Even if we live to be a hundred, the first twenty five years are the longest half of our lives. They appear so while they are passing; they seem to have been so as we look back on them; and they take up more room in our memories than all the years that succeed them.
paraphrased from a quote by Robert Southey, English Romantic Poet
How could those years not be great – and unforgettable?
All above are internet pictures. These next I took on a visit in 1973 with fellow exchange students and my Apache host brothers. From left: Dayne Swanda, Kent Swanda, Helen Worswick from Marandellas, Zimbabwe, Jenny Carter from Bromley, Zimbabwe, Jonathan Kneebone from Australia, Evelyn Woodhouse from Durban, South Africa and Robbie Swanda.
Wichita mountains with Pattersons
Dayne & Kent Swanda, Helen Worswick, Jenny Carter, Jonathan Kneebone, Evelyn ___, Robbie Swanda
Bison, elk and deer are protected on the 23,880 ha wildlife refuge. The refuge also manages a herd of longhorn cattle. The peaks are capped by 540 million-year old granite. Here you can see where the mountains are in SW Oklahoma. Apache is just a few miles north.
I was looking thru Dan Palatnik’s Digital Garage (well worth a visit) and an old Willys Jeep reminded me of Leibs and Achim lying under their old Jeeps in the backyard of our communal home at 4 Hillside Road, Parktown. Mainly they were banging out rust and stuffing V8’s under the bonnets.
Achim went on to do a lot of off-road rallying in Brits, where he ran his optometric practice with his bream, wife and former lecturer Eva the dispensing optician. On the side he ran a garage to tjoon up his racing 4X4’s and fit divorce pipes, one of which eventually got him. Maybe she kicked him out for getting grease on the contact lenses?
Inmates of 4 Hillside I remember are:
– Pierre ‘Leibs’ Leibbrandt and the lovely Claire. As students we fitted Leibs with silicon permawear contact lenses! He drove an Alfa Romeo;
– Granger Grey. Grey VW Beetle;
– Donald ‘Coolsie’ Collins. (“You take off your clothes, I’m just having a shit . . ” to part-time girlfriend ‘Vaalwater’);
– Mike Doyle, girlfriend Michaela or ‘Shale’. Old blue LandRover;
– Clive ‘Nel’ Nel. A book could and should be written. “Dee dee dee BARKER!! baap”. Endured by the wonderful and long-suffering Sandy Norts. White Mazda RX2;
– Glen ‘Barks’ Barker. Another book. Green Toyota Corona;
– Gerald ‘Gelard’ the Malawian butler with ambitions of becoming a tycoon. Hurt that we thought mowing the lawn was in his portfolio. He called CoolsieBoss Donut.
Friends-of-4-Hillside included: – Jos, another teacher who lived nearby. Not tall, with high-plus specs, an Alfa and a lovely girlfriend; – ‘Norbs’ Norbury. Yet another educator. Big black beard. Norbs imitated Charles Fortune to perfection at the Wanderers cricket ground, entertaining the inebriated crowds on the grassy banks as he waxed lyrical about the clouds and the birds while blissfully ignoring the fall of a wicket. Would sing loud John Denver: “You Philip My Dentures . . . “;
Other memories: Sitting in the crowded little TV lounge watching the news and Dorianne Berry came on to read the news wearing a strapless top, the camera only showing above it. “Ooh, maybe we’ll get to see Dorianne’s berries”, was the call. Disappointed.
Lying under the grey-and-grey Opel fixing the drum brakes before going to Port Shepstone. Now, who the hell would drive 700km in a car whose brakes I had fiddled with!? Turns out a few students, including the delightful Cheryl Forsdick;
Brauer irresponsibly dancing on the roof of that same Opel at the late-night farewell end-of-term party held at 4 Hillside.
The delightful SSS Featherbed Fotherby was a welcome visitor to 4 Hillside in one of the few lucky – and brief – periods I ‘had a girlfriend’!
Steve Reed wrote:Granger – never forgotten. Mostly for his height-enhancing shoe-stuffing for weight watchers meetings;
Pete Brauer wrote:More vivid nostalgic memories of Granger Grey shoving quarts of Black Label down his throat;
I remember Granger Grey (6ft 4 by 4ft 6 wide) getting home late one night, well-oiled with a placid beam on his face. He joined us students braaiing on the lawn next to the pool and started eyeing the sizzling meat. Borrowing one ale after the other he got progressively more glass-eyed and we watched in awe as he swayed, Obelix-like, WAY past a normal centre of gravity then slowed to a halt, jutting chin way forward, eyes on the tjops n boerie and then SLO-OWLY swayed back to upright, then way back, with his beer resting on his boep till he was leaning 450 backwards and HAD to see his arse but halted, hovered and started the slow sway forward again. Musta been the size eleventeen shoes that held him!
We had to hurriedly clear the braai and endure his hurt look. Imperative to be tough and take evasive action when Granger got near food though: Gerard the Malawian butler on steak days would cook the veggies and spuds and put the seven big steaks on the wall above the fridge in the 4 Hillside kitchen. Strict house rule: Whoever cracked first had to divide the veg into seven equal portions and could only then cook his own steak and eat.
Granger got home early one day and did just that. Then he had just ONE more steak ‘cos, hey! maybe someone wouldn’t be coming home and that would be a waste. Then he had another . . . .
As he finished the seventh and last steak he was overcome by remorse and panic. He hopped in to his long-suffering grey Beetle and hared off to Fontana in Hillbrow and bought two roast chickens off their rotisserie to replace the looted steaks. Alas, on the way home one of the chickens clucked seductively and persuasively and he ate most of that before finally plonking one lonely fowl on the wall for us to share.
Granger. Heart of gold. He had bigger brothers, one called Tiny. He read Ayn Rand and thought she was on to something.
