Tom’s One Stop

On the way back from Afriski one year (I think 2012) we drove through Harrismith instead of our usual route down Oliviershoek Pass. Stopping to refuel at the Engen Tom and his mate (Josh, I think) said “Dad. we’re really thirsty, can we have a cooldrink?” Sure, I said and gave the the only cash I had: A R200 note.

When they returned they hopped in and off we went. Later I remembered and asked Where’s my change, m’boy?

“Um, there’s no change Dad”. No change!? “No, in fact, we had to pay in”. Let me see the slip, I asked.

Here’s their “cooldrink”:

Dad, can we stop for a cooldrink, please, we're thirsty!

At least they willingly shared their loot with Jess and me!

Dad’s War Medals

Spotted these visiting the folks this week. I’ve seen them over the years when Dad would wear them to special MOTH* do’s, but have never really paid much attention. This time I photographed them and asked about them. He told me:

Left Star – 1939 – 1945 war; Second Star with red white and green ribbon – Italian Campaign if you fought in Italy;
The Lion – Africa Campaign if you fought in Africa; Africa map – Africa Service Medal – general SA medal for all in uniform.

Epaulette: 8th Army with red tab (which indicated South African overseas – distinguished them from the ‘home guard’); Camel – Sudanese camel corps; Palm – Another Sudanese outfit; Horse – Some English bunch (‘a southern county’ he said, Dorset? Mom guessed); Mercury – SA Signal Corps (Dad’s unit).

Dad War Medals

*The Memorable Order of Tin Hats (M.O.T.H.) was founded in 1927 by Charles Evenden as a brotherhood of South Africa former front-line soldiers. The idea is to help fellow comrades in need, either financially or physically; and to remember all servicemen who have answered the Sunset Call, both in war and peace time.

 

Lepidopterism

From: pete swanepoel home

Sent: Thursday, August 21, 2014 7:03 PM

Subject: Lepidopterists lead exciting lives!

This from my LepSoc newsletter:

Hi everyone

We will be doing a day trip to Tswaing crater, just north of Pretoria, on the 24th September, where special butterflies such as Brown-lined Sapphires, Saffron Sapphires, Hutchinson’s Highfliers, etc. can be seen.

**************************
Us lepidopterists see not only these but others such as Skollies, Nightfighters, Pirates, Policemen and Admirals. Playboys and Pansies are also sought-after! One can go prancing after them wearing a pith helmet and waving a net! What’s not to love?

There’s even one called swanepoelii and one called brauerii

Lepidopterists lead exciting lives!
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Soutar wrote:

Keep your net stockings on.

We off to Karkloof today. Will try to bring back a dead Karkloof Blue.

That and a Pink Elephant.


Pete wrote:

¶¶ . . and a Stuffed Delegorgue’s Pigeon, a Dead Parrot (rare Cape) and . .

¶¶ Planks from a Yellowwood Tree . . ¶¶

Hey! We could write a song like that . . .
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steve reed wrote:

When we lived in Clarens, we had an annual visitation by what must have been the self same Swanepoel. Khaki clad solitary figure, fleet-footing round the village with his net like something out of Peter Pan. Regarded by the locals with great interest ( and a good level of suspicion ) …

.

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

Real-Life Lepidoptometrist

Hilton Pike is a nimble fella who darts around lithely with a butterfly net, holding it rather like Obelix doesn’t hold his menhirs. A talented lad, young Hilton, he built fancy speakers for hifis, refurbished phoropters and mounted butterflies on polystyrene in glass cabinets. Lovely chap, I miss him. Where is he?

‘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

 

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!!? Must ask Mom! We had done this – https://vrystaatconfessions.wordpress.com/2014/05/04/getting-around-in-the-70s/ – around then, so maybe she wasn’t keen on another jaunt?

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. He would have been “a student at varsity” – a state of being I couldn’t WAIT for!

20141130_081257.jpg

Nope – Dad says he bought the desk at Cannon & Findlay Auctioneers in PMB long after 1971. I have no idea how the 1971 letter could have got lodged in the back of the desk behind the drawers. SO glad I found it though!

