We were in second year and had just moved out of downtown Joburg and Eloff Street to the salubrious semi-suburban delightful area of Doornfontein which was once Joburg’s premier suburb where all the gold mining magnates and Randlords lived and built their mansions.
So some final year students asked us to help them in their research for their – whatever.
They needed volunteers to see if blood alcohol levels affected your esotropia. We gave it a moment’s thought and thought that sounded like a HELLUVA good idea as it involved free drink and would provide valuable data and it involved free drink. We volunteered. None of asked ‘what’s esotropia?’
It was very formal. We had to – No, you can’t have a drink yet; Hey! Step away from the drinks table, we need baseline levels before you . . you have? Well, how many? SO many? Well, quick, come, let’s measure you before – Hey! Not another one . .
Well, give them their due, they tried their best and we did our best and it was a WONDERFUL evening filled with laughter and witty repartee and I don’t know if they got any data but we did get the promised drinks and they didn’t need to return any unopened bottles to the grog shop.
Quite a lot was learned, too. Like if you give a person who has had one too many even a little bit of vertical prism he will push the phoropter away and make barfing noises and run out of the clinic. That might come in handy to future researchers, and I give it here free for anyone to use.
Found this picture on the ‘net. It says “The Doors Nightclub Johannesburg”. It reminds me very strongly of my impression of an unusual night on the town with young Fotherby, back in the Jurassic.
I was just as boring then as I am now. My idea of a good night out was find a pub, drink a lot, laugh.
Well, Fotherby thought there must be more to life than that – even though she was from Kimberley out – and so she announced one night that we were going to a nightclub.
A what? Of course I’d heard of them, but I didn’t think they allowed FreeStaters in. Shuddup And Let’s Go was the reply and also Don’t You Have Anything Better To Wear Than That?
You can’t believe it! I was wearing what I had worn since shortly after the rinderpest: Boring shirt, plain pants, brown shoes. What else would one wear?
Sighing, she lifted up my collar so at least I would look slightly different, mussed my flowing locks a bit and then ordered me to drive the grey and grey 1965 Opel Concorde to some dingy back street, somewhere near Joubert Park I think. Don’t park near the door, I was told. Even though we were in the grey and grey 1965 Opel Concorde. Amazing!
At the door the bouncers looked us over and because we looked suave and masculine – or maybe as we were with attractive nubile lasses – or maybe cos we paid – let us in. I can’t recall who else was with us – I only had eyes for the delightful Fotherby, of course. I remember an entrance hall and then a huge area filled with people, smoke and noise. Huge. Only later I realised the heavens were the ceiling. The ‘room’ could be as big as it was because we were actually sort of outdoors. Boys danced with boys and girls with girls and some mixed. Getting a drink was a mission. Why the hell would anyone want to go to such a place?, I thought.
I still think that.
Stephen Reed wrote:
If I was there, the memory could well have fallen between the sizable cracks between the ears.
I do remember one night coming down Smith / Wolmarans street towards the Doories Res, full to the brim with alcohol with you and Fotherby in the car and Forsdick I think.
The Austin Apache was purring along nearing it’s rather modest V-max when you decided to pull up the handbriek as we went through the intersection with Steil Street or Gould street …
Shrieks of protest from the back seat as the Apache battled to retain its composure . .
On reflection, that may have been on the way back from a nightclub, but just as likely from the Dev or maybe Float-Building.
Either way, we were well oiled. But not the girls.
We must have at some time visited a nightclub or two. We may need to call in someone with less damage to the hard drive.
I have just had a look on the ‘net and Bella Napoli comes up – Pretoria St Hillbrow – we musta been there surely?
But The Doors nightclub – still has me wracking my brains
Problem is sometimes our carefully stored and index’d memories are filed on exactly the grey cells targeted for destruction by that particular binge.
As you know, one of my oft-repeated mantras is the trouble with marriage is wimmin have such good memory glands; or – as I prefer to put it – we have much better filters; discretion!
