A Slice of Vrystaat

I was born in Harrismith in 1955 as was Mom Mary in 1928 and Gran Annie in 1893. Annie thought “the queen” was also the queen of South Africa. Elizabeth, not Pieter-Dirk.

To balance that, there’s this side of the family.

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 1979 and in Durban (Hotel Command and Addington Hospital) in 1980. Stayed in Durban and got married in 1988. About then this blog’s era ends. Post-marriage tales and child-rearing catastrophes are told in Bewilderbeast Droppings.

‘Strue!! These random personal memories are true of course. But if you know anything about human memory you’ll know: With one man’s memory comes: Pinch of Salt.

Harrismith Methodist Memories

Fifty-Year-Old Memories: METHODIST CHURCH, SUNDAY SCHOOL AND GUILD IN THE SIXTIES. Based on big sister Barbara’s scribblings written in 2015 and added to by various other perpetrators:

“Dropping Dropping Dropping – Hear The Pennies Fall – Every One For Jesus, He Shall Have Them All”.

Every Sunday morning Mom would give us sixpence each to place in the plates that were handed around by the – who? deacons? elders? we didn’t call them anything high church like that, it was just Uncle Cappy and Uncle Ralph. They would hand around two flat, open wooden plates lined with red velvet, one for boys the other for girls; open so everyone could see how much you gave! These were then taken to the front of the hall where George Davies would be sitting and then he’d stand up, and – in Barbara’s childlike eyes, he would pocket the money in his voluminous trousers so that he could buy us nice things for our Christmas Party!

Every Sunday morning we’d go to Church with Mom in her powder blue Volksie OHS 155. She was the organist and we had to get there early so that Mom could get settled – and sister Sheila says ‘warm up her hands in Harrismith’s winter’ – and start playing all the beautiful pieces that she had been practising all week at home. The congregation would walk into Church and sit quietly and listen to her playing. At first on the big old fashioned organ with the ivory stops and wooden ‘pump-pedals’ that she “inherited” from Uncle Wright Liddell, then on the much smaller modern organ, much less impressive, but maybe more in choon? On the old organ they’d sit with their back to the people; the new one they faced us and it was low. Mom would place a big bunch of flowers on it so she could hide a bit! The old one looked something like this:

At 10am Church would begin with the minister appearing from the mysterious room at the back and mounting his pulpit and saying the same thing each time (I forget what it was). Sunday School kids had to start off in the big church first (big church in no way to be confused with Die Groot Kerk which was up the road, also in Warden Street). Barbara thinks this was to teach us kids to sit still, listen to the grown-ups, to keep deadly quiet and definitely not to talk and giggle in Church. Well, that didn’t work. What was so funny? Was it Mrs. Brunsdon’s singing? Was it Mrs. Fritzgerald’s hat or her fur cape? Or was it little two year old Glynnis Yates standing up on the pew and saying loudly to her father in the pulpit: “Daddy, you Scallywag”! Whatever it was, it was very funny.

Barbara remembers that in our earlier years – 1959/1960 – us three little Swanepoels would walk down Warden Street with Audrey and Monica Hastings, who lived in Warden Street back to back with our great-grandmother’s house at 13 Stuart Street. There at ‘Granny Bland’s house we would have high tea, scones or crumpets on the front veranda steps with our Grandmother Annie Bland, her sister Jessie Bell and Annie’s mother-in-law, Mary Bland, known as Granny Bland. Them not being church-going folk, Mom did enough church and Women’s Auxiliary for all of them! Here we waited for Mom to finish her church service and then join us – a highlight of the week.

Story from Mom: Mary Wessels said no matter where she sat in Church, Mrs. Brunsdon always came and sat in front of her – Mary battled to keep a straight face when confronted by Mrs. B singing loudly off key, turning around and sniffing and then noisily wiping her nose into the bargain. So distracting – and this, methinks, was one of the girls’ giggling stuff! Actually I think every Methodist thought Mrs Brunsdon always sat right in front of them – it certainly felt that way!

Story from Koos: Mrs. Brunsdon used to turn round and peer intently at whatever or whoever  interested her, over or through her glasses. She would start singing the next line when she was ready, regardless of where the music and/or the congregation members were at (those two weren’t always perfectly in sync neither!). Loudly. She would never skip or play catch-up. She’d go through the hymn at her pace – irregardless! Sometimes the organist or the congregation would  wait or speed up to match her and thus keep some sort of order. She was without doubt a cause of some of the suppressed mirth in church. As was poor old Bob Yates’ small, bald, bespectacled appearance.

Us kids would then be dismissed to our relief after five hours or twenty minutes, depending on who you asked, and we would troop off out of the old sandstone church into the brick hall next door for Sunday School.

Methodist Church crop

Announcements would be made and this is where the Dropping Pennies Song would be sung, the loot would be gathered, and off we would go to our individual classes.

The Sunday School teachers in the early 60’s were Miss Ivy Petty for the senior girls, Poerie Coetzee for the senior boys, George Davies for junior boys, Stella Euthimiou taught the babies, Emma Morton and Pye Euthimiou. After classes it would be back to the hall where we always seem to finish off the morning with – “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for Him each day . . . a sunbeam, a su-unbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for Him”. Shirley Mason would accompany us on the piano. Sheila says another song that never missed a Sunday was: “Jesus bids us shine with a pure pure light . . . you in your small corner and I in mine”.


Sunday School Picnics in the park on the banks of the river were amazing. The games, the delicious food and the wonderful company. Gallons of ginger-beer in colourful buckets with raisins floating on top and hot-cross buns, with butter melting in them. Uncle Cappy would organise games for us – rounders, open- gates and cricket. And he’d join in and play!

