Category Archives: USA

1973 Rotary exchange student in Apache Oklahoma

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.

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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:

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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”)

Down the Grand Canyon

1984 was one of the very few years since 1960 that Colorado river water from the Grand Canyon actually reached the sea. High snow melt pushed it past the point where golf courses and old-age homes drain it of all its water and so – at last! – the waters of the Colorado reached the beautiful estuary at Baja California and flowed into the Sea of Cortez again!

Unknown to many, 1984 was also the ONLY year Mexico would have been able to taste Mainstay cane spirits (distilled from South African sugar cane) mixed with Colorado river water. Well, recycled Mainstay and river water, as the Mainstay had first passed through the kidneys of a mad bunch of South Africans that Chris Greeff had assembled to paddle through the famous American Canyon.

That’s because we were on the river sponsored by Mainstay Cane Spirits and South African Airways. The “Mainstay” we drank was actually an SAA Boeing 747’s supply of tot bottles of whisky, brandy, gin, vodka, rum – and Mainstay cane spirits. We decanted all the little bottles we could find into two-litre plastic bottles to help the stewardesses on board with their end-of-Atlantic-crossing stock-take. We had resolved to drink the plane dry but man, they carry a lot of hooch on those big babies (I spose in case they end up with all 350 passengers happening to be as thirsty as paddlers are?).

Fifteen paddlers from South Africa joined our guides Cully Erdman and his delightful partner JoJo on a trip down the Grand Canyon from Lee’s Ferry to the take-out on Lake Mead 300 or so miles downstream. We were accompanied by one other paddler, an Argentine José who was ticking off his bucket list, having climbed Everest. Five rubber inflatable rafts carried the food (and the Mainstay and a few hundred beers) and a motley assortment of rapid riders from America and SA. Talking of motley: Us paddlers ranged from capable rough water paddlers to flatwater sprinters to happy trippers to complete novices. Some had Springbok colours, others had a lot of cheek.

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (48)

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (8)
Cully shows us. He has done it before.
GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (30)
Herve, George & Jojo

Some twists in the tale: My boyhood kayaking heroes had been the van Riet brothers, Willem and Roelof, who won the Dusi three times just as I was first learning about the race ca 1970. As I started to participate in the race ca 1972 Graeme Pope-Ellis was winning the first of his eventual 15 Dusi wins. Both Willem and Graeme were with us on this trip.

Another twist: In the year I first saw the Colorado river (1973) by walking/running down the Bright Angel trail from the South Rim to the Colorado’s swiftly-flowing green water (see post), Willem had launched a boat at Lee’s Ferry, done an eskimo roll and come up with ice in his hair, causing him to postpone his trip. Now he was back, eleven years later – in the summer!

The trip was put together by yet another iconic paddler Chris Greeff, winner of more kayak races than I’d had breakfasts. One of the craziest races he won was the Arctic Canoe Race on the border between Finland and Sweden. About 500km of good pool and drop rapids in cold water. When he arrived at the start with his sleek flatwater racing kayak (the others had wider, slower, more stable canoes) the local organisers thought Ha! he intends portaging around all the rapids! (they’d heard of the Dusi and how mad South Africans run with kayaks on their heads) so they amended the rules: Every rapid avoided would incur a time penalty. Chris just smiled and agreed enthusiastically with their ruling: He was no Dusi runner and he had no intention of getting out of his boat!

Later:

On the trip our American kayak and raft guides kept asking us about our sponsors stickers we had attached to kayaks and rafts. SAA they understood, South African Airways, but what was this “Mainstay” stuff? Ooh. you’ll see! Was all we’d say.
At ___ rapid on Day __ around the camp fire we hauled out three or four two-litre bottles filled with a suspicious amber liquid. THIS we said, was that famous stuff! Hilarity and a bit of insanity ensued. I remember seeing Willem sprint past me, run nimbly across the pontoons of a raft and launch himself in the darkness into the swift current of the Colorado running at 50 000cfs!

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff (65)
George, Allie, Swys & Toekoe

1984Grand Canyon (1)At the confluence, the Little Colorado was flooding and massively silt-laden. We stopped on a skinny sandbank and had mud fights and mud rolls. The muddy water from the flooding Little Colorado merged with the clear water coming out of Lake Powell and from here on we had traditionally red-coloured water – “colorado”. I fell out just downstream and got some of that muddy water up my snout. A month later I had to have an emergency sinus washout! As Saffeffricans say ‘Ah neely dahd!’

