‘Peanuts’ a little part of Bay history

Tremaine van Aardt

THE “Peanuts man” – who for decades brought smiles to the faces of those at cricket, rugby and soccer matches in Port Elizabeth – has been tracked to an old age home in Malabar.

For years Ruthrapathy “Peanuts” Pillay’s distinctive voice could be heard shouting “peanuts, peanuts” as – with a big bag full of peanuts and an even bigger smile – he sold his goods.

The search for Pillay, 77, came about after a group on a Facebook page, ExPE 60’s 70’s 80’s, started querying his whereabouts. Posting nostalgic memories of their experience with “Peanuts”, the group soon turned their attention to acknowledging him for his contribution to the atmosphere at sports events.

Yesterday, they presented Pillay – who “probably got to see more cricket games, rugby matches and other awesome events than most of us wished we could have” – with a certificate of recognition for being “an outstanding citizen of Port Elizabeth”.

“I had no idea that I had made such an impact on Port Elizabeth. I’m so happy to see that I brought smiles to so many faces,” Pillay said. “I had been selling nothing but peanuts for just over 50 years and would never have thought that something so simple would be remembered this fondly.”

Pillay started selling peanuts in 1947 after his father died. Aged 12, he took to the streets to help his mother support their family of eight. He would walk from his Malabar home to the then Boet Erasmus Stadium in La Roche Drive, St George’s Park in Park Drive, the Adcock Stadium in the northern areas and the beachfront.

His sister, Poona Coopoosamy, said he initially struggled to get into the stadiums during the apartheid years. “My brother used to tell me, at first the security used to chase him away but he soon befriended them and they would even take him home for a drink after the games,” she said.

“All the stadiums were his home grounds, finding favour with the supporters everywhere he went. But nobody expected it to blow up like this.”

Asked how he managed to educate his children selling peanuts, Pillay – who never married or had children – laughed.

“I also heard about this rumour, that I was selling peanuts to put my three children through school and university. I was literally working with peanuts. How am I supposed to pay for university fees with peanuts? I barely made enough to support myself.”

Nasier Abrahams, 57, was among those who dropped off some treats for Pillay, who lives in a room at the Malabar Old Age Home. “What a legend. I was 10 years old back then and I will never forget this short man with his huge bag shouting ‘peanuts, peanuts!’ Pillay became iconic when it came to sports games here,” Abrahams said.

The home’s matron, Suraya Joel, said Pillay was in good health and liked to be busy.

“He is such a pleasure to have around, always smiling and so humble. What a lovely and helpful person he is,” she said.

Karen Kelly, a member of the Facebook group, said they had managed to find Pillay after his niece – Keshana Moodaley – replied on the page that he was alive and well.

“We received hundreds of comments regarding ‘Peanuts’ on our Facebook page. Once we found out that he was well, we decided we had to do something to celebrate his influence in PE.

“We decided on a certificate for him and a tea party for the residents of the home,” Kelly said.

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