Sheila has just spoken to Mom who says she still has the red plastic bucket she used for the ginger-beer which she made fifty years ago!

Another story from Sheila: One picnic all the kids were told not to go anywhere near the weir – but needless to say we went. Afterwards Mom said to all the kids: “But didn’t Mrs. Morton tell you not to go to the weir?” Irrepressible Pierre piped up cheerfully: “Yes, but we didn’t hear her nie!”

Emma Morton of the double negatives became our ‘superintendent’ after George Davies retired – him with the yards and yards of grey flannel material which made up his flowing pants – his ball-room trousers, as Koos put it! When he sang “you in your small corNAAAH!” he would rise up on his toes and shove his boep forward a yard but his trousers didn’t need to move an inch. His two-toned grey Wolseley had beautiful fold-down walnut tables for the back passengers.

On the subject of George Davies’ Wolseley, Etienne wrote: Tuffy & I would walk to the church on Sunday evenings after my folks had left with the green Zephyr’s spare keys so as to borrow the Zephyr for a spin through the park. I would gun it and let its backside slip on the turn before the swing. One night I let it slide too much and caught the tail against a mud bank. We drove back to Church & parked it in the empty bay next to old Davies’ Wolseley. When my Dad saw the bang on the tail the next day in the light, he thought George Davie had bumped him and said nothing. The following Sunday old Cappy inspected the Wolseley for evidence of green paint & there was none. Before he passed away I told him the story & he said he could not believe me.

At the end of the year Prize-Giving evening lovely books were handed out for lst, 2nd and 3rd prizes. What were they for? Biblical knowledge? Then our Christmas Party in the hall – what a highlight! Decorations; tables groaning under the burden of delicious food; a beautiful array of cakes and puddings and ice cream cones; and always a beautifully decorated Christmas tree – a real pine tree from the bosbou; loads of presents lying at the bottom. These wonderful unforgettable occasions were thanks to our kind and generous parents – Aunty Joyce Joubert, Aunty Joan du Plessis, Mrs. Emma Morton, Ivy and Phillys Petty, Miss Helen Scott (Scotty) who always made her delicious fairy cup-cakes, Myra Wood, Anna Gavin, Doreen Hattingh, Polly Crawley, Jo Hastings, Edna Bissett, Lally Davies, MAary Swanepoel and who else? – many others.

Then a Christmas present for each child was brought to us by a “real” Father Christmas – usually Uncle Cappy, who – as always – did his thing here like a real trooper. He would arrive at the hall on a tractor or truck after a big build-up by the other adults (certainly more hype and pomp than poor Jesus ever got!) and would walk in with our gifts in the big sack thrown over his shoulder. We would be told to go and look out for him – usually misled in the wrong direction to give him a gap to arrive “Ta DA!” Then we would sit quietly as George Davies or Emma Morton called each one of us to the front to receive our gift, lucky kids.

Carols by Candlelight was another big event – sitting on the back of a big truck or trailer along with Uncle Wright Liddell’s beloved organ and driving around town singing to – who? the Dutch Reformed and the Anglicans? Lost souls! We’d show them! The grown-ups and the bigger kids had torches or candles. The singing would start immediately with great gusto and this carried on during the course of the evening with diminutive Uncle Wright playing to his heart’s delight while pumping at the pedals to make the noise. We would be asked to pump when he tired and had to be tamed – ‘not so fast’ – till we got the hang of it.

On Friday afternoons, the younger kids had Junior Guild. What fun! Here the minister Jack McGuire and his wife Eileen were in charge – they would read us stories, we would have quizzes and then there would be games outside. Barbara used to play the piano for the singing of ‘guild songs’ which were different to Sunday School songs. “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning, give me oil in my lamp I pray / I will make you fishers of men if you’ll only follow me / The old old story it is ever new, the old old story Praise the Lord, its true, that Jesus died for me as well as you, I love the old old story”.

In front of the old church
In front of the old church 1962

In standard six – high school! you could join Senior Guild. For kids who mostly stayed at home evenings or went out only with our parents this was a big adventure. 7pm on Friday nights you could go to guild unaccompanied! And come home late. We’d drink coffee at guild and sometimes we’d venture out on treasure hunts – going all over town finding and collecting the ‘treasures’ in the clues we were given. In about 1968 Adie Crewe took over the night Guild and brought a whole lot of new ideas into our lives – it was fun under her guidance.

After Guild some were fetched and some walked home – more adventure. Barbara says walking home by the light of the moon or the streetlamps gave the words “Kêrels by Kandlelight” a whole new meaning!

We would help out at cake sales held on Saturday mornings, I think in front of either Chodos’ store or the Post Office – selling, carrying and sometimes eating all the goodies that filled these tables. Or, worst of worst, standing on a street corner with an adult from the Church, holding the money tin and rattling it under everybody’s noses.

Harvest Festival was another different day. Everyone had to bring along some sort of fruit or veg. The farmers would bring along loads of food – big pumpkins and mealie stalks all over the place. The front of the Church would be transformed into a massive vegetable garden jungle. On Garment Sunday we were asked to take jerseys for the poor.

The Nativity Play brought big excitement – long rehearsed-for – the evening of our Nativity Play as Christmas approached. Anna Gavin, Miss Petty, Mom, the minister and his wife would choreograph and direct and coach. Tension as you found out if you were cast as an angel, a wise man, a shepherd or – first prize! Mary or Joseph. I remember being a sheep and an angel – not prize positions by any means! I remember the bigger boys’ solemn slow walk as us supporting cast all sang ‘We three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar’

And then the biggest highlight: Christmas! For once church did not seem early. We had been up for ages already, finding out what was under the tree. Church would be dominated by the excitement of our presents with our friends who had also not gone on holiday. What did Father Christmas bring you when he came down your chimney? Ministers would try and keep the focus on Jesus but that was not easy to do. I achieved some brief pulpit-y fame one year when the minister said to the spellbound congregation “I know of one chap who had already pitched his new tent on the lawn by six o’ clock this morning!”




