Hi Koos. What make were our bikes? Something with an R. Ruttludge? Rudling?
I answered, ‘Rudge’. The same Rudge ridden by the English King.
Sheila’s and Barbara’s were red, mine was blue. Given to us by Mom and Dad around 1960 to 1965, I’d guess. We were certainly in the Kleinspan School and Barbara would have started there in 1958 or 1959, Sheila in 1961 or 1962 and me in-between those dates. They made the less-than-one-mile trip to school and back a breeze. We’d park them under cover at school in special bike parks with a slot in the concrete for the front wheel to go in and metal hoops to hold them upright.
Ours were WAY more basic than the one above though. Only a back brake, no gears, no cables, no light. They did have a little L-shaped attachment in front of the handle-bar where we could attach a battery-powered square silver torchlight.
The company Rudge-Whitworth Ltd. Coventry, England
Certainly one of the prominent makers of the classic British era … Eventually bought by Raleigh in 1943, the Rudge name takes a rightfully prominent spot in England’s cycling history.
Dan Rudge built the first Rudge high bicycles in 1870. In 1894 Rudge merged with the Whitworth Cycle Co to form Rudge-Whitworth. They made an excellent reputation for themselves over the next twenty years for producing a full range of beautifully made machines with many clever and unique features. They were ridden by King George V and family. See? There it is! Royal bums sat on seats just like ours!
The name was finally killed sometime in the early 1960s in Britain but may well have been used in export markets later.
Later on, in high school, I got a bigger black ‘dikwiel’ bike – a ‘balloon tyre bike’ – tougher more adventurous! Somewhat like these:
I asked Pierre: Can you remember what we called our dikwiel bikes? Each one had a nickname. His reply:
Bolts, Schlump and Arrii
Recall the first mountain bike race now known as MBR’s down Queens hill and Tuffy whipping out the barbed wire fence.
We used to borrow our parents cars on the without-permission system and drive around at night with the ultimate destination being the Royal Natal National Park Hotel down Oliviershoek Pass. That was a triumphant destination I only achieved once, other times we went to Little Switzerland, halfway down the pass. Or Kestell.
Once Steph de Witt decided to raise the bar and we headed off to Durban with the goal of putting our toes in the warm surf of the Indian Ocean and getting back to Harrismith before sunrise but we ‘changed our minds’ soon after Ladysmith and turned back.
I knew this habit could not be genetic as Mom would never have done such things, but recently I found out something which may throw new light on the possible causes of such fun behaviour.
Mom’s older sister Pat matriculated at Girls High in Pietermaritzburg while Mom matriculated at Harrismith se Hoer. I suddenly wondered why, so I asked.
Oh, she was getting into boys so Dad sent her off to boarding school, said Mom. She must have been in standard eight and about fifteen or sixteen years old.
Apparently some boys had borrowed a car from Kemp’s Garage in Warden Street and headed off to Royal Natal National Park Hotel back before it was Royal. It only became Royal after the Breetish Royal visit in 1947 and this must have been about 1941. Mom thinks Pat’s fellow felons may have included Michael Hastings and Donald Taylor. Pat, being the fun-loving person she always was, was right there! FOMO (fear of missing out) was a thing then too, even if it didn’t yet have an acronym! I know I had it big as a teenager.
The hotel looks like this now, but not because of us, swear!
Potted history of the Royal Natal National Park area:
In 1836, while exploring Basutoland, two French missionaries, Mons. Arbrousset and Daumas first discovered Mont-Aux-Sources, the source of three rivers. In 1908 the idea of establishing a National Park in this area was conceived, and the territory was explored by Senator Frank Churchill, General Wylie, Colonel Dick and Mr. W.O. Coventry. Recommendations were put forward, but it was not until 1916 that the Secretary of Lands authorised the reservation of five farms, and certain Crown Lands totalling approximately 8160 acres and entrusted it to the Executive Committee of the Natal Province.
