Mom says they loved swimming. All the boys were at the baths – the Harrismith Municipal Swimming Baths about a kilometre away up the hill past the Town Hall.
Some days they’d get ready to go – cozzies and towels over their arms, but Granny Bland would be standing on the back stoep with her hand on her hip, looking at the mist on the eastern end of Platberg and announce firmly, ‘No, you can NOT go swimming. You can put that in your pipe and smoke it!’
Listen, if you want to make it to supper you must come quickly but you’ll have to bring lots of money.
His nephew Jack who’s a helluva clever bugger, he’s on a lot of boards and chairman of this, chairman of that. Wonderful bugger, Jack. He still weighs 78kg same as he weighed when he was a fighter jet pilot (Jack must be 78yrs old in the shade).
He brought me some smoked snoek and chips, KILOGRAMS OF IT!
He’s on to food – a favourite subject.
Oupa worked on the railways.
Working men took a scoff box to work
Guys would take sarmies, meat, tea, etc.
Oupa had a billy can. A blue billy can, the lid was your cup. You know what he used to take in to work for his lunch?
No. What, Dad?
At night he’d drink a big mug of milk and eat bread.
Ouma would cook in the kitchen and dish up in the kitchen.
Six plates. Her and Oupa and four big kids.
You got your plate of food. Don’t ask for more, there was no more. But we didn’t need more, it was a great big plate; we never went hungry. We had to do without some stuff, like new clothes or shoes, but we never went hungry.
Oupa and Ouma in PMB
Chickens and muscovy ducks in the backyard.
Ouma made a little pond in the ‘sump,’ the lowest point in the yard in the far corner. She would fill it up with water, about one brick deep, then throw mielies in the water. The ducks like feeding underwater. They bred prolifically and there were always plenty. A big fat roast duck was a huge treat. Only trouble is there was duck shit all over the yard.
Chickens they had to slag. The kids. One would hold the beak and feet, stretch it and one would chop off the head with an axe.
A big game was to then stand it up and let it go and watch it run around, headless.
‘One day Oupa caught us doing it and beat the shit out of us.’
A re-post cos Mom told me some news today (see right at the end):
My first recollections are of life on the plot outside Harrismith, playing with Enoch and Casaia, childhood companions, kids of Lena Mazibuko, who looked after us as Mom and Dad worked in town. The plot was in the shadow of Platberg, and was called Birdhaven, as Dad kept big aviaries. I remember Lena as kind and loving – and strict!
I lived there from when I was carried home from the maternity home till when I was about five years old, when we moved into town.
I remember suddenly “knowing” it was lunchtime and looking up at the dirt road above the farmyard that led to town. Sure enough, right about then a cloud of dust would appear and Mom and Dad would arrive for their lunch and siesta, having locked up the Platberg bottle store at 1pm sharp. I could see them coming along the road and then sweeping down the long driveway to park near the rondavel at the back near the kitchen door. They would eat lunch, have a short lie-down and leave in time to re-open at 2pm. I now know the trip was exactly 3km door-to-door, thanks to google maps.
Every day I “just knew” they were coming. I wonder if I actually heard their approach and then “knew”? Or was it an inner clock? Back then they would buzz around in Mom’s Ford Prefect or Dad’s beige Morris Isis. Here’s an old 8mm movie of the old green and black Ford Prefect on the Birdhaven circular driveway – four seconds of action – (most likely older sister Barbara waving out the window):
1. Ruins of our house; 2. Dougie Wright, Gould & Ruth Dominy’s place; 3. Jack Levick’s house; 4. The meandering Kak Spruit. None of those houses on the left were there back then.
Our nearest neighbour was Jack Levick and he had a pet crow that mimic’d a few words. We had a white Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Jacko that didn’t, and an African Grey parrot Cocky who could mimic a bit more. A tame-ish Spotted Eagle Owl would visit at night.
