By the time we knew her she was Annie Bland. Never ‘granny’. Only Annie. She was our dear Mom’s dear Mom.
In fact ‘Annie Watson Bain’ to me was the lady who died in World War 1 and whose name was on one of the monuments outside the Town Hall. She was a cousin of our Annie.
They’d already lost the farms and the racehorses, and Annie now owned the ‘Caltex Garage’, as we called it – one of the many petrol filling stations in town. At one time there were seventeen of them! Hers was on ‘Caskie Corner’, opposite our posh Town Hall which Annie’s father Stewart Bain had been instrumental in building.
At the time some called the town hall ‘Bain’s Folly’ as it was such an imposing structure for our modest dorp. I remember exploring inside it with fascination as a kid. High up in the rafters and steel gangways above the stage, with all sorts of ropes and chains hanging down and black curtains behind the red velvet main curtains; the backstage rooms, along the marble-floored passages past the toilets, the museum with the taxidermied animals – a lion, a vulture, what else? The galley above the main hall. I never did get up into the clocktower, come to think of it! Nor onto the outside balcony overlooking Warden Street. Wonder why?
Annie always spoke with great admiration of her late husband Frank – the granpa we never knew – and told me proudly how she’d never seen his fingernails dirty. This as she looked mildly disapprovingly – probably more disappointedly, she never had a harsh word for me – at mine. She called me Koosie and the way she pronounced it, it rhymed with ‘wussie’ and ‘pussy’, but don’t say that out loud.
The car she drove was like this one, except faded beige and right-hand drive:
A Chevrolet Fleetline OHS 794, I think a 1948 model. It had a cushion on the seat for her to see over the dash and under the top rim of the steering wheel.
She was born in 1893, the fifth of seven Bain kids of the ‘Royal Bains’ – meaning the Bains of the Royal Hotel. There were also ‘Central Bains’.
She went to St Andrews Collegiate School in Harrismith:
and then to St Anne’s in Pietermaritzburg where she played good hockey ‘if she would learn to keep her place on the field’. She’s the little one on a chair second from left:
Hmm, looks like St Anne’s in Pietermartizburg was a riot of fun and laughter!
She ran the Caltex forecourt and the workshop at the back, where At Truscott fixed cars. She rented out the Flamingo Cafe and Platberg Bottle Store premises. At that time she lived in the Central Hotel a short block away across the Deborah Retief Gardens and I do believe she drove to work every day. Maybe drove back for lunch even?
Sundays were special with Annie as your gran. She’d roll up at our house in the big beige Chev, we’d pile in freshly sanctified, having been to church and Sunday school, and off we’d go on a drive. The back seat was like a large lounge sofa. Sometimes she’d drive to nowhere, sometimes to the park, sometimes cruising the suburbs. OK, the one and only suburb. Usually there’d be a long boring spell parked somewhere like the top of 42nd Hill overlooking the town and watching the traffic. Annie and Glick chatting away on the front seat and us sitting on the back thinking, OK, that’s long enough now. I’m sure they told us the whole history of Harrismith and who lived where and who was who and maybe even who was doing what and with whom. But maybe not, as they were discreet gentlefolk. All of which we ignored anyway, so I can’t tell you nothing!
Later she got a green Opel and for some reason – maybe after she could no longer drive? – it was parked on our lawn for long spells. I sat in it and changed gears on its column shift about seventy thousand times. Probably why I (like most males in their own opinion) am such a good driver today. It was a Kapitan or Rekord like this, but green and white:
Annie died in Harrismith in 1983 aged 90. Looked after to the end by her loving daughter Mary. Her husband Frank and elder daughter Pat had died around 1943 and 1974 respectively.
The pic of the Town Hall with the green Chev is thanks to De Oude Huize Yard – do go and see their blog. They’re doing great things in the old dorp, keeping us from destroying everything old and replacing it with corrugated iron and plastic.
Also from DeOudeHuizeYard, this information about the building that housed Annie’s school:
Janis Paterson loves flower arranging and has won cups at local shows. In 2014, one of the floral themes was related to the beginning of WW1.
Janis’ entry was a tribute to nurses like Annie and won the best in show award. The book in her arrangement “The Roses of No Man’s Land” is about those brave nurses. She thinks that people often forget what nurses like Annie had to endure. The person escorting the judge told Janis the judge was almost moved to tears. Isn’t it stunning: