Could you imagine putting in 40 years of employment at one place? It sounds extraordinary, but this is precisely what Joe Moodley achieved at Beacon Island Resort, in the process distinguishing himself for his exceptional service and becoming endeared to generations of guests. Yet in case you wondered whatever became of him, he’s still very much around – and in ways that might be surprising.
Joe, now 77 years old, arrived at Beacon Island in 1972, sent on secondment from the Elangeni Hotel in Durban to train staff at the front desk. The role was meant to be a short-term one, but a year later he had been offered a permanent position. “From there onwards I never looked back,” he said. “I liked Plett, and I stayed.”
Over the years, Joe served as head concierge and also saw promotion to head guest relations officer. “I played a double role, working at the desk and as head porter, and then in public relations as well. As head porter, you’re dealing with the guests and seeing that their luggage gets up on time. There’s a lot of questions you have to answer. I knew the area well, so they’d come to me for answers.”
“I came across a lot of celebrities too,” he recalled. “Chris Barnard and Gary Player used to stay here, and I have a photo of myself with the captain of the All Blacks.”
Beacon Island had undergone many changes. “Each time they did a change, it was for the better. The most important change was converting the property from an ordinary hotel to timeshare in 1984.” One of the main results, Joe said, was that the resort started seeing good year-round occupancy and you no longer had the sharp fluctuations of before – packed over the holidays, bare out of season.
Another result was a shift in human dynamics: hotels are about different people arriving all the time, but with timeshare you have the same people coming back. “You get to remember them and call them by name,” he said. There’s regularity and, as the years go on, history. Joe has seen guests’ children grow up before his eyes and arrive in the lobby married and with their own children.
“Many still remember me. They’ll say, ‘I used to come here with my dad, and now he’s given me the timeshare.’ So, it all continues with another generation.”
Joe chuckled at the idea that he had come to be regarded as a “living legend”, and modestly suggested that the secret to his long innings at Beacon Island was little else other than that general managers took a liking to him because he was honest, proficient and showed up for work on time. There is surely more to the Moodley magic than this, given that after he retired in 2005, successive managers offered contract positions and appealed to him to stay on.
Since 2013, Joe has been involved in the resort entertainment team, in the course of which he’s logged a further six years of association with Beacon Island to add to the original 40. Currently he works three days a week, and he again has a “double role”. “I take guests on hikes,” he said, “and I’m a singer on the staff show held every Monday night.”
A lifelong hiker, Joe is a veteran of Plett’s many hiking trails and covers them in breezy stride that often astonishes the folk puffing and panting behind him. “One guy asked me, ‘Not to be rude, but how old are you?’ I told him, and he said, ‘Good grief! At your age, you’re climbing the mountain like a goat.’ I’ve heard this a few times before.”
As for the singing, is this a talent he’s always had? He laughed. “It just came, I don’t know where from.” A former GM cajoled him into giving it a try, and since then “I’ve been loving it. You become popular when you’re a singer in a show. I’ve sang a lot of Elvis songs, and lately I’ve been trying a few numbers by the Beatles. The Beatles’ one I’m doing at the moment is ‘Ticket to Ride’. Before that, I did ‘Love Me Do’ and ‘Teddy Bear’ – quite a lot of Elvis, as I say. I actually had an Elvis outfit at one stage, but the big cape that comes with it got so hot I went back to ordinary clothes.”
What is Joe Moodley passionate about? He reflected, then answered: “Well, the last thing that I’ve done in my life is that I’ve got my own place now. In the past, the Group Areas Act didn’t allow Indians to own property in Plettenberg Bay – you needed a permit to work here. It went on for many long years, and my greatest wish was that one day I would own my own place. Which I’ve now done. Eleven days ago [from an interview in early March] I moved into a flatlet I bought myself. That was my greatest wish, and I achieved it.”