Our next neighbours, nearer to the mountain, were Ruth and Gould Dominy and Ruth’s son Dougie Wright on Glen Khyber. They were about 500m further down the road towards the mountain, across the Kak Spruit over a little bridge. Doug’s cottage was on the left next to the spruit that came down from Khyber Pass and flowed into the bigger spruit; The big house with its sunny glassed-in stoep was a bit further on the right. Ruth and a flock of small dogs would serve Gould his tea in a teacup the size of a big deep soup bowl.
Judas Thabete lived on the property and looked after the garden. I remember him as old, small and bearded. He lived in a hovel of a hut across a donga and a small ploughed field to the west of our house. He had some sort of cart – animal-drawn? self-drawn? Self-drawn, I think.
Other things I remember are driving out and seeing white storks in the dead bluegum trees outside the gate – those and the eagle owl being the first wild birds I ‘spotted’ in my still-ongoing birding life; I remember the snake outside the kitchen door;
I don’t remember but have been told, that my mate Donald Coleman, two years older, would walk the kilometre from his home on the edge of town to Birdhaven to visit me. Apparently his Mom Jean would phone my Mom Mary on the party line and ask, “Do you have a little person out there?” if she couldn’t find him. He was a discoverer and a wanderer and a thinker, my mate Donald.
Bruno the doberman came from Little Switzerland on Oliviershoek pass down the Drakensberg into Natal. Leo and Heather Hilcovitz owned and ran it – “very well” according to Dad. Leo came into town once with a few pups in the back of his bakkie. Dobermans. Dad said I Want One! and gave Leo a pocket of potatoes in exchange for our Bruno. He lived to good age and died at 95 Stuart Street after we’d moved to town.
rondavel – circular building with a conical roof, often thatched;
spruit – stream; kak spruit: shit stream; maybe it was used as a sewer downstream in town in earlier days?
stoep – veranda
donga – dry, eroded watercourse; gulch, arroyo; scene of much play in our youth;
Our Ford Prefect was somewhere between a 1938 and a 1948 – the ‘sit up and beg’ look, before sedans went flat. They were powered by a 4 cylinder engine displacing 1172cc, producing 30 hp. The engine had no water pump or oil filter. Drive was through a 3-speed gearbox, synchromesh in 2nd and 3rd. Top speed nearly 60mph. Maybe with a bit of Downhill Assist?
Today – 25 Sept 2021 – Mom (who turned 93 a week ago today) tells me Kathy Schoeman bought the old Ford Prefect from her and one day they drove to work to see it lying on its roof in the main street outside the town hall! Kathy had rolled it in the most prominent place possible!
We were lucky enough to watch 16mm Charlie Chaplin movies in our lounge at home back in the ‘Sixties.
Here’s the Chaplin movie I remember the clearest, watching it in our lounge in Stuart Street and collapsing with laughter:
Charlie Chaplin was one of the most amazingly accomplished individuals to have ever worked in film. He was so much more than just a slapstick comedian as his later films showed. Raised in poverty in England, he grew to be a very wealthy and influential film-maker in Hollywood, with his own studio. Although he became very popular he also had enemies, notably the trumped-up anti-communist McCarthy-ites who gunned for him when he hit the news for his private life scandals.
This episode of |CineMasters| shows the upbeat side of Chaplin as well as the melancholy. A man so beloved yet ultimately so hated at one point that he left America. A truly remarkable yet depressing story of a director who still remains unmatched in his craft. Just an absolutely amazing career and a gifted individual as well.
Thank you CineMasters on Vimeo – by Alex Kalogeropoulos
. . on the occasion of the one hundredth anniversary of the second Methodist church building in the town. Why this date was chosen, not 1973, one hundred years of Methodists in the town; or 1974 – one hundred years after the first church was built – who knows?
So the old church on top was built in 1882, Miss Bayford was at the foundation stone laying, and that’s what the centenary was for, it seems; even though that building had been demolished in 1966 or 1967, and this new church below had been built in 1968. Anyone who knows better or more – please enlighten us in the comments. Thanks!
