Category Archives: Nostalgia

Looking back with fondness on those things we couldn’t wait to get rid of back then . .

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.

72 Hunt Road, Connoisseur Corner

After a while in Hunt Road I graduated to a prime room: Big double bed, an acre of carpet and a lounge suite at the far end: Couch and two comfy chairs.

Every now and then housemate John Newby would wander in, roll back the carpet and disappear under the floorboards to fetch a bottle from his stash of special wines. He would emerge with cobwebs on his whispy pate. He’d have been crayfishing and would very generously feed the whole house on his delicious crayfish, beautifully cooked, and his special wine. He would give us a run-down on the wine, we would nod gravely and down it and scoff the grub. I confess that, as he talked about the bouquet, the nose, the flavours, where and when it was grown, the north-facing slopes, I would think ja, ja, blah blah, let’s drink and eat.

I had grown up in a bottle store and thought grog was grog, the two important elements are volume and percentage alcohol, and have always rolled my eyes at hooch-pretentiousness. Wine is rotten grapes and the third bottle is always delicious, was my mantra.

Then one day John went off to Cape Town. Turned out he had won the Natal wine-tasters guild olympics and was representing us at the nationals! Then turned out he won the nationals, handily defeating all Cape snobbery, and suddenly MY HOUSEMATE was SA’s champion gold medal victor ludorum wine taster and knew what he was talking about! Look, I knew he wasn’t a poephol, him having a CA and an LlB and all.

I always said he was brilliant!

Flying in 1973

As a seventeen-yr-old in January 1973 I flew from Jo’burg to Rio de Janeiro, then on to New York in an SAA Boeing 707 (‘a narrow-body, four-engined jet airliner built from 1958 to 1979. Boeing’s 707 was the first jet to be commercially successful. Dominating passenger air transport in the 1960s and remaining common through the 1970s, the 707 is generally credited with ushering in the jet age’ – that’s what wikipedia says. Also that 10 of them were still flying in 2013!!).

SAA 1973 Boeing 707

I flew on to Chicago and ended at Oklahoma City, where I was met by Apache Rotarian Robert L Crews III.

I knew very little about flying and maybe that’s just as well. I now know this –

January 1973 in FLYING

  1. January 2 – Attempting to land in Edmonton, Canada in blowing snow, a Pacific Western Airlines Boeing 707 carrying 86 head of cattle and a crew of five, crashed and caught fire. The entire crew was killed. The cattle? Who knows.

  2. January 2 – Released from a psychiatric hospital days earlier, 37yr-old Charles Wenige hid in a lavatory aboard a Piedmont Airlines plane after it arrived in Baltimore, Maryland. When all the passengers had disembarked, he emerged and pointed a .45-calibre pistol at a crew member, demanding access to the liquor cabinet and to be flown to Canada. After two hours of negotiations, he agreed to release the stewardesses in exchange for a meeting with a psychiatrist and a priest. An FBI agent advised Wenige to tuck his pistol away in the priest’s presence. When Wenige did that, the agent overpowered and arrested him.

  3. January 4 – As a Pacific Western airliner prepared to take off from Vancouver, Canada with 18 people on board, a passenger, 26yr-old Christopher Nielson, drew a gun and demanded $2 million in cash and to be flown to North Vietnam, threatening to blow up the airliner if his demands were not met. During negotiations he allowed most people to disembark, leaving three crew members aboard the plane with him. Police then stormed the plane and arrested him, finding that he was armed only with two toy guns.  

  4. January 5 – The mandatory security screening of all airline passengers began at all airports in the USA.

  5. January 12 – The 197th and final American air-to-air victory of the Vietnam War.

  6. January 15 – President Richard Nixon ordered a halt to all bombing, shelling and mining of North Vietnam.

  7. A Boeing 707 chartered by Nigeria Airways crashed after the right main landing gear collapsed while the plane was landing in high winds in Nigeria. It was the deadliest aviation accident in history at the time.

