Borrowing Cars Genetic?

We used to borrow our parents cars on the without-permission system and drive around at night with the ultimate destination being the Royal Natal National Park Hotel down Oliviershoek Pass. That was a triumphant destination I only achieved once, other times we went to Little Switzerland, halfway down the pass. Or Kestell.

Once Steph de Witt decided to raise the bar and we headed off to Durban with the goal of putting our toes in the warm surf of the Indian Ocean and getting back to Harrismith before sunrise but we ‘changed our minds’ soon after Ladysmith and turned back.

I knew this habit could not be genetic as Mom would never have done such things, but recently I found out something which may throw new light on the possible causes of such fun behaviour.

Mom’s older sister Pat matriculated at Girls High in Pietermaritzburg while Mom matriculated at Harrismith se Hoer. I suddenly wondered why, so I asked.

Oh, she was getting into boys so Dad sent her off to boarding school, said Mom. She must have been in standard eight and about fifteen or sixteen years old.

Apparently some boys had borrowed a car from Kemp’s Garage in Warden Street and headed off to Royal Natal National Park Hotel back before it was Royal. It only became Royal after the Breetish Royal visit in 1947 and this must have been about 1941. Mom thinks Pat’s fellow felons may have included Michael Hastings and Donald Taylor. Pat, being the fun-loving person she always was, was right there! FOMO (fear of missing out) was a thing then too, even if it didn’t yet have an acronym! I know I had it big as a teenager.

The hotel looks like this now, but not because of us, swear!

Royal Natal National Park Hotel - Heritage Portal - June 2014 - 1

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Potted history of the Royal Natal National Park area:

In 1836, while exploring Basutoland, two French missionaries, Mons. Arbrousset and Daumas first discovered Mont-Aux-Sources, the source of three rivers. In 1908 the idea of establishing a National Park in this area was conceived, and the territory was explored by Senator Frank Churchill, General Wylie, Colonel Dick and Mr. W.O. Coventry. Recommendations were put forward, but it was not until 1916 that the Secretary of Lands authorised the reservation of five farms, and certain Crown Lands totalling approximately 8160 acres and entrusted it to the Executive Committee of the Natal Province.

On the 16 September 1916 the National Park came into being. An advisory committee was appointed to control the Park. Shortly afterwards the Natal Provincial Administration purchased the farm ‘Goodoo’, upon which a hostel for hikers had already been opened in 1913 by W.O.Coventry, and incorporated a small portion of the Upper Tugela Native Trust Land, thus swelling the National Park to its present 20 000 acres. The Advisory Committee was abolished in January 1942, and the Park was administered by the Provincial Council until the formation of the Natal Parks, Game and Fish Preservation Board on the 22 December 1947.

Mr. F. O. Williams held the first hostel lease rights on the farm Goodoo which he obtained from Mr. W.O. Coventry, the original owner. Mr. Coventry became Lessee of the whole park in 1919, and took over the post of Park Superintendent in August 1924 at the grand salary of five pounds per month. In 1926 he was succeeded by Otto and Walter Zunkel, who each added their share of buildings and improvements. Mr. Alan Short was the next Superintendent.

Short was in charge when the Royal Family visited the Park in May 1947. Prime Minister Jan Smuts wanted King George VI, the Queen and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to take a break from their two-month tour of southern Africa and see the splendour of the Drakensberg. It was Elizabeth’s first overseas trip and she celebrated her coming-of-age there, drafting her first important speech at the hotel.

The Royal family were so impressed with their stay that they insisted that the hotel and national park be granted the “Royal” designation.

Today, the Royal Natal National Park is managed by KZN Wildlife, the provincial conservation body of KwaZulu-Natal.

Here’s why everyone loves the area:Amphitheatre Pierre (1)

Picture taken by Pierre du Plessis while he was working down there.

Home

95 Stuart Street was home from 1961 to 1973:

Home

Some stiff poses in the garden in 1970:

Kids at home - fishpond, Jock's kennel, grapevine, tree-tables, big hedge

Inside, in the dining room and the lounge:

Twelve years at 95 Stuart Street. Funny how that felt like forever, yet we stayed in our first home for fifteen years, 7 River Drive:

Home - River Drive

and have now been in our second home for twelve, 10 Elston Place:

Home 10 Elston Place

10 Elston Place

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Twice Horrified, Fifty Years Apart

When we were young we heard that Jock Grant used to give Ian R10 to spend.