On the 16 September 1916 the National Park came into being. An advisory committee was appointed to control the Park. Shortly afterwards the Natal Provincial Administration purchased the farm ‘Goodoo’, upon which a hostel for hikers had already been opened in 1913 by W.O.Coventry, and incorporated a small portion of the Upper Tugela Native Trust Land, thus swelling the National Park to its present 20 000 acres. The Advisory Committee was abolished in January 1942, and the Park was administered by the Provincial Council until the formation of the Natal Parks, Game and Fish Preservation Board on the 22 December 1947.
Mr. F. O. Williams held the first hostel lease rights on the farm Goodoo which he obtained from Mr. W.O. Coventry, the original owner. Mr. Coventry became Lessee of the whole park in 1919, and took over the post of Park Superintendent in August 1924 at the grand salary of five pounds per month. In 1926 he was succeeded by Otto and Walter Zunkel, who each added their share of buildings and improvements. Mr. Alan Short was the next Superintendent.
Short was in charge when the Royal Family visited the Park in May 1947. Prime Minister Jan Smuts wanted King George VI, the Queen and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret to take a break from their two-month tour of southern Africa and see the splendour of the Drakensberg. It was Elizabeth’s first overseas trip and she celebrated her coming-of-age there, drafting her first important speech at the hotel.
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 .
The people of Harrismith dubbed Michael McDermott ‘The Mountain Goat’. The mountain being Platberg.
Or so running e-zine ‘Modern Athlete’ says of SIXTEEN-times winner of our Mountain Race. Apparently we used to write supportive messages for him along the route of the Harrismith Mountain Race, much like supporters do in the Tour De France. Race organisers would set him up in our local hotel with the room number that corresponded with the win he was going for. Michael became a hugely popular and inspirational figure thanks to his sixteen-consecutive-year winning streak in our rugged annual race.
They go on: Michael’s love affair with Harrismith’s imposing Platberg began in 1978, when he was just 13. “I was alone at home and ran 5km to the Harrismith Harriers clubhouse because I wanted to run that day, but no-one was there, so I ran back home. Then they called me up to ask where I was and came to fetch me. So before the race, I already run 10km,” says Michael, who ran the race and finished 32nd. “Nobody believed I had completed the race, though, because I was so small!” he laughs.
In 1980, he finished eighth and qualified for a gold medal, but had to receive it unofficially, behind the tent, as he was still below the minimum 16-year age limit for the race. A year later and now ‘legal,’ he finished fifth, and then in 1982 he posted the first of his sixteen consecutive wins, an amazing record putting him right up there in the crazy stakes with uber-talented athletes Michael McLeod of England (won the Saltwell 10km sixteen years in a row), and Jim Pearson of America (won the Birch Bay marathon sixteen times).
Michael held the record for the short 12.3km course at 50mins 30secs in 1985 and the long 15km course at 1hr 05mins 05secs as the first winner over the new distance in 1996. It came to an end when he ‘stepped skew’ and tore ligaments in his ankle while well in the lead on his way to a 17th straight win in 1998. Michael Miya took over and won the race in a new record time of 1hr 04mins 06secs and became the first black South African winner. While McDermott was really disappointed, it was also “a relief as there wasn’t that pressure to win after that.”
Michael earned Springbok colours in 1988 for cross-country, and was invited to run a number of international mountain running events in the early 1990s. He won the Swiss Alpine Marathon three times, shattering the course record in 1993. He also represented South Africa seven times in the World Mountain Trophy, from 1993 to 1999, with a best placing of fifth in 1993 in France. http://www.modernathlete.co.za
In “our day” Johnny Halberstadt was the King – wonder where he is today? (Koos: In America: Just sold his sports shop in Colorado).
I strolled the race two or three times in the 1990s – never finished in the allotted time, but always walked away with a medal, ’cause I knew Jacqui Wessels (du Toit) who handed out the medals!
