Martha and My Man Friday

This beautiful 1938 Buick Coupe was a regular sight on the streets of Harrismith back in the Sixties.

Martha McDonald and her friend Carrie Friday used to cruise the streets going nowhere. Mom called them Martha and My Man Friday after Robinson Crusoe.

Years later Sheila found out that PMB restorer Ty Terblanche had found it, bought it and restored it to its former glory. Well done Ty! What a beaut!

1938 Buick coupe2

With childish logic and mischief we’d occasionally throw it wif a stone (as we’d mockingly say). Always missed, mind you.

Here’s a better angle to showcase those beautiful lines (thanks, conceptcarz):

Buick 1938

 

The Marvelous Brauer/Stromberg

Very few people realise just how good the Stromberg is. One of those few is Brauer. He knows, as he invested a large portion of his student fortune in one at The Rand Easter Show one year (or was it the Pretoria Skou?).

We watched a demonstration in fascination. I mean EVERY time the good honest man hooked in the Stromberg the engine ran sweetly and WHENEVER he unhooked the Stromberg it spluttered and farted. Brauer was SOLD. He just KNEW this was the answer to his faded-white Austin with faded-black linoleum roof’s problems. Instead of taking it for a long overdue service and changing the oil, water, filter and spark plugs, he would sommer just fit a Stromberg. What could possibly go wrong go wrong, and who could doubt this:

Stromberg

Here’s an email thread discussing the amazing Stromberg phenomenon:

On 2015/08/30 22:29, steve reed wrote:

Subject: Re: Fat takkies

Further proof that nothing stays the same.

From our youthful past, it was always a “given” that the back takkies would be fatter than the front …Specially if you have the windgat  version.

Now the Audi RS3 has em 2cm fatter  in the front than the back if you have the windgat version.

Really…I am getting too old for all this.  Do they have to mess with everything?


From: pete swanepoel home
Subject: Re: Fat takkies

Yep. Because they can . . .

I remember the mindset change I had to undergo when diesels started getting status. Ditto when auto boxes started making more sense than manual? Had to quietly swallow a few ‘definite’ and ‘absolute’ statements made in ignorance!

One of my fascinations has been looking up when the first ____ (whatever) was ever fitted or used in a car.

First diesel engined production car — 1935 Citroen Rosalie
First patent for seat belts – 1885. But still not compulsory when we grew up and STILL not compulsory throughout the USA today. (Politicians in many states wouldn’t dare vote for such a law!).
First 8-speed manual – 1931 Maybach DS8
First automatic transmission – 1939 Oldsmobile (Hydra-Matic, also the first 4-speed automatic). Remember “Hydra Matic” in the Grease song?
First petrol-electric hybrid – 1899 Lohner-Porsche Mixte
First modern hybrid car – 1904 Auto-Mixte (Belgium)
First four-wheel drive car – 1910 Caldwell Vale
First trip computer – 1958 Saab GT750

and so on – almost always WAY before I would have guessed !


On 2015/08/31 00:18, Peter Brauer wrote:

A glaring omission has been noted from your ”when was it first fitted” list:

THE FAMOUS STROMBERG

Do you recall how I had Alan Saks (the great car fundi) going  on this one…


From: pete swanepoel home:

I do. Didn’t we see it some show or other? A great demonstration. If it had been a religion I’d have converted. I would be a Strombergie now.

Who would think Pretoria would have a skou!? What is there to show?

So Alan was not an all-knowing deskundige after all?! Even HE could learn a thing or two?
—————————————————————

On 2015/09/01 01:55, Peter Brauer wrote:

The one and only Pretoria Skou. Installed in my Cortina that Alan had driven in a few days prior and was subjected to the stop/start lurching and had many remedies and suggestions. I obviously thanked him for his advice BUT ALSO ENLIGHTENED HIM RE THE NEWLY PURCHASED SOLVER-OF-ALL-CAR-PROBLEMS . . . THE STROMBERG. (Remembering the  “God-ordained” visit to the Skou and Stromberg stand where we witnessed the justifiably impressive presentation of a product that should have outstripped Microsoft in sales).