Foreground and background: Muddy Little Colorado. In the middle: Clear water from Lake Powell:

GrandCanyon'84 Greeff Confluence (1)

Lunch on a small sandbank – Five rafts, seventeen kayaks

Lunch on a small sandbank, Colorado River, Grand Canyon - Five rafts, seventeen kayaksGrand Canyon Chris 2Grand Canyon Chris Crystal-001
Crystal Rapid Colorado.jpg
Here comes Crystal!
Jannie Claassen stands. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right. All poring over the map, plotting the next day!
Jannie Claassen stands left. Clockwise from front Left: Swys du Plessis (red shorts), Me just visible, Dave Walker back left, Willem van Riet, Herve de Rauville kneeling, Alli Peter lying down in back, Chris Greeff ponders, Bernie Garcin stands behind Chris, Wendy Walwyn, Cully Erdman (our guide) is front right with the peak cap. All poring over the map, plotting the next day! Willem telling us about the MOERSE rapids he went through.
The whole gang (or was this “The Swim Team”?):
The Mainstay SAA Team from SA; At the usual take-out before Lake Mead; Paddling is over (for most of us!)

At the usual take-out (Diamond Creek) before Lake Mead the high water had washed away the road. We had to keep going. Then we hit the calm waters of Lake Mead. Paddling was almost over (for most of us!). We lay on the rafts as they were tugged out by a motorboat to another take-out point on Lake Mead many miles downstream (‘cept there was no longer any ‘stream’ – we were on flat water now). Greeff and a few other crazies (including Wendy Walwyn) paddled the whole flat water way!

?Me and trip girlfriend Wendy in foreground

Bernie Garcin – great mate; – – and WHAT a campsite!

Bernie Garcin - great mate; - - and WHAT a campsite!!

Happy daze drifting in the current, lying back gazing up at the cliffs and watching the waterline as century after millenium of geological lines rose up out of the water and each day rose higher and higher above us. Willem the geologist would explain some of it to us.

Then you’d sit up and listen intently. Then peer ahead with a stretched neck and drift in a quickening current as the roar of the next rapid grew in the canyon air. The river was running at an estimated high 50 000cfs (about 1650 cumecs). Once you could see where it was, you pulled over and got out to scout it. Plot your way through it.

Here’s Lava Falls – *click on pic* Spot Ryan’s blue helmet. He got trashed.

Lava Falls
Singing:

The canyon burro is a mournful bloke
He very seldom gets a poke
But when he DOES . .
He LETS it soak
As he revels in the joys of forni- CATION!

and (to the tune of He Ain’t Heavy)

Hy’s nie Swaar nie

Hy’s my Swaer . a . a . aer

We went down the Canyon twice

I always say we did the Canyon twice. Once we would bomb down in our kayaks, crashing through the exhilirating big water; The second time was much hairier, with bigger rapids, higher water and far more danger: That was when Willem would regale us with tales of his day on the water around the campfire at night. “Raconteur” is too mild a word! The word MOERSE featured prominently in his stories.

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

Messing about in Boats

THIS IS A ROUGH DRAFT

The original quote is from Kenneth Grahame’s Wind In the Willows:
“There is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”

Motorboating
Dad built a wooden motorboat in our lounge ca 1959. Here’s what was left of the lounge around 50yrs years later (2007).

Speedboat built in the lounge

As far as I recall Dad used the boat just a few times on the Wilge River (“The Mighty Vulgar”) at Sunnymede.
Later he bought another – bigger – boat, it had a 50hp Mercury outboard. He soon sold that one to Harry Mandy for delivery to Richards Bay. I went along with Dad towing it behind the Morris Isis to Richards Bay. The Morris must have filled up at the back as at a re-fuelling stop Dad said “Come on! Hop in!” and I said, “But the boat isn’t hitched up” and he had to quickly hook up the trailer before we could go! I felt very important.I remember crossing an impressive high-arched bridge – probably this one across the Umhlatuze.

felixton-mill-nearbye-umhlatuze-bridge-3

pic: Hugh Bland kznpr.co.za

Sunnymede on the Wilge River, waterskiing behind Richard Scott’s boat.

