Petronella van Heerden

Steve Reed sent a picture of old American cars in Aussie .. I wrote:

These lovely old motorised wrecks remind me of Swinburne character Abe Sparks’ Rolls Royce bakkie. And that reminds me of Nell van Heerden.

Apparently Dr Anna Petronella van Heerden, Harrismith’s first lady doctor around 1916 and later South Africa’s first lady specialist gynaecologist, who studied in Holland and London, bought the Roller in England, toured the continent in it, then shipped it back to Kaapstad where she ran her specialist practice. The part about the car is according to 96yr-old Dad.

She gave up practicing medicine and came to Harrismith to farm and was legendary among the boere here. Always dressed in khaki trousers, khaki shirt, sturdy shoes and hoed, she would answer my gran Annie’s How are you, Nell? query with ‘Fair to bloody’ as she filled up with Caltex at Annie’s Central Service Station. She had a live-in girlfriend who sometimes had to move out to the cottage when Nell had city girlfriends over for wild parties on the farm.

A cattle farmer, she would be seen at the vendusies where some of the boere would make the mistake of saying something and she’d be ready along the lines of “Ja, (Jan, Piet, Koos) ek is n fokken vrou al lyk ek nie so nie!” A true character. Imagine how strong you’d have to be, being ‘anders’ in a milieu where being a Male White Afrikaans Christian made you a baas, made you automatically right and should have made all women appreciative and in their plek – and NOT at vendusies! And if they must be at vendusies they should serve the tea and koeksisters!

She wrote two books – I must try and get hold of them.

This from wikipedia:

Anna Petronella van Heerden (1887–1975), was the first Afrikaner woman to qualify as a medical doctor. Her thesis, which she obtained a doctorate on in 1923, was the first medical thesis written in Afrikaans. She practiced as a gynaecologist, retiring in 1942. She also served in the South African medical corps during World War II.

She campaigned for women’s suffrage in the 1920s, and worked as a farmer after retiring from her medical work. She also published two autobiographical texts, Kerssnuitsels (Candle Snuffings) and Die Sestiende Koppie (the Sixteenth Cup).

This from Women Marching Into the 21st Century: Wathint’ Abafazi, Wathint’ Imbokodo:

This from “Nationalism, Gender and Sexuality in the Autobiographical Writing of Two Afrikaner Women,” Viljoen L. (2008):

Viljoen investigates questions of nationalism, gender and sexuality in the autobiographical texts of Petronella van Heerden and Elsa Joubert, and makes the point that autobiography, a genre often considered marginal to the literary canon, can be regarded as a site for examining the impact of nationalism on the construction of gendered and sexual identity. Petronella van Heerden (1887-1975) became the first Afrikaner woman to qualify as a medical doctor and published two short autobiographical texts, Kerssnuitsels (‘Candle Snuffings’) and Die Sestiende Koppie (‘the Sixteenth Cup’), in the early 1960s. The article argues that van Heerden’s omission of overt references to her lesbianism can be attributed to the strong, though embattled, position of Afrikaner nationalism at the time her texts were published.

My guess is there would also have been a fair dose of Nell saying ‘its none of your bloody business’ in there as well.

She died in 1975, aged 88.

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Oh, back to the Rolls Royce! I imagine – but I don’t know this – that it was converted into a bakkie, a pickup, a ute, after Abe had bought it from Nell. We always heard stories of how Aussie sheep farmers ‘drove Rolls Royces around their farms, as the running boards were wide enough to carry dead sheep.’ Abe would have liked that and thought ‘I can do that too.’

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Kaapstad – Cape Town

boere – farmers

hoed – hat

vendusies – livestock sales / auctions

“Ja, (Jan, Piet, Koos) ek is n fokken vrou al lyk ek nie so nie!” – Yes, Koos, I am a woman even if I don’t look like one!

anders – different

plek – place; as in ‘know your place’

koeksisters – ‘South African doughnut’; deep-fried, very sweet

bakkie – pickup; ute

Oy Vey!

