I’ve only ever seen one aardvark in the wild. A dead one. And it was in the boot of Redge’s car in the Harrismith Holiday Inn parking lot. So I haven’t seen an aardvark in the wild. Yet.
I have seen wildlife at the Harrismith Holiday Inn, though. Once when we had had about enough – we always knew when – Des decided he couldn’t drive home so he would check in to the inn and spend the night in a responsible manner, keeping death off the roads.
So he drove his pickup neatly between the glass double doors and right up to the reception desk. The poor HI receptionist thought WTF and called Dieter. Who came marching over with a look in his eye that made Des think ‘Maybe Not’. So he engaged reverse gear and proceeded to take his quiet and orderly departure, ignoring Dieter’s calm plea, ‘Just stop, Des, just stop’. Dieter was the long-suffering manager who was amazingly good with us locals. He tightened the leash at times and let the dogs loose at other times and he knew when was when.
Possibly the alcohol fumes misted the bakkie rearview mirror slightly, putting Des’ alignment slightly out, so this time the bumper hooked the glass door when he was halfway out and there was a sudden rather dramatic shattering of the shatterprufe glass. This made Des think again and what he thought was ‘I’m outa here’ and he accelerated off to where everyone knew he lived – on Kenroy. When he got there Gilbert drew back the duvet and fluffed up his pillows and Des leapt into bed and lay still with his face down, ignoring the persistent ringing of the phone.
On the partyline phone was Dieter wanting to say ‘Des you gotta come over and sort this out or else I have to call the police. I don’t want to call the police but I have to if you don’t come now and sort this out’. But Des buried his head deeper into the pillow, pulling another pillow over his head to block his ears. That would make it go away.
So the cops had to drive out to where everyone knew Des lived – on Kenroy – and bring him in to where an out-of-court settlement was made.
Big Sister Barbara has a good memory for the old days, good sources (like old school annuals) and is developing a good network to enhance all that! She wrote in November 2015 – Note: You’d really need to be An Ancient Harrismithian to plough through this post!:
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. Nevertheless, it would be great to see all again. Here’s goes . . .
The following kids formed part of our circle of friends at School / Sunday School / Guild / Christmas Parties at the Moth Hall, Church & Country Club / Swimming Lessons / Parties / Volkspele / ‘Sessions’ / ‘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 – 7 in all at the end! Mr Michell used to go to the zoo after church and feed the warthog, so we named the warthog ‘Justin’.
Jack & Eileen MacGuire (loved them at Guild). Jack was so NORMAL! Not a ‘dominee’ – He played cricket for Harrismith!
Bob & Pearl Yates (confirmed many of us);
David & Thelma Young (married Jeff & me);
George Davies; ‘Uncle Wright’ Liddell; Mary Swanepoel; Emma Morton; Miss Ivy Petty; Poerie Coetzee; Cappy Joubert; Stella & Pye Euthimiou; Adie Crewe (ca. 1968)
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;
In front of the old church
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.
Robert Moore; Louie Brocket; Ralph Morton; Jake Grove; Elsie Steyn; Amanda Erasmus; Lorette van Wilpe; Annette Grove; Lynn du Plessis; Ann Euthimiou; Martie Marais; Peter Moore; Etienne Joubert; Theo Maeder; Trudi Steyn; Chris de Jager; Okkie Botha; Frik Ras; Rietta Meyer; Sarie Human; Cecilia Vorster; Marissa Fouche; Pierre du Plessis; Franz von During; Musa von During; Jackie Viljoen; Lesley Wessels; Gib Gibhard & younger brother; Zak (Model Kafee); Christijan (Oupa) Terblanche; Dirkie Roelofse; Billy Brockett; Christos Euthimiou; Francois Marais; Peter Aligianus; Llewellyn & Eugene Georgiou; 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 they 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.
Joan, Mignon, Ilse, Polly, Jean-Prieur & Mona
Georgie, Pierre, Sheila – Lettuce, Rope – Julia (Ohio exchange student), Bess, Koos – (in Bessie’s house Jan 1974)
Gary Beaton & Pierre duP’s leg; duPlessis home Hector Street, 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; Spilsbury brothers, Rob, Douglas, Neil & Gary; 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; 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 one bottle of Oros and a couple of plastic cups) and what was available for those who choose to go outside, hidden in cars or 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!
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
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! Sighhhh…..!
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”. (Emma Morton was famous for using double negatives – in English).
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 Mitchell – she of the 7 kids – Eileen McGuire, Murial 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 B, 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?” Heather and I went through three years of teachers’ training college together. Stuart died of cancer about ten years ago.
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.
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!”
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”
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 – 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!” 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 – 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.
