Matric. Rugby season. I’m not playing. Old pipe-smoking, Andy Capp cap-wearing, grog-loving, moustachioed Stollie Beukes came up to me at school and asked straight-forwardly and politely, no weaseling, no guilt-suggesting. That’s him ‘playing goalie’ above.
“Ons kort a paar manne in die derdespan. Sal jy vir ons speel?”
“Ja, sekerlik,” I said, “Sal ek oefenings moet bywoon?” That would have ended it. I have an aversion to training in sport. Makes you sweaty. If you enjoy a sport, do the sport. Training? Ha!
“Nee, net op Saterdag,” he said.
Cool. So I got a coupla games on the President Brand Park B field; the field with the wooden poles on part of the cricket pitch. You can see the posts behind Stollie in the pic.
Being the mighty third (also last) team, we played early – before the first team, so we could all go and support them in our smelly kit. If it was in the morning there could be frost in the shade of those trees. The game would attract only a handful of the most die-hard spectators.
Then at the end of the season I played in the last game, the traditional matrics vs the rest of school. I don’t know who won? I dislocated my collar bone near the end and went off to see GP Mike van Niekerk, where he glanced at it, told me to wear a sling – “Your mother will know how to do it” – and then spent his time trying to change my future career. And he almost did.
The next year I played a season of American football; Two years later I played rugger again. In Joburg for Wanderers Club.
“Ons kort a paar manne in die derdespan. Sal jy vir ons speel?”– We need some superb and exciting talent in the Mighty Thirds. Will you sign up?
“Ja, sekerlik,”“Sal ek oefenings moet bywoon?” – Sure. I’m naturally fit, (right!) so I’m ready to play!
“Nee, net op Saterdag”– play the games only, no need to attend practice; a sign of desperation
Remember those stuffed ‘sausages’ in front of the doors as doorstops to keep the winter chill out? Some doors had huge gaps under them; some of those doorstops even had sausage dog heads, with ears, eyes, a tail and a red tongue.
The ceilings had no insulation and the windows were wooden sash or steel windows, often with gaps that let in the chill;
The black coal stove in the kitchen was lit through the whole of winter, thank goodness; A cruel boyhood confession: I murdered a few flies at this stove in our kitchen! Tore off their wings and turned them into ‘walks’ then tossed them into the stove to die! Yikes!
Here’s an old one, no longer installed, no longer black:
In other rooms our bar heater was moved to wherever we were sitting; The glowing red bars would heat the air up to about one metre away. Further than that was arctic like everywhere else. If you sat close your shins could start frying while your back froze. Ours had three bars.
Rolls of thin ‘Dunlop’ nylon carpets glued to the floorboards in the passage and other rooms; the concrete floor in the kitchen and breakfast room had linoleum covering;
On the beds lots of blankets, no duvets; If you were lucky your Mom would cut the tassles off the Standard Woollen Mills blankets and sew on a strip of smooth silk-like tape that didn’t tickle your nose! I remember some of our old pillows weighing ‘a ton’. Probably a quarter ton of feathers, a quarter ton of live mites, a quarter ton of dead mites and a quarter ton of sweat and snot! A warmth luxury was having ‘flannel’ ‘winter sheets’ rather than those smooth thin cold ordinary cotton sheets.
We were lucky we had an electric geyser warming up our bath water. You would wallow in warmth, then start dreading having to get out; Soon, though, the decision would be easy as the water cooled rapidly in those old iron baths with their ball-and-claw feet. Long winter jarmies were such a treat. Cosy. Some of ours were hand-made – machine-sewn by Mom.
Leaving for school in the mornings was jersey on, socks pulled up high, gloves on and then off you go! on your bike; Sometimes even a grey woollen balaclava. Riding down Stuart Street your eyes would water and your nose would run, so gloves and sleeves had to do snot duty; When you got to jail – um, school – you’d slide your hands off the handle-bar grips as they didn’t want to ‘uncurl’! Your bare knees would be frozen yet somehow you didn’t feel them as much as you felt your toes in your socks and shoes! Funny that.
Always coldest when the east wind blew and put a ‘blanket’ or ‘table cloth’ on the mountain like this:
I remember it like this:
OK, to be honest that’s Europe and maybe their winters are worse!
We had a horse trough in the backyard about 2m long, 40cm wide and 40cm deep. It was concrete grey but later on it got painted Caltex green. A lot of our stuff got painted Caltex green. The water in it would freeze solid. That ice would thaw a bit by day and freeze again every night. It was OK, though. We didn’t have horses.
In summer the horse trough was good for breeding mosquitoes. I was fascinated by the larvae and had farms of them in ice trays where I could watch them develop and hatch. I was a battery-farmer of mozzies. Free-range hadn’t been invented.
