Categories
8_Nostalgia Family travel

Road Trip with Larry RSA

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 to SA from Cobleskill, New York. He and I had been on a previous Road Trip USA in 1973; now he was 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-fueled mission. Coward. We also visited the delightful Dottie Moffett in her UCT res. She had also been a Rotary exchange student to SA from Ardmore, Oklahoma and was now back in SA doing her undergraduate degree. I was in love with her, 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 liqueur to say thanks for a lovely stay. It was a rather delicious chocolate-tasting liqueur 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!

I visited Oom Boet and Aunty Anna in a Ford Cortina again in 1983. The top featured pic with the old Chevy pickup was actually taken then.

~~~oo0oo~~~

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

Oom Boet se Bokkerol Haselnuss mit Eish! – the same stuff except very different

Categories
Family

Barbara se Ouma woon in Boomstraat

She actually did. My sister Barbara’s granma lived at 131 Boom Street Pietermaritzburg.

Right across the road was this school. Going to the Afrikaans school would have meant a bus ride, and Oupa was frugal.

And so started the ver-engels-ing of Dad. The rooinek-erisation. Pieter Gerhardus became ‘Peter’.

131 Boom St PMB (1)

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*ver-engels – Anglicisation

*rooinek – Boer word for Poms – anyone from ‘England’ – any of those islands left of France. Literally ‘red necks’ – but not America rednecks. NB: This excluded those Irishmen who fought for the Boers against the plundering, wicked, invading, looting Poms.

 

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Being Bland in Africa (one branch . . )

Our distant cousin Hugh Bland has been doing some wonderful detective work sniffing out the Bland family history.

Today Hugh found the grave of Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland.

Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland was born in 1799 in ‘the UK’ – England, I guess! He arrived at the Cape in 1825 on the good ship Nautilus, under the care of the ship’s captain, a Mr Tripe. The voyage cost his family £42. He got a job on a wine farm, in the Drakenstein area of Stellenbosch, met his future wife Cecelia there (du Plessis?), married her, packed their belongings in a Cape cart and trekked to Mossel Bay. They found land on the Gourits river and settled there. Their first son, John Francis Adam, was born, followed by eight more children. John the eldest then married Nellie de Villiers and had a son, John Francis Adam II. He and Nellie left for inland while the baby was just a few months old. They headed for Colesberg, Bloemfontein, Winburg and on to Harrismith, where they settled ‘in a house not far from the centre of town’ – 13 Stuart Street, maybe?.

Back in Mossel Bay Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland (JBA) became mayor and the main street is still called Bland Street. He died in 1861. His grave is hidden in thick bush on a farm in the Wydersrivier district near Riversdal. 

The farmer very kindly took Hugh to the gravesite. Hugh says you can still read the inscription on the gravestone – it’s indistinct, but there’s no doubt that it’s JBA’s grave. He says it was “quite a moment” for him – JBA was buried there 156 yrs ago and Hugh wondered when a Bland last stood at that grave.

Hugh put two proteas – which it looks like he skoffel’d out nearby? – on the grave; then laid his shadow next to his great-great-great grandfather and took this pic:

JBA Bland's grave
– Hugh Bland’s shadow on Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland’s grave –

~~~oo0oo~~~

The Harrismith Branch of the Blands:

..

Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland had a daughter, Annie Emmett Bland, who married Louis Botha, Boer war general who became the first President of the Union of South Africa in 1910.

He also had a son John Francis Adam Bland (JFA), born in 1836.

This JFA I later trekked inland ca.1861 to Harrismith in the Orange River Colony with a small baby – John Francis Adam Bland the Second – JFA II. This started ‘our branch’ of the Blands, The Vrystaat Blands. One of them – I must try and find out who – would end up as a prisoner of war in Ceylon for doing the right thing and fighting for his new homeland against the invading thieving British in the Boer war of 1899-1902.

John Francis Adam Bland II married Mary Caskie, who became the beloved Granny Bland of Harrismith. They had five sons of whom our grandfather Frank was the oldest, again: John Francis Adam; JFA III.

Hugh found out that JFA the First died on 10 September 1891 aged 55, and is buried in the lost, dusty, verlate metropolis of Senekal, Vrystaat. In Harrismith Granny Bland buried her husband JFA II and four of her five boys, including JFA III. As Sheila said, ‘What a tragic life.’ Poor Granny Bland! She loved her grandaughter Mary, our Mom, and she lived long enough to know us, her great grandkids before she died in 1959. So in that she was Lucky Granny Bland! We knew Bunty, the only child who outlived her, very well. He died in 1974 and joined his father JFA II, his mother, and his four brothers in the family grave in Harrismith.

