Blast from the Past

FINALLY clearing out some more boxes from the garage. It’s nine years since Trish died, fifteen years since we moved here, and some of the boxes haven’t been opened since even before that.

And I was to find out some haven’t even been opened since LONG before that! Like this one:

This was a bachelor box! That typed letter was the school newsletter – no, the school newspaper! – from 1971. A previous school newspaper ‘Die Kanêrie’ had existed. In our time was it edited by Francois Rope Marais. It died, like all good canaries. In matric Jean Roux, Fluffy Crawley and I – and a few others – decided to revive it, but we wanted a new name. We were in a big Beatles phase, so its new name was Let It Be.

Racy scandal, very much tongue-in-cheek, we were determined to be irreverent. The mielie cob was our emblem, the paper was a member of the ‘mielie groep,’ and although this issue of 19 February 1971 was the first and probably the only issue, we made sure to put “Established 1971” in the banner to give it an air of gravitas. You never knew, maybe it would start a publishing empire? I mean, it would have been celebrating the 50th year of its existence next year had it gone on a few issues.

– You heard it here first: the Troggs were not going to appear in Swinburne!! –

Memories of the ‘roneo machine’ – you typed on blue wax paper, then you drew your pictures or wrote your headings in freehand with a metal stylus; then you carefully put your precious waxpaper koerant into the roneo machine. The ink ran into all depressions in the wax – hammered by the typewriters and tikmasjiene in Ou Rot se klas, or scratched by hand. We used typewriters for the Engelse stories and tikmasjiene for the Afrikaans stories. Then you turned something manually, and out came copies of what you’d done – reproduced by the magic machine. Any mistakes were permanent. And there were a number! Jean wrote the Pop Music Column ‘On The Knob With Roux.’ He was from a metropolis much larger than Herriesmif – Bloemfindyn, I think? – so more up-to-date with his music.

Someone wrote to the paper – an anonymous Letter To The Editor! It was a whinge. Someone had been applauding too enthusiastically at a debate contest! Gasp! They were applauding and stamping their feet! Instead of only giving contestants ‘their rightful applause!’ There was some question as to the character of someone who would let themselves go like that! Like Victoria, Nik and Nak were not amused. Well! There you go.

One article confidently announced we’d soon go international (it didn’t say that all that meant was we had asked the previous year’s USA exchange student to write to us).

We – the Std 9’s were also announcing a ‘Ritmiese Ete’ at the country club where one would get a full supper and music by the vdLinde Trio – at R2 a head – to raise funds for the Matric Farewell.

Military news of past-pupils was: Sparrow was in the lugmagkoor – and was even chosen as a ‘solios‘ – or so we said. Pierre was off to Bloem as a parabat. Steph was off to Walvis Bay.

A ‘kringleierskamp’ was held on Clawervlei, Casper Badenhorst’s farm, led by ds Venter, ds Smit, Eben Louw and Giel du Toit. ‘Besprekings’ of about an hour were held morning, afternoon and evening. The weekend ended on Sunday with a church service and a group photo.

Evidence of the rooinekkery of this koerant was a report on the dorp’s new Boy Scout troop: We had done swimming badges under the watchful eye of Cyril Nocton at Ralph Morton’s pool. Also a report on the Methodist Guild, who held a braai in which ‘all the members’ arrived dressed as tramps.

Some blerrie Eland – signing himself Phomolong – wrote the athletic day report and crowed about the Kudus winning, them second and us, the Impalas coming our usual third out of three – to which he said foei! Blurry hell! He would eat his words one year later when we, the Impalas, swept the boards! De Wet Ras broke the twenty-year-old pole vault record. At least he was an Impala.

A long report on a debate – the ontgroeningsdebat – is a bit faint to follow easily. Seems the debate decided history should not be a compulsory school subject. Ha! ‘Jammer Mnr Stander,’ said the reporter to the history teacher!

Costa Georgiou and Erika du Plessis were chosen as Mr and Miss Standard Six.

