaty came with it.  But shortly thereafter Yskor offered them R1.5 million for the farm and he became an instant millionaire.  The money was then invested in property, including Trekos Kraal.  Buying property was a way of avoiding some tax implications and he went on to buty the piece of ground in Vredenburg.  As you enter Vredenburg at the first robot crossing, it is the piece of ground where Estate agent ERA and OK furniture resideds today.

He also purchased the whole of Hoedjieskop with the aim of developing a resort like Sun City, as developed by Sol Kersner.  These plans never materialised and unfortunately he died without a cent to his name.  He helped his brothers and others unashamedly and unfortunately his way with money eventually caught up with him.   He lost most of his property due to owing the tax man money and today the Hoedjiieskop belongs to the Munsidicaplity and is a heritage reserve.

So many people made money but used it in such a way that led to their downfall.

Albie then talks of his grandfather, Willem Tolken who came from Piketberg.  Many of the Tolken family lived between Velddrift and Piketberg, but more lived closer to Piketberg.  His grandfather came to Saldanha becaues fo the fishing opportunities.  These Westcoast towns really developed because of the food from the sea and ultimate livelihood. Fish was prepared in many different ways including salting it, known as bokkoms (salted fish) and additionaly most homes had small vegetable gardens, obtained grain from farmers and bread was baked to supplement food from the sea.

As a 13 year old boy, himself and two friends (late sixties) used to hire a small red bakkie (boat) to fish for mackerel.  He recalls how the Bays supply in mackerel was abundant.  With a bit of bait thrown in the water the fish would come to the surface and was easily caught with a small silver hook.  They took their catch to Uncle Murry Smit, sold at 1 cent per mackerel and so they afforded to pay for the rental of the little boat and the rest was pocketmoney.

These Bakkies (small boats) used for catching mackerel was rented from uncle Murry Smit.  He had several that were tied together in a long line.  He also owned the largest crayfish factory and boasted his own jetty.  This jetty was to the left of the Stone building where he had a storeroom and a cool room.

He tells of these crayfish boats catching with nets and using Mackery as bait.

He tells that Tat Williams, the father of Henry, Abie and Godfrey Williams  was also the skiller of a blue boat named Ingred.  Every morning he “started up’ Ingreds engine and so he towed 20 little boats out to the islands, each manned with crayfish nets and 2 people on board for the daily catch.  10 nets were placed in the see per boat.  Each net had a small bouy attached to its end to mark the spot where nets were dropped.

After a period of time, the nets were pulled to the surface one by one, crayfish extracted, bait bags refilled and process repeated until late afternoon each day.  Each boats catch for the day was weighed and men paid for their catch.  The Skipper mr Williams was paid dependant on the size of the daily catch. Mackerel in those years were plentiful but not regarded as an eating fish, mainly used as bait.  All Sardine caught was tinned.

From the time that people first settled in Saldanha, it was noted the shortage of water in this areas.  Saldanha has no natural fresh water supplies, no rivers or springs and as the population grew, so did the demand for water.

Albies grandfather, Oupa Token saw the possibility of obtaining fresh water and oil (also in demand at the time) and employed a skipper to bring these supplies from the Cape Harbour and this is where everything started for the Tolken family.

 Dit hier in die omgewing van die 2de wereld oorlog gebeur.

Out of the profits made from this venture he started a small shop.  It was a general dealer that supplied all household supplies such as sugar, tabacco and parafine.  This was a shop with a counter, which implied that anything you bought was handed directly over the counter to you. Unlike todays shops where you take items off the rack yourself.  This shop was located where Pizza world is today, right opposite the BP garage.

Behind this shop was the house the family resided in.  His grandfather in later years built 2 houses opposite the Total garage and both these building are still in use today.

This shop grew quickly and Oupa Tolken build a Petrol garage right opposite the shop.  The garage was rented to Uncle Swanepoel.  He provided fuel to the locals and serviced cars.  He also purchased the first bus and initiated the first bus service that transported children to school in Vredenburg.

In later years, the shop was enlarged and a butchery was opened.  And this is where the family businesses originated.  The Jaffe’s also opened a butchery in the Westwater building that his grandfather later took over.  The main competition was the butcher Daan van Zyl in Vredenburg who ran the butchery there with the help of his children.

He speaks of aunty Marie Wilson, who also owned a shop where Franks Hardware is located today.  In earlier days this was a house with a front verandah. The shop was managed at the front of this house and in later years they moved to where the Check In shop is today.  A larger shop was built  and reached almost towards the sea and the house had several rooms that were rented out, almost like a boarding house with a shop at the front.

He talks about his grandmother, Ouma Josy, recalling long chats that they had shared during the years.  On one of these occasions she told him about young Arend Jaffe, a jew, arriving in Saldanha only with the clothes on his body and the a bundle tied to a stick that he carried over his shoulder.  Apparently he was fleeing the onslaught of the Germans on Jewish people.  He arrived at their little shop and ask for a job and a place to stay.

