Categories
3_USA 8_Nostalgia Family

James M Patterson

Damn! My Host Dad and good friend Jim died.

James Merrell Patterson Obituary

July 24, 1936 – May 28, 2021 (84 years old)

We are sad to announce that on May 28, 2021, at the age of 84, James Merrell Patterson (Apache, Oklahoma), born in Lawton, Oklahoma passed away.

He was predeceased by: his parents, James Earl “Buck” and Merrell Fleta Patterson (Dietrich); and his sister Molly (Sybil). He is survived by: his wife Katie; his children, Mary Kate and Jimmy (Cyndi); his grandsons; his sisters, Patsy and Lotsee; his nieces and nephews; and his great-nieces and great-nephews.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Jim, you were a legend. The kindest, best, funniest Dad a seventeen year old could have wished for. I still tell people how you taught me to go ‘countin’ fence posts’ in your red pickup truck, cooler box filled with Coors as we drove around while you taught me about life. Katie too, taught me about life: Peter, who do you think chooses their partner? ‘Why, the man of course, Katie!’ – gales of laughter. Lemme tell you Peter, when Jim walked into the bank I said to my girlfriends, ‘I’m gonna marry that man.’

Fifteen years later I introduced Katie to Trish – who had chosen me. They got on like a house on fire, those two wimmin!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Today is gonna be a sad day of reflection for me. Also wonderful memories. Great fondness. I must get hold of Katie and Mary-Kate.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I see Peggy Manar (83) and Eugene Mindemann (85) also died – both in October 2020. And so things change. Like Jim and Katie, they too (and their spouses Tom and Odie) were wonderfully kind to me in my year in Apache back in 1973. As were the Hrbaceks, the Paynes, the Crews, the Lehnertzs, the Swandas, the Rotary club, the school, everyone. A magic year, 1973.

So many memories. I’ll come back to this post and add over time.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Another Jim moment: Jim was asking me what subjects I was taking in my senior year at Apache High School.

But first lemme explain: I had finished school back in South Africa. I was done. I was here to have fun and learn new things – things other than school. So I told him: I had to take American history as I was a foreigner; I had to take English as I spoke the Queen’s English and that needed fixing; Then I took Ag shop, Annual staff, Phys Ed and Typing.

He looked at me in amazement: (or was it envy?) – ‘What? They didn’t have Basket Weavin’?!’ he asked with a huge grin.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
9_KwaZuluNatal Family

Bellows

Mom tells the story of a sister in frail care who used to shout very loudly late at night. Mom kept wishing she wouldn’t, but it happened regularly. It seemed that was just her way.

One night she yelled at someone while standing right outside Mom’s open door and that was it. Mom plucked up the courage and called out to her to ask her to please speak less loudly. She didn’t hear, so Mom called out a bit louder, whereupon the sister stuck her head into Mom’s doorway and said firmly:

“Please speak quieter! I’ll have no shouting here in frail care!”

Categories
8_Nostalgia

Platinum Medal

I posted this on the day – 14 July – over on bewilderbeast.org, but it also belongs here, so here it is:

On the 14th July 1951 the biggest hugest massivest humungousest stroke of luck to befall him in all his life befell Pieter Gerhardus Swanepoel. By far. By a very long long way the biggest.

And he didn’t realise it, still doesn’t.

This morning Mary will wake thinking, I wonder how Pieter is, I hope he’s alright.

Happy 70th wedding anniversary, Mom n Dad.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Anniversaries and ‘Traditional Gift’

10thTin
20thPlatinum
30thPearl / Ivory
40thRuby
50thGold
60thDiamond
70thPlatinum
80thOak
90thStone

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat

Textile Giant in Harrismith

Old-Harrismithian Harry Pikkie Loots found a history of the South African textile industry 1820 to 1948 by James Carol (Paddy) McDowell for his Master of Commerce (economic history) thesis at the University of Natal Durban in 2000. I skimmed through it, taking out some of the Harrismith-related bits.

As with all my history pieces: Pinch of salt. Those who know more, do please tell.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Interesting indeed. I always knew our local boere had lots of sheep (Sheila always says ‘He’s got more money than God’s got sheep!’). I also knew they used to compete for the biggest wool clip amongst each other, and occasionaly even in the country. Some would cheat by buying in sheep just before the shearing season to boost their yield! It’s a boy thing. Small penises? But this was new to me: Our boere started their own woollen mill in 1922. Good for them! I suppose a kooperasie type of deal? But it went bankrupt in 1927 cos the machinery was unsuitable.