Steve Reed again:The legend that I subscribe to is that the famous Vespa scooter that ended up on the bottom of the 4 Hillside Road pool originally belonged to a bird called Terry who later married Keith Taylor. Keith’s brother Ian Taylor [who became a Doctor] had apparently commandeered Terry’s scooter and somehow it had ended up at 4 Hillside where it met its famous fate. Of course, the story may be the result of the effects on Terry of the third bottle of pinot noir on a cold Auckland night.
Vespa scooter reminds me of Keith Ballin zipping along, specs and moustache peering out from under his helmet, scarf trailing behind him in the breeze!
I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine.
Nostalgia: A device that removes the potholes from memory lane.
Vaalwater – name of young lass from the distant metropolis of Vaalwater
tjoon – tune-up in this case; sometimes ‘explain’
braai – barbecue
tjops n boerie – red meat sacrificed over an open flame
boep – stomach
‘Twas at 4 Hillside that a knock came at the front door. We knew it was a stranger as no-one knocked at the front door. Actually, no one knocked, you just walked into the kitchen door.
It was a pink-faced balding chap and he asked for Peter Swanepoel.
We found out later from Madeleine what had transpired: A pink-faced chap walked into the School of Optometry and enquired at reception: Who’s your BEST optometrist? When Madeleine asked Um, Why? he said I want to employ your best final year optom student. Stifling a grin Madeleine said Actually most of them already have jobs, they’re nearly finished their exams. Oh, said the pink-faced chap, So who hasn’t got a job yet?
The rumour that he then went on to ask OK, then who’s your WORST student? is just that: A vicious rumour.
Fifty-Year-Old Memories: METHODIST CHURCH, SUNDAY SCHOOL AND GUILD IN THE SIXTIES. This was triggered by big sister Barbara’s scribblings written in 2015 and added to by various other perpetrators:
“Dropping Dropping Dropping – Hear The Pennies Fall – Every One For Jesus, He Shall Have Them All – But only after we have – Rebuilt the Chu-urch Hall.”
Every Sunday morning Mom would give us sixpence each to place in the plates that were handed around by the – who? deacons? elders? we didn’t call them anything high church like that, it was just Uncle Cappy and Uncle Ralph. They would hand around two flat, lathe-turned wooden plates lined with red velvet, one for boys, one for girls; open so everyone could see how much you gave! These were then taken to the front of the hall where George Davies would be sitting. He would stand up, and – in Barbara’s childlike eyes – pocket the money in his voluminous trousers so that he could buy us nice things for our Christmas Party!
Every Sunday morning we’d go to Church with Mom in her powder blue Volksie OHS 155.
She was the organist and we had to get there early so that Mom could get settled – and sister Sheila says ‘warm up her hands in Harrismith’s winter cold’ . She would play all the beautiful pieces that she had been practicing all week at home. The congregation would walk into Church and sit quietly and listen to her playing. At least, most people would sit quietly.
At first she played the big old fashioned organ with the ivory stops and wooden ‘pump-pedals’ that she “inherited” from Uncle Wright Liddell. Now when I look at that beautiful wood I think ‘deforestation’, and those ivory stops and keys make me think Dead Elephants! Later on the much smaller modern organ that replaced it. Much less impressive, but maybe more in choon? On the old organ they’d sit with their back to the people; the new one they faced us and it was low. Mom would place a big bunch of flowers on it so she could hide a bit! Especially at funerals. The old one looked something like this one. I put the second picture in to show the wooden pedals you had to pump left-right-left-right.
At 10am Church would begin with the minister appearing from the mysterious room at the back, mounting his pulpit and saying the same thing each time. I forget what it was but you can bet it was important. Sunday School kids had to start off in the big church first (‘big church’ in no way to be confused with Die Groot Kerk which was up the road, also in Warden Street, but apparently closer to heaven). Barbara thinks this was to teach us kids to sit still, listen to the grown-ups, keep deadly quiet and definitely not to talk and giggle in Church. Well, that didn’t work. What was so funny? Was it Mrs. Brunsdon’s singing? Was it Mrs. Fritzgerald’s hat or her fur cape? Or was it little two year old Glynnis Yates standing up on the pew and saying loudly to her father in the pulpit: “Daddy, you Scallywag”! Whatever it was, it was very funny. One definite cause of hilarity once was while Mary was teaching us ‘Hark! Hark! Hark!, While infant voices sing’ and Fluffy Crawley sang the harks in an Afrikaans pronunciation while making little raking motions with his hands, causing collapsification.
Barbara remembers: In our earlier years – 1959/1960 – us three little Swanepoels would walk down Warden Street with Audrey and Monica Hastings, who lived in Warden Street back to back with our great-grandmother’s house at 13 Stuart Street. There at ‘Granny Bland’s house we would have high tea, scones or crumpets on the front veranda steps with our Grandmother Annie Bland, her sister Jessie Bell and Annie’s mother-in-law, Mary Bland, known as Granny Bland – a highlight of the week.
Them not being church-going folk, Mom did enough church for all of them put together! Plus she did lots of Women’s Auxiliary. Which I think was probably started to “keep ’em out of the pulpit”? We would wait with these sinners for Mom to finish her church service and then join us.
Story from Mom: Mary Wessels said no matter where she sat in Church, Mrs. Brunsdon always came and sat in front of her. Mary would then battle to keep a straight face when confronted by Mrs. B singing loudly off key, turning around and sniffing and then noisily wiping her nose with a snotty hanky into the bargain. So distracting! This, methinks, was one of the things that set the girls’ giggling!
Actually I think every Methodist thought Mrs Brunsdon always sat right in front of them – it certainly felt that way! She used to turn round and peer intently at whatever or whoever interested her, over or through her glasses. She would start singing the next line when she was ready, regardless of where the music and/or the congregation members were at – those two weren’t always perfectly in sync neither! Loudly. She would never skip or play catch-up. She’d go through the hymn at her pace – irregardless! Sometimes Mom the organist or sometimes the whole congregation would wait or speed up to match her and thus keep some sort of order.
