Categories
1_Harrismith 2_Free State / Vrystaat 8_Nostalgia school sport

Blast from the Past

FINALLY clearing out some more boxes from the garage. It’s nine years since Trish died, fifteen years since we moved here, and some of the boxes haven’t been opened since even before that.

And I was to find out some haven’t even been opened since LONG before that! Like this one:

This was a bachelor box! That typed letter was the school newsletter – no, the school newspaper! – from 1971. A previous school newspaper ‘Die Kanêrie’ had existed. In our time was it edited by Francois Rope Marais. It died, like all good canaries. In matric Jean Roux and I decided to revive it, but we wanted a new name. We were in a big Beatles phase, so its new name was Let It Be.

Racy scandal, very much tongue-in-cheek, we were determined to be irreverent. The mielie cob was our emblem, the paper was a member of the ‘mielie groep,’ and although this issue of 19 February 1971 was the first and probably the only issue, we made sure to put “Established 1971” in the banner to give it an air of gravitas. You never knew, maybe it would start a publishing empire? I mean, it would have been celebrating the 50th year of its existence next year had it gone on a few issues.

– You heard it here first: the Troggs were not going to appear in Swinburne!! –

Memories of the ‘roneo machine’ – you typed on blue wax paper, then you drew your pictures or wrote your headings in freehand with a metal stylus; then you carefully put your precious waxpaper koerant into the roneo machine. The ink ran into all depressions in the wax – hammered by the typewriters and tikmasjiene in Ou Rot se klas, or scratched by hand. We used typewriters for the Engelse stories and tikmasjiene for the Afrikaans stories. Then you turned something manually, and out came copies of what you’d done – reproduced by the magic machine. Any mistakes were permanent. And there were a number! Jean wrote the Pop Music Column ‘On The Knob With Roux.’ He was from a metropolis much larger than Herriesmif – Bloemfindyn, I think? – so more up-to-date with his music.

Someone wrote to the paper – a Letter To The Editor! It was a whinge. Someone had been applauding too enthusiastically at a debate contest! Gasp! They were applauding and stamping their feet! Instead of only giving contestants ‘their rightful applause!’ There was some question as to the character of someone who would let themselves go like that! Like Victoria, Nik and Nak were not amused. Well! There you go.

We – the Std 9’s were also announcing a ‘Ritmiese Ete’ at the country club where one would get a full supper and music by the vdLinde Trio – at R2 a head – to raise funds for the Matric Farewell.

Military news of past-pupils was: Sparrow was in the lugmagkoor – and was even chosen as a ‘solios‘ – or so we said. Pierre was off to Bloem as a parabat. Steph was off to Walvis Bay.

A ‘kringleierskamp’ was held on Clawervlei, Casper Badenhorst’s farm, led by ds Venter, ds Smit, Eben Louw and Giel du Toit. ‘Besprekings’ of about an hour were held morning, afternoon and evening. The weekend ended on Sunday with a church service and a group photo.

Evidence of the rooinekkery of this koerant was a report on the dorp’s new Boy Scout troop: We had done swimming badges under the watchful eye of Cyril Nocton at Ralph Morton’s pool. Also a report on the Methodist Guild, who held a braai in which ‘all the members’ arrived dressed as tramps.

Some blerrie Eland – signing himself Phomolong – wrote the athletic day report and crowed about the Kudus winning, them second and us, the Impalas coming our usual third out of three – to which he said foei! Blurry hell! He would eat his words one year later when we, the Impalas, swept the boards! De Wet Ras broke the twenty-year-old pole vault record. At least he was an Impala.

A long report on a debate – the ontgroeningsdebat – is a bit faint to follow easily. Seems the debate decided history should not be a compulsory school subject. Ha! ‘Jammer Mnr Stander,’ said the reporter to the history teacher!

Costa Georgiou and Erika du Plessis were chosen as Mr and Miss Standard Six.

