Somewhere around 1969 I won the world-famous Harrismith Methodist All-Stars inaugural (and last) Table Tennis Tournament held in the Wesleyan Hall on Warden Street. This was a huge event for us dedicated Harrismith Methylated Spirits. There must have been . . what? half a dozen or more people watching, spellbound. Many of them would also have been among the entrants to this high-level event. Which I won, did I mention that?
My prize: The gold medal and a vinyl LP by The Tremeloes! Except for the medal, though. The LP was real and was my first ever. And maybe my only? I don’t remember owning any other LPs.
How hip was the Harrismith Methodist Church?! I’d love to know who donated this lovely prize.
The feature pic shows our table tennis table on the side veranda at home. Training ground.
Jessie’s second pre-school was ‘Sinner Lizabeth.’ I think it’s Anglican, but I don’t know, cos I wasn’t interested. Only interested in the fact that Aitch had chosen it, so I knew they’d look after my Jessie. And they did: Rose and two Pennys treated her good the two years she was there.
But today I found out about Sinner Mary. This was news to me. I gasped.
Right through school Mary, now universally know as Mary Methodist after playing the organ in the Harrismith Methylated Spirits church for something like a hundred years, was churchless!
Her Mom Annie, my gran, was blissfully unimpressed and uninvolved and probably played golf on Sundays. I’m guessing she would use as an excuse, if pushed by the pious, that Harrismith didn’t have a Presbyterian church (it had folded). I’m not going to say that proves God is Methodist, but you can see right here how the thought did cross my mind.
So Mary tells me her teacher Mr Moll – who taught singing, woodwork and religion – never gave her very good marks probly cos he knew she didn’t go to church! She’s joking of course, and her bad marks were probably 80%, but anyway, Tommy Moll was very involved in the Methodists.
So when Mary got married they ‘made a plan’ and the wedding made the newspapers. ‘Four denominations at one wedding’ or something. Not ‘and a funeral.’ The bride ‘was Presbyterian’ they said (but we now know she was actually a ‘none’); the groom was Dutch Reformed (‘another faith’ they said, but he too was really a ‘none’); the Methodist minister was on leave, so the Apostolic Faith Mission man tied the knot.
Later, when she returned to Harrismith, having lived in Pietermaritzburg for a while, she decided to get church. She chose the Methodists as a lot of her friends were Methodists. She forgets she told Sheila the Methodist boys were nicer than the Anglican boys, so she tells me something about not liking the Anglicans’ ‘high church’ aspect. So this twenty five year old mother leaves her baby Barbara with Annie and Dad at Granny Bland’s home in Stuart street, where they have the room with the big brass double bed, and goes off to confirmation classes with a group of schoolkids. She aces the class, gets confirmed in the Lord, sanctified, and starts her epic Methodistian journey, which continues today, sixty seven years later, her only sin on the way being an occasional single ginger brandy with ginger ale while everyone else was drinking bucket loads. When she plays the piano of a Sunday in the frail care dining room in Maritzburg these days, those are Methodist hymns she’s thumping out joyfully, I’m sure.
I sort of feel like I have an excuse for being churchless now if I need one. ‘I’m just taking my twenty five years off now,’ I’ll tell Ma if she asks.
After ‘Sinner Lizabeth’ pre-school, Jess went to a remedial primary school whose school song, which they sang with gusto, went:
Live in Sin, Live in Sin, Progress Voorspoed, Live in Sin
Eat cake, Eat soap, Eat porridge too.*
Believe in yourself Live in Sin
Can’t say we didn’t give our JessWess a good grounding.
*Have faith, have hope, have courage too. Tom loved telling us ‘the real words, Dad!’ which according to him were the ones above, not these.
We good people of the Harrismith Methodist Church would never have taken Mrs Brunsdon to court for her singing! Sure, her singing was awful, but church would have been duller and there would have been less giggling and less to skinder about without her. She would bellow off-key and at her own pace, sniffing loudly from time to time and gazing all round the church mid-hymn; sometimes through her glasses, sometimes over her glasses; sometimes turning right round to see who was behind her. The sniffs would put her behind, so soon she’d be a few words and then a few lines behind but no way she would play catch-up. She got her money’s worth, singing every single word. In fact, our Mom Mary Methodist, the organist, would wait for her, as would we all.
Not so the Methodists in Lumberton, North Carolina USA. They were considerably displeased when William Linkhaw sang hymns very loudly and very poorly. Deviating from the correct notes, he continued singing well after the congregation reached the end of each verse. On one occasion, the pastor simply read the hymn aloud, refusing to sing it because of the disruption that would inevitably occur. The presiding elder refused to preach in the church at all. Upon the entreaties of a prominent church member, Linkhaw once stayed quiet after a particularly solemn sermon. But he steadfastly rejected the repeated pleas of his fellow congregants to remain silent altogether, responding that “he would worship his God, and that as a part of his worship it was his duty to sing.”
In their defence it must be noted that some of the better congregants of Lumberton Methodist – like us in Harrismith – found Linkhaw’s singing hilarious, but the bitter lot won out and decided to show him! They had the law hand down a misdemeanor indictment against Linkhaw, charging that he had disturbed the congregation. Obviously the LumberMeths had never heard Jesus’ clear instructions in his sermon that we ‘Turn The Other Tympanum.’ Or if they had, they were ignoring him! No wonder Ghandi reputedly said, ‘I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’ And if he didn’t he should have, as ‘Christians’ were mismanaging both his countries at the time: India and South Africa.
The case went to trial in August 1872. Several witnesses, including the church’s pastor, testified that Linkhaw’s singing disturbed the church service. One witness, being asked to describe the way in which Linkhaw sang, gave an imitation of it, singing a hymn in Linkhaw’s style. He provoked what the court described as “a burst of prolonged and irresistible laughter, convulsing alike the spectators, the Bar, the jury and the Court.” Witness testimony also showed, however, that Linkhaw was a devout and spiritual man, and the prosecution admitted that he was not deliberately attempting to disrupt worship. Linkhaw asked the court to instruct the jury that it could not find him guilty unless it found intent to disturb the service. He was right, but the judge rejected his request, ruling instead that the jury only needed to determine whether Linkhaw’s singing actually disrupted the service. The jury found Linkhaw guilty, and the judge fined him one penny.