Remember the year we did it after “peaking” at Pierre’s home the night before – about 3am. You remarked as you crossed the Start Line (not the Finishing Line) – “I think I’m under-trained”. The hangovers were monumental. As we strolled past the adoring, cheering spectators, one guy was heard to remark “Daai mal ou het sy verkyker om sy nek!” That was you! (Koos: Actually, it was Wimpie Lombard and he said “wadafokmaakjymedarieverkykers?” You’ve forgotten: Afrikaans is always one word).
The year Karin Goss and I did it, (circa 1998) we were so last that even the Coke truck had packed up and left by the time we strolled into Die Groen Paviljoen! We were so busy ‘phoning the whole world from the summit that we forgot to be competitive. Jacqui insisted on giving us medals, but drew the line at Gold – we had to be content with Bronze. Don’t know why she was so strict – there were a few Golds lying in the bottom of the box.
Was Alet de Witt the first lady to compete?
Love – stroller Sheila Swanepoel
Jacquie replied: Sheila, I think you forgot that when we allowed you to go through the finish banner after cut-off time, there was a breathalyser test for the finishers. This you seemed to have forgotten! Legal limits are 0,24 milligrams per 1000 millilitres. Finishers (at sunset) with this reading all get GOLD.
Unfortunately your readings were 0.60 . . . hence the Bronze medal. 😉
All the best (hope you enter the Mountain Race again this Year).
Kind Regards – actual finisher Jacquie Du Toit, ex-Mountain Race high-up official
Kar Goss got excited: Hey Sheils
I think we must do it once more!! Seriously!
What comes after bronze?? And is there a medi-vac chopper available?
Thanks for the interesting article Koos!
Happy Women’s Day everyone.
Love- (Sheila-like stroller) Kar Goss xx
JP de Witt reminisced: Sheila, As far I can remember my Mom Alet and Mavis Hutchison did the race around 1969 / 1970. Koos Keyser won it five times 1964-68. Wally Hayward (five-times Comrades winner) won in 1952.
actual finisher JP de Witt
Pikkie Loots committed: Sheila, For what it’s worth – I’m seriously considering doing it this year… if anyone wants to join me, perhaps we can motivate each other 🙂 **(Hushed silence from the sundry assorted 60-somethings – *sound of crickets*)**
And yes, there is a ‘medi-vac’ chopper 🙂 I was running the race in about 1985-ish, when a runner from Welkom dislodged a rock on One-Man’s Pass. The rock fell onto his thigh, cutting and damaging the muscle. Tony Perry, a fellow runner from Newcastle, and I were immediately behind and below the unfortunate gent. With the help of two of his team mates we carried him to the top. Another of his team mates went ahead to tell Doc Mike van Niekerk that we needed a casualty to be taken off the mountain. By the time we got to the top, both Mike and the chopper were ready….
Tony and I missed out on our silver medals by about 10 minutes (silver time was 1 hour 40 minutes). I moved to Cape Town and never ran another mountain race! So I still only have a bronze. [PS! Mike asked the committee to award Tony and I silver medals, but they must have had a shortage that year 🙂 ]
Footnote: Michael McDermott was at school when he joined our running club in Newcastle, in about 1979… there were a few ‘windhonde’ in the club at the time, but pretty soon he was chasing and beating most of them on the shorter runs. There were a few Harrismitters I saw regularly at races: Pieter Oosthuyzen and Koos Rautenbach, I especially remember, as I often chatted to them at races.
Has anyone from Harrismith ever won this besides Volschenk? and btw, I thought it was Koos Keyser who was the big hero winner of our school days? (Koos Swanepoel – not Keyser: True that. Koos Keyser won five times in a row).
PS: Note I said ‘doing’ the mountain race… no commitment to running it at this stage, but that may change on the day 🙂
Love to you all – actual finisher Pikkie Loots
Pikkie, you must shine up! The year I strolled it with Sheila, Pierre and Ilse we got silver medals. OK, to be fully honest we gave those back to Jacquie and settled for (unearned) bronzes, but we DID briefly hold silver. So shine up, mate. Try harder.