We were horrified.

The other day Tom asked for money. I offered him R10.

He was horrified.

R10 note new

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Especially horrifying to note that when I was born there were coins in denominations of ¼, ½ and 1 penny, and 3 and 6 pence! Yes, there was a farthing, a ha’penny, a penny, a tickey and sixpence! Basically what Tom in his new South African English would term worth ‘fokol’!

Here’s a farthing (1/4 penny) from when I was cute:

1943_South_African_farthing_obverse

Shit I’m old! I think you could buy a Wilsons toffee from Harrismith Mayor Nick Duursema’s VC Cafe for this coin.

There was also a one shilling coin, a 2 shilling coin (some called it a ‘florin’)  and 2½ shillings (‘half a crown’, is that right?).

All the coins had the British monarch on the obverse (George VI until 1952 and later Queen Lizzie Two Second), with the titles in Latin, while the reverse had the denomination and “South Africa / Suid Afrika”.  The other 11 languages? Forget it! Latin yes, isiZulu, hell no!

Recently Tom and I were looking at a collection of coins Aitch had collected and kept in a plastic screw-top jar from her Prof Chris Barnard days that originally held an artificial heart valve. I said, ‘Hey Tom, the 1931 tickey is worth a lot of money’. That piqued his interest and he had a good look, but no luck, the biggest value tickey we had was worth about R6.

20170903_100617.jpg

The Grand Old Man of Harrismith

Janet & Stewart Bain – Royal Hotel Harrismith
  • Stewart Bain came to Harrismith in 18__
  • Became Mayor of the town and ‘reigned’ for years, becoming known as ‘The Grand Old Man of Harrismith’
  • Pushed for the building of a very smart town hall. Some thought it was way too fancy – and too expensive – and called it “Bain’s Folly” (shades of our Moses Mabida stadium in Durban for 2010 – “Do we need such a fancy stadium!?”).

He died in 1939 and the town pulled out the stops for his funeral:

Stewart Bain 1939.jpg

I thought I remembered that, despite the fact that every dorp has a Royal Hotel, the Harrismith Royal Hotel was one of only two that could officially call itself ‘Royal’. Sheila has confirmed that I have a flawless memory (well, something along those lines):

Royal Hotel article

Here you have Platberg mountain & Town Hall seen from the Royal Hotel:

Oupa's bible and Grandpa Bain's funeral
Oupa Bain’s funeral from the Royal Hotel balcony

The Bain Family’s Scottish Roots

Katrina (nee Miller) Duncan, from near Oban in Scotland, stumbled across my other blog here and made contact with us. She sounds delightful, but so she would – she’s family!

bain-crest
Clan Bain Crest

She has been researching the Bain family tree and she and my sister Sheila have worked out that we share a Great-Great-Great Grandfather, one Donald Bain, born in Wick 14 April 1777 – died 1853. He married Katherine Bremner and they lived in Sarclet, just south of Wick way up in north-east Scotland.

wick castle scotland
Wick Castle
sarclet, scotland.jpg
Sarclet
sarclet, scotland_2
Sarclet village

Donald’s son George was out fishing with his brother Stewart in 1853 when their boat was swamped and Stewart drowned. Katrina found an 1853 newspaper article about the tragedy.

Stewart Bain drowning 1853.jpg

When Stewart Bain was born in 1819 in Caithness, his father, Donald, was 42 and his mother, Katherine, was 41. On 7 February 1845 Stewart married Christina Watson  in his hometown. They had four children during their marriage. He died as a young father on 19 February 1853 in Thrumster, Caithness, at the age of 34, and was buried there.

The next year, 1854, his brother George and his wife Annie (nee Watson) had a son. They named him Stewart.

He is the Stewart who came to Harrismith, Orange River Colony in South Africa in 18____ and married Janet Burley. They had seven kids: The seven ‘Royal Bains’ of Harrismith, named after their hotel, The Royal Hotel in Station Road. This ‘title’ was to distinguish them from ‘The Central Bains’, not to claim royalty!

