The Daniels Family of Jacob Avenue, Kommetjie (from an interview in March 2019)

Posted on November 10, 2020 · Posted in History
Daniels siblings and Mrs Daniels where they caught harders.

Mr John Daniels and his sister Mrs Johanna Williams grew up in Kommetjie. Now in their late 70’s and early eighties, they remember their childhood and young adulthood in Kommetjie well, and they kindly told their family’s story. 

Their father, Jacob Daniels, had grown up in Noordhoek on the farm of Mr Izak de Villiers, where his mother had worked. When Mr de Villiers moved to Kommetjie in about 1918, the young Jacob Daniels, then about 18 years old, also moved to Kommetjie. At first he stayed with friends, and made a living through fishing and catching crayfish. He then found work with Mr Benning, gardening and painting, and he also helped to build the first gravel road in Kommetjie, which became Benning Drive.

Mr Benning, of Kommetjie Estates, then employed Mr Daniels as the Kommetjie water bailiff. Mr Daniels was a water diviner, and he could detect underground water with a forked stick. He found underground water and dug 5 wells, helped erect 3 windmills, maintained the windmills and the water pumps, laid water pipes, and helped build the water tower. When electricity reached Kommetjie, electric pumps replaced the windmills. Mr John Daniels and Mrs Johanna Williams both remember that, as young people, they helped their father by switching the electric water pumps on every evening and off in the mornings. They also still remember clearly the sites of the original wells.

Mr Jacob Daniels bought 3 adjacent plots in Kommetjie. His son understood that his father paid for the plots but never received the documents. Mr Daniels built a home here, where he and his wife brought up 12 children.  

Mrs Daniels cared for the children and made all their clothes. The children attended Slangkop School near the present day Kleinberg Primary School in Ocean View. They usually walked to school, but in winter took the “penny bus”. As the children grew up and married, Mr Daniels built them each a small house on the spare plots nearby.

Mr Daniels had 3 horses, a horse cart and wagon, and later a Studebaker. He built stables across the road from their house, and made a large circle in the road for turning the horse-drawn wagon. John Daniels remembers that when he was a child there was little traffic on the roads, and  their horse-drawn cart took about 20 minutes to travel from Kommetjie to Fishhoek. 

Mr John Daniels described his father as a good agriculturist, and said he had great success growing vegetables with his special mix of pig manure and bamboo. The vegetable garden covered a large area at the site of the present day Beachcomber houses. A friend who was in the navy, Major Martin, helped clear the land for planting vegetables. He brought a bulldozer and a few young off-duty sailors to plough the ground. As payment for their help, Major Martin and the young sailors were given eggs, vegetables and also a pig! When this help was not available, the horses did the hard work of pulling the plough. The vegetable garden was irrigated by a dam which Mr Daniels built nearby.

This garden supplied vegetables to 4 hotels in Fishhoek, as well as to the Napparell’s hotel in Kommetjie ( the Fisherman’s Pub today). Mr Daniels also kept livestock, including 2 cows,18 pigs and about 200 chickens. It was thus a very productive small farm.  As the local farmer, Mr Daniels was also often called on by residents to deal with the inconvenience of snakes.

Mr Daniels was also the beach supervisor. He knew the sea well, and frequently rescued people in trouble in their small boats. He also caught crayfish from his rowing boat and as children John and Johanna helped their father bring in the crayfish in the ring-nets. In April they caught snoek with “blood lines” ( blood on string to attract the snoek from afar) and sardines as bait. They caught hottentot (seabream) throughout the year, and during the holidays they sold them to campers in the village. Their two boats were kept on Long Beach, but apartheid intervened and forced the family to move their boats miles away to Witsands.

The family collected drinking water from a spring in paraffin tins. They chopped rooikrans for firewood, and this was usually done on rainy days that were unsuitable for gardening or fishing.

Mr Jacob Daniels was also the supervisor for the cricket field. He kept the gravel pitch smooth using a steel roller. The family enjoyed the game and supported the cricket team, but were again affected by apartheid and were excluded from playing in the team. However the young John Daniels looked for and found most of the balls that were hit into the bushes, and gave them to the captain of the team. To thank John for the balls, the captain gave him “a few bob” and the gift of his spare pair of binoculars as he knew John enjoyed watching passing ships. John’s interest in ships was further stimulated, and led to him joining the merchant navy. 

At night if a midwife was needed in the village and the cars wouldn’t start, Mr Daniels would light his lanterns and drive his horse-cart to Noordhoek to fetch Miss August the midwife. 

The Daniels family had contributed greatly to the Kommetjie community, but their life in Kommetjie ended abruptly in 1972. The apartheid policy of forced removals gave Mr Jacob and Mrs Louisa Daniels no choice but to leave their home in Jacob Avenue, which was in fact named after Mr Jacob Daniels.  And the small houses that Mr Daniels had built for his married children were all bulldozed. Thus apartheid destroyed all sense of community in Kommetjie.

Mr John Daniels described it succinctly: “We were chucked out of Kommetjie. The police came, took the key, and said you have to leave now. This was called ‘Separate Development’ ”. And he added soberly: “Apartheid killed us all”. 

Leaving behind the homes they had built and their life’s work, the family were moved to a small house in Ocean View.

As Mr John Daniels explained,”In Kommetjie we had plenty of fish, vegetables, milk, eggs and pork. We only had to buy rice, vinegar, candles, sugar, condensed milk and paraffin. Now in Ocean View I have to buy everything.”

The parents found it particularly hard to adapt to living in Ocean View among so many people. After their quiet life in Kommetjie, it was noisy and disturbing to the elderly couple. They aged rapidly and both parents died about 5 years after their forced removal.

Today Mr John Daniels, Mrs Johanna Williams and four of their surviving siblings and most of their extended family (approximately 46 people) live in Ocean View. A far cry from the life they had in Kommetjie.

The family applied for restitution for their forced removal from their home and property, and were paid a sum about 6 years ago. Mr John Daniels explained: “It’s not about the money, it’s about the feeling”. In no way could money compensate for all they lost. 

Post Script

Very sadly, Mr John Daniels died unexpectedly of a heart attack in July 2020 at the age of 80. We mourn his loss, celebrate his life, and are grateful for his enormous contribution to our understanding of his and his family’s Kommetjie life, and painful forced removal from Kommetjie.

We are raising funds for two mosaic benches to mark the forced removal of three families from Kommetjie during the apartheid forced removals. Find out about the fundraiser here: https://www.kommetjie.org/2020/11/were-raising-funds-for-two-mosaic-benches-to-mark-the-forced-removal/

Forced Removals: https://www.kommetjie.org/2020/11/forced-removals-from-kommetjie/