– that faint headline reads Town Cricket –

Fluffy Crawley wrote an article on Town Cricket, asking for players to join him in strengthening a sport which had been waning and was now being rebuilt. Forthcoming matches were against Old Scholars (Bethlehem?) and Frankfort. He also gave a report on a drawn match against Bethlehem Defence in which they scored 95; We managed to drag out our innings for two hours, forcing a draw; De Wet scored 25, Fluffy scored 14 and Dave Davies hung in to score 5 and achieve the draw. Our best bowler was De Wet, 6 for 25! Fluffy never gave up on cricket – he remained involved with Free State cricket for decades!

Tuffy Joubert was the swimming reporter, announcing the team going to Mazelspoort. Boys: Leon Blignaut, J Nel, Steve de Villiers and himself; Girls: Sonja du Plessis, Sheila Swanepoel, Jenny de Villiers, Marita Badenhorst, R vd Merwe (? Ilse?), J Eksteen and L Ros(?Lulu Ras?). Sonja duP was chosen for the OFS team and went on to win bronze in the 100m freestyle girls under fourteen at a national gala.

Under the commercial section there was one advertisement: A 15ft fibreglass canoe for sale by one P. Swanepoel. It would have been blue with a red deck.

~~~oo0oo~~~

mielie groep – maize or corn future publishing empire; ‘jou mielie’ was a popular insult at the time; it had . . connotations; hey! sixteen year old testosterone

on the knob – DJ’s twiddled knobs, and . . connotations

koerant – newspaper

tikmasjien – typewriter

Ou Rot se klas – the typing teacher’s nickname was Rat; pointy nose, bristly moustache, dodgy reputation with the ladies

Ritmiese Ete – rhythmic dinner – grub and dance fundraiser

lugmagkoor – airforce choir

kringleierskamp – ringleaders camp

besprekings – discussions

foei! – shame! or ag shame!

ontgroeningsdebat – initiation debate for Std Sixes, just entering high school

~~~oo0oo~~~

Careful readers would have seen a promise for this promising newspaper to go INTERNATIONAL! Well, I’m not sure we even made a second edition, but we DID receive the promised input from afar: from New York. Larry was late, though. Nothing new there. His letter of 22 April would have reached us on 29 April soonest by which time Let It Be might have run out of oxygen. Note the formal address: Die Redakteur, Laat Dit Wees / Let It Be!! I don’t know why he put our name in inverted commas, though? Would he have written “New York Times” – ? I must speak to him!

– Larry Letter to Let It Be –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Meadows and Old School

This is a rambling post cos it started with an email thread that began with gardens and then moved on to sport – swimming and athletics, and lots of old school pals’ names. The gardens were Mariette van Wyk Greyling’s Cape garden with a pin-tailed whydah at her garden feeder; and mine with KwaZulu Natal meadows rather then lawns.

Subject: Sundry garden pictures – Here’s one showing the bit of lawn and the more of meadow. Plus your pintail added in.

– my garden – and a pintail like Mariette’s –

Mariette wrote: Green with envy. My type of garden. You have a stunning pool. And you don’t even swim!

– Jess in the Jungle – when the pool was clearer –

Swim? So The Talk Turned To Sport – and Injury!

Me: I swim like a corobrik. In the warmest weather I dive in, swim to the far end, halfway back, and walk up the steps. Swimming training over. At all times I am able to touch the bottom.

Pierre, Tuffy, Sheila, Ilse, Lulu (and maybe you?) used to go to Mazelspoort outside Bloemfontein for the big Free State gala. Me I was still swimming breadths, not lengths and even then in the shallow end! That’s why I took up canoeing: When there’s water about, I need a boat.

Mariette: Yip I went to Mazels.  Second team though. The others were all in the elite team. I always aspired to follow in Sheila’s footsteps. Didn’t get there.

