Category Archives: Confessions

What we did

1970 – Netjies!

The Harrismith Stadsaal was propvol. Albert Hertzog was coming to speak as leader of his new breakaway party, and the doubtful and the faithful were all there. Plus one Yank.

The doubtful were there to worry about the severe liberalisation evident in the Nat Party lately – I mean, they were considering allowing television! – while the faithful were there to heckle ou Hertzog.

Hertzog

A dapper little dutchman, he gave a rousing speech about the great injustice done to them by the Nats, building up to a rousing “en hulle het ons UITGESKOP!” upon which, from the back of the hall rang out a clear “NETJIES!” which brought the house down and quite ruined the dramatic effect.

This as reported to me by the Yank Larry Wingert, Rotary exchange student from Cobleskill New York, who’d gone along to witness democracy, Old-SA-style.

In typical political fashion the verligtes hated their brother verkramptes even more than they hated the old enemy, the Sappe. The Sappe they could say, were just stupid, but these ous were verraaiers!

In the election that followed, the SAPPE (United Party – the nickname was from an older party, the South African Party) made gains, the Nats losing seats in parliament for the first time since they came to power in 1948.

But ou Hertzog’s Herstigtes won 0 seats. Zero. Not one, despite appealing to Larry that they were the way forward to the past!

The Nats were still in power, but to put their “power” in perspective, they got a total of 821 000 votes in a country of 22.5 million people! And that made them the bosses of South Africa!

Talk about illegitimate.

———————————————————————————————————————————-

propvol – full, full to bursting

“en hulle het ons UITGESKOP!” – The Nats booted the doubters out. They then formed the “re-established National Party” (Herstigtes)

NETJIES!” – Well done! Neat move!

verligtes – sort of ‘enlightened’ racists; more realist than the verkramptes, who wanted nothing to change

verkramptes – cramp-ass racists (keep the world at bay!), send the Indians back to India, drive the blacks into the sea. Back to their imaginary ‘good old days’!

verraaiers – traitors

 

Someone Burst His Eardrum

The Witwatersrand College for Advanced Technical Education chose a rugby team to play in the inter-college festival down in Durban-by-the-Sea and they didn’t choose me so I had to choose myself and find my own way down so as to be able to add to the fun and laughter and educational and character-building value of such gatherings. And the imbibing contest, which was actually my forté but – for some reason – they didn’t have a drinking span. Strange.

So we had to compete informally, yet enthusiastically. I spose because there were no officials officiating our match we lost sight of the time and forgot to arrange accommodation n stuff so when it became very late we looked around and found we were in someone else’s hotel – the salubrious Killarney – and were trying to scrounge floor space to kip on.

What's that? Someone burst his eardrum . . hip hip hip hooray!

Schoeman and Fotherby were 100% legal and official and had a room and we made merry in it, perhaps too much because someone marched in and very rudely demanded we shurrup and also leave. I stepped forward to help this rude gentleman right upon which he – a man of few words – explained the situation to me by unleashing a mighty klap on my left eardrum, shattering the peace. I immediately understood what he was on about and agreed to leave the premises forthwith.

All the way down the stairs his lips were moving but I couldn’t hear a word he said. I was deaf as a post. He was like:

Zulu Security Guard

I was like:

drunk

The next day my “friends” were singing to me – to the tune of “The Sun Has Got His Hat On” –

“Someone Burst His Eardrum! Hip Hip Hip Hooray!!”

Shits. Luckily I couldn’t hear them.

The Marvelous Brauer/Stromberg

Very few people realise just how good the Stromberg is. One of those few is Brauer. He knows, as he invested a large portion of his student fortune in one at The Rand Easter Show one year (or was it the Pretoria Skou?).