Lynn du Plessis reminisces: So many memories of our Sunday School days in that church. I was always part of the choir and am comforted by the fact that although I have never had the greatest singing voice, I was better than the person who was always one verse ahead and totally out of key. Mrs Brunsdon was a constant source of amusement to Shirley, Anne and I. The pews would shake as the three of us tried to contain the giggles. Then who was it that constantly dug in her nose with the hugest antique key and wore the most outrageous hats: Birds, Butterflies, Bees, Feathers and Flowers perched precariously on her dusty hat and jiggled and jangled as she sang ‘uit volle bors’! (Ms Fitzgerald).
These three good-looking older girls were the main reason we younger boys hung in at Sunday School: Whenever they told us Shirley, Goodness and Mercy Would Follow Us All the Days of Our Lives we thought of Shirley, Ann and Lynn!
Mrs Brunsdon was without doubt a cause of some of the suppressed youthful mirth in church. As was poor old Bob Yates’ small, bald, bespectacled bird-like appearance. He had a tough act to follow, coming after the younger cricket-playing Jack MacGuire.
Us kids would then be dismissed to our relief after five hours. Or ten minutes, depending on who you asked. Off we would troop – out of the old sandstone church and into the brick ‘Wesley Hall’ next door for Sunday School. Read about the hall foundation stone here.
Announcements would be made, the Dropping Pennies Song would be sung, the loot would be gathered, and off we would go to our individual classes.
The Sunday School teachers in the early 60’s were Miss Ivy Petty for the senior girls, Poerie Coetzee for the senior boys, George Davies for junior boys, Stella Euthimiou taught the babies, Emma Morton and Pye Euthimiou. After classes it would be back to the hall where we always seem to finish off the morning with – “Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for Him each day . . . a sunbeam, a su-unbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for Him”. Shirley Mason would accompany us on the piano. Sheila says another song that never missed a Sunday was: “Jesus bids us shine with a pure pure light . . . you in your small corner and I in mine”.
Announcements would be made and this is where the Dropping Pennies Song would be sung, the loot would be gathered, and off we would go to our individual classes.
Sunday School Picnics in the park on the banks of the river were amazing. The games, the delicious food and the wonderful company. Gallons of ginger-beer in colourful buckets with raisins floating on top and hot-cross buns, with butter melting in them. Uncle Cappy would walk around offering tea and a hot cross bun by shouting in the Cockney accent he’d learned in World War II, “Coop a char na boon!?” He would also organise games for us – rounders, open-gates and cricket. And of course, he’d join in and play!
Sheila has just spoken to Mom who says she still has the red plastic bucket she used for the ginger-beer which she made fifty years ago!
Another story from Sheila: One picnic all the kids were told not to go anywhere near the weir – but needless to say we went. Afterwards Mom said to all the kids: “But didn’t Mrs. Morton tell you not to go to the weir?” Irrepressible Pierre piped up cheerfully: “Yes, but we didn’t hear her nie!”
Emma Morton of the double negatives became our ‘superintendent’ after George Davies retired – him with the yards and yards of grey flannel material which made up his flowing pants – We called them his ballroom trousers! When he sang “you in your small corNAAAH!” he would rise up on his toes and shove his boep forward a yard but his trousers didn’t need to move an inch. His two-toned grey Wolseley had beautiful fold-down walnut tables for the back passengers.
On the subject of George Davies’ Wolseley, Etienne wrote: Tuffy & I would walk to the church on Sunday evenings after my folks had left, with the green Zephyr’s spare keys so as to borrow the Zephyr for a spin through the park. I would gun it and let its backside slip on the turn before the swing. One night I let it slide too much and caught the tail against a mud bank. We drove back to Church & parked it in the empty bay next to old Davies’ Wolseley. When my Dad saw the bang on the tail the next day in the light, he thought George Davie had bumped him and said nothing. The following Sunday old Cappy inspected the Wolseley for evidence of green paint, but there was none. Before he passed away I told him the story & he said he could not believe me.
On Friday afternoons, the younger kids had Junior Guild. What fun! Here the minister Jack McGuire and his wife Eileen were in charge – they would read us stories, we would have quizzes and then there would be games outside. Barbara used to play the piano for the singing of ‘guild songs’ which were different to Sunday School songs. “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning, give me oil in my lamp I pray / I will make you fishers of men if you’ll only follow me / The old old story it is ever new, the old old story Praise the Lord, its true, that Jesus died for me as well as you, I love the old old story”.
In standard six – high school! you could join Senior Guild. For kids who mostly stayed at home evenings or went out only with our parents this was a big adventure. 7pm on Friday nights you could go to guild unaccompanied! And come home late. We’d drink coffee at guild and sometimes we’d venture out on treasure hunts – going all over town finding and collecting the ‘treasures’ in the clues we were given. In about 1968 Adie Crewe took over the night Guild and brought a whole lot of new ideas and fun into our lives.
After Guild some were fetched and some walked home – more adventure. Barbara says walking home by the light of the moon or the streetlamps gave the words “Kêrels by Kandlelight” a whole new meaning!
We would help out at cake sales held on Saturday mornings, in front of Chodos’ store or the Post Office – selling, carrying and sometimes eating all the goodies that filled these tables. Worst of all was standing on a street corner with an adult from the Church, holding the money tin and rattling it under everybody’s noses.
Harvest Festival was another different day. We were asked to bring along some sort of fruit or veg. We could have taken wine, but Methodists frown on alcohol. I wonder how the Methodist Church in the winelands handles that little ‘farm produce’ dilemma!? The farmers would bring loads of crops – big pumpkins and mealie stalks all over the place. The front of the Church looked like a jungle. Imagine the nunus that escaped from the vegetation!
On Garment Sunday we were asked to take jerseys for the poor.