Well, now I’m in hospital – probably for the next week. Shattered my ankle walking the dog. Just want to get out. Gave me the wrong meds last night. My drip came undone and spilled over the bed. The op is only on Friday – provided the horrendous swelling is down.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Me: I just re-read: What? “Op on Friday”!? Ouch! Hope all goes well. As a dedicated coward I will cross fingers and hope you’re well and that I never land up there. Note to self: Walk slower. Especially near bridges or mud.

“Aspired” – that’s so good. I can’t think I ever aspired to anything. It’s so weird. I have always suffered from complete complacent contentment. Weird. A non-planner. At the atletiekdag in Std nine I won something and De Wet Ras, walking past on the field, said “Hey jy! Jy moet ophou wen. Ek wil die beste seunsatleet wen hierdie jaar!”, digging me in the ribs. We laughed and I thought, ‘He’s actually aiming to win it!’ That struck me as unusual. I didn’t think you set out to win things. You just went your hardest and it just either happened or it didn’t. Ridiculous in retrospect. I had won it the year before ‘out of the blue,’ that’s why De Wet was saying ‘hold back!’ And he did, in fact, win it that Std 9 year – 1971.

~~~~oo0oo~~~~

Mariette: That’s quite something beating De Wet at something sport-related. What was it? Think hard!! Strange that you weren’t competitive. You were good at a few things. Mind you, I wasn’t competitive in sport either. Academically yes. (Yes, indeed! Mariette ended up top-of-the hele-Vrystaat in the matric 1972 results!) Just wanted to do my own thing sport-wise. But I did want to join Sheila and them in first team swimming. Not for competitive reasons. They simply were a fun crowd.

Even though I was in the first team tennis, there was never much FUN among us lot. Actually got bored with tennis. The car accident gave me a reason to stop without being seen as a drip.  Team members I remember were De Wet, Fluffy, you, Scottie or was it Blikkies? Elsie, Ina, I think, me and Noeline? Can’t remember a single fun thing, even when we took bus trips to all those mal rock n rollin’ places. Ha ha. Maybe getting some free koeksisters 🙂

~~~oo0oo~~~

– 1970 victor ludorum – ‘Miss Betfit’ hands over – Annie Euthimiou took the pic – I’d shaved my hair to be faster

Me: I didn’t beat De Wet – he was an age group older. I just won something and he was kidding that I should stop winning as he was going for the victor ludorum (beste senior seunsatleet) that I had won the previous year in Std 8. Here’s old Ella Bedford handing me that beker that year – 1970. Ann Euthimiou took the picture. When the announcement was made it didn’t register with me. De Wet, sitting next to me, dug his elbow in my ribs: ‘Hey! Dis jy, jong!’ That’s when I mosey’d down for my Ella Fitz-Bedford handshake.

In the inter-regional athletics byeenkoms that year – 1970 – in Senekal we had a blast.

So DeWet won it in 1971. The next year – 1972, our matric – things were different: I just couldn’t lose! I won the 100m, 200m, 400m, 3000m, long jump, high jump (edit: WRONG: Fluffy Crawley won the high jump – I see he also won the paalspring), the discus, the javelin, the U/17 4X100 relay and the U/19 relay. It was ridiculous. I felt like the wind was under my wings and I could always run faster, throw harder, jump further. An amazing feeling. I was really fit, fittest I have ever been. I’d been training to do the Dusi canoe marathon, but that didn’t happen till eleven years later. Sheila found the cutting from the Chronicle that Mom had sent to her mother Annie down in George.

But not quite ‘couldn’t lose’ – in the 800m I thought, ‘better take this one easy, lots of events still to go,’ so when Klein Uiltjie Earle ran off I let him go thinking Ek Sal Jou Vang but he just gaan’d aan and aan and I ended up coming third. Well done Klein Uiltjie! I think Stefan Ferreira came second (edit: WRONG: Stefan passed him; Uiltjie got second). Stefan also got seconds in the high jump, 200m and 400m, and he won the 1500m easily.

