5 April 2020 – Today exactly fifty years ago was also a Sunday. I know this cos sister Sheila kept a diary in high school and every now and then she pops out with an entry that brings back a flood of memories. Even everyday entries like ‘had lunch at (place) with (people)’ can trigger memories and start some lovely reminiscing.
On the 5th April 1970 she wrote:
Climbed Mt aux Sources, had lunch at the waterfall and climbed down again.
“My descriptive writing was still under development” she now says! She was thirteen years and ten months at the time. I had just turned fifteen. Mother Mary was forty one.
Leading us were Mother Mary, Uncle Cappy and Auntie Joyce Joubert. Making up the party were two older boys, Etienne Joubert and Whitey Fourie; then myself, Sheila and Deon Joubert, in descending age order.
Mom always knew all the peak names – from the Sentinel to Giants Castle.
The feature pic of the chain ladder is more recent – to show the surroundings – the second chain ladder on the right in that pic was added long after 1970. For wimps. Like airbags in cars, we didn’t have spare ladders back in our day (!!!). Here’s a pic of how I first remember it – one ladder, with wooden beams to keep the rungs away from the rockface.
Around April 1970:
Rhodesia under Ian Smith had just become a Republic, severing their last ties with Britain;
Apollo 13 was in space, having gone to the moon but not landed, after an oxygen tank had malfunctioned; The first moon landing had been eight months earlier;
We were singing 1969 and 1970 hits like – All Kinds Of Everything; Mama Told Me Not To Come; Build Me Up Buttercup; Crimson and Clover; Proud Mary; Come Together; and many MANY more! In the Summertime; A Boy Named Sue; My Baby Loves Lovin’; Ma Belle Amie; Yellow River; Beatles hits; Elvis hits; Creedence hits – a long list, seared into our memories, never to be forgotten.
I’ve never forgotten “kickin’ and a-gougin’ in the mud and the blood and the beer . . “
Uncle Cappy was a mentor to his three sons and to many others around him. He was a huge influence in my life. He taught me how to play cricket, how to rough-and-tumble, how to BE THERE for your family; how to do the right thing. That you did not have to be skynheilig to be good.
As Mobiloil’s representative in the district he had new cars every now and then, which were cause for great excitement. His winged green Zephyr 6 Mark III (made 1962-1966), then his stompgat gold Zephyr 6 Mk IV are the ones I remember best.
His job with Mobil took him all over the countryside, visiting farmers and the depots, so he knew the back roads around Harrismith – and sometimes he’d take us along.
He was always available to help: With sport, with Sunday school, with church, with lifts to sporting events, being Father Christmas, arranging picnics, umpiring cricket, playing cricket, coaching cricket;
I was raised by my Mom and her Mom Annie, so was in danger of being pieperig, as they were gentle, quiet ladies. Thank goodness for frequest visits to the Jouberts, with rugged Uncle Cappy, three tough boys and – the toughest of them all – Aunty Joyce! Cappy would show you exactly how to hold a cricket bat; he would warn the boys and if they didn’t listen, physically wrestle them to the ground and donner them. I remember Etienne wrestling back, squirming, protesting and not giving up, and Cappy holding him in a vice grip on the grass until he conceded! When Etienne went one step too far for Joyce in trading chirps and talkback, Joyce would finally get to the point where she’d lean forward from the waist and jeer, ‘Etienne Joubert met ‘n bek soos ‘n skȇr!’ LIVELY action at the Jouberts!
Typical older brother, Etienne would try and get youngest of us all, Deon to do stuff, pushing the little one into taking the risk for our reward. Once when Deon refused, he said, “Chicken!” and Deon instantly and heatedly responded “I aren’t a blerrie chicken cos I aren’t got fevvers!”
Full of jokes and ‘streke,’ I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Aunty Joyce with her Cape accent – she pronounced the Afrikaans ‘so’ as sue, not sewah as we did – that put Tuffy up to this prank.
I wrote to his eldest son Etienne one fine morning, soon after Uncle Cappy had died peacefully in his sleep on his ninetieth birthday:
I was lying in bed this morning listening to the birds and de-fragmenting the hard drive in my head when this popped up on some old grey cells:
Knyptang innie broeksakDinamiet innie gatsakVOORWAARTS die Ossewa Brandwag!
Also then, of course you have to remember his song on a moonlit night:
O, die maan skyn so helder . .
. . op my POEPHOL !
He was a huge influence in my life. A very good ‘normalising’ influence to go along with the more conventional, narrow influences!
I’m sure you can remember much more.
Yes, he did rather have many funny little sayings.
Hou die blink kant bo was another favourite.
The ‘knyptang’ one he’d say aloud in the yard so that Eben Louw could hear.
“C’mon guys, let’s play the game.” That would be when us children were arguing.
He based a lot of his life’s philosophy on Cricket & the fairness & unfairness thereof.
When he drove me to Pretoria to start in the bank he reminded me:
Never over dress or under dress.Do not drink on your own.A gentleman leaves the club before seven.
I miss him often in sticky situations.
Have a great day Koos.
Uncle Cappy widened our horizons where school and others tried to narrow them down. He showed us how you can be thoroughly decent and also naughty! So many skynheilige people who weren’t a patch on him would NEVER swear in front of us boys, but Cappy did – with a twinkle in his eyes. Now, mind, he never swore in front of us in front of Auntie Joyce! That’s for sure! That mischief was for boys-only gatherings.
