Tracing the history of Fairways

CHANTEL ERFORT

Verna Erfort recalls crying when her husband Roy brought her to Fairways to show her where they would be moving to.

“And the day we moved in, I cried all day. I thought we were in the bush, far away from everything,” she recalls.

Before moving to Fairways, Mr Erfort and his wife had lived in Lansdowne with his parents, but forced removals under the Group Areas Act meant they all had to leave the house in Denver Road.

At the time, Fairways was undeveloped, with sandy roads and many pine trees. And it was in May 1972 that Cas Muller of Model Development (now Model Estate Agents) handed the key to their new home to the Erforts.

While some of his clients – among them his very first one, Henry Jacobs – had been victims of the forced removals from District Six and Claremont, they were only a small portion of those who bought in Fairways, says Mr Muller.

“The day we moved in, it was pouring with rain,” Mr Erfort recalls.

He also remembers that when he, Verna and their two sons Vernon and Michael moved in, they were among the first residents in the part of Third Avenue closest to Hyde Road.

“It was very lonely,” says Ms Erfort. “I felt unsafe, and was determined that the first thing we’d do when we moved in, was get burglar bars.

“When the man came to quote us for the job, I told him ‘You’d better not quote more than R74’ – because when we moved in, we only had R74 in the bank.”

But Ms Erfort didn’t stay lonely forever.

She remembers befriending Kathy Kearns who helpd her collect blankets for those affected by a fire that swept through Parkwood, and frying sausage for the refuse collectors who made their rounds on a Thursday.

She also started entertaining the children from neighbouring Parkwood and still works with youngsters from the area through the after-school programme, Much more than Food, which marked its 10th anniversary this year.

Soon after they moved in, says Ms Erfort, she won a competition run by the Cape Herald – a newspaper in which Southern Mail has its roots. “Readers were invited to write in with a story about their best Christmas. I had had a Christmas party for the children of Parkwood and wrote about that – and I won,” she says.

Her prize was an LP.

City planning records show that sub-divisions of land in Fairways started between 1962 and 1967 and when Model Development started building houses in Fairways in 1967, a 496m2 plot would set you back R750. Today a similar plot – if there were any vacant pockets of land in the area – would cost between R550 000 and R600 000, says Mr Muller.

“The popular means of financing was through the Nationalising Commission, and the maximum loan was R5 600, so many people built around that price range.

“If they wanted a house of a higher value, they had to go to the banks.”

And because government employees had access to housing subsidies – referred to as GC69 loans – he points out, many of those who bought homes in Fairways, were teachers, nurses and dockyard workers.

According to Mr Muller, Model Development built most of the homes in Fairways, with construction having started after Model reached an agreement with Suburban Lands – the owners of land at the time – to develop the area.

A number of plots between Fifth and Sixth avenues, however, were developed by a company known as Charugo Developments owned by the late Charles Van Schoor and Italian architect Ugo Bergamasco, he says. Model built the last house in Fairways in 10th Avenue in the mid to late-1990s.

“When I started, there were no roads. There were sand and pine trees. I had a little Volkswagen and regularly got stuck,” he says.

“Tarred roads only came in the early 1980s. In the early days council didn’t have to put in services when they sub-divided the land.

“There was the O’Brien system – ash toilets – but later council installed a sewerage system.

“Back then it took three months to build a house. Now it can take as little as six weeks.”

Today, however, Mr Muller’s business is selling second-hand homes.

“There was a property slump in the 1970s, so we moved from building homes to selling second-hand homes,” says Mr Muller.

“I sold my first home as an estate agent in Grassy Park, in 1977.”

And thus, Model Development became Model Estate Agents and Auctioneers, currently situated in Southfield.

The first portion of Fairways to be developed, Mr Muller says, was the area close to the railway line, and it was in Panton Road that he built a home for his first client, Henry Jacobs, who still lives in Fairways 49 years after he first moved in, albeit in a different house.

He now lives in Second Avenue.

“I lived in a part of Green Point, near Loader and De Smit streets, which was called Black Sea Point,” he says. But when the city centre and surrounds were declared for whites only in 1967, Mr Jacobs had to find a new place to call home.

“Before that I had lived in the Bo-Kaap, and District Six. I was born in Bree Street. So, up until then, I had lived in a concrete jungle and moving to Fairways was a big change.”

Part of this “big change” was having a garden, and over the years Mr Jacobs became synonymous with the annual garden competition he initiated, his summer garden parties and his greening project along the railway line, for which he was awarded the Cape Times MTN Centenary Award for outstanding achievement in conservation of the environment in 1999.

To this day there are at least 80 trees which Mr Jacobs planted in an effort to spruce up the area. And all the trees were grown from cuttings of the “mother tree” which stands tall on his property. “I used to maintain the area, but it got too much, so I eventually asked each resident to maintain the area in front of their homes,” he says.

Also in this part of Fairways is a stretch of just over half a kilometre where the houses back directly onto the railway line.

Mr Muller recalls that the late Fred P Ackerman had purchased land between Fairway Avenue and Panton Road, with a view to developing it. But after he had done so – and sold off the properties – he continued to receive a rates account from council. On enquiring about this, he was informed that the portion of land across the road from the houses he had built, also belonged to him, which was why he was being billed for rates and services.

“So, he decided that if the land was his, and he was paying rates anyway, he might as well develop it,” Mr Muller explains.

“These properties are on plots which are 8m by 40m, whereas the regular plots are about 15m by 31m. Fred brought in engineers to build the foundations and the back walls of these properties are three bricks thick – instead of two – and are reinforced, because they are right next to the railway line.”

When asked what they thought had changed in the time they lived there, both the Erforts and Mr Jacobs said “the people”.

“Initially it was difficult to create a cohesive spirit,” says Mr Jacobs. “We were all strangers when we moved in here, but as our children became friends, we became friends with their parents.”

“When we moved in, we were the young people,” Ms Erfort adds. “Now we’re seeing younger people move in, and we’re the oldies.”