4 Hillside Road, Parktown Joburg

I was looking thru Dan Palatnik’s Digital Garage (well worth a visit) and an old Willys Jeep reminded me of Leibs and Achim lying under their old Jeeps in the backyard of our communal home at 4 Hillside Road, Parktown. Mainly they were banging out rust and stuffing V8’s under the bonnets.

Willys Jeep 1947.jpg
Theirs never looked this good

Achim went on to do a lot of off-road rallying in Brits, where he ran his optometric practice with his bream, wife and former lecturer Eva the  dispensing optician. On the side he ran a garage to tjoon up his racing 4X4’s and fit divorce pipes, one of which eventually got him. Maybe she kicked him out for getting grease on the contact lenses?

Inmates of 4 Hillside I remember are:
– Pierre ‘Leibs’ Leibbrandt and the lovely Claire. As students we fitted Leibs with silicon permawear contact lenses! He drove an Alfa Romeo;
– Granger Grey. Grey VW Beetle;
– Donald ‘Coolsie’ Collins. (“You take off your clothes, I’m just having a shit . . ” to part-time girlfriend ‘Vaalwater’);
– Mike Doyle, girlfriend Michaela or ‘Shale’. Old blue LandRover;
– Clive ‘Nel’ Nel. A book could and should be written. “Dee dee dee BARKER!! baap”. Endured by the wonderful and long-suffering Sandy Norts. White Mazda RX2;
– Glen ‘Barks’ Barker. Another book. Green Toyota Corona;
– Gerald ‘Gelard’ the Malawian butler with ambitions of becoming a tycoon. Hurt that we thought mowing the lawn was in his portfolio. He called Coolsie Boss Donut.

Friends-of-4-Hillside included: – Jos, another teacher who lived nearby. Not tall, with high-plus specs, an Alfa and a lovely girlfriend; – ‘Norbs’ Norbury. Yet another educator. Big black beard. Norbs imitated Charles Fortune to perfection at the Wanderers cricket ground, entertaining the inebriated crowds on the grassy banks as he waxed lyrical about the clouds and the birds while blissfully ignoring the fall of a wicket. Would sing loud John Denver: “You Philip My Dentures . . . “;

Other memories: Sitting in the crowded little TV lounge watching the news and Dorianne Berry came on to read the news wearing a strapless top, the camera only showing above it. “Ooh, maybe we’ll get to see Dorianne’s berries”, was the call. Disappointed.

Dorianne Berry

Lying under the grey-and-grey Opel fixing the drum brakes before going to Port Shepstone. Now, who the hell would drive 700km in a car whose brakes I had fiddled with!? Turns out a few students, including the delightful Cheryl Forsdick;
Brauer irresponsibly dancing on the roof of that same Opel at the late-night farewell end-of-term party held at 4 Hillside.

The delightful SSS Featherbed Fotherby was a welcome visitor to 4 Hillside in one of the few lucky – and brief – periods I ‘had a girlfriend’!

Steve Reed wrote: Granger – never forgotten. Mostly for his height-enhancing shoe-stuffing for weight watchers meetings;

Pete Brauer wrote: More vivid nostalgic memories of Granger Grey shoving quarts of Black Label down his throat;

I remember Granger Grey (6ft 4 by 4ft 6 wide) getting home late one night, well-oiled with a placid beam on his face. He joined us students braaiing on the lawn next to the pool and started eyeing the sizzling meat. Borrowing one ale after the other he got progressively more glass-eyed and we watched in awe as he swayed, Obelix-like, WAY past a normal centre of gravity then slowed to a halt, jutting chin way forward, eyes on the tjops n boerie and then SLO-OWLY swayed back to upright, then way back, with his beer resting on his boep till he was leaning 450 backwards  and HAD to see his arse but halted, hovered and started the slow sway forward again. Musta been the size eleventeen shoes that held him!

We had to hurriedly clear the braai and endure his hurt look. Imperative to be tough and take evasive action when Granger got near food though: Gerard the Malawian butler on steak days would cook the veggies and spuds and put the seven big steaks on the wall above the fridge in the 4 Hillside kitchen. Strict house rule: Whoever cracked first had to divide the veg into seven equal portions and could only then cook his own steak and eat.
Granger got home early one day and did just that. Then he had just ONE more steak ‘cos, hey! maybe someone wouldn’t be coming home and that would be a waste. Then he had another . . . .

