I was born in Harrismith in 1955, as was Mom Mary in 1928, and her Mom Annie in 1893. Annie thought “the queen” of that little island above and left of France was also the queen of South Africa (and for much of her life she was right!).
I attended the plaaslike schools in Harrismith till 1972. A year in the USA in 1973 as a Rotary exchange student in Apache Oklahoma. Studied optometry in Joburg 1974 – 1977. Worked in Hillbrow and Welkom in 1978. Army (Potch and Roberts Heights, now Thaba Tshwane – in between it was Voortrekkerhoogte) in 1979 and in Durban (Hotel Command and Addington Hospital) in 1980.
I stayed in Durban, paddled a few rivers, and then got married in 1988. About then this blog’s era ends and my Life With Aitch started. Post-marriage tales and child-rearing catastrophes are told in Bewilderbeast Droppings.
‘Strue!! – These random, un-chronological and personal memories are true of course. But if you know anything about human memory you’ll know that with one man’s memory comes: Pinch of Salt. Names have been left unchanged to embarrass the friends who led me (happily!) astray. Add your memories – and corrections – and corrections of corrections! – in the comments if you were there.
Note: I go back to my posts to add / amend as I remember things and as people mention things, so the posts evolve. I know (and respect) that some bloggers don’t change once they’ve posted, or add a clear note when they do. That’s good, but as this is a personal blog with the aim of one day editing them all into a hazy memoir, this way works for me. So go’n re-look at some posts you’ve enjoyed before and see how I’ve improved over time (!). It’s just as my friend Greg says: ‘The older we get, the better we were.’
Earnest and diligent students eagerly absorbing the maths being taught in a chalkdust-filled classroom overlooking a little park on the corner of De Villiers and Rissik streets back in 1974, will be pleased to hear that said classroom has been restored – chalkdust and all. Also the window ledge.
When City Prop’s Alec Wapnick and Jeffrey Wapnick – well-known for their revitalization efforts in Pretoria’s inner city – saw the historic early 20th century Wits Technikon building, they not only realized the potential for restoration but also the opportunity to create a distinct node for learning and education. Alec had the vision to purchase the Wits Tech buildings, and Jeffrey had the foresight to restore and redevelop them to a standard way beyond the basics.
The project is in line with City Property’s comprehensive approach to inner cities, encompassing all the elements of everyday life, from working, to living and shopping, to schooling.
Established as a technical institution in 1903 to support the city’s flourishing gold mining industry, the building fronts onto Eloff, Plein and De Villiers Streets. It will continue to educate. The west block was already occupied by Johannesburg Polytech the east block will house Basa Educational Institute, an inner city school with excellent credentials, which was looking for a new home. Its focus is on the melting pot that is inner city schooling in Johannesburg today, something that dovetails well with City Property’s holistic approach to local development. They teach in all eleven official languages, as well as a number of others, including Portuguese.
The restoration of the Wits Tech building was something of a labour of love for the Wapnicks, whose long history of restoring architectural beauty show they believe that buildings are themselves works of art, to be shared and enjoyed. A lot of work had to be carried out. The building had been vacant for several years, with the result that fittings had been stripped, the structure itself vandalized and left in a state of disrepair. Architecturally, it was originally designed in the classic Greek revival style, an aesthetic that was popular in Johannesburg at the time: the nearby Supreme Court building is a good example of the same vintage. “The neo-Classical style is very typical, very ornate and a reference to renaissance architecture,” says City Property project manager Anita du Plessis. “It has been designed on a breathtaking scale in a style specific to the time.”
She points to the three different architectural orders used in the building concept: the plain Doric columns on the ground floor, to the distinctive scrolled Ionic columns on the first floor, to the leaves of the Corinthian columns above.
Original fittings, like the marble floors, have been carefully restored and repaired; the original viewing panes in the doors were replaced with safety glass; and the stained glass windows were repaired.
Although the grand architectural style needed to be restored, a key outcome for the project team was an updated space suitable for a contemporary user. For this reason, practical, modern features were worked into the project. For a start, the building is now compliant with all the modern building standards and criteria.
The entrance hall and atrium are equipped with security systems, while the air of a tranquil and dignified place of learning has been carefully maintained. The large, bright airy classrooms with sash windows create a positive learning environment, while the solid structure of the historic property blocks out the noise of the city.
Fellow Wits Tech alumnus 1974 – 1978 Steve Reed wrote: Hope they keep the alternative entrance to Kleinman’s classroom – the ledge along the outside…
Steve is speaking of our chalk-dust encrusted 1974 maths lecturer here who lectured in a classroom overlooking the little park on the rear of the building – the front being on Eloff Street. Some wicked students climbed out the windows onto the window ledge before Kleinman got to class. Once he was there they climbed in one by one, each waiting until he got going with his lecture before interrupting him mid-sentence by climbing back in and greeting him cordially. Must have been the B (rauer) class.