I just read a book (this was in 2014) The Travelling Rabbi by Moshe Silberhaft. It was loaned to me by Pauline Shapiro, Montclair character of note. We got chatting – instead of doing her eyeballs – about how Durban had lost most of its Jews and Harrismith had lost all of its Jews.

Rabbi Moshe went around the country from 1995 to small dorps where the ever-diminishing number of Jews allowed them to live in peace and eat whatever they wanted till he came to give them a skrik and some guilt feelings. He tells me in his book that Bethlehem comes from Beit Lechem, which means House of Bread. His book has three pages on Bethlehem and the main talk is about Rabbi Altshuler, who died in 1983, and the de-consecration of the synagogue, which has now been converted into offices by attorney Gerald Meyerowitz.

With the closing down of the Bethlehem shul Rabbi Silberhaft did the rabbi stuff: “The three Sifrei Torah were removed from the Ark and carried out of the shul by Syd Goldberg, Saville Jankelowitz and Sam Jankelowitz, then aged 90, assisted by Dr Harold Tobias, who had a bad back, in a very solemn procession.”

Shockingly, Moshe didn’t mention my mate Steve Reed as an honorary Jew! Obviously he hadn’t heard Stefanus spin his yiddish. Even more shockingly, he leaves out my whole town! He writes of Parys, Brandfort, Phillipolis, Bloemfontein, Bothaville, Sasolburg, Marquard, Marseilles (Marseilles?!), Heilbron, Winburg, Senekal, Ficksburg and Kroonstad, but no mention of that jewel of the Eastern Free State Harrismith!

Amazing. He writes about all those flat dusty nothing-dorps and he omits the one shining light green oasis in the Vrystaat!
I suspect Harrismith “died” before the others? We grew up with the Chodos’, the Cohens, the Shadfords, Mrs Schwartz, Fanny Glick, the Longbottoms, Randolf & Bibi Stiller and others whose faces I can see but names . . my Mom and Dad and Sheila will remember . .
But by 1972 we were dancing to Creedence Clearwater Revival at discos put on by Round Table in the already de-commissioned synagogue – at least fifteen years before Bethlehem’s was closed.
Sigh! Once again Harrismith gets smoked by Bethlehem in the fame stakes.
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The book has plenty amusing snippets. As the last few Jews die in the dorps, Silberhaft buries them, sometimes in cemeteries that haven’t had burials in them for yonks and decades. “Gave the cemetery a new lease on life” he says . . .

One oke’s Dad was scared of flying and specified: “Don’t you dare send me in a coffin in an airplane hold”, so his son rented a kombi and drove the body to West Park cemetery in Joburg. Silberhaft then buried him and wrote to the son “I know your Dad liked to jol, so I buried him near the fence in case he wants to get out and hit the town.”

Some okes had long given up the faith, so when he tried to visit them in their little dorp some skrikked and quickly – and maybe briefly? – became kosher again! Others were way past all that and “voetsekked” him! Sent him packing.

Seems Silberhaft had a big thing about strict kosher living and – especially – eating. He would make a big thing if people were kosher and a bigger scene if they had slipped off the strict and narrow – and slippery! – path. Even though to stay kosher meant you had to have your meat brought in from outside, or have a kosher slaughterer come to you to slit your animals! He would take kosher meat in his boot to give to people (which suggests that in between they probably ate pragmatically?).

Pictures of the Bethlehem shul by Jono David at jewishphotolibrary.wordpress.com. It’s now a car parts shop, but check the lovely pressed-steel ceiling and the chandelier.

The Bethlehem cemetery picture is also Jono David’s. He’s also at jewishphotolibrary.smugmug.com

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On 2014/06/06 Steve Reed, Bethlehem Boy, wrote:

Thanks Koos, interesting stuff. We lived across the road from the Bethlehem shul. In a flat which was the subject of great intrigue to my school friends, all of whom had huge family homes in Oxford street and Cambridge street. The Tobias residence was in an even fancier part of town, along with the Meyerowitz residence, the Goldberg residence and others, high on the hill. Here you found swimming pools and things called “rumpus rooms”. I was an adopted member of the Tobias family, yes. From the wrong side of town, near Kraay’s Bakery. The Mann brothers, the paint magnates who lived even higher on the hill, referred to them as ‘Kraay the Beloved Baker”. Once again, the bread connection!