We watched a demonstration in fascination. I mean EVERY time the good honest man hooked in the Stromberg the engine ran sweetly and WHENEVER he unhooked the Stromberg it spluttered and farted. Brauer was SOLD. He just KNEW this was the answer to his faded-white Austin with faded-black linoleum roof’s problems. Instead of taking it for a long overdue service and changing the oil, water, filter and spark plugs, he would sommer just fit a Stromberg. What could possibly go wrong go wrong, and who could doubt this:

Stromberg

Here’s an email thread discussing the amazing Stromberg phenomenon:

On 2015/08/30 22:29, steve reed wrote:

Subject: Re: Fat takkies

Further proof that nothing stays the same.

From our youthful past, it was always a “given” that the back takkies would be fatter than the front …Specially if you have the windgat  version.

Now the Audi RS3 has em 2cm fatter  in the front than the back if you have the windgat version.

Really…I am getting too old for all this.  Do they have to mess with everything?


From: pete swanepoel home
Subject: Re: Fat takkies

Yep. Because they can . . .

I remember the mindset change I had to undergo when diesels started getting status. Ditto when auto boxes started making more sense than manual? Had to quietly swallow a few ‘definite’ and ‘absolute’ statements made in ignorance!

One of my fascinations has been looking up when the first ____ (whatever) was ever fitted or used in a car.

First diesel engined production car — 1935 Citroen Rosalie
First patent for seat belts – 1885. But still not compulsory when we grew up and STILL not compulsory throughout the USA today. (Politicians in many states wouldn’t dare vote for such a law!).
First 8-speed manual – 1931 Maybach DS8
First automatic transmission – 1939 Oldsmobile (Hydra-Matic, also the first 4-speed automatic). Remember “Hydra Matic” in the Grease song?
First petrol-electric hybrid – 1899 Lohner-Porsche Mixte
First modern hybrid car – 1904 Auto-Mixte (Belgium)
First four-wheel drive car – 1910 Caldwell Vale
First trip computer – 1958 Saab GT750

and so on – almost always WAY before I would have guessed !


On 2015/08/31 00:18, Peter Brauer wrote:

A glaring omission has been noted from your ”when was it first fitted” list:

THE FAMOUS STROMBERG

Do you recall how I had Alan Saks (the great car fundi) going  on this one…


From: pete swanepoel home:

I do. Didn’t we see it some show or other? A great demonstration. If it had been a religion I’d have converted. I would be a Strombergie now.

Who would think Pretoria would have a skou!? What is there to show?

So Alan was not an all-knowing deskundige after all?! Even HE could learn a thing or two?
—————————————————————

On 2015/09/01 01:55, Peter Brauer wrote:

The one and only Pretoria Skou. Installed in my Cortina that Alan had driven in a few days prior and was subjected to the stop/start lurching and had many remedies and suggestions. I obviously thanked him for his advice BUT ALSO ENLIGHTENED HIM RE THE NEWLY PURCHASED SOLVER-OF-ALL-CAR-PROBLEMS . . . THE STROMBERG. (Remembering the  “God-ordained” visit to the Skou and Stromberg stand where we witnessed the justifiably impressive presentation of a product that should have outstripped Microsoft in sales).

To which he chuckled and shook his head in disbelief. I hauled it off the floor behind the driver’s seat to show him. I remember a few choice expletives….”complete f…ing piece of sh-t” etc etc.

So that weekend I started installing said Stromberg, which involved a rare opening of the bonnet (a procedure I normally advise against to any motoring enthusiast). For starters (no pun intended), after glancing at the oil coated sparks, I thought that while the bonnet was open I might just clean the sparks and set the gaps. Before removing the Stromberg off it’s familiar position of lying on the floor behind the driver’s seat I thought I’d take the Cortina for a spin to see if it still could go after my risky DIY service.

Shit a brick….it flew! (“why the hell didn’t I do that long ago!?” rolling through my thoughts as the apparently turbocharged Cortina used our sedate suburban streets as its new-found race track).

After getting back home I parked the car and almost forget what I’d started….THE STROMBERG.

I quickly installed it on-line on the main spark lead and couldn’t wait for Alan’s visit that arvie. Chucked him my keys and said he should take the Cortina for a spin to see if he could tell if the Stromberg had made any diffs………………. The rest is folklore history……….he was stunned into silence, well for at least 3 minutes – but a Saks record nevertheless.