They sold to Harris. He then discovered the machinery was unsuitable! Eish! What to do? Replacement would have been costly but the outbreak of a fire in that section of the factory that had the unsuitable machinery meant an insurance payout saved the day.
Hmmm . . . God moves in mysterious ways.
..
I don’t think I ever heard the names Celia (nee Harris) and Fritz Raphaely mentioned in my time in HS?  They came to town to run the mill in the 1930’s. But then I’m a bietjie jonk, nê! Must ask Mother Mary. Her mother Annie would have known. As would Annie’s good friend Glick.
..
Then in 1938 a cotton mill was started in HS. We had wool and we had cotton! And when the cotton bolls got rotten . . I hear you couldn’t pick very much cotton . .

Then Philip Frame came to South Africa in 1925. As a 21yr old, he was already experienced in the textile industry. He worked for the Harris family, then the Mauerbergers, the two biggest textile tycoons of their day – and ended up buying both their whole businesses!

“The deal was struck in 1959 in the Harrismith Royal Hotel and was written and signed on the back of the menu!”

Ah, myths and legends . . . At least they didn’t use the napkin this time. We probly used cloth napkins in our smart hotel! I’d love to actually see all the paper napkins with million dollar deals on them! And cigarette boxes with complex engineering drawings!

Soup; Fish; Meat and two veg; Rice pudding; I’ll buy your businesses; Deal! Signed: Philip. Me, I’ll never forget how tiny that piece of fish used to be in those hotels. Remember that? Didn’t seem worth the waiter’s shoe leather, walking it over to the table. Or is this just my memory?

A typical self-made risk-and-reward capitalist man, he did it all by himself, with only the help provided by friends’ loans, the government, the laws, apartheid, tariff protection, decentralisation subsidies, minimal wages, laws hampering unions, being a Nat supporter and (probably) donor, having the government finance minister Nico Diederichs as a ‘huisvriend,’ being on a govt advisory board, being allowed a virtual monopoly, etc. But other than that, ‘all by himself’ – ‘self-made.’ Yeah, right.
..
Seems to me Frame was um, difficult? demanding? putting it very mildly. As much as his biographers try to polish his marble . . the fashion of rich people being called ‘philanthropists’ started way back . .

As a kid I remember seeing those huge and ugly grey corrugated iron buildings near the entrance to the park where we played rugby and athletics. Never did get to see inside them.

~~~oo0oo~~~

boere – farmers

kooperasie – co-operative

bietjie jonk nê! – I’m a bit young (to remember that)

huisvriend – ‘home friend;’ knew him well enough to be invited to his home

billionaire philanthropist – pay no tax, plough a small part of excessive profits back in a hobby-type charity that employs your unemployable children and provides paid exotic holidays; wear a halo