(and just for the record, I do have four legitimate finishes from pre-rinderpest days – once, I got a medal with a handy bottle opener attached). I ran without binoculars in those days.
Tshwane – Interesting place, Tshwane, famous for the protection of its inebriates.
Home of the Self-Guided Car
Few people know that Pretoria Boys High, Audi and Elon Musk were secretly piloting a new self-driving car in Tshwane when their test pilot, one PH Brauer, Esq, pulled out of the program for reasons unknown, although rumour has it his wife gave him a thick ear one evening after golf. Details are sketchy, as is the test pilot, a Pretoria Boys High old boy. A PHB from PBH you could say. Some of the project’s left-over funds were spent re-building a school wall. You’d think they would speed up the research, cos some people really do need to have their steering wheel removed – as in the top picture.
So that didn’t really work out.
Home of the Amphibious Canoe
OK, that didn’t work so well either, but at least there was no ongeluk thanks to the presence of two more responsible parties and the same long-suffering wife who took over the wheel of a high-powered vehicle at a crucial point when the inebriated one on the white Ford Cortina roofrack, one PH Brauer, Esq, thought paddling the Dusi was as easy as running Comrades.
Home of the Original Toilet Bowl Airbag
This field project took place outside Tshwane city limits in rural Yeoville on the second floor of a two-storey buidling. It also didn’t really work so well as the protective airbag failed to deploy until after the teeth of the main character in the act, one PH Brauer, Esq, had already chipped the porcelain. Work is continuing on developing a more robust alcohol fume sensor that triggers the bag. It seems the original sensor was simply overwhelmed by the overload and went phhht.t.t. and instead of inflating the bag it caused deflation in more areas than one. Some left-over shards of porcelain from the shattered toilet were used as a temporary stop-gap in the teeth gaps. Thutty years later they were still there and he was still saying he’d go for the permanent crowns ‘soon.’
Home of Gullible Stromberg Suckers
Although handicapped by the absence of any alcohol consumption, this project went surprisingly well, when the sucker in question, one PH Brauer, Esq, paid a premium price for a piece of inert plastic to attach to his car’s sparkplug cable. Or fuel pipe. Or windscreen wiper cable. It doesn’t matter where you clamp it. The resulting imaginary marginal improvement in performance from sat to so-so was enough to impress another Tshwane deskundige – a brother-in-law of the original sucker – into believing the scam. Both were so taken in they gave the old pale blue Cortina its first service and wax.
Home of a Future Dynasty
Interesting place, Tshwane, ancestral home of the australopithecine Tshwanepoels, where we have land claims we haven’t exercised. Yet. But we know the area well from having lived there for many generations, eating various antelope and picking berries. Also Terry’s famous roast and extra veg cos some people don’t eat their vegetables.
ongeluk – smash; prang; crash; motor vehicle accident
sat – farktap – sluggish+; very sluggish; unimpressive
farktap – not well
deskundige – ‘like Des’; spurt; eggspurt; would-be expert; given to calling things ‘kak’
Tobogganing – We didn’t invent tobogganing in the Vrystaat, but we thought we maybe invented summer tobogganing. We did it on old car bonnets that we found in the dongas east of town between King Street and the new bypass, which wasn’t there yet – just veld. Cardboard boxes worked too, but had a short lifespan. These guys were doing it in 1872 in the snow. OK, we were in the 1960’s – not cardboard on grass, but upside -down car bonnets down dongas.
But we did invent Mountain Biking, we were sure. MTB’ing on our dikwiel fietse in and around those same dongas ca 1966 to 1970. Ramping, jumping and gooi’ing squares. Along the dongas and across the dongas. Maybe those fietses weren’t really built for that kind of action (no shocks, flimsy mudguards), as the mudguards caught on the wheels and got scraped up into weird shapes. We find the excessive use of helmets these days puzzling.