– that faint headline reads Town Cricket –

Fluffy Crawley wrote an article on Town Cricket, asking for players to join him in strengthening a sport which had been waning and was now being rebuilt. Forthcoming matches were against Old Scholars (Bethlehem?) and Frankfort. He also gave a report on a drawn match against Bethlehem Defence in which they scored 95; We managed to drag out our innings for two hours, forcing a draw; De Wet scored 25, Fluffy scored 14 and Dave Davies hung in to score 5 and achieve the draw. Our best bowler was De Wet, 6 for 25! Fluffy never gave up on cricket – he remained involved with Free State cricket for decades!

Tuffy Joubert was the swimming reporter, announcing the team going to Mazelspoort. Boys: Leon Blignaut, J Nel, Steve de Villiers and himself; Girls: Sonja du Plessis, Sheila Swanepoel, Jenny de Villiers, Marita Badenhorst, R vd Merwe (? Ilse?), J Eksteen and L Ros(?). Sonja duP was chosen for the OFS team and went on to win bronze in the 100m freestyle girls under fourteen at a national gala.

Under the commercial section there was one advertisement: A 15ft fibreglass canoe for sale by one P. Swanepoel. It would have been blue with a red deck.

~~~oo0oo~~~

mielie groep – maize or corn future publishing empire; ‘jou mielie’ was a popular insult at the time; it had . . connotations; hey! sixteen year old testosterone

on the knob – DJ’s twiddled knobs, and . . connotations

koerant – newspaper

tikmasjien – typewriter

Ou Rot se klas – the typing teacher’s nickname was Rat; pointy nose, bristly moustache, dodgy reputation with the ladies

Ritmiese Ete – rhythmic dinner – grub and dance fundraiser

lugmagkoor – airforce choir

kringleierskamp – ringleaders camp

besprekings – discussions

foei! – shame! or ag shame!

ontgroeningsdebat – initiation debate for Std Sixes, just entering high school

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 Wildlife, Game Reserves

Today Fifty Years Ago

Today fifty years ago was also a Sunday. I know cos sister Sheila kept a diary in high school and every now and then she pops out with an entry that brings back a flood of memories. Even everyday entries like ‘had lunch at (place) with (people)’ can trigger memories and start some lovely reminiscing.

On the 5th April 1970 she wrote:

Climbed Mt aux Sources, had lunch at the waterfall and climbed down again.

“My descriptive writing was still under development” she now says! She was thirteen at the time. I had just turned fifteen. Mother Mary was forty one.

Leading us were Mother Mary, Uncle Cappy and Auntie Joyce Joubert. Making up the party were two older boys, Etienne Joubert and Whitey Fourie; myself, Sheila and Deon Joubert, in descending age order.

– Mother Mary on that 1970 hike – looking at the Eastern Buttress, Devil’s Tooth and Mt Amery –

Mom always knew all the peak names – from the Sentinel to Giants Castle.

– the chain ladder around that era –

The feature pic of the chain ladder is more recent – to show the surroundings – the second chain ladder on the right in that pic was added long after 1970. For wimps. Like airbags in cars, we didn’t have spare ladders back in our day (!!!).

– Sheila The Diarist on the edge of the amphitheatre near the lip of the Tugela Falls – Sept 1972 –
– myself, Sheila The Diarist and Bets Key (nearest) on the edge – on a more recent trip –
– this was ca.1998 – I think –
– the view of where we had lunch at the lip of the falls – taken from further east – internet pic –
– a 1973 pic of the starting point of the hike – Sheila in matric here – wearing the white jacket –

~~~oo0oo~~~

Around April 1970:

Rhodesia under Ian Smith had just become a Republic, severing their last ties with Britain;

The 27 Club started, with Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all dying at the age of 27 between 1969 and 1971.

