March started with a buzz for the Kowie Museum as 20 El Shaddai Grade 4 learners and their teacher, Sophia Herselman, arrived at the station as the museum opened. The learners ran around the station excitedly exploring the platform and buildings, exclaiming at the thought that a train once ran on the railway lines. Some of them did not know that a station existed in Port Alfred.
Then into the museum they came, to discover the early days of Port Alfred and how it has had three names, Port Alfred being the last. They were ‘introduced’ to Chief Ndlambe, after whom the municipality is named, and learnt why the Nemato township is so called.
They studied the pictures on how the piers were built at the entrance to the river by big cranes called the Hercules and the Goliath, and heard about the bridges across the river and how the land on which the Marina now stands once held a swimming pavilion and cricket ground. It was fascinating to discover the use of items of days gone by; chamber pots before the luxury of indoor toilets; bed-warming pans before hot water bottles; moustache teacups made especially for men in those days.
They particularly enjoyed the model of the station and were amazed to hear that a local 12-year-old had swum from England to France across the English Channel. At the end of a brief tour of the museum, they were able to explore independently and then answer a 15 question quiz on what they had discovered. The staff enjoyed the excitement as much as they did! “We would like to encourage more schools in the area to include the museum as an educational outing for their learners,” curator Yvonne Surtees said.
At the same time, the museum hosted a SAMA (South African Museum Association) meeting which continued sedately in the cool shade of the platform on one of the hottest days to hit Port Alfred. Committee members came from the East London, King Williams Town and Grahamstown museums, and the Kowie Museum was very happy to host them once again.
In addition, there were several overseas visitors who arrived through the morning, making this a most worthwhile day!