I would have preferred to have written a history of Willows, albeit short, but as I have been unable to uncover any information about this iconic resort, I will invoke my right to present a pictorial blog only. Even as regards photographs, there is a dearth of them covering the early years.
Like many Port Elizabethians, the McCleland family stayed at Willows at some point in their lives. In our case it was over the Easter holidays. Sometimes we even took our home-built canoe along but as the main pool was miniscule, it could, in all honesty, only be used when the facility was not crowded.
Main picture: Two views of Willows separated by 50 years
The idea of having rondawels instead of rectangular cottages might have been inspired by the Xhosa huts in the Transkei but from a space utilisation point of view, they were inefficient. Perhaps this design was selected for a more prosaic reason: the ease of construction. Presumably the skill level and calibre of person required to construct these cottages more than compensated for their lack of useable space.
Without any documents or other proof of when this resort was constructed, one can assume that it must have occurred over the period from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s. Nonetheless, my best guess would be the late 1950s. As the rural areas during that era fell under the jurisdiction of the Port Elizabeth Divisional Council, it must have been constructed under their auspices.
In an era prior to the introduction of television, film shows formed a part of one’s entertainment bouquet albeit only once per week. To cater for this demand, the café cum restaurant, offered shows on a Saturday night using reel-to-reel projectors. These machines would whir and click as the tape was transferred from one reel to the next but did not detract from the magic of the moving images on the white screen, usually a sheet.
From sunrise, the day was spent in swimming, exploring the rock pools and building huge dams out of sea sand in order to prevent the water from the showers reaching the pool. By dusk one was thoroughly exhausted, ready for a hard coir mattress bed.
Willows in the 60s and 70s
Video of the Willows in the 1950s: