I wrote a letter as a final year optometry student! Astonishing. When could one find the time? To sister Sheila, newly-qualified teacher in Empangeni in Zululand. My news was:
Passed my supplementary exams.
Started organising our Annual Ball at Carlton Hotel already.
I’m SRC chairman till July.
The mighty grey and grey Opel Concorde ‘needs a tjoon up.’
I may not make Rag Ball in Pietermaritzburg this year!
Unhappy with res in Doories; expensive, badly looked after, phones don’t work; fought with matron; moving into communal house 4 Hillside Rd in Parktown, where Glen Barker and Clive Nel stay. ‘Before I go, though, I’m going to raise hell to see if things’ll improve.’ (!)
Steve Reed, Cheryl Forsdick and I baby-sat for Bobby & Jill and Louis & Gail; ‘chaos for an hour, then not too bad. They enjoyed their evening; it had been a long while since they’d gone anywhere.’
Great parties; Braais; a Chinese Dinner-Dance; a cricket day; ‘played our first rugby match in our new kit – pitch black from toes to necks with the only white our optom badge on the pocket and our numbers on the back; Beat engineers 18-0.’
‘Went to the Vaal river for a weekend’s skiing; two of the guys had boats; stayed in a resort – lovely; went to a 21st in Pretoria; Generally busy except for work – work is suffering muchly; latest tests got 50% and 82% – the averages , thought were something like 80% and 95%.’
And all that was in a letter written 10th March!
Later that year:
Went to Pete Brauer and Terry Saks’ wedding in Pretoria. I was best man, had to get on my hind legs. My partner was the delightful Cheryl Forsdick; Lovely evening; Driving back with Clive Nel and the delightful Sandy Norts in Clive’s gas-guzzling white Mazda RX-2 we had a midnight head-on collision; Some drunken idiot turned straight into us on the highway! I was fine but the others got a bit battered, with Clive, driving, the worst. He’s in plaster and on crutches.
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 above and left of France was also the queen of South Africa (and for much of her life she was right!).
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.
Note: I go back to my posts to add / amend as I remember things and as people mention things, so the posts evolve. I know (and respect) that some bloggers don’t change once they’ve posted, or add a clear note when they do. That’s good, but as this is a personal blog with the aim of one day editing them all into a hazy memoir, this way works for me. So go’n re-look at some posts you’ve enjoyed before and see how I’ve improved over time (!). It’s just as my friend Greg says: ‘The older we get, the better we were.’
The Class of ’77 had a wee gathering at Zena’s place in Feb 2020. 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.
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.
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.
PS: Soon after this came lockdown and our little group of six turned into a wonderfully convivial whatsapp cartel, sharing advice, support and look sharp! in equal measure.
The Origin Story:
From: Pete S Sent: Wednesday, 20 November 2019 To: Zena Jacobson; Subject: Jacqui
I think that’s Jacqui’s correct surname. She was ___ way back in Harrismith in 1972!! She’s having what sounds like an adaptation problem with new multifocals. Thanks so much for agreeing to check her over. Cheers – Pete
PS: I will definitely commit to making a trip behind the boerewors curtain. I have abandoned the kids a couple of times this year and the house didn’t burn down, so I think I must keep on doing it more and more.
Zena: Can’t think of anything nicer than an afternoon with old friends. They are so few and far between these days.
Pete S: Thanks again. Brauer thinks a get-together is “a good eye dear”
On Thursday 21 November 2019, Zena Jacobson wrote: Great. Tell me when you want to cross the boerewors curtain and I will arrange a get together.
Pete S: In the new year. We need to get Terry into the loop. She’s Brauer’s memory glands.
Zena Jacobson wrote: Yes. I’ll set up a WhatsApp group for us, and we can chat together.
Pete S: Excellent. Brauer can sponsor the event. He must be flush with cash as he has just revamped his practice with bells and whistles and open windows, no vertical blinds.
And lo! It came to pass.
How fortuitous, as we formed a lovely support group through lockdown.