Tabs’ Balmoral dam
His first little boat we fetched in Howick – On the way home a wheel came past us and we chuckled at “whoever it was”‘ misfortune. It was ours!

Battling to start the Johnson outboard in the Sarclet dam, we all took turns pulling the cord. EVENTUALLY it started, we all jumped aboard and promptly sank it!

Later Tabs got a bigger boat, ‘The Pheasant Plucker’ with a V6 inboard motor and a Hamilton jet – I embarrassingly beached it when the motor cut; Landed up high and dry next to the cars parked on the bank; There I met nursing sister miss sharp nipples.

Canoeing
The old weir on the Wilge river – shooting the old sandstone weir on tubes and our open red-and-blue canoe (didn’t realise then how dangerous that was!).
Pierre du Plessis and I paddled from town to Swiss Valley in our open red-and-blue canoe on my 15th birthday.

Swinburne to Harrismith down the Wilge River

– Once with Fluffy Crawley – very low level in our open red-and-blue canoe
– Once with Claudio Bellato – high level – both lost our spectacles – in an Accord K2 owned by the Voortrekkers, white fibreglass with green vinyl deck. We proceeded to wreck it in Island Rapid on Mrs and the Misses Jacobs’ farm. Had to pay for it. R50!

Charles Ryder arrives in Harrismith in a lime-green Volvo 122S. On his roofrack he had a  fibreglass Limfjorden 17’6″, glass cockpit, white vinyl deck, clear hull, wooden struts, crossbars and gunwales, brass handles.
I wrapped (‘wrecked’) it on the Wilge on the Jacobs’ farm Walton.
I then rebuilt it.
Trained for the ’72 Dusi on the mighty Wilge River. Then the boat disappeared! So I hitched to PMB to follow the Dusi. Later I found the boat submerged in the Kakspruit and reclaimed it.
One day I saw the late zoo warthog Justin floating feet-in-the-air downstream after the zoo closed down.

Before I knew the danger of creeks in flood, I took a short trip under the bridge on HS-Swinburne road N3, on the Swartspruit to test the Limfy (and me!) as it was running high – Mom took me in her car, trusting soul.

USA
1973 – Lake of the Woods near Quetico National Park, Ontario Canada in open ‘Canadian’ canoes. With Oklahomans Sherry Higgs, Dottie Moffett, Dale Moffett and Jonathan Kneebone from Aussie. The no-see-ems and mozzies drove us out after just one night!

Canoe Marathons
Dusi 1972 – My Limfy stolen in Harrismith, so no boat! Hitched to PMB with Jean Roux. Hitched a ride with someone’s second to 1st overnight stop at Dusi bridge; Hitched on to Diptank 2nd overnight stop; Slept in the open under the stars; On to Blue lagoon; Slept on the beach near Addington, then at Point Road police station (an eye- and ear-opener!).

Dusi 1976 – Drove down with Louis van Reenen in his blue VW Beetle. I had a white Limfy with a vinyl deck, he had a red all-glass Hai whitewater boat (small cockpit, rudderless) from Jerome Truran’s Dad in JHB! We tossed a coin and he won, so I seconded him driving his VW. We stayed in my orange puptent. It was a very high river – he swam and swam! But he finished, tough character that he was!

Dusi 1983 – at last I paddle the Dusi! White hulled Limfy with a red fibreglass deck. At the start I spied Louis, starting his second Dusi.

Umko 1983 – Hella Hella to Goodenough’s weir in my Limfy.

Berg 1983 in a Sabre – after (luckily!) training in ‘Toti with Chris Logan. Cold as hell! Freezing! Gail-force winds! Horizontal rain! Madness.

Fish 1983 (The second Fish) – In those days, the race was held on a much lower river (roughly half of the current level!) and it started with a very long first day (over 50km). The paddlers left the Grassridge Dam wall and paddled back around the island on the dam (the WORST part of the race for my hangover!!) before hitting the river, eventually finishing at the Baroda weir, 2,5 km below the current overnight stop. The paddlers all camped at Baroda overnight, before racing the shorter (33km) second stage into Cradock. “In those days the paddlers had to lift the fences, and the river mats (fences weighed down by reeds and flotsam and jetsam) took out quite a few paddlers”, said Stanford Slabbert (winner of the first Fish in 1982). “Getting under (or over) them was quite an art. I recall one double crew, the front paddler bent forward to get under the fence and flicked the fence hoping to get it over his partners head as well. It didn’t. The fence caught his hair and pulled him right out of the boat and they swam!”

