Nowhere is the history of the Fasle Bay Echo more adroitly captured than in Cedryl “Ceddie” Greenland’s book Echos of Yesteryear.
Published in 1973, the collection is a look back at a decade’s news through the eyes of the original Echo reporter. Ceddie also sold her own advertisements and delivered the paper herself, on foot, wheeling baskets of freshly printed Echos to each of her distribution points.
Today, there are two of us. Our distribution area has expanded, as have each of the areas we cover. We have an advertising department, and we are mobile. And we have mobiles.
We also cover areas unheard of when Ceddie was writing: there was no Masiphumelele then and just the idea of Ocean View was announced in this collection: the families who were later forced to inhabit the newly built Ocean View were, at that point in time, still living in Simon’s Town.
Ceddie recorded that in 1969 there was a tremendous outcry in protest of the then government’s plan to move the Kalk Bay fishermen from the area. Some 250 people attended a protest meeting, rallying in support of the fishermen and their families. At the close of the meeting, a 15-year reprieve was granted.
Ceddie wrote about Louis Washkansky, who became the world’s first heart-transplant recipient, as being a well known commercial traveller to Fish Hoek.
Mr Washkansky was in the Green Parrot Tea Room, weekly, she said. She also wrote glowingly about meeting Dr Chris Barnard and of his passionate plea for the use of coloured nurses in cardiac wards.
In 1968, Ceddie celebrated the town’s 50th birthday. She wrote about the establishment of Fish Hoek in her characteristic way: “Once bitten by the magic bug that injects every Fish Hoekite, there was no turning back for those who found themselves the proud owners of a small piece of flowering, virgin land in this sunbright, wind-washed valley (plots on the hillside costing between 30 and 50 pounds, and those in the valley between 10 and 35 pounds)”.
Ceddie referred to herself as Dolphin, and some of the stories were simply her experience of morning yoga with the housewives of the day (undoubtedly there would be tea and chatter afterwards, and stories to come from this) or tales from her early morning maniacs group – a bunch of mad old timers who would plunge into the icy sea throughout winter. Once, readers were regaled with her own driving lessons. She described them as: “ a frustrating, exciting, terrifying stimulating, depressing, unnerving – but wholly wonderful experience.”
Sometimes, Dolphin would meet up with recent immigrants to check in about news from abroad.
She reported on the opening of the False Bay Hospital on April 6, 1965, describing the new facility as “cool gracious and inviting”.
It housed a total of six patients on its opening day – a swelteringly hot day in the “extraordinary Indian Summer”, Ceddie wrote.
The hospital had 80 beds, 40 for Europeans and 40 for non-Europeans, she said, and had cost the princely sum of R600 000.
The book is studded with little moments captured in time. A weekend in 1972 is described as a “black weekend”, as there were no less than four serious accidents handled at the hospital. Every wedding was lavishly described, every death noted, and even birthdays mentioned.
There was even a notice about the yo-yo craze which swept through the world, even Fish Hoek.
And while most stories were written with a storybook prose with lilting descriptions in incredible detail of the bride’s dresses, Dolphin also occasionally took a peek at the darker side of life.
She was deeply upset at a court case involving a 17 year old who had been caught using drugs. Dagga, she almost whispered. And this boy was shameless, she reported; stony faced during his sentencing. What would dear Dolphin have made of the news of dagga being decriminalised just this past week?
And then Dolphin’s personal experience with a masked intruder wielding a huge panga in February 1972 made her put out an impassioned plea to housewives to not take their safety for granted.
“I hope I have given you the fright of your lives because this need not ever have happened if I had kept my door on the chain. Today one must never take chances. Ugly things can and do happen – even in Fish Hoek,” she warned.