Categories
8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family

Inmate Mary

They put us on on the veranda in the sun. It got quite hot out there. There were four of us and we started singing.

We sang: I’m behind a prison wall; The bed’s too hard and much too small; There’s no pyjamas here at all; Oh, Mother, what’ll I do now?

Always complimentary, Mary had to make it clear the food at Azalea is excellent, they weren’t complaining like George, just singing his song!

She wondered what pyjamas inmates would wear in prison and we agreed probably they’d wear their clothes night and day.

And you can be sure, even at 90 they were thinking of their Moms as they sang.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family school

Sinner Mary

Jessie’s second pre-school was ‘Sinner Lizabeth.’ I think it’s Anglican, but I don’t know, cos I wasn’t interested. Only interested in the fact that Aitch had chosen it, so I knew they’d look after my Jessie. And they did: Rose and two Pennys treated her good the two years she was there.

But today I found out about Sinner Mary. This was news to me. I gasped.

Gasp!

Right through school Mary, now universally know as Mary Methodist after playing the organ in the Harrismith Methylated Spirits church for something like a hundred years, was churchless!

Her Mom Annie, my gran, was blissfully unimpressed and uninvolved and probably played golf on Sundays. I’m guessing she would use as an excuse, if pushed by the pious, that Harrismith didn’t have a Presbyterian church (it had folded). I’m not going to say that proves God is Methodist, but you can see right here how the thought did cross my mind.

So Mary tells me her teacher Mr Moll – who taught singing, woodwork and religion – never gave her very good marks probly cos he knew she didn’t go to church! She’s joking of course, and her bad marks were probably 80%, but anyway, Tommy Moll was very involved in the Methodists.

So when Mary got married they ‘made a plan’ and the wedding made the newspapers. ‘Four denominations at one wedding’ or something. Not ‘and a funeral.’ The bride ‘was Presbyterian’ they said (but we now know she was actually a ‘none’); the groom was Dutch Reformed (‘another faith’ they said, but he too was really a ‘none’); the Methodist minister was on leave, so the Apostolic Faith Mission man tied the knot.

Later, when she returned to Harrismith, having lived in Pietermaritzburg for a while, she decided to get church. She chose the Methodists as a lot of her friends were Methodists. She forgets she told Sheila the Methodist boys were nicer than the Anglican boys, so she tells me something about not liking the Anglicans’ ‘high church’ aspect. So this twenty five year old mother leaves her baby Barbara with Annie and Dad at Granny Bland’s home in Stuart street, where they have the room with the big brass double bed, and goes off to confirmation classes with a group of schoolkids. She aces the class, gets confirmed in the Lord, sanctified, and starts her epic Methodistian journey, which continues today, sixty seven years later, her only sin on the way being an occasional single ginger brandy with ginger ale while everyone else was drinking bucket loads. When she plays the piano of a Sunday in the frail care dining room in Maritzburg these days, those are Methodist hymns she’s thumping out joyfully, I’m sure.

I sort of feel like I have an excuse for being churchless now if I need one. ‘I’m just taking my twenty five years off now,’ I’ll tell Ma if she asks.

~~~oo0oo~~~

– Jess in Livingstone uniform with her Mad Hatter Tea Party hat – 2008 –

After ‘Sinner Lizabeth’ pre-school, Jess went to a remedial primary school whose school song, which they sang with gusto, went:

Live in Sin, Live in Sin, Progress Voorspoed, Live in Sin

Eat cake, Eat soap, Eat porridge too.*

Believe in yourself Live in Sin

Can’t say we didn’t give our JessWess a good grounding.

~~~oo0oo~~~

*Have faith, have hope, have courage too. Tom loved telling us ‘the real words, Dad!’ which according to him were the ones above, not these.

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Wildlife, Game Reserves

Canary Bird Bush

Yay! Science! I just found out what the very first flower I ever drew was/is: A Canary Bird Bush Crotalaria agatiflora.

I suppose for a school project? I collected a few in our garden and drew the flower and the leaf. I was fascinated by the shape of the flower: like a yellow bird, butterfly or ship.