From: pete swanepoel home

You forgot to put in the most important feature of the Cortina: The colour. What colour was it?

(I read about a popular radio talk show in the States: Two brothers had a “Car Experts” show. People would phone in and ask about the problems they were having with their cars. Long technical details of what the clutch and carburetor and shit were doing and where the smoke was coming out of etc etc – and the one brother would ask “Tell me: This Corvette of yours: What color is it?”).

Ice and Fire

They wanted us to have a good time and they fed us with many many craft beers and ordinary beers. Come and enjoy the Rand Easter Show, they said in 1976. Well in those days it was that or this:

We glanced at the displays and the arena – cows were moo’ing and plopping, horses were made to jump over things – but most of the day was spent in the friendly beer halls where the only answer to “May I have another beer?” was “Of course you may!” We ended up sparkling with wit and bonhomie.

After dark it all shut down and we wandered towards the car park eating ice cream cones the TC girls from Maritzburg – up to visit the handsome Doornfontein crew – had bought us (hoping to sober us up?). We passed some horse trailers and the rear end of Gonda Betrix’s horse stared us straight in the eye. Like this:

Horses ass

It was too much to resist and our artistic instincts took over: Lift the tail, place ice cream dollop on the O-ring and then the horse made the mistake of clamping its tail down hard, cementing the deal. I spose a shiver ran down its spine, but it stayed pretty calm considering, just dancing a little – in pleasure maybe? Thoughts of animal cruelty DO pass thru my brain now but they didn’t reach my addled brain at the time.

We shuffled off. Who drove that night? Hopefully the ladies. Sheila, Noreen, who else? Anyway we safely arrived at Stephen Charles’s flat in Yeoville and had another beer as we were inexplicably thirsty.

Noreen said to me “I’ve run a bath, you go ahead”. Very thoughtful of her! I shucked my kit and jumped in and immediately went right through the ceiling! Which wasn’t ceiling board as Steve’s flat was not on the top floor. It was concrete. She’d run the hot only and my (future) wedding vegetables were parboiled. Took days before they were ready to be molested again. In fact, the damage may have been permanent: I ended up adopting kids, even though I waited twelve years before risking getting married.

Wat Sê Jy?

or “scusi?

Quora asked this question recently: “How do you know when you are fluent in a language?” here

I answered thus: My guess is usually you won’t really know. Native speakers are usually polite and will flatter you with a better assessment than is true. Maybe a better question to ask yourself is “When am I fluent enough?”

My guess? When you’re enjoying using it and not really thinking about it. I am fluent enough in Afrikaans and can happily hold any conversation with someone who only speaks that language. But even though I have spoken it since I was little, no native speaker would mistake me for a native Afrikaans speaker.

Confession: I laboured under the mistaken impression that I was completely fluent. No-one told me otherwise. Then at age fourteen I went to Namibia (South West Africa as it was) and visited third cousins I had never met before. Within two sentences one of them blurted out “Jis! Jy kan hoor jy’s ’n rooinek!” (Boy, You can hear you’re English-speaking!). And my bubble burst. I’m now amazed I was so deluded!

Another case in point: My 94-yr old Dad speaks “fluent Italian” which he learnt in Italy in WW2. I asked an Italian schoolfriend a few years ago “How well does the old man actually speak?” and he said “Really well. Really”. Somehow I think that’s politeness (two years in Italy seventy years ago when he was already 22yrs-old – ??). But I have no way of telling, so I’m happy to go with Claudio’s assessment! Thanks, figlio!

Another: I often get complimented for speaking good Zulu. This is definitely not true and is just polite people’s way of saying “Thank you for trying to speak isiZulu to me”.

 

International Darts Champs

One dark night in Deepest Darkest Doornfontein in the New Doornfontein Hotel pub we were playing darts.

