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

 

Advertisements
Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia, sport

Hector Fyvie’s ‘English Team’

West Indies cricket. Wow!

They would play England and thrash them at their own game. We would listen to the games, ears glued to the steam-powered radio.

Representing England you had names like Hicks, Lamb, Greig and Smith who sound OK, except they were all born in South Africa. Then you had Tavare, de Freitas, Ramprakash, D’Oliviera and Hussain. All Englishmen.

In the other team you had posh and correct names like Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Wesley Hall, Charlie Griffith, Sir Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Malcolm Marshal, Courtney Walsh, Sir Curtly Ambrose and Ian Bishop.

So Uncle Hec – always quick to spot an anomaly – would refer to them as . . .

“The English Team”.

Hecs Windies Cricket Team

Family, Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Annie Watson Bain

By the time we knew her she was Annie Bland. Never ‘granny’. Only Annie.

In fact ‘Annie Watson Bain’ to me was the lady who died (WW1?) whose name was on one of the monuments outside the Town Hall (a cousin of our Annie?).

They’d already lost the farms and the racehorses, and our gran Annie now owned the Caltex filling station in town. It was on Caskie Corner, opposite our posh Town Hall which Annie’s father Stewart Bain had been instrumental in building. It was called Bain’s Folly as it was such an imposing structure for our modest dorp.

HS Town Hall

Harrismith Town Hall Bain's Folly

Town Hall3

Annie always spoke with great admiration of her late husband Frank – the granpa we never knew – and told me proudly how she’d never seen his fingernails dirty (as she looked disapprovingly – probably more disappointedly, she never had a harsh word for me –  at mine). She called me Koosie (and the way she pronounced it, it rhymed with ‘wussie’ but don’t say that out loud).

Annie

And the car she drove was like this one, except faded beige:

Chev Fleetline 1948

I think a 1948 Chevrolet Fleetline.It had a cushion on the seat for her to see over the dash.

She was born in 1893, the fifth of seven Bain kids of the ‘Royal Bains’ – meaning the Royal Hotel Bains. There were also ‘Central Bains’.

She went to school at St Andrews in Harrismith:

StAndrews School_Boarding House

and St Anne’s in PMB where she played good hockey ‘if she would learn to keep her place on the field’. She’s the little one on a chair second from left:

Annie St Annes

Looks like St Anne’s in Pietermartizburg was a riot of fun and a laugh-a-minute.

HS Caltex

She ran the Caltex and rented out the Flamingo Cafe and Platberg Bottle Store premises. At that time she lived in the Central Hotel a short block away across the Deborah Retief Gardens and I do believe she drove to work every day. Maybe drove back for lunch even?

Sundays were special with Annie as your gran. She’d roll up at our house in the big beige Chev, we’d pile in and off we’d go on a drive. The back seat was like a large lounge sofa. Sometimes she’d drive to nowhere, sometimes to the park, sometimes cruising the suburbs. OK, the one suburb. I’m sure she told us the whole history of Harrismith and who lived where and who was who. All of which we ignored, so I can’t tell you nothing!

Later she got a green Opel and for some reason (she could no longer drive?) it was parked on our lawn. I sat in it and changed gears on its column shift about seventy thousand times. Probably why I (like all males) am such a good driver today. Like this but green and white:

Annie's Opel Rekord

The pic of the Town Hall with the green Chev is thanks to De Oude Huize Yard – do go and see their blog. They’re doing great things in the old dorp, keeping us from destroying everything old and replacing it with corrugated iron and plastic (excuse little rant there!).

Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Feel The Burn

Sheila sent me an old picture of the du Plessis’ beautiful pool in Harrismith. Joan and Jannie built a big one as they had three amazing swimmers in their stable. As far as I know, Lynn, Pierre and Sonja all represented Vrystaat and South Africa (or at least went to ‘Top Ten’ where the ten fastest swimmers in the country all get into one pool and then see who can get out first on the far side in the big final national gala).

Here’s Gary Beaton’s butt, Pierre’s leg and a du Plessis poodle with Platberg in the background. Plus the big wooden fence shielding the pool from Arthur Kennedy’s famous triangular wood and glass house next door.

Gary Pierre poodle Hector St

Which reminded me:

We painted that fence with creosote. Child labour unpaid by Jannie. Pierre, Tuffy and me, topless in our swimming cozzies. It was great fun. When one of us (must have been Pierre, he was usually our chief instigator) ‘mistakenly’ painted another on his bare skin, it was hilarious. Retaliation followed. More hilarity.

