I’ve always wanted to fly. Who hasn’t? But I dislike noise, so while my first flight in a light aeroplane (I think with an Odendaal or a Wessels piloting it?) was great, and my first flight across the Atlantic in a Boeing 707 at seventeen was unforgettable, it was a glider flight that first got me saying “Now THIS is flying!!”
We hopped into the sleek craft, me in front and pilot Blom (?) behind me. Someone attached the long cable to the nose and someone else revved the V8 engine far ahead of us at the end of the runway of the Harrismith aerodrome on top of 42nd Hill. The cable tensed and we started forward, ever-faster. Very soon we rose and climbed steeply. After quite a while Blom must have pulled something as the cable dropped away and we turned, free as a bird, towards the NW cliffs of Platberg.
“OK, you take the stick now, watch the wool” – and I’m the pilot! The wool is a little strand taped to the top of the cockpit glass outside and the trick is always to keep it straight. Even when you turn you keep it flying straight back – or you’re slipping sideways. I watched it carefully as I turned. Dead straight.
“Can you hear anything?” asks Blom from behind me. No, it’s so beautifully quiet, isn’t it great?! I grin. “That’s because you’re going too slowly, we’re about to stall, put the stick down”, he says mildly. Oh. I push the stick forward and the wind noise increases to a gentle whoosh. Beautiful. Soaring up close to those cliffs – so familiar from growing up below them and climbing the mountain, yet so different seeing them from a new angle.
Hello Everyone. How’s this for a blast from the past!
Eddie Coleman, George Elphick, Anne Immelman (nee Coleman) Sheila & Koos Swanepoel
This was taken at the sad occasion of Jean Coleman’s funeral yesterday. Jean was Mum’s great friend in Harrismith in the 50’s & 60’s. They also lived in Hector Street, opposite the du Plessis’ first home.
Mum says when we still lived on the ‘townlands’ on the way to the waterworks, Jean would often ‘phone and say “Have you got a little visitor?” – once again her son Donald had gone missing and she knew exactly where he was – he used to walk all the way to our farm to visit his great mate, Koos. The two were inseparable.
Mary Methodist is Anne’s godmother. The Colemans left Harrismith in about 1964.
While we were standing around chatting yesterday, Anne suddenly realised that she, her brother Eddie and George Elphick (whose daughter is engaged to Anne’s son – small world) had all been delivered by Sister Dugmore at the maternity home on Kings Hill- “So were we!” chorused Koos & Sheila! So we had to have this pic taken!
Apparently Biebie de Vos has the scale on which we were all weighed. When he was born, he was so small that ‘Duggie’ christened him ‘Biebie’ and Biebie he’s been ever since.
Koos 1 April 1955; Anne 14 April 1955; Sheila 26 June 1956; George & Eddie circa 1960
That maternity home (look at the steps and column):
And what was left of it last time I went there:
George Elphick is an architect in Durban. His parents John & Una, also left Harrismith in about 1964. They lived in Lotsoff Flats where Una had a grand piano in the tiny sittingroom! She was a very talented pianist and used to accompany Mary Methodist, Trudy Else and other singers.
We used to have “musical evenings” in our home in Stuart Street – wonder what the neighbours thought? John Elphick (bless his soul) had an enormous reel-to-reel tape on which he would record the proceedings. I have had these tapes put on CD – no Grammy winners here – but just to have this music preserved is so special. I have Mrs Euthemiou singing “La Paloma”, William vd Bosch singing and playing his guitar, Harold Taylor singing “‘Til the sands of the desert grow cold.” Harold lost his leg at Delville Wood and on tape he tells us that he learnt the song on board ship enroute to Alexandria in Egypt, in World War 1.
So now you know. Lots of love to you all. Sheila
Donald once did a big “going missing” on the beach somewhere (South Coast?). That time the police were called upon to help find him. But – as always – he was just exploring. He’d have made it home sooner or later.
While staying at 4 Hillside Road Parktown we prepared for the holidays. I was taking the delightful Cheryl Forsdick down to Port Shepstone in Natal where I think she was meeting her folks, the redoubtable Ginger and Mrs F. It was the grey and grey Opel Concorde OHS 5678’s longest trip and at the last minute I started to worry about the brakes. They weren’t the best. So I toddled off to the spare parts place and bought what they said would fix them.