“Who can remember who took us for junior guild on a Friday afternoon? And how did they keep us occupied?”
I think Stella Euthimiou – 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!
pics from all over, including Harismith’s best blog deoudehuizeyard – go and check out the good work they’re doing, keeping your old dorp alive!
But to do it I needed a henchman. You can hike alone, but I’d really rather not, so I persuaded Stefaans Reed, The Big Weed, son of hizzonner the Worshipful Lord Mayor of Nêrens (aka Clarens) to accompany me. Sucker, he agreed.
We sallied forth, rucksacks on our backs, boerewors and coffee and billy can and sleeping bags inside, up the slopes of Platberg, from Hector Street, up past the Botanic Gardens, von During and Hawkins Dams into the ‘Government forest’. Pine forest. We could discern two types of pines, I’m sure there are more, but the type we liked had long soft needles and made a good bed. We walked next to the concrete furrow that led water down the mountain into town. Often broken and dry but sometimes full of clear water, it made finding the way easy.
Halfway up we made camp, clearing a big area of the soft pine needles down to bare earth so we could safely light a fire.
Learning from our primate cousins we raked together a huge pile for a gorilla mattress and lay down to gaze at the stars through the trees. This was 1974, we were eerste jaar studente in the big smog of Doornfontein Joburg. We had learnt to drink more beer, sing bawdy songs, throw a mean dart in a smoke-filled pub, hang out of friends car windows as they drove home thinking ‘Whoa! better get these hooligans home!’ and generally honed our urban skills. Now we were honing our rural skills. Wilderness n all.
As we lay in our sleeping bags, burping boerewors and gazing through the pine fronds at the stars, we heard a loud, startling, beautiful sound.
I was wide-eyed wide-awake! WHAT on EARTH was that!? I knew it had to be a night bird, but what? Which one?
In the dark I scribbled down a picture of the sound. This is what it sounded like to me and I wanted to be sure I didn’t forget it:
I didn’t know I was drawing a “sonogram” – I’d never heard of that.
When I got back home I looked through my ‘Birds of South Africa – Austin Roberts’ by G.R. McLachlan and R. Liversidge, 1970 – and found there was a nightjar that said “Good Lord Deliver Us” and I knew that was it. The Fiery-Necked Nightjar – some call it the Litany Bird*. I loved it, I love it, I’ll never forget it and it’s still a favourite bird.
Next morning we hiked on, past the beautiful eastern tip of Platberg – ‘Bobbejaanskop’ – and down round Queen’s Hill through some very dense thicket, across the N3 highway, back into Hector Street and cold beer.
Those pine trees may be Pinus patula – soft leaves, not spiky. Comfy, but still an invasive pest, though.
*A ‘litany’ is “a tedious recital or repetitive series. ‘a litany of complaints’ – a series of invocations and supplications – “Good Lord, Deliver us!”
The Catholics can really rev it up:
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, hear us.
Christ, graciously hear us.
God the Father of Heaven,
Have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world,
Have mercy on us.
– This is one-twelfth of the Catholic Litany, there’s eleven-twelfths more!
Nêrens – nowhere, or Clarens in the Free State, named after Clarens, Switzerland to which that coward Paul Kruger fled cowardly after accusing my brave great-great Oom of cowardice. Ha!
What a lovely surprise! A story about ‘Scotty’ of 71 Stuart Street Harrismith on Harrismith’s best blog, deoudehuizeyard.wordpress.com.
We grew up at 95 Stuart Street. 1961 to 1973. About a kilometre west of us was Scotty’s sandstone cottage, set forward, almost on the pavement. Miss Helen M Scott she was. I seem to remember she gave extra lessons in her cottage. English.
She and Mom were very fond of each other and we all loved Scotty as she was always friendly and kind – and she baked her famous butterfly cupcakes and was generous with them! Like these, just better, of course! We called her ‘Scotty’ – like we called our gran ‘Annie’. Just Scotty. Just Annie. Lovely people.
She retired from teaching but went back for one year in 1966 when she taught sister Barbara English at the Hoer Skool.
Do go and have a look at what Sandra and Hennie of deoudehuizeyard are doing for Harrismith tourism and heritage.
Louis Schoeman, (Farnie and Little Louis’ father) when he heard that a whole Portuguese family was living behind the Fruit & Veg shop in Warden Street, remarked: “Hmph – that’ll ripen the bananas.”
Maybe the same family, when they arrived in Harrismith, decided to join the Anglican Church. On the first day, the church warden politely inquired of the head of this large, obviously foreign family: “Are you Greek Orthodox?” “No”, came the reply, “Portuguese Fruit & Veg.”