There’s the horseless horse trough
mozzie larva (long) and pupa (round). OK, that took this winter post into summer
a late afternoon chat with Stanrey Kraarke this afternoon . .
that would be a phone call across the Tasman Sea )
good to hear the ancient old bullet is still alive!!
Kev!!? ( I have cc’d him here)
I can’t think of Doories without thinking of you, the green TAV Datsun from the metropolis of Grootfontein, the chocolate Alfa and old Krazalski, Wartski, What-ski – those are wrong – what ‘ski was he, your boss?
can still see the meticulous care with which you changed the crunchy,
notchety gears in the Alfa.
when driving I remember your sage advice: WATCH OUT for an old toppie
wearing a hat!
nowadays I see the old toppie wearing a hat in my own rear-view
mirror! Gives me a bit of a start every time: Who’s that fuckin
old fart? Oh, OK – only me . . . .
for Forever Young! I think we still are! Well, I think we should keep
and we musn’t forget the outbreak of Dobie’s Itch
in the Doories Res!!
rushed back to work and got going amongst the pots and stills and
fires and wooden ladles and other witchcraft paraphenalia he and
Wartski used to keep in their secret factory and came back with a
double-strength potion stronger than anything Dumbledore could have
made, and CURED the dreaded ballache!! He was our hero!!
By gosh, we had a few laughs.
one: Sunday morning, Kevin having a sleep in – eyes closed …
you sleeping Kevin?
one eye slightly opens
No No … Just coasting
HA!! I’d forgotten these! Exactly right!!!
We were so lucky Stanley-Clarke decided to stay in Res that extra
year while he re-wrote ?pharmacology?
mean, he could have stayed with any one of a dozen beautiful chicks.
They all wanted his moustache! And we would never have met him.
turned in to a magic, unforgettable year, and he was no small part of
was lucky to have had US there.
boring time he would have had otherwise . . .
Too True My Bru!
now here’s the man himself:
Kia Ora both of you ,
a wonderful surprise hearing from the DOORIE BRO’s in particular the
very Articulate Rhodes student Mr Koos Swanepoel himself, from
Harrismith; and the attention-to-detail Mr Stevie Reed the boat
builder raconteur himself from a little town in the free state that
eludes me at this time!
really made my day – thank you both for all the very happy memories
and to think I could have missed that wonderful year if I had passed
Pharmacology first go – and to think it was 45 years ago which has
basically passed in a flash.
My boss in the very clandestine factory in Doories was Mr Pogeralski – so Pete, the grey matter is still intact;
As for that ointment which I prepared it was Whitefields ointment aka “Ung acid benz co.” Had I given that to you today I would be in serious trouble with “Health and safety”, “Quality and risk”, “Public safety”, you name it! But it certainly works.
and how can we forget the times we all went to the Jeppe post office
to use their services “pro bono” utilizing your
unbelievable skills ‘the long tickey” to gain access to their
phone lines – Hello World.
will never forget the test at Ellis Park “pro bono” an
absolute blast – thank you both for the wonderful memories that
always bring a smile to my face .
And Stevie: Can you remember the movie we went to on a Saturday morning at the Cinerama we saw “Papillon” ??
I could go on forever – The Dev ? The Bend ? and many more. May leave that for another day.
care both of you and please keep in touch
Dee Student aka ‘Giscard . . . d’Estaing’
Ellis Park “pro bono” – Less than fully legal entry to the rugby stadium for a test match; ahem . .
Jeppe Street post office “pro bono” ‘long tickey” – Less than entirely legal as well, say no more; ahem . . There were consequences! I got a phone call from the GPO: Are Your Name Swanepoel? I meekly coughed up for sundry long-distance international ‘trunk calls’ to Oklahoma!
Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.
Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,
Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.
Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.
Cargoes – by John Masefield
quinquereme – ancientRomangalleywithfivebanks of oars on eachside;
Nineveh – ancient city located on the outskirts of Mosul in modern-day northern Iraq, on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. Nineveh was the largest city in the world for some fifty years until the year 612 BC;
Spanish galleon –
British coaster –
Another poem by Masefield became a favourite and I mentioned it in a tribute here.
I like his wishes for after his death. He wrote:
Let no religious rite be done or read
In any place for me when I am dead,
But burn my body into ash, and scatter
The ash in secret into running water,
Or on the windy down, and let none see;
And then thank God that there’s an end of me.
We also did Shakespeare in the Vrystaat. I remember one line from Antony & Cleopatra:
‘He ploughed her and she cropped’
‘It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.’
Hi Koos. What make were our bikes? Something with an R. Ruttludge? Rudling?
I answered, ‘Rudge’. The same Rudge ridden by the English King.