History according to wikipedia: The original mountain bikes were modified heavy cruiser bicycles used for freewheeling down mountain trails. The sport became popular in the 1970s in Northern California with riders using older single speed balloon tyre bicycles to ride down rugged hillsides. See! We were first!
Hijacking – The earliest documented instances of maritime hijacking were in the 14th century BC, when the Sea Peoples, a group of ocean raiders, attacked the ships of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilizations. OK, that was before us. Train hijacking? OK, there was this military raid that occurred on April 12, 1862, in Georgia during the American Civil War. Volunteers from the Union Army commandeered a train and took it northward toward Chattanooga Tennessee. If you look closely, one of the raiders does look a bit like a Venning;
Streaking – When and where streaking started is unknown. A 1967 article in the student paper at Carleton College in Minnesota laments that streaking was a tradition during winter when temperatures were well below freezing. OK, so we were in 1969, maybe they beat us. Anyway it seems Lady Godiva beat us all to it: An English noblewoman who, according to a 13th century legend, rode naked – but covered by her long hair – through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants. In later versions of this legend, a man named Tom watched her ride and was struck blind or dead. The name ‘Peeping Tom’ for a voyeur originates here;
Drifting – Although the origin of drifting is not known, Japan was one of the earliest birthplaces of drifting as a sport. It was most popular in the Japan Touring Car Championship races. Kunimitsu Takahashi was the foremost creator of drifting techniques in the 1970s. But first there was us in the late 60’s in a black front-wheel-drive Saab! The venue: the streets of the metropolis of Kestell and the athletic track in Harrismith. Steph at the wheel! Deftly dodging the bluegum tree stompe specifically placed on the track to deter hooligans. In vain.
Selfies – I took my selfie in 1973 in Oklahoma, which was WAY before it became popular.
OK, this Robert oke did it in 1839, and this lady had better equipment – in both ways.
Kidnapping – Tuffy started kidnapping in 1970 but these fellas kidnapped this bride 100yrs earlier in 1870:
*Birthdays: Tuffy started the tradition of birthday kidnapping, grabbing a birthday boy and bundling him into a sleeping bag, tying the top closed. Then driving him somewhere and dumping him to make his own way home. When it was Tuffy’s turn we simply dumped him out of the sleeping bag into the pool at the du Plessis’ place as he happened to be born on the Winter Solstice, 21st June, shortest day of the year. Oh, yes – and the coldest! So he didn’t have a long walk home, lucky fella. Funny thing is, he didn’t thank us . . .
Rally Cross – Tim Venning in the blue Triumph 2000 roared around and between the old popular trees and oke trees and other trees on the far side of the Harrismith President Brand park across the Vulgar river. Just when you thought he had to go straight he’d cut left between trees and hare off on another tack. People watching might have dreamt up today’s rally cross.
Self-driving cars – Or cars fuelled by one kind of inflammable substance while the drivers were fuelled by another. Old hat. Elon Musk was still growing pimples.
donga – Dry gully or arroyo, formed by the eroding action of running water; fantastic cowboy movie scenery;
gooi’ing squares – slamming on the back brake while throwing the bike on its side, skidding dramatically while looking nonchalant; chicks swooned;
dikwiel fietse – fat- or balloon-tyred bicycles; Chicks swooned over ous who rode them;
A decision to make a park on the banks of the Wilge River on the south-west edge of Harrismith town was made by the newly-established town council in 1877 (the council having been established just two years earlier). Mainly thanks to the efforts of the Landdrost Mr. Warden who came to Harrismith in 1884, and Harrismith’s first Town Clerk Mr. A. Milne, the area was laid out with winding roads, walking paths, a “lovers lane of poplar trees” and a variety of other trees (up to 38 species) in what park enthusiasts described as “a bare, crude piece of ground” but which was probably really open highveld grassland.