JFA III married Annie Watson Bain – our granny Annie Bland. Known as just Annie. They farmed racehorses and clean fingernails on the farm Nuwejaarsvlei on the Nuwejaarspruit outside Harrismith on the road to Witsieshoek, towards the Drakensberg. He died in 1943 while my Mom Mary and her older sister Pat were still at school. Pat died in 1974. Mom Mary then looked after Annie until she died aged ninety in 1983. Mom Mary is still alive and well. She turned ninety in September 2018.

(I’m hoping sister Sheila will fact-check me here! Also that cousin Hugh will tell us what happened to the misguided Bland branch that didn’t go to the Vrystaat, but got lost and ended up in Zimbabwe. They lived near Oliviershoek for a while before trekking on. Hugh tells tales of transport riding, ox wagons, meeting Percy Fitzpatrick, farming in Rhodesia and other exaggerations . . )

~~~oo0oo~~~

Must add:

Annie’s oldest daughter Pat Bland – married Bill Cowie, and had two daughters Frankie & Gemma; Bill worked in Blyvooruitsig on the gold mine; We would see them on their way to their wonderful Wild Coast fishing trips. They called Blyvooruitsig ‘Blayfore.’

Mary Bland second and youngest daughter – married Pieter Swanepoel in 1951

~~~oo0oo~~~

Bland might sound bland, but hey, the surname is thought to derive from Old English (ge)bland meaning ‘storm’, or ‘commotion’. Don’t use dictionaries that say, ‘dull, flavorless, or just plain ‘blah.’ Use the Merriam-Webster that says it means ‘smooth and soothing in manner or quality;’ or use vocabulary.com that says it means ‘alluring;’ or try ‘flattering’ from the Bland Family History on ancestry.com; That’s better.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Some of the information on Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland first coming to the Cape I got from the book And Not To Yield about Susan Bland. Susan was born in Harrismith, had a brother Willie, married a Theo Allison and lived seven miles outside Harrismith farming ostriches for a while.

And Not To Yield by Penelope Matthews, Watermark Press – ISBN 978-0-620-58162-2

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family school

Mother Mary Memories

Mr Pretorius was a new teacher in Harrismith. This is back in the ‘forties. One Geography lesson he asked a question and the answer he wanted was the town “Heilbron”.

Johnny Priest (chosen perhaps because the teacher knew he wouldn’t know?) answered “The Free State” at which Mr P lifted his eyes to the heavens, rolled them and sighed sarcastically “Why don’t you just say The Union of South Africa?” at which Johnny hastened to say, “I meant the Union of South Africa”.

~~~oo0oo~~~

High school teachers Mr Coetzee taught Afrikaans and Mrs Coetzee taught English. One day in matric she asked Linden Weakley a question. He was slouched low in his chair with his legs stretched in front of him and crossed, his feet almost under her desk. He was a languid chap, Linden. He answered as he was, not moving. “Uncross your legs” she said. So he did. “I mean GET UP!” she said, more sharply this time.

Once Mom was playing tennis with Linden when their opponent got cramp in a leg. Mom, ever helpful, went to the net to tell him to how to cope and what to do ti get rid of it. “Let him keep his cramp” said Linden “I want to win this match!”.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Outside toilets

Toilets were outside, well away from the house, usually at the back border of the yard where the alley ran past so the ‘Night Car’, or ‘Honey Cart’, could get to them easily. If you had a big yard it could be a long walk. Mrs de Beer used to say theirs was “Halfway to Warden”!

“Oh, the embarrasment”, says Mother Mary, “of meeting the Honey Cart at night when walking home from the bioscope!”