William was not gonna take this lying down. He appealed the judgment to the North Carolina Supreme Court; the case was heard in 1873 and the court unanimously set aside the verdict. It accepted the jury’s ruling that Linkhaw had indeed caused a substantial disturbance. It also agreed that intent can generally be presumed when the defendant could have anticipated his actions. However, the court observed that the prosecution had expressly admitted that Linkhaw had no malicious intent. The justices therefore held that the presumption, being contradicted by uncontested evidence, did not apply. The court issued a writ of venire de novo, nullifying the jury’s verdict.
Well! We of the Harrismith Methodist Church liked our Mrs Brunsdon and we did not take her to court. We instead thought like the 1873 Supreme Court that since she was attempting in good faith to worship, she could not be subjected to criminal penalties. And we also thought thus:
“Although the proof sure did show / Ms Brunsdon’s voice was awful / us judges found no valid ground / For holding it unlawful.”
“While LumberMeths grumbled / and acted all nefarious / us Harrismithians benevolently / Thought it all hilarious.”
“If all things bright and beautiful / the Lord God made them all / Then sniffs and squawks discordant / Are welcome in the hall.”
“Old Brunsdon raised the rafters / some congregants did cringe / But she was screeching to her Lord / so we laughed, we did not whinge.”
I’ll stop now.
“Some thought that they could bellow / in holy tones so fine / but oo’s to know what the Mighty One / regards as a voice divine?”
I mean, how do we know the Good Lord likes it when he hears the famous Three Fat Blokes Shouting (some call them The Three Tenors)?
It was schoolfriend Koos Beukes’ birthday today and I remembered he’s from Aberfeldy, so I asked him about a half-remembered memory that popped up on thinking ‘Aberfeldy:’
‘Who were the rooinek ladies that farmed out your way again?’
‘Natalie and Phyllis Arbuckle on Somerby,’ said Koos. He actually now owns the farm! He bought it from them around 1986 and Natalie then moved to White River to stay with Phyllis’ daughter Aileen.
Somerby was renowned for a big dam known for very good fishing. Fishermen actually paid to fish there! Natalie charged R2 a rod and donated the proceeds to her church. She was a staunch Methodist, and her R2’s probably doubled the takings!!
Mom says Natalie was in elder sister Pat’s class in school, so like Pat Bland, she was probably born in 1925. She remained single all her life.
Natalie died in 2010. The big damwall broke that year and Koos surmises the knowledge of that loss may have contributed to her death. Her ashes were scattered on Somerby.
rooinek – Engels; English-speaking, really; usually not English-from-England
feature pic: The bridge over the Elands River at Aberfeldy
No.6 of Mom’s Chopin repetoire – played at night on the Bentley upright while we lay in bed listening down the other end of the long passage. Sometimes she would practice her hymns for Sundays – she played the organ at the Harrismith Methodist church for a hundred-odd years – sister Sheila christened her ‘Mary Methodist’ cos o’ that. Other times were not as classical, nor as holy – that would be when friends gathered round the piano full of smoke and booze and belted out popular tunes with various degrees of talent.
Thanks again to the pianist standing in for Mary now that she’s 91 and can no longer read her sheet music. She still plays, but her favourite popular tunes ‘off by heart.’
In the comments Sheila informs me it was a Venning – Barbara or her daughter Lel who first christened her Mary Methodist. Well, it stuck!
Fifty-Year-Old Memories: METHODIST CHURCH, SUNDAY SCHOOL AND GUILD IN THE SIXTIES. This was triggered by big sister Barbara’s scribblings written in 2015; edited and added to by me and various other perpetrators:
‘Dropping Dropping Dropping – Hear The Pennies Fall – Every One For Jesus, He Shall Have Them All’ – ” But only after we have – Rebuilt the Chu-urch Hall.”
Every Sunday morning Mom would give us sixpence each to place in the plates that were handed around by the – who? deacons? elders? we didn’t call them anything high church like that, it was just Uncle Cappy and Uncle Ralph. They would hand around two flat, lathe-turned wooden plates lined with red velvet, one for boys, one for girls; open so everyone could see how much you gave! These were then taken to the front of the hall where George Davies would be sitting. He would stand up, and – in Barbara’s childlike eyes – pocket the money in his voluminous trousers so that he could buy us nice things for our Christmas Party!
Every Sunday morning we’d go to Church with Mom in her powder blue 1959 Volksie OHS 155.
She was the organist and we had to get there early so that Mom could get settled – and sister Sheila says ‘warm up her hands in Harrismith’s winter cold.’ She would play all the beautiful pieces that she had been practicing all week at home. The congregation would walk into Church and sit quietly and listen to her playing. At least, most people would sit quietly.
At first she played the big old fashioned organ with the ivory stops and wooden ‘pump-pedals’ that she ‘inherited’ from Uncle Wright Liddell. Now when I look at that beautiful wood I think ‘deforestation’, and those ivory stops and keys make me think Dead Elephants! Later on the much smaller modern organ that replaced it. Much less impressive, but maybe more in choon? On the old organ they’d sit with their back to the people; the new one they faced us and it was low. Mom would place a big bunch of flowers on it so she could hide a bit! Especially at funerals. The old one looked something like this one. I put the second picture in to show the wooden pedals you had to pump left-right-left-right.
At 10am Church would begin with the minister appearing from the mysterious room at the back, mounting his pulpit and saying the same thing each time. I forget what it was but you can bet it was important. Sunday School kids had to start off in the big church first (‘big church’ in no way to be confused with Die Groot Kerk which was up the road, also in Warden Street, but apparently closer to heaven). Barbara thinks this was to teach us kids to sit still, listen to the grown-ups, keep deadly quiet and definitely not to talk and giggle in Church. Well, that didn’t work did it? What was so funny? Was it Mrs. Brunsdon’s singing? Was it Mrs. Fritzgerald’s hat or her fur cape? Or was it little two year old Glynnis Yates standing up on the pew and saying loudly to her father in the pulpit: “Daddy, you Scallywag”! Whatever it was, it was very funny. One definite cause of hilarity once was while Mary was teaching us ‘Hark! Hark! Hark!, While infant voices sing’ and Fluffy Crawley sang the harks in an Afrikaans pronunciation while making little raking motions with his hands and arms, causing collapsification.