The troops stationed in the town around the time of the Anglo-Boer War erected the suspension bridge seen above, near where the Hamilton sandstone and iron bridge is today (named after Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams, Lieutenant-Governor of the then Orange River Colony):
Tree planting commences on that bare piece of ground:
The river was narrow and shallow at the time and so an attractive little lake with a central island was added and used for boating. Swans were introduced from London ‘for beauty’ (as for trees, so all local life was regarded as inferior to things imported from “home”!). The swans did quite well, cygnets being sold for £15 a pair, but they met their end at the hand of ‘some unidentified vandal with a .22 gun.’ As the trees grew, so more and more birds roosted in them, large heronries eventually being established. Predictably people complained and as predictably, the council ‘did something about it,’ shooting the birds and causing a big stink when their carcasses dropped into the lake!
In 1887 the lake was named Victoria Lake in honour of the Queen of England’s silver jubilee (along with thousands of other things named ‘Victoria’ that year around the world in a mass-hysterical colonial spate of arse-creeping!). The park itself was called the President Brand Park (when?), similarly to curry favour, no doubt – this time local favour, not far away ‘little island called home’ favour.
More & more trees would be planted over the years by schoolkids and enthusiasts:
At ‘a colourful ceremony with troops on parade and a military band in attendance,’ the park was officially opened in 1906 by Sir Hamilton Goold-Adams, Lieutenant-Governor of the Orange River Colony.
In 1907 the river was dammed by a weir just downstream of the park, thus creating a wider and deeper river for the full length of the park, greatly adding to its charm and allowing for swimming, more boating and bigger boats – even the first motorboat in 1918, owned by Mr E.H Friday. Later a boat house and a landing stage were erected by the Boating Syndicate who advertised ‘Boats for Two and boats for Four and boats for All’ in 1922. The Syndicate graduated to a motor launch capable of taking 14 passengers slowly along the river, including full-moon evenings where people would sing the songs of the day accompanied by ‘the plaintive sounds of the ukelele.’
On the edge of the park nearest town sportsfields were laid out, starting with a cricket oval and an athletic track, then rugby, soccer, softball and hockey fields, and jukskei lanes.
The park was extended across the river and a new suspension bridge about 300 yards downstream replaced the one the military had erected. The thrifty town council using some of the metal from the original in the replacement. Jolly good. In time, a caravan park was started, but this was soon moved to the town side of the park.
An impressive entrance gate of wrought iron between sandstone pillars was erected and named the Warden-Milne gate in honour of those who had done so much to get the park established.
Personal memories of the park were about cars – cars before we were actually allowed to drive! On the town side in Steph de Witt’s black Saab. Actually Gerrie Pretorius’ Saab but ours for the night – ‘borrowed!’ We would hurtle around the atletiekbaan at speed , drifting sideways left then sideways right long before ‘drifting’ had a name. One night we hugged the final bend coming into the home straight and there was a moerse big bloekom stump in the headlights right in front of us! Someone must have seen our tracks and thought ‘I’ll put a stop to this!’ or ‘Ek sal hierdie bliksems wys!‘ How Steph missed that huge log I do not know, but we hosed ourselves and roared off. Instead of Yee Ha! we’d say Arrie-ee! (from a joke about camels . . )
On the other side of the river it was in Tim Venning’s light blue Triumph 2000. Actually Dr Dick Venning’s Triumph, but ours for the night – ‘borrowed!’ Tim behind the wheel, laughing his head off as we roared around in a cloud of dust late at night, drifting sideways most of the time.
We were good kids all in all though, of course. Nostalgia makes it ‘naughtiness,’ ‘mischief.’ Nowadays people would slate the ‘Hooliganism Of The Youth Of Today!’ Maybe adults did then? Tut tut, how wrong they were . . and are.
atletiekbaan – 440 yard athletic track – a cinder track
moerse big bloekom stump – huge ‘blue gum’ eucalyptus log or stump – about half a metre to a metre in diameter and three to five metres long. If we’d hit it, the SAAB would have been moertoe
moertoe – varktap
varktap – damaged
Ek sal hierdie bliksems wys! – I’ll show them! Ha! You missed!
