‘We think it’s him, but we haven’t been able to catch him. He must distribute the leaflets in the absolute dead of night, probly just pre-dawn. They’re scurrilous. Well, we’ll see if they end when you move in.’
Owners in the shareblock building were gossiping about the mystery vendetta that had been waged for a long time in the block. Someone pecked away on an old typewriter, telling tales (and truths?) about other residents and criticising what the managing committee did and didn’t do for the building. They suspected their mystery person was the owner I had just bought from, and they were looking forward to his leaving to stay far away in the little dorp of Richmond out in the sticks.
My first own home! A spacious, high-ceilinged one (‘and a half’) bedroom flat in a good-looking ‘Art Deco’ building in Marriot Road one block up from Cowey Road.
On the day I moved in I was ambushed by a gang of Kingfisher Canoe Club mates who had spread the word ‘Party at Swanie’s New Place Tonight!’ The electricity wasn’t yet connected, but no problem to these hooligans: They dangled an extension cord out the window and politely asked the elderly couple below me to please plug it in. Bless ’em they did, and hats off to them they withstood the temptation to switch off as the noise lasted long into the night! There was some excess (did I mention they were canoeists!?) and tales – exaggerated surely? – were told of vomit streaming down the steps.
Once I settled in and my fellow occupants realised I was obviously the innocent party in the opening night cacophony (ahem!), I was told more about the strange old geezer I’d bought from. And I was told of a mysterious campaign of leaflets surreptitiously distributed, pointing out people’s faults and complaining of things not done, etc. in harsh language. They suspected it was him, but were never able to prove it. Soon I was able to solve the mystery: A secret compartment in the lounge cupboard revealed copies of his printed leaflets – the vendetta stash!
I bought ca.1984 for R45 000. Sold ca.1992 for R90 000. I saw it offered for sale recently (2021) for R967 000. That’s where I found these pics – someone has opened up the small kitchen so now the lounge and kitchen are all one big room. It looks great.
Ina Prinsloo came into the bottle store one day many years ago to get stuff for a party. Said, “Don’t tell Egbert. I’m arranging a surprise party for him.”
She bought plenty of grog.
Later Egbert came in. Tongue-in-cheek he said: “I don’t like this Harrismith tradition on your birthday. People fall all over you and you have to buy them food and drink!”
He also bought plenty of grog.
Dear old honest Mom was torn: I didn’t know what to say . .
I didn’t know this: Mom met Ina when she first started nursing at the Boksburg-Benoni hospital – her very first hospital. Egbert was a houseman there and that’s where he and Ina met. Years later Egbert joined a general practice in Harrismith. They stayed and raised their kids and became a big and well loved part of the town.
Big Sister Barbara Swanepoel Tarr has a good memory for the old days, good sources, like old school annuals, and friends like Ann Euthemiou, and is developing a good old-Harries network to enhance all that! She wrote in November 2015:
Note: To plough through this post easily you really ideally need to be: 1. Ancient 2. a Rooinek - and 3. a Harrismithian!
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 Brunsdon, 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”
Lovely. 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 Morton 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).
Mandy’s reply on the 21st post reminded me of The Bend – that sacred pilgrimage site we would repair to as part of growing up and learning wisdom and wonder. Also drinking, puking and dancing. Especially drinking. It was like Mecca.
We searched the whole of Joburg all term long for girls and women and couldn’t find any, but on The Bend there was always a goodly gang of inebriated bright young future leaders and fine examples to our youth, dancing, hosing themselves and matching us drink-for-drink.
Some of the drinking was very formal, with strict protocol, enforced by some kop-toe okes who had already been to the weermag and wanted to show us lightweight long-hairs what DUSSIPLIN was all about. Louis was very disciplined under General Field Marshall Reitz as was I under Brigadier Field Marshall Stanley-Clarke:
Late at night important stuff would happen. This time it was inventory control. It became vitally urgent that we help Kai clean out old Dr Reitz’s expired medicines. Mainly by swallowing them. The muscle relaxants caused great hilarity as we pondered what effect they might have on our sphincters. Yussis you’d think with a resident pharmacist we’d be told the possible side-effects, but all we were told – or all we listened to – was “Fire it, Mole!” and down they went, chased by alcohol to enhance the effects. Highly irre-me-sponsible, but all done for research purposes.
Dr Prof Stephen Charles dispenses –
The research was inconclusive. We fell asleep before any fireworks happened.
In those days we all shared one cellphone, which you didn’t have to carry in your pocket. It was already there when you got there, nailed to the wall so it couldn’t get lost and so everyone could overhear what you were saying. There it is:
I forget what this was, but it was important and Stephen Charles was giving it his rapt attention –
Sometimes farming interfered with the serious part of the weekend and then we would be of great help to Kai. We’re taking his mielies to market here. Don’t know what he would have done without us. Airbags and seatbelts were not highly essential in those daze, as we were usually well internally fortified, and as our driver had his foot flat we knew we’d get there quickly. So it was alright.
