Peggy Crous’s 75-year history is tightly woven with that of Goodwood – in De Villiers Street, to be precise, where she has spent most of her life in the family home.
She remembers a time when there were rivers running through the town, most of the roads were sand-covered and her brothers played “kettie” and “kleilat” in the bush right up to where N1 City is today. Back then she was Peggy Saul.
She recalls the huge tree next to Fairbairn College was planted by the Everts family who lived nearby. The children played together, and in a black-and-white photo, some of the Everts and Saul children are seated together.
Sitting at the round kitchen table, Ms Crous tells of a time when the family lived a few doors away at 82 De Villiers Street, which belonged to a property concern, Joyce & McGregor, and for which her parents paid one pound rent a month. It was a lot of money at the time as, her father Robert Saul earned only four pounds on the railway and her mother, Marie, stayed home to take care of their brood.
One pound settled the rent, her mother bought candles for the month and the rest had to feed the family. Asked how the family coped, she says: “Die oumense het ’* plan gemaak.”
She says the house she now shares with baby sister, Debbie, 63, was bought for 700 pounds from a
Mr Weed, who lived across the bridge in Elsies River.
“His wife said he should sell the house to my parents because they had a big family,” she remembers.
That was 1941. The house had no electricity, and food was cooked on a coal stove. Electricity came only in 1964. At the new two-bedroomed home, the family would expand to 12 children – Johnny, Harry, Mavis, Cliffie, Joey, Ronnie, Leslie, Stanley, Marie, Errol, Peggy and Debbie.
Ms Crous and the youngest siblings attended the Roman Catholic school on Voortrekker Road, and went to Epping High School, which is now Goodwood College in Ruyterwacht. Some of the older children went to the Raymond Primary School, which no longer exists.
The Roman Catholic school is also no more, but Ms Crous remembers running home for lunch – a slice of bread with sugar on, during their 30-minute break.
On the corner of Voortrekker Road and Hugo Street was a chemist. The railway doctor was there and so was the Akker bus terminus. Goodwood also had the Liberty Bioscope. They’re all gone now.
Back then, De Villiers Street only had a few houses, including that of Mr Bodkin, who had a large garden, sold wood and had animals, including Daisy the cow and Logan, a horse. Flinders Street later became Vasco Boulevard and Akker Street is now Milton Road.
Ms Crous remembers a Goodwood before it became built up. “Dit was net veld,” she says, spreading her arms.
“There was a river, and it went down across Jameson Street to Paarl Street. My brothers would go with zinc plates and sail down the river in winter,” she says.
Her parents met at John Dickerson, a printing company where they both worked. Her mother grew up in Worcester, and Mr Saul was an orphan who grew up at Salesians. He loved racing pigeons and had a huge pen in the backyard.
Sometimes the boys would ask their mother for pigeon pie. “Then she had to ask my father nicely,” Ms Crous smiles. Rice wasn’t so readily available when she was a child, instead they ate barley. Her mother kept mielies in a “trommel” in the pantry. And the army truck made a stop in Versfeld and Cook streets every Wednesday where the children would collect rations with their army cards.
“My mother would tell us what to get and because we were many children, we could get what she wanted,” she said.
Ms Crous married in 1962, before the home had electricity.
Her father heated water in two paraffin tins on an open fire in the backyard for the bride-to-be to get ready. Even before then, the same routine would happen on a Sunday – with the four girls washing first and the brothers getting soapy seconds.
“We washed our hair with Sunlight soap,” she says, pointing to a picture of her as a young woman at the front gate, brush in hand waiting for her hair to dry. In De Villiers Street, the family had much joy, but also sadness. It is here where their mom died at 83. Ms Crous and younger sister, Debbie, also cared to the end for their sister, Mavis, who was terminally ill.
The house, she said, holds sentimental value for the family as it was their parents’ wish for them to hold on to it.
“My father said it should always be there for any of the children who needed shelter. My mother said the same thing before she died.”
Ms Crous moved back home when her husband died many years ago. Now the town is different and Ms Crous said change is inevitable, but remembers the past as having been “baie lekker dae”.