As he was Mobil and Annie – my gran – was Caltex, those were the ONLY fuels we would even THINK of using in our cars. Our non-existent cars. We would NEVER use Shell or BP!
So when one day we were in his car at the fuel depot and we saw a Caltex tanker filling up from the BP tank we were MORTIFIED!! What!!?
Cappy calmly set our minds at rest, ‘All fuels are basically the same,’ he said – to our loyal mystification. ‘It’s the additives we add afterwards that make them different,’ he explained.
We were half-mollified.
'You never forget the people
who were kind to you in childhood'
- PD James, English detective novelist
skynheilig – pseudo-holy; fake
stompgat – short tail
pieperig – a softie
Etienne Joubert met ‘n bek soos ‘n skȇr! – ‘Etienne bigmouth’
streke – waggery; jokes; pranks
knyptang, etc – the Ossewa Brandwag was a racist, anti-semitic, anti-British and pro-German organisation in South Africa during World War II. Justifiably angry at what Britain had done to them in the Anglo-Boer war, they over-reacted churlishly. Cappy had volunteered for the war and gone off to battle; on his return his church spurned him for wearing his uniform, so he joined the Methodists – the Methodists’ gain.
O, die maan skyn so helder – romantic: the moon shines so brightly
. . . op my POEPHOL ! – on my arsehole ! The sting in the tail of his mischievous ‘romantic’ song!
Hou die blink kant bo – keep smiling; look on the bright side
We always called it The Moth Hall, and for a while it was where Dad was probably drinking. But it was more correctly called Platberg Shellhole of the M.O.T.Hs – The Memorable Order of Tin Hats. And there was an older shellhole before that one – an older ‘Moth Hall’. It was down near the railway line; down near the Royal Hotel.
This was where old servicemen would lie to each other and themselves in song:
“Old Soldiers Never Die;
Never Die, Never Die;
Old Soldiers Never Die;
They Just Fade Away.”
Back then they were all survivors of WW1 and WW2. Only later did they take in ever-more members from ever-more wars. And there’s an endless supply of those; the armaments industry sees to that.
The things I remember about the old shellhole was playing in the dark next to and behind the building – big adventure; And seeing 16mm movies, with big reels whirring in the dark; some were sponsored by Caltex and other companies; I remember Hatari! about yanks in darkest Africa, catching animals for zoos; It starred John Wayne, but who was he to us, back then?
. . and Northern Safari, about a 4X4 safari in the Australian outback with a very annoying theme song “We’re Going NORTH on a Northern Safari! We’re Going NORTH on a Northern Safari! We’re Going NORTH on a Northern Safari!” ad nauseum. We loved it!
What the folks would remember, if the truth be told, would be booze and sing-alongs and booze and skits and booze and plays; these were the order of the day. * click on the pic * if you want to read some names.
Seated on the left next to Mary Swanepoel and Trudi Else in full voice, is Harold Taylor, veteran of WW1. Under those voluminous trousers is one wooden leg. The other is buried at Delville Wood. He would take his turn standing next to the piano singing:
Mary & Trudy
Etienne Joubert remembers:
The old MOTH hall was not opposite the Royal Hotel but in the vicinity. In fact it was next to Llewellyn & Eugene Georgiou’s home. It was near the railway line below the G’s house.
I remember Ray Taylor who had some shrapnel in his head, not Harold with a wooden leg; also Uncle Jack Hunt; Arthur Gray & of course your folks. I also remember playing in the dark outside. I remember my first sip of beer which I did not like; but I overcame this in years to come to absolutely love it!
I remember the song A Long Way To Tipperary; The piano was very rickety, as was the wooden floor, which squeaked with the slightest step. On the walls were very big portraits of Winston Churchill & Jan Smuts; Dan Pienaar was also there, but smaller; and a pin-up of Jayne Mansfield. This pin up made it to the “new” Moth Hall.
One thing I did not like was helping my Old Man clean the Shellhole on a Saturday morning; the smell of stale beer & cigarette smoke remains very vivid in my memory.
– royalty-free pic dreamstime –
and here’s Vera Lynn, 101 yrs old and still going (Nov 2018). In 2009, at the age of 92, Lynn became the oldest living artist to make it to number 1 in the British album chart.
The ole man acting Paganini:
The real Niccolo Paganini – and probly why the ole man wanted to be him:
When he was eighteen the young virtuoso escaped his father’s control, following his elder brother to the Tuscan city of Lucca. “Freed from parental control, Paganini embarked on a life of famous excess. As he later put it, ‘When at last I was my own master I drew in the pleasures of life in deep draughts.’ He would spend the next twenty-seven years in Italy, filling his life with music, love affairs, and gambling, interrupted by long periods of utter exhaustion.”
Around 1965 or thereabouts, I got an early morning phone call filled with excitement and urgency: “Koos! Come quickly! Come see! There’s a snake in the hoona hock!”
Well, I was thrilled! This I had to see. You can live in a dorp and hike in the veld often and very seldom see snakes, so I hopped onto my dikwiel fiets and pedaled furiously. It was about a mile to the Joubert’s house. Down Hector Street, west along Stuart Street past Scotty’s house, past the MOTH Hall, then downhill in Piet Uys Street to their house on the spruit that ran between them and the meisieskoshuis.
As I pulled up the whole family was there to meet me, Aunty Joyce, Uncle Cappy, Etienne, Tuffy and Deon, laughing and shouting “Happy Birthday!”
There was no snake. I’d not realised it was the 1st of April.