Sheila’s and Barbara’s were red, mine was blue. Given to us by Mom and Dad around 1960 to 1965, I’d guess. We were certainly in the Kleinspan School and Barbara would have started there in 1958 or 1959, Sheila in 1961 or 1962 and me in-between those dates. They made the less-than-one-mile trip to school and back a breeze. We’d park them under cover at school in special bike parks with a slot in the concrete for the front wheel to go in and metal hoops to hold them upright.
Ours were WAY more basic than the one above though. Only a back brake, no gears, no cables, no light. They did have a little L-shaped attachment in front of the handle-bar where we could attach a battery-powered square silver torchlight.
The company Rudge-Whitworth Ltd. Coventry, England
Certainly one of the prominent makers of the classic British era … Eventually bought by Raleigh in 1943, the Rudge name takes a rightfully prominent spot in England’s cycling history.
Dan Rudge built the first Rudge high bicycles in 1870. In 1894 Rudge merged with the Whitworth Cycle Co to form Rudge-Whitworth. They made an excellent reputation for themselves over the next twenty years for producing a full range of beautifully made machines with many clever and unique features. They were ridden by King George V and family. See? There it is! Royal bums sat on seats just like ours!
The name was finally killed sometime in the early 1960s in Britain but may well have been used in export markets later.
Later on, in high school, I got a bigger black ‘dikwiel’ bike – a ‘balloon tyre bike’ – tougher more adventurous! Somewhat like these:
I asked Pierre: Can you remember what we called our dikwiel bikes? Each one had a nickname. His reply:
Bolts, Schlump and Arrii
Recall the first mountain bike race now known as MBR’s down Queens hill and Tuffy whipping out the barbed wire fence.
My first recollections are of life on the plot outside Harrismith, playing with Enoch and Casaia, childhood companions, kids of Lena Mazibuko, who looked after us as Mom and Dad worked in town. The plot was was called Birdhaven – Dad kept big aviaries – and was in the shadow of Platberg. I remember Lena as kind and loving – and strict!
What I remember is suddenly “knowing” it was lunchtime and looking up at the dirt road above the farmyard that led to town. Sure enough, right about then a cloud of dust would appear and Mom & Dad would arrive for their lunch and siesta, having locked up the Platberg bottle store at 1pm sharp. I could see them coming along the road and then sweeping down the long driveway to park near the rondavel at the back near the kitchen door. They would eat lunch, have a short lie-down and leave in time to re-open at 2pm. I now know the trip was exactly 3km door-to-door, thanks to google maps.
Every day I “just knew” they were coming. I wonder if I actually heard their approach and then “knew”? Or was it an inner clock? Here’s an old 8mm movie of the Ford Prefect on the Birdhaven circular driveway – four seconds of action:
1. Ruins of our house; 2. Dougie Wright, Gould & Ruth Dominy’s place; 3. Jack Levick’s house; 4. The meandering Kak Spruit. None of those houses on the left were there back then.
Back then they would buzz home in the tiny green and black Ford Prefect or the beige Morris Isis, not yet the little powder-blue Beetle.
Our nearest neighbour was Jack Levick and he had a pet crow that said a few words. We had a white Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Jacko that didn’t, and an African Grey parrot Cocky who said more. A tame-ish Spotted Eagle Owl would visit at night. Our next neighbours were Ruth and Gould Dominy and Ruth’s son Dougie Wright on Glen Khyber. They were about 500m further down the road towards the mountain, across the Kak Spruit over a little bridge. Doug’s cottage was on the left next to the spruit that came down from Khyber Pass and flowed into the bigger spruit; The big house with its sunny glassed-in stoep was a bit further on the right. Ruth and a flock of small dogs would serve Gould his tea in a teacup the size of a big deep soup bowl.
Judas Thabethe lived on the property and looked after the garden. I remember him as old, small and bearded. He lived in a hovel of a hut across a donga and a small ploughed field to the west of our house. He had some sort of cart – animal-drawn? self-drawn? Self-drawn, I think.
Other things I remember are driving out and seeing white storks in the dead bluegum trees outside the gate – those and the eagle owl being the first wild birds I ‘spotted’ in my still-ongoing birding life; I remember the snake outside the kitchen door;
I don’t remember but have been told that my mate Donald Coleman, two years older, would walk the 1.1km from his home on the edge of town to Birdhaven to visit me. Apparently his Mom Jean would phone my Mom Mary on the party line and ask “Do you have a little person out there?” if she couldn’t find him.