And as I once told you, that particular handbriek trick was a Pierre du Plessis invention. We used to pile into his Mom Joan’s Ford Prefect for a lift home from swimming lessons. As we piled in we’d all say a loud and cheerful HI BEAM! to the light on the dash that said hi beam.
Then he’d wait for just the wrong moment – usually where Joan had to drive around the inconvenient Moeder Kerk – and yank up the handbriek so the car would do a sideways slither to her consternation. Trouble is, she had such a sense of humour and loved ole duP so much she could never actually get cross with him!
So we never learned.
handbriek – handbrake; a car handbrake, not . . . forget it
a late afternoon chat with Stanrey Kraarke this afternoon . .
that would be a phone call across the Tasman Sea )
good to hear the ancient old bullet is still alive!!
Kev!!? ( I have cc’d him here)
I can’t think of Doories without thinking of you, the green TAV Datsun from the metropolis of Grootfontein, the chocolate Alfa and old Krazalski, Wartski, What-ski – those are wrong – what ‘ski was he, your boss?
can still see the meticulous care with which you changed the crunchy,
notchety gears in the Alfa.
when driving I remember your sage advice: WATCH OUT for an old toppie
wearing a hat!
nowadays I see the old toppie wearing a hat in my own rear-view
mirror! Gives me a bit of a start every time: Who’s that fuckin
old fart? Oh, OK – only me . . . .
for Forever Young! I think we still are! Well, I think we should keep
and we musn’t forget the outbreak of Dobie’s Itch
in the Doories Res!!
rushed back to work and got going amongst the pots and stills and
fires and wooden ladles and other witchcraft paraphenalia he and
Wartski used to keep in their secret factory and came back with a
double-strength potion stronger than anything Dumbledore could have
made, and CURED the dreaded ballache!! He was our hero!!
By gosh, we had a few laughs.
one: Sunday morning, Kevin having a sleep in – eyes closed …
you sleeping Kevin?
one eye slightly opens
No No … Just coasting
HA!! I’d forgotten these! Exactly right!!!
We were so lucky Stanley-Clarke decided to stay in Res that extra
year while he re-wrote ?pharmacology?
mean, he could have stayed with any one of a dozen beautiful chicks.
They all wanted his moustache! And we would never have met him.
turned in to a magic, unforgettable year, and he was no small part of
was lucky to have had US there.
boring time he would have had otherwise . . .
Too True My Bru!
now here’s the man himself:
Kia Ora both of you ,
a wonderful surprise hearing from the DOORIE BRO’s in particular the
very Articulate Rhodes student Mr Koos Swanepoel himself, from
Harrismith; and the attention-to-detail Mr Stevie Reed the boat
builder raconteur himself from a little town in the free state that
eludes me at this time!
really made my day – thank you both for all the very happy memories
and to think I could have missed that wonderful year if I had passed
Pharmacology first go – and to think it was 45 years ago which has
basically passed in a flash.
My boss in the very clandestine factory in Doories was Mr Pogeralski – so Pete, the grey matter is still intact;
As for that ointment which I prepared it was Whitefields ointment aka “Ung acid benz co.” Had I given that to you today I would be in serious trouble with “Health and safety”, “Quality and risk”, “Public safety”, you name it! But it certainly works.
and how can we forget the times we all went to the Jeppe post office
to use their services “pro bono” utilizing your
unbelievable skills ‘the long tickey” to gain access to their
phone lines – Hello World.
will never forget the test at Ellis Park “pro bono” an
absolute blast – thank you both for the wonderful memories that
always bring a smile to my face .
And Stevie: Can you remember the movie we went to on a Saturday morning at the Cinerama we saw “Papillon” ??
I could go on forever – The Dev ? The Bend ? and many more. May leave that for another day.
care both of you and please keep in touch
Dee Student aka ‘Giscard . . . d’Estaing’
Ellis Park “pro bono” – Less than fully legal entry to the rugby stadium for a test match; ahem . .
