Look who’s turning 100

Mabel Simpson is a cat's whisker from a century. Photo: Melkbos.net

Mabel Simpson is a cat’s whisker from a century. Photo: Melkbos.net

Melkbosstranders know Mabel Simpson as the pretty old lady who is always smiling. But there is more to Mabel. She turns 100 later this year. She was born on 16 December 1916 and spent the happiest years of her life on the historic farm Roosboom (which is now the Durbanville Hills Wine Estate). It was a life that was both grand and romantic, one that was untouched by the tragedies of the World Wars.

Mabel takes after her mother, her daughter Emmerencia Smith explains. “She was a matriarch!” A photo is produced of Mabel’s mother and father. The photographer captured Maria Schietekat’s fiery expression and the cool elegance of her father Bernard Schietekat. The latter died during the ‘Groot Griep.’ After this Mabel’s mom took over the farming. She retained her love of the good life and went to the races every weekend. In spite of not being able to drive herself, she would buy big cars and get other people to drive for her.

Maria and Bernard Schietekat.

Maria and Bernard Schietekat.

Dances in Bloubergstrand
Getting to school was a schlep in those days. Mabel and her sister Susie and brother Bonnie were taken by horse trap to Killarney each morning. From Killarney they took a bus to Jan van Riebeeck in the city.

The youngsters attended dances in Bloubergstrand. “People would say, ‘Here come the Roses!’when they saw them come.  One day Roosboom’s foreman was riding his motorcycle and Mabel sat in the sidecar. On this day the sidecar fell off, with Mabel in it. What happened afterwards? No-one can remember. But here Mabel is decades later, smiling and unscathed. Despite being a cat’s whisker from a century Mabel is beautifully turned out in lavender and deep pink. Her snow-white hair is coiffed just so.

A busy life
Mabel was always perfectly turned out, Emmerencia explains. She wore heels and tailored dresses, hats and little handbags. Mabel spent her married life at Elsenburg College, where her husband William, who was known as Willa, lectured.

Mabel's brother Bonnie.

Mabel’s brother Bonnie.

“She smoked for years, but she wanted a daughter and promised God to stop smoking if he gave her a daughter. So, when I was born she stopped smoking,” Emmerencia says. Mabel moved to Melkbosstrand 45 years ago. She was endlessly active. “She collected money for the erection of the NG Church in Melkbosstrand as the closest one at that time was in Philadelphia. She baked delicious chocolate cakes and bolletjies, the latter on order, and was involved in politics.

A full and gracious life. One which Councillor Nora Grose sums up as follow: “She was born during the Ist World War, Live through the 2nd World War, lived through the Spanish Flu, saw the establishment of the National Party, saw the first Model T Ford, saw the switch-over from trams to busses, saw the first diesel engine train, was introduced to the first TV in SA, first computer, wrist watches, assassination of Vervoerd, saw the turn of the century… Interesting, if you ask me.”

When I take my leave Mabel greets me with the courtesy of a bygone age. “You must come and visit again,” she says with warmth.





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