Barbara remembers: In our earlier years – 1959/1960 – us three little Swanepoels would walk down Warden Street with Audrey and Monica Hastings, who lived in Warden Street back to back with our great-grandmother’s house at 13 Stuart Street. There at ‘Granny Bland’s house we would have high tea, scones or crumpets on the front veranda steps with our Grandmother Annie Bland, her sister Jessie Bell and Annie’s mother-in-law, Mary Bland, known as Granny Bland – a highlight of the week.
They were not church-going folk, but it was OK, Mother Mary Methodist did enough church for all of them put together! Plus she did lots of Women’s Auxiliary and choir practice. I think ‘Women’s Auxiliary’ was probably started by the men to ‘keep ’em out of the pulpit?’ We would happily wait with these friendly sinners for Mom to finish her church service and then join us.
Story from Mom: Mary Wessels said no matter where she sat in Church, Mrs. Brunsdon always came and sat in front of her. Mary would then battle to keep a straight face when confronted by Mrs. B singing loudly off key, turning around and sniffing and then noisily wiping her nose with a snotty hanky into the bargain. So distracting! This, methinks, was certainly one of the things that set the girls’ giggling!
Actually I think every Methodist thought Mrs Brunsdon always sat right in front of them – it certainly felt that way! She used to turn round and peer intently at whatever or whoever interested her, over or through her glasses. She would start singing the next line when she was ready, regardless of where the music and/or the congregation members were at – those two weren’t always perfectly in sync neither! She would never skip or play catch-up. She’d go through the hymn at her pace – irregardless! And loud! Sometimes Mom the organist or sometimes the whole congregation would wait or speed up to match her and thus keep some sort of order.
Lynn du Plessis reminisces: So many memories of our Sunday School days in that church. I was always part of the choir and am comforted by the fact that although I have never had the greatest singing voice, I was better than the person who was always one verse ahead and totally out of key. Mrs Brunsdon was a constant source of amusement to Shirley, Anne and I. The pews would shake as the three of us tried to contain the giggles. Then who was it that constantly dug in her nose with the hugest antique key and wore the most outrageous hats: Birds, Butterflies, Bees, Feathers and Flowers perched precariously on her dusty hat and jiggled and jangled as she sang ‘uit volle bors’! (that was Ms Fitzgerald).
These three good-looking older girls were the main reason we younger boys hung in at Sunday School: Whenever they told us ‘Shirley, Goodness and Mercy Would Follow Us All the Days of Our Lives’ we thought of Shirley, Ann and Lynn and thought whattapleasure!
Mrs Brunsdon was without doubt a cause of some of the suppressed youthful mirth in church. As was poor old Bob Yates’ small, bald, bespectacled bird-like appearance. He had a tough act to follow, coming after the younger cricket-playing Jack MacGuire.
Us kids would then be dismissed to our relief after five hours. Or ten minutes, depending on who you asked. Off we would troop – out of the old sandstone church and into the brick ‘Wesley Hall’ next door for Sunday School. Read about the hall foundation stone here.
Announcements would be made, the Dropping Pennies Song would be sung, the loot would be gathered, and off we would go to our individual classes.
The Sunday School teachers in the early 60’s were Miss Ivy Petty for the senior girls, Poerie Coetzee for the senior boys, George Davies for junior boys, Stella Euthimiou taught the babies, Emma Morton and Pye Euthimiou. After classes it would be back to the hall where we always seem to finish off the morning with – ‘Jesus wants me for a sunbeam to shine for Him each day . . . a sunbeam, a su-u-unbeam, I’ll be a sunbeam for Him.’ Shirley Mason would accompany us on the piano. Sheila says another song that never missed a Sunday was: ‘Jesus bids us shine with a pure clear light . . . you in your small corner and I in mine.’ Luckily we didn’t know the alternative words then, ‘Cheese an beer an wine with a pure clear light . . ‘
Sunday School Picnics in the park on the banks of the river were amazing. The games, the delicious food and the wonderful company. Gallons of ginger-beer in colourful buckets with raisins floating on top and hot-cross buns, with butter melting in them. Uncle Cappy would walk around offering tea and a hot cross bun by shouting in the Cockney accent he’d learned in World War II, ‘Coop a char ‘na boon!?’ He would also organise games for us – rounders, open-gates and cricket. And of course, he’d join in and play!
Sheila has just spoken to Mom who says she still has the red plastic bucket she used for the ginger-beer which she made fifty years ago!
Another story from Sheila: One picnic all the kids were told not to go anywhere near the weir – but needless to say we went. Afterwards Mom said to all the kids: “But didn’t Mrs. Morton tell you not to go to the weir?” Irrepressible Pierre piped up cheerfully: “Yes, but we didn’t hear her nie!”
Emma Morton of the double negatives became our ‘superintendent’ after George Davies retired – him with the yards and yards of grey flannel material which made up his flowing pants – We called them his ballroom trousers! When he sang ‘you in your small corNAAAH!’ he would rise up on his toes and shove his boep forward a yard but his trousers didn’t need to move an inch. ‘and Di in mine.’ His two-tone grey Wolseley had beautiful fold-down walnut tables for the back passengers.
On the subject of George Davies’ two-tone grey Wolseley, Etienne wrote: Tuffy & I would walk to the church on Sunday evenings after my folks had left, with the green Zephyr’s spare keys so as to borrow the Zephyr for a spin through the park. I would gun it and let its backside slip on the turn before the swing. One night I let it slide too much and caught the tail against a mud bank. We drove back to Church & parked it in the empty bay next to old Davies’ Wolseley. When my Dad saw the bang on the tail the next day in the light, he thought George Davie had bumped him and said nothing. The following Sunday old Cappy inspected the Wolseley for evidence of green paint, but there was none. Before he passed away I told him the story and he said he could not believe me.
On Friday afternoons, the younger kids had Junior Guild. What fun! Here the minister Jack McGuire and his wife Eileen were in charge – they would read us stories, we would have quizzes and then there would be games outside. Barbara used to play the piano for the singing of ‘guild songs’ which were different to Sunday School songs. “Give me oil in my lamp, keep me burning, burning, burning, give me oil in my lamp I pray // I will make you fishers of men if you’ll only follow me // The old old story it is ever new, the old old story praise the Lord, its true, that Jesus died for me as well as you, I love the old old story”.