“We are the custodians of these magnificent buildings and it is our responsibility to return them to their former glory,” says Wapnick.
These okes are eye pasiente of Brauer’s. Wonder if he’ll claim he gave them their vision and foresight . .
Found this picture on the ‘net. It says “The Doors Nightclub Johannesburg”. It reminds me very strongly of my impression of an unusual night on the town with young Fotherby, back in the Jurassic.
I was just as boring then as I am now. My idea of a good night out was find a pub, drink a lot, laugh.
Well, Fotherby thought there must be more to life than that – even though she was from Kimberley out – and so she announced one night that we were going to a nightclub.
A what? Of course I’d heard of them, but I didn’t think they allowed FreeStaters in. Shuddup And Let’s Go was the reply and also Don’t You Have Anything Better To Wear Than That?
You can’t believe it! I was wearing what I had worn since shortly after the rinderpest: Boring shirt, plain pants, brown shoes. What else would one wear?
Sighing, she lifted up my collar so at least I would look slightly different, mussed my flowing locks a bit and then ordered me to drive the grey and grey 1965 Opel Concorde to some dingy back street, somewhere near Joubert Park I think. Don’t park near the door, I was told. Even though we were in the grey and grey 1965 Opel Concorde. Amazing!
At the door the bouncers looked us over and because we looked suave and masculine – or maybe as we were with attractive nubile lasses – or maybe cos we paid – let us in. I can’t recall who else was with us – I only had eyes for the delightful Fotherby, of course. I remember an entrance hall and then a huge area filled with people, smoke and noise. Huge. Only later I realised the heavens were the ceiling. The ‘room’ could be as big as it was because we were actually sort of outdoors. Boys danced with boys and girls with girls and some mixed. Getting a drink was a mission. Why the hell would anyone want to go to such a place?, I thought.
I still think that.
Stephen Reed wrote:If I was there, the memory could well have fallen between the sizable cracks between the ears. I do remember one night coming down Smith / Wolmarans street towards the Doories Res, full to the brim with alcohol with you and Fotherby in the car and Forsdick I think. The Austin Apache was purring along nearing it’s rather modest V-max when you decided to pull up the handbriek as we went through the intersection with Steil Street or Gould street … Shrieks of protest from the back seat as the Apache battled to retain its composure . . On reflection, that may have been on the way back from a nightclub, but just as likely from the Dev or maybe Float-Building.
Me: Problem is sometimes our carefully stored and index’d memories are filed on exactly the grey cells targeted for destruction by that particular binge.Of course, sometimes that’s a happy occurrence – don’t always want to remember everything.
As you know, one of my oft-repeated mantras is the trouble with marriage is wimmin have such good memory glands; or – as I prefer to put it – we have much better filters; discretion!
And as I once told you, that particular handbriek trick was a Pierre du Plessis invention. We used to pile into his Mom Joan’s Ford Prefect for a lift home from swimming lessons. As we piled in we’d all say a loud and cheerful HI BEAM! to the light on the dash that said hi beam.
Then he’d wait for just the wrong moment – usually where Joan had to drive around the inconvenient Moeder Kerk – and yank up the handbriek so the car would do a sideways slither to her consternation. Trouble is, she had such a sense of humour and loved ole duP so much she could never actually get cross with him!
So we never learned.
handbriek – handbrake; a car handbrake, not . . . forget it
On 2018/12/18 Stephen Reed wrote: Had a late afternoon chat with Kevin ‘Stanrey Kraarke’ this afternoon . .
that would be a phone call across the Tasman Sea )
I replied: Ah, good to hear the ancient old bullet is still alive!!
Hoezit Kev!!? ( I have cc’d him here – Kevin Stanley-Clarke, pharmacist and our older boet in res, back in the day).
I can’t think of Doories without thinking of you, the green TAV 5556 Datsun from the metropolis of Grootfontein, the chocolate Alfa Romeo; and old Krazalski, Wartski, What-ski? – those are wrong – what ‘ski was he, your boss?
I can still see the meticulous care with which you changed the crunchy, notchety gears in the Alfa, and remember how you taught me if you open the window you must also wind down the rear window three inches, then the breeze won’t muss your blow-dried hair.
Often when driving I remember your sage advice: WATCH OUT for an old toppie wearing a hat! Mostly nowadays I see the old toppie wearing a hat in my own rear-view mirror! Gives me a bit of a start every time: Who’s that fuckin old fart? Oh, OK – only me . . . . As for Forever Young! I think we still are! Well, I think we should keep imagining that!