~~~oo0oo~~~

Jack Shannon was dancing with Brenda Longbottom from across the road at Granny Bland’s once. Watching them, Annie said critically, “He can’t dance for toffee.”

~~~oo0oo~~~

Mom’s doctor in Harrismith was Dr Hoenigsberger, who was married to Janet Caskie, an Australian cousin of Mom’s Granny Bland. They lived in a big brick house similar to Granny Bland’s, just over the road. He was the government doctor (district surgeon) and part of his job was to attend to the inmates in the Harrismith Gaol. On the way back from there one day he hit the bridge over the Kakspruit and landed up in the spruit below the bridge. He was taken home, a bit shaken.

Later one of his friend phoned the house and one of his sons (Leo or Max) answered. “Hello, is the doctor in? We want him to come around and play bridge with us” said the voice.

“No, I think he’s had enough bridge for one day” answered the son.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Wealthy Casper Badenhorst was apparently very tight with a dollar. Had plenty, spent little. When Harrismith people free-wheeled downhill in their cars they would say “Ons ry nou op Casper se petrol”.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sr. Mary Bland Boksburg

After matric Mary went to do nursing at the Boksburg-Benoni hospital. Older sister Pat had gone there three years before, with Janet. Pat was highly regarded by her colleagues and she took Mom to her first ward, ward 10 in the old block to introduce her to the nurse already there, Nurse Groenewald. The ward was on the fourth floor and they got into the old rattle-trap lift but no go – it was out of order. She found out it was often that way.

So they started off up the stairs at speed. Mom got to the top out of breath. She soon got fitter and learnt to run up  those steps with ease.

=========ooo000ooo=========

“Ons ry nou op Casper se petrol” – We’re riding on Casper’s petrol

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Cannot be

When I was around six years old Sheila came marching up to me and demanded-

“Do you know what Dad’s name is?”

Well, of course I did! I was the older brother.

Kleinspan Skool Koos Sheila.jpg

It’s “Dad”

“No man, his real name!”

What did she mean? Oh, of course – I’d heard Mom call him that lots of times.

“Peter”

“No. It’s PIETER GERHARDUS!!”

What rubbish! I’d never heard such foul language! And this from my MUCH younger sister! She was a whole year younger’n me. Which was like: All of living memory!

Amazingly, investigations proved her right!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Dougie Wright

. . and over the hills lay long fields of barley and of rye

and through the fields a road runs by . . .

Douglas Wright Esq would wax poetical after a few beers, quoting Alfred, Lord Tennyson out on the Vrystaat vlaktes. I spose that’s what happens if you get sent to a soutpiel school in the colonies.

I see now he was misquoting Tennyson – or maybe I misremember and he was spot on? Anyway, I prefer his version. It’s hardwired in my brain now.

In my mind’s eye dear ole Dougie is wandering across the veld with a shotgun in the crook of his arm, deerstalker on his head, waxing forth . . . .

Old Harrismith Warden.jpg
Fifth from the right wearing a black beret

The rest, L to R:

Tony Porrell, Koos Swanepoel, Nev Shave, Charlie Deane, Dirk Odendaal, Ian Fyvie, Rob Spilsbury, Nick Leslie, Doug Wright wearing the black beret, John Venning, Mike Curnow, Tabs Fyvie and Guy Kirk

~~~oo0oo~~~

Other Dougie things I remember:

  • ‘Let’s play Bok Bok Staan Styf! Hoeveel fingers op jou lyf?’
  • We must play pennetjie!’ – urgently suggested after a few beers. We never did.
  • His fox terrier — (name?)
  • His cottage on Glen Khyber, their plot in the shadow of Platberg, away from the big house. It was right on the verdant banks of a little stream that flowed down from Khyber Pass into the beautiful Kak Spruit as it tumbled down from Platberg on its way to the Wilge River. Glen Khyber was below Platberg’s steep, narrow, stony Khyber Pass.

Sheila remembers:

  • Doug’s story about Tabs Fyvie when Tabs was little: Dougie asked him “Did you have any rain?” and Tabs answered “Not much but they were big drops”.
  • How we used to walk to Glen Khyber from Birdhaven and wake Doug up in his cottage (him probably hung over) and Barbara would show him her whispy ponytail at eye level as he lay in bed and say “Look Doug, my ponytail!”.
Birdhaven

1. Birdhaven – the ruins; 2. Glen Khyber – Doug’s cottage the green roof;

3. Jack Levick’s plot; 4. Kakspruit

~~~oo0oo~~~

soutpiel – English-speaking South African; said to have one foot in SA, the other foot in England, his penis hanging in the sea, so ‘salt penis’

Bok Bok Staan Styf! Hoeveel fingers op jou lyf? – weird game where you jump on each others’ backs! amiright?

pennetjie – game where you scratch a hole in the ground and use a stick to prevent your opponent from tossing his stick into the hole; amiright?

Kak Spruit – Shit Creek; Stream flowing down from the top of Platberg past Dougie’s plot Glen Khyber, then past our plot Birdhaven

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions Family

Theft and Punishment

Didn’t steal much as a kid. But I did slug down a bottle of Monis red grapejuice on the quiet in the back storeroom of the Platberg Bottle Store / Drankwinkel working for Mom & Dad one Saturday morning. You can see the door to the storeroom in the pic. Warm, straight out of one of those cardboard boxes all the bottles were packed in.

DSCF8184
– Platberg Bottle Store – the dark side – Note that BrandyAle poster – booze “fights the high cost of living”!! –

That afternoon we went for a long drive out Witsieshoek way in the beige 1956 Morris Isis (no, not Islamic State of Iraq & Syria, just Isis, after the river in England that most call the Thames).

After a while the car door had to be flung open for me to have a hearty grapey chunder out onto the gravel road in the veld. It would have looked like blood, so I imagine a confession then also would have had to take place. Can’t remember.

I haven’t liked red grape juice since. Communion in the teetotal Methodist church had me being possibly the only sinner rudely reminded of theft and puke every time the shed for you came round. Divine retribution? Communion? Confession? He does seem to move in mysterious ways!

Here’s the cave on the Witsieshoek road:

cave-witsieshoek-road

~~~oo0oo~~~

As an aside –

– just like this one – but no visor – no spotlights – not two-tone –

The Morris Isis was named after the River Isis – which is actually just the Thames in Oxford. The Morris Isis was “designed for work in the Dominions, Colonies and Protectorates” . . . “the factory’s output . . . is entirely for export. Great attention was given to providing a low appearance without sacrifice of ground clearance. The all-metal 5-seater saloon body is stated to be practically indestructible and climate-proof.”

