Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia sport

Up the Creek

I was born up Shit Creek without a paddle. Quite literally. OK, my actual birth, per se, was in Duggie Dugmore’s maternity home, less than half a kilometer away on Kings Hill, but mere days after I was born – as soon as I could be wrapped in swaddling clothes – I was taken home to my manger on a plot on the banks of Shit Creek. And it was twelve years or so before I owned my first paddle. So this is a true story.

– ruins of our house on the plot – trees in in the middle ground are on the banks of shit creek – – me thinking ‘where’s me paddle? –

I paddled my own canoe about twelve years later after we lost the plot. OK, sold the plot, moved into town and bought a red and blue canoe with paddle. The first place we paddled it was in a little inlet off the Wilge river above the Sunnymede weir, some distance upstream of town. Right here:

– younger sis Sheila operates the paddle I was born without –
Sunnymede on the Wilge River upstream from Harrismith FS ca1965
– same little inlet off the Wilge – Mother Mary and Sheila on land, me airborne, Barbara on water –

Before this, I had paddled a home-made canoe made of a folded corrugated zinc roofing sheet, the ends nailed onto a four-by-four and sealed with pitch. Made by good school friend Gerie Hansen and his younger boet Nikolai – or maybe his older boet Hein; or by their carpenter father Jes? We paddled it, wobbling unsteadily, on their tiny little pond in the deep shade of wattle trees above their house up against the northern cliff of Kings Hill.

Then Charlie Ryder came to town, and one thing led to another . . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

Good school friend Piet Steyl wrote of the wonderful days he also spent in the company of Gerie Hansen – who died tragically early. He told of fun days spent paddling that zinc canoe, gooi’ing kleilat, shooting the windbuks and smoking tea leaves next to that same little pond. We both remembered Gerie winning a caption contest in Scope magazine and getting reprimanded for suggesting Japanese quality wasn’t good. Irony was, the Hansens actually owned one of the first Japanese bakkies seen in town – a little HINO.

Gerie used to say ‘He No Go So Good’, and Piet says when it finally gave up the ghost he said ‘He No Go No More’!!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Shit Creek – actually the Kak Spruit; a tributary of the Wilge River which originates on Platberg mountain, flows down, past our old plot and westward through the golf course on the northern edge of town, then turns south and flows into the Wilge below the old park weir; Sensitive Harrismith people refer to it as ‘die spruit met die naam;’

die spruit met die naam – ‘the creek with the name’ – too coy! It’s Die Kakspruit; always will be. Shit Creek.

gooi’ing kleilat – lethal weapon; a lump of clay on the end of a whippy stick or lath; spoken about way more than practiced, in my experience; Here’s a kid loading one:

windbuks – airgun, pellet gun.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Drunken Revelry

OK, not really; more a reverie on drink – a nostalgic lookback on a bottle store. Platberg Bottle Store / Drankwinkel in Harrismith, the Vrystaat. The Swanepoel family business. We all worked here at times.

We were talking about the trinkets, decor and marketing stuff. Like those big blow-up bottles hanging from the ceiling. Turns out big sister Barbara kept some of them from way back when:

Younger sister Sheila has some whisky jugs; and I had found an old familiar brandy-making figure online:

..

This is where they were displayed, along with the statues of Johnny Walker whisky, Dewars White Label whisky’s Scottish soldier ‘drum major’, Black & White whisky with their two Scotty dogs, Beefeater Gin’s ‘beefeater’, etc. Spot them below:

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
9_KwaZuluNatal Family

Sharp Mary

Sheila has a lovely Mary Methodist anecdote from around 2012. Mary was about 84yrs old back then:

Her granddaughter Linda was telling her a story about a friend who had all his precious work stored on his laptop computer – ledgers, spreadsheets, emails, the lot. His work and his ‘whole life.’

Like so many people, he had no backup – none, anywhere.

Aware of the potential dangers, he was very conscious about the possibility of having it stolen, so when he had to go out one day, sans laptop, he hid it in the oven.