Actually to be more exact, we were engaged in a very important international darts championship tournament, and we were in the final. We had made it through to the final by skill and courage. And imbibing. See, it was The Official Inebriated World Darts Championships of The World. Our opponents were the Sicilian Mafia who had materialised out of nowhere, tapped one of us on the shoulder and announced darkly in a sinister growl: “We play you next”. That’s how they got into the final. We didn’t dare to do anything but nod nervously.

It was like:

mafia darts

We were not fooled when during the important ceremony of ‘diddle for middle’ they missed the bull’s eye by about three metres and we hit bull to go off first. We knew they were simply lulling us into a false sense of security and had in fact wanted us to go first as part of a dastardly plot. This plan was executed faultlessly as we continued to whip they asses and beat them by a mile in all three rounds. Something was afoot. We got even more nervous when they appeared to accept their defeat in good spirit and retired to a corner of the bar conversing – sinisterly for Sicilians – in Portuguese.

Our lives were saved that night in that we ordered beers when the barman called ‘Last Round!’ and the Mafia didn’t. So at closing time the Mafiosi left and we stayed behind to finish our drinks, huddled in a corner as far away as we could get from the door in case it suddenly shattered and splintered under sustained machine gun fire.

The barman then escorted us out the back. Behind the bar counter, through the kitchen and out the back door into the courtyard of the New Doornfontein which was even darker than the unlit streets. We scurried home to our lavish quarters in the plush Doories residence of the Witwatersrand College for Advanced Technical Education a few blocks away, keeping to the shadows.

Once safely inside we opened the large door of the old off-white Westinghouse with ‘Fridge Over Troubled Waters’ written on it in cokie pen. Finally we, The Official Inebriated World Darts Champions of The World, could relax.

fridge.jpg

The Louisa Street Massacre

I once got mugged in Louisa Street. By Louisa Street.

Lightly inebriated, I was walking back to res from a trip to Hillbrow to spend some of my Barclays Bank student loan.

The normally dark and deserted Louisa Street in Doornfontein was dark and crowded, with parked cars lining both sides of the road. The Arena Theatre across the road from res had a show on.

Quite unexpectedly, Louisa Street suddenly leapt up and smacked me right in the face, breaking my glasses.

For some unfathomable reason it was very important that I gather all the little shards of glass from my shattered lens, so – as luck or Murphy would have it – I was on my hands and knees when the theatre ended and happy patrons streamed out into the street, their minds filled with the moral of the story (or more likely, flashes of boobs and skin – the few shows we went to had actresses acting daring) to find their cars and drive home to more salubrious areas of Johannesburg. The Arena was surrounded by vacant lots and abandoned houses, so they were probably in a bit of a hurry because of the shady reputation of the neighbourhood – and here was proof!

I was not to be put off my search though, so people had to walk and drive around me, grovelling searching diligently in the middle of the tarmac. Next minute someone bent over me and said “What’s your name?”. The affrontery! It was Mnr “JJ” van Rensburg of the Doornfontein koshuis who  was trying to help by getting one of his charges out of harm’s way. “Shwanepoel” I slurred. I spelt it out in case he didn’t know: “S – W – A – N – E – P – O – E – L” . Explaining that I probably didn’t need to gather every tiny piece as the School of Optometry would likely replace my lenses for me, he coaxed me back to the safety of the res grounds. He was weird, but had a good heart, ole JJ. We gave him sleepless nights.

World Firsts

Or – Firsts in the Frystaat (well, sort of . . . Firsts For Us!)

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. We were 1960’s on cardboard on grass.

toboggan_party

Toboggan Grass.jpg

But we did invent mountain biking, we were sure. MTB’ing on our dikwiel (balloon tyre) 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!

