This tearoom has formed the focal point of this hamlet for a century, its centennial being celebrated in 2018. From a rambunctious start as The Hut Tearoom in 1918, the tearoom has also experienced its lean time with the war years probably being the most difficult. The post war years were just as lean but the decision to renovate and rebrand the restaurant as the Sacramento revived its fortunes. On a macabre note, this establishment has witnessed two murders, one being of my uncle, Francis McCleland.
Main picture: The crowds gather for tea at The-Hut-Tearoom-in-Schoenmakerskop in December 1922
Triumph of the Human Spirit
After my grandparents were twice bankrupted, once due to a flood in the Gamtoos Valley and then several years later by the rinderpest at De Stades, they embarked upon the Herculean task of discovering a new source of income; anything but farming. With 5 young children and two cows, it would be a no mean feat. At that stage circa 1915/1916 the travels bore them to Schoenmakerskop, not yet proclaimed as a village, but utilised as a “holiday resort”. Most vacationers would erect tents on the beach whereas others would construct shacks along the main dust track later to become Marine Drive. Circa 1915, they rented one of the cottages called “Tipperary”, probably constructed of ship’s timbers located on Erf 3 Lot 2, then owned by Thomas Smith. On the makeshift veranda, Granny Mac opened a tearoom, the forerunner to the eventual tearoom on Lot 30. In the garden she planted beetroot and peanuts and probably other vegetables too and their two surviving cows provided milk, butter and cream for the tea and scones for which she would become renowned.
It was during 1916, that the township of Schoenmakerskop, a division of Port Elizabeth, was laid out, being converted from Crown land known as de Duinen. The shack owners were informed that the land on which their shacks were constructed would be sold once all the plots had been laid out and proclaimed.
It was a Mr. Gluckman who assisted Daisy McCleland in acquiring a Trader’s Licence and lent her £50 to make a bid for 3 stands at the auction on the 17th of October 1918. Daisy made offers as follows:
|Stand number||Purchase Price||Comments||When sold by Daisy|
|30||£30||Built wooden shack||1942|
|32||£23||Built wooden Tearoom||1942|
The total cost of the 3 stands was £95. After paying £50, Daisy presumably had to repay the balance of £45 in instalments to the Divisional Council.
On Plot 32, Daisy McCleland built a wooden structure known as The Hut Tearoom. In reality, it was called Mrs Mac’s Tearoom as there was no signage advertising its name. It was only on her death when the Will was opened that her children became aware what the official name of the establishment was.
In spite of all the challenges arrayed against her, my grandmother still had two further crosses to bear. First it was the death of her husband, Harry William McCleland, after a protracted illness, on the 13th of June 1925 and then five years later her son, Francis, aged 20, was murdered by an intruder, on the 11th of August 1930.
It must have been by 1930 at the latest that the existing wooden building was replaced by the brick building. It was apparently during this time that the tearoom was provided with a more suitable name, The Ocean View Tearoom. After the opening of the Marine Drive in 1922, this tearoom prospered. The rich and famous would take their family in their newly acquired car and go for a “spin” around Marine Drive and then stop off at the tearoom for tea and scones. The three girls and two young sons were deployed as waiters, cleaners and bottlewashers and all manner of general factotum tasks.
Daisy and Harry McCleland got to know the fishermen of Sardinia Bay during their 24-year ownership of “The Hut”. The fishermen transported their cart load of fish from Sardinia Bay to South End. Sometimes the catch was so good that a second cart was needed. So at a halt on the back road one of the fishermen would hop off the cart, run over the sand dunes to “The Hut” and say “Missy please phone for an extra cart.” When Harry contracted blackwater’ fever during the 1914-1918 war he was shipped back to Port Elizabeth. As the ship passed Sardinia Bay, Harry recognised the fishing boats, threw his helmet into one of the boats and shouted, “Give it to Daisy and tell her I’m home.”
A Wartime Interlude
In 1942, Daisy McCleland sold two of her three properties no’s 30 & 32 to J.F. [Leon] Killassy, who subsequently sold them five years later in 1947. This was an inopportune time to purchase a tearoom especially one which relied upon weekend trade to make money. Money was tight and was not splashed out on frivolous entertainment. In all probability, Killassy found that his dream of a tearoom beside the sea was not a profitable venture. In addition, Leon was in a 50:50 partnership with his brother Milon in the well-known Killassy’s Supermarket on the corner of Cape Road and 2nd Avenue, Newton Park.
The age of the classic English tea room was on its final legs. None of the future proprietors and owners recognised this sea-change. Instead of investing in a new look and service offering, they maintained the existing format. As a minimum they needed to include light meals and liquor as part of their offering. I would not be surprised if for all of the future owners, until Retha Taylor converted the tearoom into a fully-fledged restaurant, did the future look sanguine.
Vendetta or Unrequited Love
During 1947, Johannes Jacobus Janssen purchased the tearoom from Mr Killassy, in his wife’s name, Magdalena. Little of Mr. Jansen’s background is known, but he is thought to have been widely travelled. Evidently a jack-of-all-trades, aged 45, during his lifetime Jansen had been, among other things, a racehorse trainer, a dance-band leader and farmer. He is thought to have lived in Johannesburg until about two years prior when he bought a farm at Kragga Kamma. He sold this about 18 months later when he bought the Ocean View Tea Lounge.
1949 would prove to be a year of calamity and adversity, a year forever to be seared into their memories for all the wrong reasons. The first adversity was the unwelcome news that Magdalena was suffering from advanced cancer. She would never be stabilised but passed away on the 16th of May 1949 leaving Johannes to care for his brood of young children.