In the paalspring – pole vault – teacher Ben Marais said “Ons begin op 2m,” and I said Nooit Meneer! Ek kon in die hoogspring net 1,56m spring, hoe gaan ek hoer spring met n paal in my hand? I had never paalspring’d in my life. So I ran at the 2m bar, ducked under it and gave up. Went and rested on the pawiljoen – and tended to blisters on my heels while Fluffy won, adding it to his win in the high jump.

That year Gabba Coetzee broke the U/19 shot put record and I broke the U/17 100m record. Mine stood for over 20yrs and I think Gabba’s still stands! I used to see him in Harrismith from time to time and he’d always update me: ‘Die rekords staan nog steeds.’ Then one year he told me ‘Yours was beaten. A new boy came to town who ran like the wind.’ His was still standing.

– Ray Moore –

Tennis – You’re right, that was definitely Scottie Meyer in tennis. I lost most of my singles matches, but Fluffy and I won a few doubles games. Years later I was sent to Addington hospital in Durban by the army and there was Petrie de Villiers from Warden who was a tennis foe and also a team mate when we went to Bloemfontein to play at the Vrystaat whatevers. I got knocked out in the first round by a Symington who went on to win, I think. Petrie would usually beat Fluffy and his twin brother Jossie would always beat me, but Fluffy and I would usually beat the broers in the doubles. Our tennis role models were Ray Moore and Frew MacMillan – especially Ray with his Afro frizz hairstyle. I drew his cartoon image everywhere, even on a white T-shirt! I emulated Frew’s double-handed backhand.

Interesting times. We drove to Bloem in Bruce Humphries’ little brand-new white Ford Cortina. Dunno where we stayed. In a school koshuis, maybe.

Fluffy tells of another year we went to Bloem to play rugby against Sentraal or JBM Hertzog. Daan Smuts took us in his old VW. The night before the match he took us to a party. Beer! Late at night he dropped us off at an empty skool koshuis to spend the night. There were beds but no bedclothes. We lay shivering in our clothes on the mattresses. Daan was our kinda guy: Lotsa fun, zero organisation! Laid back. Rules = optional.

The swimmers were a fun crowd. They were probly – definitely – the coolest bunch at school over the years. And, of course, also the coldest in those Harrismith temperatures.

~~~oo0oo~~~

– drum majorettes – pomptroppies –

Mariette: Jis, you were hot in so many things. I knew you were good at all sorts of stuff, but forgot about your athletics achievements. At that stage athletics didn’t interest me much – probably because I wasn’t good at anything. Tried ‘em all: From shotput (whoever the teacher in charge was said to me ‘nee man, gaan sit op die bank’), ditto with discus and javelin, high jump (too short) and whatever else was going. Fourth or maybe it was fifth in the 100m at some stage was my big achievement. I just enjoyed shouting for the Kudus and listening to Jan van Wyk’s mal quips. Oh, and being a hot drum majorette J.

Ja, old Gabba. What a rock. And what a sad end.

I remember Petrie well. Quite smaaked him, but Elsie won his favour – I didn’t stand a chance. Saw him years later again at varsity – same mischievous face. Strange that the girls all fancied him so much and his twin brother never got a second glance.

Chariots of Beer is top-notch. Had a good chuckle.

~~~oo0oo~~~

atletiekdag – school athletics day

“Hey jy! Jy moet ophou wen. Ek wil die beste seunsatleet wen hierdie jaar!” – Hey, Stop winning. I want to win the victor ludorum this year!

koeksisters – like deep-fried, mega-sugar, syrupy doughnuts

beste senior seunsatleet – victor ludorum; best senior male athlete of the day

Ek Sal Jou Vang – I’ll catch up to you – I didn’t

gaan’d aan – carried on and on; he didn’t flag

hoe gaan ek hoer spring met n paal in my hand? – how do you jump with a pole in your hand? – pole vault novice question

pawiljoen – pavilion, grandstand

die rekords staan nog steeds – our records have not yet been beaten

byeenkoms – meet; event; gathering

koshuis – hostel; literally ‘food house’