I saw this on iNaturalist.org thanks to prolific iNatter troos (Troos vdMerwe) and there’s a lovely twist: He photographed it in the favourite gardens of a favourite schoolfriend of my Mother Mary’s!

Joey de Beer became Jo Onderstall and became a founder member of the Lowveld Botanic Society and the Lowveld Botanic Gardens in Nelspruit, now Mbombela. She wrote the book on Lowveld flowering plants.

Jo Onderstall’s 1984 book

A lovely full-cycle kind of story.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Joey matriculated with Mary in Harrismith in 1945. When she heard Mary was going nursing she expostulated: What A Waste Of A Good Brain! She was right, but Mom decided she needed to do something that earned her a salary and cost her widowed Mom Annie nothing. Typical Mom. Joey went on to study phys ed teaching in Bloem, then married ‘doctor/farmer’ Bill Onderstall. They moved to Nelspruit in 1950. Bill gave Jo a camera for a wedding present and so she herself took a lot of the pictures in the articles and books she wrote. I didn’t know her mother Bessie de Beer had been chair of the Drakensberg and Eastern Free State branch of the Botanical Society, so Jo followed in Bessie’s footsteps. Must tell Mom that. Jo herself seems as self-effacing as Mom. She writes in the introduction that her name on the book ‘is but the visible tip of an iceberg’ and the fact that she took most of the photos is mentioned nowhere. All other photographers are acknowledged, but even the fact that she took the front and back cover pictures is added in the ‘errata’ – like an afterthought! I’m guessing some of her friends insisted.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Yellow bird! Who remembers Johan Pheiffer who came from the city to Harrismith to visit his cousins the du Plessis in the dorp, whipped out his guitar and sang Yellow Bird?

Categories
8_Nostalgia Family

Quick Chat

I can’t talk long cos they’re coming to take me from my warm armchair – its falling to pieces, mind you – in front of the heater and wrapped under a blanket, to the piano, where I’ll play a bit before lunch. Lunch is a roast and vegetables and then ice cream cos its Sunday. And Sundays we get egg and bacon for breakfast.

You know Kosie, it’s amazing how an old tune suddenly comes back into my head and I start playing it. Then I keep playing it each day and it gets better every time!

You go, Ma! Remember to eat your vegetables, or you won’t get any ice cream. **Laughs** I eat all my vegetables except pumpkin, and that’s why I haven’t got curly hair. That’s what we were told when I was small.

Oh, Dad says the temperature is going to drop steeply tomorrow, you must wear warm clothes, she tells her 66yr-old son.

OK, Ma.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
8_Nostalgia

Royal Brush Off

‘I’m reading a book about Princess Elizabeth’s visit to East Africa; and so I’m remembering her visit to South Africa in 1947. I’ll never forget it.’

This is Mother Mary Methodist speaking, reminiscing.

‘I was nursing at the Boksburg-Benoni hospital and the Royal Family cavalcade was going to pass right in front of the hospital. We all went down to the road in our uniforms and we just knew she was going to stop and chat to us because the porters had wheeled Daphne down from Ward 7 and put her hospital bed right at the edge of the road.’

– here they come! Oh, hell, they’re gone –

Daphne was well-known: Young and paralysed from diving into a shallow pool. The King and the Queen and the Princesses would definitely stop, lean forward and have an earnest chat with Daphne making sure not to get too close. Mary and her fellow nurses crowded round Daphne’s bed and waited breathlessly, the loyal Royalists they were. And here they come!

And there they go. They drove straight past. Didn’t stop; just a vague wave in the general direction!

But of course loyal Monarchist Mary immediately made excuses for Their Royal Bliksems: ‘They were on a very tight schedule.’

