There was no water or electricity supply when the first plots were sold. Candles or paraffin lamps were used for lighting and most people used Primus stoves for cooking, but as more houses were being built the supply of water became a problem. The early householders used water butts to catch the rain water but these did not always supply enough to see them through the dry summer season. Most of the earliest homes were built just above the beach, on Simon’s Town Road, and these houses were allowed to tap into the water pipe that took the supply from the farmhouse to Uitkyk. Even so, as the population expanded more water had to be provided.
In 1920 a loan was raised to build a reservoir on the plot behind what is now the circle at the Simon’s Town end of Main Road. Built by T. Stewart it was a concrete structure measuring 40 x 20 x 10 feet designed to hold 4 200 gallons of water. A pipe was laid from the reservoir to a tap on a plot behind what is now Connock Park and residents took their own containers and paid a fee for the supply. It was calculated that with the number of houses in Fish Hoek at that time it would supply each household with up to 150 gallons per day.
By 1921 it was already obvious that as Fish Hoek was becoming more popular, and as more houses were being built, more water was going to be needed. The Railways had already connected Fish Hoek Station to the Cape Town water supply and built a water tower to supply their steam engines. The Local Board asked the railway authorities if it would be possible to have a connection, with a meter, from their mains supply to the local reservoir. The railways agreed that this could be done as a temporary measure until Fish Hoek sorted out its water problems. The connection was made and the water started running into the reservoir in November 1921, with the account to be paid to the Railways. However, the Cape Town City Council objected to this, saying that the Railways were not authorised to resell water supplied to them and that they intended to install their own meter to measure the amount of water supplied to Fish Hoek. The sum would then be deducted from the Railways account and charged directly to the Local Board. This led to utter confusion as both the railways and the Cape Town City Council were demanding payment as there were now two meters, which were registering different amounts, and the one installed by the Railways appeared to be faulty. It took months to sort out the situation.
Whilst all that was going on the Local Board received a letter from Cape Estates Ltd. who had bought land at Clovelly. They noted that the Local Board were now the owners of the Kleintuin spring and that under the terms of the transfer from the de Villiers Estate the spring and the dam had to be fenced and maintained by the owner, and the pipe from the dam had to be two feet underground. As they intended to build a golf course on their land they demanded that work on ensuring that the pipe was properly laid begin immediately. As no one had any idea of the exact course of the water pipe this meant that the Local Board would have had to get approval from the ratepayers to raise a loan to engage a surveyor to trace the pipe and possibly have it re-laid, not something that could be done quickly. In the meantime the contractors had continued working and completed the nine hole golf course without any problems, fortunately nothing more was heard from Cape Estates Ltd.
In June 1920 it was reported that there were already 152 buildings in Fish Hoek with a further 123 being built, the population was estimated at about 830 people. More water was needed, so in January 1922 the Local Board inquired about connecting up with the Cape Town water supply which was done via a six inch pipe connection at Clovelly. Each house was supplied with their own water meter and the Local Board thought that the water problem was now solved.
Unfortunately these water meters were not very efficient and by 1929 the pipes had rusted and half the meters were not working. A ratepayers meeting was held in May of that year which asked that the Board improve the system and permission was given by the ratepayers for the raising of a £4 000 loan for a new water system. At several times over the years the use of the Kleintuin spring water was also suggested. Analysis of the water proved that it was not now suitable for domestic purposes but could be used for watering the sports fields and bowling green. However, because of the costs involved, this did not prove practicable.
Sewerage was another problem. The first residents merely erected an outhouse over a hole in the ground and moved the building once the hole was full. Dirty water went on to the garden. Later some of them put in septic tanks and french drains. In 1923 the Local Board signed a contract for the removal of sewerage from the bucket toilets. The cart started the round at about 10pm and those coming home late were often unfortunate enough to meet it on the way. As there were no street lights there was often spillage as the contents of the bucket missed their mark, which left the owner of the property with a smelly problem the next morning. So in 1930 the Board inquired about a non-flush system which used crystals put into the buckets, but it proved to be too expensive.
