Friend Larry had a beautiful old Tudor-style home, almost 100yrs old. He had a fire in the basement which caused huge damage. He sold to renovators who said they’d restore it, not demolish. Larry was hoping that happened.
It did. It got beautifully restored, renovated and sold as a family home. Being on a busy road in Akron, Ohio, and having apartments and businesses as neighbours, it may have become offices, but the renovators stuck to their word! I do note they say the basement is ‘unfinished.’
Fully Updated ‘Highland Square’ 3162 square foot brick tudor home. Includes large family room with recessed lighting, built-in cupboards, fireplace, hardwood floors. Upgraded kitchen with new cabinets and center island, first floor laundry, 4 bedrooms with 4 full bathrooms. Dryer, Washer, Dishwasher, Waste Disposal, Microwave, Oven, Range, Refrigerator.
Reading Tramp Royal again! So here’s a re-post from 2016:
I lapped up the famous Trader Horn books ‘The Ivory Coast in the Earlies’ and ‘Harold the Webbed.’ I’m still looking for their third book ‘The Waters of Africa.’ ‘Their’ being his and the special and talented lady whose sudden insight made it happen when she befriended a tramp at her door in Parktown Johannesburg back in the mid-1920’s – Ethelreda Lewis.
If ever the philosophy of ‘Be Kind Always’ paid off, it was in this tale of a friendship that developed after the reflexive dismissal of a tramp at the door of a middle-class Parktown home was changed to a sudden, instinctive ‘Wait. Maybe I will buy something from you . . ‘ and – even better – ‘Would you like some tea . . ‘
After reading Trader Horn I was then even more enamoured of Tim Couzens’ book ‘Tramp Royal – The true story of Trader Horn’, as it validated the Trader Horn legend – Alfred Aloysius ‘Wish’ Smith was real and he had got around!!
Couzens died in October this year, tragically – he fell in his own home. I thought OH NO!! when I read it. He was a gem, almost a Trader Horn himself – what a waste! Too soon! He did the MOST amazing sleuth job of tracking down all Trader Horn’s jaunts n joints across the world and revealing that – despite the skepticism that had followed the incredible fame and Hollywood movie that had followed the success of Aloysius ‘Wish’ Smith – now famous as Trader Horn – ‘s first book in 1930. MOST of what the old tramp, scamp, rogue and adventurer had claimed to do he had, in fact, done! Tramp Royal is a wonderful vindication, and a moving, fascinating and captivating read.
One (small) reason I LOVED the trader Horn books, besides the original title:
Trader Horn; Being the Life and Works of Aloysius Horn, an “Old Visiter” … the works written by himself at the age of seventy-three and the life, with such of his philosophy as is the gift of age and experience, taken down and here edited by Ethelreda Lewis; With a foreword by John Galsworthy
(phew!) . . . . . was the number of places A. Aloysius Smith – ‘Trader Horn’ (or Zambesi Jack or Limpopo Jack or Uncle Pat – he had aliases!) had been to that I have also been to:
Joburg, his least favourite city in the world. He was in a doss house in Main Street in 1925, I was in Eloff Street in 1974. Parktown, where Ethelreda Lewis ‘discovered’ him. He would have died there, unknown and in penury, had it not been for her sudden decision to listen to him tell a story. ‘Wish’ came to love Joburg, as did I. In Parktown he was in Loch Street in 1926, I was in Hillside Road in 1977;
Hwange in Zimbabwe, or Wankie in Rhodesia as it was then; – BTW, pronounce Hwange ‘Wankie’;
Harrismith, where he went with Kitchener’s Cattle Thieves to steal Boer cattle and horses in the scorched earth tactics of the wicked looting Brits; He showed his humanity by describing the Boer women’s sadness, and states – I hope its true – that they always left ‘one milk cow behind for the kids; and we called it Pansy.’ And Harrismith is where I was born and raised;
The west coast of Madagascar where our yachting trip to the island of Nose Iranja took us quite close to his ‘Chesterfield Islands’;
The east coast of Africa, although he spoke of Zanzibar and we visited Mombasa – which he probably visited too, as he sailed up and down the coast;
Oklahoma, where like me he befriended and was befriended by, the local Native Americans – his mostly Pawnees and Osages, mine mostly Apaches, Kiowas and Cherokees;
Georgia, where he behaved abominably and which I used as a base to go kayaking in Tennessee. He drank in a doctor’s house and I drank in a dentist’s house;
The Devonshire Hotel in Braamfontein, where both of us got raucously pickled;
The Seaman’s Institute in Durban where he holiday’d happily for two pounds a month while waiting for his book to be published; His editor needed a break from him and sent him off by train on the 2nd April 1926 to avoid the Jo’burg winter. My only connection here is drinking in the nearby Smuggler’s Inn. If it was around back then, Wish Smith would have gone there!