‘nee man, gaan sit op die bank’ – rather take a break; try out for the maths olympiad; academically Mariette ended up top-of-theVrystaat in 1972!

smaaked – fancied

~~~oo0oo~~~

Veld and Vlei

Was I “sent to” leadership school? I don’t think so, but I just thought of that. Hmm . . .

Veld & Vlei at Greystone on the banks of Wagendrift Dam in the July holidays of 1972, my matric – or ‘senior’ – year of high school. It was a ‘Leadership School’ – ‘a physical and mental challenge,’ they said. Harrismith Rotary Club decided to send me there. Younger sister Sheila’s diary tells me I was taken there on Friday 30 June 1972 by family friend Dick Venning, Durban anaesthetist turned Harrismith character and pig farmer.

– Veld & Vlei leadership course July 1972 at Greystone near Estcourt – middle left – Wagendrift dam on the upper middle right –

Memories of a busy first week: The tough obstacle course – carry that 44-gal drum over the wall without letting it touch the wall! Other obstacles, including tight underground tunnels. And HURRY!

– cosy comfy luxury tents – four-poster beds inside –

Chilly winter nights in these old canvas bell tents – we slept like logs. Cross-country runs; PT by military instructors. What’s with this love for things military? Brief naked immersion swims in the frigid water of the dam every morning after a 2,5km run; The lazy bliss of sailing an ‘Enterprise’ dinghy out of reach of anything strenuous!

..

– that wall –

Then the second week: Being chosen as patrol leader of Uys Patrol; A preparatory two-day hike in the area. One of our patrol was a chubby, whiny lad, so we spent some effort nursing him home. He was worth it: good sense of humour! Poor bugger’s thighs rubbed red and sore on the walk!

I had no camera, no photos, the only record I still have of the course is my vivid memories – and the blue felt badge they gave us on completion.

But then I found a website – www.hofland.co.uk – by someone who had been on the same 1972 winter course as me – Willem Hofland from the Natal South Coast, now in England or Holland, I forget which. He had these black & white pics which I am very grateful to be able to use! He also has his course report and certificate. I wonder what they said on them, as our course was cut short. His images are very blurry but you can read the word PASS – so they must have decided we’d done enough to get certificates? I now only have the felt badge.

Then the climax, the big challenge: The course-ending six-day hike! We drove by bus to the magic Giants Castle region in the Drakensberg.

– we were on the plateau on the right of this near valley –

We set off with our laden rucksacks down the valley, up the other side towards the snow-topped peaks, heading for Langalabilele Pass and the High ‘Berg. We had walked about 5km when a faint shout sounded and continued non-stop until we stopped and searched for the source.

It was an instructor chasing after us and telling us to “Turn around, abort the hike, return to Greystones! Walk SLOWLY!” Someone had come down with meningitis and the whole course was ending early! Sheila’s diary records my folks were phoned on 12 July and asked to fetch me. We were given big white pills to swallow and sent home with strict instructions to take it easy: No physical exercise.

– chain ladder –

But . . our rucksacks were packed . . and our wanderlust aroused, so I’m afraid I headed straight off to Mt aux Sources soon after getting home. Up the chain ladder onto the escarpment and on to the lip of the Tugela Falls, sleeping outside the mountain hut. I think Rotary exchange student Greg Seibert from Ohio accompanied me. I forget who else.

~~oo0oo~~

That’s what I remembered. Today, however, 48yrs later, Sheila has given me the letters I wrote home, so I also know this: So much for vivid memories!

My first letter was two days into the course and the main concern was ‘PLEEZ send my rucksack! The rucksack I have been issued with is absolutely messed up!’ I was fit, as shown by my maximums. I had done 63 step-ups with weights. The camp record was 64. ‘The assault course instructor is a sadist.’ Please send the rucksack! They have arranged for parcel deliveries.