Jeppe Street post office “pro bono” ‘long tickey” – Less than entirely legal as well, say no more; ahem . . There were consequences! I got a phone call from the GPO: Are Your Name Swanepoel? I meekly coughed up for sundry long-distance international ‘trunk calls’ to Oklahoma!
Alf Beyers, son of the Hoof of the Hoerskool in Petrus Steyn OFS, struck enormous good fortune on leaving the village and striking out for the big smoke of lower Doornfontein, Johannesburg, city of sin and laughter. It was akin to winning the lottery.
He was allocated me as his room-mate.
Dropping our suitcases on the sticky deep purple linoleum floor we immediately headed off to Nirvana, a place we had heard about for years. A place our mothers warned against with such dire foreboding that we knew we had to find it.
We heard they sold liquor in Hillbrow and we had fresh pocket money, so off we went with the gang of new students in the Doories res of the Wits Tech for Advanced Technical Education on our first night in Joeys, 1974, in search of pubs and nightclubs. Vague names waft around in my head now: Summit? Idols? Sands Hotel?
Most of us returned late that night, but there was no sign of Alf. He had landed up in the Johannesburg General Hospital, a victim of alcohol poisoning. The docs assured him it wasn’t bad liquor, it was simply too much good liquor.
The ill-effects wore off quickly and the potential for fun endured. On another occasion when we’d had a skinful Alf indulged in a bit of streaking under the Harrow Road flyover, appearing completely kaalgat to the amusement and delight of rush-hour motorists. Some were so impressed they called the cops and Alf roared up the stairs and hid in the smallish free-standing cupboard in our room, which actually overlooked the spot where he’d been parading!
When the hullabaloo died down he appeared with a huge grin on his face, still buck naked and inquired innocently “Looking for me?”
twaalf eiers – a dozen eggs; rhymes with Alf Beyers;
hoerskool – school of ill repute;
Hoof of the Hoerskool – in charge of that place; influential position
kaalgat – naked as the day he was born;
Dodgy history lesson: Grand Central Station, in the metropolis of Petrus Steyn, situated on the banks of the mighty Renoster:
My Best Man, I have always said, is one of the most honest upright people I’ve known. I’ve said this for many years. It isn’t strictly true.
One dark night in Deepest Darkest Doornfontein, shortly after having been crowned The Official Inebriated World Dartsh Championsh of The World, the story of which famous victory has appeared in print elsewhere, we were smuggled out of the bar in secret to avoid a massacre by the vengeful forces that had lost to us in the final.
Behind the bar counter, through the kitchen, past the chest freezers and out the back door into the courtyard of the New Doornfontein. Out into that dark night.
Through the kitchen. Did you get that part? Through the hotel kitchen. Past a number of chest deep freeze cabinets. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the lids lifting, a hand reaching in and a packet being shoved under an old jersey. The jersey was probably part of the uniform of the new Official Inebriated World Dartsh Championsh of The World.
When we got to the safety of our large and lavish room in the plush Doories residence a few blocks away we were highly relieved and thankful to have survived. So we reached into the huge old off-white Westinghouse we had inherited with ‘Fridge Over Troubled Waters’ written on the door in black coki pen and calmed our nerves. Poor old Willie the housemaster came round to ask us to Please turn down the sound, manne, my wife is trying to sleep.
Then an interesting aroma started to fill the room: BACON. Being fried on the two-plate hot plate. By My Best Man.
THAT’s what had been lifted from the chest deep freeze of the New Doornfontein Hotel. Illicitly. And THAT’s who had dunnit. Did I mention he has a small trace of Jewish blood running through his veins, making this not only a crime, but also a sin?
As we revved up on another evening after a night’s carousing, we rollicked as poor old Willie the housemaster asked us Please to behave manne, my wife is trying to sleep. Another bright idea took hold: Converting the hostel angle-iron bed into a fold-away stretcher. You can’t bend angle-iron, but he had done a year’s engineering before he started optometry, so through persistence and focused dedication, he did. His skilful panel-beating expertise is depicted in the big pic *.