Oh, and we musn’t forget the outbreak of Dobie’s Itch in the Doories Res! Kev rushed back to work and got going amongst the pots and stills and fires and wooden ladles, pestles and mortars and other witchcraft paraphenalia he and Wartski used to keep in their secret Doories factory; he came back with a double-strength potion stronger than anything Dumbledore could have made, and CURED the dreaded ballache! He was our hero!
Stephen Reed wrote: By gosh, we had a few laughs.
one: Sunday morning, Kevin having a sleep in – eyes closed …
you sleeping Kevin?
Kevin: one eye slightly opens, ‘No No … Just coasting . . ‘
I wrote: Ha HA!! I’d forgotten these! Exactly right!!!
PS: We were so lucky Stanley-Clarke decided to stay in Res that extra year while he re-wrote ?pharmacology? I mean, he could have stayed with any one of a dozen beautiful chicks. They all wanted his moustache! And we would never have met him. It turned into a magic, unforgettable year, and he was no small part of that!
Stephen Reed wrote: Bullshit.
HE was lucky to have had US there.
boring time he would have had otherwise . . .
I wrote: Ja!! Too True My Bru!
now here’s the man himself:
Kevin Stanley-Clarke wrote: Kia Ora both of you; What a wonderful surprise hearing from the DOORIE BRO’s in particular the very Articulate Rhodes student Mr Koos Swanepoel himself, from Harrismith; and the attention-to-detail Mr Stevie Reed the boat builder raconteur himself from a little town in the free state that eludes me at this time!
really made my day – thank you both for all the very happy memories
and to think I could have missed that wonderful year if I had passed
Pharmacology first go – and to think it was 45 years ago which has
basically passed in a flash.
My boss in the very clandestine factory in Doories was Mr Pogeralski – so Pete, the grey matter is still intact;
As for that ointment which I prepared it was Whitefields ointment aka “Ung acid benz co.” Had I given that to you today I would be in serious trouble with “Health and safety”, “Quality and risk”, “Public safety”, you name it! But it certainly works.
Yes, and how can we forget the times we all went to the Jeppe Street post office to use their services “pro bono” utilizing your unbelievable skills with ‘the long tickey” to gain access to their phone lines – Hello World.
Also will never forget the rugby test at Ellis Park “pro bono” an absolute blast – thank you both for the wonderful memories that always bring a smile to my face. Which was it? –
And Stevie, can you remember the movie we went to on a Saturday morning at the Cinerama we saw “Papillon” ??
I could go on forever – The Dev ? The Bend ? and many more. May leave that for another day.
care both of you and please keep in touch
Dee Student aka ‘Giscard . . . d’Estaing’ – Kevin Stanley-Clarke
Ellis Park “pro bono” – Less than fully legal entry to the rugby stadium for a test match; ahem . .
The Jeppe Street post office and the Hillbrow “pro bono long tickey” – Less than entirely legal as well, say no more . . . ahem . . There were consequences! I got a phone call in the holidays in Harrismith from the GPO: Are Your Name Swanepoel? Did you phone a number in Oklahoma? I meekly coughed up for sundry long-distance international ‘trunk calls’!
Aside: While shaking a tin collecting money for our eye clinic charities outside the big old Jeppe Street Post Office one year, a pigeon shat on my shoulder. I took that as an omen from above and went and handed in my tin.
My Best Man, I have always said, is one of the most honest upright people I’ve known. I’ve said this for many years. It isn’t strictly true.
One dark night in Deepest Darkest Doornfontein, shortly after having been crowned The unOfficial Inebriated World Dartsh Championsh of The World, the story of which famous victory has appeared in print elsewhere, we were smuggled out of the bar in secret to avoid a massacre by the vengeful forces that had lost to us in the final.
Behind the bar counter, through the kitchen, past the chest freezers and out the back door into the courtyard of the New Doornfontein. Out into that dark night.
Through the kitchen. Did you get that part? Through the hotel kitchen. Past a number of chest deep freeze cabinets. Out of the corner of my eye I saw one of the lids lifting, a hand reaching in and a packet being shoved under an old jersey. The jersey was probably part of the uniform of the new unOfficial Inebriated World Dartsh Championsh of The World.
When we got to the safety of our large and lavish room in the plush Doories residence a few blocks away we were highly relieved and thankful to have survived. So we reached into the huge old off-white – or once-white – Westinghouse we had inherited with ‘Fridge Over Troubled Waters’ written on the door in black coki pen and calmed our nerves. Poor old Willie the housemaster came round to ask us to Please turn down the sound, manne, my wife is trying to sleep. We felt for him.