In front of the old church 1962
In standard six – high school! you could join Senior Guild. For kids who mostly stayed at home evenings or went out only with our parents this was a big adventure. 7pm on Friday nights you could go to guild unaccompanied! And come home late. We’d drink coffee at guild and sometimes we’d venture out on treasure hunts – going all over town finding and collecting the ‘treasures’ in the clues we were given. In about 1968 Adie Crewe took over the night Guild and brought a whole lot of new ideas and fun into our lives.
After Guild some were fetched and some walked home – more adventure. Barbara says walking home by the light of the moon or the streetlamps gave the words ‘Kêrels by Kandlelight’ a whole new meaning!
We would help out at cake sales held on Saturday mornings, in front of Chodos’ store or the Post Office – selling, carrying and sometimes eating all the goodies that filled these tables. Worst of all was standing on a street corner with an adult from the Church, holding the money tin and rattling it under everybody’s noses.
Harvest Festival was another different day. We were asked to bring along some sort of fruit or veg. We could have taken wine, but Methodists frown on alcohol. I wonder how the Methodist Church in the winelands handles that little ‘farm produce’ dilemma!? The farmers would bring loads of crops – big pumpkins and mealie stalks all over the place. The front of the Church looked like a jungle. Imagine the nunus that escaped from the vegetation!
On Garment Sunday we were asked to take jerseys for the poor.
The Nativity Play brought big excitement – in rehearsals and on the big night. Anna Gavin, Miss Petty, Mom, the minister and his wife would choreograph and direct and coach. Tension as you found out if you were cast as an angel, a wise man, a shepherd or – first prize! Mary or Joseph. I remember being a sheep and an angel – not prize positions by any means! I remember the bigger boys’ solemn slow walk as us the supporting cast all sang ‘We three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar, . . . . following yonder star’. Only later we learnt: We Three Beatles of Liverpool are, George in a taxi John in a car, Paul on his scooter blowing his hoo-ooter, following Ringo Starr”. The older kids also taught us; ‘While shepherds washed their socks at night all seated round the tub; A bar of sunlight soap came down and they began to scrub’.
At the end of the year Prize-Giving lovely books were handed out for lst, 2nd and 3rd prizes. What were they for? Biblical knowledge? Not being irritating?
Carols by Candlelight was another big event – sitting on the back of a big truck or trailer along with Uncle Wright Liddell’s beloved organ and driving around town singing to – who? the Dutch Reformed and the Anglicans? Lost souls! We’d show them! The grown-ups and the bigger kids had torches or candles. The singing would start immediately with great gusto and this carried on during the course of the evening with diminutive Uncle Wright playing to his heart’s delight while pumping at the pedals to make the noise. We would be asked to pump when he tired and had to be tamed – ‘not so fast’ – till we got the hang of it.
Then our Christmas Party in the hall – what a highlight! Decorations; tables groaning under the burden of delicious food; a beautiful array of cakes and puddings and ice cream cones; and always a beautifully decorated Christmas tree – a real pine tree from the bosbou; loads of presents lying at the bottom. These wonderful unforgettable occasions were thanks to our kind and generous parents – Aunty Joyce Joubert, Aunty Joan du Plessis, Mrs. Emma Morton, Ivy and Philys Petty, Miss Helen Scott (Scotty) who always made her delicious fairy cup-cakes, Myra Wood, Anna Gavin, Doreen Hattingh, Polly Crawley, Jo Hastings, Edna Bissett, Lally Davies, Mary Swanepoel and who else? – many others.
A Christmas present for each child was brought to us by a ‘real’ Father Christmas – usually Uncle Cappy – who, as in everything he did, did his thing here like a real trooper. He would arrive at the hall on a tractor or truck after a big build-up by the other adults. Old FC certainly got more hype, pomp and ceremony than poor Jesus ever got! We would be told to go and look out for him – usually misled in the wrong direction to give him a gap to arrive “Ta DA!” – in he would walk in ‘is gumboots, with all our eyes on the big sack thrown over his shoulder. Then we would sit quietly as George Davies or Emma Morton called each one of us to the front to receive our gift, lucky kids.
Christmas Day church! For once church did not seem early. We had been up for ages already, finding out what was under the tree. Church would be dominated by the excitement of our presents with our friends who had also not gone on holiday. What did Father Christmas bring you when he came down your chimney? Ministers would try and keep the focus on Jesus but that was not easy to do. I achieved some brief pulpit-y fame one year when the minister said to the spellbound congregation, ‘I know of one little chap who had already pitched his new tent on the lawn by six o’ clock this morning!’
For an accurate record of a Sunday School picnic what better than a diary written ON THE DAY back in 1969?
Thursday 15 May 1969 – Ascension Day
“Went to Church hall at 9am. Went to park by bus, walked to weir. Then had morning tea. Walked to weir again and played on swings. Had lunch. That p.m. played rounders and walked to weir again. Walked to weir with Lynette (Wood) and Claudia (Mann). Waded from one side to other. (That morning swung over river) Went to the swing with three girls and four boys. Gathered all the leaves up and played in them. The hostel boys and (teacher) Bruce (Humphries) were at swing. Bruce fell in with clothes on – the swing broke. Were rolling on ground we were laughing so much. Bruce went home. Went back. Had tea, played around. Came home at about half past 5. Went to Jouberts.“
So that’s the riveting story of our SS picnics. Love – Sheila Swanepoel
Here’s the road they’d have walked between having tea and laughing at a teacher:
Shady Lane on the right bank of the Wilge.
For some fascinating history on the church hall – The Wesleyan Hall – see Harrismith’s best blog deoudehuizeyard.
Big Sister Barbara Swanepoel Tarr has a good memory for the old days, good sources, like old school annuals, and friends like Ann Euthemiou, and is developing a good old-Harries network to enhance all that! She wrote in November 2015:
Note: To plough through this post easily you really ideally need to be: 1. Ancient 2. a Rooinek - and 3. a Harrismithian!
Dear Friends, Acquaintances, Dancing Partners, Boyfriends of Old and “Big Brothers.” Happiness is . . meeting old friends after a very long time and feeling that nothing has changed.
This is Harrismith OFS from about 1959 to 1971 – so in The Famous Sixties!
