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1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia school sport

Volkskool – Primary School

Mom went to this school, as did all three of us kids. Annie, Mom’s Mom, would not have, as it seems it was established 1915, see below, and Annie was 22yrs old by then.

Before us, Etienne Joubert went, and he remembers: Playing ‘Hasie’ under the Bluegums near the old Golf club house; Playing ‘Bok-bok’ behind the bottom class rooms; Eating ‘Manna’ under the Bluegums; Playing marbles in the main playground.

Also he remembers the woodwork teacher Giel du Toit – his mother Joyce had a hilarious ‘heilige’ nickname for Onse Giel – & the smell of the old fashioned wood glue; And the vice where ‘we tied a guy’s tie in & walloped his behind. I’ve forgotten his name, but not his face … I can see it now! – I do not remember much about plays & music . . .’

~~~oo0oo~~~

Sister Barbara was a year or two later – she finished Std 5 in 1965. She definitely remembers about plays and music, you Philistine, Etienne! She remembers that year was the school’s Golden Jubilee year – so established 1915, I guess? – and an exciting concert was planned and held on the 28th and 29th of October 1965, with all the classes in the Kleinspanskool and Volkskool participating.

How could she remember in such detail? Well, she had her program carefully stored away in a shoe-box! She remembers the play her class put on: ‘TO  BE  OR  NOT  TO  BE’  –  by  B.J.J. (Bruce) Humphries with Pierre du Plessis and Llewellyn Mileham – or was it Kevin Crawley? – as the smart guys, and Timothy Brockett as Mr. van Snoggery-Boggery, the drunk guy – Pierre remembered this name – and herself – Barbara Swanepoel – as the unnamed lady on the railway station platform.

Interludes between plays were filled by music by the ‘Harrismith Volkskool Orkes / Primary School Band.’ Band members were Rina Minny en Estelle Meyer on trekklaviere – pull pianos – piano accordions; Sylvia Doman on piano; Barbara Swanepoel on melodica; Pierre du Plessis on drums; Willie du Plessis on electric guitar; So much of du Plessis!; Theuns Bam en Bertus Hattingh on acoustic guitars; Almost like The Village People – it was Die Dorps Mense:

Then came the Primary School Boys Choir – Die Seunskoor. Under the charming direction of Miss L. Fourie and that delectable redhead Miss Ethel Cronje. I was a soprano in this lot, warbling away merrily before my balls dropped. We sang (according to that program which won’t lie) Wiegeliedjie van Mozart; Drummer Boy; and Dominique; I still remember, and can still sing majestically – though my kids dispute this fact – the second and third of these.

Barbara asks: ‘Now wasn’t there a record produced for this choir? I think so – our own famous ‘Platberg Boys Choir.’ Indeed there were two records cut. Vinyl. The Vienna Boys Sausages were nervous. Especially when we toured Zululand. If it wasn’t for rugby and puberty, we’d have usurped those Austrian suckers. We’d have parum pu pum pum’d them out of business . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia school

Scotland the Brave 3

Miz Zobbs was scathing: Why can’t any of you whistle? Listen to Claudio! HE can whistle. Show them Claudio. It takes a boy from Italy to show you lot how to whistle!

Poor old Claudio Bellato dutifully pursed his lips and tootled some Italian to show us how it was done while probably thinking . . You Don’t Pronounce My Name Clawed-ee-oh.

See?! **SNIFF** You see! shrieked the old duck, sniffing loudly.

Dora Hobbs, snuff-sniffing tour de force of Harrismith Volkskool could rampage. She would march up and down like a galleon in full sail, never happier than when commanding a choir.

She stopped us in mid-song once to berate us: How many of you can say that!? Huh? How many of you can say you’ve fought and won!? she demanded.

Us ten year-olds stared at her blankly. What was she on about?

We’d been singing:

There was a soldier, A Scottish soldier

Who wandered far away, And soldiered far away

There was none bolder, With good broad shoulder

He’d fought in many a fray, And fought and won

How many of you can say you’ve fought in many a fray? she brayed.

Jeesh!

– foughting and fraying –

Dripping disdain and snot, with snuff stuck in her moustache, on her glasses and on her ample bosom, she’d close her eyes, toss her head and mince around on her toes like a bulk ballerina. I think she was living in another world. When she opened her eyes and saw not dashing broad-shouldered soldiers in kilts wanting to woo the wee svelte lassie in her; but instead snivelling pint-sized Vrystaters wanting to be anywhere else but in “singing”, her mood probably grew dark. Anyway, she probably didn’t know we fought of something totally different when she said ‘fray’ – and no we hadn’t done that either. Yet.

– Hobbs with a girls choir – the girls probly weren’t asked if they’d fought and fray’d –

She could be vicious, too, I’m afraid. She beat Dries Dreyer and Alvaro Acavedes mercilessly when they irritated her. Across the shoulders, on the top of their heads and on their fingers with a heavy 40cm wooden ruler. She was rooted in Olde English educational methods: A. Find out what a child cannot do; and then B. Repeatedly demonstrate that he cannot do it; followed sometimes C. by a public beating. A bad show, really, even granting that having Std 1, Std 2 and Std 3 in one class was probably not easy. Still: Not right. She picked on the vulnerable. I suspect she knew none of their parents would challenge her on their behalf. Nor would the headmaster. Others of us never got touched; never even a harsh word.

– tiny Alvaro seated right in front of Hobbs –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Years later I read a review of what James Joyce had written when his knuckles had been viciously beaten by a sadistic Catholic priest in front of the whole class. I found it now:

Stephen knelt down quickly pressing his beaten hands to his sides. To think of them beaten and swollen with pain all in a moment made him feel so sorry for them as if they were not his own but someone else’s that he felt sorry for.

Stephen – the character in Joyce’s novel A Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man – reported it to the rector and got at least some satisfaction and admiration for being bold enough to defy convention and make the cruelty known. In Harrismith Volkskool no such justice was done; nor even attempted; no-one brave enough; no-one believing it was any use to expect any justice or fair play.

~~~oo0oo~~~