Jumbo jet 747’s had been flying for about a year;

Apollo 13 was in space, having gone to the moon but not landed, after an oxygen tank had malfunctioned; The first moon landing had been eight months earlier;

We were singing 1969 and 1970 hits like – All Kinds Of Everything; Mama Told Me Not To Come; Build Me Up Buttercup; Crimson and Clover; Proud Mary; Come Together; and many MANY more! In the Summertime; A Boy Named Sue; My Baby Loves Lovin’; Ma Belle Amie; Yellow River; Beatles hits; Elvis hits; Creedence hits – a long list, seared into our memories, never to be forgotten.

~~~oo0oo~~~

I’ve never forgotten “kickin’ and a-gougin’ in the mud and the blood and the beer . . “

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

His Uncle Hec’s Funeral

Des is a mensch. He’s a gentleman and he has good intentions.

He’s in a serious marriage and under strict starter’s orders. The thing is Des has a bit of a dodgy handbrake. Even when pulled up tight it can occasionally slip and he can lurch forward a few steps and then all hell can break loose and you don’t know if he’ll be able to stop.

So Hector Fyvie being a legend and him being a nephew, Des got written permission to go to Uncle Hec’s funeral and straight back. Promise. It was a lovely funeral and lots of people were there celebrating the life of a very special man. Now it was time to go home, and Des was definitely going to leave as he had clearly undertaken to do. Honour bright. And he would have . .

But there were Vennings and Fyvies and Leslies and other people there and a strong case was put forward for Des to stay for the wake. The after-gathering was naturally well-catered with sustenance and libations – Aunt Stella, Gail, Ian, Skig and Tabbo always do things right. Still, Des refused to relax and partake, which made the exhortations stronger. With friends like this . .

He raised himself up, closed his eyes in that way he does and made a small speech, one of many we have heard from Des:

“You guys”, he said. “Jy weet: Een is genoeg, Twee is te veel and Drie is te min” and he agreed to have Just One. Just. The. One.

So we knew he was staying for the duration.

Hec Fyvie funeral_2
– unlike the hooligans, Des kept his jacket on, ready to depart in the getaway car at any moment –

Een is genoeg, Twee is te veel and Drie is te min – “One martini is all right. Two are too many, and Three are not enough” – James Thurber

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
6_Canoe & Kayak Rivers 9_KwaZuluNatal sport Wildlife, Game Reserves

My Umko Marathon

There he goes, no lifejacket as was the way those days.

1983Umko

. . another guy might be wearing full lifejacket and helmet but he’d be disqualified: wasn’t wearing his club colours! Such was ‘safety’ back when ships were made of wood and men were made of iron!

map 4

I roared in 140th – looks like 152 finishers, but maybe there was another whole page? Can’t tell – the first page is also missing so we can’t see who won. I know Chris Greeff won the singles. I spent a long time training him in the bar till late at night when the GO TO BED!!s built to a crescendo and we politely thanked Jesus, downed a last beer – and did as we were told. This was Jesus Williams, of course, the saintly Umko barman.

1983 Umko results with Jesus Williams – when he shaved they started calling him John Cleese Williams –

The next year 1984 there were 280 finishers. Oh, hang on, the other page was given the wrong year. Here it is: 162 finishers out of 263 starters:

1983

Notables who finished behind me were Pete the Pom Mountford, Richard Finlay and Toekoe Egerton. They should pull finger.

That was my only Umko marathon. For a few years after that I would sweep or pick out flotsam and jetsam at No.1 rapid, staying with Barry and Lyn Porter on their game farm afterwards.