Stewart Bain called his home in Harrismith ‘Caithness’:

Caithness, Harrismith

On Katrina’s ancestry web page “Miller Family Tree” the names Annie, Jessie, Stewart, Katherine, Donald etc have been used for generations.  My gran – one of the seven Royal Bains – was Annie Watson Bain.

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Many thanks to  katrina duncan for getting in touch!

The Scottish Tartan register confirms that there is no ancient Clan Bain tartan. This one ‘The Bains of Caithness’ was designed in 1993 for Robert Bain of Caithness.

 

 

 

Annie Watson Bain

By the time we knew her she was Annie Bland. Never ‘granny’. Only Annie.

In fact ‘Annie Watson Bain’ to me was the lady who died (WW1?) whose name was on one of the monuments outside the Town Hall (a cousin of our Annie?).

They’d already lost the farms and the racehorses, and our gran Annie now owned the Caltex filling station in town. It was on Caskie Corner, opposite our posh Town Hall which Annie’s father Stewart Bain had been instrumental in building. It was called Bain’s Folly as it was such an imposing structure for our modest dorp.

HS Town Hall

Harrismith Town Hall Bain's Folly

Town Hall3

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 (as she looked 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’ but don’t say that out loud).

Annie

And the car she drove was like this one, except faded beige:

Chev Fleetline 1948

I think a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline.It had a cushion on the seat for her to see over the dash.

She was born in 1893, the fifth of seven Bain kids of the ‘Royal Bains’ – meaning the Royal Hotel Bains. There were also ‘Central Bains’.

She went to St Andrews Collegiate School in Harrismith:

StAndrews School_Boarding House

and then at St Anne’s in PMB 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:

Annie St Annes

Looks like St Anne’s in Pietermartizburg was a riot of fun and a laugh-a-minute.

HS Caltex

She ran the Caltex and 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 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 suburb. I’m sure she told us the whole history of Harrismith and who lived where and who was who. All of which we ignored, so I can’t tell you nothing!

Later she got a green Opel and for some reason (she could no longer drive?) it was parked on our lawn. I sat in it and changed gears on its column shift about seventy thousand times. Probably why I (like all males) am such a good driver today. Like this but green and white:

Annie's Opel Rekord

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 (excuse little rant there!).

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DeOudeHuizeYard also had this about the school Annie attended:

Interesting facts regarding the Church and its Rev A.A. van der Lingen. The Rev began his years of service in the church on the 6th May 1875 and remained there until the 12th July 1893.  The Rev A.A. van der Lingen along with the church Elders built a second church on the site of the first church. The cornerstone of this building was laid on the 25th August 1892 and coincided with another celebration at the time.  Five weeks prior to the unveiling of the stone, the town had enjoyed a four-day celebration due to the completion of the railroad from Natal to Harrismith on the 14th July 1892. The government of the day donated £5 500 to the town to host these celebrations.
It was during this same time that the Rev van der Linge also ran for President of the Orange Free State. In the hope of impressing the townsfolk and swaying their vote in his favour, the Rev built the first double-story building in Harrismith.
Needless to say his election to this position never materialized.
With the British occupation of Harrismith, the military authorities made the double-story building their headquarters.
After the cessation of hostilities, Vrede House (Peace House) as it was then known, became St Andrews Collegiate School (1903-1918), then Oakland’s School and finally a boarding house in the 1930’s.

Road Trip with Larry

Mom lent us her Cortina. Like this, but OHS:

cortina 1970

How brave was that!? The longer I have teenagers of my own the more I admire my Mom and her quiet courage and fortitude back in the ’70’s! The thought of giving my teenage son my car and allowing him to disappear (it would be in a cloud of dust and tyre smoke) on a three week jaunt fills me with querulous whimpering. (I’ll do it, I’ll do it, but only ‘cos Mom did it for me).