And so, he later brought his family and uncle Arend Singer to Saldanha. His son Mannie Jaffe, opened the first Pharmacy in Vredenburg.

The jews that his grandfather helped started buying all the fish from the locals, this was then dried and became a way to barter or was sold.  Initially, he carried the fish in a bag over his shoulder and walked to all the local farmers and exchanged the fish for eggs and milk etc.  He (Jaffe) and Uncle Arend Singer later built a shop which later became the largest General store, situated in the building where the Protea Hotels conference room is located today.

In time, they built the largest house in town.  It was a double story home and was built in the shape of a horse shoe and onthe inside was a large indoor reception area.  The rooms were all located on the upper level and a verandah was built all around this level.  In the later years the house was abanden when most of the Jewish people left the town.  Unfortunately some people vandelised the house and it was then later demolished by the Municipality.

Arend Jaffe also build a butchery next to the general Store, situated on the left side of the Westwater building.  Today, the former butchery is used by Raymond Baard to process vegetables and sell.  A Mr Greenwood, also a Jew arrived next in Saldanha bay and he too build a general Dealers shop.  On the opposite side of teh road was the old Post Office.  Today, one can still see the remains of the back wall of the post office.  It forms part of the wall next to the pedestrian walkway.  This was the first Post office in Saldanha and a gravel road ran past the front of the shop.  Years later the Post office was demolished to make way for the new tarred road.  The Post office then moved to where it is located today and the Silvermans built this building.

Albie’s grandfather realised that town had too many shops and was experiencing fierce competition from the Jewish owned shops.  His strongest opposition in the meat department was still Uncle Daan Van Zyl in Vredenburg.   All owned a shop at this time, the Silwermans, the Greenbergs, the Singerse, the Jaffe’s. The stone building in the shop also had a shop that belonged to Kallie Huisamen.  The last person to have run a shop at that location was Kallie Steenkamp.  At this point Oupa Tolken decided to deversify en he remembers that Uncle Swanepoel bought the garage from his grandfather.

After the death of Oupa Tollie, the Jews (including the Jaffe’s, Singers) decided to return to Israel as it was deemed safe to do so. The shop that they owned was well diversified but was starting to struggle and so they got Kallie Steenkamp to move from the stone building to their building and the Silvermans took over the building.  The house where the Jaffe’s and Singers lived was left behind on their departure to Israel.  Unfortunately, the empty home became invaded by homeless people and a fire started.  Although the fire was extinguished and despite the fact that it was a historical monument, it was the decision of the municipality to destroy it.

He then decided to build a bigger butchery with a house attached to it. That location was where the hair dressers Salon Ben is today, opposite the stone building. With the completion of the new building Willem Tolken moved his family with the buchery from his old house to the new building.

At the same time he build a new shop which was located opposite the old Standard bank. In the early years the Hoedjies Bay hotel used to be on the corner.  This new shop had a counter and people were served from behind the counter.  Right next to the place was steps to enter the shop and this became the first clothes shop in Saldanha.

The population of Saldanha started to grew rapidly, thanks to the navy and later the Military Academy that established in Saldanha. Kosie Rabe was a clerk that worked at the Railways and sold tickets to passengers.  In those years there were no trains but station buses were used for transport.  This was a large truck with a passenger trailor hooked to it.  These trucks then transported people to Hopefield, Malmesbury and to the Cape.  Kosie Rabe asked my gran (Ouma) for a job as he had a lot of free time, and he started  working behind the counter for the family. When Oupa Tollie died of a heart attack in 1956 he bought the shop from my grandmother.

He modified the shopping experience by removing the counter and having your first self help shop in Saldanha, that meant you could choose your own items off the shelves.  The shop grew from strength to strength and in later years he started using the house next door as a store room.  He then became an agent for Rex Truform.  This was a business that specialised in making suits and in time he provided the Military Academy with uniforms.

Albie says that Uncle Kosie spoke fondly of my grandfather at his funeral, saying he was a spirited man, educated and had a deep understanding of life.  He had a great sense of humour.  Nearly all the people had accounts at his shop.

Just before my grandfathers death he rented out the house opposite the street to Valerie who had her hairdressers there.  That is where Pizza world is today.   The house behind the shop remained buidlings that were rented out. 

After his death (oupa Tollie), left his children with a house and two shops infront.  They also owned a shop next to the Police station, the butchery (where Salon Ben is today).  Oupa Tollie had a ‘deal’ with Mr Jaffe (who also owned a butchery in the Westwater buidling) that he would take it over and manage it.

So they ended up with 2 butcheries, the building next to the Police station and a farm called Brak Fontein, as part of the Estate.  Oupa Tollie also owned two houses in Camp street.  The decision was made amongst the family members that Albie’s mom and dad were the best people to take over the businesses as his father with a qualified health inspector from Frazerburg.  And so his family moved to Saldanha and into one of the houses in Camp street.

