This is a rambling post cos it started with an email thread that began with gardens and then moved on to sport – swimming and athletics, and lots of old school pals’ names. The gardens were Mariette van Wyk Greyling’s Cape garden with a pin-tailed whydah at her garden feeder; and mine with KwaZulu Natal meadows rather then lawns.
Subject: Sundry garden pictures – Here’s one showing the bit of lawn and the more of meadow. Plus your pintail added in.
Mariette wrote: Green with envy. My type of garden. You have a stunning pool. And you don’t even swim!
Swim? So The Talk Turned To Sport – and Injury!
Me: I swim like a corobrik. In the warmest weather I dive in, swim to the far end, halfway back, and walk up the steps. Swimming training over. At all times I am able to touch the bottom.
Pierre, Tuffy, Sheila, Ilse, Lulu (and maybe you?) used to go to Mazelspoort outside Bloemfontein for the big Free State gala. Me I was still swimming breadths, not lengths and even then in the shallow end! That’s why I took up canoeing: When there’s water about, I need a boat.
Mariette: Yip I went to Mazels. Second team though. The others were all in the elite team. I always aspired to follow in Sheila’s footsteps. Didn’t get there.
Well, now I’m in hospital – probably for the next week. Shattered my ankle walking the dog. Just want to get out. Gave me the wrong meds last night. My drip came undone and spilled over the bed. The op is only on Friday – provided the horrendous swelling is down.
Me: I just re-read: What? “Op on Friday”!? Ouch! Hope all goes well. As a dedicated coward I will cross fingers and hope you’re well and that I never land up there. Note to self: Walk slower. Especially near bridges or mud.
“Aspired” – that’s so good. I can’t think I ever aspired to anything. It’s so weird. I have always suffered from complete complacent contentment. Weird. A non-planner. At the atletiekdag in Std nine I won something and De Wet Ras came up to me and said “Hey jy! Jy moet ophou wen. Ek wil die beste seunsatleet wen hierdie jaar!”, digging me in the ribs. We laughed and I thought, ‘He’s actually aiming to win it!’ That struck me as unusual. I didn’t think you set out to win things. You just went your hardest and it just either happened or it didn’t. Ridiculous in retrospect. I had won it the year before ‘out of the blue,’ that’s why De Wet was saying ‘hold back!’ And he did, in fact, win it that Std 9 year – 1971.
Mariette: That’s quite something beating De Wet at something sport-related. What was it? Think hard!! Strange that you weren’t competitive. You were good at a few things. Mind you, I wasn’t competitive in sport either. Academically yes. Just wanted to do my own thing sport-wise. But I did want to join Sheila and them in first team swimming. Not for competitive reasons. They simply were a fun crowd.
Even though I was in the first team tennis, there was never much FUN among us lot. Actually got bored with tennis. The car accident gave me a reason to stop without being seen as a drip. Team members I remember were De Wet, Fluffy, you, Scottie or was it Blikkies? Elsie, Ina, I think, me and Noeline? Can’t remember a single fun thing, even when we took bus trips to all those mal rock n rollin’ places. Ha ha. Maybe getting some free koeksisters 🙂
Me: I didn’t beat De Wet – he was an age group older. I just won something and he was kidding that I should stop winning as he was going for the victor ludorum (beste senior seunsatleet) that I had won the previous year in Std 8. Here’s old Ella Bedford handing me that beker that year – 1970. Ann Euthimiou took the picture. When the announcement was made it didn’t register with me. De Wet, sitting next to me, dug his elbow in my ribs: ‘Hey! Dis jy, jong!’ That’s when I mosey’d down for my Ella Fitz-Bedford handshake.
In the inter-regional athletics byeenkoms that year – 1970 – in Senekal we had a blast.
So DeWet won it in 1971. The next year – 1972, our matric – things were different: I just couldn’t lose! I won the 100m, 200m, 400m, 3000m, long jump, high jump (edit: WRONG: Fluffy Crawley won the high jump – I see he also won the paalspring), the discus, the javelin, the U/17 4X100 relay and the U/19 relay. It was ridiculous. I felt like the wind was under my wings and I could always run faster, throw harder, jump further. An amazing feeling. I was really fit, fittest I have ever been. I’d been training to do the Dusi canoe marathon, but that didn’t happen till eleven years later. Sheila found the cutting from the Chronicle that Mom had sent to her mother Annie down in George.
But not quite ‘couldn’t lose’ – in the 800m I thought, ‘better take this one easy, lots of events still to go,’ so when Klein Uiltjie Earle ran off I let him go thinking Ek Sal Jou Vang but he just gaan’d aan and aan and I ended up coming third. Well done Klein Uiltjie! I think Stefan Ferreira came second (edit: WRONG: Stefan passed him; Uiltjie got second). Stefan also got second in high jump and he won the 1500m easily.
In the paalspring – pole vault – teacher Ben Marais said “Ons begin op 2m” and I said Nooit Meneer! Ek kon in die hoogspring net 1,56m spring, hoe gaan ek hoer spring met n paal in my hand? I had never paalspring’d in my life. So I ran at the 2m bar, ducked under it and gave up. Went and rested on the pawiljoen – and tended to blisters on my heels.
That year Gabba Coetzee broke the U/19 shot put record and I broke the U/17 100m record. Mine stood for over 20yrs and I think Gabba’s still stands! I used to see him in Harrismith from time to time and he’d always update me: ‘Die rekords staan nog steeds.’ Then one year he told me ‘Yours was beaten. A new boy came to town who ran like the wind.’ His was still standing.