As a check on my powers of prediction: My house did not burn down, but you will remember I was distracted for a while in Zena’s garden on an over-long phone call: Jessie had fallen down after trying to drink as much alcohol as her more experienced friend. Did she inherit my genes or summing, dammit?!
Terry saved the situation with a sensible suggestion later that night when we were back in the gramadoelas: Send her to hospital.
Alcohol poisoning. They put her on a drip.
* sigh * If only she’d inherited my fine singing voice instead.
Earnest and diligent students eagerly absorbing the maths being taught in a chalkdust-filled classroom overlooking a little park on the corner of De Villiers and Rissik streets back in 1974, will be pleased to hear that said classroom has been restored – chalkdust and all. Also the window ledge.
When City Prop’s Alec Wapnick and Jeffrey Wapnick – well-known for their revitalization efforts in Pretoria’s inner city – saw the historic early 20th century Wits Technikon building, they not only realized the potential for restoration but also the opportunity to create a distinct node for learning and education. Alec had the vision to purchase the Wits Tech buildings, and Jeffrey had the foresight to restore and redevelop them to a standard way beyond the basics.
The project is in line with City Property’s comprehensive approach to inner cities, encompassing all the elements of everyday life, from working, to living and shopping, to schooling.
Established as a technical institution in 1903 to support the city’s flourishing gold mining industry, the building fronts onto Eloff, Plein and De Villiers Streets. It will continue to educate. The west block was already occupied by Johannesburg Polytech the east block will house Basa Educational Institute, an inner city school with excellent credentials, which was looking for a new home. Its focus is on the melting pot that is inner city schooling in Johannesburg today, something that dovetails well with City Property’s holistic approach to local development. They teach in all eleven official languages, as well as a number of others, including Portuguese.
The restoration of the Wits Tech building was something of a labour of love for the Wapnicks, whose long history of restoring architectural beauty show they believe that buildings are themselves works of art, to be shared and enjoyed. A lot of work had to be carried out. The building had been vacant for several years, with the result that fittings had been stripped, the structure itself vandalized and left in a state of disrepair. Architecturally, it was originally designed in the classic Greek revival style, an aesthetic that was popular in Johannesburg at the time: the nearby Supreme Court building is a good example of the same vintage. “The neo-Classical style is very typical, very ornate and a reference to renaissance architecture,” says City Property project manager Anita du Plessis. “It has been designed on a breathtaking scale in a style specific to the time.”
She points to the three different architectural orders used in the building concept: the plain Doric columns on the ground floor, to the distinctive scrolled Ionic columns on the first floor, to the leaves of the Corinthian columns above.
Original fittings, like the marble floors, have been carefully restored and repaired; the original viewing panes in the doors were replaced with safety glass; and the stained glass windows were repaired.
Although the grand architectural style needed to be restored, a key outcome for the project team was an updated space suitable for a contemporary user. For this reason, practical, modern features were worked into the project. For a start, the building is now compliant with all the modern building standards and criteria.
The entrance hall and atrium are equipped with security systems, while the air of a tranquil and dignified place of learning has been carefully maintained. The large, bright airy classrooms with sash windows create a positive learning environment, while the solid structure of the historic property blocks out the noise of the city.
Fellow Wits Tech alumnus 1974 – 1978 Steve Reed wrote: Hope they keep the alternative entrance to Kleinman’s classroom – the ledge along the outside…
Steve is speaking of our chalk-dust encrusted 1974 maths lecturer here who lectured in a classroom overlooking the little park on the rear of the building – the front being on Eloff Street. Some wicked students climbed out the windows onto the window ledge before Kleinman got to class. Once he was there they climbed in one by one, each waiting until he got going with his lecture before interrupting him mid-sentence by climbing back in and greeting him cordially. Must have been the B (rauer) class.
“We are the custodians of these magnificent buildings and it is our responsibility to return them to their former glory,” says Wapnick.
These okes are eye pasiente of Brauer’s. Wonder if he’ll claim he gave them their vision and foresight . .
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!