  8. January 27 – A U.S. Navy plane was shot down over South Vietnam – the last American fixed-wing aircraft lost in the Vietnam War.

  9. January 27 – Frontier Airlines hired the first female pilot for any modern-day U.S. airline, Emily Warner. On the same day, the airline also hired its first African-American pilot, Bob Ashby.

    ===================

Air India!

On the way back I flew Air India from New York to London. On the plane I read in an abandoned newspaper I had picked up on the way to board, that Air India had been voted World’s Worst Airline – again. I have since learned this:

‘The years 1971-1973 were very bad for Indian Airlines. The 1971-1972 Pakistan War didn’t help. The airline reported a 45 million rupee loss in 1973, the carrier’s largest to that point. Exacerbating the aforementioned crises was the continual strike being waged by labor. Management, concerned by growing labor costs and inefficiency, eventually locked out many of its workers, operating only a skeleton schedule with a non-union workforce’.

I notice groping is a problem on Air India and they now keep plastic handcuffs to bopha the culprits. I feel I have to report that none of those sari-clad hostesses groped me, despite their promises:

==========================

World Trade Centre

The Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in Manhattan were opened in April 1973. I didn’t see – or consciously notice – them. How observant is that!? And I must have seen them – I went up the Empire State building and looked around. Maybe I was staring at Central Park and the river?

Manhattan


bopha – isiZulu for bind, tie up (pronounce “bawpah”)

The Blands in Africa (one branch . . )

On 2017/03/16, Sheila wrote:

Hi Everyone

Our distant cousin Hugh Bland has been doing some wonderful work sniffing out the Bland family history.

Today he found the grave of Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland – he was born 1799 in the UK and arrived at the Cape in 1825. He settled in Mossel Bay, where he became mayor and the main street is still called Bland Street. He died in 1861. The grave is on a farm, in very thick bush, in the Wydersrivier district near Riversdal.  The farmer very kindly took Hugh to the gravesite.

Hugh says you can read the inscription on the grave stone – it’s indistinct, but there’s no doubt that it’s JBA’s grave. He says it was “quite a moment” for him – JBA was buried there 156 yrs ago and Hugh wondered when a Bland last stood at that grave.

Hugh put two proteas on the grave and then laid his shadow next to his (and our) great great great grandfather:

JBA Bland's grave

After Josiah Benjamin Adam Bland came John Francis Adam Bland (born 1836) who trekked inland to Harrismith in the Orange River Colony with a small baby – John Francis Adam the second. This started “our branch” of the Blands. JFA II later married Mary Caskie (who became the beloved Granny Bland of Harrismith). They had five sons of whom our grandfather Frank (JFA III) and Bunty were the oldest.

Hugh found out that JFA the first died on 10 September 1891 aged 55, and is buried in Senekal.

JFA II and Granny Bland and all five of their sons are buried in the same grave in Harrismith. Granny Bland buried her husband and four of her five boys – what a tragic life, but she did live long enough to know us, her great grandkids. The one son who outlived her, Bunty, died in 1974.

JFA III’s wife Annie Bland (nee Bain) – our granny Annie – died aged 90 ca 1981. Her daughter Pat (Cowie), our mother Mary’s sister died in 1974. Mom Mary is still alive and turned 88 in 2016.

I’m hoping sister Sheila will fact-check me here!

 

Mother Mary Memories

Mr Pretorius was a new teacher in Harrismith. This is back in the ‘forties. One Geography lesson he asked a question and the answer he wanted was the town “Heilbron”.

Johnny Priest (chosen because the teacher knew he wouldn’t know?) answered “The Free State” at which Mr P lifted his eyes to the heavens, rolled them and sighed sarcastically “Why don’t you just say The Union of South Africa?” at which Johnny hastened to say “I meant the Union of South Africa”.


Outside toilets

Toilets were outside, well away from the house, usually at the back border of the yard where the alley ran past so the night car (or ‘Honey Cart’) could get to them. If you had a big yard it could be a long walk. Mrs de Beer used to say theirs was “Halfway to Warden”!