Trustees Meeting Minute Book:
Rev Wynn the minister. (Presumably church services were being held in homes or other halls at the time?). August 1873 – First Trust Meeting to decide to build a church on the ground given by Free State Volksraad.
Church cost £460, twelve and sixpence + £451, fifteen and sixpence. Lamps and seats £44, no sixpences.
October 1874: Request for a manse. By June 1875 the manse was completed at a cost of £753, fourteen and sixpence.
Evening of Wednesday 10th January 1877: Special Meeting in consequence of the Chapel roof having been blown off this afternoon. (Whole roof removed and replaced – Minister away)
4 June 1878: The Sabbath School Committee respectfully requests the permission of the Trustees of the Wesleyan property to erect a building to be used as a Sabbath and day school. This committee giving a guarantee that the said building shall be put up free of debt.
October 17th1880: Public meeting called to consider advisability of building a public school in Harrismith.
October 24th1881: Decided to use present building as school and erect church on Society’s ground opposite. Forty foot by sixty foot (no cubits?). Seating 400 – cost not more than Two Thousand Five Hundred Pounds.
December 1881: Proceeds of Bazaar Two Hundred Pounds. Site of proposed new Chapel is forty foot from road (not cubits).
14 June 1882:Laying of Foundation stone of new Chapel.
A word from Rev Wilfred Hartley on the occasion of the centenary in 1982
Harrismith has a very special place in my heart, as it had for my late wife Olive. We arrived as a newly wed couple, and the people took us to their hearts in a rather wonderful way. Two of our children were born there and the ladies took great delight in assisting the lady of the manse.
We arrived in January 1940 when there was a lot of bitterness created by the Ossewa Brandwag and their cohorts, but we made out and preached the Gospel without bitterness, always seeking to take a positive line. On two occasions we had sailors from British warships staying with us, and how they enjoyed a bit of family life.
I could tell you a great deal about some of the very unusual characters who lived in Harrismith. (Oh, boy, I wish he had told!). When I meet old friends who were our contemporaries we have a jolly good laugh about “old times.”
Reminiscences of the Davie family
Mrs Maggie Simpson (eldest sister of Doris Davie)
Anniversary: Cello, drums, violins played by Alice and Annie Brittan and Dora. Alice learnt millinery with Mrs Urswell; Annie and Dora served at the drapery counter of Brayshaw Store; Cornet played by Beno Sammell. The church was full of Military.
Sunday School picnic Three wagonloads left at 8am and another at 10am for latecomers. Tent erected at homestead. Mr Bonham (butcher), a Salvationist, brought band to play at start of wagons and came with. (Don’t you just love it that those sinful non-Methodists were allowed to ‘come with’?!).
Arthur Putterill was Sunday School Superintendent. His wife and daughter Marion played the organ. John Putterill was also in the choir and took the music for the anniversary. Mr Jack Fife sang in the choir. He was a lay preacher and sometimes helped in the Sunday School. His nickname was “Pompom.” (cos ‘you must have fife and drum’).
2. Mrs Mary Davie
A handful of people held Church at Grootfontein, Ivy Petty’s farm. UWCTU members Alice and Eliza and Maggie and Nellie Pendelbury came to play tennis on a Wednesday. Maggie could play better but was “not allowed” – only allowed to collect the balls.
Aunt Alice and Eliza, Sunday School teachers, (Eliza played the organ too), always called for Maggie. One day Maggie hadn’t been dressed so was left behind. When she discovered it she ran crying all the way and remembers Aunt Alice receiving her, laughing, in a dirty dress and pinny.
3. Miss Doris Davie
One Sunday, a man came into church. He sat down and all the children started to titter, because the worthy gentleman had forgotten to take his hat off !
My niece of four, sporting her brand new shoes, was standing on the pew next to her mom when suddenly she slipped, and if it hadn’t been for the prompt action of her mother, would have landed on her head!