1987

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
5_Army days 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia

Loopspruit Army Basics

  • – – – draft – work in progress –

So there we were ensconced on a farm outside Potchefstroom among raw rockspider seventeen year-olds, fresh out of high school from all over South Africa. We heard it had been a reform school for delinquents before we got there and turned it into a military camp. A SAMS base – South African Medical Services. “Loopspruit” or “Klipdrif” they called it. We’d been sent there for “army basics”. We were around twenty four, having delayed the joys of military life by studying to become optometrists. In hindsight, maybe we shoulda done the army first!? Time would tell . .

Our barracks was an old science lab. It still had the thick wooden workbench tops, the thick ceramic washbasins with fancy taps and the bunsen burner attachments. And best of all – vinyl tile floors! That flooring was to become our biggest asset . .

One young dutchman was big as an ox, quiet as a mouse. He sat listening to us twenty four year-old oumanne praating Engels in fascination. In many pockets of the old South Africa you could grow up hearing very little Engels.

Suddenly one day our man became famous! He burst into song, singing three lines: ‘Are you lonesome tonight? Are your brastrap too tight? That’s why you’re lonesome tonight!

He sounded unlike Elvis:

We hosed ourselves and gave him a new name: Jelly Tots. He didn’t really like it, but his name was Lotzoff, and we would see him and say ‘Lots and Lotzoff – JELLY TOTS!’ He learnt new words from us – and taught us a new phrase too: When frustrated he didn’t say “fuck’s sake”, he said “fuck’s fakes” so that became our phrase too.

Another character was as small as Lotzoff was big. He looked twelve years old and was a compact, muscular, good looking, perky, cute little bugger. He had a smattering of  Engels and preferred to use it. Some of the others refused to even try – Stoere Boere. His name? GT Jones! Pointless giving someone with so apt and memorable a name a nickname. GT Jones!

We were in the medics and we had to know all about ambulances. GT Jones called them ‘ambuminces.’ And so was born a new name for one of the meals in the mess. On ground beef days we would refer to the stuff plopped onto our plates by the bored chefs as ambumince  – which led in turn, naturally, to gruesome speculation on its origin!

Among the older, optometrist inmates:
Graham Lewis – A companion worth his weight in gold. Never fazed, always cheerful. Keenly aware of the hilarity of this fake existence we were leading. He’d been assigned to D Company. We were in A or C Company and we were chuffed when he got transferred to our (better, natch) company. We were good company and so was he! D Company’s barracks was one of the old residences. Wooden floors. A nightmare to clean. They would regularly get bollocksed for dirty floors after hours of scrubbing them, while we got praise for our vinyl floors after all we had done was sweep them. Typical army illogical unfairness. They would lose weekend passes and we would win bonus weekend passes based on the luck of the floors we’d been allocated! Once while we were away on a weekend pass . . .

Basics was, uh, basic. Get up in the morning, bugger around with your clothes and other domestic stuff like making your bed; Assemble in straight stripes; March; March; Trudge; Omkeer! Eat; March; March; Trudge; MakeeriePAS! Holy shit . . .

Dave Cooper was another worth his weight in gold. Always smiling, always upbeat.

Les Chrich, Les Davies, Les Miller, Okkie Oosthuizen, Rod Stedall, who else?

