I attended the plaaslike schools in Harrismith till 1972. A year in the USA in 1973 as a Rotary exchange student in Apache Oklahoma. Studied optometry in Joburg 1974 – 1977. Worked in Hillbrow and Welkom in 1978. Army (Potch and Roberts Heights, now Thaba Tshwane, in between Voortrekkerhoogte) in 1979 and in Durban (Hotel Command and Addington Hospital) in 1980. Stayed in Durban, paddled a few rivers, and then got married in 1988. About then this blog’s era ends and my Life With Aitch started. Post-marriage tales and child-rearing catastrophes are told in Bewilderbeast Droppings.
These random, un-chronological and personal memories are true of course. But if you know anything about human memory you’ll know that with one man’s memory comes: Pinch of Salt. Names have been left unchanged to embarrass the friends who led me (happily!) astray. If I haven’t offended anyone – yet – it’s not for lack of trying . .
Hastily-scribbled, these posts could do with help. They’re usually based on remembered conversations, not written notes. Add your memories – and corrections – and corrections of corrections! – in the comments if you were there.
When City Prop’s Alec Wapnick and Jeffrey Wapnick – well-known for their revitalization efforts in Pretoria’s inner city – saw the historic early 20th century Wits Technikon building, they not only realized the potential for restoration but also the opportunity to create a distinct node for learning and education. Alec had the vision to purchase the Wits Tech buildings, and Jeffrey had the foresight to restore and redevelop them to a standard way beyond the basics.
The project is in line with City Property’s comprehensive approach to inner cities, encompassing all the elements of everyday life, from working, to living and shopping, to schooling.
Established as a technical institution in 1903 to support the city’s flourishing gold mining industry, the building fronts onto Eloff, Plein and De Villiers Streets. It will continue to educate. The west block was already occupied by Johannesburg Polytech the east block will house Basa Educational Institute, an inner city school with excellent credentials, which was looking for a new home. Its focus is on the melting pot that is inner city schooling in Johannesburg today, something that dovetails well with City Property’s holistic approach to local development. They teach in all eleven official languages, as well as a number of others, including Portuguese.
The restoration of the Wits Tech building was something of a labour of love for the Wapnicks, whose long history of restoring architectural beauty show they believe that buildings are themselves works of art, to be shared and enjoyed. A lot of work had to be carried out. The building had been vacant for several years, with the result that fittings had been stripped, the structure itself vandalized and left in a state of disrepair. Architecturally, it was originally designed in the classic Greek revival style, an aesthetic that was popular in Johannesburg at the time: the nearby Supreme Court building is a good example and dates from around the same time as the Wits Technikon building. “The neo-Classical style is very typical, very ornate and a reference to renaissance architecture,” says City Property project manager Anita du Plessis. “It has been designed on a breathtaking scale in a style specific to the time.”
She points to the three different architectural orders used in the building concept: the plain Doric columns on the ground floor, to the distinctive scrolled Ionic columns on the first floor, to the leaves of the Corinthian columns above.
Original fittings, like the marble floors, have been carefully restored and repaired; the original viewing panes in the doors were replaced with safety glass; and the stained glass windows were repaired.
Although the grand architectural style needed to be restored, a key outcome for the project team was an updated space suitable for a contemporary user. For this reason, practical, modern features were worked into the project. For a start, the building is now compliant with all the modern building standards and criteria.
The entrance hall and atrium are equipped with security systems, while the air of a tranquil and dignified place of learning has been carefully maintained. The large, bright airy classrooms with sash windows create a positive learning environment, while the solid structure of the historic property blocks out the noise of the city.
Fellow Wits Tech alumnus 1974 – 1978 Steve Reed wrote: Hope they keep the alternative entrance to Kleinman’s classroom – the ledge along the outside…
“We are the custodians of these magnificent buildings and it is our responsibility to return them to their former glory,” says Wapnick.
These okes are eye pasiente of Brauer’s. Wonder if he’ll claim he gave them their vision and foresight.
Rust in Vrede means Rest in Peace. Rust in Warden was anything but peaceful on account of an invasion of hooligans from the Last Outpost of the British Empire – a flock of unruly wimmin studying to be teachers back in March 1976. It took us gentlemen from behind the boerewors curtain in the salubrious Johannesburg suburb of Doornfontein to bring some decorum to this rustic spot.
Rust, meaning ‘rest’ was Tabs Fyvie’s farm in the Warden district with a lovely empty farmhouse which we colonised, spreading sleeping bags on the wooden floors. Overflow slept on the lawn. Beers, ribaldry and laughter. Tall tale telling . .
. . can’t remember eating . .
And thanks to sister Sheila we have 1976 pictures!
Long before Zimbali became an over-priced gated estate for the rich to hide in, Manfred Bacher, augenoptikermeister from Austria aus, built a yacht in his Umhlanga backyard and called it Zimbali. He said it meant ‘forever young,’ which is what he wished for himself and might have been if it wasn’t for the beer and the cigarettes. In isiZulu izimbali means flowers or blossoms, but Manfred always did cruise to the beat of his own drum.
The boat was a beauty. I hope someone has pictures of it. Beautifully finished in carved and highly-polished dark wood. My part in its construction consisted of visiting Umhlanga after work with big buddy Steve Reed, Manfred’s protégé oogkundige. We’d sit in its cabin in the Umhlanga backyard drinking quarts of beer and listen to Manfred wax lyrical. If I remember right, it was built in two locations: it was moved to the Umhlanga new home from somewhere else?
