Port Elizabeth of Yore: Life at Humewood in the 1920s, 30s & 40s

Humewood was a late starter, a slow developer. The focus of the residents of Port Elizabeth was northwards and westwards as the town laid down its industrial roots in North End and its commercial roots in the Main and Strand Street areas. By the 1920s, Humewood had gained a reputation as Port Elizabeth’s playground centred on Humewood Beach and Happy Valley.

Main picture:  1926 photos from the Humewood collection of Sava Michaelides. By then beach attire converted from a formal suit and tie to more relaxed beach wear and informal clothing

Slipway Cottages
The Humewood slipway became operational in 1903. At some stage thereafter, cottages were built to serve as staff accommodation. Perhaps because most of the workers were of Scottish descent, an aura of good neighbourliness and friendliness prevailed amongst these residents. These cottages were located close to Shark River and today’s Road Lodge. Prior to the closure of the Slipway in 1939, the cottages were handed over to the Municipality. This peaceful community was disbanded when the cottages were demolished in 1971.

Slipway cottages highlighted

Beach staff
The house nearest the Bathing House was used by the Beach Manager while the lifesaver and the horticulturists were the other tenants. The present Beach Manager’s office and the parking lot are situated there today.

Building sandcastles at Humewood.
Summerwood School in Happy Valley

Wooden building
A wooden building standing at the level of Beach Road at the entrance to Happy Valley, was used as a café. This was later moved behind the Slipway Cottages and was used by holidaying schoolchildren. On April 1,1945, the Humewood and Summerstrand Preparatory School was started in this wooden building under the headmistress, Miss R. Clementz.

Fire of 1951
A disastrous fire during 1951 burned down the Humewood and Summerstrand Preparatory School and also destroyed Happy Valley as well as the Willows holiday resort. The bungalows and slipway cottages at Humewood were endangered by the fire but were not harmed. The area where the school once stood then became a municipal nursery and vehicle shed.

For 18 months after the fire, the pupils were accommodated in the upstairs section of the Dollorico Café, while the new school was being built in Summerstrand. It was a trying time for a school without a home. For a time, the children were taken by bus to the Victoria Park Grey School which the school had made available to the newcomers. The Summerwood Primary School opened its doors in 1953 with Mr. JB Wegerhoff as principal. He served in that capacity until his retirement in 1971.  

The Dollorico / Palm Grove
The Dollorico, on the town side of Happy Valley, had a varied history. The name was changed to the Palm Grove and became famous for its ice creams and milkshakes.  Some of Port Elizabeth’s original pinball machines made their appearance at the Palm Grove. The upstairs section was at various times a nightclub, a Chinese restaurant and even a bioscope.

The Willowtree Cafe at Happy Valley.

Simple pleasures
The Humewood Beach area has always catered for the simple pleasures such as horse rides, putting on greens at the entrance to Happy Valley and many other activities for the youngsters. Recent development in the area and the demolition of the bungalows has changed the vibe of the area to that catering for more sophisticated clientele with Kings Beach catering for the youngsters.    

Playland 100 years ago

E.P. Herald, 24 February 1990

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