Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Charlie Crawley’s Chevy Truck

Behind the Crawley’s house in Warden street was an amazing garden. Huge trees and a fascinating big wooden shed, filled with all sorts of interesting stuff. And a fascinating big old green truck parked under one tree.

Everything was big – industrial size. I remember long planks and pipes in shelves with pots and tins and everything. Everything. A robin nested in one of the pots on one of the shelves. I don’t know why I think it was a robin, but I’m sure I saw a bird’s nest there anyway. Leon confirms this memory.

The old Chevy truck was quite unlike any other in town. You couldn’t mistake it. I checked with the old man. He says it said ‘Hastings & Crawley Builders’ and it was a Chev – “1934 or 1935 judging by the grille”.

I remember it looking something like these:

 

Close. But not quite right.

Dad also says he thinks Charlie’s first car was a 1939 2-door Chev he bought from the mayor Sepp de Beer, whose numberplate was OI 1 (we were Oh Eye before we were OHS). That’s all I got from him on the phone. His hearing is a bit ‘Whut?’.

Chev 1939 2-door.jpg

 

 

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Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Abe Sparks

I thought of Abe Sparks as the “Lord Mayor of Swinburne”.

Ever since he went to Texas he wore a stetson, cowboy boots and a string tie with a polished stone clasp. He was a larger than life character, colourful. He and Lulu were always very friendly to me. He drove an old Rolls Royce which he’d converted into a pickup truck. It looked something like this:

Rolls Royce Abe Sparks

I have a clear childhood memory of it parked in Stuart Street near the corner of Retief Street, opposite the Post Office.

He and Lulu would throw big parties and the story goes – yes, the old story goes – that one night they decided to cook the mushrooms they had gathered in the veld that day. To be safe they fed some to the dog and asked the kitchen staff to keep an eye on it for the next hour or so. They continued partying up a storm with the grog flowing and then ate supper and carried on until one of the staff came in to say “Baas die hond is dood” (Sir the dog has died).

Panic ensued as they all bundled into cars and rushed off to the Harrismith Hospital twelve miles away, had their stomachs pumped out and returned much later to the farm looking chastened, wan and sober.

Next morning they asked to see the dog and were shown where it lay dead and mangled. It had been run over by a passing car.

 

Family, Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

The Grand Old Man of Harrismith

Janet & Stewart Bain – Royal Hotel Harrismith
  • Stewart Bain came to Harrismith in 18__
  • Became Mayor of the town and ‘reigned’ for years, becoming known as ‘The Grand Old Man of Harrismith’
  • Pushed for the building of a very smart town hall. Some thought it was way too fancy – and too expensive – and called it “Bain’s Folly”

He died in 1939 and the town pulled out the stops for his funeral:

Stewart Bain 1939.jpg

I thought I remembered that, despite the fact that every dorp has a Royal Hotel, the Harrismith Royal Hotel was one of only two that could officially call itself ‘Royal’. Sheila has confirmed that I have a flawless memory (well, something along those lines):

Royal Hotel article

Here you have Platberg mountain & Town Hall seen from the Royal Hotel:

Oupa's bible and Grandpa Bain's funeral
Oupa Bain’s funeral from the Royal Hotel balcony
Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia, sport

‘Bain of Harrismith’

My granny Annie had an older brother Ginger. He was the oldest of the seven ‘Royal Bains’ and a great sportsman. They owned the Royal Hotel and were not to be confused with the ‘Central Bains’, who owned the Central Hotel!

This old report was reprinted in the 1997 Hilton vs Michaelhouse sports day brochure: 

Hilton Ginger Bain_2

Drop goals were four points and tries were three in those distant days. I like that the one side was “smarter with their feet” . . and that that beat “pretty passing”.

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Ginger Bain’s father Stewart died in 1939:

Stewart Bain 1939.jpg

Sister Sheila says he was known as “The Grand Old Man of Harrismith” and his clan was called ‘The Royal Bains’ after his hotel!

I thought I remembered that, despite the fact that every dorp has a Royal Hotel, the Harrismith Royal Hotel was one of only two that could officially call itself ‘Royal’. Sheila has confirmed that I have a flawless memory (well, something along those lines):

Royal Hotel article

This post on my other blog got a reply from a distant relative in Scotland.

Family, Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

The Bain Family’s Scottish Roots

Katrina (nee Miller) Duncan, from near Oban in Scotland, stumbled across my other blog here and made contact with us. She sounds delightful, but so she would – she’s family!

She has been researching the Bain family tree and she and my sister Sheila have worked out that we share a Great-Great-Great Grandfather, one Donald Bain (born in Wick 14 April 1777 – died 1853). He married Katherine Bremner and they lived in Sarclet, just south of Wick way up in north-east Scotland.

Donald’s son George was out fishing with his brother Stewart in 1853 when their boat was swamped and Stewart drowned. Katrina found an 1853 newspaper article about the tragedy.

Stewart Bain drowning 1853.jpg

When Stewart Bain was born in 1819 in Caithness, his father, Donald, was 42 and his mother, Katherine, was 41. On 7 February 1845 Stewart married Christina Watson  in his hometown. They had four children during their marriage. He died as a young father on 19 February 1853 in Thrumster, Caithness, at the age of 34, and was buried there.

The next year, 1854, his brother George and his wife Annie (nee Watson) had a son. They named him Stewart.

He is the Stewart who came to Harrismith, Orange River Colony in South Africa in 18____ and married Janet Burley. They had seven kids: The seven ‘Royal Bains’ of Harrismith, named after their hotel, The Royal Hotel in Station Road. This ‘title’ was to distinguish them from ‘The Central Bains’, not to claim royalty!

On Katrina’s ancestry web page “Miller Family Tree” the names Annie, Jessie, Stewart, Katherine, Donald etc have been used for generations.  My gran – one of the seven Royal Bains – was Annie Watson Bain.

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Many thanks to  katrina duncan for getting in touch!

 

Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia, sport

Harrismith’s Mountain Goat

The people of Harrismith dubbed Michael McDermott ‘The Mountain Goat’.

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 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 16-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 ran 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 16 consecutive wins, an amazing world record also held by similarly uber-talented athletes Michael McLeod of England and Jim Pearson of America. He 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.”

SPRINGBOK

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

*my potted history of the race*


This post opened a flood of ancient memories!

Thanks Koos – very interesting.

In “our day” Johnny Halberstadt was the King – wonder where he is today?

I strolled the race 2 or 3 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!

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

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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, also ex-Mountain Race high-up official

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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 (stroller) Kar Goss xx
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Sheila, As far I can remember my Mom Alet and Mavis Hutchison did the race around 1969,70. Koos Keyser won it 5 times 1964-68. Wally Hayward (5-times Comrades winner) won in 1952.

actual finisher JP de Witt

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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 it 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?

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

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Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Martha and My Man Friday

This beautiful 1938 Buick Coupe was a regular sight on the streets of Harrismith back in the Sixties.

Martha McDonald and her friend Carrie Friday used to cruise the streets going nowhere. Mom called them Martha and My Man Friday after Robinson Crusoe.

Years later Sheila found out that PMB restorer Ty Terblanche had found it, bought it and restored it to its former glory. Well done Ty! What a beaut!

1938 Buick coupe2

With childish logic and mischief we’d occasionally throw it wif a stone (as we’d mockingly say). Always missed, mind you.

Here’s a better angle to showcase those beautiful lines (thanks, conceptcarz):

Buick 1938