The Nativity Play brought big excitement – in rehearsals and on the big night. Anna Gavin, Miss Petty, Mom, the minister and his wife would choreograph and direct and coach. Tension as you found out if you were cast as an angel, a wise man, a shepherd or – first prize! Mary or Joseph. I remember being a sheep and an angel – not prize positions by any means! I remember the bigger boys’ solemn slow walk as us the supporting cast all sang ‘We three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar, . . . . following yonder star’. Only later we learnt: We Three Beatles of Liverpool are, George in a taxi John in a car, Paul on his scooter blowing his hoo-ooter, following Ringo Starr”. And the older kids also taught us; ‘While shepherds washed their socks at night all seated round the tub; A bar of sunlight soap came down and they began to scrub’.
At the end of the year Prize-Giving evening lovely books were handed out for lst, 2nd and 3rd prizes. What were they for? Biblical knowledge? Not being irritating?
Carols by Candlelight was another big event – sitting on the back of a big truck or trailer along with Uncle Wright Liddell’s beloved organ and driving around town singing to – who? the Dutch Reformed and the Anglicans? Lost souls! We’d show them! The grown-ups and the bigger kids had torches or candles. The singing would start immediately with great gusto and this carried on during the course of the evening with diminutive Uncle Wright playing to his heart’s delight while pumping at the pedals to make the noise. We would be asked to pump when he tired and had to be tamed – ‘not so fast’ – till we got the hang of it.
Then our Christmas Party in the hall – what a highlight! Decorations; tables groaning under the burden of delicious food; a beautiful array of cakes and puddings and ice cream cones; and always a beautifully decorated Christmas tree – a real pine tree from the bosbou; loads of presents lying at the bottom. These wonderful unforgettable occasions were thanks to our kind and generous parents – Aunty Joyce Joubert, Aunty Joan du Plessis, Mrs. Emma Morton, Ivy and Phillys Petty, Miss Helen Scott (Scotty) who always made her delicious fairy cup-cakes, Myra Wood, Anna Gavin, Doreen Hattingh, Polly Crawley, Jo Hastings, Edna Bissett, Lally Davies, Mary Swanepoel and who else? – many others.
A Christmas present for each child was brought to us by a “real” Father Christmas – usually Uncle Cappy, who – as always – did his thing here like a real trooper. He would arrive at the hall on a tractor or truck after a big build-up by the other adults. Old FC certainly got more hype, pomp and ceremony than poor Jesus ever got! We would be told to go and look out for him – usually misled in the wrong direction to give him a gap to arrive “Ta DA!” – in he would walk in ‘is gumboots, with all our eyes on the big sack thrown over his shoulder. Then we would sit quietly as George Davies or Emma Morton called each one of us to the front to receive our gift, lucky kids.
Christmas Day church! For once church did not seem early. We had been up for ages already, finding out what was under the tree. Church would be dominated by the excitement of our presents with our friends who had also not gone on holiday. What did Father Christmas bring you when he came down your chimney? Ministers would try and keep the focus on Jesus but that was not easy to do. I achieved some brief pulpit-y fame one year when the minister said to the spellbound congregation “I know of one little chap who had already pitched his new tent on the lawn by six o’ clock this morning!”
I’ve only ever seen one aardvark in the wild. A dead one. And it was in the boot of Redge’s car in the Harrismith Holiday Inn parking lot. So I haven’t seen an aardvark in the wild. Yet.
I have seen wildlife at the Harrismith Holiday Inn, though. Once when we had had about enough – we always knew when – Des decided he couldn’t drive home so he would check in to the inn and spend the night in a responsible manner, keeping death off the roads.
So he drove his pickup neatly between the glass double doors and right up to the reception desk. The poor HI receptionist thought WTF and called Dieter. Who came marching over with a look in his eye that made Des think ‘Maybe Not’. So he engaged reverse gear and proceeded to take his quiet and orderly departure, ignoring Dieter’s calm plea, ‘Just stop, Des, just stop’. Dieter was the long-suffering manager who was amazingly good with us locals. He tightened the leash at times and let the dogs loose at other times and he knew when was when.
Possibly the alcohol fumes misted the bakkie rearview mirror slightly, putting Des’ alignment slightly out, so this time the bumper hooked the glass door when he was halfway out and there was a sudden rather dramatic shattering of the shatterprufe glass. This made Des think again and what he thought was ‘I’m outa here’ and he accelerated off to where everyone knew he lived – on Kenroy. When he got there Gilbert drew back the duvet and fluffed up his pillows and Des leapt into bed and lay still with his face down, ignoring the persistent ringing of the phone.
On the partyline phone was Dieter wanting to say ‘Des you gotta come over and sort this out or else I have to call the police. I don’t want to call the police but I have to if you don’t come now and sort this out’. But Des buried his head deeper into the pillow, pulling another pillow over his head to block his ears. That would make it go away.
So the cops had to drive out to where everyone knew Des lived – on Kenroy – and bring him in to where an out-of-court settlement was made.
Big Sister Barbara has a good memory for the old days, good sources (like old school annuals) and is developing a good network to enhance all that! She wrote in November 2015 – Note: You’d really need to be An Ancient Harrismithian to plough through this post!:
Dear Friends, Acquaintances, Dancing Partners, Boyfriends of Old and “Big Brothers”
“Happiness is . . meeting old friends after a very long time and feeling that nothing has changed.”
This is Harrismith OFS from about 1959 to 1971 – so in The Famous Sixties!
Recently, while chatting to Louis Brockett, he mentioned how nice it would be to have a reunion – with the kids that went to our Sunday School/Guild and Swimming Club. I have come up with these names and I am sure you all will remember plenty more. If a reunion ever does take place, it should be quite a gathering – ‘n groot makietie’ – or just one helluva party. Nevertheless, it would be great to see all again. Here’s goes . . .
