Mom: When the Colemans arrived in Harrismith for Ken to start work in ‘the milk factory’ we met them right away as Dad was a great friend of Ken’s older brother Wally. Wally had been his tutor as an appy electrician in the Pietermaritzburg Post Office back in 1938. I recall visiting Uncle Wally as a kid once – I think in Howick?
Ken and Jean started building a new house on the corner of Hector street and Berg street, the road that led out of town to our plot less than a kilometre away. While the builders were at it, some leave time came up and Ken took the family away, prompting Dad to opine to Mom, ‘I would never go away while someone was building my house! I would watch their every move.’ Right.
Mom’s not sure, but thinks Donald was already born when they arrived in Harrismith. When Anne was born soon after me, Mary was chosen as her godmother as ‘Jean was a great friend even though she was Anglican.’ Mary Methodist speaking!
Then Eddie was born and we were like this:
In 2015 Sheila wrote: Mum says when we still lived on the ‘townlands’ on the way to the waterworks, Jean would often ‘phone and say ‘Have you got a little visitor?’– once again her son Donald had gone missing and she knew exactly where he was – he used to walk all the way to our farm to visit his great mate, Koos. The two were inseparable.
Today in 2020 Mom’s version was slightly different: ‘You used to walk to Donald without telling me. I would phone Jean and ask ‘Is there anything there of mine?’ Maybe the strolling went both ways?
What started this reminiscing was Eddie sending me pics of Jean’s 80th birthday celebration in June 2008, when Anne and Eddie took her on a very special outing:
They got together for Mary’s 80th in September 2008
For years after the Colemans left Harrismith we heard about their farm outside Winterton. About how Ken built the rondawels and bathroom very rustically. But I never saw Donald again and only lately found out that I had heard from him once!
It was schoolfriend Koos Beukes’ birthday today and I remembered he’s from Aberfeldy, so I asked him about a half-remembered memory that popped up on thinking ‘Aberfeldy:’
‘Who were the rooinek ladies that farmed out your way again?’
‘Natalie and Phyllis Arbuckle on Somerby,’ said Koos. He actually now owns the farm! He bought it from them around 1986 and Natalie then moved to White River to stay with Phyllis’ daughter Aileen.
Somerby was renowned for a big dam known for very good fishing. Fishermen actually paid to fish there! Natalie charged R2 a rod and donated the proceeds to her church. She was a staunch Methodist, and her R2’s probably doubled the takings!!
Mom says Natalie was in elder sister Pat’s class in school, so like Pat Bland, she was probably born in 1925. She remained single all her life.
Natalie died in 2010. The big damwall broke that year and Koos surmises the knowledge of that loss may have contributed to her death. Her ashes were scattered on Somerby.
rooinek – Engels; English-speaking, really; usually not English-from-England
feature pic: The bridge over the Elands River at Aberfeldy
Mom Mary fondly says bachelor Louis Schoeman was quite important and quite full of himself – ‘He thought he was the Prince Imperial!’ she says teasingly. ‘Louis the Seventeenth,’ she says, adding one to the last of that French line of kings.
‘He played polo, you know, and that was very posh. He walked with a regal bearing. So when he walked in to Havengas bookstore one day and threw down a document on the counter in front of Dad saying, ‘Pieter! Sign here!’ Dad said ‘What for? I don’t sign anything unless I know what I’m signing!’ all the assembled men’s heads turned to Louis, sensing drama.’
‘I’m getting married!’ he announced, ‘to Cathy, the sister at the hospital.’ Well, like sympathetic, caring, thoughtful bachelors will do when a friend is in need, the men roared with laughter and teased Louis unmercifully!
‘And you know what?’ says Mom Mary: ‘It was the best thing that ever happened to him! Cathy bore them five lovely children and was a wonderful companion, mother and home-maker. Wonderful sense of fun and humour, and they were very happy together.’