His fathers main interest was the butcheries and not the other shops and as a result the shop was sold to Oom Kosie Rabe at a reasonable price and the farm Brakfontein was sold.

The rest of the property was divided amongst Oupa Tollies children.  His brother, Bill Tolken, a lawyer who resided in the Cape assisted in the division of these assets.

The garage was sort of sold to Oom Swanepoel.  He lived opposite the post office, the 3rd house from the corner.  The first house on the corner belonged to Arend Jaffe, the second to the Eigelaars and the 3rd to Oom Swanepoel.  This house is directly behind Albie Carstens.  Ons this piece of land was a store where Oom Swanepoel kept his 2 busses used for transporting children to school.

Albie’s grandfather owned the farm Brakfontein..  It is on the road between Saldnaha and Vredenburg.  It is where the smallholding “Imoya’ is located today.  He recalls his grandfather planting a huge number of Bluegum trees, still visible on the farm today.  It is located next to Scots nursery.  Initially they saplings were planted in jam tins and later transplanted to provide shade.

He recalls his grandmother telling him that during  the war years candles had to be extinguished at a certain time in the house.  No visible light was allowed in case the Germans should attack this important port.  The South Africans realised late in the war how signficant this port was and many people then moved to Saldanha.

He talks of Parkersdorp where the Wilsnachs lived.  Fisherman that used nets to catch the fish.  Men called ‘spotters’’ would sit on the beach and wath the sea.  A net was then rowed out into a sea, forming an arch and the other end back on the beach.  Everyone then helped to pull this full net onto the beach.

Willem Loubser worked at the navy as a foreman in contruction. He went to Oupa Tollie to borrow money to buy a lorry and a Studiebaker lorry was purchased from Tok Hoffmann at Huisamen Motors in Paarl, the closest dealer at the time. The lorry was used for many jobs including the transporting of ‘’night buckets’’ .  The buckets were removed daily as no flushing toilets existed as we know them today.

Uncle Tollie also helped him to start the first dairy in town.  It was next to the building where Swemmer and Levin is situated today.  He started delivering milk directly to home with his Bedford bakkies.  One of the drivers that worked for Oom Willem still works in Cartol today and he is the main driver that delivers meat to the Cape.

At one point, they owned all 3 butcheries.  It was their own one “Tolken Butchery’’, they had the ‘Jaffes Butchery’’, now run by the Swanepoels and then ‘Saldanha Butchery’’.  Albie recalls going to Saldanha butchery after school as his mother worked there and assisted him in doing his homework there.  The 3 butcheries were run as separate entities for many years and in the early seventies, Albie’s father decided to amalgamate all 3 into 1.

The lawyer brother, Bill Tolken started looking for ground to build the butchery and this happened at the same time as the development of the harbour.  They established an investment company with the name Cartol Investments.

He continues to tell that behind the Tolken butchery, was the old main street that and they originally earmarked a piece of ground there. The was a house on the ground where the priest of the St Andrews church lived.  This piece of ground was later taken by the government and given to the postoffice to establish the exchange.  The large white house with the Minatoka trees was flattened for the building of the Post Office exhange. 

And this was the reason for purchasing the ground where Cartol stands today.  The ground was owned by Kalie Jonker, a renowned builder in town.  On this ground he had a store room where he kept his building supplies.  His father bought the land, knowing that development could only lead away from the sea.The building of Cartol started in 1980.  His dad bought out his brothers shares in 1981/82 as his sons were starting to manage the shop.  Shortly thereafter a problem arose in that Cartol was short of an abbatoir.  His father served on the board and saw that 3 abbatoirs existed, one at Benguela.  But as the town grew, this one had to be closed.

After many letters and discussions his father managed to get a license to manage their own abbatoir and ground was acquired and abbatoir build near the industrial area.  He proudly shows me the invitations for the opening to this abbatoir and it reads “ You are cordially invited to the opening of Cartol Abbatoir which will be done by deputy minister of Agriculture, Mr Gert”

The Government started with the decentralisation of areas and made money available for nyweraars.  The government made grants available to the town due to the development of the harbour and town and established the Industrial Development Corportation that loaned money towards the building of the abbatoir.  An application was submitted for the decentralisation concession which was granted allowing favourable repayment terms and this repayment was concluded within 10 years.

He remembers his father being local mayor of Saldanha/Vredenburg on 2 occasions and that his father was a founding member of the Chamber.  He says the vision that his grandfater Willem had to grow the company has been transferred from generation to generation and is still applied today.  His and his brothers childern and the third generation to run/manage the company.

He recalls the great Kasner huis that was private and stood on the premises where Spar is today.  The first tenniscourts in town belonged to this house.  This was big and the first swimming pool in town belong to the Silvermans home opposite the Saldanha Hotel which is known today as the Protea hotel. He recalls asking permisson from them to have a swim.

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