Elsa du Plessis at Aberfeldy Primary School in the 1960s – the teacher asked for a translation into Afrikaans of “horseshoe”. Elsa came back quick as a flash – “drankwinkel”. Old Harrismith people will remember the Scott’s Horseshoe Bottle Store just up the road from Mary and Pieter Swanepoel’s Platberg Bottle Store, both in Warden Street.
When Annie Bland used to ask her old mate, Dr Nel (Petronella) van Heerden, how she was, the stock phrase was “Oh, fair to bloody!”
The Lotsoff Flats in Stuart Street were owned by Basil Lotsoff, who was enormously fat. Inevitably, he was called Lots of Basil.
Jaap van Reenen (Rina’s grandfather) had a very loud voice and you could hear him coming long before you saw him, so he was called Jaap Aeroplane.
Roy Kool was a traveling salesman, selling fertiliser to farmers. The first time he called on Mr Blom, the farmer stuck his hand out and in the time-honoured brusque manner of old Free State farmers, said “Blom”. Roy said “Kool” (Afrikaans pronunciation) and the story was Blom thought he was taking the mickey! (‘Blomkool’ means cauliflower).
Roy Cartwright, who owned the Tattersalls, called Barney and Louis Green, brothers who owned a little shop in Warden Street where we used to buy our school shoes, Barmy and Looney.
The Green brothers’ stock was always coming in on “Vensday Veek”. Whatever you were after, they didn’t have it, but it would be there by “Vensday Veek”.
Roy also christened Martha McDonald and Carrie Friday, as they cruised around in a beautiful bottle-green Buick “Martha and My Man Friday”.
Michael Hastings to Mary Swanepoel as they were leaving Harrismith in 1964: “There’s been a Hastings in Harrismith since 1066 and now we’re leaving.”
Dr Hoenigsburger, great friend of my great grandfather, Stewart Bain was the family GP as well as the Harrismith government doctor (district surgeon?). Annie always called him Dr ‘Henningsberg’.
One day, driving back to town from the prison, he missed the bridge and his car landed in the spruit. Only his pride was injured. In the meantime, back in town, the hostess of the bridge evening was getting a bit perturbed as Dr H hadn’t arrived yet and they couldn’t start playing bridge without him. She ‘phoned the Hoenigsburger home and was told by Dr H’s young son Max: “No, I don’t think my father will be coming tonight. He’s had enough bridge for one day.”
Aunty Hester Schreiber was a much loved friend of our family and had a wonderful sense of humour. She was walking along the pavement one day outside their home opposite the big Dutch Reformed Church right in the middle of town. Suddenly she felt faint and sank to the ground. But help was at hand. Gerrie Coetzee, Harrismith’s own Maurice Chevalier, happened along. Always impeccably attired, in tweed coat, deerstalker and kierie – with beautiful manners to match, he gallantly bent down and tried to help Aunt Hessie up. Her response? “Nee los Gerrie, los. Netnou lê ons altwee innie gutter. Wat sal die dominee dan sê?”
The same Aunt Hessie walked into her lounge one say, slipped on the “springbok velletjie” rug and slid right under the narrow coffee table. And there she lay, completely trapped by the legs of the table and screaming with laughter. Oh, how we loved her and her sense of humour.
So many of Mum and Dad’s stories are about good times they had with Steve & Hester Schreiber, Joe and Griet Geyser, Bert & Margie Badenhorst, Jannie & Joan du Plessis, Frank & Harriet van der Merwe, Cappie & Joyce Joubert, Manie & Mary Wessels, Hector & Stella Fyvie, Geoff & Billy Leslie, Dick & Barbara Venning.
The last time Mary saw Jannie du Plessis, he said to her: “I’ve got to take so many pills I can never remember if I have to take two at 10 o’clock or ten at 2 o’clock.”
Stan Mosley worked for the Woollen Mills in Harrismith back in the ‘fifties. Born in England, he had a colourful turn of phrase. Mom used to tell us of things he said over the years, but I forget them, so I’ve been trying to get her to remember them.
Here are some Mom remembers and one Pierre du Plessis recalled:
A journey in a pickup along a rough road “We rattled along like a tin of sardines”;
Harsh justice: “The judge sentenced him to be hanged by the neck until death us do part”;
On the golf course: “The ball was rolling towards the pin, gathering memorandum”;
The lights went out at the factory, so Stan phoned up Ben Priest in the municipality: “Mr Priest! Is there any lights?” To which Mr Priest answered “No, there isn’t none at present now”;
On Platberg: “On the mountain the only living thing we saw was a dead baboon”;
“Nee los Gerrie, los. Netnou lê ons altwee innie gutter. Wat sal die dominee dan sê?” – Abandon me to my fate, gallant knight! We can’t afford to be seen together in the gutter by the local guardian of the dorp‘s morals!