Well, you guessed it, his poor very embarrassed partner – unknowingly – had done the humdrum – pre-heat the oven to 220ºC – and the unthinkable. The precious laptop was melted, warped, done to a crisp.

– ““Oh no!”” interjects Mary “”He had cooked the books!””

~~~oo0oo~~~

June 2020 Sheila reports: Today Mum has so many jerseys on that Sister Rose asked if she was going to the North Pole.

For her crossword Mom asked what Mexico’s biggest volcano was. I looked it up while we were chatting – Popocatepetl. I’ve never heard of it – but Mum knew / remembered it! She had asked a friend who was going to her cottage to look it up on her computer – but now, when this friend comes back with the answer – Mum will know it already – she liked that!

~~~oo0oo~~~

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

Cosplay Re-enactment

Mom Mary Swanepoel made costumes for a fancy dress event in the Harrismith town hall ca.1959. We were living on a plot Birdhaven in the shadow of Platberg just a kilometre east of the edge of town on the forestry road.

Some thirty years later, big sister Barbara in the middle on the left, made costumes for her kids Linda and Robbie in a re-enactment ca.1986. They were living on a farm Shukela Estates outside Greytown.

– three of us kids ca.1959 and then Barbara’s two kids ca.1986 –

At the time our Oupa was visiting us from Pietermaritzburg. Paul Fouche Swanepoel, grandpa of Peter Frank – me.

