The historic village of Twee Riviere is one of the earliest communities in the Langkloof, the original farm having been surveyed and registered under that name already in 1765. The close, valley geography soon gave rise to a notable concentration of dwellings and households, soon assuming the beginnings of a village… Today, one hundred and thirty families reside in the historic village itself.
Since the closure of Twee Riviere’s post office in 1989, the closest post office had been the one in Joubertina, approximately five kilometers west of Twee Riviere village.
The SA Institute for Conservation maintains a campus in Twee Riviere, and these campus grounds are also home to the historic building that once housed the original post office agency, which was operated by the local post master, storekeeper and schoolmaster, “Meester” Denis Samson Schreiber, between 1869 – 1921. Following Mr Schreiber’s death in 1921, the responsibilities of the postal agency was initially assumed by the new shopkeeper, Mr Harold Strimling. The Strimling family had arrived in South Africasome twelve years earlier, part of a notable influx of Jewish Lithuanian immigrants whom sought to escape rising persecution in their home country.
Some time later, the record shows, a son of the original post master re-assumed the postal agency, which for many years would then be successfully conducted from a portion of his family home. The general dealership, in turn, continued to thrive in its original premises under the ownership of Mr Strimling.
In the early years of the 1900’s, a well-funded civic and church initiative gave rise to the comparatively overnight emergence of the nearby, larger Joubertina. The rising fortunes of Joubertina consigned Twee Riviere to a gradual decline as banking and strategic services abandoned the town. Regrettably, Twee Riviere’s school soon closed, as Joubertina’s larger and more progressive school gradually gained the advantage. The R62 tarred road followed in the 1950’s, bypassing Twee Riviere altogether and leaving its former Hoofstraat high and dry. Despite this – and to its honour – the South African Post Office dignified its own history in this town by permitting the postal agency to continue serving the community for an additional 36 years.
Inevitably though, even its doors finally shut in 1989, yielding to Joubertina’s fully-fledged post office and broader range of services. This loss of mail services simultaneously suspended Twee Riviere’s passenger bus service (a shared transport which accompanied the postal routes), also bringing an end to public transport to and from the town. Perhaps even more crucially, the closure discontinued Twee Riviere’s postal code – and along with it, severed the last remaining link with the preceding, 120 years of postal service by which the town had served the district. This final fracture with the past permitted the little pioneering town’s long and undaunted history to be gradually forgotten, all the more so as the presence of witnesses and living memory steadily fell away…
The current revival and reinstatement of this historic postal agency, rekindles the essence of Twee Riviere’s crucial, early role in opening and servicing the Langkloof district’s postal route. In particular, it calls to mind its sustained and noble contribution during the 1800’s – a century during which it single-handedly carried the torch for this district.
The original building, which had housed Twee Riviere’s postal agency from 1879, has now been restored by The South African Institute for Conservation, and is poised to resume its postal services to this community following an absence of more than two decades. One of the original agency’s, leather-bound store journals (dating back to 1879) is in the curatorship of the Institute, as well image records of the original Twee Riviere post office cancellers (accompanying) from that time, and extensive archival records.
By way of the newly revived Belfry Kitchen lunch café and market, the Institute celebrates Meester Schreiber and Mr Harold Strimling’s former general dealership store. The addition of the reinstated postal agency in the original building completes the circle, re-establishing continuity with Twee Riviere’s near forgotten past.
Reflecting on the past 150 years, it is striking therefore to note just how essential the presence of a postal service is to the well-being and dignity of a community or town, and how influential its arrival or departure proves to be…