Tennis – You’re right, that was definitely Scottie Meyer in tennis. I lost most of my singles matches, but Fluffy and I won a few doubles games. Years later I was sent to Addington hospital in Durban by the army and there was Petrie de Villiers from Warden who was a tennis foe and also a team mate when we went to Bloemfontein to play at the Vrystaat whatevers. I got knocked out in the first round by a Symington who went on to win, I think. Petrie would usually beat Fluffy and his twin brother Jossie would always beat me, but Fluffy and I would usually beat the broers in the doubles. Our tennis role models were Ray Moore and Frew MacMillan – especially Ray with his Afro frizz hairstyle. I drew his cartoon image everywhere, even on a white T-shirt!
Interesting times. We drove to Bloem in Bruce Humphries’ little brand-new white Ford Cortina. Dunno where we stayed. In a school koshuis, maybe.
Fluffy tells of another year we went to Bloem to play rugby against Sentraal or JBM Hertzog. Daan Smuts took us in his old VW. The night before the match he took us to a party. Beer! Late at night he dropped us off at an empty skool koshuis to spend the night. There were beds but no bedclothes. We lay shivering in our clothes on the mattresses. Daan was our kinda guy: Lotsa fun, zero organisation! Laid back. Rules = optional.
The swimmers were a fun crowd. They were probly – definitely – the coolest bunch at school over the years. And, of course, also the coldest in those Harrismith temperatures.
Mariette: Jis, you were hot in so many things. I knew you were good at all sorts of stuff, but forgot about your athletics achievements. At that stage athletics didn’t interest me much – probably because I wasn’t good at anything. Tried ‘em all: From shotput (whoever the teacher in charge was said to me ‘nee man, gaan sit op die bank’), ditto with discus and javelin, high jump (too short) and whatever else was going. Fourth or maybe it was fifth in the 100m at some stage was my big achievement. I just enjoyed shouting for the Kudus and listening to Jan van Wyk’s mal quips. Oh, and being a hot drum majorette J.
Ja, old Gabba. What a rock. And what a sad end.
I remember Petrie well. Quite smaaked him, but Elsie won his favour – I didn’t stand a chance. Saw him years later again at varsity – same mischievous face. Strange that the girls all fancied him so much and his twin brother never got a second glance.
In the shadow of old Platberg this weekend I sat down to lunch with an array of superb swimmers at my table. On my right was Sonja du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer; and on my right was Lyn du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer; and on my right was Pierre du Plessis, Top Ten swimmer. And that got me thinking of the days I’d line up next to the pool and on my right there’d be nobody. Nobody.
That’s because I’d fought (and easily won, you’ll see why) for the right-most lane in the shallowest part of the pool at swimming lessons. On my left was Francois vd Merwe, coming up to my navel; and on my left was Deon Joubert, coming up to my navel; and then some even shorter girls; That blerrie whistle would shriek, they’d dive in and I’d jump in – bravely; I’d sink to the bottom – very bravely – then kick powerfully in the direction of the distant other side of the pool. We were swimming breadths. The older kids – some of them as old as my younger sister Sheila and the even-younger Sonja – would swim lengths. A few kicks off the bottom and much spluttering and gasping later I’d finally get to the blessed sanctuary of the other side of the pool just short of an asthmatic panic attack, sometimes even earning a podium place – well, if there were absentees due to coughs and colds and Harrismith’s notorious cold weather.
At about the same time I was also not a rugby player. I was in the u/11 second team it’s true, but that’s because there were 29 players and number 29 clearly deserves his place in the second fifteen-man team, nê? So although you could honestly say I was there on merit, there are also lots of other things you could say and I caused poor Giel du Toit much sadness and despair. But at the end of the season, a long season in which he had given me much encouragement and sympathetic ‘moenie worries nie’, he did an amazing thing. He did not say ‘Luister volgende week is netbal proewe, nê?’ No. What he actually did, I swear, this is Giel’s gospel and it is amazing. He had a rush of something to somewhere and he made me captain of the u/11B team for the last game of the season.
So there I was two days later, in Vrede, barefoot in orange, holding the ball and running onto the field at the head of an orange line of fourteen laaities doing something I almost never got to do: Holding the ball.
The rest is history: I scored the winning try against the olde enemy; I grew five inches that summer; the next winter I was the tallest oke in the u/13 team; and I scored the winning try against Grey College in the last game of that amazing season. So although Giel may have fluked it and definitely didn’t have anything to do with my growth spurt; and although he may have thought that was going to anyway be my last rugby game ever, he nevertheless changed something in my brain that day. It didn’t last long, but was fun while it did.
And thinking about this long-forgotten little tale, sparked off by sitting amongst those swimmers which, let’s be honest, may have sparked off a Caster Semenya-like debate had DNA testing been available – I mean did they have mermaid genes? dolphin genes? – made me think something else: Why didn’t Joan and Joyce think of something that could have sparked me off Mark Spitz-like? I dunno: Maybe choose me to hand out the oranges at half time at a gala or something equally inspirational?
Makes you think. Joan and Joyce may have missed a big one here.
nê? – just nod; except, not about the netbal
‘moenie worries nie’ – tut tuts
‘Luister volgende week is netbal proewe, nê?’ – Look, you don’t have a talent for rugby, OK? maybe you can sing?
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 need to be Ancient – a Rooinek – and 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 B, 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”
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 Mortom 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).