Then an interesting aroma started to fill the room: BACON. Eskort bacon. Being fried on the two-plate hot plate. By My Best Man.
Somehow he had managed to procure a small snack and was generously preparing to share it. Not to mention the word purloining or anything and with no video camera evidence (they hadn’t been invented yet), it remains only a suspicion that THAT’s what had been lifted from the chest deep freeze of the New Doornfontein Hotel. Illicitly. Nor do we know for sure that THAT’s who had dunnit. Did I mention he has a small trace of Jewish blood running through his veins, which would then make this not only a crime, but also a sin?
It was delicious. And was also the only Doornfontein escort we ever scored with . .
I had hidden this evidence docket, but then I got a confession from the perpetrator here and so now it has gone public, to be read by both my followers. One of whom is probably the said perp.
As we revved up on another evening after a night’s carousing, we rollicked as poor old Willie the housemaster asked us Please to behave manne, my wife is trying to sleep. We felt for him.
Gradually another bright idea took hold in the most inebriated head in the gang: Converting the hostel angle-iron bed into a fold-away stretcher. You can’t bend angle-iron, but My Best Man had done a year’s engineering before he started optometry, so through persistence and focused dedication, he did. His skilful panel-beating expertise is depicted in the big pic above *.
The sheer force of this exercise bumped the bed against an heirloom 5-gallon glass flagon with two ears. An heirloom purchased months before in a Yeoville junk shop. SMASH and tinkle. It must have been tempered glass, as there were millions of tiny pieces! My investment reduced to splinters. The crash brought the housemaster Willie to the door from his large housemaster residence adjacent. Please manne, I’m arsing you now to be a little bit quieter. My wife is trying to sleep. We felt for him.
Barks – Woof Barker, another character about whom a dog-eared book should be written – sometimes inexplicably went to bed early. Something about a good night’s sleep. Can you believe it? One night we got home handsome and clever and Barks had locked his door. Which was his right, except the Fridge Over Troubled Waters was in his room, and the beer was in that fridge. When we failed to rouse him, Chris Slabber said “Hold My Beer and Stand back!” and next minute BA-BLAM! he shot off the doorlock! It seems people from Die Pêrel with CJ numberplates carry small arms with them in case of moeilikheid. I didn’t know that. Access to refreshment was thus obtained. It was like the bloody Wild West!
Asseblief manne, said poor gentlemanly housemaster Willie, My wife is trying to sleep. We felt for him.
We wondered what Barks meant when he brought us a bullet he’d found near his pillow next morning. What was ‘e on about?
You’ll have a positive outlook on this eventful evening if you remember:
“Education is the sum of what students teach each other between lectures and seminars” – Stephen Fry
Asseblief manne – stop it, you hooligans! or ‘Gentlemen, Please’
Die Pêrel – the city of Paarl in the western cape province; average of eighteen teeth per head; papsak territory
papsak – wine containers without corks or Platter recommendations
We had asbestos heaters on the walls in our Louisa Street residence in Doornfontein, Johannesburg. The res was in the shadow of the not-yet-completed Ponte tower – the 50-story residential cylinder up on the hill that became famous and notorious for varying reasons over the years.
Late one night we woke up to yelling and cursing. Thick smoke billowed into our room, so we rushed out to see wassup. Glen Barker and Louis Slabbert’s room was on fire! Glen’s clothes, his bedside table, the linoleum floor and the ceiling were ablaze. We soon put it out and, coughing and spluttering, opened up the windows and doors to let the acrid, foul smoke escape.
To the amazement of the non-smokers amongst us, Louis then sat down on his bed, lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply!
They wanted us to have a good time and they fed us with many many craft beers and ordinary beers. Come and enjoy the Rand Easter Show, they said in 1976. Well in those days it was that or this:
We glanced at the displays and the arena – cows were moo’ing and plopping, horses were made to jump over things – but most of the day was spent in the friendly beer halls where the only answer to “May I have another beer?” was “Of course you may!” We ended up sparkling with wit and bonhomie.
After dark it all shut down and we wandered towards the car park eating ice cream cones the TC girls from Maritzburg – up to visit the handsome Doornfontein crew – had bought us (hoping to sober us up?). We passed some horse trailers and the rear end of Gonda Betrix’s horse stared us straight in the eye. Like this:
It was too much to resist and our artistic instincts took over: Lift the tail, place ice cream dollop on the O-ring and then the horse made the mistake of clamping its tail down hard, cementing the deal. I spose a shiver ran down its spine, but it stayed pretty calm considering, just dancing a little – in pleasure maybe? Thoughts of animal cruelty DO cross my mind now but they didn’t reach my addled brain at the time.