Bah, jou moer Koning Jors, us republicans would have said. Actually, we wouldn’t have been out on the road waiting . . we would have pretended to not even know they were visiting . . Who? King of where?

~~~oo0oo~~~

Later Mom’s friend, nurse Audrey Beyers was chosen to accompany Daphne to America for an operation. She doesn’t know what transpired, except Audrey got married and became Audrey King.

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family

Bloody Marys

Mary Bland and Sylvia Bain, cousins, decided there was NO WAY they were going to miss the dance in the Harrismith Town Hall. This is quite possibly Mary’s single biggest act of defiance or wilful disobedience in her whole life. See, they were meant to be in Durban then, to start their midwifery course at Addington Childrens Hospital.

But to the dance in the dorp they went. Mary with Pieter, who she later married; and Sylvia with John, who she later married.

The next day they left (by train?) and in Durban they got their new quarters and their new uniform, which they loved: ‘It had a long fishtail headdress down the back almost to our waists. It looked beautiful.’

Also, their new matron was Mary Hawkins and they knew her sisters in Harrismith and in fact, Mary’s Mom Annie had dated her brother ‘Hawks’ Hawkins for quite a long while.

When they were summonsed to Matron Hawkins’ office they waltzed in merrily feeling glam and looking forward to a warm Harrismith welcome; only to be met with a frosty blast and a good dressing-down from Bloody Bill, as Mary Hawkins was known by those who knew her! Or sometimes Bloody Mary. She had been the Matron of all SA nurses in the war, and this was shortly after the war, and she was in no mood for nonsense. They were LATE starting their course!

– Mary left and Sylvia, new in Durban – ca.1949 – day off –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Somewhere there’s a newspaper photo of Mary and Sylvia with a New Year crop of fresh Durban babies. Must find it.

The feature pic shows Mary and Pieter also in 1949, also outside the Town Hall, but another occasion.

~~~oo0oo~~~

pics from skyscrapercity.com; and kznpr.co.za – thank you. kznpr is Hugh Bland’s site; Here’s the cover of Hugh’s book on the Addington Childrens Hospital:

Hugh Bland and Mary Bland are related if you go way back to Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland and John Francis Adam Bland, so they have both played a part in the Addington Childrens Hospital. Hugh didn’t deliver any babies, though.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Barbara’s Letter

. . to old Jewish Harrismith friends

Big sister Barbara Swanepoel Tarr met Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, the travelling rabbi, who I wrote about some time back. He very kindly gave her a book. 

Barbara tells of her voyage of discovery looking up old Jewish friends. This post is snippets from a letter she wrote:

Many of the names and surnames have been mentioned to me in conversations over the years with my parents and some I knew personally and grew up with. We’re still lucky enough to be able to contact our folks, Pieter Swanepoel (98) and Mary Bland Swanepoel (92), who now live in Pietermaritzburg and still have amazingly good memories. They fill in the gaps with names and places and help make our history come alive.

In Harrismith, the Royal Hotel was built by my great grandfather Stewart Bain and was sold to Mr. Sookie Hellman; the Central Hotel was built by his brother James Bain and was sold to Mr. Randolph Stiller.

– the extended Stiller family –

We lived in the Central Hotel for about three months in 1960. Mom and Dad had bought our first house in town – 95 Stuart Street, and were waiting for the tenant’s lease to expire. There we got to know the Stiller family (Isa was a young girl at school, I think) and Becky Kaplan, the receptionist. The Deborah Retief Gardens were our playing fields, under the watchful eye of Ted and Fanny Glick, sitting on their balcony in Van Sandwyk Flats No 1.

Fanny Glick and my grandmother Annie Bain Bland were the best of friends. Sunday afternoons these two characterful old dears would pick up the three Swanepoel kids in Annie’s big cream Chev and tootle down to the Park on the Wilge River. There we were each given a sixpence and left to our own devices at the round kiosk. ‘Glick’ and ‘Anna’ (that’s what they called one another) enjoyed tea and scones in the Chevy, and us three would swing, slide and no doubt fight on all the wonderful ‘things’ in the playground. 

– Anna and Glick, great friends – we’re in the back seat –

Around 2015 a bee flew into my bonnet, and I started looking for old Harrismith High School scholars. Finding Ivan and Brenda Katz in Joburg was a gem of a find; I also found another strong Harrismith sister, Adele Cohen.

In 1961 in Std 1, I received my first bicycle for Christmas – a blue Raleigh that kept me going to matric in 1970. I remember going into your Dad Eddie Cohen’s shop for a patch, a new tube, a bell or just to look around. All too soon, the three Swanepoel kids were finished with school and our bikes were no longer needed. Happily they became the property of new owners…the three Cohen kids. 