Harrismith Holiday Drive-Inn

I’ve only ever seen one aardvark in the wild. A dead one. And it was in the boot of Redge’s car in the Harrismith Holiday Inn parking lot. So I haven’t seen an aardvark in the wild. Yet.

I have seen wildlife at the Harrismith Holiday Inn, though. Once when we had had about enough – we always knew when – Des decided he couldn’t drive home so he would check in to the inn and spend the night in a responsible manner, keeping death off the roads.

So he drove his pickup neatly between the glass double doors and right up to the reception desk. The poor HI receptionist thought WTF and called Dieter. Who came marching over with a look in his eye that made Des think ‘Maybe Not’. So he engaged reverse gear and proceeded to take his quiet and orderly departure, ignoring Dieter’s calm plea, ‘Just stop, Des, just stop’. Dieter was the long-suffering manager who was amazingly good with us locals. He tightened the leash at times and let the dogs loose at other times and he knew when was when.

Harrismith Holiday Inn
Slightly-more-than-bakkie-width double doors

Possibly the alcohol fumes misted the bakkie rearview mirror slightly, putting Des’ alignment slightly out, so this time the bumper hooked the glass door when he was halfway out and there was a sudden rather dramatic shattering of the shatterprufe glass. This made Des think again and what he thought was ‘I’m outa here’ and he accelerated off to where everyone knew he lived – on Kenroy. When he got there Gilbert drew back the duvet and fluffed up his pillows and Des leapt into bed and lay still with his face down, ignoring the persistent ringing of the phone.

On the partyline phone was Dieter wanting to say ‘Des you gotta come over and sort this out or else I have to call the police. I don’t want to call the police but I have to if you don’t come now and sort this out’. But Des buried his head deeper into the pillow, pulling another pillow over his head to block his ears. That would make it go away.

So the cops had to drive out to where everyone knew Des lived – on Kenroy – and bring him in to where an out-of-court settlement was made.

Harrismith OFS in the Sixties

Big Sister Barbara has a good memory for the old days, good sources (like old school annuals) and is developing a good network to enhance all that! She wrote in  November 2015 – Note: You’d really need to be An Ancient Harrismithian to plough through this post!:

Dear Friends, Acquaintances, Dancing Partners, Boyfriends of Old and “Big Brothers”

“Happiness is . . meeting old friends after a very long time and feeling that nothing has changed.”


This is Harrismith OFS from about 1959 to 1971 – so in The Famous Sixties!

Recently, while chatting to Louis Brockett, he mentioned how nice it would be to have a reunion – with the kids that went to our Sunday School/Guild and Swimming Club. I have come up with these names and I am sure you all will remember plenty more.  If a reunion ever does take place, it should be quite a gathering – ‘n groot makietie’ – or just one helluva party.    Nevertheless, it would be great to see all again. Here’s goes . . .


The following kids formed part of our circle of friends at School / Sunday School / Guild / Christmas Parties at the Moth Hall, Church & Country Club / Swimming Lessons / Parties / Volkspele / ‘Sessions’ / ‘Discos’ at the Moth Hall and old Jewish Synagogue, etc etc


Justin & Dorianne Michell – them with the lots of kids – 7 in all at the end! Mr Michell used to go to the zoo after church and feed the warthog, so we named the warthog ‘Justin’.

Jack & Eileen MacGuire (loved them at Guild). Jack was so NORMAL! Not a ‘dominee’ – He played cricket for Harrismith!

Bob & Pearl Yates (confirmed many of us);

David & Thelma Young (married Jeff & me);

George Davies; ‘Uncle Wright’ Liddell; Mary Swanepoel; Emma Morton; Miss Ivy Petty; Poerie Coetzee; Cappy Joubert; Stella & Pye Euthimiou; Adie Crewe (ca. 1968)

KIDS  IN  SUNDAY  SCHOOL:  (1959 – 1971)

Lynn, Pierre & Sonja du Plessis; Christos, Anne & Georgie Euthimiou; Shirley Mason; Petra & Ray Bissett; Alfie, Robert, Peter, Cecily & Ian Moore; Audrey and Monica Hastings; Jean Lund; David Davies; Renee Rae; Julian & Roma Roy; Richard, Cynthia (Sue), Denise (Lindy), Terence (Jimmy) & Beverley (Denny) Putterill; Etienne, Tuffy & Deon Joubert; Kevin, Leon & Judy Crawley; Heather, Melanie, Jenny & Norma Hattingh; Billy, Louie, Timothy & Charlotte Brocket; Allan & older brother Barry Summerfield; Michael, Sia & Georgie Mikalakis; Liz Paul; Trevor, Jennifer & Allan Priest; Ian Untiedt; Kenneth (Std 8 – 1963) & Maureen Atherton; Denise & Joan Brand (from Witzieshoek); Barbara, Koos & Sheila Swanepoel; Anne, Lynette & Desley Wood; Gillian Liddell; Patsy, Lionel, Cathy &  Judy Crewe; Mignon, Jean-Prieur & Jacques-Herman du Plessis;



Kids that crossed our paths in Harrismith (period 1959 to 1966):

