In 1969 a bunch of us were taken to Durban to watch a rugby test match Springboks against the Australian Wallabies. “Our” Tommy Bedford was captain of the ‘Boks. We didn’t know it, but it was to be his last game.
Schoolboy “seats” were flat on your bum on the grass in front of the main stand at Kings Park. Looking around we spotted old Ella Bedford, – “Mis Betfit” as her pupils called her – Harrismith English teacher and the captain’s Mom – hence our feeling like special guests! – up in the stands. Sitting next to her was a really spunky blonde so we whistled and hooted and waved until she returned the wave.
Back at school the next week ‘Mis Betfit’ told us how her daughter-in-law had turned to her and said: “Ooh look, those boys are waving at me!” And she replied (and some of you will hear her tone of voice in your mind’s ear): “No they’re not! They’re my boys. They’re waving at me!”
We just smiled, thinking ‘So, Mis Betfit isn’t always right’. Here’s Jane. We did NOT mistake her for Mis Betfit.
Mrs Bedford taught English as second language. Apparently anything you got wrong had to be fixed below your work under the heading “corrections”. Anything you got wrong in your corrections had to be fixed under the heading “corrections of corrections”. Mistakes in those would be “corrections of corrections of corrections”. And so on, ad infinitum! She never gave up. You WOULD get it all right eventually!
In matric the rugby season started and I suddenly thought: Why’m I playing rugby? I’m playing because people think I have to play rugby! I don’t.
So I didn’t.
It caused a mild little stir, especially for ou Vis, mnr Alberts in the primary school. He came up from the laerskool specially to voice his dismay. Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Beford wees! he protested. That was optimistic. I had played some good rugby when I shot up and became the tallest in the team, not because of real talent for the game – as I went on to prove.
Nee man, jy moet ons tweede Tommy Beford wees! – Don’t give up rugby. You should become our ‘second Tommy Bedford’
My great grandfather got a letter from a seed and plant merchant in Uitenhage in July 1901. I know cos I found the envelope on an online auction site. It was sent to Harrismith, Orange River Colony (ORC).
It was stamped ‘Passed by the wartime Press Censor’ as the wicked Poms were trying to steal our diamonds and gold at the time and were waging the Anglo-Boer War.
Yes, I would think it was JFA Bland II who was our Grandad Frank’s father. He came to Harrismith by oxwagon with his father JFA Bland I and they settled near Witzieshoek.
JFA Bland I is buried in Senekal apparently – I made contact with someone in Senekal who offered to go looking for his grave, but she’s never come back to me – so if you ever find yourself in Senekal with nothing to do …….
The eastern-most pass up Harrismith’s Platberg is the fabled Donkey Pass. We called it Flat Rock Pass. Mountain Passes South Africa says it’s the sixth highest above sea level, and the second steepest pass in South Africa.
The road traverses a nature reserve and you need a permit to drive up. The steep parts – with sections as steep as 1:3 – are concrete stripped to aid traction. 4X4 and low range is essential for a safe and – especially – non-destructive ascent.
For those that do get to drive this amazing pass, you will be one of a select few to have done so.
On top you’ll find Gibson Dam, built by British soldiers soon after the Boer War.
Other passes on Platberg’s south side – the side facing the town – are Khyber Pass, ZigZag Pass and One Man’s Pass. They’re all footpaths only though.
Hopefully Platberg’s custodians limit the number of vehicles they allow on top to keep the mountain top as undamaged as possible. Sensitive wetlands!
On the 16 April 1917, the crimson killer Manfred Von Richthofen shot down his 45th Allied aircraft, which included 2nd Lieutenant Frederick Seymour Andrews, the son of Thomas Frederick and Louisa G. Andrews, of Warden Street, Harrismith, in the Orange Free State, South Africa.
Andrews was born in 1889, and was educated at Merchiston College, Pietermaritzburg and – even better – at school in Harrismith. Like many of his countrymen Andrews made the trek to England to volunteer his services in the ‘Great War’. Approximately 10, 000 South Africans and Rhodesians served in the British Armed forces during World War 1, around 3, 000 of them in the Royal Flying Corps (RFC).
Andrews joined the RFC and initially served in the ranks with No 1 Squadron, before being commissioned and gazetted as 2nd Lieutenant to the General List in March 1917. He was then posted to No 53 Squadron where he was to meet his pilot, Lieutenant Alphonso Pascoe, who hailed from Cornwall. Andrews and Pascoe were subsequently transferred, in tandem, to No 13 Squadron on the 18 March 1917, the squadron helping to pioneer formation bombing during the war.