Oh, the embarrasment, says Mom, of meeting the Honey Cart at night when walking home from the bioscope! “So embarrassing!”


Mom’s doctor in Harrismith was Dr Leo Hoenigsberger, who was married to Janet Caskie, an Australian cousin of Mom’s Granny Bland. One day he hit a bridge in has car on the road to the gaol and was taken home, a bit shaken.

Someone phoned the home and one of his sons (Leo or Max) answered. “Hello, is the doctor in? We want him to come around and play bridge with us” said the voice.

“No, I think he’s had enough bridge for one day” answered the son.


 

 

Long Lost Letter

Donald Coleman was my good mate and older side-kick in Harrismith up to around 1964. He died in a car crash (alone in the car) around 1975 (I have no detail of what exactly happened).

In around 2011 or 2012 I found a letter on the floor of my garage at 10 Elston Place.

It was from “your mate Donald” and consisted of one page (probably page 2 of a 2-page letter) and a scrap of envelope addressed to:
poel
rrismith
e Free State

A franked 2½c stamp in good condition is still on the scrap of envelope (but the date part of the franking was/is missing).

I suspect it fell out of the old Cape Colony post office stinkwood desk Dad gave me, as I had moved it to give it back to him before it fell to pieces.

The letter, in neat, flowing cursive writing in blue ink, said:

This is slightly exaggerated but between points
0 and 1 it is 50 miles and between 1 and 2 it is 13 miles and between
3 and 4 it is 14 miles. Even if you go at 10 m.p.h all the
way you will make it in a day. Well don’t take
too much equipment etc because you’ll shit yourselves
coming. Don’t forget to take hats and plenty of patching
equipment. If something goes wrong and you reach
Bergville or Winterton after dark just ‘phone us our
number is Winterton 2412.

              Well I hope I’ve got everything down here, any-
way I still hope to run the Mountain Race
with you. I’m going to try harder this year.

              It’s a pity I won’t be seeing you fellows
because I’ve got some jokes to tell you.

                        From your mate
                             Donald

Not a single correction or spelling mistake (oh, one tiny one changing your to you).

So it seems he had sent a map as well as the (presumed) 1st page of the letter. Obviously we were planning to ride our bikes to Winterton!

——————————————

I must ask Dad about the old stinkwood desk. Was it a Harrismith find? From when?
That could explain how the letter got in there, I spose. Suspicion: Did my folks open it and not pass it on!!?

I searched the desk again and found the rest of the envelope: It was franked on 30 March 1971. I was in Std 9, Donald would have completed his time at Estcourt High School.

20141130_081257.jpg

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

Cannot be

When I was around six years old Sheila came marching up to me and demanded-

“Do you know what Dad’s name is?”

Well, of course I did! I was the older brother.

Kleinspan Skool Koos Sheila.jpg

It’s “Dad”

“No man, his real name!”

What did she mean? Oh, of course- I’d heard Mom call him that lots of times.

“Peter”

“No. It’s PIETER GERHARDUS!!”

What rubbish! I’d never heard such foul language! And this from my MUCH younger sister! (she was a whole year younger’n me. Which was like: All of living memory!).

Amazingly, investigations proved her right!

Thank You Ernie!

Ernie van Biljon wouldn’t take no for an answer, so I got to go to America as a Rotary exchange student back in 1973.

Thanks Ernie van Biljon, for seeing to it that I made it to America! What a lovely man.

Rotary held their interview and selection sessions at Greystones outside Estcourt (where I had attended a Veld & Vlei leadership course earlier that year):

Greystones Veld&Vlei

Which three countries would you like to go to?
America, America, America – and I want to go to a small town, not a big city.

“OK, Smartass” they thought, and dispatched me to Apache, Oklahoma.

“There are two strict rules” they told us: “No falling in love, and strictly no driving while you’re there”. “Of course not . . . ” Well, I got none out of two right but it was just infatuation and the owner of the Chev Camaro covered for me in Apache and the owner of the VW Beetle covered for me in Canada.

For Apache Adventures, see here