Rosemary, Stewart, Barbara and Mary McCall; The Milton sisters, Patricia, Caroline & Pookie; Dick & Brian Riley; Nipper (Patrick) & Christine Lennon; Trevor & Deo Else; Bruce Liddell; Denise van der Merwe; Marion Searle with sister Jenny and brothers John & Peter; Rex Taylor; Gary Vedovitch (matric 1965); Violet Thurston (matric 1965); Gib Gibhard (matric 1964); Dawn and Lester Crawley; Sandra (Std 8 -1963) & Pam Cartwright (Std 9 – 1965); Joy, Claire and Heather Alcock (_+ 1960); And what about the Baxter brothers? Allan Baxter was a year younger than me and had older brothers; Leonard Walsh; Merle Wessels (matric 1964); Anna Bam (matric 1964); Poem-Celeste Hobbs (matric 1963);  Louise, Janet (matric 1964) & Gillian Liddell; John and Allan Landman; Lynette & Brian Doore; John Riddle & his older brother; Moira & Brian Sharpe; Dawn & Christopher Jelliman; Sandy & her brother Wally Goble; Ian, Gail, Sandy and Tabs Fyvie; Bev Mapp; Jenny Mapp; Ian & Gary Grant; Peter, Pam & Allan Sharratt;  Clive & Candy Goble; Pooksie & Michael Eksteen (Sons of Dr. Boel & Ronnie Eksteen); The Kuhlmey Kids  (Derrick); Stewart & Glynnis Hillcove; Sharon Kool; Donald, Anne & Eddie Coleman;

SWIMMING (1962– 1966)

Our teachers were Joan du Plessis and Joyce Joubert – ladies we will never forget.   We were all very privileged to have had them in our lives.

Robert Moore; Louie Brocket; Ralph Morton; Jake Grove; Elsie Steyn; Amanda Erasmus; Lorette van Wilpe; Annette Grove; Lynn du Plessis; Ann Euthimiou; Martie Marais; Peter Moore; Etienne Joubert; Theo Maeder; Trudi Steyn; Chris de Jager; Okkie Botha; Frik Ras; Rietta Meyer; Sarie Human; Cecilia Vorster; Marissa Fouche; Pierre du Plessis; Franz von During; Musa von During; Jackie Viljoen; Lesley Wessels; Gib Gibhard & younger brother; Zak (Model Kafee); Christijan (Oupa) Terblanche; Dirkie Roelofse; Billy Brockett; Christos Euthimiou; Francois Marais; Peter Aligianus; Llewellyn & Eugene Georgiou; Hilda Human; Llewellyn & Derrick Mileham; Trudy & Noelene Bester;



These we found at Sunday School, Guild, Swimming and Parties. They were the older guys and girls that looked out for the younger ones, that protected us and they were our heroes.   I remember being in Std 5 in 1965 when Johnny Kongas and his band came to Harrismith to play in the Town Hall.   What excitement there was amongst the young crowd.   Pierre asked me to go with him, Lynn and Gary Vedovitch.   Only because Lynn was going did my Mom allow me to trek along. Even at the swimming pool the older guys kept a look-out on the younger ones. There were Big Brothers throughout my whole life in Harrismith.

OUR FAMOUS MOTH HALL PARTIES / Round Table-run SYNAGOGUE PARTIES / GARAGE PARTIES / VERKYKERSKOP NEW YEAR PARTIES – AND OTHER GET-TOGETHERS  (1966 – 1970) with Harrismith golden oldies and some “out of towners”:

Trudi Wessels; Lyndie Muller; Jenny Mapp; Max Bronn (fantastic dancer); Johnny & Lenda Pieters; Aubrey, Jurie & Kolhaas Linstrom; Roseanne Schoeman; Trish Carr; Spilsbury brothers, Rob, Douglas, Neil & Gary; Guillaume, Carl & Bess Reitz; Des Glutz; John, Tim & Lal Venning; Al die landmeter ouens van die Sterkfonteindam projek; Don Inglis; Coenie Bronkhorst en Eugene Ferreira van Pretoria met hulle wit beach buggy; Chris van Zyl with his friend “major” Doubell; Arrie Schreiber with Ge-Org (surname long forgotten); Johnny de Jager; Hein Hansen; Gert and Saag Roets; Gary Beaton; Frans Stassen; Martyn Bean; Bennie Neveling; Trevor Muller; Gordon White; Richard & Elsie Scott; Jeannie Siman (USA 1967); Larry Wingert (USA 1969); Willem, Gideon (Giep) & Hanlie Steyn; Whitey Fourie; Bollie Bolton; Gert Kruger;  Marinus Landman; Killus Nortje; Chris Cloete; Ferdi & Wessel Smit; Tobie Lyle; Joe Oosthuizen; Daan Smuts; Tienie Els; Annatjie Henning; Olive de Necker; Arina Uys; Dalena D’Alebout; Rita Nienaber; Marion Searle;

HS Moth Hall
The fondly-remembered MOTH hall

How can we ever forget those enjoyable Moth Hall parties where the music was great, always the latest songs, supplied by Ann Euthimiou – LP’s and Seven Singles played on what, Annie?? As long as we could dance the night away with great dancers and where one packet of chips fed all of us and a packet of Pepsin Beechies was shared, we were one happy family! I do not recall seeing any cooldrinks on display for our thirst (maybe one bottle of Oros and a couple of plastic cups) and what was available for those who choose to go outside, hidden in cars or the gutters did not bother us insiders either.   We just wanted to dance, dance and dance again – even if it was amongst all the military paraphernalia and memorabilia hanging on the walls of the Moth Hall.   Dodging bullets, bombs, swords, helmets and flags we twirled, waltzed and “sakkie lang-armed” to the beat of “Snoopy vs the Red Baron” or “The Ballad of the Green Beret”.  With all the Generals and Majors of WW2 looking sternly down upon us from their new positions stuck on the walls, us kids never touched a thing.   We were there to have fun – definitely not to fiddle with or re-arrange the past. A few of us would have had ancestors in those Generals and Majors hanging in there. I wonder what would have gone through their heads if only they could have had a detailed conversation with our parents afterwards.   But it was all good – we were a disciplined, trustworthy and happy crowd of kids having fun.