The following kids formed part of our circle of friends at School / Sunday School / Guild / Christmas Parties at the Moth Hall, Church & Country Club / Swimming Lessons / Parties / Volkspele / ‘Sessions’ / ‘Discos’ at the Moth Hall and old Jewish Synagogue, etc etc
METHODIST MINISTERS, SUNDAY SCHOOL AND GUILD TEACHERS:
Justin & Dorianne Michell – them with the lots of kids – 7 in all at the end! Mr Michell used to go to the zoo after church and feed the warthog, so we named the warthog ‘Justin’.
Jack & Eileen MacGuire (loved them at Guild). Jack was so NORMAL! Not a ‘dominee’ – He played cricket for Harrismith!
Bob & Pearl Yates (confirmed many of us);
David & Thelma Young (married Jeff & me);
George Davies; ‘Uncle Wright’ Liddell; Mary Swanepoel; Emma Morton; Miss Ivy Petty; Poerie Coetzee; Cappy Joubert; Stella & Pye Euthimiou; Adie Crewe (ca. 1968)
KIDS IN SUNDAY SCHOOL: (1959 – 1971)
Lynn, Pierre & Sonja du Plessis; Christos, Anne & Georgie Euthimiou; Shirley Mason; Petra & Ray Bissett; Alfie, Robert, Peter, Cecily & Ian Moore; Audrey and Monica Hastings; Jean Lund; David Davies; Renee Rae; Julian & Roma Roy; Richard, Cynthia (Sue), Denise (Lindy), Terence (Jimmy) & Beverley (Denny) Putterill; Etienne, Tuffy & Deon Joubert; Kevin, Leon & Judy Crawley; Heather, Melanie, Jenny & Norma Hattingh; Billy, Louie, Timothy & Charlotte Brocket; Allan & older brother Barry Summerfield; Michael, Sia & Georgie Mikalakis; Liz Paul; Trevor, Jennifer & Allan Priest; Ian Untiedt; Kenneth (Std 8 – 1963) & Maureen Atherton; Denise & Joan Brand (from Witzieshoek); Barbara, Koos & Sheila Swanepoel; Anne, Lynette & Desley Wood; Gillian Liddell; Patsy, Lionel, Cathy & Judy Crewe; Mignon, Jean-Prieur & Jacques-Herman du Plessis;
In front of the old church
Kids that crossed our paths in Harrismith (period 1959 to 1966):
Rosemary, Stewart, Barbara and Mary McCall; The Milton sisters, Patricia, Caroline & Pookie; Dick & Brian Riley; Nipper (Patrick) & Christine Lennon; Trevor & Deo Else; Bruce Liddell; Denise van der Merwe; Marion Searle with sister Jenny and brothers John & Peter; Rex Taylor; Gary Vedovitch (matric 1965); Violet Thurston (matric 1965); Gib Gibhard (matric 1964); Dawn and Lester Crawley; Sandra (Std 8 -1963) & Pam Cartwright (Std 9 – 1965); Joy, Claire and Heather Alcock (_+ 1960); And what about the Baxter brothers? Allan Baxter was a year younger than me and had older brothers; Leonard Walsh; Merle Wessels (matric 1964); Anna Bam (matric 1964); Poem-Celeste Hobbs (matric 1963); Louise, Janet (matric 1964) & Gillian Liddell; John and Allan Landman; Lynette & Brian Doore; John Riddle & his older brother; Moira & Brian Sharpe; Dawn & Christopher Jelliman; Sandy & her brother Wally Goble; Ian, Gail, Sandy and Tabs Fyvie; Bev Mapp; Jenny Mapp; Ian & Gary Grant; Peter, Pam & Allan Sharratt; Clive & Candy Goble; Pooksie & Michael Eksteen (Sons of Dr. Boel & Ronnie Eksteen); The Kuhlmey Kids (Derrick); Stewart & Glynnis Hillcove; Sharon Kool; Donald, Anne & Eddie Coleman;
SWIMMING (1962– 1966)
Our teachers were Joan du Plessis and Joyce Joubert – ladies we will never forget. We were all very privileged to have had them in our lives.
Robert Moore; Louie Brocket; Ralph Morton; Jake Grove; Elsie Steyn; Amanda Erasmus; Lorette van Wilpe; Annette Grove; Lynn du Plessis; Ann Euthimiou; Martie Marais; Peter Moore; Etienne Joubert; Theo Maeder; Trudi Steyn; Chris de Jager; Okkie Botha; Frik Ras; Rietta Meyer; Sarie Human; Cecilia Vorster; Marissa Fouche; Pierre du Plessis; Franz von During; Musa von During; Jackie Viljoen; Lesley Wessels; Gib Gibhard & younger brother; Zak (Model Kafee); Christijan (Oupa) Terblanche; Dirkie Roelofse; Billy Brockett; Christos Euthimiou; Francois Marais; Peter Aligianus; Llewellyn & Eugene Georgiou; Hilda Human; Llewellyn & Derrick Mileham; Trudy & Noelene Bester;
These we found at Sunday School, Guild, Swimming and Parties. They were the older guys and girls that looked out for the younger ones, that protected us and they were our heroes. I remember being in Std 5 in 1965 when Johnny Kongas and his band came to Harrismith to play in the Town Hall. What excitement there was amongst the young crowd. Pierre asked me to go with him, Lynn and Gary Vedovitch. Only because Lynn was going did my Mom allow me to trek along. Even at the swimming pool the older guys kept a look-out on the younger ones. There were Big Brothers throughout my whole life in Harrismith.
