MEMORIES OF KEURBOOM PARK

A letter from Lesley Satchel (nee McDonald):

'I have seen your request for "memories" on you notice board several times over the past few years, and may be able to add to other peoples' memories. Our family has lived in that area for 4 generations.

It starts with my mother, Grace McDonald (nee Skelton) who is 93 now. She moved to the Rondebosch area from Retreat around 1930, and lived at Rondebosch station where the parking area is now. She attended Oakhurst Primary School, and later Rustenburg High. Rondebosch was very rural in those days and I am not sure if Keurboom Park existed as a park then, it may just have been an undeveloped space. Her life took a few turns and she left Rondebosch for a few years, but moved back there when I was a baby in 1947 as she and my father bought a house in Locarno Road. I remember walking through the park to visit friends towards Belvedere Road as a very small girl. It became very wet in winter in the park! The family had only one car then and we always walked through the park, watching the squirrels, stopping for a swing or merry-go-round on the way. Also collecting tadpoles and picking sierings to suck the sour juice. It was always a lovely recreation area, and the people of Rondebosch used it to walk dogs and for children to play.  

Nannies met each other while taking the children they cared for to play there. Keurboom Park was always natural and "wild" in a way, without mowed lawns, neat paths and beds of plants. The terrain was always undulating in its own way. Spring flowers just popped out of the grass, stoney, sandy footpaths meandered through the area, and the trees grew wherever they were. We collected pine cones and pine nuts.

 

My husband grew up in Newlands, and he and his friends who lived in the Sunnybrae area used to take their dogs there in the 1950's and make them race in the canalised river. It must have been hectic with different breeds of dogs all barking and their teenage owners calling and whistling!

My parents, the McDonalds, moved to a bigger house in Gables Way, where they lived from 1955 until 1970, and after that they moved back to the Keurboom Park area, as they bought the very last house in Sunnybrae Rd, right next to the park and the little bridge over the river. I think that is where the owls breed now.

My husband and I left Cape Town in 1967 to farm in Natal and the Garden Route area, and have lived in Knysna ever since, and our children used to love coming to their grandparents and play in the park on the high slides, merry-go-rounds and swings, the same old metal ones that I had played on as a child myself. Grandpa's scotty dog Jock always came too.

The grandparents eventually moved to Belvidere in Knysna, where we have lived since the 1980's, but our family's association with Keurboom Park just goes on and on. Our daughter Lauren Satchel, and husband Alistair Noyce, bought a house in Lochiel Road and have been living there for 6 years. Lauren is a teacher at Rondebosch Prep. and their daughters, Ashleigh and Rachel (and cousins Robyn and Tom Cawood) play there regularly on the old outdoor equipment, taking their dogs for walks along the same paths, collecting tadpoles in the same sloots and ponds, having picnics under the same trees (some new indigenous trees planted in the place of the pines), learning to ride bikes .....and just doing the same things generation after generation in that special place. When we spend time with our family in Rondebosch, our dogs also walk those paths, and we meet friends there unexpectedly. It is truly a place for all seasons and all times.’

Keurboom Park - Michael Copley

Your old fashioned beauty
Does discreetly invite me,
Your graceful charm
Does secretly uplift me.

Trees filled with memories
Streams with tadpoles,
In deep reverie
I recall where I did stroll.

Over the bridge to play
In the field of forever,
remember childhood games,
Late summer afternoons with friends together.

Pine cones and squirrels and dove feathers,
Arum lilies and frogs and mole hills,
From blue sky to cloudy weather
My innocence in the green filled.

The years have moved on
And I am still in awe of this space,
Where I laughed and cried as I grew up,
I still come to visit for quiet solace.

The blades of grass can tell you
Which were my favourite spots,
Where I sat down to think deeply
In the shade when it was hot.

And what of the Cape winters
When the rain lashed down so hard,
Misty muddy mornings
Where the north-wester wind did charge.

So much of me is here
On the slide and on the swings,
The see-saw and the roundabout,
The witch’s hat and the jungle-gym.

So many feelings make music
Inside this heart of mine,
The flavours and the layers
Perfect and sublime.

My best lessons however
Were from these fine trees,
Infused in my spirit education
I found the character in me.

I walk along the pathway
Where once I as a teenager did bicycle,
Almost watching myself in parallel time
Recognising nature’s timeless cycles.

Oh Keurboom Park,
Where would I be without your grounding,
In a world where your teachings are laughed at
I am grateful for that extra something.

(1997)