Recently, while chatting to Louis Brockett, he mentioned how nice it would be to have a reunion – with the kids that went to our Sunday School/Guild and Swimming Club. I have come up with these names and I am sure you all will remember plenty more. If a reunion ever does take place, it should be quite a gathering – ‘n groot makietie’ – or just one helluva party. It would be great to see all again.
Our circle of friends at School / Sunday School / Guild / Swimming Lessons / Volkspele in the Kleinspan Skoolsaal; Then Parties! Christmas Parties at the Moth Hall, Church Hall & the Country Club; Even better: ‘Sessions’ and ‘Discos’ at the Moth Hall and old Jewish Synagogue, etc etc
METHODIST MINISTERS, SUNDAY SCHOOL AND GUILD TEACHERS:
Justin & Dorianne Michell – them with the lots of kids – seven in all at the end! Mr Rev Michell used to go to the zoo after church and feed the warthog, so we named the warthog ‘Justin’.
Jack & Eileen MacGuire – we loved them at Guild. Jack was so NORMAL! Not ‘dominee’-like at all; He played cricket for Harrismith!
Bob & Pearl Yates – he confirmed many of us;
David & Thelma Young – who married Barbara and Jeff;
Then the church leaders: George & Lally Davies (Davie or Davies?); ‘Uncle Wright’ Liddell, organist; Mary Swanepoel, took over as organist; Emma Morton; Miss Ivy Petty; Poerie Coetzee; Cappy Joubert; Stella & Pye Euthimiou; Adie Crewe . . who else?
KIDS IN SUNDAY SCHOOL: (1959 – 1971)
Lynn, Pierre & Sonja du Plessis; Christos, Anne & Georgie Euthimiou; Shirley Mason; Petra & Ray Bissett; Alfie, Robert, Peter, Cecily & Ian Moore; Audrey and Monica Hastings; Jean Lund; David Davies; Renee Rae; Julian & Roma Roy; Richard, Cynthia (Sue), Denise (Lindy), Terence (Jimmy) & Beverley (Denny) Putterill; Etienne, Tuffy & Deon Joubert; Kevin, Leon & Judy Crawley; Heather, Melanie, Jenny & Norma Hattingh; Billy, Louie, Timothy & Charlotte Brocket; Allan & older brother Barry Summerfield; Michael, Sia & Georgie Mikalakis; Liz Paul; Trevor, Jennifer & Allan Priest; Ian Untiedt; Kenneth (Std 8 – 1963) & Maureen Atherton; Denise & Joan Brand (from Witzieshoek); Barbara, Koos & Sheila Swanepoel; Anne, Lynette & Desley Wood; Gillian Liddell; Patsy, Lionel, Cathy & Judy Crewe; Mignon, Jean-Prieur & Jacques-Herman du Plessis;
Kids that crossed our paths in Harrismith (period 1959 to 1966):
Rosemary, Stewart, Barbara and Mary McCall; The Milton sisters, Patricia, Caroline & Pookie; Dick & Brian Riley; Nipper (Patrick) & Christine Lennon; Trevor & Deo Else; Bruce Liddell; Denise van der Merwe; Marion Searle with sister Jenny and brothers John & Peter; Rex Taylor; Gary Vedovitch (matric 1965); Violet Thurston (matric 1965); Gib Gibhard (matric 1964); Dawn and Lester Crawley; Sandra (Std 8 -1963) & Pam Cartwright (Std 9 – 1965); Joy, Claire and Heather Alcock (1960); And what about the Baxter brothers? Allan Baxter was a year younger than me and had older brothers; Leonard Walsh; Merle Wessels (matric 1964); Anna Bam (matric 1964); Poem-Celeste Hobbs (matric 1963); Louise, Janet (matric 1964) & Gillian Liddell; John and Allan Landman; Lynette & Brian Doore; John Riddle & his older brother; Moira & Brian Sharpe; Dawn & Christopher Jelliman; Sandy & her brother Wally Goble; Ian, Gail, Sandy and Tabs Fyvie; Bev Mapp; Jenny Mapp; Ian & Gary Grant; Peter, Pam & Allan Sharratt; Clive & Candy Goble; Pooksie & Michael Eksteen, sons of Dr. Boel & Ronnie Eksteen; The Kuhlmey Kids, Derrick; Stewart & Glynnis Hillcove; Sharon Kool; Donald, Anne & Eddie Coleman;
SWIMMING (1962– 1966)
Our teachers were Joan du Plessis and Joyce Joubert – ladies we will never forget. We were all very privileged to have had them in our lives. Merryl Nocton also assisted.
Robert & Peter Moore; Louie & Billy Brocket; Ralph Morton; Jake & Annette Grove; Amanda Erasmus; Lorette van Wilpe; Lynn & Pierre du Plessis; Martie & Francois Marais; Etienne Joubert; Theo Maeder; Elsie & Trudi Steyn; Chris de Jager; Okkie Botha; Frik Ras; Rietta Meyer; Cecilia Vorster; Marissa Fouche; Franz & Musa von During; Jackie Viljoen; Lesley Wessels; Gib & Zak Gibhard (Model Kafee); Christijan (Oupa) Terblanche; Dirkie Roelofse; Christos & Ann Euthimiou; Peter Aligianus; Llewellyn & Eugene Georgiou; Sarie & Hilda Human; Llewellyn & Derrick Mileham; Trudy & Noelene Bester;
These we found at Sunday School, Guild, Swimming and Parties. They were the older guys and girls that looked out for the younger ones, that protected us and were our heroes. I remember being in Std 5 in 1965 when Johnny Kongas and his band came to Harrismith to play in the Town Hall. What excitement there was amongst the young crowd. Pierre asked me to go with him, Lynn and Gary Vedovitch. Only because Lynn was going did my Mom allow me to trek along. Even at the swimming pool the older guys kept a look-out on the younger ones. There were Big Brothers throughout my whole life in Harrismith.