Joy Kadey, your parents’ shop, Jack Kadey’s Jewellers, still stands and is very much alive. Now called Louis’ Jewellers. While the name has changed, very little else has changed in the shop and in the whole building, thanks to Louis Nel and his daughter Erika Nel du Plessis (the owner). She has managed to make time stand still in a little place of long ago. Absolutely worth a visit to this ‘lil ‘ol shoppe’ of our childhood. Erika and husband Pierre du Plessis live in Louis Green’s old home in Warden Street, which they have also restored beautifully. One of Harrismith’s magnificent old homes.

Other Jewish people from old Harrismith are Essie Rosenberg Lunz, John French (great nephew of Fanny Glick, who sent a Facebook link on the Harrismith Jewish Cemetery), David Babbin, son of Isaac and Joey Babbin from the Tickey Bazaar, where you could buy ‘everything.’ How I loved that shop! Walking in through the door took one into an amazing fairyland. Baskets of all sorts on the floor, glass compartments of sweets at mouth-watering eye level, and counters of ‘what you will,’ and everything that could hang was hanging …just ‘as you like it’…..it was all there! 

– the occasion: Ivan Katz’s barmitzvah! –

~~~oo0oo~~~

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

Shoot Me

We should have been more biblical. Us Swanie kids should have listened in Sunday School and been a lot more faithfully Biblical.

Doesn’t the Bible say quite clearly and unambiguously, ‘Obey Your Father’!? And Pieter Gerhardus said quite clearly and unambiguously, ‘Shoot Me When I Turn Sixty!’

We shoulda been obedient children.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Luckily for him (now aged 98) the Bible might also say ‘Obey Your Mother.’ Does it? Lemme check.

Yep. Ephesians 6 v1 – Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.

~~~oo0oo~~~

On the other hand, our disobedience (or mine, as a son) could have led to this:

If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, . . . that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother (Ah, Mom woulda saved me) lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place . . . And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die . . . (Blimey! But God Loves ya! Eish!) – Deuteronomy Chapter 21 v18

~~~oo0oo~~~

Again, thank goodness for Mother Mary!

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Mary’s DreamLand

Hi Ma! How’re you doing?

Fine, thank you. I’m tucked up in bed already, waiting for the sister to bring my pain muti and eyedrops. They put a drop in my left eye and five minutes later another drop. Same eye. Only my left eye.

It’s 6pm. Early to bed, my Ma in frail care.

Do you sleep well?

Like a log. I’m warm and comfortable. And Kosie! I’ve been having the most wonderful dreams lately. Nice, happy dreams. I wake up smiling.

That’s so nice! Can you remember what they’re about, or are they too racy to repeat in polite company?

Laughs!!

No, they’re about the farm. The wonderful farm, the beautiful view, the walks with my Dad. It’s all underwater now, of course.

The farm Nuwejaarsvlei on the Nuwejaarspruit. Now submerged beneath the waters of Sterkfontein Dam. About ’15 miles’ from Harrismith towards Oliviershoek Pass and ‘on the Witsieshoek road.’

I was eight years old when we left the farm.

That was 1936.

~~~oo0oo~~~

muti – medicine;

Kosie – my nickname; Ma pronounces it the Afrikaans way, Kuwa-see; unlike Annie and her friends who all called me Koosie, rhyming with pussy or wussy; True fact; Accounts for a lot?

Nuwejaarsvlei – New Year Marsh or wetland

Nuwejaarspruit – New Year creek or stream

Sterkfontein – strong fountain

Oliviershoek – the place of the Oliviers, a surname

Witsieshoek – the place of the Basotho chief Witsie who lived there from 1839 to 1856.

The pic shows Mom floating on the water above her old farm in 1990. Its somewhere in the background in this pic:

Trish eskimo, Mom eskimo, Dad, Sheila semi-eskimo

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia

Turn the other Tympanum

We good people of the Harrismith Methodist Church would never have taken Mrs Brunsdon to court for her singing! Sure, her singing was awful, but church would have been duller and there would have been less giggling and less to skinder about without her. She would bellow off-key and at her own pace, sniffing loudly from time to time and gazing all round the church mid-hymn; sometimes through her glasses, sometimes over her glasses; sometimes turning right round to see who was behind her. The sniffs would put her behind, so soon she’d be a few words and then a few lines behind but no way she would play catch-up. She got her money’s worth, singing every single word. In fact, our Mom Mary Methodist, the organist, would wait for her, as would we all.