As he finished the seventh and last steak he was overcome by remorse and panic. He hopped in to his long-suffering grey Beetle and hared off to Fontana in Hillbrow and bought two roast chickens off their rotisserie to replace the looted steaks. Alas, on the way home one of the chickens clucked seductively and persuasively and he ate most of that before finally plonking one lonely fowl on the wall for us to share.

Granger Fontana chicken

Granger. Heart of gold. He had bigger brothers, one called Tiny. He read Ayn Rand and thought she was on to something.

Steve Reed again: The legend that I subscribe to is that the famous Vespa scooter that ended up on the bottom of the 4 Hillside Road pool originally belonged to a bird called Terry  who later married Keith Taylor. Keith’s brother Ian Taylor [who became a Doctor] had apparently commandeered Terry’s scooter and somehow it had ended up at 4 Hillside where it met its famous fate. Of course, the story may be the result of the effects on Terry of the third bottle of  pinot noir  on a cold Auckland night.

Vespa scooter reminds me of Keith Ballin zipping along, specs and moustache peering out from under his helmet, scarf trailing behind him in the breeze!

=======ooo000ooo=======
I don’t like nostalgia unless it’s mine.
(Lou Reed)

Nostalgia: A device that removes the potholes from memory lane.
(Doug Larson)

=======ooo000ooo=======

Vaalwater – name of young lass from the distant metropolis of Vaalwater

tjoon – tune-up in this case; sometimes ‘explain’

braai – barbecue

tjops n boerie – red meat sacrificed over an open flame

boep – stomach

=======ooo000ooo=======

‘Twas at 4 Hillside that a knock came at the front door. We knew it was a stranger as no-one knocked at the front door. Actually, no one knocked, you just walked into the kitchen door.

It was a pink-faced balding chap and he asked for Peter Swanepoel.

We found out later from Madeleine what had transpired: A pink-faced chap walked into the School of Optometry and enquired at reception: Who’s your BEST optometrist? When Madeleine asked Um, Why? he said I want to employ your best final year optom student. Stifling a grin Madeleine said Actually most of them already have jobs, they’re nearly finished their exams. Oh, said the pink-faced chap, So who hasn’t got a job yet?

The rumour that he then went on to ask OK, then who’s your WORST student? is just that: A vicious rumour.

4 Hillside Road Parktown

“4 Hillside” was a lovely big old communal house in Parktown, Johannesburg run by teachers (or former teachers) in the Hillside Road cul-de-sac on the corner of Empire Road. Hillsdie still is a leafy lane completely engulfed by big old Plane or Jacaranda trees, a lovely spot. The house was a lovely old white single story gabled family home with a circular driveway that had seen better days.

The inhabitants were:

Pierre ‘Leibs’ Leibbrandt and the lovely Claire – Alpha Romeo, sort of red, I think. Yellow?

Mike Doyle and Shale – faded blue Land Rover before the word Defender was invented. Or needed.

Granger Grey – always searching  – grey VW beetle. Six-foot-plenty he was shaped like Obelix and towered over all of us. The only time he looked normal-sized was when his younger brother ‘Tiny’ visited and towered over him.

Donald  ‘Coolsie’ Collins – and various, including part-timer the slender ‘Vaalwater’ – VW beetle, I think.

Jos Den___ and the lovely Brenda – Alpha Romeo.

Hangers-on included Norbs – Norbert someone or someone Norbert? I forget. A bearded character who would mimic Charles Fortune the cricket commentator to a T and have the crowd on the grassy knoll at Castle corner in stitches as he chose the most exciting moment (and cricket has few of those) to talk about the birds, the trees and the shadows falling across the ground. I still sing Norbs’ John Denver song “You Philip My Dentures . . Like a Night in the Florist . . .”

The house was run by our Malawian butler, chef and character, the smiling Gerald or ‘Gerrard’, whose ambition was to be a tycoon. He called Coolsie ‘Boss Donut’ (for Donald). Never forgave us for thinking his duties included lawn mowing. Decent people would have hired a gardener and placed him under Gerrard’s command.

