One of the “younger” generation in my stories, is the dedicated and extremely talented Estelle Spaarwater who has been and still is serving Hermanus on several fronts - as chief organiser of the Hermanus 150th anniversary in 2005, for two years at the helm of the Greater Hermanus Tourism body and presently as chairperson of the Hermanus Heritage Committee.
Estelle Spaarwater (née Dommisse) is a grandchild of the late dominee Ebbe Dommisse of Caledon who laid the cornerstone of the Hermanus Dutch Reformed Church in 1934. The family had ties with Hermanus for more than 80 years. During the 1950s Estelle regularly came on holiday to Voëlklip with her parents. Her father, also Ebbe Dommisse, was in the forestry industry and Estelle lived in all the beautiful places in South Africa: Sabie, Louis Trichardt, Knysna, and when her father relocated to the head office they lived in Pretoria where Estelle matriculated at Pretoria Afrikaanse Hoër Meisieskool (Senior Girls’ School).
The Hermanus holiday memories include Voëlklip beach enjoyment among all their friends, dancing on the Birkenhead Hotel stoep (balcony) to the rhythm of a lively band, surfing with a board dressed only in a bathing costume – not togged up as today’s young surfers.
She attended the University of Pretoria for a year and continued at the University of Stellenbosch, obtaining BSc degree in 1959. Her dream to become a doctor, did not realise. Marriage, babies and living in Holland followed. Estelle’s husband Pieter Spaarwater worked as a radio announcer at the time when Holland and South Africa had cultural relations which included Afrikaans broadcasts. In 1970, after six years on Dutch soil, they returned home and Pieter joined the Naspers publications group, working for Huisgenoot and later Die Burger where he stayed until retirement.
Author of four books
Estelle was always interested in the interior of homes and while they were living in Holland, became greatly stimulated by regular visits to design exhibitions and museums. Back in South Africa she followed an in-service training in interior design after which she became a part-time lecturer in the subject at the Tygerberg College. One thing led to another when the editor of Sarie magazine approached her to write a regular column for the magazine. This proved so popular that Mr Koos Human of the publishing house Human & Rousseau enquired whether she would like to write a book on the subject. Binneversiering in Suid-Afrika (Interior Decorating in South Africa) appeared in 1984 and was an immediate success. Colleges and universities prescribed it as a text book for their interior design classes. Three other books followed — the fourth in the series was titled: Verander, Verbreek en Verbou (Alter, Extend and Rebuild). The first three books were translated into English. The first book was written in longhand but from then on, Estelle mastered the computer. She used professional photographers for the illustrations.
Vermont : Otters
When Pieter and Estelle decided to retire in 1995, they bought a house in Vermont from Gawie Groewewald. It was the first house originally built in the suburb by Joel Krige (Speaker of the House of Parliament) who was a member of the developing company ‘Onrust River Syndicate’. He named Vermont after the east coast state in America that means ‘green mountain’, and built this first historical house in 1920.
They were both still relatively young, and as they are very fond of people, decided to enter the hospitality trade by opening it as a guesthouse which they named ‘Otters’. This was another success story but after ten years in the business they sold it. While still running the guesthouse, Estelle became involved in the tourism bureau and was elected on the committee of the Greater Hermanus Association for Commerce and Tourism. In 2002 she became chairperson, which posed another great challenge. For the next two years she worked very hard and discovered many difficulties in the running of, and promoting tourism, in the Overstrand and elsewhere. The main problem is under-funding by the authorities. No proper marketing that really reaches the target market could be done without sufficient funds or full-time marketing staff with the necessary expertise.
Hermanus turned 150 in the year 2005 and a celebration was called for. When the organising committee met, Estelle was the natural choice to lead them. In her own words: “Conservation of our heritage and cultural affairs has always been my great interest as it formed part of my profession as interior designer”.
So the festival was a great challenge and it kept her busy for at least eighteen months. A huge fundraising campaign was undertaken by the committee and the whole of the community involved. It was decided to upgrade the Hermanuspieters Fontein and Heritage square in Marine Drive (opposite the Misty Waves Hotel). Estelle and her team excelled in this and had enough time and money to complete the first phase of the plans and put together a very festive day of the celebrations in October 2005.
Aesthetics and Heritage Conservation
Estelle was elected to the Heritage Committee in 2001 and with her passion for conservation, really enjoyed making a contribution. When Wendy Hofmeyr resigned as chairperson, Estelle was elected in her place. Now she’s faced with a new challenge and with her bubbling, enthusiastic personality, will surely take the reins of heritage in her stride.
The Spaarwaters have three children. The eldest, Pieter works in Johannesburg, Esther in London, UK and the youngest in the family, Ebbe, works in Cape Town.
Article extracted from SJ du Toit – Whale Capital Chronicles III, Page 72.
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