We were in second year and had just moved out of downtown Joburg and Eloff Street to the salubrious semi-suburban delightful area of Doornfontein which was once Joburg’s premier suburb where all the gold mining magnates and Randlords lived and built their mansions.
So some final year students asked us to help them in their research for their – whatever.
They needed volunteers to see if blood alcohol levels affected your esotropia. We gave it a moment’s thought and thought that sounded like a HELLUVA good idea as it involved free drink and would provide valuable data and it involved free drink. We volunteered. None of asked ‘what’s esotropia?’
It was very formal. We had to – No, you can’t have a drink yet; Hey! Step away from the drinks table, we need baseline levels before you . . you have? Well, how many? SO many? Well, quick, come, let’s measure you before – Hey! Not another one . .
Well, give them their due, they tried their best and we did our best and it was a WONDERFUL evening filled with laughter and witty repartee and I don’t know if they got any data but we did get the promised drinks and they didn’t need to return any unopened bottles to the grog shop.
Quite a lot was learned, too. Like if you give a person who has had one too many even a little bit of vertical prism he will push the phoropter away and make barfing noises and run out of the clinic. That might come in handy to future researchers, and I give it here free for anyone to use.
We mocked Bloemfontein as Flower Fountain and always looked on Durban as the big city, seldom Joburg, as we would head 299km to the coast not 268km inland to JHB when going for any city business. Bloem never featured. It was 378km and more of a backwater. Once you got there, you’d ask yourself WHY? And yet Bloem was our capital and everything official that went upwards in our little hierarchy summitted in Bloemfontein.
Especially the sporting ladder. If you climbed the sporting ladder and your head popped up through the clouds, there was Naval Hill!
As far as I recall I reached this valhalla of advancing upwards in your sporting code three times at school: For rugby I was not chosen for the Eastern Free State U/13 team in 1967. But I was chosen to be a reserve. The reserve, maybe? – or was there more than one? So I trekked to Bloemfontein, pulled on my togs and sat shivering on the sideline at the Free State Stadium for the whole match. The top pic gives a glimpse in the background of how the stadium looked. Our sponsors didn’t supply us with branded blankets and there was no attractive physio to massage our limbs. I don’t even know if the poor reserve got his quarter orange ration at half time. It was rugged.
For tennis Bruce Humphries entered us for Free State Champs.
All I remember is we drove there in his white Cortina and after I had blasted some booming high-speed double backhands – ala Frew McMillan – in the warmup of the first round, a guy called Symington sent me home 6-0 6-0. I even think he may have yawned while he was doing it. I can’t recall if the famous double pairing of me and Fluffy Crawley played. I have asked him. He can’t remember either.
And lastly, one year I went to Inter-High, which was the Free State athletics champs and I got a bronze medal for my troubles (actually a piece of paper that said ‘derde’) in the high jump.
Other than that, we once went for an ordinary rugby game. Daan Smuts drove us there in his VW Beetle to play against Sentraal or JBM Hertzog. Being Daan, we had beer! Yay!! All teachers should be like Daan. When he remembered that he had forgotten to arrange a place for us to sleep we didn’t mind at all. He dropped us off at an abandoned (for the holidays) koshuis where we shivered on beds with no bedclothes. That was maybe the first time we were glad we had blue and yellow and green blazers. Sure it was cold, but we would not have swopped the beers – die binne-kombers – for blankets!
Miz Zobbs was scathing: Why can’t any of you whistle? Listen to Claudio! HE can whistle. Show them Claudio. It takes a boy from Italy to show you lot how to whistle!
Poor old Claudio Bellato dutifully pursed his lips and tootled some Italian to show us how it was done while probably thinking . . You Don’t Pronounce My Name Clawed-ee-oh. See?! You see! shrieked the old duck, sniffing loudly.
Dora Hobbs, snuff-sniffing tour de force of Harrismith Volkskool could rampage. She would march up and down like a galleon in full sail, never happier than when commanding a choir.
She stopped us in mid-song once to berate us: How many of you can say that!? Huh? How many of you can say you’ve fought and won!? she demanded.
Us ten year-olds stared at her blankly. What was she on about?
We’d been singing:
There was a soldier, A Scottish soldier
Who wandered far away, And soldiered far away
There was none bolder, With good broad shoulder
He’d fought in many a fray, And fought and won
How many of you can say you’ve fought in many a fray? she brayed.
Dripping disdain, snot and snuff stuck in her moustache, on her glasses and on her ample bosom, she’d close her eyes, toss her head and mince around on her toes like a bulk ballerina. I think she was living in another world. When she opened her eyes and saw not dashing broad-shouldered soldiers in kilts wanting to woo the wee svelte lassie in her, but instead snivelling pint-sized Vrystaters wanting to be anywhere else but in “singing”, her mood probably grew dark.
She could be vicious, too, I’m afraid. She beat Dries Dreyer and Alvaro Acavedes mercilessly when they irritated her. Across the shoulders, on the top of their heads and on their fingers with a heavy 40cm wooden ruler. She was rooted in Olde English educational methods: A. Find out what a child cannot do, and then B. Repeatedly demonstrate that he cannot do it; Followed sometimes by a public beating. A bad show, really, even granting that having Std 1, Std 2 and Std 3 in one class was probably not easy. Still: Not right. She picked on the vulnerable. I suspect she knew none of their parents – nor even the headmaster – would challenge her on their behalf.
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
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!