Famous Jock & My Jock

I’m reading Jock of the Bushveld again. No, I don’t know for the how-manieth time.

jock-bushveld

Always gets me thinking of my Jock in high school:

Jock with the Swanie/Bellato Vulgar River Expedition Voortrekkers' canoe
Jock with the Swanie/Bellato Vulgar River Expedition Voortrekkers’ canoe

and then TC was a mini-Jock many years later:

scan0127.jpg

 

Senior Citizens

Just returned from a gathering in Harrismith where my sole function was to bring the average age of the attendants down to a respectable level.

Pierre’s joint 60th (along with Jill Venning and Mark Raz Russel who has run a general trading store – and the golf club – in Harrismith for the last 30yrs or so). At their age a “joint” gathering also describes one of the main topics of discussion among the creaking decrepit.
60’s themed, most of the inmates came predictably dressed as hippies. I went as a hippie who admired Elvis’ dress style post-cheeseburgers. I was Sure to Wear some Flowers in my Hair (OK, wig). Some wore safari suits with a comb in vey sock. One wore an old English-type boys school uniform (blazer, cap, short pants and polished shoes), most wore wigs – and most of the males needed them. Oh, and John Venning very predictably – but later than usual – got round to dropping his trousers.
Fine mates from way back!! With Tuffy Joe Joubert and Pierre duP du Plessis
Fine mates from way back!! Posing with young Tuffy Joe Joubert and old Pierre duP du Plessis

Actually the evening was saved visually and average age-wise by a flock of kids and their friends, so I could relax and act second-childhood. There were two of Pierre’s blondes there (Michele & Natasha), Mark’s son & daughter and Jill’s two (three?) as well (I only know one daughter – Kirsty). Also dressed as hippies, but looking more like the pictures from back then (and, I’m sure, looking how we all imagined we looked – luckily no mirrors at the venue). Some aesthetically-delightful sixties-style minis on show.

An excellent one-man band played all the right stuff, so it was a good thing it was loud or it would have been ruined by everyone singing along. Myself I would have had half-hour gaps with no music so we could hear each others’ lies, but no, when the band-man was resting someone cranked on some good ole CD-ex-vinyl-LP or other. Probly the bloody youngsters.

Pierre gave a speech!! Well, he joined Jill & Raz in a well-rehearsed threesome form of poetry rending in which they painted themselves in a good light (and we listened politely).

Sheila rounded up a flock of ancient Methodists for a group shot, so three Swanepoels, three du Plessis, three Woods, and Tuffy Joubert posed for the Methylated Spirits Revival. Lulu tried to join in but we wouldn’t have it, her being blerrie NG Kerk an’ all. She protested that she had come to guild once, to no avail.

Funniest thing was the youngsters drilling us for tales of yore. We told them tales of what their Moms and Dads got up to when they were their age to gasps of outrage when they thought of how their folks had raised them all strictly and with rules and curfews. I had to tell Lettuce Leaf’s kids the old one about how all the trouble started in the Garden of Eden when Adam said to Eve “Ek het your leaf”.

I went home soon after 2.30am leaving quite a few senior citizens (and more young uns) still dancing. A few were slurring so that I couldn’t get what the hell they were saying but they seemed happy with my nods and smiles and “Quite right!“‘s and “Serious?“‘s. Of course some of those were nearer 70 than 60 which makes the hoesê?‘s quite frequent!

We stayed at Heritage House, Pierre & Erika’s beautifully restored old house-next-door which they run as a bed & breakfast, so post-party we gathered in the kitchen till after 3am. Later we gathered for a big breakfast at the Table of Knowledge in Heike’s restaurant on the slopes of 42-second Hill just below the quarry where Jock Grant would blast his dynamite, rattling the dorp’s windows.

Some of the Harrismith farmers are doing spectacularly well. Lodges in Tuli Block, Lodges near the Olifants river, big herds of disease-free Ramaposas, massive wild free-range earthworm farms, Lodges on their farms (see http://www.buffalohillspgr.co.za/ and http://www.lalanathi.co.za/). They’re also buying “townhouses” which are actually huge old sandstone houses in town which they revamp and extend for staying over if they’re a bit too aled to  drive home to their farms! You could call them Safe Houses.

And so some more upstanding citizens became senior citizens! That whistling noise you hear in your ears is not tinnitis.

It’s the sound of the plummeting reaching terminal velocity . . . . .