April 1917 has gone down in British history as ‘Bloody April’ as the RFC was to suffer a disproportionate amount of casualties in relation to German losses, estimated to have been three times as many as the latter. Since September 1916, the Germans had held the upper hand in the contest for air supremacy on the Western Front, with the Albatros DII and DIII outclassing the British and French fighters charged with protecting their exceptionally vulnerable two-seater reconnaissance and bomber machines.
On the 9 April 1917 the Battle of Arras began with the concomitant RFC support, and subsequent engagements with the German air-force, the British losing roughly 245 aircraft, and 211 aircrew killed or missing, with a further 108 taken prisoner, during this catastrophic period of RFC history.
Andrews’s squadron was equipped with the Royal Aircraft Factory Bleriot Experimental 2 single engine two-seat biplane, the BE2. Approximately 3,500 were built during the war and used as fighters, interceptors, light bombers, trainers and reconnaissance aircraft. The BE2 was not a popular aircraft with the British airmen, being seriously underpowered and unreliable – even by the standards of the time.
There had been few combats on the 16 April due to bad weather, rain and low clouds, but at 14:50 hours, Pascoe and Andrews were dispatched in their BE2e aircraft No. 3156 on an Artillery Observation sortie. According to Von Richthofen, flying his red DIII, No. 2253/17, he approached Pacsoe and Andrews from approximately 1,000 metres. The two ‘British’ pilots were flying at an altitude of 800 metres, and were supposedly totally unaware of the enemy. Von Richtofen promptly attacked, whereupon Pascoe’s aircraft lost control and began smoking. The pilot regained control, but in the end the plane plummeted from approximately 100 meters to the ground below, coming down between Bailleul and Gavrelle. It was the Baron’s 45th victory in total.
Pascoe was lucky, he survived and was sent home to England to recover from his wounds, but his ‘Springbok’ observer was not so fortunate. Andrews, desperately wounded, was lifted from the smashed wreckage and passed through a series of casualty stations until he finally reached Le Tocquet Hospital, where he was to die thirteen days later, on the 29 April 1917.
Lieutenant Andrews lies buried in Etaples Cemetery, France. He was twenty eight years old at the time of his death.
How short and hurried life can be in war.
Andrews lasted barely a month in combat. Von Richthofen’s spell was much longer, but still pitifully short.
Von Richthofen earned his pilot’s license in June 1915. After honing his skills flying combat missions over France and Russia, he met the famed German flying ace Oswald Boelcke, who enlisted him in a new fighter squadron called Jasta 2.
Under Boelcke’s tutelage, Richthofen grew into a seasoned fighter pilot. He recorded his first confirmed aerial victory in September 1916 by shooting down a British aircraft over France. He soon racked up four more kills to earn the title of “flying ace.”
He had his Albatros D.III fighter plane painted blood red. The distinctive paint scheme gave rise to the immortal nickname ‘The Red Baron’.
In June 1917 Richthofen was promoted to leader of his own four-squadron fighter wing and was outfitted with the Fokker Dr.1 – Dreidecker = triplane – the distinctive three-winged machine that would become his most famous aircraft.
The Red Baron’s final flight took place on April 21 1918, when pilots from his Flying Circus engaged a group of British planes over Vaux-sur-Somme, France. As Richthofen swooped low in pursuit of an enemy fighter, he came under attack from Australian machine gunners on the ground and a plane piloted by Canadian ace Arthur Roy Brown.
During the exchange of fire, Richthofen was struck in the torso by a bullet and died after crash-landing in a field. Brown got official credit for the victory, but it seems it was probably the Australian infantrymen who fired the fatal shot.
Allied troops recovered Manfred von Richthofen’s body and buried him with full military honors. The 25-year-old had only prowled the skies for a little over two years, but his 80 confirmed aerial victories proved to be the most of any pilot in World War 1.
song: The Royal Guardsmen – Snoopy vs The Red Baron
Mom Mary in the cosmos outside Witsieshoek back ca. 1970:
Sheila years later at the foot of the eastern tip of Platberg – some call it Bobbejaankop:
Sheila sent a 2018 pic of Brenda Sharratt in the cosmos behind Platberg:
Apparently cosmos got here in horsefeed imported from Argentina during the Boer War for the Poms’ horses. Hopefully only the seed, as the greenery must have tasted foul! It has a pungent smell.
wikipedia: Cosmos is native to scrub and meadowland in Mexico where most of the species occur, as well as the USA, Central America and South America as far south as Paraguay. One mainly Mexican species, Cosmos bipinnatus, is naturalized and widespread over the high eastern plains of South Africa. It has also spread to the West Indies, Italy, Australia and Asia.
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. 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 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, 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”
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 Mortom 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).