The day before we were to leave I stripped the drums and put in the new shoes (does that sound right?). It was a fiddly job and took ages to get right, the springs kept springing. Testing them entailed many trips up and down Hillside Road under the closed arch of the big old London Plane trees (luckily a cul-de-sac). Jamming on brakes I would go screeching into the left gutter, then I’d go home and adjust the whatevers and then go slewing into the right gutter. Then beertime came and it had to be good enough.
A raucous year-end party ensued and unfortunately Brauer had invited himself. So even more beer than normal was swallowed and cleverer and cleverer. In the wee hours he spotted the grey and grey Opel Concorde sitting sleekly in the driveway, poised for its long journey to that last outpost of the British Empire. His drink-addled brain (brain?) had recently been thinking (thinking?) about the Mercedes “pagoda roof” sports car classic and he decided my car needed a conversion, so he danced on the roof and the more sensible people told him to stop the more he danced. You know how he is.
He thought he was doing this (and in fact had the cheek to suggest I should pay him for enhancing the Opel):
But in fact he did this:
I had to lie on my back on the seat and push up the roof with my feet the next morning so we could sit in the thing for our southward safari. I was careful to use the brakes as little as possible all the way through the Vrystaat vlaktes, down van Reenen’s Pass and on to the sparkling Indian Ocean where the sharks (but not yet the Sharks) were awaiting their annual dose of Vaalie flesh.
I attended the plaaslikeschools 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 – un-chronological – 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. Add your memories in the comments if you were there!
As students 1974-1977 we would frequent the Casa Blanca roadhouse at the foot of Nugget Hill below Hillbrow when the pocket money arrived from home. Squeezed into Joz Simpson’s lime-green VW Beetle or Steve Reed’s beige Apache or Bobby Friderich’s white Mini Cooper S or Glen Barker’s green Toyota, we’d ask the old Elvis-looking guy with a cap, flip-up sunglasses and whispy whiskers for a burger n chips plus a coke; Or a cheeseburger chips n coke 70c, or – as Steve reminded me – “if we were flush, the Dagwood with everything including the runny fried egg. Sheer luxury. Messy, but worth it!”
I don’t have a pic, but here’s the Doll House in Highlands North so long:
Every so often you’d be asked “Move forward” and you’d inch forward to make room for new arrivals behind you, till you reached the “finishing line” where you handed back the tray Elvis had clipped to your half-rolled-up window and drove off under the big sign on the wall: QUIET. HOSPITAL.
Many years later (OK, twenty six years later!) work took me back to Jozi and I had time to kill in my hired car so I drove around Doories and Yeoville and Hillbrow. Lunchtime I pulled in to the Casa Blanca and I SWEAR there was the exact same oke who had served us twenty six years earlier, with his SAME cap, his SAME flip-up shades and his SAME whispy whiskers! Astonishing!
I told him cheeseburger chips n coke and how long have you been here?
“Thirty six years” he said “but I’m just filling in now”.
Charged me 70c. Plus twenty six years-worth of inflation.
When I got to Johannesburg I was ready to play rugby again, but as there was little sport at the Wits Tech, friend Glen Barker joined Wanderers club. He had a car, so I joined him and off we would go from Doornfontein in the green 1969-ish Toyota Corolla 1600 he inherited from his gran to the field in Corlett Drive for practice.
I doubt there were thirty players in the under-21 age group, so we made the B side by default and got to wear Wanderers cheerful colours; Some games I remember playing were Oostelikes; Strathvaal; Diggers; Rugged mining characters, some of those!
At far-away Strathvaal we played and lost and I was removing my boots at the side of the field when a senior coach asked me to please fill in for the senior thirds – they were short. Their game had already started so I laced up and waited on the sideline for a gap. I ran on as a scrum formed and they got the ball. Moving up from inside centre I went to tackle my man and . . . . . was carried off on a stretcher.
Who knows what happened, but at about five or six seconds it was the shortest game of any kind I’ve ever played! Those miners were built like brick shithouses and liked nothing more than explosive contact!