Another niece, aged three, also standing on the pews, when we started to sing the first hymn, realized she didn’t have a hymn book, so she turned round and took the hymn book out of the hands of the lady behind her!
One Sunday morning Miss Emma Putterill came hurrying up the aisle and into the choir. In her hurry the dear old lady had forgotten to take her apron off!
Looking back – Mr Tom Moll
St Paul says: “Forgetting what is behind, looking to what is before, I press on . . “
But we can’t forget the past altogether, can we? And at times like these it does us good to look back. I am no literary man, so what I am putting down here will be only ramblings, to stir up a few memories perhaps.
When we first came to Richmond, Natal in ’47 we met up with a Mr Jim Barclay, who had been a policeman at Kromhof (near Mont Pelaan, the then Christina) and he had quite a bit of contact with Harrismith during the rebellion, so we had an interesting chat, and he gave me this little piece of doggerel:
I always thought that Johburg was, and has been since its birth,
Without equivocation, the greatest place on earth.
I also thought that London was the greatest city known,
With its many million people, and the Queen upon the throne.
But now a brother tells me
That this is all a myth,
For the greatest place upon this earth
Is known as Harrismith !
Sad to say, after a lapse of thirty eight years, my wife and I have become estranged from Harrismith and its Methodist church, but that bond with the older Harrismith-ites and the warm feeling from them somehow still exists. How can we ever forget the warm humanity, the quips and cranks, but also the true Christianity of people like the Davies, Liddells, Farquhars, Sinks, Fife, McCourt, Cheshire, Hastings, Rapsons, Spilsbury, Putterill, Sharratt …… and many more.
Now for a more personal note: My grandfather M C J Moll, was the first teacher in Harrismith, and I was related to about half of the population. My mother was a Liddell and my father’s mother a Bignhame !
My wife (nee Pratherae) and I were both born in Harrismith, in Stuart Street, within a block of each other, christened here by Mr Pendlebury in the old church, which stood on this site. We were reborn here, got married here, our first daughter was born here and christened in the old church.
Looking back with nostalgia, “revolving many memories.” (reviving?) How can the many children who passed through this Sunday School and Young People’s Guild forget Cliffie Sint as Superintendent, and their annual picnics at The Old Homestead to which they went by ox-wagon. And then comes the day when we came to Harrismith from Natal and saw for the first time this fine little church that had replaced the old sandstone one that had become so “wonky” (expecially the north-east corner that had to be underpinned) that it had to make way for a new building.
The old order changeth,
yielding place to new.
That is true, but how conservative we are at heart, especially us “oldsters?” It gave us quite a wrench to see that our old church had had to be replaced. However, that is the way of the world. In the past this church has been a Bastion for Methodism in the north-east Free State, and we pray that it will continue to be so in the future.
I wonder if anyone still remembers the day when a Mr Barn, with his dapper little figure, and his neat imperial beard, who fancied himself as a singer and whom we had in this congregation for a few short years during World War II, jumped up out of his pew during the singing of a hymn, and stomped up the aisle, proclaiming in a Stentorian voice: “This is not how it should be sung, put some more life into it!”
Mr Wilfred Hartley in the pulpit, and Uncle Wright Liddell at the organ, were at first taken aback, but then with a smile they humoured the old fellow. The hymn was speeded up and sung accordingly to his wishes.
Precious memories – Rev Lloyd Griffiths
It is a privilege and a joy to respond to your minister’s request for a short article in this your Centenary Year. Congratulations on this most important milestone in the life and witness of Harrismith Methodism!
Never do we pass the Platberg but memories tug at the heart strings – and a host of dear faces appear before us. We settled into the old manse at 22 Warden Street in January 1943; like two of my predecessors, Tom Elliot and Wilfred Hartley, I took my bride of a few weeks to her first home shortly after ordination in Johannesburg. Now I have just received an invitation as Past President to attend the 100th Conference in the same city! How time flies!
