Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Barbara’s Letter

. . to old Jewish Harrismith friends

Big sister Barbara Swanepoel Tarr met Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, the travelling rabbi, who I wrote about some time back. He very kindly gave her a book. 

Barbara tells of her voyage of discovery looking up old Jewish friends. This post is snippets from a letter she wrote:

Many of the names and surnames have been mentioned to me in conversations over the years with my parents and some I knew personally and grew up with. We’re still lucky enough to be able to contact our folks, Pieter Swanepoel (98) and Mary Bland Swanepoel (92), who now live in Pietermaritzburg and still have amazingly good memories. They fill in the gaps with names and places and help make our history come alive.

In Harrismith, the Royal Hotel was built by my great grandfather Stewart Bain and was sold to Mr. Sookie Hellman; the Central Hotel was built by his brother James Bain and was sold to Mr. Randolph Stiller.

– the extended Stiller family –

We lived in the Central Hotel for about three months in 1960. Mom and Dad had bought our first house in town – 95 Stuart Street, and were waiting for the tenant’s lease to expire. There we got to know the Stiller family (Isa was a young girl at school, I think) and Becky Kaplan, the receptionist. The Deborah Retief Gardens were our playing fields, under the watchful eye of Ted and Fanny Glick, sitting on their balcony in Van Sandwyk Flats No 1.

Fanny Glick and my grandmother Annie Bain Bland were the best of friends. Sunday afternoons these two characterful old dears would pick up the three Swanepoel kids in Annie’s big cream Chev and tootle down to the Park on the Wilge River. There we were each given a sixpence and left to our own devices at the round kiosk. ‘Glick’ and ‘Anna’ (that’s what they called one another) enjoyed tea and scones in the Chevy, and us three would swing, slide and no doubt fight on all the wonderful ‘things’ in the playground. 

– Anna and Glick, great friends – we’re in the back seat –

Around 2015 a bee flew into my bonnet, and I started looking for old Harrismith High School scholars. Finding Ivan and Brenda Katz in Joburg was a gem of a find; I also found another strong Harrismith sister, Adele Cohen.

In 1961 in Std 1, I received my first bicycle for Christmas – a blue Raleigh that kept me going to matric in 1970. I remember going into your Dad Eddie Cohen’s shop for a patch, a new tube, a bell or just to look around. All too soon, the three Swanepoel kids were finished with school and our bikes were no longer needed. Happily they became the property of new owners…the three Cohen kids. 

Joy Kadey, your parents’ shop, Jack Kadey’s Jewellers, still stands and is very much alive. Now called Louis’ Jewellers. While the name has changed, very little else has changed in the shop and in the whole building, thanks to Louis Nel and his daughter Erika Nel du Plessis (the owner). She has managed to make time stand still in a little place of long ago. Absolutely worth a visit to this ‘lil ‘ol shoppe’ of our childhood. Erika and husband Pierre du Plessis live in Louis Green’s old home in Warden Street, which they have also restored beautifully. One of Harrismith’s magnificent old homes.

Other Jewish people from old Harrismith are Essie Rosenberg Lunz, John French (great nephew of Fanny Glick, who sent a Facebook link on the Harrismith Jewish Cemetery), David Babbin, son of Isaac and Joey Babbin from the Tickey Bazaar, where you could buy ‘everything.’ How I loved that shop! Walking in through the door took one into an amazing fairyland. Baskets of all sorts on the floor, glass compartments of sweets at mouth-watering eye level, and counters of ‘what you will,’ and everything that could hang was hanging …just ‘as you like it’…..it was all there! 

– the occasion: Ivan Katz’s barmitzvah! –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia sport

Up the Creek

I was born up Shit Creek without a paddle. Quite literally. OK, my actual birth, per se, was in Duggie Dugmore’s maternity home, less than half a kilometer away on Kings Hill, but mere days after I was born – as soon as I could be wrapped in swaddling clothes – I was taken home to my manger on a plot on the banks of Shit Creek. And it was twelve years or so before I owned my first paddle. So this is a true story.

– ruins of our house on the plot – trees in in the middle ground are on the banks of shit creek – – me thinking ‘where’s me paddle? –

I paddled my own canoe about twelve years later after we lost the plot. OK, sold the plot, moved into town and bought a red and blue canoe with paddle. The first place we paddled it was in a little inlet off the Wilge river above the Sunnymede weir, some distance upstream of town. Right here:

– younger sis Sheila operates the paddle I was born without –
Sunnymede on the Wilge River upstream from Harrismith FS ca1965
– same little inlet off the Wilge – Mother Mary and Sheila on land, me airborne, Barbara on water –

Before this, I had paddled a home-made canoe made of a folded corrugated zinc roofing sheet, the ends nailed onto a four-by-four and sealed with pitch. Made by good school friend Gerie Hansen and his younger boet Nikolai – or maybe his older boet Hein; or by their carpenter father Jes? We paddled it, wobbling unsteadily, on their tiny little pond in the deep shade of wattle trees above their house up against the northern cliff of Kings Hill.