Legends were already being born. Herve de Rauville stunned the spectators by pioneering a way to shoot Marlow weir. He managed to reverse his boat into the chute on the extreme left, and took the massive slide back into the river going forward, and made it!

The field doubled in 1983, as the word of this great race spread. 145 paddlers in 110 boats. It was won on debut by Joburg paddler Niels Verkerk, who recalls, “It was a very long first day, especially as the river was not as full as it is now (it was running at 17 cumecs in 1983). Less than half the guys shot Keiths flyover, which was not that bad as the hole at the bottom wasn’t that big. Very few people shot Cradock weir in those days. I won the race without shooting Cradock”, he added.

At a medium level, the lines at Soutpansdrift were also different. The weir above Soutpans was always a problem, as there was no chute, and even the pipes that created a slide down the weir face were not there yet. At the bottom of the rapid, the only line was extreme left, underneath the willow tree, and then a sharp turn at the bottom to avoid hitting the rocks, where the spectators gathered in numbers hoping to see you come short..

Crocodile 1984 (lowveld croc) marathon to Nelspruit.

Ocoee River in Tennessee 1984

Colorado river in Arizona 1984

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Other boats – I got a Sella – white deck, clear hull new from Rick Whitton at Kayak Centre.
Later I bought a second hand Jaguar (I think) at the KCC club auction.

Now have plastics – my old Quest, a Fluid Flirt, an Epic ? (bit bigger) and a Fluid Detox. Gathering dust.

Tripping
Wilge Swinburne – Harrismith
Wilge Harrismith to Swiss Valley (Near Nieuwejaarspruit confluence)
Vaal near Parys
Orange above Augrabies falls

In 1983 or 84 I bought a Perception Quest plastic from Greg Bennett at Paddlers Paradise – in the first batch he imported – for R525.
Tugela – Colenso to Tugela Ferry;
Tugela – Ngubevu to Jamieson’s – with Doug Retief, Dave Walker, Bernie Garcin

Umko – Mpendle – Lundys Hill
Umko – Lundys Hill – Deepdale
Umko – Deepdale – Hella Hella
Umko – Hella Hella – No. 8

Umzimkulu Hatchery to Coleford bridge

Lake St Lucia – Dukandlovu – Robbie Stewart, Bernie Garcin, and –?

USA – rented a Quest-like plastic
Ocoee river in Tennessee
Colorado river in Arizona (480km through the Grand Canyon). Got wonderful wooden paddle made in Canada: Hollow oval shaft at right angles, laminated blade kevlar-clad and teflon-tipped. Left feather, of course. Beaut! Still got one, gave Greg Bennett the other.

Vaal near Parys

Orange above Augrabies with Aitch (with some local outfitter).
Trip: We paddled in the Umfula’s store area for the last time before the Inanda dam flooded the Umgeni valley. I borrowed extra boats for friends, but we ended up walking it was so low!

Botswana – in borrowed plastic expedition sit-in kayaks
Thamalekane river – outside Maun, Botswana
Nhabe river in flood – we paddled the last 5 to 8 km into Lake Ngami and then back upstream to our vehicle.

Pow Wow

I was warmly welcomed by the friendly Native American folk in Apache. I really enjoyed them and I think they enjoyed me. They invited me as their guest to a Pow Wow one night.

Here’s a teepee in the Apache showgrounds.

Apache showgrounds

At school the American Indian society presented me with gifts. Debbie Pahdapony Grey does the honours:

The Apache Indian Society presented me with a special hand-made shirt

Oklahoma was Indian Territory before we whites stole it all back, and there’s quite a bit of Indian history about. Read something about it here: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/the-shocking-savagery-of-americas-early-history-22739301/

For more, read Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn, who has revealed the very ugly, savage treatment of the indigenous Americans in his book The Barbarous Years.

European and U.S. settler colonial projects unleashed massively destructive forces on Native peoples and communities. These include violence resulting directly from settler expansion, intertribal violence (frequently aggravated by colonial intrusions), enslavement, disease, alcohol, loss of land and resources, forced removals, and assaults on tribal religion, culture, and language.  http://americanhistory.oxfordre.com

Here Melvin Mithlo readies Joe Pedrano for an event.