And then it started to burn. Really, really burn. Creosote on your skin is unfunny. We ended up in the pool scratching and rubbing and wiser. We’d learnt a chemistry lesson.

Fifty years later they invented the internet and now I know this:

Coal tar creosote is a mixture of hundreds of chemicals in a thick and oily liquid. People need to be trained and certified to use creosote. Creosote is also a pesticide. A pesticide is a substance that kills pests.

So Pierre was in real danger there.

 

 

Free state, Vrystaat, Nostalgia

Jock Grant

Jock Grant was a Harrismith legend. “A legend in his own lunchtime” as they say.

Fresh out of Scotland he joined the golf club and announced to the usual crowd leaning up against the bar in his broad accent that he was taking Afrikaans lessons.

“Jock”, said Jannie du Plessis, “We think you should first take English lessons!”

He started a plumbing business, married lovely local lass Brenda Longbottom and ended up owning the quarry, becoming famous for his loud booms which would rattle the windows of the town at noon, as he dynamited rock on 80th hill on the western edge of town.

Then he owned Swinburne. Well, the Montrose Motel, anyway. Not much left now:

Montrose Motel2

The entrance was around the corner on the left and as you walked in there was a pianola in the hallway.

———

Ian Fyvie has a story about when Jock went over to visit his family in Scotland. On his return they were playing golf and Ian asked him if he had enjoyed the visit. Jock’s reply was very non-committal and unenthusiastic. Ian said “But you must have enjoyed some part of the trip! What was the highlight of the whole holiday?”

“When I came over 42nd and saw the lights of Harrismith!”

—————————————————————

Nick Leslie tells of going for a walk in the veld with Jock and Brenda. Climbing through a barbed wire fence Brenda got her slacks caught. Jock said “Well your name’s not Longbottom for nothing!”

————————————————————–

Dad tells of Jock’s big talk which was most unlike most of their Harrismith friends’ more modest approach. Jock could swagger. He arrived at a party (always there were parties!) smoking his big cigars and between puffs boasted “He wanted *puff* six million *puff* but I said I’ll offer you five million and not a penny more *puff*”. When he left that night Hector Fyvie said in his quiet way “There goes Jock Maximilian”.

————————————

Jock brought his nephew Morris Crombie out from Scotland to join him in his plumbing business. Morris was invited to join Round Table and at his first meeting stood up to announce himself. In his broad Scots accent the lanky Scotsman intoned: “I’m Mawriss Crawmbie – Ploomer” and probably didn’t understand why the whole room collapsed with laughter.

———————

Mom was dancing with Jock at yet another party on Swiss Valley, the Venning’s farm. “Och, its smoky in here, I’m going oot fir a breath a fresh air” said Jock. Mom thought that was rich as he’d been smoking his cigars like a chimney, causing the haze indoors. He was soon back, muttering “I toook one deep breath ootside and I came running back in!” (He was referring, of course, to the famously strong smell of pigshit from the piggery).

Whenever any new guests on the farm referred to the smell the Venning they mentioned it to would look mystified, sniff around cautiously and then pronounce seriously “I smell money”.

——————————–

Canoe & Kayak, Nostalgia, sport, travel, USA

Hance in the Grand Canyon

Hance Rapid3

Hance Rapid at Mile 76.5 stands sentinel at the Colorado river’s entry into the Granite Gorge. The river drops 30 feet as it passes through a natural constriction formed by the Red Canyon. The dark dike cutting through the red Hakatai Shale is one of the most photographed features in the Canyon.

I found out more about the man the rapid was named after:

John Hance (1840 – January 8, 1919) is thought to be the first non-native resident of the Grand Canyon.

John Hance_cr

He opened the first tourist trail in the canyon before the canyon was a national park, giving tours of the canyon after his ca.1866 attempts at mining asbestos failed. “Captain” John Hance was said to be one of the Grand Canyon’s most colorful characters, and one early visitor declared that “To see the canyon only and not to see Captain John Hance, is to miss half the show.”

Hance delighted in telling canyon stories to visitors, favoring the whopper of a tale over mere facts. With a straight face, Hance told travelers how he had dug the canyon himself, piling the excavated earth down near Flagstaff (thus ‘explaining’ those mysterious then-unexplained dirt piles).

Flagstaff SanFranciscoPeaks

John Hance died in 1919, the year the Grand Canyon became a National Park, and was the first person buried in what would become the Grand Canyon Pioneer Cemetery.