OUR FAMOUS MOTH HALL PARTIES / Round Table-run SYNAGOGUE PARTIES / GARAGE PARTIES / VERKYKERSKOP NEW YEAR PARTIES – AND OTHER GET-TOGETHERS (1966 – 1970) with Harrismith golden oldies and some “out of towners”:
Trudi Wessels; Lyndie Muller; Jenny Mapp; Max Bronn (fantastic dancer); Johnny & Lenda Pieters; Aubrey, Jurie & Kolhaas Linstrom; Roseanne Schoeman; Trish Carr; the brothers, Rob, Douglas, Neil & Gary Spilsbury; Guillaume, Carl & Bess Reitz; Des Glutz; John, Tim & Lal Venning; Al die landmeter ouens van die Sterkfonteindam projek; Don Inglis; Coenie Bronkhorst en Eugene Ferreira van Pretoria met hulle wit beach buggy; Chris van Zyl with his friend “major” Doubell; Arrie Schreiber with Ge-Org (surname long forgotten); Johnny de Jager; Hein Hansen; Gert and Saag Roets; Gary Beaton; Frans Stassen; Martyn Bean; Bennie Neveling; Trevor Muller; Gordon White; Richard & Elsie Scott; Jeannie Siman (USA 1967); Larry Wingert (USA 1969); Willem, Gideon (Giep) & Hanlie Steyn; Whitey Fourie; Bollie Bolton; Gert Kruger; Marinus Landman; Killus Nortje; Chris Cloete; Ferdi & Wessel Smit; Tobie Lyle; Joe Oosthuizen (party trick: smoothest gear changes in his Cortina – undetectable!); Daan Smuts; Tienie Els; Annatjie Henning; Olive de Necker; Arina Uys; Dalena D’Alebout; Rita Nienaber; Marion Searle;
How can we ever forget those enjoyable Moth Hall parties where the music was great, always the latest songs, supplied by Ann Euthimiou – LP’s and Seven Singles played on what, Annie?? As long as we could dance the night away with great dancers and where one packet of chips fed all of us and a packet of Pepsin Beechies was shared, we were one happy family! I do not recall seeing any cooldrinks on display for our thirst – maybe just a bottle of Oros and a couple of plastic cups; what was available for those who snuck outside, hidden in cars or in the gutters did not bother us insiders either. We just wanted to dance, dance and dance again – even if it was amongst all the military paraphernalia and memorabilia hanging on the walls of the Moth Hall.
Dodging bullets, bombs, swords, helmets and flags we twirled, waltzed and “sakkie lang-armed” to the beat of “Snoopy vs the Red Baron” or “The Ballad of the Green Beret”. With all the Generals and Majors of WW2 looking sternly down upon us from their new positions stuck on the walls, us kids never touched a thing. We were there to have fun – definitely not to fiddle with or re-arrange the past. A few of us would have had ancestors in those Generals and Majors hanging in there. I wonder what would have gone through their heads if only they could have had a detailed conversation with our parents afterwards. But it was all good – we were a disciplined, trustworthy and happy crowd of kids having fun.
To be a wall-flower at our parties was not good and dancing with a group of girls was unheard of in those days. When Volkspele at the high school fell away in about 1967 (I bet some of us are still “Soeking na my Dina”), why didn’t Eben Louw teach us Line Dancing or better still Barn Dancing? Just “Imagine” . . we would have “had the time of our lives” dancing to “Grandma’s Feather Bed”, “The Lonely Bull” or “Groen Koringlande!” Of course, not forgetting “Old MacDonald” and his whole darn noisy farmyard.
It was at these parties that we were introduced to The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Troggs, The Beach Boys, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Simon & Garfunkel and many other new stars of the day. Where “Ob la di Ob la da”, “Proud Mary”, “House of the Rising Sun” and “California Dreamers” would make an impact on our lives forever. Where “Bridge over Troubled Waters” and “Silence is Golden” would be the last songs of the evening so that we could snuggle with whoever was your beau or “flavour” or “case” for the night!! (“ . . and then he kissed me”) . .
but then as the clock struck 11pm, I knew I was in trouble as that was the time that this Cinderella had to be home – with two shoes or one – dit het nie saak gemaak nie – I had to BE HOME at 11pm! If not, I was banned/gated for the next two or three parties and that would have been such punishment, even torture, as we only had about one party each holiday. That means I could have been banned for a whole year! Now I know why some of my friends didn’t want to stay at my house for these parties. Really, parents . . 11 pm! Just when all the fun was starting. I think my Mom had just got to hear of the new song of the moment: “Even the good times are bad . . ” Yeah, Mom, but even the bad times were good! (Koos: Mom used to say – in justifying her curfew: “You know, Dominee Ras says ‘Na twaalfuur kom die duiwel uit'”).
Well guys, this is all that I can remember. Please share your side of the stories with us and the names of your friends of yesteryear just to jog the old memories even more.
Love to all of you – Barbara Swanepoel Tarr
PS: . . And who could forget Percy Sledge’s “When a Man loves a Woman” . . just when things were hotting up and undying love was being confessed, declared or whispered in my ear, I had to grab both shoes and rush home! Maybe I would have turned into a pumpkin . . anything would have been better than leaving a good party filled with hope and promises. I mean, those moments were gone in a second and were seldom relived. Oh! the agony of being young! Sighhh . . !
Petra Bissett replied:
Such delightful messages filled with such lovely memories from Barbara and friends. Barbara, I just don’t know how you keep all those memories so fresh in your mind.
As you all know Rey and I did not matriculate in Harrismith. Std 9 and Matric I went to boarding school, and so did a few other Harrismith guys – Linstrom boys (they lived next to the Brocketts), Maaitjie Odendaal’s elder sister. We then only came home on the occasional Hostel weekend and holidays. The Odendaal girls lived on a farm – don’t quite remember. Rey went to a Boy’s School in Gauteng (Heidelberg) where he started his trade. He did well there and was Headboy of the Hostel. Both of us returned to Harrismith after school for a few years and I eventually left Harrismith in 1970 and Rey much later – possibly very early 80’s. Rey was very close to the Georgiou boys and was very saddened when Eugene drowned.
I certainly missed a lot of fun those last two years of school but I have the wonderful memories until Std 8. The famous Moth Hall Parties were definitely the highlight. I remember very clearly my childhood in Harrismith and how you all, boys and girls played a big role in my life and of course the wonderful teachers we were privileged to have. I also took music lessons from Miss Underwood whom I am sure some of you did also. When we were in the Primary School, can any one still remember how we enjoyed the “Tickey Aand”. The favourite part was where you could play a record for someone special and remain anonymous. For days you would wonder who sent the message but was soon forgotten when the next exciting thing happened.
Louis Brockett met up with Gary Vedovitch a few months and shared the photo on whatsapp. I remember the names Tokolos Coetzee and Arrie Schreiber but just cannot place them and obviously can figure out what connection there was – maybe someone can enlighten me.