Taking mielies to the koperasie silo. No airbags –
Back: Me; Kevin Stanley-Clarke (now a Kiwi); Glen Barker (now an Oz). Front: Pierre du Plessis; Steve Reed (a Kiwi in Oz); Lettuce Wood-Marshall (a Chinese or an Oz?); Dave Simpson;
kop-toe okes – taking themselves seriously; which made them more hilarious
weermag – ‘again might’, as in ‘we might have to go there again’; involuntarily
mielies – maize, corn; sometimes schlongs
schlong – your mielie
koperasie – co-operative: socialist gathering of capitalist farmers
In JHB, a mate swears he heard me giving directions to the farm. I’m sure he’s mistaken, but Trevor John says: Swannie, I will never forget your directions to a farm in Harrysmith – 2 quarts of beer to the right turnoff; one pint to the next turnoff; and a small shot for the next left to the gate .
Sheila saw to it I had a party! As so often, Sheila saved the day. Back in 1976 before there were rules and the rinderpest was still contagious.
Des Glutz threw open his palatial bachelor home, Kenroy, on the banks of the mighty Vulgar River to an invasion of students from Johannesburg and Pietermaritzburg. That’s because as a lonely horny bachelor Free State farmer he had his eye on some of those student teachers from Teachers Training College in PMB!
“Kindness of his heart” you thought? Ha! You know nothing about horny bachelor Free State farmers! Anyway, he owed me for managing his farm brilliantly when he went to Zimbabwe.
Sheila invited everybody – and everybody arrived!
Eskom had not yet bedeviled Kenroy so paraffin lamps, gaslamps and candles gave light. Music pomped out from car batteries. There was singing and much laughter. Except when Noreen, Jo and Ski danced their Broadway routine The Gaslamp Revue with Redge Jelliman holding the silver tray footlight staring in open-mouthed wonder at their skill. And of course, their legsnboobs – another lonely horny bachelor Free State farmer, y’know. Awe-struck silence reigned. For minutes.
There was also Liz and Mops and Jenny, Georgie, Mandy, Gill and Jill; Hell, we bachelors were in awe at almost being outnumbered – a rare event. We were so excited we got pissed and fell down. Timothy Paget Venning got so excited he walked all the way round the house smashing Des’ window panes to let in the night.
Poor ole Gilbert, Des’ personal butler, valet and chef – seen here in purple – and his men bore the brunt of the extra work!
He cooked and cooked, including a big leg of lamb which didn’t make the main table, getting scoffed on the quiet by ravenous would-be teachers under the kitchen table. Pity the poor kids who would have to grow up being taught all the wrong things by this lot in Natal in the eighties.
These would-be teachers and pillars of society were wild n topless:
Tabbo wore his tie so he could make a speech into his beer can microphone:
Funny how Glutz doesn’t feature in any pics! Where was he? We know he wasn’t in his bedroom cos the TC girls raided it and were in awe at the impressive collection of bedroom toys and exotic rubber and latex items in his bedside drawer. No stopping those TC girls!
Ah! Here’s Glutz – Sheila and Liz presenting Des a thank-you gift for hooligan-hosting:
The morning after dawned bright. Too bright for some . . .
A mudfight! said some bright spark – Sheila, no doubt – so Des arranged transport to the mighty Vulgar river.
After the weekend I roared back to Jo’burg in my brand-new 1965 two-shades-of-grey-and-grey Opel Rekord Concorde deluxe sedan, four-door, grey bench-seated, 1700cc straight-four, three-on-the column, chick-magnet automobile. My first car! Watch out Doornfontein!
Thanks Mom & Dad! And thanks for the party, Sheils and Des! Before we left, Mom tickled the ivories while the TC gang belted out some songs:
The old man organised the numberplate OHS 5678 for me. The man at the Harrismith licencing office said “Oom, are you sure you want an easy-to-remember number for your son? Don’t you want one that’s hard to remember?”
I was telling you earlier that the Road Safety slogan in days of yore was Friends Don’t Tell Friends They Can’t Drive Because They’re Drunk Because Then Friends Will SHOW Friends How They Actually Drive Very Well When They’re Drunk, Thank You Very Much and this was proven half true one night when I told Tabs ‘Listen, I think you’ve had a few too many and the best thing to do is to let ME drive.’
It was all Bess Reitz’s fault. She was buggering off to America and insisted we drink beer at the Holiday Inn . .
. . and that we then repair to her garage opposite the Town Hall to drink beer. We were all sad to see her go so we had drunk more than usual.