Mom’s letter back said she had sent the rucksack – and ‘look inside.’ When it arrived, Wow! Sweets and dried fruit! Moms are great! Thanks, Ma!

– my favourite, long-term, frame rucksack – here seen on Sheila’s back –

The next letter was Monday 3rd July 1972 – Early morning run and naked dip in the dam; sailing and canoeing. Our patrol won both canoe races (‘natch!’ I wrote, being very keen on canoeing at the time) and we won Best Patrol of the Day. ‘Today Monday was much tougher: The assault course consists of eleven obstacles and we only completed five! Only one of the six patrols completed the course. They took one hour and seventeen minutes. The course record is twelve minutes and fifty seconds! PT was based on maximums. My first round took 10 mins 42 seconds, then a run. I did the second round in 10 mins dead. Dead’s the word! I met Stephen Middlemost. A good chap.’

– everybody 1972 winter course at Greystone – I’m sitting on the ground third from left – on either side were good mates – I’m pretty sure that’s Nev Slade second from left – honoured to be sitting on my right hand, Nev! –

The last letter was on day 9: Our first free morning. On day 7 they had given us twenty minutes to get ready and leave on a two day expedition. Find your way by map to various waypoints. There was ‘not much discipline’ in our patrol,according to poor little ole me: ‘Leaders had been chosen who were not leaders’ (according to yours truly!) and not much hard hiking was done. I saw we were way behind schedule so ‘I tried to push them, but they just got mad and rested often and long.’ I did all the map and compass work and ‘they would argue like mad as to our direction without ever looking at the map!’ By nightfall we were about halfway to our intended destination. We camped and ‘the boys just wanted to turn around and go back. I refused and eventually they agreed to try and finish the course! In the morning we only set off at 9am! I worked out shortcuts for them while one of the guys and I walked to the beacons and took bearings; we would then catch up to them again. We walked along to ‘a chorus of moaning and swearing, mainly at me for ‘rushing them.’ Anyway, eventually we crossed the Bushmans River in the dark and arrived back at camp at 7.30pm. At least we did finish the course! And luckily there was a good supper waiting.’

On the evening of that ninth day we chose patrol leaders; seventy two boys, six patrols; I was chosen to lead Uys Patrol. ‘My deputy is Reg Wilkins, a very good chap: funny, determined, stubborn, etc. but we’ll go great. Our quartermaster is Neville Slade, also a great guy, very conscientious.’

Our full patrol is Eric Cohen, Arthur Lees-Rolfe, John Peterson, Nev Slade, Clyde Nunn, Reg Wilkins, Rusty du Plessis, Bud Marouchos, and me. We lost Rob Hohls abseiling when a big rock fell on his head.

In a letter home: I lost or mislaid my boots; I should find them. Cuthberts made a lousy job of fixing them. R3!! On the first hike I lost half of both heels; on the two-day expedition the other halves came off and the whole sole is coming off, starting at the toe.’

I was so looking forward to the high ‘Berg hike. That was MY territory! None of these city slickers, beach bums and polo-crosse players knew the high ‘Berg and I did. But it was not to be . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

More odds and sods I found, scanned and tossed. Warning: Boring! – only those who were there will be interested:

July 2020 – Found a diary I kept on the course.

Later that year I got a hilarious raunchy letter from my cool-dude side-kick Nev Slade:

– letter from henchman Nev Slade, quartermaster, Uys Patrol! Veld & Vlei, winter 1972 –

Excerpts: He moans about swotting for matric; He says ‘now listen you Free State Fuckup’ (‘that’s the best I have thought up for a long time’) and invites me to a post-matric party – a good thrash! He reports getting as ‘canned as a coot’ at a disco; he says he’ll set me up with a sexy partner; threatens, if I don’t pitch at his thrash, to come to the Free State and castrate you myself!

Signs himself off: ‘Great Poet and the man who lived through Veld & Vlei’ – Nev Slade, Bridgewood, Dargle Rail

