Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia school sport

Volkskool – Primary School

Mom went to this school, as did all three of us kids. Annie, Mom’s Mom, would not have, as it seems it was established 1915, see below, and Annie was 22yrs old by then.

Before us, Etienne Joubert went, and he remembers: Playing ‘Hasie’ under the Bluegums near the old Golf club house; Eating ‘Manna’ under the Bluegums; Playing ‘Bok-bok’ behind the bottom class rooms; Playing marbles in the main playground.

Also he remembers the woodwork teacher Giel du Toit – his mother Joyce had a hilarious ‘heilige’ nickname for Onse Giel – & the smell of the old fashioned wood glue; And the vice where ‘we tied a guy’s tie in & walloped his behind. I’ve forgotten his name, but not his face … I can see it now! – I do not remember much about plays & music . . .’

– the separate woodwork classroom was to the right, just out of picture –
– some of these windows were Ou Eier Meyer and Ou Vis Alberts classrooms –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sister Barbara was a year or two later – she finished Std 5 in 1965. She definitely remembers about plays and music, you Philistine, Etienne! She remembers that year was the school’s Golden Jubilee year – so established 1915, I guess? – and an exciting concert was planned and held on the 28th and 29th of October 1965, with all the classes in the Kleinspanskool and Volkskool participating.

How could she remember in such detail? Well, she had her program carefully stored away in a shoe-box! She remembers the play her class put on: ‘TO  BE  OR  NOT  TO  BE’  –  by  B.J.J. (Bruce) Humphries with Pierre du Plessis and Llewellyn Mileham – or was it Kevin Crawley? – as the smart guys, and Timothy Brockett as Mr. van Snoggery-Boggery, the drunk guy – Pierre remembered this name – and herself – Barbara Swanepoel – as the unnamed lady on the railway station platform.

Interludes between plays were filled by music by the ‘Harrismith Volkskool Orkes / Primary School Band.’ Band members were Rina Minny en Estelle Meyer on trekklaviere – pull pianos – piano accordions; Sylvia Doman on piano; Barbara Swanepoel on melodica; Pierre du Plessis on drums; Willie du Plessis on electric guitar; So much of du Plessis!; Theuns Bam en Bertus Hattingh on acoustic guitars; Almost like The Village People – it was Die Dorps Mense:

Then came the Primary School Boys Choir – Die Seunskoor. Under the charming direction of Miss L. Fourie and that delectable redhead Miss Ethel Cronje. I was a soprano in this lot, warbling away merrily before my balls dropped. We sang (according to that program which won’t lie) Wiegeliedjie van Mozart; Drummer Boy; and Dominique; I still remember – and can still sing majestically – the second and third of these liejies. My kids dispute this fact, unreasonably.

– Ethel Cronje looking strict, her boys looking glum – it was her seunskoor

Barbara asks: ‘Now wasn’t there a record produced for this choir? I think so – our own famous ‘Platberg Boys Choir.’ Indeed there were two records cut. Vinyl. The Vienna Boys Sausages were nervous. Especially when we toured Zululand. If it wasn’t for rugby and puberty, we’d have usurped those Austrian suckers. We’d have parum pu pum pum’d them out of business . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family travel

Chaka’s Rock Luxury Beach Cottage

Back in 1963 we joined the du Plessis on a one-week beach and fishing holiday on the Natal north coast – Chaka’s Rock! They were beach regulars, this was one of our two beach holidays that I can remember. (flash: there were three!). Louis Brocket wrote in to remind us that, as Lynn’s boyfriend, he was also there for his first “vakansie-by-die-see“.

Sheila writes: “Found a postcard which Mary Methodist sent to her Mom Annie Bland (1½ cent stamp – remember the brown Afrikaner bull?). Mary wrote ‘We’re enjoying the swimming immensely. Coughs no worse in spite of it. We’re sleeping well and eating very well. The coast is beautiful. This is a picture of the pool where we swim.’ I think the three little Swanies all had whooping cough. Must have been fun for the du Plessis family who shared our holiday!”

It was amazing! The cottage on a hill above the beach, the rocks and seaside cliffs, narrow walkways along the cliffs that the waves would drench at high tide; magic swimming pools set in the rocks. The men were there to fish:

We baljaar’d on the beach and sometimes even ventured into the shallows – just up to safe vrystaat depth. A swimmer I was not, and I still vividly remember a near-death experience I had in the rock pool: a near-metre-high wave knocked me out of Mom’s arms and I was washed away out of her safe grasp! I must have been torn away by up to half a metre from her outstretched hands; little asthmatic me on my own in the vast Indian Ocean for what must have been a long one and a half seconds, four long metres away from dry land! Traumatised. To this day I am wary of the big-dam-that-you-can’t-see-the-other-side-of, and when I have to navigate across any stretches of salty water I use a minimum of a Boeing 737, but preferably a 747.