Melvin Mithlo dresses Joe Pedrano

apache-powwow-4

Museum stuff at Fort Sill north of Lawton, south of Apache. Apache chief Geronimo died here, 23 years after being taken captive. His Apaches were the last tribe to be defeated.

Robert L Crews IV at the Apache museum in Lawton (Ft Sill?)

apache-powwow-5

Brief History

Earliest Period – 1830
The tribes usually described as indigenous to Oklahoma at the time of European contact include the Wichitas, Caddos, Plains Apaches* (currently the Apache Tribe), and the Quapaws. Following European arrival in America and consequent cultural changes, Osages, Pawnees, Kiowas and Comanches migrated into Oklahoma, displacing most of the earlier peoples. Anglo-American pressures in the Trans Apalachian West forced native peoples across the Mississippi River; many including Delawares, Shawnees and Kickapoos-found refuge or economic opportunities in present Oklahoma before 1830. However, some of those tribes split in the process.

*Naisha-traditional reference to the Plains Apache

1830 – 1862
The Indian Removal Act of 1830 culminated federal policy aimed at forcing all Eastern Indians west of the Mississippi River. The Choctaws, Cherokees, Creeks, Chickasaws and Seminoles–the “Five Civilized Tribes”– purchased present Oklahoma in fee simple from the federal government, while other immigrant tribes were resettled on reservations in the unorganized territories of Kansas and Nebraska. Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854 precipitated further Anglo-American settlement of these territories, setting off a second wave of removals into present Oklahoma, which became known as “Indian Territory.” In 1859, with the state of Texas threatening genocide toward Indians, several tribes found refuge in the Leased District in western Indian Territory.

1865 – 1892
The Civil War (1861-1865) temporarily curtailed frontier settlement and removals, but postwar railroad building across the Great Plains renewed Anglo-American homesteading of Kansas and Nebraska. To protect the newcomers and provide safe passage to the developing West, the federal government in 1867 once again removed the Eastern immigrant Indians form Kansas and Nebraska reservations and relocated them on Indian Territory lands recently ceded by the Five Civilized Tribes. The same year, the Medicine Lodge Council attempted to gather the Plains tribes onto western Indian Territory reservations. Resistance among some resulted in periodic warfare until 1874. Meanwhile, the last of the Kansas and Nebraska tribes were resettled peacefully in present Oklahoma. Geronimo’s Apache followers, the last to be defeated, were established near Ft. Sill as prisoners of war.

I saw Joan Rivers live . .

. . . in Las Vegas in 1973 ! Whoa! Can that be true? Joan Rivers Zapiro

She was 40yrs old already – and she was delightfully rude. She and Petula Clark were double-billed at Caesar’s Palace:

joan & pet 1973

Hollywood Reporter – August 1, 1973 – Bravo Sid Gathrid of Caesar’s Palace for giving the summer crowds one of the freshest, brightest and most entertaining bookings of the year in the lady stars Petula Clark and Joan Rivers. Destroying the old hand-me-down Strip myth that two females are artistically incompatible and or have ineffectual drawing power, Pet and Joan’s opening string of standingroom-only crowds found the duo irresistible. There’s a delightful mix-up of interplay of the stars’ talents; Petula does comedy bits and Joan sings! The “raid” on the other’s forte only adds to the evening’s abundance of style, polish and charm.

Songs Performed:

Color My World / You Are the Sunshine of My Life / Don’t Sleep in the Subway / Beatles medley: Something / Penny Lane / All You Need is Love / You and I (from Goodbye Mr. Chips) / I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love / Your Cheatin’ Heart / You’ve Got a Friend / I Don’t Know How to Love Him (from Jesus Christ Superstar) / What the World Needs Now / Downtown —————————————-    ——————————

I went with wonderful Oklahomans Jim & Katie Patterson (magnificent host family) of Apache Oklahoma and very special lady Dottie Moffett of Ardmore Oklahoma (who had been a Rotary exchange student to Cape Town the year before).

RedRiver NewMexico 1973 Jim Katie RedRiver NewMexico 1973 Dottie

Fresh in the USA

Fresh from the City of Sin and Laughter, OFS, where I’d spent my first seventeen years, I arrived in New York with great expectations.