Just short of 5 months later, on the 2nd of October 1949, disaster would befall these children’s father, Johannes, compounding the family’s misery. While everybody in the house was sleeping, an intruder broke into the house on stand number 30 in Marine Drive and smashed an axe into Mr Jansen’s head repeatedly. Hearing his screams, the children awoke. Initially undeterred, the murderer went through to the girls’ room, attempted to repeat his murderous intent on Patricia. Her younger sister, Lucy, screamed in distress. The intruder lowered his axe and fled from the house.
In their panic, the young girls were unable to raise assistance on the telephone which still used the “party line” system. Eventually Mr Charles Newby Senior from No. 4 came to their assistance together with his young son. Initially the police suspected that the culprit was a Mr Jan Block, an employee of Mr Jansen, whom he was intending to dismiss the following morning. Vengeance might well be motive for the murder but why also attempt to murder an innocent teenager? Ongoing investigations drew yet another suspect into the closing net, a certain Mr Cyril Paton. This young man had a crush on Patricia, but he had been rebuffed on numerous occasions & ultimately forbidden by Mr Jansen from harassing his daughter. That would explain the intruder’s animus towards both Mr Jansen and Patricia.
As the police now focused their attentions on Paton, they received a report that a certain Willie Chipps of Mount Pleasant admitted to being the intruder but in yet another twist and turn in the saga, claimed that Patricia had offered him £500 to kill her father supposedly so that she would be free to date Willie Chipps. This story was both improbable and implausible. Firstly, where would Patricia procure £500 and secondly Patricia had never shown any amorous intent. In a further twist of fate, while out hunting with Willie Chipps in the Mount Pleasant area, Cyril Paton shot and killed Willie Chipps. Suspicion now focused squarely on Cyril Paton as the unrequited lover of Patricia. Whilst in jail awaiting the court case, Paton disclosed to fellow inmates that he was indeed the intruder, yet the judge refused to take his disclosure into account and dismissed the case against Paton.
Sequence of events
|Johannes Jansen||Killed by an intruder with an axe|
|Jan Block||Initial suspect as dismissal imminent|
|Cyril Paton||Second suspect . Had “crush” on Patricia|
|Willie Chipps||Claimed that Patricia paid him R500 to kill her step-father|
|Cyril Paton||Shot & killed Chipps while out hunting|
|Cyril Paton||Admits to killing Chipps to fellow prisoner|
|Cyril Paton||Found not guilty|
Various short-term proprietors
Grasse Investments (Pty) Ltd took over the tearoom in September 1950. Yvette Moreau became the proprietor. On the 18th of December 1957 Mr MF Hartford purchased No. 32 but sold it two years later to Percy Henry Poulter. Apparently Hartford had been in the oil business and was a Scot with a pronounced Scotish accent. Brenda Poulter recalls that when her parents took over the business, Mr Hartford taught her how to make scones. He possessed the disgusting habit of not washing his hands before doing so nor would be remove the cigar clenched in his teeth. The ingredients would be supplied with a sprinkling of cigar ash as he worked. When it was hot, Mr Hartford felt no compunction in putting up the “gone swimming” sign.
Percy Henry Poulter purchased the Ocean View Tearoom from MF Hartford on the 18th of December 1957. At this stage, the premises could not be classified as dilapidated but they certainly showed their age – tired and not in their prime. As Percy in his prior life had been a master builders and carpenter, he was undoubtedly the ideal person to purchase a venue which required “a little TLC”.
During his 11 year stay at Schoenmakerskop Percy Poulter rescued a baby water mongoose and named it Rickie. Rickie grew up as a tame mischievous pet in the tearoom. Customers would order tea, scones and Rickie to entertain them at their tables. A regular elderly gentleman customer would always hang his jacket over the back of his chair, but before he began his meal he would slip his dentures into his jacket pocket. Rickie soon spotted this and unbeknown to the customer stole the dentures. The search for the lost dentures ended when Rickie was found trying in vain to crack the teeth over the outside drain just like he cracked hard boiled eggs and shellfish. Rickie’s favourite resting place was the engine compartment of vehicles. So when one day Rickie mysteriously disappeared, it was presumed to have been unintentionally removed from Schoenies.
Apart from the mongoose, Brenda, their daughter, was the only other member of the Poulter clan to reside in Schoenies as most of them had gotten married prior to their parents relocating from Rhodesia to Schoenies. After 11 years managing the Ocean View Tea Lounge, it was time for the Poulters to retire as Percy had been born in 1906. They sold the business and retired to the Red Cross cottages. After a short retirement, both Percy & Lucy passed away within six months of one another.
Buddy and Pat Harrington purchased the tearoom circa 1971. During their period of ownership, they changed one section into an a la carte restaurant called Buddy’s Restaurant. Circa 1980 they sold the Tearoom / restaurant to Sid Parnell who in changed the name in the mid-1980s to “Seagulls.”
After running the tearoom for approximately eight years, the Harringtons sold the tearoom to Retha and Alf Taylor in 1988 who rented out the business until 1994. To make the “tired-looking” tearoom attractive as an eating establishment, they made extensive renovations and in 2000 obtained a liquor licence for the restaurant now renamed The Sacramento. They also appointed Alfie and Michelle Taylor as managers. In 2004 Mark de la Peyre became the manager.
McCleland family history
Brenda Poulter on the Poulter family
Rosemary MacGeoghan on the McClelands & Schoenies in general
Paul Moolman on the Jansen family