Larry Wingert was an ex-Rotary exchange student from Cobleskill, New York. He had been teaching English in Athens and had flown to Nairobi, then traveled overland down to Joburg where we joined up and hitch-hiked to Harrismith. There, Mom parted with the Cortina keys and we drove to PMB then on to Cape Town. We took ten lazy days in going nowhere slowly style back in 1976.

Wherever we found a spot – preferably free – we camped in my little orange pup tent. In the Weza Forest we camped for free; In the Tsitsikamma we paid.

Driving through the Knysna Forest we saw a sign Beware of the Effilumps.

knysna forest

So we took the little track that turned off nearby and camped – for free – out of sight of the road in the undergrowth. Maybe we’d see a (very) rare Kynsna elephant. Not.

In Cape Town we stayed with Lynne Wade from Vryheid, lovely lass who’d been a Rotary exchange student too. She played the piano for us and I fell deeply in love, then disappeared on yet another beer-fuelled mission. Coward. We also visited Dottie Moffett in her UCT res. She was also an ex-Rotary exchange student from Ardmore, Oklahoma. Lovely lass too.

We headed for Malmesbury to visit Uncle Boet and Tannie Anna. Oom Boet was on top form, telling jokes and stories and laughing non-stop. That evening he had to milk the cow, so we accompanied him to the shed. Laughing and talking he would rest his forehead against the cow’s flank every now and then and shake with helpless mirth at yet another tale. Meantime, this was not what the cow was used to. It had finished the grain and usually he was finished milking when she had finished eating. So the cow backed out and knocked him off the stool, flat on his back, bucket and milking stool upturned. He took a kick at the cow, missed and put his back out. Larry and I were hosing ourselves as we helped him up and tried to restore a semblance of order and dignity.

Back at the house we gave Oom Boet and Aunt Anna a bottle of imported liquer to say thanks for a lovely stay. It was a rather delicious chocolate-tasting liquer and it said haselnuss mit ei. It was only a 500ml bottle, so we soon flattened it. It looked something like this:

haselnuss liquer

“Ja lekker, maar ag, dis bokkerol, Kosie – Ons kan dit self maak!”

Ja?

Larry and I decide to call his bluff. In the village the next day we looked for dark chocolate and hazelnuts, but hey, it’s Malmesbury – we got two slabs of Cadbury’s milk chocolate with nuts.

Oom Boet is bok for the challenge. He dives under the kitchen sink and starts hauling things out. He’s on his hands and knees and his huge bum protrudes like a plumber’s as he yells “Vrou! Waar’s die masjien?” Anna has to step in and find things and do things as he ‘organises’. She finds a vintage blender and – acting under a string of unnecessary instructions – Aunt Anna breaks eggs and separates the yolks, breaks chocolate into small pieces. Boet then bliksems it all into the blender and adds a fat dollop of a clear liquid from a label-less bottle. “Witblits, Kosie!” he says triumphantly. He looks and goois more in, then more. Then a last splash.

It looked like this, but the goo inside was yellowy-brown, not green. And it had a layer of clear liquid overlaying it nearly to the top.

Oom Boet blender_2

He switches the blender to ‘flat-out’ with a flourish and a fine blend of egg yolk, chocolate and powerful-smelling hooch splatters all over the kitchen ceiling, walls and sink. He hadn’t put the lid on! And it was like a V8 blender, that thing.

Vroulief starts afresh, patient and good-humoured as ever. We mop, we add, he blends, and then it’s ready for tasting at last.

And undrinkable. That aeroplane fuel strength home-distilled liquor was just too violent. We take tiny little sips, but even Oom Boet has to grudgingly admit his is perhaps not quite as good or as smooth as the imported stuff. We add sugar, more chocolate and more egg yolk, but its only very slightly better, and still undrinkable.

Ten years later I still had the bottle and despite offering it to many people to sip as a party trick, it was still three-quarters full!

If we had marketed it we’d have called it Oom Boet se Bokkerol Haselnuss mit Eish!

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haselnuss mit ei – hazelnuts with egg

“Ja lekker, maar ag dis bokkerol, Kosie – Ons kan dit self maak!”- Nice, but we could make this stuff ourselves!

“Vrou! Waar’s die masjien?” – Wife! Where’s the machine?

bliksems – throws

witblits – moonshine

goois – throws