(from wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and archive.org)

——————————————————————————————-

In May 1891 one Charley Greenlaw wrote this in John Hance’s guestbook:

I can cheerfully say that this, the Grand Canon of the Colorado River, is the grandest sight of my life. As I noticed in this little book of Capt. John Hance, a great many people say indescribable. I can say nothing more. It is beyond reason to think of describing it in any way. You must see it to appreciate it. A grand sight of this kind and so few people know of it. By accident I formed the acquaintance of two ladies en route to the Grand Canon. I joined them. We have enjoyed our trip; the stage ride from Flagstaff to the Grand Canon is grand. Good horses, competent and accommodating drivers. I have seen the Yosemite, have visited California several different times, in fact seen all the principal points of interest in the United States, but the most wonderful, awe-inspiring piece of Nature’s own work is this, the Grand Canon of the Colorado River.

—————————————————————————————–

Another entry by J. Curtis Wasson told of the twelve hour stage coach journey after alighting from the Santa Fe Railroad Company’s train:

From Flagstaff at 7 o’clock a.m. our stage and six goes out.

Arriving at Little Springs Station, where a new relay of six horses is added, we make haste until the half-way station is reached, passing through a fine unbroken forest of Pinus ponderosa, quaking aspen, balsam fir, and spruce. The open forest, the waving grasses, the gorgeously colored mountain flowers, the occasional chirp of the forest songsters, the ice-cold springs traversing our smooth compact road, the peaks, clear-cut and massive, towering up nearly 14,000 feet into the blue above, the low rumbling of our great Concord stage, the sound of two dozen hoofs, the sharp crack of the driver’s whip, the clear, bracing atmosphere, every breath of which seems to stimulate, the indescribably beautiful Painted Desert outstretching for a hundred miles to our right.

stagecoach2

One fain would linger on scenes like these but we have arrived at Cedar Station, and after partaking of a very refreshing luncheon we are given a new relay of horses and hasten over the desert portion of our ride to Moqui Station, where another relay is provided, which takes us to the hotel at the rim of the Grand canon, where we arrive at 7 o’clock p.m.

Leaving our Concord stage, giving our grips to the porter, not even waiting for “facial ablutions”, we hasten across the yard and up to the rim of the canon, when, looking over — the Chasm of the Creator, the Gulf of God, the Erosion of the Ages, that Erosive Entity, that Awful Abyss, lies in all its awfulness before us, — awful, yet grand; appalling, yet attractive; awe inspiring, yet fascinating in its greetings.

Grand Canyon South Rim

Panoramic view of Hance Rapid:

Hance Rapid

coach pic from wildwesthistory.blogspot.com

 

Canoe & Kayak, Nostalgia, sport

A Fine Spectacle

This story will be fuzzy in parts because of the long passage of time. But although some details may be slightly different, ‘strue. So I must tell the tale before those last few grey cells that hold the memory get blitzed by the box wine.

It was on the Berg River Canoe Marathon that Christof Heyns came to tell me was pulling out of the race. Why!? I said, dismayed. He’d fallen out in the frigid flooded Berg river and lost his glasses. Couldn’t see past his nose, so it was way too dangerous to carry on in the mid-winter Cape cold and the flooding brown water.

Hell, no, I said, I’ve got a spare pair, you can use mine.

He rolled his eyes and smiled sadly at my ignorance. His eyes were very special, his glasses were very thick and there was no way just any arb specs would do, he mansplained patiently. In his defence, he didn’t know I was an optometrist, that I was wearing contact lenses, that I had a spare pair of specs in my luggage and one tied to the rudder cable in my boat, or that I had a very good idea of what his prescription was from seeing his glasses on his nose both on this race and on a Tugela trip we had been on together. I knew about his eyes better than he knew about my soul (he might have known a bit about that as his Dad was a very belangrike dominee in the Much Deformed Church – top dog, in fact).

So I said, trust me swaer and went and fetched my spares. He put them on and was amazed. I can see! he shouted like I was Jesus who had just restored his sight. I know, I said.

specs

So he wore the glasses and finished the race and I said keep them till we next meet.

Many months later I saw an article in the SA Canews, the paddling magazine, titled: “My Broer se Bril”. Christof wrote the story of how he had lost hope when some arb oke said “Here, try mine” and he could see! And he could finish the race. He ended off by saying “Actually they were so good I’m wearing them to this day”. Ja, you bugger, I know, I said. I could have written an article “How a dominee’s son appropriated my bril”, but I didn’t. I’m way too kind! (In his defence, we haven’t seen each other since that race).


belangrike dominee – important churchman

swaer – bro

my broer se bril – my brother’s spectacles

mansplain – when a man laboriously explains something you already know (usually inflicted on women)