~~~o00o~~~

Thank you Paddy McDowell, that was most interesting, especially the bit about the Harrismith Royal Hotel, owned by my great-grandad from about 1890-ish I’d guess, to his death in 1939.

~~~oo0oo~~~

PS: I had the site of the Royal Hotel too far away. It was much nearer the station. I have fixed that with a new arrow!

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia sport

Table Tennis Champ

Somewhere around 1969 I won the world-famous Harrismith Methodist All-Stars inaugural (and last) Table Tennis Tournament held in the Wesleyan Hall on Warden Street. This was a huge event for us dedicated Harrismith Methylated Spirits. There must have been . . what? half a dozen or more people watching, spellbound. Many of them would also have been among the entrants to this high-level event. Which I won, did I mention that?

My prize: The gold medal and a vinyl LP by The Tremeloes! except for the medal. The LP was real and was my first ever. And maybe my only? I don’t remember owning any other LPs.

How hip was the Harrismith Methodist Church?! I’d love to know who donated this lovely prize.

The feature pic shows our table tennis table on the side veranda at home. Training ground.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family

Inmate Mary

They put us on on the veranda in the sun. It got quite hot out there. There were four of us and we started singing.

We sang: I’m behind a prison wall; The bed’s too hard and much too small; There’s no pyjamas here at all; Oh, Mother, what’ll I do now?

Always complimentary, Mary had to make it clear the food at Azalea is excellent, they weren’t complaining like George, just singing his song!

She wondered what pyjamas inmates would wear in prison and we agreed probably they’d wear their clothes night and day.

And you can be sure, even at 90 they were thinking of their Moms as they sang.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family school

Sinner Mary

Jessie’s second pre-school was ‘Sinner Lizabeth.’ I think it’s Anglican, but I don’t know, cos I wasn’t interested. Only interested in the fact that Aitch had chosen it, so I knew they’d look after my Jessie. And they did: Rose and two Pennys treated her good the two years she was there.

But today I found out about Sinner Mary. This was news to me. I gasped.

Gasp!

Right through school Mary, now universally know as Mary Methodist after playing the organ in the Harrismith Methylated Spirits church for something like a hundred years, was churchless!

Her Mom Annie, my gran, was blissfully unimpressed and uninvolved and probably played golf on Sundays. I’m guessing she would use as an excuse, if pushed by the pious, that Harrismith didn’t have a Presbyterian church (it had folded). I’m not going to say that proves God is Methodist, but you can see right here how the thought did cross my mind.

So Mary tells me her teacher Mr Moll – who taught singing, woodwork and religion – never gave her very good marks probly cos he knew she didn’t go to church! She’s joking of course, and her bad marks were probably 80%, but anyway, Tommy Moll was very involved in the Methodists.

So when Mary got married they ‘made a plan’ and the wedding made the newspapers. ‘Four denominations at one wedding’ or something. Not ‘and a funeral.’ The bride ‘was Presbyterian’ they said (but we now know she was actually a ‘none’); the groom was Dutch Reformed (‘another faith’ they said, but he too was really a ‘none’); the Methodist minister was on leave, so the Apostolic Faith Mission man tied the knot.

Later, when she returned to Harrismith, having lived in Pietermaritzburg for a while, she decided to get church. She chose the Methodists as a lot of her friends were Methodists. She forgets she told Sheila the Methodist boys were nicer than the Anglican boys, so she tells me something about not liking the Anglicans’ ‘high church’ aspect. So this twenty five year old mother leaves her baby Barbara with Annie and Dad at Granny Bland’s home in Stuart street, where they have the room with the big brass double bed, and goes off to confirmation classes with a group of schoolkids. She aces the class, gets confirmed in the Lord, sanctified, and starts her epic Methodistian journey, which continues today, sixty seven years later, her only sin on the way being an occasional single ginger brandy with ginger ale while everyone else was drinking bucket loads. When she plays the piano of a Sunday in the frail care dining room in Maritzburg these days, those are Methodist hymns she’s thumping out joyfully, I’m sure.

I sort of feel like I have an excuse for being churchless now if I need one. ‘I’m just taking my twenty five years off now,’ I’ll tell Ma if she asks.

(BTW: In the pic, Mary is the bridesmaid, back left. The bride is her dear friend and cousin Sylvia Bain who married John Taylor)

~~~oo0oo~~~

– Jess in Livingstone uniform with her Mad Hatter Tea Party hat – 2008 –

After ‘Sinner Lizabeth’ pre-school, Jess went to a remedial primary school whose school song, which they sang with gusto, went:

Live in Sin, Live in Sin, Progress Voorspoed, Live in Sin

Eat cake, Eat soap, Eat porridge too.*

Believe in yourself Live in Sin

Can’t say we didn’t give our JessWess a good grounding.

~~~oo0oo~~~

*Have faith, have hope, have courage too. Tom loved telling us ‘the real words, Dad!’ which according to him were the ones above, not these.

Categories
6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal sport

What’s Wrong Swanie?

This was the problem: Most of the guys and gals I would do river trips with had a serious deficiency: a lack of some specific paddling strokes one should use on a river trip. Most of them especially couldn’t execute my favourite stroke: Paddle on your lap, arms folded, gaze around in awesome wonder, and allow the boat to gently rotate in the current. The Swanie 360° River Revolution, or Swannee River for short.

They were racing snakes. They’d say ‘Let’s Go,’ and then they would actually do that! Weird. Then they’d look back, wait till I eventually caught up and ask, ‘What’s Wrong Swanie?’ I was of course much too polite to reply, ‘Nothing. What’s The Hurry?’ I’m polite that way. What I meant was, ‘I don’t want this day to end.’

And so we would gently bumble downriver. Every few hundred metres they’d wait, or one of them would paddle upstream (more weirdness) back to me and ask ‘What’s Wrong Swanie?’

Weird. Although I must admit, you wouldn’t want me in charge of timing or logistics on a trip!

When the current was swift enough my speed could match theirs. It was the flat water that was tricky. In their defence, they were actually going slowly and enjoying the scenery in awesome wonder. It’s just that their slowly and mine was out of sync!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Watch Luca Sestak (then 14yrs-old) show us how to do the Swannee River:

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Wildlife, Game Reserves

Canary Bird Bush

Yay! Science! I just found out what the very first flower I ever drew was/is: A Canary Bird Bush Crotalaria agatiflora.

I suppose for a school project? I collected a few in our garden and drew the flower and the leaf. I was fascinated by the shape of the flower: like a yellow bird, butterfly or ship.

I saw this on iNaturalist.org thanks to prolific iNatter @troos (Troos vdMerwe) and there’s a lovely twist: He photographed it in the favourite gardens of a favourite schoolfriend of my Mother Mary’s!

Joey de Beer became Jo Onderstall and became a founder member of the Lowveld Botanic Society and the Lowveld Botanic Gardens in Nelspruit, now Mbombela. She wrote the book on Lowveld flowering plants.

– Jo Onderstall’s 1984 book –

A lovely full-circle kind of story.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Joey matriculated with Mary in Harrismith in 1945. When she heard Mary was going nursing she expostulated: What A Waste Of A Good Brain! She was right, but Mom decided she needed to do something that earned her a salary and cost her widowed Mom Annie nothing. Typical Mom. Joey went on to study phys ed teaching in Bloem, then married ‘doctor/farmer’ Bill Onderstall. They moved to Nelspruit in 1950. Bill gave Jo a camera for a wedding present and so she herself took a lot of the pictures in the articles and books she wrote. I didn’t know her mother Bessie de Beer had been chair of the Drakensberg and Eastern Free State branch of the Botanical Society, so Jo followed in Bessie’s footsteps. Must tell Mom that. Jo herself seems as self-effacing as Mom. She writes in the introduction that her name on the book ‘is but the visible tip of an iceberg’ and the fact that she took most of the photos is mentioned nowhere. All other photographers are acknowledged, but even the fact that she took the front and back cover pictures is added in the ‘errata’ – like an afterthought! I’m guessing some of her friends insisted.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Yellow bird! Who remembers Johan Pheiffer who came from the city to Harrismith to visit his cousins the du Plessis in the dorp, whipped out his guitar and sang Yellow Bird?

~~~oo0oo~~~

Later: Mom said thanks for this. Sheila read it to her. She didn’t know Bessie had also been involved in things botanical. She did know that Bessie used to take people for the drivers test. ‘You would drive her round the block and she’d say OK, you have your licence. None of this parking into a garage stuff.’ So says Ma.

Her good friends Joey de Beer and Dossie Farquhar said Mom must take science. She found it hard, but enjoyed it. She didn’t like the science teacher, Swart Piet du Toit, though. There was also a teacher called Wit Piet du Toit, who later was called Whitey. Wit Piet married one of the girls he had taught in Std 6. Beautiful girl. Later he married Doris. Old memories flooding back, Ma?

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
8_Nostalgia Family

Quick Chat

I can’t talk long cos they’re coming to take me from my warm armchair – its falling to pieces, mind you – in front of the heater and wrapped under a blanket, to the piano, where I’ll play a bit before lunch. Lunch is a roast and vegetables and then ice cream cos its Sunday. And Sundays we get egg and bacon for breakfast.

You know Kosie, it’s amazing how an old tune suddenly comes back into my head and I start playing it. Then I keep playing it each day and it gets better every time!

You go, Ma! Remember to eat your vegetables, or you won’t get any ice cream. **Laughs** I eat all my vegetables except pumpkin, and that’s why I haven’t got curly hair. That’s what we were told when I was small.

Oh, Dad says the temperature is going to drop steeply tomorrow, you must wear warm clothes, she tells her 66yr-old son.

OK, Ma.

~~~oo0oo~~~