To be a wall-flower at our parties was not good and dancing with a group of girls was unheard of in those days.   When Volkspele at the high school fell away in about 1967 (I bet some of us are still “Soeking na my Dina”), why didn’t Eben Louw teach us Line Dancing or better still Barn Dancing?   Just “Imagine” . . we would have “had the time of our lives” dancing to “Grandma’s Feather Bed”, “The Lonely Bull” or “Groen Koringlande!”  Of course, not forgetting “Old MacDonald” and his whole darn noisy farmyard.

It was at these parties that we were introduced to The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Troggs, The Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Simon & Garfunkel and many other new stars of the day.   Where “Ob la di Ob la da”, “Proud Mary”, “House of the Rising Sun” and “California Dreamers” would make an impact on our lives forever.   Where “Bridge over Troubled Waters” and “Silence is Golden” would be the last songs of the evening so that we could snuggle with whoever was your beau or “flavour” or “case” for the night!! (“ . . and then he kissed me”) . .

but then as the clock struck 11pm, I knew I was in trouble as that was the time that this Cinderella had to be home – with 2 shoes or l – dit het nie saak gemaak nie – I had to BE HOME at 11pm!  If not, I was banned/gated for the next two or three parties and that would have been such punishment, even torture, as we only had about one party each holiday.   That means I could have been banned for a whole year!  Now I know why some of my friends didn’t want to stay at my house for these parties.   Really, parents . . 11 pm!! Just when all the fun was starting.    I think my Mom had just got to hear of the new song of the moment: “Even the good times are bad . . ”        Yeah, Mom, but even the bad times were good!

Well guys, this is all that I can remember.   Please share your side of the stories with us and the names of your friends of yesteryear just to jog the old memories even more.

Love to all of you – Barbara

PS:   …. And who could forget Percy Sledge’s “When a Man loves a Woman” . . just when things were hotting up and undying love was being confessed, declared or whispered in my ear, I had to grab both shoes and rush home! Maybe I would have turned into a pumpkin . . anything would have been better than leaving a good party filled with hope and promises.   I mean, those moments were gone in a second and were seldom relived.    Oh!  the agony of being young!   Sighhhh…..!


Petra Bissett replied:

Petra Bissett 1966.jpg
Dear All

Such delightful messages filled with such lovely memories from Barbara and friends.  Barbara, I just don’t know how you keep all those memories so fresh in your mind.

As you all know Rey and I did not matriculate in Harrismith.  Std 9 and Matric I went to boarding school, and so did a few other Harrismith guys – Linstrom boys (they lived next to the Brocketts), Maaitjie Odendaal’s elder sister. We then only came home on the occasional Hostel weekend and holidays. The Odendaal girls lived on a farm – don’t quite remember. Rey went to a Boy’s School in Gauteng (Heidelberg) where he started his trade.  He did well there and was Headboy of the Hostel.  Both of us returned to Harrismith after school for a few years and I eventually left Harrismith in 1970 and Rey much later – possibly very early 80’s.  Rey was very close to the Georgiou boys and was very saddened when Eugene drowned.

Rey Bissett in matric; Rey (2L) and Petra (2R) at a picnic on Platberg’s slopes

I certainly missed a lot of fun those last two years of school but I have the wonderful memories until Std 8.  The famous Moth Hall Parties were definitely the highlight. I remember  very clearly my childhood in Harrismith and how you all, boys and girls played a big role in my life and of course the wonderful teachers we were privileged to have.  I also took music lessons from Miss Underwood whom I am sure some of you did also.  When we were in the Primary School, can any one still remember how we enjoyed the “Tickey Aand”.  The favourite part was where you could play a record for someone special and remain anonymous.  For days you would wonder who sent the message but was soon forgotten when the next exciting thing happened.

Louis Brockett met up with Gary Vedovitch a few months and shared the photo on whatsapp.  I remember the names Tokolos Coetzee and Arrie Schreiber but just cannot place them and obviously can figure out what connection there was – maybe someone can enlighten me.

Robert Moore Trevor Miller Arnold Schreiber and Carl Reitz 1968
At the pool – Robert Moore, Trevor __, Arrie Schreiber, Carl Reitz

When I started to work at the Standard Woollen Mills, I made a lot of Afrikaans-speaking friends and joined the Badminton and Tenniquoit Club.  We would often travel quite far to play a match and the places not too far we would have a braai and barn dance after the game.  During these years we got together – not sure if one could all it “dates” but nevertheless we had a great time – with Killus Nortje (a great dancer and later he and Maaikie Odendaal got serious), Chris van Zyl, Jurie and Aubrey and some girls would go all the way to Ladysmith to the Drive-Inn, Hennie van Aard, a land surveyor, Bruce Humphries (teacher), Garth Romeo – more – my memory has failed me.

I still have not been able to trace my photo albums but somehow found these few photos attached in a box.  Lynn was talking about the make up – I must say I only experimented with the eye shadow much later but the mascara and eyeliner was the in-thing as can be seen in the photo of me in 1966.  Audrey Hepburn looked so good with the eyeliner but – ah well we tried.

That’s what I have to contribute or fill in the gaps with the stories Barbs. Once again thank you for keeping in touch and being so disciplined in contacting us.  I know you are a very busy lady and that is why I appreciate your efforts – time is precious and goes by so fast.

