Victoria Square, running from Long Street to Main Road alongside Photo Holler on the Long Street corner, is one of our tranquil shopping squares in Hermanus, and in most of the little shops one experiences a truly peaceful atmosphere. One such a place is Jenny’s Book Exchange, situated in one of the ancient historic cottages.
Over the years several businesses used the cottage – among them Photo Holler and Anlea Dress shop. Jenny Densham, who started with her bookshop on the Windsor Hotel corner in the Main Road next to the Post Office, moved to Victoria Square nine years ago and has become a favourite with many book lovers and readers, and she has many regular clients who happily visit and browse.
When I traced Milly Behr (née Easten) in Sandbaai, she was able to fill in some of the history of the cottage when she was a child:
My grandmother, Miemie Henn, married Hendrik Wessels and my mother, Frances Wessels was the eldest of four daughters. I was born in the cottage which is now Chilli Pepper in Mitchell Street in 1932. When I was about four years old, we moved to the Jenny’s Book Exchange cottage. Then my mother, after her divorce from my father, married Robert Blood. When my grandfather died, granny came to live with us as well as one of my cousins. My stepfather planted the fig tree still growing in front of the cottage.
At the age of ten, we moved to Cape Town but came back when I was 16.
I worked for Mr Johnson who owned the cafe on the market square during the day and at night I worked at Mr Allan’s bioscope. We were very poor and my income had to go towards the housekeeping. My mother worked at the Bay View Hotel when she was younger and after she had her children she could not continue. Then she took on washing to do at the wasbakkies.
The late Hennie Wessels of Sandbaai was my uncle. At one stage his brother Coenie lived in the cottage. After I left to work in Cape Town, my mother moved to Westdene where many of the fishermen lived. They were very poor and some days they did not even have money for bread or milk.
The House that Jack built
I worked at the Alexandra institute for mentally handicapped children in Cape Town, met my first husband and we moved to Oudtshoorn where I lived for 22 years. My second husband, Jack Behr was a builder, an engineer and really a Jack of all trades. After our retirement some nine years ago, we came back to Hermanus and Jack built our house in Sandbaai. I often visit Jenny at the book exchange and find it pleasing that it has not been changed or lost its character. The fig tree, although mutilated in a big way, is still there and shows its lovely green leaves in the spring.”
Article extracted from SJ du Toit – Whale Capital Chronicles III, Page 236.
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