When I started to work at the Standard Woollen Mills, I made a lot of Afrikaans-speaking friends and joined the Badminton and Tenniquoit Club. We would often travel quite far to play a match and the places not too far we would have a braai and barn dance after the game. During these years we got together – not sure if one could all it “dates” but nevertheless we had a great time – with Killus Nortje (a great dancer and later he and Maaikie Odendaal got serious), Chris van Zyl, Jurie and Aubrey and some girls would go all the way to Ladysmith to the Drive-Inn, Hennie van Aard, a land surveyor, Bruce Humphries (teacher), Garth Romeo – more – my memory has failed me.
I still have not been able to trace my photo albums but somehow found these few photos attached in a box. Lynn was talking about the make up – I must say I only experimented with the eye shadow much later but the mascara and eyeliner was the in-thing as can be seen in the photo of me in 1966. Audrey Hepburn looked so good with the eyeliner but – ah well we tried.
That’s what I have to contribute or fill in the gaps with the stories Barbs. Once again thank you for keeping in touch and being so disciplined in contacting us. I know you are a very busy lady and that is why I appreciate your efforts – time is precious and goes by so fast.
Lots of love – Petra Bissett Cronje
Younger sister Sheila added:
Mum Mary remembers a Sunday School picnic in the park where we were expressly told not to go anywhere near the weir – but needless to say, we went. Afterwards Mum said to all the kids “But didn’t Mrs Morton tell you not to go to the weir?” Pierre said, “Yes, but we didn’t hear her nie” (gently mocking Emma Morton’s famous double negatives).
Mum still has the same red plastic bucket she used to make the ginger beer for the picnics. Cappy Joubert would walk around with a wide grin in the President Brand Park where we’d sometimes hold the picnics, offering tea and buns, shouting “coop a char na boon?” mimicking the cockneys he’d met during the war. When he came back from the war in uniform his church had turned him away, so he’d joined the Methodists! Mrs Brunsdon was a huge part of the church those days – also Joyce Joubert, Anna Gavin, Emma Morton, Lallie Davie and later Adie Crewe. And the long-suffering minister’s wives – Dorianne Michell – she of the seven kids – Eileen McGuire, Muriel McGregor, Pearl Yates.
Archie McGregor’s wife was Muriel. Their 4 kids were awful, and he was very difficult. He got very irritated one year when we were playing a ball game down in the park at the Sunday School picnic and Adie Crewe ran away with the ball when it was thrown to her.
Other men involved in the church and not yet mentioned, were Bob Moore, Ernie van Biljon and Francois Maeder.
During an evening performance of some sort – I remember sitting up on the raised pews in the old church – Sonja du Plessis fell asleep with her head on Lyn Wood’s shoulder and when we had to stand up and sing, Lettuce couldn’t move!
Mary Wessels said no matter where she sat in church, Mrs Brunsdon always came and sat right in front of her – and Mary battled to keep a straight face when confronted by Mrs Brunsdon, singing loudly off-key, turning around and sniffing – and noisily wiping her nose.
Whenever Mum had to play at a funeral, she would always grab the biggest flower arrangement and put it smack in front of her face, so she didn’t have to see the grieving relatives.
Mum doesn’t remember the kids being allowed on the back of the lorry for the Christmas Carols – she thought it was only the choir – with Uncle Wright on the organ. She says Edgar Ewan or Bob Moore would have driven the truck.
At one of the nativity plays – which Emma Morton always called the Nivity Play – I was supposed to be an angel, but I refused to cooperate, so they took you instead and you behaved beautifully.
Mr George Davie always spoke of ‘Cessily Maw’ – instead of Sissily Muwa, as we – and she – said, and that always amused me. Didn’t he know Cecily Moore was pronounced Sissily Muwa or Mu-uh?
Mum remembers that Myra Wood made the most delicious cupcakes – an art Mary could never master. A master baker she was not, so she’d call in the services of Mrs Woodcock to make our birthday cakes. Scotty (formally ‘Miss HM Scott’) was famous for her butterfly cakes.
Somebody made Mum a beautiful yellow brocade dress for her honeymoon – she later cut it up to make gypsy outfits for us – for some talent show. Koos and I wandered up on to the stage and won a special prize for being cute or something.
Mum also remembers entering us all in a talent show – you played the piano and I sang “Zoem, zoem zoem, bytjie zoem zoem zoem.” Mum can’t remember if Koos did anything. Wonder if that was where Stuart McKenzie recited “New shoes, new shoes, red and pink and blue shoes”? Heather and I went through three years of teachers’ training college together. Stuart died of cancer about ten years ago.
Shocking news! Mary Methodist wasn’t always a staunch Methodist! She has admitted preferring the Anglican Church picnics as a teenager, as the boys were much nicer than the Methodist boys! Michael Scruby, Brian Brown and Peter Anderson, amongst others. (Koos: I think that’s what we Methodists would call ‘heresy’).
The picnics were held at “The Homestead”, up near the waterworks somewhere. Later on Bob & Nan Milne had a chicken farm there.
When Mum was in Duggie Dugmore’s nursing home in the old Boer War officers’ mess on Kings Hill when Koos was born, Jessie Bain / Bell said to her – “Aren’t you scared of snakes?” Mary replied “I don’t know – I haven’t seen any and I don’t think of them.” “Oh” said Jessie “I would think of them all the time!”
And here’s what’s left of it. Bob Moore in the left picture:
Bessie & Sepp de Beer’s home was down near Granny Bland’s home – Mum loved that home – they would have concerts on the open veranda – Mum’s great friend was Joey de Beer – Marie Lotter’s older sister. Bessie always said their outside toilet was “halfway to Warden”
Lovely. Cecily always corrected me when I said Cecily. She said “It’s Sissily”. I did say Moowa though, not Maw. George Davie had the biggest ballroom trousers in the Free State. When he sang Sumbean, he could move his boep forward a yard before his trousers needed to move. His old grey Wolseley car had beautiful fold-down walnut tables for the back seat passengers. Ernie van Biljon was a star – he (along with the Round Tablers) brought normality to Harrismith – the real world, common sense, parties – for which I’m everlastingly grateful.