Then Charlie Ryder came to town, and one thing led to another . . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Good school friend Piet Steyl wrote of the wonderful days he also spent in the company of Gerie Hansen – who died tragically early. He told of fun days spent paddling that zinc canoe, gooi’ing kleilat, shooting the windbuks and smoking tea leaves next to that same little pond. We both remembered Gerie winning a caption contest in Scope magazine and getting reprimanded for suggesting Japanese quality wasn’t good. Irony was, the Hansens actually owned one of the first Japanese bakkies seen in town – a little HINO.

Gerie used to say ‘He No Go So Good’, and Piet says when it finally gave up the ghost he said ‘He No Go No More’!!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Shit Creek – actually the Kak Spruit; a tributary of the Wilge River which originates on Platberg mountain, flows down, past our old plot and westward through the golf course on the northern edge of town, then turns south and flows into the Wilge below the old park weir; Sensitive Harrismith people refer to it as ‘die spruit met die naam;’

die spruit met die naam – ‘the creek with the name’ – too coy! It’s Die Kakspruit; always will be. Shit Creek.

gooi’ing kleilat – lethal weapon; a lump of clay on the end of a whippy stick or lath; spoken about way more than practiced, in my experience; Here’s a kid loading one:

windbuks – airgun, pellet gun.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Drunken Revelry

OK, not really; more a reverie on drink – a nostalgic lookback on a bottle store. Platberg Bottle Store / Drankwinkel in Harrismith, the Vrystaat. The Swanepoel family business. We all worked here at times.

We were talking about the trinkets, decor and marketing stuff. Like those big blow-up bottles hanging from the ceiling. Turns out big sister Barbara kept some of them from way back when:

Younger sister Sheila has some whisky jugs; and I had found an old familiar brandy-making figure online:

..

This is where they were displayed, along with the statues of Johnny Walker whisky, Dewars White Label whisky’s Scottish soldier ‘drum major’, Black & White whisky with their two Scotty dogs, Beefeater Gin’s ‘beefeater’, etc. Spot them below:

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family

Cosplay Re-enactment

Mom Mary Swanepoel made costumes for a fancy dress event in the Harrismith town hall ca.1959. We were living on a plot Birdhaven in the shadow of Platberg just a kilometre east of the edge of town on the forestry road.

Some thirty years later, big sister Barbara in the middle on the left, made costumes for her kids Linda and Robbie in a re-enactment ca.1986. They were living on a farm Shukela Estates outside Greytown.

– three of us kids ca.1959 and then Barbara’s two kids ca.1986 –

At the time our Oupa was visiting us from Pietermaritzburg. Paul Fouche Swanepoel, grandpa of Peter Frank – me.

– early 20th century ballroom trousers on the old PF – shorts on the new PF –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Now we await Linda’s move – I’ll bet she’ll repeat the re-enactment with her two, Mary-Kate and Dawie VII – they’ll be third generation ‘gypsies.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family school sport travel

Hitch Hike to Durban

Once chosen as a Rotary Exchange Student in 1972, I had to get to Durban to get my passport done and – I think – some other paperwork; My big mate Leon Fluffy Crawley hitch-hiked down with me. On the way down – or on the way back – we called in at big sister Barbara where she was staying in the Pietermaritzburg YWCA. We met her friend Lyn there.

That’s about all I remember! Luckily, Fluffy remembers it too!

Other hitch hiking at school was to Witsieshoek with Claudio and Carlos.

Hitch hike to Bloemfontein with Jean Roux to watch a rugby test.