Well, this was the most threatening Free State water I was used to braving before I met the Indian Ocean: Oh, also the horse trough.

– and even then I’d lift my broek just in case –

The view from the cottage looking down the flight of stairs:

vakansie by die see – beach or seaside holiday for naive inland creatures

baljaar – frolic

safe vrystaat depth – about ankle deep

postscript: I tried to keep up the luxury cottage theme but Barbara talked about the big spiders on the walls and yesterday even Dad, who was talking about Joe Geyser, mentioned ‘that ramshackle cottage we stayed in at Chaka’s Rock.’

Dad was saying Joe hardly ever caught a fish. He would be so busy with this his pipe, relighting it, refilling it, winding the reel with one hand while fiddling with his pipe with the other. My theory is the fish could smell the tobacco and turned their nose up at his bait. Dad reckons tobacco was never a health hazard to old Joe. Although he was never without his pipe, it was mainly preparation and cleaning, and the amount of actual puffing he did was minimal.

Once he caught a wahoo and brought it back to Harrismith. Griet took one look at it as he walked into her kitchen and bade him sally forth. Some wives had agency. So Joe brought it to Dad and they cut it up and cooked it in our kitchen.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I went back in 2016 and the beach and rocks and the pools still look familiar.

But don’t look back! The green hillslopes have been concreted.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions

Call the Engine, Call the Engine . .

Fanie, is that a box of matches in your pocket? asked stern Uncle Louis. No Dad, its just a block of wood.

We were having lunch on their smallholding east of Harrismith and father Louis knew enough to ask, but not enough to check. After lunch we were off into the veld and once out of sight Farnie bent down, struck a match and set fire to the grass, watched it in fascination for a few seconds, then beat the flames out with his hands. My turn. Then his turn again.

Who knows whose turn it was – doesn’t matter – but we let it grow too big. Both of us tried to beat it out, stomp it out, but the flames spread and ran away from us.

OH! SH*T!! We ran back to the farm house and phoned the fire engine in town. When Louis found out he phoned again and told them not to come. He had already phoned the neighbours and alerted all hands on deck.

My most vivid memory was herding cattle out of a paddock and having a cow refuse to go, charging straight back at us and forcing her way back in. Her calf was in there and she only left once it was with her.

Nine farms burnt, we were told. And calling the fire engine costs money we were told. And we learnt some other lessons, too. You can tell: Both of us are fine upstanding citizens today (telling our kids to BEHAVE themselves, dammit).

Bakerskop Platberg 2

A fire in 2014 in the exact same spot (click on the pic). Our fire was ca 1960.

~~~oo0oo~~~

NB: As memories are notoriously fickle, read older sister Barbara’s (probably more accurate!) recollection of this day:
Let’s go back to the Schoeman’s farm. The three little Swanepoels were spending a week-end on the farm with the three little Schoemans.
BarbsKoosSheila ca1960 Three Swanies ca 1960
After breakfast the six of us went for a walk in the veld. Unbeknown to me, two little sh*ts had lied about having matches in their pockets. Not far from the house they crouched down and I thought they had seen something on the ground. On inspection I now knew that it was matches that they were playing with. They lit a few little fires and quickly with their bare hands (brave boys!) killed the flames. Until then it was all fun for them but I felt very uneasy.
Suddenly the next little flame became a “grand-daddy” of a flame and within no time the two little sh*ts could not longer use their brave little hands. Guess who ran away first? Yes, the two little sh*ts! Something made me look back at the roaring fire and that’s when I saw little Louie – who was 3 – standing in a circle of flames with his arm raised and covering his face – he was frozen stiff. I turned around, ran through the flames, picked him up and ‘sent it’ back to the farmhouse.
With no grown-ups at home, I phoned my mother at the Platberg Bottle Store and through lots of “snot and trane” told her what had happened. She ran across the road to the Town Hall corner and “hit” the fire alarm for the Harrismith Fire Brigade to come and save the day. Needless to say they saw no fire in town so must have just gone home.
The fire did burn through about 3 farms – the damage was extensive. Uncle Louie and Aunty Cathy, on coming home that afternoon, apparently stopped the car on the main road, got out and just stared – could not believe what they was seeing.
Well, we were supposed to spend the week-end there but all the grown-ups had had enough. We were packed up, bundled up into the car and taken home.
Years later (before they left SA) I bumped into Louie and Gaylyn and told them the story. I could not believe it when Louie told me he had always known that I had saved his life – and I thought that that memory had gone up in flames!
Lots of love to you all
Yours “Firewoman” Barbara

~~~oo0oo~~~

Later I wrote (thinking that nothing had really happened to us after the fire):
Dammitall, we really had amazingly tolerant parents back in the sixties, come to think of it!

To which Farn Schoeman replied:
Koos, small correction: YOU had amazingly tolerant parents!