Booze opened wonderful opportunities for us as kids in the olden days. As our hawk-eyed parents became bleary-eyed and witty and hilarious, so their surveillance levels dropped and we could get on with doing more interesting things than we could when they were sober.
So it was at the MOTH picnic one year on the far bank of the mighty Vulgar river down in the President Brand park where, after a lekker braai and quite a few pots the folks were suitably shickered and plans could go afoot.
The older boys formed a syndicate which consisted of them hiding and the younger boys being sent in to do the dangerous stuff. See if you can get us some beer from the pub, was the thinking. So (some of or all of) Pierre, Fluffy, Tuffy and I approached the MOTH barman Ray Taylor – as always alone at the bar, teetotal. The other old WW2 servicemen and their wives a little way off making a lot of noise. Uncle Ray, quiet as ever, was easily distracted by my accomplices and as he was being his kind and obliging self to them, I slid a full case of dumpy beers off the makeshift bar counter and turned round, hugging it vertically straight in front of me against my chest. I walked straight away with my back to Uncle Ray into the darkness of the poplar and oak trees towards the river.
Under the suspension bridge the receivers of stolen goods waited. Etienne Joubert, a Brockett and a Putterill, I seem to recall. They took the loot and told us to move along then. We were too young to be allowed to partake; we were simply a small part of the supply chain!
Etienne remembers: “I remember this incident well. We drank them on the river bank upstream. We had female company as well, but best we do not dwell on that subject. There was also unhappiness about the brand that was procured………
Dear old Uncle Ray with his Alsatians . . Twice I went on walks with him up our beloved Platberg!! He was an interesting man, who behind a façade of dullness was very wise!!
Stories like this bring back a thousand other memories……!! Cheers vir eers, Et
Another memory of The Far Side – of the river: Roaring around the dirt roads between those big trees in Dr Dick Venning’s light blue Triumph and in his Land Rover, Tim Venning at the helm. Hell for leather, running commentary all the way, huge grin on his face.
Uncle Ray was attacked by baboons on one of his Platberg walks. Not sure if his dog/s were with him, but he said he fought off the babs with his walking stick. We were told he had suffered “shell shock” in the war.
That Pretoria restaurant probably spiked our drinks with omega fish oil because when they finally asked us to leave we were brilliant. We wisely allowed Terry to drive my white Ford Cortina 2-litre deluxe GL while Pierre and Old Pete and I gave comments, directions, instructions, witticisms and dropped pearls – or bokdrols – of wisdom.
‘Twas a balmy night and the breeze was slight. The canoe on the roofrack seemed to Brauer to be a better bet for catching that breeze, so he nimbly hopped out of the window and sat in the cockpit of my Dusi boat, a white Limfy with red deck with matching red tie-downs. I was on an army camp and had brought the boat to get some time off as I was ‘training for Dusi’ on Roodeplaat dam.
Terry thought ‘Uh! Oh! HKK’ and pressed on the accelerator to get us home quicker, which meant the breeze inside the car was now adequate. With Brauer’s departure the average IQ in the car had also risen appreciably. Outside meantime, Brauer started undoing the paddle possibly thinking he could speed up matters if he also paddled through the air. My warnings that the rope tying the paddle on was also the rope holding the boat on, just spurred him to loosen it more. You know how he is. Which caused Terry to press harder on the accelerator thinking if I go really fast maybe the cops won’t notice there’s a carbuncle on my roof and now we were FLYING! This was not good . . . Brauer’s ass was saved by a red light where we managed to haul him down and explain gravity, wind resistance, speed, inertia, impact, abrasions, contusions and broken bones to him. As usual, I was the stabilising influence.
He did seem to understand at last, as he poured some stiff drinks when we got home to the Gramadoelas in Tshwane – ancestral home of the original Tshwanepoels, to which we have land claim rights. But that’s another (important) story for another barmy evening.
