A Fairy Tale Of Two Cities

In memory of my parents

By Marlene Davis Stanger

This story is written as a tribute to my late parents, Abe and Pearl Davis, who lived in Muizenberg for 56 years before moving to Highlands House, Oranjezicht, in 2005. Abe passed away October 22, 2007 aged 94 – less than a mile from where he was born – and Pearl passed away on July 24, 2016, aged 92.

My granny, Mrs. Esther Bryna Herman, from Malvern by way of Vilnius, had a friend called Sonya Blechman.  My dad, born at 2 Prince Street, Gardens, had an aunt called Tilly Josman.   Mrs. Blechman told her friend, Aunty Tilly, about the beautiful daughter of her friend and Aunty Tilly thought, “Ahh, time for my nephew Abie to settle down…enough of the post-war gallivanting…”  So next time Abie was up in Joburg – Roodepoort to be exact, to see the relatives – Aunty Tilly invited Mr. and Mrs. Herman and the Blechman’s and Pearl came along too.

Abie was smitten. The blond, blue eyed, water-polo playing Davis boy could not stop thinking of the dark-haired, tall, thin and elegant Pearl and when he got home to Cape Town, he wrote her a letter.  It was written on thin, air-mail paper on two pages on the letterhead of his brother, Simon’s company that was simply called Simon Davis.  But he had crossed out the name Simon and replaced it with Abe.

It was a love letter and said he believed they could have a happy life together. An engagement followed and Pearl, an only child, flew down to Cape Town to meet the Davis family.  She wore a new white suit and a new stylish hat but by the time she arrived, air-sick and disheveled, she felt anything but stylish. Abe brought her to the family home at 7 Marais Road, Sea Point.  There she met “Mother” (Chaya Itil “Annie” nee Josman) and “Father” (Hyman Davis formerly Melnick in the old country prior to telling Cape Town customs that his name was Chaim Dovid….).  This is how the Davis children referred to their Yiddish speaking parents.  The children consisted of Abe and his siblings, who were Simon, Louis, Issy, Ethel, Harry, Alfred and Lily.  Pearl was welcomed into the fold and soon found out about the gregarious, sporty, movie loving boys – all fast eaters –  and the sisters, the older one sassy and irreverent and the baby, sweet and adored.

The wedding took place at Marais Road shul and Pearl and Abe had to decide where they wanted to settle down – Camps Bay, where brother Alfred and his wife Rae (nee Katzeff), had set up home, or Muizenberg, where Simon and Rose and Issy and Rose lived.  Muizenberg it was. 1948 – what a year!  As Hedy no-relation-Davis aptly stated, veritable Shtetl by the Sea.  They moved to Clevedon Cottage in Clevedon Road and had their first baby, Stan, in 1949.  The following year they moved to Windermere Road and in 1951, baby number two, Annette was born.  They named their house “Stanette.”

I came along in 1954.  And what do I remember?  I will first of all say that Bobba Bryna Herman was living with us by that time, since Morris Zelig (after whom I was named Marlene “Masha” Zelda) had passed away suddenly while on holiday in Muizenberg a few years before.  I remember the promenade walks on summer nights, the ice-creams at the Milk Bar in the pavilion, the Sunday trips to Mr. Raad’s café for toffee apples and Tex bars, the egg-salad sandwiches at Sunrise beach on balmy February evenings when we all went swimming after dad came home from work, the Kushners next door, playing in the park across the road from shul, playing at the park near the vlei, playing marbles on the field next to the Liebrecht’s house – all under the loving protection of Abe and Pearl, and of course, Bobba.  There were the Sunday drives through Tokai, stopping to buy Hanepoort grapes when in season, to see Zayda in Sea Point and have tea with the extended Davis family.  The large dining room table surrounded by uncles, aunts and first cousins.

By then, my dad had his own business importing home wares from China and traveling on sales trips.  He had a driver, Courtman, who taught me Xhosa and who named his firstborn Stanley.  Then Abe’s fortune changed and he lost the business.  I remember the anxious day when a man came to meet with my parents to talk about the insurance business.  He was with Sun Life of Canada. My dad joined them and continued through to Liberty Life, leaving only in his 80’s.  The young staff by that time called him Uncle Abie.  My mom got a job as well. I was six.  She was secretary at Floyd and Emery, prominent architects in their day.  Zayda (my dad’s “Father”) died round that time as well. His tailor shop, Davis and Stevens, on Long Street, purveyors of fine cloth and excellent taste, had the distinction of making the graduation gown for Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) when she received her honorary Doctor of Laws degree from UCT in April, 1947.  He also rode a Harley with a side car and was the tall, handsome patriarch, rocking in the chair at 7 Marais Road, always dressed impeccably with his pocket watch an object of fascination for all the grandkids.