~~~oo0oo~~~

Ah, a mystery solved: We did NOT get completion certificates.

Veld & Vlei after-letter

So Hofland could not have been on the July 1972 course, I guess. Still, thanks for the photos, Willem! ( I see his course certificate says G14, so he was winter 1973).

I gave a talk to Harrismith Rotary club afterwards, telling them all about it, expressing my disappointment on not doing the high Berg hike; and thanking them for sponsoring me on this lovely adventure.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Another postscript: I now know, from another hilarious and rude letter from Nev Slade, something about our hike up Mt aux Sources. Nev had been to a polocrosse tournament in Greytown where he almost broke his arm due to rough treatment from Transvalers who were “the dirtiest, wildest pigs you’ve ever come across,” – in fact they were “just like Freestaters in the wild Swanepoel tradition.” He couldn’t think of a worse insult! What a lekker oke! Anyway, obviously replying to my letter he says “Wow, you’re lucky to have seen a lammergeier so close up! Lend me some of your luck sometime won’t you?”

I hope Slade has become a preacher and stumbles across this and blushes when he reads how cruelly he treated his good mate, me!

~~~oo0oo~~~

– meningitis tablets –
– Uys Patrol preparations for hike –

~~~oo0oo~~~

A letter! Sheila found a letter written to me by Mom while I was on camp. She filled me in on happenings in the metropolis of Harrismith in my absence:

1. Two heart attacks – Jonathan McCloy’s Dad and Ds Ras. Lulu was at home with her Dad, but De Wet was away playing Craven Week rugby. He hastened home; Dominee in hospital under heavy sedation.

2. When Eastern Free State won a game at Craven Week rugby, our captain Rudolph Gabba Coetzee had to speak on the radio! Big news for one who did not do much public speaking! (Joan du Plessis coined that affliction ‘verbal constipation’ – opposite of verbal diarrhoea).

3. I had an interview straight after my course in Estcourt to apply for a Rotary Exchange Student posting. It was also at Greystone near Estcourt, so Mom said I should stay with my cousin Marlene – ‘and try and get a haircut in Estcourt before the interview’ – Yeah, like that was going to happen!! A voluntary haircut in matric!

4. They had stayed at a caravan park with Sheila. It was lousy, no lights, no hot water and a long list of other things wrong.

And now lastly: When she was about to send me the rucksack I had requested, Mom bumped into her friend and Harrismith character Harriet vd Merwe. She told Harriett she was urgently sending me a rucksack. Harriet looked into it and exclaimed, No Mary! You can’t send it empty! Put some goodies in it! So Mom included the sweets and dried fruit that were such a hit when they arrived in camp! Thank you Harriet!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Rugby Free State u/13 Champs

It was quite a year. I had shot up, my balls had dropped, and I became the tallest blonde in the team. Coenie Meyer was the only other one, but he was a stocky centre and I was a lanky lock in the serious half of the team, the half that did the hard work and won the ball – only for the frivolous half to donate it to the opposition, starting the whole process all over again! Us bum-sniffers suffered while the pretty-boy backs got all the glory. Before this hormonal reshuffling, rugby had not been I.

But truth be told, our real strength lay in an outstanding flyhalf called De Wet Ras; and in great teamwork, determined tackling and a fierce desire to do well by ‘Sir’ – as we called Bruce Humphries, our tennis-playing coach.

We were coached by a bespectacled tennis champ called Bruce who inspired us to give our all. His sidekick Ben backed him up and supported us – a kind soul was Ben Marais. We beat all-comers and moved on to play against bigger teams. We drew one game against Bethlehem Voortrekker 0-0, our ‘winning’ De Wet Ras drop kick sailing high directly above the right upright, so the ref did not award it. We beat them 8-3 in a re-match.

We were the Harrismith under thirteen team of 1967, playing in bright orange, looking for all the world like mangoes complete with little green leaves on top and some black spots below!

HarrismithU13Rugby cropped_2.jpg

At the end of the season we were unbeaten and happy.

But then we read in the newspaper, the Engelse koerant, The Friend of Bloemfontein:

Free State u/13 Champs: 140 points for and 0 against!