It was OK though, the cops wouldn’t catch as us we had a lookout in the tree on the pavement outside the garage in the form of John. Where a normal person would climb up a tree till the branches started thinning, John climbed up into the twigs till his head popped out from the very top and kept a 360° lookout shouting ‘Where are the coppers!?’ and ‘The coast is clear!’ and ‘Ahoy!’
Now it was true I had been with Tabs all night drinking and he could have said the same of me, but it was me talking, making my sensible suggestion. And anyway Pierre agreed with me and said he’d fetch me from Gailian after I’d delivered Tabbo safely home.
– and Bessie would have vouched for my condition –
Tabs was perfectly rational and amenable to my eminently sensible suggestion. ‘Tell you what,’ he said, ‘I’ll drive to the top of forty two second hill and then you can drive.’ I was perfectly rational and amenable to that suggestion and we set off down Warden Street.
Tabbo had a green two-door Datsun SSS 1800 (Geoff Leslie had famously called his red Datsun 1600 his ‘Triple Ess Ess Ess’) and that thing fucked off went fast. We touched the tar twice on the way down Warden street and flew up 42nd Hill at a hell of a rate of knots. I was highly relieved when Tabs pulled over as promised and I took over, proceeding at a more sedate pace.
Soon after, I turned sedately into Gailian and the road took a sharp left and I didn’t. Changing down into second I let out the clutch but I hadn’t taken my foot off the gas, so we leapt forward into the only deep ditch in the veld for miles around. Tabbo bit a huge chunk out of the dashboard. I was OK as the steering wheel stopped me from doing the same. Seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet. Or more accurately, the wearing of seatbelts hadn’t been invented yet *. OK, the wearing of seatbelts hadn’t yet become popular.
As it turned out, speed hadn’t been the problem after all – it was the sudden stop that dented Tabbo.
Fortunately for us, Pierre was right behind us and took us to hospital where the local vet stitched up Tabbo’s lip and he ended up looking quite handsome after that. As the doc said Vasbyt Tebs, he said ‘Hit it Doc!’ but gripped my hand tightly as he said it. It was True Valour in the face of adversity.
The sudden stop and the hospital afterwards were NOTHING. We now had to face the hard part: Telling Stella. They were in bed in the dark, we couldn’t see them, we could just hear Stella.
She asked if we were OK. Hector was silent.
* I looked it up: The first U.S. patent for automobile seat belts was issued to Edward J. Claghorn of New York not long before our escapade. In 1885. So we weren’t used to them yet.
Uncle Jack Kemp had a big dilemma. He loved a party and there were two parties on, one at our house and the other at Ronnie from Threeburgh’s place. To get from the one brandy bottle to the other he had to walk down our front steps, down our little-used front path and out the gate onto Stuart Street. He then had to cross the road and walk northwest to the other corner where Ronnie and Martie were whooping it up – and they could whoop it up!
Then he had to retrace his steps in case there was something more exciting going on where he had just come from.
After a few such sorties he went missing and Isabel Necessary asked her Koosie (pr: coosie) to Go And Look For Him Please My Love, throwing back her head to let out a peal of loud cackling laughter, drink in one hand and ciggie in the other.
I found him under the willow, flat on his back with the unspilt brandy glass balanced on his big boep. Hello Cock, he rasped. ‘Hello Cock’ he’d say to everyone. Saved him remembering names.
Uncle Jack was fine, he had just run out of steam and vertical-ness and was thinking about his next move. What lovely people were Jack and Isabel Kemp!
In the map the four dots mark our yard. Just above the top dot is the van Tubbergh home, showing the short route Uncle Jack had to negotiate. In the picture of the front of our house, there’s a willow tree on the left. Just out of picture on the right is the willow tree under which dear Uncle Jack came unstuck, where schoolboy me found and ‘rescued’ him.
We would meet on The Bend, Kai’s paradise on the Tugela outside Bergville. The guys from Doories in Johannesburg studying to be optometrists and engineers at the Wits Tech and the gals from NTC in Pietermaritzburg, studying to be teachers of the future fine upstanding youth of SA. We would meet specifically to practice setting a good example.
We’d sing and dance, play loud music, down many beers, fall in love, salute General Armstrong the whisky bottle, dance, laugh, swim in the river, jump off the dam wall, have a ball, dance, laugh, recover and start all over again. In hunting season some of us might shoot a few guineafowl.
Sundays we’d load up and go back to school like responsible students. Speronsible, as Lloyd Zunckel would say.
On this occasion Lettuce Leaf loaded up the off-yellow Clittering Goach to head SE back to PMB and Spatch loaded up the beige Apache and Scratchmo loaded the green VeeDub to head NW back to Joeys. We decided to help Lettuce pack out of the kindness of our hearts, slipping a dead guineafowl in amongst the girls’ suitcases. Ha ha! That’ll give them a surprise when they get back!
