Harrismith OFS in the Sixties

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 . . .

NAMES REMEMBERED

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;

 

 

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;

SWIMMING TEAM 1965.JPG

BIG  BROTHERS:

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.

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…..!

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Petra Bissett replied:

Petra Bissett 1966.jpg
Dear All

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.

Bissetts.jpg
Rey Bissett in matric; Rey (2L) and Petra (2R) at a picnic on Platberg’s slopes

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.

Robert Moore Trevor Miller Arnold Schreiber and Carl Reitz 1968
At the pool – Robert Moore, Trevor __, Arrie Schreiber, Carl Reitz

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

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Younger sister Sheila added:

Mignon, Sheila and Georgie
Mignon du Plessis, Sheila Swanepoel, Georgie Euthimiou

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.

1999 Harrismith Mary & Mary0001
Mary Wessels, Mary Swanepoel

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.

Anglican Church
The opposition!

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!”

Harrismith Kings Hill Dr's Res (maternity home)
Duggie’s maternity home
Harrismith Kings Hill Dr's Res (maternity home) 2
What’s left of it – Bob Moore in pic

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”

 

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I added:

Lovely.
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.

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Sheila again:

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!

OHS 155
OHS 155 – Our light blue transport to church

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.

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Me again:

“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!

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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!

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And just because:

 

Football Turnaround – So Glad You Could Leave!

I played football in Apache Oklahoma in 1973 for the Apache Warriors.

Apache Football Team 1973 – I was No. 47 – and surplus to requirements

The coaches did their best to bring this African up to speed on the rules and objectives of gridiron. We played two pre-season warm-up games followed by five league games. And lost all seven encounters!

Myself I was kinda lost on the field, what without me specs! So here’s me: Myopically peering between the bars of the unfamiliar helmet at the glare of the night-time spotlights! Hello-o! Occasionally forgetting that I could be tackled even if the ball was way on the other side of the field!

At that point I thought: Five more weeks in America, five more games in the season, football practice four days a week, game nights on Fridays. I wanted out! There was so much I still wanted to do in Oklahoma and in preparing for the trip home. I went up to Coach with trepidation and told him I wanted to quit football. Well, he wasn’t pleased, but he was gracious.

We were a small team and he needed every available man, how would they manage without me?

By winning every single one of the last remaining five games, that’s how!!

Our coach Rick Hulett won the Most Improved Coach Award and the team ended up with one of their best seasons for years!

I like to think the turnaround was in some small way helped by the way I cheered my former team-mates on from the sideline at the remaining Friday night games! But I suspect it was the fire in the belly of my teammates determined to succeed without me!

This after me:

Apache Football

edit:
I see Apache football has had some great results recently!

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”.

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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!”.

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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 Mom, “of meeting the Honey Cart at night when walking home from the bioscope!”

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Mom’s doctor in Harrismith was Dr Hoenigsberger, who was married to Janet Caskie, an Australian cousin of Mom’s Granny Bland. 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.

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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”.

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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.

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

 

 

Pieter G. Swanepoel, Maritzburg College

Pieter Gerhardus Swanepoel, Maritzburg College, 1937.

*dad-maritzburg-college-1937

Sheila writes: Dad was at College from 1935 – 1938. He was “pushed up” twice and ended up starting matric in January 1938 a month after he turned 15. Three months later, on 1 April 1938, he left. He says he didn’t run away – he left. He’d had enough!

And now, 78 years later – he’s still doing his own thing! His way! In May this year, I (his daughter Sheila) took him to his 78th matric re-union at College. And yes, he was the only one of his year there, but he wasn’t the oldest old boy! That was Cyril Crompton, matric 1933, who was 97. He turned 100 last week. He and Dad have become great pals.

Cyril Crompton (97) and Pieter Swanepoel (91)
Cyril Crompton (97) and Pieter Swanepoel (93)

Sheila

A Slice of Vrystaat

I was born in Harrismith in 1955 as was Mom Mary in 1928 and Gran Annie in 1893. Annie thought “the queen” was also the queen of South Africa. Elizabeth, not Pieter-Dirk.

To balance that, there’s this side of the family.

I attended the plaaslike schools in Harrismith till 1972. A year in the USA in 1973 as a  Rotary exchange student in Apache Oklahoma. Studied optometry in Joburg 1974 – 1977. Worked in Hillbrow and Welkom in 1978. Army (Potch and Roberts Heights, now Thaba Tshwane) in 1979 and in Durban (Hotel Command and Addington Hospital) in 1980. Stayed in Durban and got married in 1988. About then this blog’s era ends. Post-marriage tales and child-rearing catastrophes are told in Bewilderbeast Droppings.

