Early in 2003, the Hermanus Times obtained the telephone number of Mr Lemm late of Lemm’s Corner and asked me to visit him in Cape Town. I arranged a visit and on a sweltering February afternoon, I drive into upper Oranjezicht, Cape Town, and park beneath a shady tree for this special appointment.
Anxiously I walk up the steps of one of the old city houses and ring the bell. The door opens and a kindly, elderly gentleman welcomes me. Bernard Lemonsky —the man whose name lives on in a corner in central Hermanus. Lemm’s Corner has become as famous as the fishermen’s village and is the regular meeting place of crafters, buyers and browsers at the weekly craft market.
In the 1950s, the harbour area was enlarged to accommodate the increase in the maritime trade. When Mr Lemonsky senior died, Sidney Oblowitz, a school friend who was running the Oblowitz store in Hermanus, invited Bernard to take over this general dealer’s shop. So Bernard closed the Cape Town shop and he and his wife Elizabeth moved to Hermanus in 1960, where they soon became a household name with another Lemm’s Stores.
While they were still in Cape Town, Mrs Lemonsky once stayed for a week with friends who worked at Barclays Bank in Hermanus. When she went back to Cape Town, she realised that she had fallen in love with Hermanus. They had become disillusioned over the expansion at the harbour, so when Sidney Oblowitz gave them the opportunity to take over his business, they were delighted. They have one daughter, Ruth who now lives in Scotland. She was five years old when they arrived in Hermanus and went to primary school here and then to high school in Cape Town.
The hall above Lemm’s Stores occupied almost one half of the top floor. In this hall Mr Oblowitz owned the first village bioscope in town, as well as a hair salon. Often, while cutting a customer’s hair, he had to run downstairs to attend to the shop. In the 1970’s the hall was taken over by a ballet teacher.
Bernard converted the hall for weekly concerts for the Camphill students which continued for many years. Mrs Marudas who lived at Gearing Point asked him to introduce her young son to classical music. The young man attended the concerts regularly and became deeply interested, eventually went to Stellenbosch and later to UCT to study music.
When it was suddenly late and I had to leave, Bernard wanted to know if I use lemons? He went to the lemon tree in his garden and came back with an offering of half a dozen bright yellow lemons. (Lemons from Lemonsky!)
On a second visit in November 2004, we enjoyed tea and carrot cake, and then spent some time poring over photographs. Bernard lent me one of himself to use in this book. We talked about this and that and discussed some of his new books. Then I left in the hope that I’d be able to visit him again in future. In his quiet way Bernard Lemonsky has the aura of wisdom found in the generation who lived life unhurriedly and with charm.
Lemm’s Corner will never be developed as it is the property of the old harbour museum. It is used for the Saturday and festival market stalls and occasional gatherings. It is very pleasant to have an empty space to walk through slap in the middle of the CBD.
Bernard passed away in Cape Town in December 2006.
Article extracted from SJ du Toit – Whale Capital Chronicles III, Page 19.
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