Not so the Methodists in Lumberton, North Carolina USA. They were considerably displeased when William Linkhaw sang hymns very loudly and very poorly. Deviating from the correct notes, he continued singing well after the congregation reached the end of each verse. On one occasion, the pastor simply read the hymn aloud, refusing to sing it because of the disruption that would inevitably occur. The presiding elder refused to preach in the church at all. Upon the entreaties of a prominent church member, Linkhaw once stayed quiet after a particularly solemn sermon. But he steadfastly rejected the repeated pleas of his fellow congregants to remain silent altogether, responding that “he would worship his God, and that as a part of his worship it was his duty to sing.”

In their defence it must be noted that some of the better congregants of Lumberton Methodist – like us in Harrismith – found Linkhaw’s singing hilarious, but the bitter lot won out and decided to show him! They had the law hand down a misdemeanor indictment against Linkhaw, charging that he had disturbed the congregation. Obviously the LumberMeths had never heard Jesus’ clear instructions in his sermon that we ‘Turn The Other Tympanum.’ Or if they had, they were ignoring him! No wonder Ghandi reputedly said, ‘I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.’ And if he didn’t he should have, as ‘Christians’ were mismanaging both his countries at the time: India and South Africa.

The case went to trial in August 1872. Several witnesses, including the church’s pastor, testified that Linkhaw’s singing disturbed the church service. One witness, being asked to describe the way in which Linkhaw sang, gave an imitation of it, singing a hymn in Linkhaw’s style. He provoked what the court described as “a burst of prolonged and irresistible laughter, convulsing alike the spectators, the Bar, the jury and the Court.” Witness testimony also showed, however, that Linkhaw was a devout and spiritual man, and the prosecution admitted that he was not deliberately attempting to disrupt worship. Linkhaw asked the court to instruct the jury that it could not find him guilty unless it found intent to disturb the service. He was right, but the judge rejected his request, ruling instead that the jury only needed to determine whether Linkhaw’s singing actually disrupted the service. The jury found Linkhaw guilty, and the judge fined him one penny.

Well!

William was not gonna take this lying down. He appealed the judgment to the North Carolina Supreme Court; the case was heard in 1873 and the court unanimously set aside the verdict. It accepted the jury’s ruling that Linkhaw had indeed caused a substantial disturbance. It also agreed that intent can generally be presumed when the defendant could have anticipated his actions. However, the court observed that the prosecution had expressly admitted that Linkhaw had no malicious intent. The justices therefore held that the presumption, being contradicted by uncontested evidence, did not apply. The court issued a writ of venire de novo, nullifying the jury’s verdict.

Well! We of the Harrismith Methodist Church liked our Mrs Brunsdon and we did not take her to court. We instead thought like the 1873 Supreme Court that since she was attempting in good faith to worship, she could not be subjected to criminal penalties. And we also thought thus:

“Although the proof sure did show / Ms Brunsdon’s voice was awful / us judges found no valid ground / For holding it unlawful.”

and

“While LumberMeths grumbled / and acted all nefarious / us Harrismithians benevolently / Thought it all hilarious.”

and

“If all things bright and beautiful / the Lord God made them all / Then sniffs and squawks discordant / Are welcome in the hall.”

and

“Old Brunsdon raised the rafters / some congregants did cringe / But she was screeching to her Lord / so we laughed, we did not whinge.”

I’ll stop now.

“Some thought that they could bellow / in holy tones so fine / but oo’s to know what the Mighty One / regards as a voice divine?”

I mean, how do we know the Good Lord likes it when he hears the famous Three Fat Blokes Shouting (some call them The Three Tenors)?

~~~oo0oo~~~

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_v._Linkhaw

The first poem at the end paraphrased and Harrismith’d from The Green Bag – self-described as “A Useless, but Entertaining Magazine For Lawyers.” Second and third limericks sommer made up.

~~~oo0oo~~~

skinder – gossip; juicy

sommer – just because;