To which he chuckled and shook his head in disbelief. I hauled it off the floor behind the driver’s seat to show him. I remember a few choice expletives….”complete f…ing piece of sh-t” etc etc.

So that weekend I started installing said Stromberg, which involved a rare opening of the bonnet (a procedure I normally advise against to any motoring enthusiast). For starters (no pun intended), after glancing at the oil coated sparks, I thought that while the bonnet was open I might just clean the sparks and set the gaps. Before removing the Stromberg off it’s familiar position of lying on the floor behind the driver’s seat I thought I’d take the Cortina for a spin to see if it still could go after my risky DIY service.

old cortina.jpg

Shit a brick….it flew! (“why the hell didn’t I do that long ago!?” rolling through my thoughts as the apparently turbocharged Cortina used our sedate suburban streets as its new-found race track).

After getting back home I parked the car and almost forget what I’d started….THE STROMBERG.

I quickly installed it on-line on the main spark lead and couldn’t wait for Alan’s visit that arvie. Chucked him my keys and said he should take the Cortina for a spin to see if he could tell if the Stromberg had made any diffs………………. The rest is folklore history……….he was stunned into silence, well for at least 3 minutes – but a Saks record nevertheless.


From: pete swanepoel home

You forgot to put in the most important feature of the Cortina: The colour. What colour was it?

(I read about a popular radio talk show in the States: Two brothers had a “Car Experts” show. People would phone in and ask about the problems they were having with their cars. Long technical details of what the clutch and carburetor and shit were doing and where the smoke was coming out of etc etc – and the one brother would ask “Tell me: This Corvette of yours: What color is it?”).

Casa Blanca Roadhouse, Joburg

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.

Deja Vu

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.

Borrowing Dad’s Car Started Long Ago

1024px-Peter_Paul_Rubens_-_The_Fall_of_Phaeton_(National_Gallery_of_Art)

Helios gave his son Phaeton permission to drive the Sun chariot around the Earth. Helios was the Sun God, and a son of almighty Zeus.

Talk about “Don’t Spare the Horses”! Typical youth, the lad Phaeton took some sporting chicks along for the ride, lost control of those horses and the chariot ran amok. The world was at risk of being incinerated!

Grandfather Zeus was thus forced to kill him. Zap! Zeus could gooi a mean lightning bolt if you pissed him off.

I’m glad the punishment became a bit milder in our day.

Come to think of it, we never did get punished. Never got caught, though I can’t imagine our folks didn’t have a shrewd idea of what was happening – at least an inkling. In the early days of illicit driving I used to drive the old blue kombi OHS 153 around our large garden at 95 Stuart Street.

 

kombi2 like this one, but OHS 153

Round the circular driveway, down the Hector Street side of the house, down the steep bank to the big front lawn, round the willow tree and back. Back near the garages was the washing line and the kombi just fit under it. Except I’d forgotten about the airvent on the roof. It caught the wires and pulled down the washing line poles. Some feverish spadework got them more or less vertical again and the old blue kombi was parked back in its exact spot outside the garage.

Another time I reversed into the tap at the horse trough, the pipe broke and water sprayed out in a long arc. It was evening and the folks were out. Parking the kombi I hastened to the tap and straightened the downpipe, getting drenched in the freezing water – it was mid-winter. That caused less water to gush but there was still a very visible spout. Rushing down to the front gate I found the stopcock that turned off the main water supply. That fixed it and I went to bed before the folks got home. The next morning I rose very early and turned the stopcock back on. “Pipe must have frozen and burst last night” was the consensus at breakfast. Saved by Harrismith’s frigid winter weather!

Later we were showed how to do it PROPERLY by Steph de Witt!

More than once. And again. And again.

Raptures & Ruptures at ‘The Dev’

From: Pete
To: .Brauer work
To: .Steve Reed Pte
To: .Jon Taylor
Subject: The Hotel Devonshire – famous again
Sent: 23 May 2011 09:21

I see the “rapture” crazies chose the Dev to await the end of their world.
In some ways it was the beginning of mine!