Hitch hike to the 1972 Dusi – again with Jean Roux.

~~~oo0oo~~~

The picture is the group of Rotary exchange students chosen in 1972 for 1973. It may have been taken at the airport, about to leave. If so, it was students from all over South Africa, leaving for all over the world. Kneeling next to me is the guy who went jolling with me in New York; Seated next to him is Eve Woodhouse from Durban, who ended up in a village Fort Cobb near mine – Apache – in Oklahoma; Right behind me is Lynn Wade from Vryheid.

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family

Mary and Jean

Mom: When the Colemans arrived in Harrismith for Ken to start work in ‘the milk factory’ we met them right away as Dad was a great friend of Ken’s older brother Wally. Wally had been his tutor as an appy electrician in the Pietermaritzburg Post Office back in 1938. I recall visiting Uncle Wally as a kid once – I think in Howick?

1938 post office appies PMB
– Wally Coleman in the white coat – Dad standing second left – 1938 PMB –

Ken and Jean started building a new house on the corner of Hector street and Berg street, the road that led out of town to our plot less than a kilometre away. While the builders were at it, some leave time came up and Ken took the family away, prompting Dad to opine to Mom, ‘I would never go away while someone was building my house! I would watch their every move.’ Right.

Mom’s not sure, but thinks Donald was already born when they arrived in Harrismith. When Anne was born soon after me, Mary was chosen as her godmother as ‘Jean was a great friend even though she was Anglican.’ Mary Methodist speaking!

Then Eddie was born and we were like this:

In 2015 Sheila wrote: 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.

Today in 2020 Mom’s version was slightly different: ‘You used to walk to Donald without telling me. I would phone Jean and ask ‘Is there anything there of mine?’ Maybe the strolling went both ways?

What started this reminiscing was Eddie sending me pics of Jean’s 80th birthday celebration in June 2008, when Anne and Eddie took her on a very special outing:

They got together for Mary’s 80th in September 2008

– Mary turns 80 in PMB – 2008 –

For years after the Colemans left Harrismith we heard about their farm outside Winterton. About how Ken built the rondawels and bathroom very rustically. But I never saw Donald again and only lately found out that I had heard from him once!

– view from Craggs outside Winterton – looking at Cathkin and Champagne –
– Jean and Ken –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
8_Nostalgia

Granny Bland

The baby in the feature picture is Mary Caskie, daughter of Alexander Caskie and Mary Craig.

Her father Alexander Caskie became mayor of Harrismith. She married JFA Bland II and gave birth to JFA Bland III.

JFA Bland II

JFA III Bland, called Frank, married Annie Watson Bain, daughter of Stewart Bain, mayor of Harrismith. So much of mayors, your worships!

Part of the stone wall which surrounded Granny Bland’s home in Stuart Street, Harrismith; and the oak tree her grand-daughter Pat Bland Cowie planted.

– Granny Bland’s garden wall in 2017 –
– Pat Bland planted this oak in her Granny Bland’s garden – 13 Stuart Street Harrismith –

Bain Sisters Annie Bland and Jessie Bell lived with Granny Mary Bland after their husbands died. Annie’s daughter Mary and granddaughter Barbara Mary also lived there for a while. Barbara now has a daughter Linda Mary, who has a daughter Mary-Kate – So much of Marys !

– Annie Bain Bland, Granny Bland, Jessie Bain Bell –

The old home now has an artist family living in it and has been beautifully restored.

Apparently this was Granny Bland’s – we grew up with it in our display cabinet

– Bacchus – the God of Wine, Music and Dance – and 95 Stuart Street –

Granny Bland had a husband and five sons. She buried her husband and three of her sons in the same grave – later she was buried there. Her only surviving son Bunty later joined them all.

Mum says Barnie Neveling had a rather caustic tongue at times – it was he who told Mum that Frank Bland’s brother – either Bobby or Bertie – had “taken his own life” – he was a pharmacist and couldn’t live with his asthma any longer. Granny Bland spoke of it as an accidental overdose. Mum didn’t think it was necessary for Barnie to tell her that.

One of Granny Bland’s other sons, Alex, who was the Royal Hotel barman, played the piano. He cut his finger and it couldn’t straighten properly, so a friend offered to pay for the op to straighten it. Dr Reitz did the op and Alex died on the operating table. One of his favourite pieces was Rachmaninoff’s Prelude – Mum couldn’t remember the key – she sang a bit of it to me – looked it up and I think it was G Minor. Mum says that whenever it was played on the radio, they had to switch the radio off because it made Granny Bland too sad.

– not sure, but we think from Granny Bland’s home –
– Granny Bland’s hot water jug – then Mary Bland Swanepoel’s –
– ‘Ceylon 1902’ – we think this is from a Bland POW – Anglo-Boer War –
– Granny Bland’s silver serviette ring – which her granddaughter Mary used for years –