– early 20th century ballroom trousers on the old PF – shorts on the new PF –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Now we await Linda’s move – I’ll bet she’ll repeat the re-enactment with her two, Mary-Kate and Dawie VII – they’ll be third generation ‘gypsies.’

~~~oo0oo~~~

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

Mary and Jean

Mom: When the Colemans arrived in Harrismith for Ken to start work in ‘the milk factory’ we met them right away as Dad was a great friend of Ken’s older brother Wally. Wally had been his tutor as an appy electrician in the Pietermaritzburg Post Office back in 1938. I recall visiting Uncle Wally as a kid once – I think in Howick?

1938 post office appies PMB
– Wally Coleman in the white coat – Dad standing second left – 1938 PMB –

Ken and Jean started building a new house on the corner of Hector street and Berg street, the road that led out of town to our plot less than a kilometre away. While the builders were at it, some leave time came up and Ken took the family away, prompting Dad to opine to Mom, ‘I would never go away while someone was building my house! I would watch their every move.’ Right.

Mom’s not sure, but thinks Donald was already born when they arrived in Harrismith. When Anne was born soon after me, Mary was chosen as her godmother as ‘Jean was a great friend even though she was Anglican.’ Mary Methodist speaking!

Then Eddie was born and we were like this:

In 2015 Sheila wrote: Mum says when we still lived on the ‘townlands’ on the way to the waterworks, Jean would often ‘phone and say ‘Have you got a little visitor?’– once again her son Donald had gone missing and she knew exactly where he was – he used to walk all the way to our farm to visit his great mate, Koos. The two were inseparable.

Today in 2020 Mom’s version was slightly different: ‘You used to walk to Donald without telling me. I would phone Jean and ask ‘Is there anything there of mine?’ Maybe the strolling went both ways?

What started this reminiscing was Eddie sending me pics of Jean’s 80th birthday celebration in June 2008, when Anne and Eddie took her on a very special outing:

They got together for Mary’s 80th in September 2008

– Mary turns 80 in PMB – 2008 –

For years after the Colemans left Harrismith we heard about their farm outside Winterton. About how Ken built the rondawels and bathroom very rustically. But I never saw Donald again and only lately found out that I had heard from him once!

– view from Craggs outside Winterton – looking at Cathkin and Champagne –
– Jean and Ken –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia Family

Chopin Mom Used to Play – Waltz Op.69 No.2

More Chopin I grew up listening to. Beautiful music ingrained in my brain. These tunes brings back sweet memories.

– the lounge on the right –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 5_Army days 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family sport

Buckle the Blacksmith

After Maritzburg College, Dad joined the General Post Office as an apprentice electrician. Around 1st April 1938. Here’s a spirit level he was issued that day:

– Spirit level – Wilson Lovatt & sons Wolverhampton –

While he was still apprenticing, he tried to enlist to join the WW2 war effort, but was sent back. He was transferred to Harrismith, from where he again made his way to Durban and was sent home again, finally being allowed to join after Oupa gave his reluctant blessing. He left for ‘up north’ in 1941.

While in Harrismith ca.1940, he met old Mr Buckle the Blacksmith down in McKechnie street, near the railway station. He was from England.

He ended up with a few tools from old man Buckle: a back saw and a set square with a beautiful brass inlay and brass leading edge.

Dad stayed on a plot outside town – townlands – and bought horses, schooled them and sold them for a profit. I assumed he’d had them shod by Buckle but he corrected me. Buckle was a blacksmith, upholsterer and wagon-maker. He didn’t shoe horses. That was up to Charlie Rustov, Harrismith’s only farrier.

From his plot out west of town he would ride out to Boschetto Agricultural College for Ladies on the slopes of Platberg, the mountain that dominates the town. Boschetto was where the girls were. The first time he went he met the formidable Miss Norah Miller, the founder and principal. Luckily for him she needed something done, he was able to help and so became a firm favourite of hers from the outset.

While he was telling the story Mom remembered a story about Norah: She knocked on someone’s door. Whoever answered went back and was asked ‘Who was there?’

They said, I don’t know, but she’s got one eye, one leg and a hell of a cough! Norah had one lens of her glasses frosted out, she wore a leg brace (probably childhood polio?) and smoked like a chimney. When her leg brace buckled, Dr Frank Reitz made her a new one. A better one. He would have loved that challenge. He was a hands-on fixer.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Harrismith author Leon Strachan found some fascinating info on Norah Miller’s leg – it was not polio. His source, Isobel Kemp (Dr Frank Reitz’s receptionist for thirty years): It was probably osteoporosis resulting in a hip fracture in 1928, only six years after she established her college. Usually this would have resulted in incapacity and excruciating pain, but Norah was in luck: she was in the right place at the right time, and knew just the right man, bold innovator and pioneering surgeon Frank Reitz.

He operated and joined the femur using an ordinary screw to hold the femur ends together! This trick would only become common decades later, in the fifties. Thirty years later she was still walking – with difficulty, but still mobile, and in charge of her college. When Cedara took over Boschetto she moved there, where she died in 1959, aged 79.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
4_Optometry Johannesburg 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal

Running on Women Power

A lovely post on Women in Ornithology by ornithology historian Bob Montgomerie led me to thinking about Women in – well, My Working Life.

First there was Mom. Mary Methodist. In the Platberg Bottle Store. And Annemarie Maeder, also in the bottle store with Mom. Mom ran the shop, ran the home, played the church organ, was a member of the church Women’s Auxiliary and the MOTHs MOTHWAs. Always involved and ready to help.

In the background, too, was our ‘panel of Moms’ – Moms of all your friends. Prominent ones were Jean Coleman, Joan du Plessis, Joyce Joubert, Polly Crawley, Emma Morton and others.

Next were women in Apache Oklahoma – all working, all capable: Carol Crews, Joyce Swanda, Katie Patterson, Jackie Lehnertz, Virginia Darnell, Odie Mindemann, Pug Hrbacek, Janie Payne, Peggy Manar . .

When I started my first own practice in 1981 up on the seventh floor of Eagle Building in Murchies Passage between Smith and West Streets in Durban, there was Merle Oosthuizen. I walked in as owner and boss and was lucky enough to have Merle recommended to me as a ‘receptionist.’ Well, ‘receptionist’ indeed. Where’s the appointment book? she asked. Appointment book? I said. The receipt book? Receipt book? She soon twigged my capabilities and knowledge and quietly took over, becoming the Practice Manager and the Me Manager.

Where are you staying? she asked the first day, when she learned I’d just come out of the army. Oh, in a residential hotel, I said. She nodded, satisfied. Some weeks later I breezily told her I’d rented a flat. Do you have a bed? A bed? Bedclothes? Bedclothes? Um . .

Of course she could spot easily how this child masquerading as a man hadn’t a clue. She bought all the above and more for me and for my practice; and she had all the stuff you need to live a bachelor existence delivered to the flat by the bed and furniture sales people. My first duvet, a kettle, a toaster. Even a fridge.

She was so organised I could say casually to anyone who asked: ‘Oh, I have it all under control. No worries.

She ruined me. Ever since then I have had capable practice managers run my practice and my life – and I have consequently learnt very little myself. I simply do as I’m told. Later on, twenty six years with Aitch just re-inforced that pattern at home, too.

My usual response to their pointed suggestions along the lines of roer jou gat is, ‘Yes of course, I was just about to do that . .