‘Strue!! These random personal memories are true of course. But if you know anything about human memory you’ll know: With one man’s memory comes: Pinch of Salt.

Tragic Testicular Descent

I used to sing beautifully. The teacher who trained the boys choir in Harrismith Laerskool said so. Well, she might have. She was Mej Cronje I think, and was half the reason ous would volunteer for the choir. To look at her.
I was a soprano and we looked down on the altos who, though necessary as backup, weren’t in the same league as us squeakers. One directly behind me used to bellow in my ear: “Dek jou hol met bouse off hollie! FaLaLaLa  La LaLaLaLa“.
One day this discerning talent spotter Juffrou Cronje chose me to sing a solo in the next konsert.

Fame loomed.

Then tragedy struck!

My balls dropped. They handled it very diplomatically. By ignoring it and cancelling practice. The konsert didn’t materialise (co-incidence? Surely they didn’t cancel a concert just because one boy suffered testicular descent?) and by the time the next one came around I hadn’t been banished – just consigned to the back and asked to turn it down.

* * *

Just in case there are people who think Harrismith se Laerskool se Seunskoor was a Mickey Mouse outfit, lemme tellya:
WE TOURED ZULULAND. The Vienna Boys Sausages were probably nervous.

We got onto the light blue school bus and drove for hours and hours and reached Empangeni where the school hall was stampvol of people who, starved of culture in deepest Zoolooland, listened in raptures as we warbled Whistle While You Work, High on your Heels is a Lonely Goat Turd, PaRumPaPumPum, Edelweiss, and some volksliedjies which always raised a little ripple of applause as the gehoor thought “Dankie tog, we know vis one“.

If memory serves (and it does, it does, seldom am I the villain or scapegoat in my recollections) there was a flood and the road to ReetShits Bye was cut off, sparing them the price of a ticket (though those were probably gratis?).

Can’t remember driving back, but we must have.

After that warbling faded in importance and rugby took over.

like here

What a Lovely Man

We grew up next door to Gould Dominy on a plot outside town. Our plot was Birdhaven, theirs was Glen Khyber. We knew him as Uncle Gould and would watch fascinated as he drank tea out of the biggest teacup you ever saw. Size of a salad bowl. A flock of small dogs would be running around his ankles as he drank, seated on their wide enclosed and sun-filled stoep.

Then he disappeared and re-appeared years later at the hoerskool as religious instruction (RI) teacher. Seems he had been teaching music at some naff school in Bloemfontein all those years. St Andrews or St Somebody.

He had been very fond of me as a boy but he was re-meeting me as a teenager and that was about to change. Or would have had he not been such an amazingly tolerant and loving gentleman.

His classroom was at the back of the school in the row of asbestos prefabs. For the cold Harries winters it had a cast-iron stove in one corner.

We were terrible. We would saunter in while he caught a quick smoke outside, grab his sarmies and scoff them, move the bookmark a hundred pages forward in his copy of The Robe* (that he was considerately reading to us as our “RI” in lieu of bible-punching) and pull up our chairs around the black stove and sit with our backs to him.

Dear old Mr Dominy would come in and start reading while tickling the inner canthus of his eye with a sharp pencil till he couldn’t stand it any longer, would then “gril” and rub his eyes vigorously, flabby cheeks wobbling, and then carry on reading. Every so often he’d mutter “I’m sure we hadn’t got this far?” proving he was the only one listening to the story. Not even the girls, sitting in the normal school benches, would comment on the fact that we read ten pages a day but moved on a hundred pages at a time.

‘Tex’ Grobbelaar, meantime, would also have swiped one of his cigarettes. Rolling up a sheet of paper, he would set light to it in the stove, light the fag and smoke it right there, furtively holding it in the palm of his cupped hand in that ‘ducktail’ way and blowing the smoke into the stove opening.

What a lovely man. Gould. Not Tex. Nor the rest of us.


Here’s Ann Euthemiou combing Mr Dominy’s hair on a trip to Kruger Park back in 1968.

april-1968-ann-coming-mr-dominees-hair-school-trip-to-kruger

*The Robe – a historical novel about the crucifixion of Jesus written by Lloyd C Douglas. The 1942 book reached No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list. The 1953 film adaptation featured Richard Burton in an early role. (wikipedia)

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hoerskool – house of ill repute;

gril – shudder, jowels wobbling;