Lots of love – Petra Bissett Cronje


Younger sister Sheila added:

Mignon, Sheila and Georgie
Mignon du Plessis, Sheila Swanepoel, Georgie Euthimiou

Mum Mary remembers a Sunday School picnic in the park where we were expressly told not to go anywhere near the weir – but needless to say, we went. Afterwards Mum said to all the kids “But didn’t Mrs Morton tell you not to go to the weir?” Pierre said, “Yes, but we didn’t hear her nie”. (Emma Morton was famous for using double negatives – in English).

Mum still has the same red plastic bucket she used to make the ginger beer for the picnics.  Cappy Joubert would walk around with a wide grin in the President Brand Park where we’d sometimes hold the picnics, offering tea and buns, shouting “coop a char na boon?” mimicking the cockneys he’d met during the war. When he came back from the war in uniform his church had turned him away, so he’d joined the Methodists! Mrs Brunsdon was a huge part of the church those days – also Joyce Joubert, Anna Gavin, Emma Morton, Lallie Davie and later Adie Crewe.  And the long-suffering minister’s wives – Dorianne Mitchell – she of the 7 kids – Eileen McGuire, Murial McGregor, Pearl Yates.

Archie McGregor’s wife was Muriel. Their 4 kids were awful, and he was very difficult.  He got very irritated one year when we were playing a ball game down in the park at the Sunday School picnic and Adie Crewe ran away with the ball when it was thrown to her.

Other men involved in the church and not yet mentioned, were Bob Moore, Ernie van Biljon and Francois Maeder.

During an evening performance of some sort – I remember sitting up on the raised pews in the old church – Sonja du Plessis fell asleep with her head on Lyn Wood’s shoulder and when we had to stand up and sing, Lettuce couldn’t move!

Mary Wessels said no matter where she sat in church, Mrs Brunsdon always came and sat right in front of her – and Mary battled to keep a straight face when confronted by Mrs B, singing loudly off-key, turning around and sniffing – and noisily wiping her nose.

1999 Harrismith Mary & Mary0001
Mary Wessels, Mary Swanepoel

Whenever Mum had to play at a funeral, she would always grab the biggest flower arrangement and put it smack in front of her face, so she didn’t have to see the grieving relatives.

Mum doesn’t remember the kids being allowed on the back of the lorry for the Christmas Carols – she thought it was only the choir – with Uncle Wright on the organ.  She says Edgar Ewan or Bob Moore would have driven the truck.

At one of the nativity plays – which Emma Morton always called the Nivity Play – I was supposed to be an angel, but I refused to cooperate, so they took you instead and you behaved beautifully.

Mr George Davie always spoke of ‘Cessily Maw’ – instead of Sissily Muwa, as we – and she – said, and that always amused me. Didn’t he know Cecily Moore was pronounced Sissily Muwa?

Mum remembers that Myra Wood made the most delicious cupcakes – an art Mary could never master. A master baker she was not, so she’d call in the services of Mrs Woodcock to make our birthday cakes. Scotty (formally ‘Miss HM Scott’) was famous for her butterfly cakes.

Somebody made Mum a beautiful yellow brocade dress for her honeymoon – she later cut it up to make gypsy outfits for us – for some talent show. Koos and I wandered up on to the stage and won a special prize for being cute or something.

Mum also remembers entering us all in a talent show – you played the piano and I sang “Zoem, zoem zoem, bytjie zoem zoem zoem.” Mum can’t remember if Koos did anything.  Wonder if that was where Stuart McKenzie recited “New shoes, new shoes?”  Heather and I went through three years of teachers’ training college together. Stuart died of cancer about ten years ago.

Mary Methodist wasn’t always a staunch Methodist – she has admitted preferring the Anglican Church picnics as a teenager, as the boys were much nicer than the Methodist boys! Michael Scruby, Brian Brown and Peter Anderson, amongst others.

Anglican Church
The opposition!

The picnics were held at “The Homestead”, up near the waterworks somewhere. Later on Bob & Nan Milne had a chicken farm there.

When Mum was in Duggie Dugmore’s nursing home in the old Boer War officers’ mess on Kings Hill when Koos was born, Jessie Bain / Bell said to her – “Aren’t you scared of snakes?”  Mary replied “I don’t know – I haven’t seen any and I don’t think of them.”  “Oh” said Jessie “I would think of them all the time!”

Harrismith Kings Hill Dr's Res (maternity home)
Duggie’s maternity home
Harrismith Kings Hill Dr's Res (maternity home) 2
What’s left of it – Bob Moore in pic

Bessie & Sepp de Beer’s home was down near Granny Bland’s home – Mum loved that home – they would have concerts on the open veranda – Mum’s great friend was Joey de Beer – Marie Lotter’s older sister. Bessie always said their outside toilet was “halfway to Warden”


Bessie & Sepp de Beer’s home was down near Granny Bland’s home – Mum loved that home – they would have concerts on the open veranda – Mum’s great friend was Joey de Beer – Marie Lotter’s older sister. Bessie always said their outside toilet was “halfway to Warden”


I added:

Cecily always corrected me when I said Cecily. She said “It’s Sissily”. I did say Moowa though, not Maw.
George Davie had the biggest ballroom trousers in the Free State. When he sang Sumbean, he could move his boep forward a yard before his trousers needed to move. His old grey Wolseley car had beautiful fold-down walnut tables for the back seat passengers.
Ernie van Biljon was a star – he (along with the Round Tablers) brought normality to Harrismith – the real world, commoon sense – for which I’m everlastingly grateful.