Joan, Mignon, Ilse, Polly, Jean-Prieur & Mona
Georgie, Pierre, Sheila – Lettuce, Rope – Julia (Ohio exchange student), Bess, Koos – (in Bessie’s house Jan 1974)
Gary Beaton & Pierre duP’s leg; duPlessis home Hector Street, Harrismith
OUR FAMOUS MOTH HALL PARTIES / Round Table-run SYNAGOGUE PARTIES / GARAGE PARTIES / VERKYKERSKOP NEW YEAR PARTIES – AND OTHER GET-TOGETHERS (1966 – 1970) with Harrismith golden oldies and some “out of towners”:
Trudi Wessels; Lyndie Muller; Jenny Mapp; Max Bronn (fantastic dancer); Johnny & Lenda Pieters; Aubrey, Jurie & Kolhaas Linstrom; Roseanne Schoeman; Trish Carr; Spilsbury brothers, Rob, Douglas, Neil & Gary; Guillaume, Carl & Bess Reitz; Des Glutz; John, Tim & Lal Venning; Al die landmeter ouens van die Sterkfonteindam projek; Don Inglis; Coenie Bronkhorst en Eugene Ferreira van Pretoria met hulle wit beach buggy; Chris van Zyl with his friend “major” Doubell; Arrie Schreiber with Ge-Org (surname long forgotten); Johnny de Jager; Hein Hansen; Gert and Saag Roets; Gary Beaton; Frans Stassen; Martyn Bean; Bennie Neveling; Trevor Muller; Gordon White; Richard & Elsie Scott; Jeannie Siman (USA 1967); Larry Wingert (USA 1969); Willem, Gideon (Giep) & Hanlie Steyn; Whitey Fourie; Bollie Bolton; Gert Kruger; Marinus Landman; Killus Nortje; Chris Cloete; Ferdi & Wessel Smit; Tobie Lyle; Joe Oosthuizen; Daan Smuts; Tienie Els; Annatjie Henning; Olive de Necker; Arina Uys; Dalena D’Alebout; Rita Nienaber; Marion Searle;
How can we ever forget those enjoyable Moth Hall parties where the music was great, always the latest songs, supplied by Ann Euthimiou – LP’s and Seven Singles played on what, Annie?? As long as we could dance the night away with great dancers and where one packet of chips fed all of us and a packet of Pepsin Beechies was shared, we were one happy family! I do not recall seeing any cooldrinks on display for our thirst (maybe one bottle of Oros and a couple of plastic cups) and what was available for those who choose to go outside, hidden in cars or the gutters did not bother us insiders either. We just wanted to dance, dance and dance again – even if it was amongst all the military paraphernalia and memorabilia hanging on the walls of the Moth Hall. Dodging bullets, bombs, swords, helmets and flags we twirled, waltzed and “sakkie lang-armed” to the beat of “Snoopy vs the Red Baron” or “The Ballad of the Green Beret”. With all the Generals and Majors of WW2 looking sternly down upon us from their new positions stuck on the walls, us kids never touched a thing. We were there to have fun – definitely not to fiddle with or re-arrange the past. A few of us would have had ancestors in those Generals and Majors hanging in there. I wonder what would have gone through their heads if only they could have had a detailed conversation with our parents afterwards. But it was all good – we were a disciplined, trustworthy and happy crowd of kids having fun.
To be a wall-flower at our parties was not good and dancing with a group of girls was unheard of in those days. When Volkspele at the high school fell away in about 1967 (I bet some of us are still “Soeking na my Dina”), why didn’t Eben Louw teach us Line Dancing or better still Barn Dancing? Just “Imagine” . . we would have “had the time of our lives” dancing to “Grandma’s Feather Bed”, “The Lonely Bull” or “Groen Koringlande!” Of course, not forgetting “Old MacDonald” and his whole darn noisy farmyard.
It was at these parties that we were introduced to The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Troggs, The Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Simon & Garfunkel and many other new stars of the day. Where “Ob la di Ob la da”, “Proud Mary”, “House of the Rising Sun” and “California Dreamers” would make an impact on our lives forever. Where “Bridge over Troubled Waters” and “Silence is Golden” would be the last songs of the evening so that we could snuggle with whoever was your beau or “flavour” or “case” for the night!! (“ . . and then he kissed me”) . .
but then as the clock struck 11pm, I knew I was in trouble as that was the time that this Cinderella had to be home – with two shoes or one – dit het nie saak gemaak nie – I had to BE HOME at 11pm! If not, I was banned/gated for the next two or three parties and that would have been such punishment, even torture, as we only had about one party each holiday. That means I could have been banned for a whole year! Now I know why some of my friends didn’t want to stay at my house for these parties. Really, parents . . 11 pm!! Just when all the fun was starting. I think my Mom had just got to hear of the new song of the moment: “Even the good times are bad . . ” Yeah, Mom, but even the bad times were good!
Well guys, this is all that I can remember. Please share your side of the stories with us and the names of your friends of yesteryear just to jog the old memories even more.
Love to all of you – Barbara
PS: …. And who could forget Percy Sledge’s “When a Man loves a Woman” . . just when things were hotting up and undying love was being confessed, declared or whispered in my ear, I had to grab both shoes and rush home! Maybe I would have turned into a pumpkin . . anything would have been better than leaving a good party filled with hope and promises. I mean, those moments were gone in a second and were seldom relived. Oh! the agony of being young! Sighhhh…..!
Petra Bissett replied:
Such delightful messages filled with such lovely memories from Barbara and friends. Barbara, I just don’t know how you keep all those memories so fresh in your mind.
As you all know Rey and I did not matriculate in Harrismith. Std 9 and Matric I went to boarding school, and so did a few other Harrismith guys – Linstrom boys (they lived next to the Brocketts), Maaitjie Odendaal’s elder sister. We then only came home on the occasional Hostel weekend and holidays. The Odendaal girls lived on a farm – don’t quite remember. Rey went to a Boy’s School in Gauteng (Heidelberg) where he started his trade. He did well there and was Headboy of the Hostel. Both of us returned to Harrismith after school for a few years and I eventually left Harrismith in 1970 and Rey much later – possibly very early 80’s. Rey was very close to the Georgiou boys and was very saddened when Eugene drowned.