~~~oo0oo~~~

roer jou gat – move your arse

Categories
8_Nostalgia

Granny Bland

The baby in the feature picture is Mary Caskie, daughter of Alexander Caskie and Mary Craig.

Her father Alexander Caskie became mayor of Harrismith. She married JFA Bland II and gave birth to JFA Bland III.

JFA Bland II

JFA III Bland, called Frank, married Annie Watson Bain, daughter of Stewart Bain, mayor of Harrismith. So much of mayors, your worships!

Part of the stone wall which surrounded Granny Bland’s home in Stuart Street, Harrismith; and the oak tree her grand-daughter Pat Bland planted.

– Granny Bland’s garden wall in 2017 –
– Pat Bland planted this oak in her Granny Bland’s garden – 13 Stuart Street Harrismith –

Bain Sisters Annie Bland and Jessie Bell lived with Granny Mary Bland after their husbands died. Annie’s daughter Mary and granddaughter Barbara Mary also lived there for a while. She, Barbara, now has a daughter Linda Mary who has a daughter Mary-Kate – So much of Mary’s !

– Annie Bain Bland, Granny Bland, Jessie Bain Bell –

The old home now has an artist family living in it and has been beautifully restored.

Apparently this was Granny Bland’s – we grew up with it in our display cabimet

– Bacchus – the God of Wine, Music and Dance – absolutely the best God for 95 Stuart Street –

Granny Bland had a husband and five sons. She buried her husband and three of her sons in the same grave – later she was buried there. Her only surviving son Bunty later joined them all.

Mum says Barnie Neveling had a rather caustic tongue at times – it was he who told Mum that Frank Bland’s brother – either Bobby or Bertie – had “taken his own life” – he was a pharmacist and couldn’t live with his asthma any longer. Granny Bland spoke of it as an accidental overdose. Mum didn’t think it was necessary for Barnie to tell her that.

One of Granny Bland’s other sons, Alex, who was the Royal Hotel barman, played the piano. He cut his finger and it couldn’t straighten properly, so a friend offered to pay for the op to straighten it. Dr Reitz did the op and Alex died on the operating table. One of his favourite pieces was Rachmaninoff’s Prelude – Mum couldn’t remember the key – she sang a bit of it to me – looked it up and I think it was G Minor. Mum says that whenever it was played on the radio, they had to switch the radio off because it made Granny Bland too sad.

– not sure, but we think from Granny Bland’s home –
– Granny Bland’s hot water jug –
– we think this is from a Bland in Ceylon as POW – 1902 – Anglo-Boer War –
– Granny Bland’s silver serviette ring – which her granddaughter Mary used for years –

~~~oo0oo~~~

For those interested, here you can see the original broken daguerreotype Sheila had, and how I digitally ‘stitched’ or ‘healed’ it with FastStone Image Viewer (lovely program):

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 3_USA 4_Optometry Johannesburg 5_Army days 6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia 9_KwaZuluNatal Family school sport travel Wildlife, Game Reserves

A Slice of Vrystaat

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 left of France was also the queen of South Africa (and for much of her life she was right!).

– annie watson – mary frances – peter frank –

To balance that, there’s this side of the family.

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.

~~~oo0oo~~~