We shuffled off. Who drove that night? Hopefully the ladies. Sheila, Noreen, who else? Anyway we safely arrived at Stephen Charles’s flat, Greenwich Village, Becker Street in Yeoville and had another beer as we were inexplicably thirsty.
Noreen said to me “I’ve run a bath, you go ahead”. Very thoughtful of her! I shucked my kit and jumped in and immediately went right through the ceiling! Which wasn’t ceiling board as Steve’s flat was not on the top floor. It was concrete. She’d run the hot only and my (future) wedding vegetables were parboiled. Took days before they were ready to be molested again. In fact, the damage may have been permanent: I ended up adopting kids twenty two years later after waiting twelve years before risking getting married.
From: Pete (me) Subject: The Hotel Devonshire – famous again Sent: 23 May 2011
I see the “rapture” crazies chose the Dev to await the end of their world. In some ways the Dev was the beginning of mine!
“Buite die Devonshire-hotel in Braamfontein, waar Suid-Afrikaanse aanhangers van die wegraping-kultus saamgetrek het om op die eindtyd te wag, het hulle vir oulaas mense op straat probeer oortuig om by hulle aan te sluit.” (Rapport newspaper)
Brauer wrote: In some ways the beginning, yes. But in many ways fuckin’ close to the end. No doubt the reason why they chose it – for symbolic reasons . .
I wrote: Actually, – – and come to think of it . . .
How we survived some of those lightly-inebriated evenings in our um, almost roadworthy jalopies . . .
Maybe THAT’S the miracle they’re referring to!
I have a clear thutty-year-old mental picture of laughing at some oke hanging out of the left rear window of a car spray-painting it with chunder in Wolmarans Street. I’m in another car, witnessing the sight. (Our car probably full of sober okes on their way back from Shul. Probly a Friday). Who and whose car is mentally blurry, though. Beige colour. Thin exhaust pipe.
Austin Apache, maybe?
Steve reed wrote: Ah that dapper little beige beauty. Memories of crossing Nugget Street on Wolmarans at high speed when Swain Pull has a flash of genius and yanks up the handbriek, Barely a murmur of “Oh Pete” from mesdames Fotherby and Forsdick on the back seat as we 360. Thank heavens in 1977 the ABS EBD BA and ESC all kicked in after the 5th beer. Only one airbag in the vehicle in those days however.
~~~oo0oo~~~ I wrote: I learnt that trick from Pierre du Plessis. He used to do it in his old lady’s little Ford Prefect. Difference, I suppose, was sober and in Harrismith’s quiet streets where we knew the cops by name. And speaking of chundering: Pierre himself threw a mighty one outside Bergville after a wedding to which we had not been invited, but had partaken in. Thoroughly. Luckily it was his own Datsun 1200 bakkie in which he was a passenger. Light green. The bakkie. The other was multi-colour yellowish.
Steve wrote: I do remember partaking in an engagement party to which we had not been invited at a little Drakenberg resort. Arrived just as the happy couple were having a post party nightcap with the family. The bloke’s fiance took quite a fancy to us rough boys [we fancied through our drunken haze] and one of us asked her to dance. The blokes family got into an angry huddle and declared the party over – stat. We were sadly abandoned and the generator was switched off leaving us sad creatures to polish off all their left-over booze in the dark. We seemed not to mind this too much.
I wrote: The wonderful Devonshire! Remember the pool of beer on the tables? Remember the Hotel School okes?! Disgraceful. Was it them who auctioned the chicks?
Hold on! Another sudden flashback picture: “Nugget” – short, wild hair and an Irish-looking beard. Poes-dronk through the beer-splatter in the Dev. Remember him? Got his name, it was said, when he rolled down Nugget Hill, blind as only the thoroughly drunk can be.
He had a huge mate Syd Someone (Oertel?), who did civil engineering between beers. I met both these characters through Pierre, who also did civils – inappropriate name if ever there was one – at Wits Tech, remember? Another bloke was called “Irish.”
One would have thought these brain cells would have been obliterated ages ago.
~~~oo0oo~~~ Steve reed wrote: To me the most worshipped oke in the Dev was the bloke from hotel school who could drink a quart of Castle standing on his head.
(Ah, such tertiary skills!)
“Buite die Devonshire-hotel. . . . ” – Outside the Dev a rapture cult of crazies gather to be swept up to heaven bang on the appointed hour. Nothing happened. Funnily enough, none of them had given their possessions to charity . . . they musta had faith like potatoes.