You would think teachers would have brains, but no, they allowed an optometry student into their hitherto blissful existence: Clive Nel of Kokstad and the ever-suffering Sandy Norton. Clive was allowed in as he offered to take a run-down tin shed annex and convert it into habitable quarters. And he did just that! Soon the shed was carpeted in fine vintage carpets, Rembrandts and Monets on the corrugated walls and makeshift shelves stocked with fine wines. He was generous with his wine was Nel so soon the teachers were (very) happy to have him! Also Norton was an asset which (almost) balanced Nel’s faults. White Mazda R8 CCW some numbers. I’m not kidding except for the Rembrandts and Monets.

The rot having set in, the next student to sully the joint was the inimitable Glen Barker, non-farming sugar and jersey cow farmer from Umzinto and Dumisa. Green Toyota Corona NX 106, inherited from Gran. They also had NX 101 and 102 and 103 and 104 and 105 – you get the picture: Old money in the Umzinto and Dumisa district. NX was for “Alexandra County”, Glen would remind us, knowing that behind the boerewors curtain we didn’t have counties, we had “distriks”.

Then they let me in – grey and grey Opel Rekord OHS 5678. I was given a shoe cupboard next to the spare bathroom and the second back door. So now it was down to four teachers and three students – a delicate balance.

Leibs was ‘doing up’ an old Jeep Station Wagon in the backyard. Mainly that meant squeezing a V8 engine into it. – (internet pics). This bad habit brought another optom student in as a day visitor. Achim Scholtz who would have been more welcome if he’d brought the fine German dispensing optician Eva along. But she was too wise to get greasy under the Jeep. Achim parked his Jeep next to Leibs’ so they could get greasy and talk ball bearings together.

jeep-wagon-jpg jeep-wagon_2

Others, less talented, also got involved in unorthodox car-restoration at 4 Hillside, but of a very different, alcohol-fuelled nature!

The problem of seven men all wearing boring black socks was ‘solved’ by building a long narrow wooden shelf in the passage where all socks were placed after washing. Sort them out yourself. Some of the holy ones would grow mould on that shelf.

The problem of feeding seven hungry men was solved by Gerrard cooking and placing the food in the oven. First man to crack and start eating had to divide the food onto seven plates and only then was he allowed to eat. This led to lots of circling around and cagey watching while pretending to be unconcerned, hoping someone else would crack first and do the tedious division under intense scrutiny.

On steak nights the potato and veg would be in the oven, the uncooked steaks high up on a shelf. This led to the memorable night when Granger cracked first. He was ravenous, so he divided the veg into seven and cooked his steak and ate it. Then he ate just one more. Then one more and then he finished the seventh and last steak and was overcome by remorse. Jumping into his grey VW TVB beetle (vanderBijlpark) he roared off to Fontana in Highpoint in Hillbrow, bought three roast chickens off their famous rotisserie to make good, and rushed back, flattening only one whole chicken by himself en-route.  This caused him to reflect, so he joined Weight-Watchers and became a regular at the weigh-in report-backs. Getting back from his initial weigh-in he sank down onto the couch in the TV room with a huge sigh. Reaching down to his shoes with difficulty, he removed a thick wad of newspaper from each. He had made himself taller so the nazis at Weight-Watchers would give him a higher target weight!

Dorianne Berry used to read the news and one night she came on in a strapless dress. The camera stayed above the dress line making her look maybe naked! The bachelors got all excited “Hey! Maybe we’re going to see Dorianne’s berries!”. The camera zoomed out and disappointment set in.

We had a student braai next to the pool one night and Granger arrived home pickled and ravenous and came over for a beer. Staring hypnotically at the meat on the fire he started swaying. We formed a wall round the fire, keeping a close eye on the large man as we knew he had needs. His eyes glazed over and we watched in fascination as his swayed in gravity-defying fashion! He swayed forward till you just knew he was going to platz on his face, then slowed, stopped for long seconds. Then swayed back till he passed vertical and leaned backwards where you just knew he going to crack the back of his skull but no, the pendulum slowed, then stopped. A long pause and the cycle repeated. Musta been his big feet. An amazing spectacle was Big Granger!

The old house is gone now – Hannover Reinsurance’s expensive headquarters now fill the space! Bah!

hannover re 17 Empire.jpg