For Les Tobias’s bar mitzvah, I pitched up in my school (shul?) uniform as there was no way we could afford a suit. Having been a St. Andrews boy before moving to Bethlehem, this was an OK thing to do – presumably with the Saints fees, it was understood there was no money for suits. Must have got a few tongues wagging. Surprised we didn’t start getting food parcels from the Jewish community after that.
On 2014/06/08 Brauer wrote:
The travelling rabbi’s old man is my mom’s neighbour in JAFFA – the Pretoria Jewish old age home.

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voetsekked – bugger off

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correspondence followed:

Pete Swanepoel – Wrote a little blog post about that book on Bethlehem where they battled to find three wise men.

Peter Brauer – So the shul is a car parts shop? They probably sold the shofar as a
much sought-after retro hooter (or horn).
 shofar
Swanepoel – Couldnt there be a market for a mobile jewish wedding car – with removable roof and twin shofars, with a floor to dance and smash things on? I have to think of something to make cash post-optometry. Could I be the rabbi, or would I have to use a rent-a-rabbi?

Brauer – Conditional. We’ll let you be the rabbi if you have the snip.

Swanepoel – Eish!! It just shrank and retreated to only eleven inches in the shade at the thought. What the rabbis don’t know is my definition of minor surgery: Surgery on someone else.

Telecommunicating, Clarens-style

TV, harbinger of kommunisme, arrived in South Africa in 1976. This in spite of the Nationalist Party’s Posts and Telecommunications Minister Albert Hertzog’s determination not to telecommunicate.

Hertzog had vowed that television would come to South Africa over his dead body, denouncing it as ‘a miniature bioscope over which parents would have no control’. He also argued that “imported fillums showing race mixing and advertising would make non-white Africans (or ‘plurals’) dissatisfied with their lot.” The new medium was the “devil’s own box, for disseminating communism and immorality.” The influential Dutch Reformed Church (the National Party at prayer) saw the new medium as ‘degenerate and immoral’. No doubt they had to send a few dominees oorsee to check and make sure it was as bad as vey fought. Dominees can be like that. Prime Minister Hendrik Verwoerd was also full of wisdom, comparing television to atomic bombs and poison gas – “they are modern things, but that does not mean they are desirable. The goverrinmint has to watch for any dangers to the people, both spiritual and physical.”

Very prescient of them all: I mean do we have free speech and human rights now? See! They TOLD you so! Not to even mention the scourge of ree-hality TV.

But TV came to South Africa irregardless, only not to Clarens. Citizens of Clarens had to listen enviously to Bethlehem se mense when they spoke of staring at the test pattern or watching The World At War.

Then came The Dingleys and The Villagers, as well as comedy series Biltong and Potroast’s SA vs British comedians shootout, and variety program The Knicky Knacky Knoo Show. Also The Sweeney in Afrikaans (called Blitspatrollie). Things were now getting Crucial in Clarens! The frustrasie mounted.

Then: A breakthrough! Someone discovered there was TV reception on the top of Mount Horeb which looms above the dorp! Mount Horeb, where Moses got the Ten Commandments, was about to beam down much breaking of the seventh and tenth commandments – the ones about adultery and coveting your neighbour’s wife’s ass. Yes, Mount Horeb is near Clarens, as is Bethlehem and the River Jordan. They wrote a book about it.

What was needed was a ‘repeater’. A what? A repeater. You get an aerial to catch the signal, then a repeater, then another aerial aimed down at the dorp and voila (or ‘daar’s hy’): you have TV.