Mrs Brunsdon used to turn round in church and peer intently at whatever interested her, quite disconcerting if it was you she stared at while singing lustily. She would then start the next line when she was good and ready, regardless of where the music and/or the other singers were at. Loudly. She would never skip or play catch-up. She’d go through it at her pace. Irregardless, as a friend of mine says.
Fluffy Crawley had a great sense of humour. When Mary Methodist made us sing ‘Hark Hark Hark, While Infant Voices Sing’ he would pronounce ‘hark’ in Afrikaans and make raking motions, cracking us up and making Mary get stern and admonishing.
I remember Bessie & Sepp de Beer’s home being nearer the Volkskool, nearer Francois Marais’ home and Lesley Wessels the bank manager’s home than Granny Bland’s in Stuart Street. Huge veranda – used by the invading Poms in the Boer War.
Loved your description of Mrs Brundon’s church singing, Koos – spot on! Mary Wessels would have loved reading that! The de Beers must have moved there later – was it Biddulph Street? Then the Uys family lived there – Arina, Annemarie and Ronel. Mum remembers standing in our garden at Piet Uys Street and hearing a gun shot – Mr Uys had ended it all in the garden. Pieter Nouwens now lives there and the home has been beautifully restored. Pieter also bought and restored the magnificent old stone house in Warden Street – on the next corner up from Pierre & Erika’s.
Philip & Rita Schoeman family: Rita says Mum always said “If the four Schoeman kids weren’t in Church, then the Church wasn’t full!” I say if it wasn’t for the extended Schoeman family, Harrismith would have been emptier and poorer!
The thing that sticks out most in my mind is how cold the church and the hall were! How did we survive those winters! And how much I hated getting dressed up in stupid girls’ shoes on Sunday mornings. I recall having to learn ALL the books of the Bible – in the correct order, nogal, in Miss Petty’s Sunday School classes. That wasn’t nearly as much fun as when Pye was our Sunday School teacher.
And Mr Davie singing ” . . In this world of darkness, so we must shine – You in your small corner and I in mine . . “ – and on the word “corNAH” he would rise up on his tippy-toes for emphasis.
At the end of the year, the Swanepoel kids would likely win the “Best Sunday School Attendance” prize – not because of our undying religious fervour, but by accident of birth – we had no choice! Mary Methodist was going off to play the organ – so we were dragged along! And far too early too – as Mary had to warm up the organ and her fingers!
And can one ever forget how awful the hall toilet was? Down behind the main hall – down some steps, dark and dingy and not smelling of roses!
One cannot fail to be humbled by the efforts of the Methodists of little old Harrismith – cake sales, jumble sales, picnics, Nativity Play, Harvest Festival, Guild, building fund – all run by hard-working, dedicated volunteers – what would they have raised at a cake sale in the 1960s? Probably no more than R50! For all that work.
We owe a huge debt to the likes of Joyce Joubert, Anna Gavin, Miss Ivy Petty, Mary Methodist, Emma Morton, Lallie Davie and later Adie Crewe. Then there was Uncle Cappie, Ralph Morton, George Davie, Bob Moore, Francois Maeder, Ernie van Biljon and many others. What an example they set for us!
Who can remember – Georgie? Lettuce? Koos? Charlotte? Sonja? – who took us for junior guild on a Friday afternoon? I seem to remember Adie Crewe? And how did they keep us occupied? I remember singing children’s hymns for some of the time. (Koos: Threats of eternal damnation, maybe? Actually that really wasn’t their style, was it? 😉 We seldom got the fire and brimstone threat! They made us pretty much assume it was Straight To Heaven for Methodists!).
“Who can remember who took us for junior guild on a Friday afternoon? And how did they keep us occupied?”
I think Stella Euthimiou – and occupied? We would just stare at her in total fascination, hopelessly devoted! She was gorgeous! She had us in the palm of her hand. Almost got us to heaven each week, but we’d fix that the rest of the week!
Ralph Morton remembers:
Freddie’s Groceries seems to be well remembered by most – how about Woolf Chodos & Sons and the Harrismith Market? The former was a general dealer store and seemed to stock most things, from groceries to furniture. My parents bought their groceries here as well as my school uniforms. Mr Chodos lived across the road from us in Stuart Street. He later sold his house to Hennie Cillier (the Joubert family will remember him), and his shop to Beares Ltd. The sale to Beares brought Mr Crewe (manager) and his daughter Patsy to town and Laboria flats became a very popular place!!
The Harrismith Market was situated on the back end of the Town Hall and was managed by Mr Robert Rodgers. He lived across the road from the Municipal swimming pool and was the guy who snitched on us when we went for late night escapades. I wonder what Mr Rodgers would have done had he known that one of the crowd he was snitching on was actually one of the school boys working for him on Saturday mornings!! Yes, I actually sold fruit and veg; at first I got my lettuce and cabbage mixed up but soon learnt the difference.
Speaking of shops, does anyone remember Moira Sharp? Her dad managed a shop in Southey Street(?) which later became OK Bazaars. She was part of the Sunday School crowd and, I think, a “cast” member of the yearly Nativity play. As was yours truly – one of the three Kings. We had to walk from the back of the Church, bearing our gifts, to the stage. I think Mr Davie would pray that we didn’t trip over our own feet as we were always checking out the congregation and not concentrating on our roles. Imagine, three young kids dressed in adult gowns trailing behind them, crowns too big for their heads, little hands clasping “gifts” and you will appreciate Mr Davie’s concern that something had to go wrong. Fortunately, nothing did – maybe it was just because we were that good!!!
Finally, who can remember the Primary School in Stuart Street near the Laboria flats? Sub A’s and B’s were schooled there. Ms Jordan was my teacher. We used to write with a nib pen with blotting paper held in your palm – write, blot, write, blot was how it was taught. The bottle of ink was kept in a special hole in the top corner of our desks. Rulers were a solid piece of wood with a thin piece of metal down the one side (not these plastic jobs we have now). This enabled one to draw a line without smudging (that was the theory). However, for Ms Jordan her ruler served another purpose as well – to smack us on the knuckles when she felt we had misbehaved or got something wrong. I think I’m rather lucky that today I don’t have any deformed knuckles.
And yes, our home telephone number was 350. Keep the memories flowing! Kind regards, Ralph
The pics are from all over, including Harrismith’s best blog deoudehuizeyard – go and check out the good work they did to keep your old dorp alive! (they have moved on now).