Mrs Brunsdon used to turn round in church and peer intently at whatever interested her, quite disconcerting if it was you she stared at while singing lustily. She would then start the next line when she was good and ready, regardless of where the music and/or the other singers were at. Loudly. She would never skip or play catch-up. She’d go through it at her pace. Irregardless, as a friend of mine says.

Fluffy Crawley had a great sense of humour. When Mary Methodist made us sing ‘Hark Hark Hark, While Infant Voices Sing’ he would pronounce ‘hark’ in Afrikaans and make raking motions, cracking us up and making Mary get stern and admonishing.

I remember Bessie & Sepp de Beer’s home being nearer the Volkskool, nearer Francois Marais’ home and Lesley Wessels the bank manager’s home than Granny Bland’s in Stuart Street. Huge veranda – used by the invading Poms in the Boer War.


Sheila again:

Loved your description of Mrs Brundon’s church singing – spot on! Mary Wessels would have loved reading that!
The de Beers must have moved there later – was it Biddulph Street?  Then the Uys family lived there – Arina, Annemarie and Ronel. Mum remembers standing in our garden at Piet Uys Street and hearing a gun shot – Mr Uys had ended it all in the garden.
Pieter Nouwens now lives there and the home has been beautifully restored.  Pieter also bought and restored the magnificent old stone house in Warden Street – on the next corner up from Pierre & Erika’s.

Philip & Rita Schoeman family: Rita says Mum always said “If the four Schoeman kids weren’t in Church, then the Church wasn’t full!” If it wasn’t for the extended Schoeman family, Harrismith would have been emptier and poorer!

The thing that sticks out most in my mind is how cold the church and the hall were! How did we survive those winters! And how much I hated getting dressed up in stupid girls’ shoes on Sunday mornings.  I recall having to learn ALL the books of the Bible – in the correct order, nogal, in Miss Petty’s Sunday School classes. That wasn’t nearly as much fun as when Pye was our Sunday School teacher.

And Mr Davie singing ” . . In this world of darkness, so we must shine – You in your small corner and I in mine . . “ – and on the word “corNAH” he would rise up on his tippy-toes for emphasis.

At the end of the year, the Swanepoel kids would likely win the “Best Sunday School Attendance” prize – not because of our undying religious fervour, but by accident of birth – we had no choice! Mary Methodist was going off to play the organ – so we were dragged along! And far too early too – as Mary had to warm up the organ and her fingers!

OHS 155
OHS 155 – Our light blue transport to church

And can one ever forget how awful the hall toilet was? Down behind the main hall – dark and dingy and not smelling of roses!

One cannot fail to be humbled by the efforts of the Methodists of little old Harrismith – cake sales, jumble sales, picnics, Nativity Play, Harvest Festival, Guild, building fund – all run by hard-working, dedicated volunteers – what would they have raised at a cake sale in the 1960s? Probably no more than R50! For all that work.

We owe a huge debt to the likes of Joyce Joubert, Anna Gavin, Miss Ivy Petty, Mary Methodist, Emma Morton, Lallie Davie and later Adie Crewe.  Then there was Uncle Cappie, Ralph Morton, George Davie, Bob Moore, Francois Maeder, Ernie van Biljon and many others. What an example they set for us!

Who can remember – Georgie? Lettuce? Koos? Charlotte? Sonja? – who took us for junior guild on a Friday afternoon?  I seem to remember Adie Crewe?  And how did they keep us occupied? I remember singing children’s hymns for some of the time.


Me again:

“Who can remember who took us for junior guild on a Friday afternoon?  And how did they keep us occupied?”

I think Stella Euthimiou – occupied? we would just stare at her in total fascination, hopelessly devoted!; she was gorgeous! She had us in the palm of her hand. Almost got us to heaven each week, but we’d fix that the rest of the week!


pics from all over, including Harismith’s best blog deoudehuizeyard – go and check out the good work they’re doing, keeping your old dorp alive!


And just because:


Pullover Psychology

Deon Joubert came running out of the house and shouted to his older brother Etienne: “Etienne! Mom says you must tracker tray on!”

Etienne knew exactly what Deon meant: It was winter in Harrismith, the sun was going down, we were playing outside, so Ma Joyce was saying he must put on a jersey.

Afrikaans: “Trek ‘n trui aan.”


jersey, cardigan, sweater, pullover


Pullover psychology is not as easy as some think. When your Ma said you had to tracker tray on it changed the whole dynamics of the important stuff that was going on right then. The interruption might mean you’re no longer King of the Castle but end up as the Dirty Rascal. And that’s if the dreaded interrupting jersey was brought to you. If you were summoned inside to fetch it yourself that was a DISASTER and you would rather spend five minutes arguing with your Ma about how you weren’t cold than spend the two minutes it would take to run in and pull it on.

Many Ma’s seem to have a strong need to thermo-regulate their offspring and just don’t understand “catching your death” was never nearly as scary to us as losing our place.

Anyway, statistics I just invented prove that of the 487 million kids who have been told they’ll catch their death of a cold, only one ever did. And he recovered.

One Fine Day in April

Around 1965 or thereabouts. I got an early morning phone call filled with excitement and urgency: “Koos! Come quickly! Come see! There’s a snake in the hoona hock!”

Well, I was thrilled! This I had to see. You can live in a dorp and hike in the veld often and very seldom see snakes, so I hopped onto my dikwiel fiets and pedaled furiously. It was about a mile to the Joubert’s house, down Hector Street, along Stuart Street past Scotty’s house, then downhill in Piet Uys Street to their house on the spruit that ran between them and the meisies koshuis.

As I pulled up the whole family was there to meet me, Aunty Joyce, Uncle Cappy, Etienne, Tuffy and Deon, laughing and shouting “Happy Birthday!”