Steve Reed, son of hizzonner, the incumbent Lord Mayor of Clarens at that historic time, writes of the “many trips up Mount Horeb: “At one stage we enlisted the TV expert from the Bethlehem TV shop – Haas Das. Two-way radios were used to speak to the manne down in the dorp, hunched over the test TV set:

“Hoe lyk die picture nou? Over”

“Nee man dis net sneeu – Over”

“En nou? Over”

“Dis nog steeds net sneeu. Over”

Ens ens…”

So that was done and TV arrived in Clarens to groot vreugde and great joy. The mense didn’t know it, but they had embarked on learning to speak Engels.

tv.jpg

And then it died. Wat de hel gaan aan? The battery’s flat. What battery? Ja, it has a battery to drive the repeater. O bliksem, so a roster had to be drawn up for all the townsfolk to take turns driving up Mount Horeb to change the battery and bring the flat one down to charge it. Daily. Every day. (Moses se Moses, he only went up Mount Horeb once).

Porters Hella Hella (6)

—   Different home-made repeater aerial; Same battery-changing chore.- —   This one at Hella Hella

Then there was peace on Earth and goodwill toward men. Except if men forgot their roster slot. Then there was hell to pay. Later a wind charger was installed so they didn’t have to change batteries every day.

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kommunisme – communism

fillums – motion pictures

devil’s own box – duiwel se eie doos

dominees oorsee – I’m guessing they sent preachers overseas to patriotically watch porn

vey fought – they thought

goverrinmint – guvmint (Pik Botha discovered the ‘R’ in guvmint, his only achievement as Minister of Foreign Affairs. He was actually better at local affairs, taking gewillige meisies to farms for frolics around the braai)

gewillige meisies – willing lasses

Bethelehem se mense – Bethlehem’s people

frustrasie – frustration, impotence, FOMO

dorp – village

daar’s hy – there it is, Suzelle, voila

manne – the boys

“Hoe lyk die picture nou? Over” – What’s the picture look like? Over

“Nee man dis net sneeu – Over” – No man, its just snow – Over

“En nou? Over” – And now? Over

Ens ens... – etc etc

groot vreugde – great joy

Wat de hel gaan aan? – WTF; What gives? Whatsa happening?

O bliksem – Oh shit

se Moses – like . . . “that was nothing!”

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I wanted to know more about how they did this, so I asked

The South African Radio League

The National Association for Amateur Radio in South Africa

Proudly serving Amateur Radio since 1925

and got a reply from Jaap:

Yes this is no secret, in fact we at the SABC/ Sentech, encouraged the use of TV repeaters for the smaller communities, and at one stage there were more privately owned “self- help” TV stations than those we ran for the SABC.

The right way to do this was to purchase a transposer, a combined TV receiver and transmitter that will receive a TV signal on one channel, then re-broadcast the signal on another channel. This could be UHF-UHF or VHF-VHF or VHF-UHF. Then you need a receive antenna and transmit antenna. Install on a high structure, such as a grain silo or mountain top. This transposers was in the order of 1-10 Watts output. This then would receive the distant TV signal from the TX station through a front-end amplifier on one channel before feeding into the transposer, and transmitting it on another channel.

The cheap and dirty, crude way was to get hold of a VCR with AV out, a TV tuner with a AV output, or even a modified TV set. The AV output would then be taken to a TV modulator, which you can buy off the shelf, and then tune it to a suitable channel, and then put the RF into a amplifier that could be home-built or even a commercial distribution (set-back amplifier ) connect it to the antenna and away you go. Equipment could be bought from your local TV spares/ equipment dealer, Ellies Electronics, Space TV, or even your local co-op store. Drawback was that only one channel, normally TV3 (SABC3) could be re-broadcasted like this, any other additional channels would have to have identical set-ups.

According to the law, such self-help stations had to be licensed by the SABC, but many of them did not bother to do so. Obviously the home-brewed equipment was very prone to causing interference as the amplifiers they used was not channelized, with no filtering whatsoever.

In all instances the equipment had to be placed so that the clearest possible signal could be received and the maintenance of such repeaters was obviously the responsibility of that community.

Voila.