~~~oo0oo~~~

For those interested, here you can see the original broken daguerreotype Sheila had, and how I digitally ‘stitched’ or ‘healed’ it with FastStone Image Viewer (lovely program):

~~~oo0oo~~~

Update from Sheila on Granny Bland’s five sons:

John Francis Adam Bland III (aka Frank) our grandfather – married Annie Bain – two daughters, Pat – born 1925 died 1974 (married Bill Cowie – two daughters, Frankie and Jema) and Mary born 1928  (married Pieter Swanepoel and had 3 kids, Barbara, Koos – me – and Sheila)

Bunty Bland – married Eve Richter – one son, John (not the golfer) – he married Ethel, and they had a son James and a daughter Janine. John & Ethel divorced.  John married a girl about 40 years his junior – I bumped into them in Durban once. Ethel, James and Janine all live in NZ. Janine has two kids, James has never married and has no kids – so out of Granny Bland’s five sons, there is no Bland to carry on the name. Granny Bland buried her husband and four of her five sons – only Bunty outlived her.  They are all buried in the same grave in HS.

Albert (Bertie ) Bland never married, pharmacist, committed suicide

Robert Bobbie) Bland never married

Alec Bland - he had a crooked little finger, which he couldn't straighten - he played the piano and this finger bugged him, so Dr Frank Reitz offered to fix it for him - a friend sponsored the op (Mum knows who it was - I've just forgotten his name) and Alec died on the operating table.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family Wildlife, Game Reserves

Caltex Calenders

Annie had a Caltex garage; Dad worked for Annie; Louis Schoeman traveled for Caltex. Between 1962 and 1971 Caltex gave cloth wildlife calenders as their gift to their filling station owners.

Dad (now 96) says Louis would ‘forget’ to hand them out and he would insist on seeing what was in his boot. And there, ‘along with the sheep shit’ were the calenders! An inveterate collector, Dad would get ‘his’ share! Right! That’s why he has quite a few duplicates!

– I could find nothing on the internet about BK Dugdale – Mom’s hand here in pic –

Some have been sewn together to make table cloths. He still has plans for them, can’t get rid of them. He knows someone who will make them into cushion covers. Then he’ll get some cushions . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

He’s had it done: The calendars are now table cloths and cushion covers and he’s very proud of them. Can’t understand why his eldest daughter didn’t rave about them! She doesn’t like them, I dunno why; I like them. Nice and colourful.

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Granny Bland’s Home

Part of the stone wall which surrounded Granny Bland‘s home in Stuart Street, Harrismith; and the oak tree her grand-daughter Pat Bland planted.

– Granny Bland’s garden wall –
– The oak that Pat planted –

Our great-grandmother ‘Granny Bland’ was a Caskie who married a Bland who begat Frank (JFA) Bland who married Annie Watson Bain. Bain Sisters Annie Bland and Jessie Bell lived there with Granny Bland after their husbands died. Her granddaughter – Annie’s daughter – Mary and great-granddaughter Barbara also lived there for a while, some sixty five years ago. Four generations in one home!

The old home now has an artist family living in it and has been beautifully restored.

Granny Bland’s house Stuart Street – renovated again
Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Two Grand Pianos

My Mom Mary Bland learnt to play the piano on her Granny Mary Bland’s upright Otto Bach at 13 Stuart Street. Mom’s sister Pat didn’t play, but when Granny Bland died the piano had to go to the older granddaughter. But how to get it there?

Jack Shannon had a bakkie and he volunteered to schlep it to Blyvooruitzicht, or as the Cowies called it, ‘Blayfore’. It got dropped at some stage in the loading or offloading and had to be repaired when it got there. All was well.

Years later Pat died and Bill decided it should go to Barbara as she played, and his daughters Frankie and Gemma did not. So another farmer with a bakkie was roped in to schlep it back from Blayfore – this time Barbara’s long-suffering husband Jeff Tarr carted it to PMB or Howick or Greytown (must ask Barbara). Barbara still has the piano in her home on their farm Umvoti Villa on the Mispah road outside Greytown. It’s now her daughter Linda’s home and Linda does play – hockey, jolling, all else – just not the piano. Maybe her daughter Mary-Kate will keep up the tradition of ‘Marys that play that piano’?

– the Otto Bach – now at Umvoti Villa –

Meantime Mom had bought another: an upright Bentley. Marie Bain had bought her daughter, Mom’s cousin, Lynn the Bentley hoping she’d learn to play ‘like Mary.’ Well, Lynn never took to playing, so Mom bought it from Marie for the same £100 she had paid for it years before. This was the piano we were so privileged to grow up with at 95 Stuart Street, listening to Mom playing Hymns, Classical and Popular music. Who could forget the late night drinking songs when the Goor Koor gang would gather round her and bellow out their alcohol fumes, cigarette ash and varying levels of talent with gay abandon.

Mom still has the Bentley in PMB and still plays it beautifully. They’re upright pianos, not ‘grand’ pianos, but they certainly have been a grand part of our lives from about 1920-something – Mary was born in 1928 – to 2019. And more to come.

Here Mary at 90 plays someone else’s piano. Her classical pieces she always played with the music score in front of her. She can no longer see well enough to read it, so mainly plays her popular pieces by memory now.

We grew up to these sounds in the background. How lucky can you get!? These next few classical pieces are ones she played. Played here by some wonderful pianists who are almost as good as Mom in her prime!

also this:

I remember a few times getting so overcome by the music – melancholy or something? – I’d run down the passage and ask Mom to stop playing! weird.

~~~oo0oo~~~