I was READY – more than ready! – to see the big wide world. After landing we – the gang of South African Rotary Exchange students -were bussed to a hotel in Queens. Someone (a Rotarian, I guess?) checked us in and then left us to go to bed for the night. Early the next morning we’d be boarding different planes to the various states we’d been assigned to.

Go to bed?! Fuhgeddaboudit!

But most did! I was horrified. “Excuse me, no WAY I’m going to bed”. Only one other guy (was he Gary or was he heading to Gary, Indiana?) joined me and we went to the night porter. “Right! Where can we go for a night on the town, sir? We want to go for a walk, which way shall we head?”
Oh, I wouldn’t advise you did that, he drawled, I’ll get the hotel bus to take you someplace.

So off we went, noses plastered against the windows, fascinated. Our personal chauffeur dropped us off at a brightly-lit truck stop and asked when we wanted to be fetched. “Three Ay Emm” we said, pushing our luck. Check, he said without blinking. So we sat and watched a New York night go by drinking beer and eating burgers n fries till he fetched us as arranged.

After three hours sleep, we were taken back to JFK where we split up. Some of us boarded a HUGE helicopter for the hop over to La Guardia airport from where I would be going on to Oklahoma, OFS – uh, USA.

Image

Playing in the Snow

Jessie called out tonight: “Dad why are these people playing in the snow?”
Playing what, Jess?
“I dunno, running around in the snow”. So I go and look: Rugby. London Wasps playing Northhampton Saints. The pinkish poms don’t seem to notice there’s a blizzard swirling around their short-pants knees, but I see there’s a Wentzel playing and he’s probably feeling it.

Which reminds me:
1973, on my way back from the States, I fly to New York on a Monday in December and ask for a flight to Johannesburg via London.
‘Sorry you can’t. Your ticket is non-transferable, and the next SAA flight is via Rio on Friday’. The old man had paid for my ticket on his shiny new Barclaycard and had put it over 12 months, so one last payment was still outstanding.
Ooh shit, four days in NY with no money. Well, about $25. I got $25 a month ‘allowance’ in Apache from the Rotary club. Seventeen South African Diederiks Ront it was back then. And sixty cents. (R1 = $1.42)

I put my suitcase in a locker, put a quarter in the slot and take the key. Hop on a bus to Grand Central Station ($2) in Manhattan to look for the SAA offices. ‘Sorry, can’t help’. Hey asseblief man! ‘OK, we’ll try’.
Back to JFK airport and sleep on the floor (damn benches spitefully have armrests for each seat so you can’t lie down on them). Fitful sleep broken by a huge sit-on vacuum and polish machine that roars up to me at 3am. ‘Move along there’, says the cleaner.

Tuesday I do the same locker-bus-SAA office run, but now I’m rather peckish so I stroll around Manhattan looking for something cheap to eat. I find a burger for $3. Not cheap in ’73, but includes as much beer as you can drink, so I think OK. Big glasses, though, so I could only drink two. Wander the Manhattan streets with a nice beer buzz going.

Wednesday I do the same locker-bus-SAA-hamburger-with-beers run but this time when I go into SAA at the end of the day they tell me Good News, you’re free to go! To celebrate I book into the YMCA without my suitcase so I can have a shower. $11 for the smallest room I have ever slept in.

Thursday I’m squeaky clean on the bus back to JFK and I take the first plane to London: Air India. I grab a discarded newspaper lying on a bench as I board. Settling into my seat I read:  – “Air India has just been voted ‘Worst Airline in the World’. Again”.

A much older lass I meet on the plane (she was probably only thirty) feels sorry for me so buys me a cold pork pie on the way out of Heathrow. I’m on my way to meet an acquaintance Don who once lived in Harrismith and is now in London for a year, so he knows the place. Turns out he has a rugby match (playing for some Saffer team against the London Irish) so we scurry around Buck House circle and somewhere else where someone lived or died or married someone, and head off to (I think) Wimbledon for the game in his little Austin something – with five rugby okes squeezed into it. At the ground the players huddle in a cold shed to change and notice they’re a couple of boerkies short can I play? Sure, I say, but only half the first half, then I have to catch a tube to Heathrow. Thank goodness (it’s sleeting outside) Don says rather don’t risk missing your flight. So they run out onto the mud with one blade of grass every ten yards without me and start puffing out steam and shoving some fat Irish blokes around. Between scrums Don shouts out which tubes and busses I should catch and I leave before the halftime whistle to head South after a year in foreign climes. I’m very much looking forward to getting home now.