“Buite die Devonshire-hotel in Braamfontein, waar Suid-Afrikaanse aanhangers van die wegraping-kultus saamgetrek het om op die eindtyd te wag, het hulle vir oulaas mense op straat probeer oortuig om by hulle aan te sluit.”

http://www.rapport.co.za/Suid-Afrika/Nuus/En-die-aarde-draai-steeds-20110521
—————————————

Brauer pb@stbopt.co.za wrote:
In some ways the beginning, yes. But in many ways fuckin’ close to the end. No doubt the reason why they chose it – for symbolic reasons . .

————
Pete <pete@sheila.co.za> wrote:
Actually
And come to think of it . . .

How we survived some of those lightly-inebriated evenings in our um, almost roadworthy jalopies . . .

Maybe THAT’S the miracle they’re referring to!

I have a clear thutty-year-old mental picture of laughing at some oke hanging out of the left rear window of a car spray-painting it with chunder in Wolmarans Street. I’m in another car, witnessing the sight. (Our car probly full of sober okes on their way back from Shul. Probly a Friday).
Who and whose car is mentally blurry, though. Beige colour. Thin exhaust pipe.

Austin Apache, maybe?

—————————————————-
steve reed <screed64@gmail.com> wrote:
Ah that dapper little beige beauty. Memories of crossing Nugget Street on Wolmarans at high speed when Swain Pull has a flash of genius and yanks up the handbriek, Barely a murmur of “Oh Pete” from mesdames Fotherby and Forsdick on the back seat as we 360. Thank heavens in 1977 the ABS EBD BA and ESC all kicked in after the 5th beer. Only one airbag in the vehicle in those days however.
—————–
Pete <pete@sheila.co.za> wrote:
I learnt that trick from Pierre du Plessis. He used to do it in his old lady’s little Ford Prefect. Difference, I suppose, was sober and in Harrismith’s little quiet streets where we knew the cops by name.
And speaking of chundering: Pierre himself threw a mighty one outside Bergville after a wedding to which we had not been invited, but had partaken in. Thoroughly. Luckily it was his own Datsun 1200 bakkie in which he was a passenger.
Light green. The bakkie. The other was multi-colour yellowish.

—————————————————————
Steve wrote:
I do remember partaking in an engagement party to which we had not been invited at a little Drakenberg resort. Arrived just as the happy couple were having a post party nightcap with the family. The bloke’s fiance took quite a fancy to us rough boys [we fancied through our drunken haze] and one of us asked her to dance. The blokes family got into an angry huddle and declared the party over – stat. We were sadly abandoned and the generator was switched off leaving us sad creatures to polish off all their left-over booze in the dark. We seemed not to mind this too much.
————————
Pete pete@sheila.co.za wrote:

The Devonshire!
Remember the Hotel School okes?! Disgraceful. Was it them who auctioned the chicks?

Hold on! Another sudden flashback picture: “Nugget” – short, wild hair and a beard – and poes-dronk through the beer-splatter in the Dev.
Remember him? Got his name (it was said) when he rolled down Nugget Hill, blind as only the thoroughly drunk can be.

He had a huge mate Syd Someone (Oertel?), who did civil engineering between beers.
I may have met both these characters through Pierre (he did civils – inappropriate name if ever there was one) at WCATE, remember?

One would have thought these cells would have been obliterated ages ago.
———————
steve reed wrote:
To me the most worshipped oke in the Dev was the bloke from hotel school who could drink a quart of Castle standing on his head.

(Ah, such tertiary skills!)

P Addled Brains

That Pretoria restaurant probably spiked our drinks with omega fish oil because when they finally asked us to leave we were brilliant.
We wisely allowed Terry to drive my white Ford Cortina 2-litre deluxe GL while Pierre and Old Pete and I gave directions, instructions, comments, witticisms and dropped pearls of wisdom.
‘Twas a balmy night and the breeze was slight. The canoe on the roofrack seemed to Brauer to be a better bet for catching that breeze, so he nimbly hopped out of the window and sat in the cockpit of my Dusi boat. A white Limfy with red deck it was. I was on an army camp and brought the boat to get some time off as I was “training for Dusi” on Roodeplaat dam.