There was no snake. I’d not realised it was the 1st of April.


hoona hock – chicken coop (Afrikaans hoenderhok)

dorp – village

veld – fields, grasslands

dikwielfiets – sophisticated mode of transport, black balloon tyre bicycle

spruit – stream

meisieskoshuis – girls hostel

==== another time I forgot the 1st April ====



Lloyd Zunckel R.I.P

Lloyd’s sister Filly wrote from Zimbabwe:

Lloyd sadly passed away in the early hours of August 3 2016 from a brain bleed –

huge shock to us all and especially his partner who could not wake him for his tea.

John and I held a memorial service for Lloyd in our garden and we were

overwhelmed by the 150-plus friends who came to bid him farewell.

I wrote:
Hi Filly
Dammitall I am so sorry to hear of Lloyd’s passing! So so sad.
He and I had a helluva good time together in Herriesmif. We clicked and just shared a similar outlook on life, the universe and kop-toe dutchmen.
It wasn’t long, but it was a great friendship while it lasted.
Thinking of you


What a lovely guy from the bestest, funnest, hilariousest, lekkerest part of my youth. Lloyd Zunckel arrived in Harrismith from the metropolis of Bethlehem and switched the lights on. A breath of fresh air. He was kind, genuine, modest, charming, and a barrel of laughs. He just couldn’t do maths. Or English or science or any of that shit. But man, could he do life! LIFE! He loved life; and he loved people.

Things I remember with Lloyd:

What a tennis player!

A bit of golf. I would ride my dikwiel fiets to the hostel, pick up Lloyd and a golf bag and with him on the cross-bar, cycle to the country club where we’d while away the hours “playing golf”. Sort of. On the bike we would sing – him way out of key, me melodiously:

“Let the spidnight mecial.

“Line a shite on me

“Let the spidnight me-ecial

Line a helluva lotta shite on me . . “

Me and my mate Lloyd! There was this and this and this.

What we didn’t know was this – from his amazing sister Filly:

I don’t know if any of you or his other mates were aware but Lloyd was hugely dyslexic – not really recognized way back then.  Lloyd hid it under his happy-go-lucky facade and was told throughout his schooling he was stupid and lazy and all sorts. Lloyd in actual fact did not matriculate and eventually left school in 1973 being 19 without getting higher than Std 8. He went off to the army in 1974 for 18 months. 

He married in 1979. Things went pear-shaped on our farm in Bethlehem with them partying and spending everything they had. My dad Fred bought him a Bayer agency and they moved to Pongola in Natal. Then to White River where his business was thriving and they were very successful but for some unknown reason his wife was very keen to move to the Cape – George and Wellington – and after a few years they were living way above their means. The marriage fell apart and Lloyd owed hundreds of thousands of Rands. He moved alone, with nothing but a bakkie my dad bought him, to somewhere near Pongola and we lost touch.

I eventually tracked him down, no car – written it off when he was two sheets to the wind. He was living on a verandah with a woman who was also homeless. A great friend of ours Dave Kahts drove me down to find Lloyd. It was his 50th birthday – and he looked awful.

My wonderful husband John told me to settle all his debts and bring him to Zim to live with us. Problem – he had no passport, so we sorted that and brought him here where John gave him a job in Mozambique. Sadly the farm invasions had started in Zim a few years earlier and we were hanging on to ours with every muscle in our bodies, but eventually lost it.

Things fell apart for all the farmers who moved to Moz, so Lloyd came back to live with us until he met Shana. He moved in with her – they were together for eight years, a rocky relationship, but they did love one another and she had a home and Lloyd did the cooking and oversaw the gardening – he was happy there 😀 .

And that’s that 😘


Another song (reminded by his big mate Steve Reed);

Steve expostulated: Lloyd having no musical talent? That’s rubbish Fil.  Lloyd did a pitch-perfect rendition of:

“The doctor came in, stinking of gin”  

And sometimes he even added the next line:
“and pro-ceeded to lie on the table”
Actually, there was a third he would warble off-key:
“Christ you know it aint easy
“pum pum per-um
“you know how hard it can be-e . . .
“pum pum per-um
dikwiel fiets – eco-friendly tranportation

My Famous Friends – #1

Tuffy has hit the bright lights. School friend and class mate Mariette van Wyk edits a lovely magazine Atlantic Gull down in the Dryest Fairest Cape.

Mariette vWyk's Atlantic Gull

She got the fascinating life story (well actually, snippets of it!) of Irené John Joubert out of him recently.

Tuffy Famous

Fascinating thing is, Tuffy DID this stuff, Chuck Norris acts it out.

Here he is in those far-off days when you could see his chin and not his forehead:

Tuffy’s older brother remembers him getting his nickname like this: In the very English environment of the Methodist church some soutie made the mistake of calling the French masculine name Irené the English feminine name ‘Irene’ in Sunday school and promptly got dondered right then and there by said Irené. And hence the nickname Tuffy was born.

I see Tuffy says he has no trouble in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Congo as “with my honest face, people just love me”. What I want to know is: How do they see his face?

Well, now that his cover is bust, his anonymity lost, learn more about Tuffy being a domkrag and then tackling an unsuspecting ox here

and head-on colliding with a hill here

and streaking and under-age drinking here

and how he practiced going on long journeys before he went to Afghanistan here

and purloining illicit swag here

and he played rugby for a little dorp and beat Grey College here .

Harrismith rugby U13 latest

Chuck’s going to have to lift his game. Also, and anyway, America can forget toughness, Harrismith also had another Chuck Norris.

Thanks Mariette for the article! See: http://atlanticgull.com/chuck-norris/

Added: And how Tuffy tricked me here.