And they weren’t talking about us – it was an u/13 team from Virginia. We thought: Free State Champs? Like Hell! We also thought: Where the hell is Virginia? That doesn’t sound like an egte Free State dorp.

Bruce Humphries phoned them and challenged them to come and play us. ‘No, we’re Free State Champs,’ they said, ‘Can’t you read? You’ll have to come to us!’

Off we went to Virginia in Bruce’s new 1966 white Ford Cortina and Giel du Toit’s tweede-hands black Mercedes 190 – about 1959, and Ben Marais’ blue VW Beetle, undetermined vintage.

Cars Harrismith_2

There we watched their second team play Saaiplaas, a little mining village team with an egte Free State dorp name. We cheered Saaiplaas on and exhorted them to victory! I can still hear our hooker Skottie Meyer shouting mockingly – he was full of nonsense like that, onse Skottie – “Thlaaiplaath!! Thlaiplaath!!” They beat the Virginia seconds 3-0, handing them their first defeat of the season.

Our turn next, and the Saaiplaas boys did their best to be heard above the din of the enthusiastic local Virginia supporters. It was a tight match but we had the edge, our left wing Krugertjie being stopped inches from the left corner flag and our right wing Krugertjie pulled down inches from the right corner flag. Yep, identical twins, find them in the pic. The difference at the final whistle was a De Wet Ras drop goal from near the halfway line. 3-0 to us to complete a bad day for ex-Free State Champs Virginia. Which they pronounced Fuh-Jean-Yah.

What’s Next?
Now Bruce Humphries had the Free State’s biggest fish in his sights: Grey College Bloemfontein. No, they didn’t really think they’d want to play us, thank you; and anyway they were off on a tour to Natal that week, thank  you. ‘Well’, said Bruce ‘You can’t get back from Natal without passing through Harrismith, and you wouldn’t really sneak past us with your tails between your legs, would you?’

So the game was on! That day the pawiljoen at the park was packed with our enthusiastic supporters and cars ringed the field. Our followers’ numbers had grown as the season progressed and excitement at our unbeaten tag increased. No Grey College team had ever played in this little outpost of the British Empire (yes, we were that, once!) before.

Another tough game ensued, but a try just left of the posts by the tallest blonde in our team was the difference: We beat them 8-3, all the other points being scored by our points machine and tactical general De Wet! Die Dapper Generaal De Wet!

What a year!

see: Not that Generaal De Wet.

Beating the Rest
When it came to selecting an Eastern Free State team, the other schools introduced a twist: Not only did you have to be under thirteen, you also had to be in primary school! This excluded a few of our boys, who were in Std 6 (Grade 8). Only four of our team were chosen. So we challenged them to a game. Bruce told them it would do them good to have a warm-up game against the rest of us before they went to the capital of the province, Bloemfontein, to play in a tournament. Having been chosen as reserve, I was lucky: I could still play for ‘us’! Plus we ‘innocently’ added Gabba Coetzee to boost our depleted team – with their knowledge and permission. He was in Std 6 and just too old to actually be under thirteen. He was a legendary machine of an eighth man! An Iron Man, actually. His shot put record stands to this day, nearly fifty years later.

Ho Hum! 17-0

—————————–

On the LEFT: Bruce Humphries (coach); On the RIGHT: Ben Marais (assistant coach)

All Heads Left to Right: Dana Moore, Attie Labuschagne, Leon Fluffy Crawley, De Wet Ras, Redge Jelliman, Skottie Meyer, Hendrik Conradie, Hansie Jooste, Irené Tuffy Joubert, Coenie Meyer, Peter Koos Swanepoel, Kruger, Kobus Odendaal, Kruger, Max Wessels

– I wonder what that trophy is that De Wet is holding? I cannot remember what that trophy might have been for.  ‘Handsome Vrystaters Floating-on-Air’ Trophy maybe?

.

We got word that Bruce Humphries passed away in about 2011. 
Go Well Sir!  We'll never forget that 1967 rugby season. We soared high and grew our self-esteem that year. Thank you!

~~~oo0oo~~~