The sheer force of this exercise bumped the bed against an heirloom 5-gallon glass flagon with two ears. SMASH and tinkle. It must have been tempered glass, as there were millions of tiny pieces!
Barks sometimes inexplicably went to bed early. Something about a good night’s sleep. One night we got home handsome and clever and Barks had locked his door. Which was his right, except the Fridge Over Troubled Waters was in his room, and the beer was in that fridge. When we failed to rouse him Chris Slabber said “Hold My Beer and Stand back!” and next minute BA-BLAM! he shot off the doorlock! It seems people from Die Perel with CJ numberplates carry small arms with them in case of moeilikheid. I didn’t know that. Access to refreshment obtained. Like the bloody Wild West!
Asseblief manne, said poor housemaster Willie, My wife is trying to sleep. We felt for him.
You’ll have a positive outlook on this if you remember:
“Education is the sum of what students teach each other between lectures and seminars” – Stephen Fry
Asseblief manne – stop it, you hooligans!
Die Perel – the city of Paarl in the western cape province; average of eighteen teeth per head
We had asbestos heaters on the walls in our Louisa Street residence in Doornfontein, Johannesburg. The res was in the shadow of the not-yet-completed Ponte tower – the 50-story residential cylinder up on the hill that became famous and notorious for varying reasons over the years.
Late one night we woke up to yelling and cursing. Thick smoke billowed into our room, so we rushed out to see wassup. Glen Barker and Louis Slabbert’s room was on fire! Glen’s clothes, his bedside table, the linoleum floor and the ceiling were ablaze. We soon put it out and, coughing and spluttering, opened up the windows and doors to let the acrid, foul smoke escape.
To the amazement of the non-smokers amongst us, Louis then sat down on his bed, lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply!
One dark night in Deepest Darkest Doornfontein we were playing darts. In the New Doornfontein Hotel pub.
Actually to be more exact, we were engaged in a very important international darts championship tournament, and we were in the final. We had made it through to the final by skill and courage. And imbibing. See, it was The Official Inebriated World Darts Championships of The World. Our opponents were the Sicilian Mafia who had materialised out of nowhere, tapped one of us on the shoulder and announced darkly in a sinister growl: “We play you next”. That’s how they got into the final. We didn’t dare to do anything but nod nervously.
It was like:
We were not fooled when during the important ceremony of ‘diddle for middle’ they missed the bull’s eye by about three metres and we hit bull to go off first. We knew they were simply lulling us into a false sense of security and had in fact wanted us to go first as part of a dastardly plot. This plan was executed faultlessly as we continued to whip they asses and beat them by a mile in all three rounds. Something was afoot. We got even more nervous when they appeared to accept their defeat in good spirit and retired to a corner of the bar conversing – sinisterly for Sicilians – in Portuguese and Joburg English.
Our lives were saved that night in that we ordered beers when the barman called ‘Last Round!’ and the Mafia didn’t. So at closing time the Mafiosi left and we stayed behind to finish our drinks, huddled in a corner as far away as we could get from the door in case it suddenly shattered and splintered under sustained machine gun fire.
The barman then escorted us out the back. Behind the bar counter, through the kitchen past the chest freezers – take note, I am not mentioning the chest freezers for nothing here – past the chest freezers: they will feature again at the end of this story – and out the back door. As I hurried through the kitchen I thought I had seen some movement of the one chest freezer lid out of the corner of my eye . .
Then we were outside – into the courtyard of the New Doornfontein which was even darker than the unlit streets. Then out that side gate visible on the far left into Height Street.
We scurried home to our lavish quarters in the plush Doories residence of the Witwatersrand College for Advanced Technical Education a few blocks away, keeping to the shadows. It was all shadows.
Once safely inside we opened the large door of the old off-white Westinghouse with ‘Fridge Over Troubled Waters’ written on it in cokie pen. Finally we, The Official Inebriated World Darts Champions of The World, could relax. Another beer . .
Suddenly the smell of frying bacon filled the room . . .