Limfy – Limfjorden kayak; sleek fibreglass speed machine (Hey! It was – in 1959!)
Gramadoelas – upmarket suburb in Pretoria, or – more correctly – Tshwane; some call it Maroelana
Comment followed –
Terry Brauer:No-one ever believes that story Pete! My two Peters really have aged me rapidly I fear. When I look back I guess I deserve some accolades for hanging in there!
Me: ‘Some accolades!?’ You deserve a Nobel Peace Prize, a Victoria Cross, various gold medals, an Oscar and a salary increase with perks including danger pay! And that’s just for surviving Pete – I haven’t factored Ryan into that deal . . .
. . to the lonely sea and the sky, And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by, And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking, And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking
Maybe Steph was thinking of Masefield’s poem when he suggested we’d done enough short jaunts with our parents’ cars late at night while the dorp was sleeping and good kids were in bed dreaming of homework well done.
Been to Kestell? Tick;
Been to Swinburne? Tick;
Been to Queen’s Hill? Tick;
Had a head-on collision with a hill on Queen’s Hill? Tick;
Drifting laps around the atletiekbaan in Pres Brand Park? Tick;
Donuts on the high school netball courts? Tick;
What was there left to do? Maybe this was the first sign of his lifelong love of the sea – in time to come he would sail a huge ocean-going catamaran and go deep-sea fishing on his skiboat off Sordwana. In those far-off days of our youth, all that was yet to come.
Whatever – (let’s face it, more likely Steph was just thinking ADVENTURE! REBELLION! ADRENALIN!) – he started us plotting a biggie. It was certainly him who came up with the bold idea: I know. Have we been to the sea? Does the Vrystaat even have a sea? NO!! Let’s go to Durbs, dip our toes in the Indian Ocean and bring back a bottle of sea water, and – as always – be back before sonop.
We must plan: – We need the white Corsair, not the black Saab; It’s faster.Here’s what it looked like except Gerrie’s was white. And four-door. Otherwise like this.
– We must leave much earlier. We can’t wait for our parents to fall asleep; We need longer.
But not too much planning:
– I don’t remember discussing fuel or mileage or consumption. Those weren’t really fashionable topics in those days.
So Steph strolls into his Mom Alet’s bedroom, the one nearest the long getaway driveway, to talk to her as she lies reading in bed in their lovely sandstone home The Pines. At a given signal we start wheeling the Corsair out of the open garage and down the long driveway to Stuart Street. The driveway is downhill – that helps – and made of two long concrete strips – that doesn’t help: the wheels fall off the edge GghgGghgGghg! SHHH! shhh!
And they’re off! There’s no beer this trip. This is more serious. It’s a journey, not a jaunt. We have a mission.
We roar past Swinburne; We roar past van Reenen; We leave the Orange Free State; We enter Natal; We zoom down van Reenen’s Pass; Past Ladysmith and on into unknown territory.
Suddenly: Flashing Blue Lights! Oh Shit! They’re after us. We slow down a little bit. Just to the speed limit. We sit straight in the car, no slouching. We practice ‘innocent face.’ We rehearse our story: Ja Meneer, Nee Meneer. The flashing blue light fills the car – then overtakes us and whizzes past and shrinks into the distance.
We slow down. We think. We reconsider. Wordlessly, we make a U-turn and head back to the big HY, City of Sin and Laughter.
Oh well, it was a good idea while it lasted. And anyway, that story about the bottled sea water is just a myth.
I must go down to the sea again, to the vagrant gypsy life, To the gull’s way and the whale’s way, where the wind’s like a whetted knife; And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover, And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over
R.I.P Steph – Our histories are forever entwined. You are part of who I am. My sense of self would be poorer without those short-lived mad crazy daze!
Your long trick’s over and I have no doubt there’s a quiet sleep and a sweet dream for you. Whattalife. MANY a merry yarn we got from you, our laughing fellow-rover!