Whilst the village was still small the smells in hot weather were bearable, but as the village grew and more houses were built closer together the contractor could not cope and the residents were complaining. A waterborne sewerage scheme was needed. So in 1936 the Board obtained conditional assent from the Administrator of the Cape and the assent of the ratepayers to raise a loan of £49 000 for the scheme and to buy land for the pump stations. Final approval was given in 1937 and work started with a ceremonial turning of the first sod by the Chairman of the Village Management Board, Mr H. S. Jager, on 7 January 1938 at the corner of Recreation Road and Second Avenue. It was completed in June 1940 and Fish Hoek residents, no doubt, breathed a sigh of relief!
By 1921, as they lit their paraffin lamps each night, people in Fish Hoek must have been envious of the electric lights they could see shining in Clovelly. So in November 1921 the Local Board resolved, if possible, to bring electricity to Fish Hoek. Quotations were obtained for the installation and then a letter was sent out to all house owners pointing out that “this can only be undertaken provided the Board is assured that the majority of the properties are connected up and that a certain quantity of energy will be consumed.” Each owner would have to sign an agreement with the contractor for the number of lighting points and power plugs required.
In September 1922 another letter was sent out to home owners stating that before taking out a loan the Board wanted to be absolutely sure that enough houses would be connected to make it worth while. They were asked to sign a form committing them to the installation and to paying the cost of a minimum amount of current for two years. Those who could not afford the initial installation costs could have it paid by the Board and pay it off in instalments at 7% interest. The provision of the electricity was estimated to cost £4 650 and it was proposed to take out a loan and not to have to levy a special rate to cover it.
As might be expected there were some who did not bother to reply to these letters. So in a circular in February 1923 they inform the residents that they had given up the idea. “After very carefully considering the whole question from the financial point of view the Board reluctantly came to the conclusion that under the circumstances they could not venture upon the scheme unless a larger number of persons were prepared to take the current.” This must have at last roused those who had not replied before and when replies to this circular came in the Board decided that there were now enough house owners interested to go on with the scheme. They signed a contract with the Cape Town City Council for the supply of electricity which they would resell to their ratepayers.
The site chosen for the transformer house was on the Outspan, where the Garden of Remembrance is today. However, this area was covered by a servitude, it had to remain as open space, so no building could be erected there. Instead, it was built on the triangle at the end of the Main Road, now the circle. Meanwhile the poles were being put in and wiring was being done in the houses. On 31 July 1924 the current was switched on, it had taken three years to get the scheme completed and in many houses all the lights were switched on to celebrate the occasion.
In May 1930 the City Electrical Engineer wrote to the Village Management Board to tell them that the transformer house was now too small to supply the increased population of Fish Hoek and would have to be replaced. For some reason the Board did not want it touched, perhaps because it looked so pretty there surrounded by trees. In spite of a lot of correspondence on the subject they would not agree to the rebuilding. Eventually the City Electrical Engineer lost patience with them, he said that they were making it very difficult for the City Council to give them efficient service and he would not be responsible for any failure in the supply. If Fish Hoek found itself without power the Board would have to deal with the situation themselves. Still they did not react, and he had probably decided not to bother with them anymore, when in August of that year he received a letter saying that there had been an election in Fish Hoek, a new Board was in place, and they would like to settle the matter.
Originally provision had been made on the Triangle for a post office and a police station, so when, in 1942, it again became necessary to enlarge the sub station an exchange of land was effected to make space for the new building to be erected. When the new building was ready the old one had to be demolished. As this was during the Second World War a permit had to be obtained to do this, it was granted, but the Fish Hoek Council, being prepared for any eventuality, asked for it to be left for the duration of the war as it would make a suitable mortuary. Fortunately it never had to be used for that purpose.