The 1956 version had the fascinatingly bizarre feature that both the gear lever and the handbrake were on the floor to the right of the driver, wedged in the narrow space between the seat and the driver’s door. When changing gear it looked like you were fiddling for something you’d dropped between your right thigh and the door.

Morris Isis gear lever

The Morris Isis Series II was based on the Morris Oxford Series III. The engine power increased to 90 bhp. The manual version had a four-speed box operated by a short gearstick located on the right-hand side of the front bench seat. The handbrake lever was located just behind the gearstick.

Sales remained weak, and the line ended in 1958. It had a top speed of 90 mph and could accelerate from 0-60 mph in 17.6 seconds. Fuel consumption of 26.2 miles per imperial gallon (10.8 litres/100 km) was recorded. The test car cost UK£1025 including taxes.

Morris_Isis_II_ad.jpg
– other wimps don’t want power! they don’t want acceleration! – No, only us Aussies like those things! ‘Cos we’re Aussies! Other guys like going slowly –
Morris Isis interior

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions Family

Riding Shotgun

My lift from JHB dropped me off at home. The dorp was empty, where WAS everyone?

I phoned 2630 pring pring pring. Or was it 2603 priiiiing priiiing priiiing? I forget. Can you fetch me? No, get yourself here quick, we’re going to Warden to scare some guineafowls. Now.

What could I do? The imported white Ford Econoline 302 cu. inch V8 van was in the garage, I knew where the keys were, and the folks were away. And after all, I’d only be using it to get to Gailian then hop into Tabs’ bakkie and away we’d go. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, and I’d better borrow Dad’s 12-gauge shotgun, too.

As I drew up next to the prefab on Gailian a cry of Perfect! A real shooting brake! went up and six gentlemen holding shotguns and beers piled in, calling Tommy the German Pointer in with them. No, guys, hang on, I said feebly . .

The day at Warden was a blur but the drive back came into sharp focus. We ‘had to’ pull in to the pub in Warden.  I of course, had suggested we go straight home, but that went down like a lead balloon. Blithely ignored. In the pub the barman took one look at us and refused to serve us. Someone who shall remain nameless but whose surname maybe started with a G fetched his shotgun and casually aimed it at the expensive bottles of hooch above the barman’s head whereupon he suddenly remembered our order and delivered seven beers pronto. When we decided we’d like to play snooker same thing: A Simpson-like character aimed a shotgun at the cue ball and the cues were produced with alacrity. And chalk.

When to my huge relief, we finally got going, the G-man, who was riding shotgun on my right (the van was Left-Hand-Drive), sat on the windowsill and three of Warden’s four streetlamps went ‘pop’.

Warden riding shotgun

Now I KNEW I was going to jail forever. Putting my head down and roaring for home I wasn’t stopping again for NOBODY. Except the gentle tickle of a shotgun against my ear persuaded me otherwise and I stopped as instructed with my headlights shining on the Eeram sign. A firing squad lined up, three kneeling in front and four standing behind them. This is for Ram, guys, he’s getting married next weekend! BLAM!! The ‘Ee’ disappeared, and there was ‘ram’. Nor do I believe it.

I finally got home and looked at the van. Holy cow! Dog hair, guineafowl feathers and the mud and the blood and the beer all over the carpets and upholstery of Dad’s Ford Econoline V8 camper van! 302 cu. inches. I set to work cleaning it. And cleaning it. And scrubbing it. Still it stank of that mixture. In desperation, I took a jerrycan and spread petrol liberally on the carpet and scrubbed again.

When the folks got home I made a full – OK, partial – confession: Dad, I spilled some petrol in your van, but I’ve cleaned it all up. Sorry about that!

~~~oo0oo~~~

  • the mud and the blood and the beer – Johnny Cash –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Harrismith Xmas 1979

Mary and Manie Wessels Rietvlei joined the folks Mary and Pieter Swanepoel for Xmas 1979 at 37 Piet Uys street. Barbara and Jeff, Koos and Sheila and Annie were there, too. As was poor Selina! Hopefully she got time off for being on duty on Xmas day!

Looks like colour film hadn’t been invented yet . .