Once in the air the SAA koffie poppie gives me lip when I order a third beer so I’m feeling at home while still thousands of kays away.

So what I wanted to say is I haven’t played rugby in the snow. The u/11B’s played first thing in the morning in Harrismith, so I have played on frosty white fields, kaalvoet – but not in an actual blizzard.

Let’s Save us some Souls!

The new preacherman at the Christian Church of Apache Oklahoma, looked me up after he’d been in town a while and invited me over to his place. Turns out he was interested in becoming a mission-nary to Africa and wanted to meet one of the real-deal Africans he’d heard and read so much about. Maybe suss out just how much we needed saving?
A HUGE man, six feet and nine inches tall, Ron Elrick wore a string tie, a 10 gallon stetson and cowboy boots, making him damn near eight feet tall fully dressed as he stooped through doors and bent down to shake people’s hands. I met his tiny little wife who was seemingly half his height, and two lil daughters. He was an ex-Canadian Mountie and a picture on his mantelpiece showed him towering over John Wayne, when Wayne was in Canada to film a movie.

Soon he invited me to join him on a men’s retreat to “God’s Forty Acres” in NE Oklahoma (the yanks are way ahead of Angus Buchan in this “get away from the wife and come back and tell her you’re the boss” shit. I mean, this was 1973!). I had made it known from my arrival in Apache that I would join anybody and go anywhere to see the state (and get out of school – I mean I’d already DONE matric!).

So we hopped into his church-owned ’53 Buick Roadmaster station wagon (muddy brown with ‘wood’ panelling down the sides) and roared off from Caddo county heading north-east, bypassing Oklahoma City and Tulsa to somewhere near Broken Arrow or Cherokee county  – near the Arkansas border, anyway. Me n Ron driving like Thelma and Louise.

Apache Woody Wagon A bit like this

Non-stop monologue on the way. He didn’t need any answers, I just had to nod him yes and he could talk non-stop for hours on end. At the retreat there were hundreds of men & boys just like him, all fired up for the Lawd, bellowing the Retreat Song at the drop of a hat:
“In Gahd’s Fordy Yacres . . !!”We musta sang it 400 times in that weekend. If I was God I’d have done some smiting.

We left at last and headed back, wafting along like on a mattress in that long slap wagon, when Ron suddenly needed an answer:
Had I ever seen a porno movie? WHAT? I hadn’t? Amazing! Well, jeez, I mean goodness, he felt it as sort of like a DUTY to enlighten me and reveal to me just how evil and degraded these movies could be.
So we detoured into Tulsa. Maybe he regarded it as practice for the mission-nary work he was wanting to do among us Africans? We sat through a skin flick in a seedy movie house. It was the most skin ‘n hair ‘n pelvis ‘n organs this 18yr old boykie from the Vrystaat had seen to date so it was, after all, educational. Thin plot, though.

I spose you could say I got saved and damned all on one weekend.

footnote:

Ron did get to Africa as a mission-nary. He was posted to Jo-hannesburg. Lotsa ‘sinners’ in Jo-hannesburg, I suppose. I’m just not sure they need ‘saving’ by a Canadian Mountie.

Definitely No Driving

camaro like this

Rotary had a few strict rules for exchange students. I can remember one: Definitely No Driving. So I didn’t. Except when really drunk.

Off we went one night into the sticks for beer and loud music. Then we needed more beer and I shouted “I’ll Drive!”

Amazingly (also a beer effect?) Jay said OK and off we went with a foreigner driving on the wrong (left) side of the car and the wrong (right) side of the road. Driving perfectly and safely until we got to a right turn on the country dirt road (most bends around Apache are right-angle bends – roads run north-south or east-west).

And then the wheels came off. Quite literally. Jay’s prize 15-inch back slicks on his beautiful hot dark green ’69 Camaro popped off the rims as I blacked out momentarily and gunned too fast around the bend, off the left-hand side into a ditch.

Jay crapped all over me but let me off amazingly lightly. Poor (guilty) foreigner got away with it.

Yikes! Lucky! *embarrassed*

camaro_2 more like this