School, cheder, the beach, the freedom to play, catching the train to town on a 21c ticket to go to lunch at Garlicks and a movie and still having change from R1, and the knowledge that the world had an order defined by a fine moral compass and the love of family. It was a village. It took a village.

Then there was the music.  Dan Hill and his orchestra, Frank Sinatra, Buddy Holly, always music.  And standing in my parent’s room at my mom’s dressing table watching her get dressed to go dancing with my dad on a Saturday night.  The beautiful brocade dress with roses on the waist sash, the purple satin dress with the built in petticoat, the impossibly small waistline… I learnt about perfume behind your ears and on your wrists…

Into the teens.  Socials at the Herzl Hall in Wherry Road. How embarrassing for me that my dad and others on the shul committee who had organized the event were in the kitchen selling Fanta, Coke and Bar Ones…didn’t want him to see me slow dancing with Joburg and Durban boys in Muizies for the season.  Bands were Shag and Jimmy Retief and the Idiots.  Jimmy used to play the guitar with his teeth…

My mom always had an expanding Shabbat table.  When my dad came home from shul, we never knew how many Navy boys he would bring with him on a Friday night.  Another incentive to look nice for Shabbat! My mom also had a remarkable, expanded vocabulary and I called her my walking dictionary.  She graduated from Jeppe Girls’ High and her leather bound prize books which I cherish attest to her brilliance. First in Latin, First in Math, First in class.  She could have been a doctor like her Reichman cousins in Joburg, but instead she learned to type.

Baking, collecting rummage, organizing meetings – always involved in the community.  My dad, shul chairman or president for as long as I can remember.  Both life members of the shul.  Charity and acts of loving kindness were part of the fabric of my home, with early lessons about helping others very clearly imprinted in my mind.

Overall, we made one another happy and laughed so much.  I watched Monty Python with my mom at the Empire and by the time the opening credits for And Now For Something Completely Different came on the screen, we were already in tears from laughing so much.  I learned about fun and laughter, music and dancing, from my parents. I learned about reading voraciously and hard work, from my parents. I learned about faith and loyalty and relationships from my parents.  When Stan, Netty and I remember our father, we go : “He he he” (the e like staccato air without the r.)  We learned about happiness and contentment, the riches of good family relationships, from him.

I cannot even begin to tell the whole story of who they were and what they meant to me and those who knew them. My beloved parents, village elders who held the community in their hearts.  Both in Muizenberg where they lived their halcyon years and at Highlands House where they lived their final years, together there for a short time and now together again. Joburg girl and Cape Town boy with Muizenberg their medina.

So when I walk on the beach in Del Mar or Torrey Pines and I wear the floppy hats I brought home with me after burying darling Pearl next to her Abe, I will think of those who wore the hats before me on the sands of Muizies and walk tall and happy knowing that their spirits are both alive and flowing in me.  The music, dancing, fun and reading, learning, working and giving will continue.

Wherever you may be, Mrs. Blechman and Aunty Tilly – thank you for the great mitzvah.

With love,



The Muizenberg KehilaLink:

managed by Eli Rabinowitz


The Afrikaners

By Farrell Hope

This article was originally published in Genesis,  a Genealogical magazine, in August 2013.