Bruno the doberman came from Little Switzerland on Oliviershoek pass down the Drakensberg into Natal. Leo and Heather Hilcovitz owned and ran it – “very well” according to Dad. Leo came into town once with a few pups in the back of his bakkie. Dad said I Want One! and gave him a pocket of potatoes in exchange for our Bruno. He lived to good age and died at 95 Stuart Street after we’d moved to town.
rondavel – circular building with a conical roof, often thatched;
spruit – stream; kak spruit: shit stream; maybe it was used as a sewer downstream in town in earlier days?
stoep – veranda
donga – dry, eroded watercourse; gulch, arroyo; scene of much play in our youth;
—– Original message from Etienne Joubert in 2014 —– (translation below)
Good morning all you Harrismith followers!
Who was Paul de Witt . . ??? . . Skande gemaak vir Harrismith se mense.
KAAPSTAD – ’n Predikant en bekende restaurateur in Hentiesbaai is Maandag in die vroeë oggendure deur doeanebeamptes met sowat 11 400 witmossels en 20 kg calamari in sy besit by die Vioolsdrift-grenspos vasgetrek.
Ds. Paul de Witt (63) het die twee spesies, wat albei beskerm word, sonder vervoerpermitte in sy Nissan X-Trail van Kaapstad na Hentiesbaai vervoer.
De Witt is omstreeks 01:30 deur die polisie voorgekeer en sy voertuig is deursoek. Verskeie sakke vol mossels met ’n geskatte waarde van R11 400, en ’n sak met 20 kg calamari is agter in sy voertuig gevind.
De Witt is deur die eenheid teen georganiseerde misdaad in hegtenis geneem en daar is beslag gelê op sy voertuig, sowel as die sakke seekos.
De Witt is ’n boorling van Harrismith.
I immediately contacted my mate Steph de Witt:
I vaguely remember a Paul de Witt. Who and what was he op Herries?
He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar!
On 2014/07/08 Steph de Witt replied:
Koos! Dis my bloedfamilie, my own cousin !!
Me: Fokkit I can still live with the witmossel-steel part, but the DOMINEE part? THAT’s the skande!
Eina! and Skande! – ouch! and scandal!
A Harrismith old boy who became a preacherman was caught smuggling protected seafood – mussels and calamari – from South Africa into Namibia.
He was an interesting character: My sister remembers him as one of a gang of naughty / rude boys as a teenager. As does happen, he became a preacher. But as less often happens, a preacher who operated a pub. He sold salvation on Sundays and booze from Mondays to Saturdays! Like, “create your own sinners”.
His pub obviously needed seafood so he “fetched” some from across the border – illegally. And got caught.
Sadly, he died in a car wreck soon after!
Subject: Paul de Witt
Steph has just informed me that Paul died in a car accident on Friday.
Dammitall. From sudden fame / notoriety to tragic end.
Yo ....that's sad, my condolences if you make contact again.
But we know he's gone to Paradise, where there's lots of white & black
muscles & of course, calamari .........!!
Vraagtekens oor kroegdominee se storie
In 1969 a bunch of us were taken to Durban to watch a rugby test match Springboks against the Australian Wallabies. “Our” Tommy Bedford was captain of the ‘Boks. We didn’t know it, but it was to be his last game.
Schoolboy “seats” were flat on your bum on the grass in front of the main stand at Kings Park. Looking around we spotted old Ella Bedford, – “Mis Betfit” as her pupils called her – Harrismith English teacher and the captain’s Mom – hence our feeling like special guests! – up in the stands. Sitting next to her was a really spunky blonde so we whistled and hooted and waved until she returned the wave.
Back at school the next week ‘Mis Betfit’ told us how her daughter-in-law had turned to her and said: “Ooh look, those boys are waving at me!” And she replied (and some of you will hear her tone of voice in your mind’s ear): “No they’re not! They’re my boys. They’re waving at me!”
We just smiled, thinking ‘So, Mis Betfit isn’t always right’. Here’s Jane. We did NOT mistake her for Mis Betfit.
Mrs Bedford taught English as second language. Apparently anything you got wrong had to be fixed below your work under the heading “corrections”. Anything you got wrong in your corrections had to be fixed under the heading “corrections of corrections”. Mistakes in those would be “corrections of corrections of corrections”. And so on, ad infinitum! She never gave up. You WOULD get it all right eventually!
In matric the rugby season started and I suddenly thought: Why’m I playing rugby? I’m playing because people think I have to play rugby! I don’t.
So I didn’t.
It caused a mild little stir, especially for ou Vis, mnr Alberts in the primary school. He came up from the laerskool specially to voice his dismay. Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Bedford wees! he protested. That was optimistic. I had played some good rugby when I shot up and became the tallest in the team, not because of real talent for the game – as I went on to prove.
Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Bedford wees! – Don’t give up rugby. You should become our ‘second Tommy Bedford’