I missed the actual launch day when it was ferried to the harbour and lifted off a trailer and lowered into the salty water, but I then visited it again to sit in the cabin and drink quarts of beer while it bobbed up and down and the sheets and cables clanked in the wind. Once after enough beer I climbed right up to the top of the mast and enjoyed the swaying to and fro high above all the other boats in the yacht mole. Wonderful view at night with a million lights reflecting off the oily water. I made it down safely, sanks goodness, as Manfred would have said.
Roomerazzit Zimbali only ever made one trip out of the mouth – never again were the sails hoisted till Manfred sold it. It remained moored as a convenient boys gathering place. Again, some may know better and I’d love to hear.
A gathering of a flock of du Plessis is always a very special occasion. Not an orderly occasion. Just very special. Mignon, Jean-Prieur and Jacques-Herman celebrated their Mom Mona’s wonderful ninety years of Mom, Music and Magic at a wonderful venue outside Harrismith – where I forgot to take any pictures (if anyone has any, please share a few – especially one of that magnificent pub of Rob’s! – but also of the people, of course!).
People poured out of the woodwork from far and wide. Austin, Texas; Vancouver, Canada – even Marquard, Free State!
We almost didn’t get there:
. . but we did. When we then found out we – me, sister Sheila and old Harrismith friend Zelda Grobbelaar – were stuck there, Bess put us up in her lovely home:
Thank goodness the Ford went vrot. It was diagnosed with terminal head gasket, whatever that means. I thought it was premature after only 300 000kms, but the upside was this meant we got an extra twenty four hours in the dorp the metropolis. We visited all and sundry, had supper with Bess; had breakfast and bought rusks at Something Lekker owned by a local lass; and then we lunched with the du Plessis clan while they ran around organising that Mona be laid to rest next to her husband and their Dad Pollie, who has been waiting patiently in the Harrismith cemetery for Mona to join him for decades. Patiently? Maybe.
I can just hear Oom Pollie. After he’d got over his joy he would comment on the very smart coffin, worried about the price. He’d relax when he heard it was made by Oom Jan, gratis and for niet. Then he’d harumph that it took Mona joining him for the grass to be mowed round his grave. Then he’d sing Hello Dolly!
To get back to KwaZulu Natal, we hired a brand new Toyota Corolla at Harrismith Avis – of course our dorp has an Avis! Not only that, look at this: They’re the reigning champions!
We visited Georgie Russell; and Mariette Mandy at The Harrismith Chronicle where she had already written about the gathering for her wonderful hundred-and-plenty-year-old local newspaper. I’ll post that when I get it. I’ll also link to any other reports of the day I can find. And add pictures.
. . after a suitably polite interval I think Oom Pollie would also murmur hopefully, ‘Did you bring any cigarettes?’
Late Monday afternoon, after we’d left, the family carried out Mona’s wishes
It’s quite an amazing building for a dorpie! When it was being built sensible locals called it Bain’s Folly, believing the mayor Stewart Bain was overdoing things. What’s wrong with the dorpsaal we already got!?
Do we really need this?
and this inside (thanks to Sandra & Hennie Cronje and Biebie de Vos):
Well, we got it.
In front of it was the market square, which later was turned into an ornamental garden once cars with tighter turning circles than ossewas were invented:
The main entrance and the stage after a recent revamp:
And the setting for this beautiful building is spectacular:
Scope magazine wasn’t always South Africa’s Playboy. Even though it was given a nice niche by the banning of Playboy and Hustler, it seemed to struggle with the intriguing question: ‘What Do Men Really Want?’
Once they got so desperate and misguided they even tried this:
These turned out to be not so much icons as aikonas (to gratefully steal a pun from Pieter-Dirk Uys). Sales plummeted . .
Then they hit on them at last! They had been staring at them all along:
Sales soared! In 1973 they could push their price up . . . to twenty cents! Never again would sweaty, fully-clothed, flat-chested models grace the cover of Scope Magazine!
aikona – isiZulu for ‘no way!’
failed cover – Charles Mason and Tank Rogers, winners of the 1967 Duzi Canoe Marathon!
In tiny cages. Cocky the African Grey Parrot and Jacko the Australian Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. We grew up with them and didn’t think anything of parrots in cages.
But when you see a free-flying one and realise Jacko never flew five metres, never mind five kilometres, it makes ya think. Friend Steve Reed ‘shot’ this one in his neighbour’s tree and put it on his blog.
Also left-handed, I see – as was Jacko.
I commented on Steve’s blog: So amazing to me that this can be a bird that flies free and visits you! We had one in a cage, poor thing. My old man got him from an old lady in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu Natal who had had it for – you know – forty years, and then he had it for – you know – forty years. These numbers don’t get reduced. They grow. And we grew up with Jacko. Who suddenly laid an egg and became ‘she,’ but kept her name Jacko. Poor thing.
And what happened to them? “Given away” yet again. To a ‘Mnr Boshoff’ who ‘trained’ parrots and put on shows where he would demonstrate how Jacko could ‘dance’ and Cocky could ‘talk.’ He was very well known and that made it a good thing. Except well-known and ‘respected’ bird-cage people aren’t always what they say they are. Here’s what a raid on a parrot breeder found when the South African vice-president of the parrot breeders association’s aviaries in Randburg were raided this week: 150 dead parrots and the live birds in cages in shocking condition!
Here they are flocking in the wild:
Mea culpa: While raising kids we let them keep things in cages too! Only fair to admit that!