I am actually what is often referred to as a BoereJood, Three Litvak Jewish Grandparents, and a Boer Grandmother. My Great Grandmother was unilingual Afrikaans, I remember her well, and until she passed at 92 we had 5 generations living in direct descent. I use the word “Boer” deliberately, it is a specific group within the general Afrikaner group, and heavily interrelated. I was born in Pretoria. As well as growing up in an Afrikaner dorp upbringing in Malmesbury through my primary school life, in a one-room school house.  Most of my friends there spoke Afrikaans. I am talking about cultural and ethnic influences here, my Boer origin Grandmother did convert to Judaism.  In reading the article you will recognize I distinguish beteen being Jewish, and practicing Judaism.  In the British Empire the two are seen as the same thing; stop practicing Judaism and you are no longer a Jew, but that’s not how it is seen outside the British Empire and it’s remnants, and it is not how it is seen by me. I haven’t practiced Judaism much throughout my life since my Bar Mitzvah, and just about all of my Israeli relatives never even had a Bar Mitzvah, I’ve been an atheist all my life, but I’d like to meet the man who tries to tell me that I’m not a Jew. This article is mainly about my Afrikaner forebears, and whom the Afrikaners are, and whence they come.  I’m sure you will find some real surprises there, Afrikaners certainly aren’t just the Dutch with a group of French Huguenots thrown in.  I certainly was surprised as I researched it, and it ends with a summation comparing the heritage and origins of the Afrikaner, and their bond to the land of South Africa, with the Jews and their bond to their land of Israel. This is reflected in the title of the article  – The Afrikaners: Perhaps Africa’s Most Enigmatic Tribe.  And the parallels continue as the Afrikaners deal with their diaspora and dual allegiance.
Farrell Hope
Click on the Genesis 40 link below

Muizenberg High Matric 1961

By Farrell Hope

Our 50th Muizenberg High School  matriculation class of ’61 reunion was held in November 2011.  I compiled a booklet for the occasion, to hand out to the attendees and mail to those that could not come, containing pictures of them then and now, and a description of their memories and their lives so far in their own words.  At the time only 3 people of the 37 that matriculated had passed away, and there was 1 we could not locate.  We got input from the spouses and/or children of those that had passed on to include in the book. Unfortunately since, a fair number have gone to the big reunion in the sky.
Due to a complete surprise emergency bypass operation, I did not make it to the reunion, but my book did. I attach the general pages of the book, but only my own two personal pages.  Mervyn Rosenberg has his copy, and has confirmed to me he would share it with you if you are interested.
However, although all these people provided their information knowing it was going into a booklet to be distributed at the reunion, and with few exceptions submitted the information themselves, before distributing anything you might want to clear it with them.  Their pages contain their email numbers at the time.  I have no problem with any information regarding myself.
I also have a picture of Muizenberg High School taken in 1915, before the third story was added, but I doubt that will rekindle any memories in anyone still living, so I didn’t include it.   I also have the yearbook of 1961, in electronic form, David Lazarus and I were both on the editorial board. As well as a booklet published by Dennis Herbstein describing life in Muizenberg during the war years, specifically for children.
Anyway attached is the relevant pages of the reunion of the class of 61 booklet

Click the link below to open pdf

Eli’s visit to Muizenberg High School in 2018


Moishe Sevitz

By Farrell Hope

I remember Moishe Sevitz very well, a man who was both alone and lonely. He frequently visited my grandparents’ home, and used to sit there quietly in the midst of our family, just just enjoying being a part of a happy family gathering, but seldom talking. Perhaps he was comfortable because my Litvak Grandfather had first immigrated to England, served in the British Army in WWI in France, and been gassed in the trenches. The UK paid passage for himself and his entire family to the British colony of his choice when he could not breath with his damaged lungs in the Manchester smog. I still have a copy of the UK warrant that served as his ticket. Steerage class, £5 for the entire passage of all five; two adults and 3 children with luggage storage, food and bedding included. In addition my father and all my uncles, on both sides of the family had volunteered during WWII and served up North.  So they knew the type of world and conflict he had escaped.

The Famous Stuffed Lions

The famous stuffed lions. Lily Rosenberg (later Pool), Farrell’s mother’s sister, and Yehutka Boyd, 1930
The stuffed Lions were in a glass walled building similar to a beach hut on Balmoral beach, and were a favourite prop for photographs which were taken by the people who ran the beach photograph concession on Muizenberg beach. They were there forever, and still there in the 1960’s when I left SA. People often mention them in reminiscing, and did so a number of times on Ryan Newfield’s series of Zoom get-togethers. Lily Rosenberg was my Mother’s sister, living in Pretoria at the time, and Yehutka Boyd was a family friend who lived in Muizenberg on Yarmouth Road a few houses down from us, when I knew him in the 50’s and 60’s.
Muizenberg KehilaLink:
managed by Eli Rabinowitz