Besides, our two sons were born in Harrismith, my wife electing to go to the nursing home for the first one at two o’clock in the morning when the thermometer registered 10 degrees Fahrenheit, and the car was standing on blocks, all four tyres having been sent to Ladysmith for retreading! War years those were.
Hopefully we shall be able to attend your celebrations in a few months time and perhaps recall some of the names of the stalwarts still being with you. Besides the regular services in the main centre there were monthly ones at Swinburne, Witzieshoek, Speedwell, (alternating with Summerslie and Maweni Heights) and a quarterly service at Verkykerskop “where a large number of Afrikaans folk attended.” We even tried a service in the Arbuckle home on the farm Somerby at Aberfeldy!
Rejoice in the Lord – again I say REJOICE !
We look forward to meeting up with you again, especially those who may remember us. Warm and affectionate greetings from Thelma and Lloyd Griffiths (Pietermaritzburg).
Miss Ivy Petty remembers
Smoke: We arrived for morning service many years ago, a raw cold morning. The door steward remarked, “It’s rather smoky inside.” Well . . we could hardly see across to the pulpit. In those days coal stoves were used to heat the church, but something had gone very wrong to say the least.
We had a visiting minister to take the service, and our Circuit Steward apologised for all the smoke. A cheerful reply came from a very smoky pulpit: “Don’t worry, it will clear up just now, and I have been in worse predicaments than this.” All the doors were opened but with each gust of wind fresh puffs of smoke came from the two lighted stoves.
The Choir: The choir stood up to render the anthem; after the first few bars all the lights went out in town. The organ stopped but not the choir, which went on to sing right through the anthem much to the delight of the choir master. In those days the bigger congregation was in the evening so there was always the choir and an anthem.
Reminiscenses of Mrs Anna Gavin:
As was the custom the Methodist Church Choir, under the leadership of the Choir Master and Organist, the late Uncle Wright Liddell, attended special services in the homes of the Van den Bosch and Spilsbury families in the country, out near Kerkenberg. This little incident occurred during 1960: This particular Sunday the late Uncle Wright provided transport for the choir in his old car. On the way to the farm one of the ladies had to open a gate. Uncle Wright was so occupied showing his passengers the crops in the lands and the cattle grazing in the fields that he completely forgot to stop the car. There was this lady, wearing high heel shoes, holding on to the open door of the car trying to jump in, the passengers were histerical and unable to tell him to stop the car. After a long struggle she eventually managed to get into the car.
The moment came when the Choir were to render the Anthem; a kitten crawled under the pedal of the organ; as the late Uncle Wright put his feet onto the pedals the kitten let out a loud “mieuww!” Needless to say that after the first episode the choir were unable to sing for laughing. The anthem was rendered much later during the service.
A tribute to the late Mr W.G Liddell by Ivy and Anna
The Centenary celebration of the church would not be complete without mentioning the name of Mr W.G Liddell or “Uncle Wright” as he was affectionately known. Those of us who were privileged to serve with him learned to understand what real dedication to Service To The Master meant.
He was our organist in our church without a break for sixty three years, never taking a holiday. He played the organ both morning and evening on Sundays; plus Thursday evenings for choir practice, without ever missing one service. He also took upon himself the task of lighting and cleaning the black coal stoves used at the time for heating the church.
“Uncle Wright” always prepared special music for Christmas, Easter and Harvest Festival services, this usually being a cantata. Each Christmas Eve he organized a lorry, had the old organ placed on it, took the choir on board and set off to sing carols all over town, usually starting at the hospital, never forgetting those confined to their beds. Many interested people followed the lorry in their motor cars, joining in the singing of carols.
It was ill health towards the end of his life that forced him to give up as organist and also as treasurer of the church, the latter task he also performed for many years with much dedication.
With the passing of this great man a musical era in our Church came to an end.
