Bridgetown over the years

Ivan Eksteen was one of the first people to move to Bridgetown.

Describing his retirement as the best years of his life, Ivan Eksteen, one of the first people to move into Bridgetown, spoke to the Athlone News about how the area has changed over the years.

The 81-year-old grew up in Buitengracht Street in Bo-Kaap with six brothers and two sisters.

His father passed away when he was nine years old and his mother was left to raise him and his siblings.

He attended St Paul’s Primary School and completed Grade 9 at Zonnebloem Training College, before he had to find a job to support his family.

At the age of 16, he started working at an electrical company in Buitengracht Street, which, he said, enabled him to take on electrical tasks around the house and help other people, later in life.

During the forced removals under the Apartheid era’s Group Areas Act, his family was moved to a three-bedroom house in Statice Street, in Kewtown, in 1953.

After his brothers got married and moved out, the family moved to a two-bedroom house opposite St George’s Church in Silvertown.

Mr Eksteen got married to his first wife, Minnie, at the age of 21, and together they had four children. They moved into Bridgetown in 1958.

“It was very raw and mostly surrounded by bush. We had to chase cows out of the yard because there were lots of dairy farms in the area,” said Mr Eksteen.

He started working in Claremont at a printing shop at the age of 23 and after 42 years in the printing industry, retired at the age of 65.

Mr Eksteen also made invitations for people as a side job.

After 40 years of marriage, Minnie passed away from emphysema.

Two years later he met his current wife, Marjorie Smith, who lived around the corner from him, and after another two years, the pair got married. This year, the couple celebrated 15 years together.

“We were very compatible, we went dancing together. We got married for companionship mostly and today we are very happy,” he said.

Mr Eksteen said the reason he still lives in Bridgetown after 58 years, is because the area remains a safe one to live in.

“Bridgetown is a safe area where you can still send a child to the shop. We feel very safe, everyone knows each other, and there are no major crimes. I love Bridgetown compared to other areas.There are no major gangs or people standing on corners,” he added.

Mr Eksteen said, however, the area had changed over the years and among the things he misses dearly are the many sporting codes that used to be played in the area.

“There were a lot of old people but all of them died and the children are taking over,” Ms Eksteen added. “You don’t see such a pleasant community anymore. We used to be a close knit community, now it’s everyone for himself.”

Recalling her move to the area in 1973, she said: “On New year’s eve these three families in the road would take their mattresses and put them outside in the road and wait for the coons to come passed, and as they came by, they would get up and dance with them.

“The funny thing is, the next morning when you looked through your window you would see all their mattresses (still) lying outside,” she said.

“It really makes me laugh when I think about it because it was such a nice festive time,” she added.

Mr Eksteen now spends his days playing darts at the Brookside Dart Club, where he has been a member for 47 years