I certainly missed a lot of fun those last two years of school but I have the wonderful memories until Std 8. The famous Moth Hall Parties were definitely the highlight. I remember very clearly my childhood in Harrismith and how you all, boys and girls played a big role in my life and of course the wonderful teachers we were privileged to have. I also took music lessons from Miss Underwood whom I am sure some of you did also. When we were in the Primary School, can any one still remember how we enjoyed the “Tickey Aand”. The favourite part was where you could play a record for someone special and remain anonymous. For days you would wonder who sent the message but was soon forgotten when the next exciting thing happened.
Louis Brockett met up with Gary Vedovitch a few months and shared the photo on whatsapp. I remember the names Tokolos Coetzee and Arrie Schreiber but just cannot place them and obviously can figure out what connection there was – maybe someone can enlighten me.
When I started to work at the Standard Woollen Mills, I made a lot of Afrikaans-speaking friends and joined the Badminton and Tenniquoit Club. We would often travel quite far to play a match and the places not too far we would have a braai and barn dance after the game. During these years we got together – not sure if one could all it “dates” but nevertheless we had a great time – with Killus Nortje (a great dancer and later he and Maaikie Odendaal got serious), Chris van Zyl, Jurie and Aubrey and some girls would go all the way to Ladysmith to the Drive-Inn, Hennie van Aard, a land surveyor, Bruce Humphries (teacher), Garth Romeo – more – my memory has failed me.
I still have not been able to trace my photo albums but somehow found these few photos attached in a box. Lynn was talking about the make up – I must say I only experimented with the eye shadow much later but the mascara and eyeliner was the in-thing as can be seen in the photo of me in 1966. Audrey Hepburn looked so good with the eyeliner but – ah well we tried.
That’s what I have to contribute or fill in the gaps with the stories Barbs. Once again thank you for keeping in touch and being so disciplined in contacting us. I know you are a very busy lady and that is why I appreciate your efforts – time is precious and goes by so fast.
Lots of love – Petra Bissett Cronje
Younger sister Sheila added:
Mum Mary remembers a Sunday School picnic in the park where we were expressly told not to go anywhere near the weir – but needless to say, we went. Afterwards Mum said to all the kids “But didn’t Mrs Morton tell you not to go to the weir?” Pierre said, “Yes, but we didn’t hear her nie”. (Emma Morton was famous for using double negatives – in English).
Mum still has the same red plastic bucket she used to make the ginger beer for the picnics. Cappy Joubert would walk around with a wide grin in the President Brand Park where we’d sometimes hold the picnics, offering tea and buns, shouting “coop a char na boon?” mimicking the cockneys he’d met during the war. When he came back from the war in uniform his church had turned him away, so he’d joined the Methodists! Mrs Brunsdon was a huge part of the church those days – also Joyce Joubert, Anna Gavin, Emma Morton, Lallie Davie and later Adie Crewe. And the long-suffering minister’s wives – Dorianne Mitchell – she of the 7 kids – Eileen McGuire, Murial McGregor, Pearl Yates.
Archie McGregor’s wife was Muriel. Their 4 kids were awful, and he was very difficult. He got very irritated one year when we were playing a ball game down in the park at the Sunday School picnic and Adie Crewe ran away with the ball when it was thrown to her.
Other men involved in the church and not yet mentioned, were Bob Moore, Ernie van Biljon and Francois Maeder.
During an evening performance of some sort – I remember sitting up on the raised pews in the old church – Sonja du Plessis fell asleep with her head on Lyn Wood’s shoulder and when we had to stand up and sing, Lettuce couldn’t move!
Mary Wessels said no matter where she sat in church, Mrs Brunsdon always came and sat right in front of her – and Mary battled to keep a straight face when confronted by Mrs B, singing loudly off-key, turning around and sniffing – and noisily wiping her nose.
Whenever Mum had to play at a funeral, she would always grab the biggest flower arrangement and put it smack in front of her face, so she didn’t have to see the grieving relatives.
Mum doesn’t remember the kids being allowed on the back of the lorry for the Christmas Carols – she thought it was only the choir – with Uncle Wright on the organ. She says Edgar Ewan or Bob Moore would have driven the truck.
At one of the nativity plays – which Emma Morton always called the Nivity Play – I was supposed to be an angel, but I refused to cooperate, so they took you instead and you behaved beautifully.
Mr George Davie always spoke of ‘Cessily Maw’ – instead of Sissily Muwa, as we – and she – said, and that always amused me. Didn’t he know Cecily Moore was pronounced Sissily Muwa or Mu-uh?
Mum remembers that Myra Wood made the most delicious cupcakes – an art Mary could never master. A master baker she was not, so she’d call in the services of Mrs Woodcock to make our birthday cakes. Scotty (formally ‘Miss HM Scott’) was famous for her butterfly cakes.
Somebody made Mum a beautiful yellow brocade dress for her honeymoon – she later cut it up to make gypsy outfits for us – for some talent show. Koos and I wandered up on to the stage and won a special prize for being cute or something.
Mum also remembers entering us all in a talent show – you played the piano and I sang “Zoem, zoem zoem, bytjie zoem zoem zoem.” Mum can’t remember if Koos did anything. Wonder if that was where Stuart McKenzie recited “New shoes, new shoes?” Heather and I went through three years of teachers’ training college together. Stuart died of cancer about ten years ago.
Mary Methodist wasn’t always a staunch Methodist – she has admitted preferring the Anglican Church picnics as a teenager, as the boys were much nicer than the Methodist boys! Michael Scruby, Brian Brown and Peter Anderson, amongst others.
The picnics were held at “The Homestead”, up near the waterworks somewhere. Later on Bob & Nan Milne had a chicken farm there.