Mrs Mary Swanepoel remembers
Venue: Old Methodist Church
Date: October 1959, Time: 11.30 am
Occasion: Sunday School Anniversary Service
The pupils were all sitting up front in the choir stalls. It was during the sermon that two teachers noticed that two little girls were getting restless. Black looks didn’t help. They were playing up to giggling. Eventually the three year old sidled up to one of the teachers and asked if she could go to the toilet. As she passed her friend she grabbed her and pulled her along. Thinking the children would slip quietly out the back door, the teachers looked thankfully at one another. “That’s got rid of them,” their eyes seemed to say. Unfortunately their relief was short-lived. The little girls had no intention of slipping out unnoticed. They ran skipping and laughing down the full length of the aisle and out the front door.
More was to come. Five minutes later the patter of little feet was again heard, this time coming back through the hall, into the church and again down the aisle. They ran shrieking and laughing back to their seats. Two teachers were seen to collapse. Throughout all this disturbance, the minister’s voice continued unperturbed . . .
The culprits: His daughter Jenny and her friend Sheila Swanepoel
Venue: Methodist Church Hall
Date: +- 1960, Time: 7 pm
Occasion: A social to welcome the new Minister
It was the good old days before TV when folk still went out at night. Every church in town had sent a representative to welcome our minister. George Davie, as Circuit Steward, was the MC and he was introducing these speakers.
Mr Cohen was there to represent the Hebrew Community, but when it was his turn to stand up he was nowhere to be seen. Mr Davie looked round puzzled. “Whatever happened to Mr Cohen?” he asked, then added jokingly, “He must’ve thought we were going to take up a collection.”
Looks of disbelief and horror from the older Methodists. Collapse of the younger ones who didn’t know any better!
Reflections: Jack Maguire
We can well remember the attempts in the early ‘Sixties to save the old church building for this great occasion – but alas, this was not possible. The stone had weathered badly and especially around the window sills it had already begun to crumble. The late Maurice Sharratt brought in a consultant. While it was possible to prolong the life of the building, the cost would have been tremendous and the result unacceptable aesthetically, hence the decision to build the present church.
I recall the many hours spent visiting with Miss Bayford who was then in the hospital and well into her nineties. As a little girl she was present at the foundation stone laying and the opening of the old church in 1882.
Wright Liddell used to tell many stories of the old days. One of his favourites was the compulsory church parades of British POWs during the Anglo Boer War. The church was full and as the old building was considerably larger, the singing was magnificent. The Minister of the day always allowed opportunity for this special congregation to choose hymns and a regular choice was no. 879 – God save our gracious King – which was always sung with great patriotic pride.
The old church also sported four big black coal burning heaters – one in each corner of the building. The use of these had to be adjusted according to the wind direction prevailing for the day, and a wrong decision could have your service “smoked out.” By wisdom born out of experience the lighting of those fires was also left to Wright Liddell. He was seldom wrong in the two stoves he chose to light – more often than not it was those on the east side.
During this period we graduated to Capil heaters – we must have been one of the first in the country – and these were later incorporated into the “new” church. Bob Moore had a lot to do with their installation.
We retain fond memories of Harrismith and the many lovely friends we made there. We wish you all God’s blessing as you start a new century of witness and service. As we greet you we echo the words, “the best is yet to be.” – Yours sincerely Jack and Eileen Maguire
A last word from not so long ago . . by the Circuit Steward
This happening was about the second or third Sunday morning, our present minister was in the pulpit, during the singing of the first hymn, a sudden and very loud shout came from the pulpit. STOP! STOP! STOP! Nobody had any idea what caused this action, it was really hilarious watching the reactions of the congregation, hymn books fell out of the hands of some, there were faces reflecting fright, amazement and also anger. Others decided it wise to sit down.
After a pause the minister said that looking at the faces of the congregation he could only see a lot of unhappy and sad looking people. When we sing hymns praising God we must sing joyfully and with smiles on our faces. Needless to say the singing continued with much more joy and expression.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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!”
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.
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)
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.
*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.
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.