In our little world:

  • We invented Hijacking – of the Orange Express (check post)
  • We invented Streaking – in Kimberley (check post)
  • We invented Drifting – on the athletics track in the park (check post)
  • We invented Selfies – in Oklahoma (check post)
  • We invented Kidnapping – on birthdays*

——————————————————————–

*Birthdays: I think 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 duPlessis place as his b’day happens to be on the 21st June – the shortest day of the year. Oh, yes – and the coldest. Winter solstice! So he didn’t have a long walk home, lucky fella.


donga – arroyo. Dry gully, formed by the eroding action of running water.

dikwiel fietse – fat- or balloon-tyred bicycles

Hijackiing – 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)

train-hijacking

Streaking – When and where campus 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 1969. Anyway it seems this lady beat us to it: Lady Godiva was an English noblewoman who, according to a legend dating at least to the 13th century, rode naked – covered only in her long hair – through the streets of Coventry to gain a remission of the oppressive taxation that her husband imposed on his tenants. The name ‘Peeping Tom’ for a voyeur originates from later versions of this legend in which a man named Tom watched her ride and was struck blind or dead.

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. Then there was us in the late 60’s in a black front-wheel-drive Saab!

Selfies – I took my selfie in 1973, which was WAY before it became popular.

ApacheOK73 (8).JPG

selfie-1839-robertcornelius  serious-selfie

OK this Robert oke did it in 1839, and OK, this lady had better equipment (in both ways).

Kidnapping – Tuffy started kidnapping in 1970 but these fellas kidnapped this bride in 1870:

bride_kidnapping-1870

High Speed Tug – or Stress in the Army

 1979 and the army. Hurry up and wait. Ballasbak. Zero stress.

Except for this one time:
My 2-tone 1965 Opel Rekord 4-door column-shift sedan (in sophisticated shades of grey: dark grey body, pale grey roof, grey upholstery) got indisposed while parked under the bluegum trees outside the camp at Medics, Roberts Heights (Voortrekkerhoogte, Thaba Tshwane). She wouldn’t start.

koos-opel-1976

This was serious! We had a weekend pass and there was a party on in the City of Sin & Laughter (aka Harrismith).

Not a problem, KO __ (we were all KO’s: candidate officers) offered to tow me to Harrismith behind his V6 Cortina or Datsun bakkie. A short piece of nylon rope was found and we set off.  I immediately thought Uh Oh!! as we hared off, accelerating furiously. Soon we reached what felt like 100 miles an hour. Slow down! I screamed silently. We hadn’t arranged any signals or communication, so I simply gripped the steering wheel and concentrated. (If cellphones had been invented I’d have sms’d him: WTF RU MAD?)

I sat tensely, staring at the rear of the bakkie a mere 6ft from my bonnet (couldn’t even see the towrope!) as we roared along. We’re going East so fast we hasten the setting of the sun.

Then it started to rain! Then twilight fell. Then it got dark, with the rain falling ever heavier as my wipers feebly swished back and forth. With the motor not turning (thus no alternator) the battery got flatter and flatter and the wipers got slower and slower. Blowing the hooter and flashing my lights just made things worse. Upfront in the bakkie the music was so loud and the chit-chat so intense they didn’t even notice us (or pretended not to?). So there was nothing for it but to hang in there for hours. Worst journey of my life. My chin got closer and closer to the windscreen and my knuckles got whiter. Still the KO kept the bakkie floored! He had to get to Durbs where a girlfriend was waiting. My neck was tense and I don’t think I blinked once, staring at the top edge of the bakkie tailgate. My right thigh ached as it poised ready to brake – delicately! – at any moment.

An eternity later we pulled up in Harrismith, unhitched the towrope and off he went, on to Durban. Hey, thanks!, I said. Appreciate it!

Fu-u -uu-uck-uck!!!!!!! I have NEVER felt such relief.

Safe as a Guinea

On Tabbo’s Warden farm “Rust” (Tabbo second from right).

old-harrismith-warden
I doubt if any of those guineas were killed by me (second from left) and my old man’s cheap Russian shotgun! A marksman I am not!

Kai Reitz once tried to get me to hit a cow’s arse with a banjo on The Bend, but in vain – he had to give up. He gently lobbed up big sandclods and I filled the air surrounding them with shot. Then they plonked to earth. Thud!

With the last two shells he took the shotgun. I hurled two empty shell cases as hard as I could. Blap Blap he hit both of them!