When Mum was in Duggie Dugmore’s nursing home in the old Boer War officers’ mess on Kings Hill when Koos was born, Jessie Bain / Bell said to her – “Aren’t you scared of snakes?” Mary replied “I don’t know – I haven’t seen any and I don’t think of them.” “Oh” said Jessie “I would think of them all the time!”
Bessie & Sepp de Beer’s home was down near Granny Bland’s home – Mum loved that home – they would have concerts on the open veranda – Mum’s great friend was Joey de Beer – Marie Lotter’s older sister. Bessie always said their outside toilet was “halfway to Warden”
Cecily always corrected me when I said Cecily. She said “It’s Sissily”. I did say Moowa though, not Maw.
George Davie had the biggest ballroom trousers in the Free State. When he sang Sumbean, he could move his boep forward a yard before his trousers needed to move. His old grey Wolseley car had beautiful fold-down walnut tables for the back seat passengers.
Ernie van Biljon was a star – he (along with the Round Tablers) brought normality to Harrismith – the real world, common sense, parties – for which I’m everlastingly grateful.
Mrs Brunsdon used to turn round in church and peer intently at whatever interested her, quite disconcerting if it was you she stared at while singing lustily. She would then start the next line when she was good and ready, regardless of where the music and/or the other singers were at. Loudly. She would never skip or play catch-up. She’d go through it at her pace. Irregardless, as a friend of mine says.
Fluffy Crawley had a great sense of humour. When Mary Methodist made us sing ‘Hark Hark Hark, While Infant Voices Sing’ he would pronounce ‘hark’ in Afrikaans and make raking motions, cracking us up and making Mary get stern and admonishing.
I remember Bessie & Sepp de Beer’s home being nearer the Volkskool, nearer Francois Marais’ home and Lesley Wessels the bank manager’s home than Granny Bland’s in Stuart Street. Huge veranda – used by the invading Poms in the Boer War.
Loved your description of Mrs Brundon’s church singing – spot on! Mary Wessels would have loved reading that!
The de Beers must have moved there later – was it Biddulph Street? Then the Uys family lived there – Arina, Annemarie and Ronel. Mum remembers standing in our garden at Piet Uys Street and hearing a gun shot – Mr Uys had ended it all in the garden.
Pieter Nouwens now lives there and the home has been beautifully restored. Pieter also bought and restored the magnificent old stone house in Warden Street – on the next corner up from Pierre & Erika’s.
Philip & Rita Schoeman family: Rita says Mum always said “If the four Schoeman kids weren’t in Church, then the Church wasn’t full!” If it wasn’t for the extended Schoeman family, Harrismith would have been emptier and poorer!
The thing that sticks out most in my mind is how cold the church and the hall were! How did we survive those winters! And how much I hated getting dressed up in stupid girls’ shoes on Sunday mornings. I recall having to learn ALL the books of the Bible – in the correct order, nogal, in Miss Petty’s Sunday School classes. That wasn’t nearly as much fun as when Pye was our Sunday School teacher.
And Mr Davie singing ” . . In this world of darkness, so we must shine – You in your small corner and I in mine . . “ – and on the word “corNAH” he would rise up on his tippy-toes for emphasis.
At the end of the year, the Swanepoel kids would likely win the “Best Sunday School Attendance” prize – not because of our undying religious fervour, but by accident of birth – we had no choice! Mary Methodist was going off to play the organ – so we were dragged along! And far too early too – as Mary had to warm up the organ and her fingers!
And can one ever forget how awful the hall toilet was? Down behind the main hall – dark and dingy and not smelling of roses!
One cannot fail to be humbled by the efforts of the Methodists of little old Harrismith – cake sales, jumble sales, picnics, Nativity Play, Harvest Festival, Guild, building fund – all run by hard-working, dedicated volunteers – what would they have raised at a cake sale in the 1960s? Probably no more than R50! For all that work.
We owe a huge debt to the likes of Joyce Joubert, Anna Gavin, Miss Ivy Petty, Mary Methodist, Emma Morton, Lallie Davie and later Adie Crewe. Then there was Uncle Cappie, Ralph Morton, George Davie, Bob Moore, Francois Maeder, Ernie van Biljon and many others. What an example they set for us!
Who can remember – Georgie? Lettuce? Koos? Charlotte? Sonja? – who took us for junior guild on a Friday afternoon? I seem to remember Adie Crewe? And how did they keep us occupied? I remember singing children’s hymns for some of the time.
“Who can remember who took us for junior guild on a Friday afternoon? And how did they keep us occupied?”
I think Stella Euthimiou – occupied? We would just stare at her in total fascination, hopelessly devoted! She was gorgeous! She had us in the palm of her hand. Almost got us to heaven each week, but we’d fix that the rest of the week!
pics from all over, including Harismith’s best blog deoudehuizeyard – go and check out the good work they’re doing, keeping your old dorp alive!
Deon Joubert came running out of the house and shouted to his older brother Etienne: “Etienne! Mom says you must tracker tray on!”
Etienne knew exactly what Deon meant: It was winter in Harrismith, the sun was going down, we were playing outside, so Ma Joyce was saying he must put on a jersey.
Afrikaans: “Trek ‘n trui aan.”
jersey, cardigan, sweater, pullover
Pullover psychology is not as easy as some think. When your Ma said you had to tracker tray on it changed the whole dynamics of the important stuff that was going on right then. The interruption might mean you’re no longer King of the Castle but end up as the Dirty Rascal. And that’s if the dreaded interrupting jersey was brought to you. If you were summoned inside to fetch it yourself that was a DISASTER and you would rather spend five minutes arguing with your Ma about how you weren’t cold than spend the two minutes it would take to run in and pull it on.
Many Ma’s seem to have a strong need to thermo-regulate their offspring and just don’t understand “catching your death” was never nearly as scary to us as losing our place.
Anyway, statistics I just invented prove that of the 487 million kids who have been told they’ll catch their death of a cold, only one ever did. And he recovered.