~~~oo0oo~~~

Loopspruit – walking creek; running stream;

Klipdrif – stony shallow river crossing or drift;

oumanne praating Engels – old men (24yrs) speaking English

~~~oo0oo~~~

  • still to come –

weeding duty

guard duty – grootjas, cold; threats if caught not looking sharp on duty; one flyswatter gets DB – the dreaded Detention Barracks

Puma helicopter demo / race / stretchers – we win!

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~~~

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

Early Bird Book

Way back around 1968 a new book appeared at 95 Stuart Street Harrismith. I was fascinated. Nearly as fascinated as I’d been when cousin Jack read Valley Of The Dolls from the big wooden bookshelf in our long, dark, carpeted passage. That novel must have been good, as Mom actually physically took it from me, saying ‘You can’t read that’! Oh? Oh, well, back to the bird book:

I was fascinated by the orange Cock-of-the-Rock on the cover. Fifty years later the book was on my bookshelf in Westville and I was sad recently to discover other bookworms also liked it and had got into it in a big – and deep – way. It was riddled with holes. I copied the pages with the plates I remembered best before turfing it out. Hopefully a whole family of borer beetles went with it!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Valley of the Dolls – by Jacqueline Susann was about film stars, their raunchy pecadilloes and their use of ‘dolls’ – amphetamines and barbiturates. Time magazine called it the ‘Dirty Book of the Month,’ probably thinking ‘that’ll kill sales,’ but that and other anti-reviews made people think ‘that sounds interesting,’ and the book was a runaway commercial success, becoming the best selling novel of 1966. I mean, a review saying ‘Dirty Book of the Month’ might have made Mom Mary not buy it, but it likely had Dad head straight for the bookstore! So there it was: From one metropolis to another – New York to Harrismith – in no time.

By the time of Susann’s death in 1974, it was the best selling novel in publishing history, with more than 17 million copies sold. By 2016, the book had sold more than 31 million copies. In 1967, the book was adapted into a film. Like the book, the reviews were scathing, but it was an enormous box-office hit, becoming the sixth most popular film of the year, making $44 million at the box office. Author Jacqueline Susann had a cameo role in it as a news reporter, but she said she hated the film, telling director Robson that it was ‘a piece of shit.’ – wikipedia

~~~oo0oo~~~

Birds of the world: a survey of the twenty-seven orders and one hundred and fifty-five families, by Oliver L. Austin, (1961); Illustrated by Arthur Singer; Edited by Herbert S. Zim, New York, Golden Press; Many reprints were made and it was eventually published in seven languages over many years. I think ours was the 1968 edition published by Paul Hamlyn;

~~~oo0oo~~~

bookworms: The damage to books attributed to ‘bookworms’ is usually caused by the larvae of various types of insects including beetles, moths and cockroaches, which may bore or chew through books seeking food. Mine were little brown beetles. Buggers. I’m procrastinating about checking all my other books! Must do it . .

They’ve got into my books before, the blighters!

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
4_Optometry Johannesburg 7_Confessions 8_Nostalgia

Presbyopes Gather

The Class of ’77 had a wee gathering at Zena’s place. The lies we told!! ‘You’re looking younger’n evah DAHling!’ Yeah, right!

Actually, none of that. A lot of truth was spoken. Which led to a lot of laughter.

Zena laid on a wonderful spread and we sat around a colourful table on her Sandton patio.

– Zena and Ray & Di Schoeman – Terry seated – Brauer didn’t read the dress code so came in a corona virus T-shirt – yours truly –

Schoeman smuggled in some gin n meths in an expensive bottle; Zena provided wine and buckets she said were gin glasses – old soaks have all sorts of tricks! Brauer provided beer; I just drank.

The afternoon whizzed past and all too soon we had to shuffle off to take our other meds.

We should do this every forty three years.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Is a gathering of presbyopes a parliament of presbyopes? I think we were more a chuckle of presbyopes. While searching I did find these: an unhappiness of husbands . . a tedium of golfers . . and – not being one – I made up . . a yawn of grandparents.

~~~oo0oo~~~

Categories
2_Free State / Vrystaat 4_Optometry Johannesburg 8_Nostalgia

Rust in Warden

Rust in Vrede means Rest in Peace. Rust in Warden was anything but peaceful on account of an invasion of hooligans from the Last Outpost of the British Empire – a flock of unruly wimmin studying to be teachers back in March 1976. It took us gentlemen from behind the boerewors curtain in the salubrious Johannesburg suburb of Doornfontein to bring some decorum to this rustic spot.

Rust, meaning ‘rest’ was Tabs Fyvie’s farm in the Warden district with a lovely empty farmhouse which we colonised, spreading sleeping bags on the wooden floors. Overflow slept on the lawn. Beers, ribaldry and laughter. Tall tale telling . .

. . can’t remember eating . .

And thanks to sister Sheila we have 1976 pictures!

~~~oo0oo~~~