First Duzi. Dad seconds in my Cortina 2,0l GL

Terry thought ‘Uh! Oh! HKK’* and pressed on the accelerator to get us home quicker, which meant the breeze inside the car was now adequate. With Brauer’s departure the average IQ in the car had also risen appreciably.
Outside meantime, Brauer started undoing the paddle possibly thinking he could speed up matters if he also paddled through the air. My warnings that the rope tying the paddle on was also the rope holding the boat on just spurred him to loosen it more. You know how he is.
Which caused Terry to press harder on the accelerator thinking if I go really fast maybe the cops won’t notice there’s a carbuncle on my roof and now we were FLYING! This was not good . . .
Brauer’s ass was saved by a red light where we managed to haul him down and explain gravity, wind resistance, speed, impact, abrasions, contusions and broken bones to him.

He did seem to understand, as he poured some stiff drinks when we got home to the Gramadoelas in Tshwane (ancestral home of the original Tshwanepoels – to which we have land claim rights, but that’s a story for another barmy evening).


*HKK = Hier Kom Kak = Here Comes Trouble

I Must Go Down To The Sea Again . .

 . . .  to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

Maybe Steph was thinking of Masefield’s poem when he suggested we’d done enough short jaunts with our parents’ cars late at night while the dorp was sleeping and good kids were in bed dreaming of homework well done.

Been to Kestell? Tick;

Been to Swinburne? Tick;

Been to Queen’s Hill? Tick;

Had a head-on collision with a hill on Queen’s Hill? Tick;

Drifting laps around the atletiekbaan in Pres Brand Park? Tick;

Donuts on the high school netball courts? Tick;

What was there left to do? Maybe this was the first sign of his lifelong love of the sea (sailing his huge ocean-going catamaran and fishing on his skiboat off Sordwana)?
In those far-off days, that was yet to come.

Whatever – (let’s face it, more likely Steph was just thinking ADVENTURE! REBELLION! ADRENALIN!) – he started us plotting a biggie.
It was most probably he who came up with the bold idea:
I know. Let’s go to Durbs, dip our toes in the Indian Ocean and bring back a bottle of sea water, and – as always – be back before sonop.
RIGHT!!

We must plan:
– We need the white Corsair, not the black Saab; It’s faster.

Ford Corsair Theirs was white – and 4-door

– We must leave much earlier. We can’t wait for our parents to fall asleep; We need longer.

But not too much planning – I don’t remember discussing fuel or mileage or consumption. Those weren’t really fashionable topics in those days.

So Steph strolls into his Mom Alet’s bedroom (the one nearest the long getaway driveway) to talk to her as she lies reading in bed. At a given signal we start wheeling the Corsair out of the open garage and down the long driveway to Stuart Street. The driveway is downhill (that helps) and made of two long concrete strips (that doesn’t help: the wheels fall off the edge GghgGghgGghg! SHHH! shhh!).

And they’re off!
There’s no beer this trip. This is more serious. It’s a journey, not a jaunt. We have a mission.

We roar past Swinburne; We roar past van Reenen; Down van Reenen’s Pass; Past Ladysmith and on into unknown territory.

Suddenly: Blue lights! Oh Shit! They’re after us. We slow down a little bit. Just to the speed limit. We sit straight in the car, no slouching. We rehearse our story: Ja Meneer. Nee Meneer. The flashing blue light fills the car – then overtakes us and whizzes past and shrinks into the distance.

We slow down. We think. We reconsider. Wordlessly, we make a U-turn and head back to the big HY.

Oh well, it was a good idea while it lasted.
And anyway, that story about the bottled sea water is just a myth.

———————————————————————-

I must go down to the sea again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

R.I.P Steph, our histories are forever entwined. You are part of who I am. My sense of self would be poorer without those mad crazy daze!