Here Scratchmo chunes the Clittering Goach’s under-bonnet-ular bits, pretending he knows what’s going on to impress Lettuce:
Back in Johannesburg later that Sunday night, we couldn’t wait to phone them from the nearest ‘tickey box’ or public phone.
How was your trip? Fine.
How were your suitcases? Fine.
How was Lettuce’s boot? Fine.
Oh! Um, was there anything unusual in the boot? No. Why?
DAMN! We suspected Scratchmo Hood Simpson, and interrogated him accusingly: Are you so in love that you removed the fowl to spare the girls the smell? No, it wasn’t him. But, but . . someone must have removed it. Damn!
Oh, well, it was a great idea for a prank! Pity it failed . . . .
A week later we got a parcel slip:
A parcel from PMB awaits your collection at the General Post Office in Jeppe Street.
It was big and quite heavy and read: Contents: Musical Instrument.
Unwrapping layer after layer of paper and one plastic bag after another we unveiled: THAT GUINEAFOWL! The girls had suckered us! We had been (in 21st century-language) SERVED!
Hummed? It honked! It ponged! – that was obviously their “musical instrument” clue! Heave! Vomit! Yuk!
So what to do with it? Holding it at arms length we carried it out. It was 5pm rush hour. Traffic backed up under the Harrow Road flyover. Innocent hard-working people on their way home. A little plumber’s bakkie looked easy, so as the light turned green we deposited the offending deceased foul fowl discreetly on his loadbed. He’d have an interesting mystery when he got home!
We then made our way to the nearest tickey box. We had a concession phone call to make to PMB.
Girls 1 – Guys 0
Where the lucky plumber’s bakkie got its guineafowl
Trudi won Miss Personality at Maritzburg Varsity. We could have told them that beforehand if they’d asked. Her prize: A trip to Rio de Janeiro! Steph arranged a farewell party at Shady Pines on the night of her departure, after which we would deliver her safe and pickled to the Harrismith stasie. You didn’t know trips to Rio de Janeiro start at Harrismith Railway Station?! Ha! It goes to show . . .
At the station we bid her farewell in moviestar style, Trudi hanging out the window, fans crowded on the platform, much hubbub (just like in any good romantic movie). Here we are, hubbubbing:
Here’s Trudi with her hatbox:
Except some ringleaders are missing. Where could John and Nick be? At the very far end of the platform talking to the train driver. I get there just in time to hear: “Nooit, meneer, this are not a melktrein, this are ve Orange Express! No stops before Beflehem.”
He reminds me that they say you can’t find three wise men in the Vrystaat. But he does turn out to be wise after some rooinek private school farmer persuasion, as he partially relents: “OK, ve bess I can do for yous is I’ll slow down when I pass Rivierdraaistasie.”
We hop on, and soon the train pulls off. John the agile gymnast has a case of beer under his one arm and a wicked grin under his one moustache. We make our way to Trudi’s cabin. “What on earth are you guys doing here?” We repeat a very hasty goodbye because already the train is FLYING! I myself am now rather nervous and if it wasn’t for the medicinal value of beer I might have said something sensible. We each take position at a door and watch as the poles whizz past us in a blur. Past the crossing to Swiss Valley where Nick (whose leg was in plaster so he was chosen to drive the getaway car – just like in any good gangster movie) was going to meet us. The railway crossing whizzes past and it feels like we’re accelerating!
Suddenly a decrease in speed and, peering forward, some lights in the dark. Get ready to jump. Arse over kettle each one of us hits the ground and tumbles. I almost stayed on my feet but then had to duck for the big sign RIVIERDRAAISTASIE one word. But one man didn’t fall: He who held the case of beers kept it together! We ran back up the track into the dark as a man came stumbling out of the stasie kantoor, lantern held aloft (just like in any good Orient Express movie).
When we gathered, a sober head prevailed. “Boys, we can’t go! We can’t ‘drop’ the train driver. The stasiemeester will have to put in a report and our man will get into trouble. We have to go and talk to the stasiemeester.”
So a delegation is sent back to the stasie and some of us sit in the veld awaiting their return, supping thoughtfully on John’s case of ales. And we wait and await.
Eventually – just when we think maybe they’ve gone to jail – they return, much merrier and cleverer than when they left. Apparently as they started to say Naand Meneer the oke said: “That’s the BEST thing that’s happened to me in all my years at Rivierdraai Stasie!” and insisted they sit and join him for a dop, pulling a bottle of brandy from the top drawer of his desk (just like in any good cowboy movie).
A sequel: Is nothing a secret in a small dorp? I get home before sunrise, and later that same morning my Mom peeps her head into my bedroom in my garden cottage, The Country Mansion: “Were you on that train?” asks Mary Methodist in her woe-unto-us voice. And “I’m so glad you’re home safely,” what a special Mom. At about nineteen years old, though, I couldn’t understand why she was fussing.
Now the desk with the brandy bottle in the top drawer has gone . .