Kent, where he died in 1931; I visited Paddock Wood on honeymoon in 1988.
Wish himself would be saying, ‘What, you haven’t been to Lancashire!?’
I would love to see his river – the Ogowe or Ogooue River in Gabon. Everything I’ve seen on youtube verifies Aloysius’ lyrical descriptions. Here’s an example (but turn the sound off);
I also loved the unexpected success of the first book. Written by an unknown tramp living in a doss house in Main Street Joburg, the publishers Jonathan Cape advanced fifty pounds which Mrs Lewis gratefully accepted. Other publishers had turned it down, after all. Then the Literary Guild in America – a kind of book club – offered five thousand dollars! They expected to print a few thousand, and also offered the rights to a new publisher called Simon & Schuster, who hesitated then went ahead, receiving advance orders for 637 copies.
Then it started selling! 1523 copies one week, then 759, then 1330 and then 4070 in the first week of July 1927. Then 1600 copies one morning! Then 6000 in a week. They now expected to sell 20 000 copies!
Up to November that year sales averaged 10 000 a month, thus doubling their best guess. They had already run ten reprints, the last reprint alone being 25 000 copies. 30 000 were sold in December alone up to Christmas day. The story grows from there – more sales, trips by the author to the UK and the USA, bookstore appearances, talk of a movie. The trip continued until he had gone right around the world, drinking, smoking and entertaining the crowds with his tales and his exaggerations and his willingness to go along with any hype and fanfare. At his first big public appearance at 3.30 pm on Wednesday 28th March he spoke to a packed house in the 1,500 seater New York City Town Hall off Times Square:
‘William McFee was to have made an introductory address but the old man walked on the stage (probably well fortified with strong liquor), acknowledged tremendous applause with a wave of his wide hat and a bow and commenced talking in a rambling informal style before McFee could say a word. He started by quoting advice given to new traders: “The Lord take care of you, an’ the Divil takes care of the last man.” He spoke of the skills of medicine men, rolled up his trouser leg above his knee to show the audience his scar, and threatened to take of his shirt in front of the whole Town Hall to show where a lion had carried him off and was shot only just in time. When the aged adventurer paused to take a rest in the middle of his lecture, McFee delivered his introduction.’
His fame grew and he reveled in it.
Then suddenly, people started thinking old ‘Wish’ Smith’s whole story was a yarn, nothing but the inventions of a feeble mind, and wrote him off as yet another con artist – there were so many of those! It was the age of ballyhoo and fooling the public with bearded ladies, confidence tricksters and hype. Some critics grew nasty, depicting Ethelreda – without whom none of this would even have happened, and without whose kindness and perseverance Aloysius would have died in obscurity, never seeing his family in England again – as abusing ‘Wish’ for her own gain. The truth really was that she – in effect – saved his life; she certainly returned him to his family; and she enabled the kind of rollicking final few years his dreams were made of! He had people to listen to him; he had money to throw around! What a better way to go than dying anonymously in a doss house in Main Street Joburg!
The hype died, cynicism (the bad kind, not healthy cynicism) set in and old ‘Wish’ Smith – Trader Horn – died in relative obscurity with his family in Kent. It may all have been a hoax . . .
So was he real, or was it all a hoax? To know more, read Tim Couzens’ book – it’s a gem!
Here’s a silent movie of the old rascal on a Joburg street corner soon after he’d been kitted out in new clothes when the first cheque for his book came in.
Here’s the back page from the movie program. The movie, of course, was Hollywood – WAY different to the true story! An interesting facet was for once they didn’t film it all in a Hollywood studio; they actually packed tons of equipment and vehicles and sailed to Kenya and then on to Uganda to film it ‘in loco’ – although on the wrong side of Africa to where it had happened!
It was a landmark film of sorts that chalked up several firsts. It was the first fictional feature-length adventure shot on location in Africa (but the wrong location! East Africa while Aloysius’ adventures were in West Africa!). It was the first sound-era ‘White Jungle Girl’ adventure – many more would follow. It’s an old movie, sure, it is of its time; to me as a Trader Horn fan, the worst thing about it is: it isn’t the true story! Nevertheless, some rate it as ‘surprisingly engaging and worth checking out’ now that it’s been reissued on DVD. (NB: See the badly-made 1931 movie, not the worse-ly-made 1973 remake).
Trader Horn wrote glowingly of a real lady he met on his river: an American missionary, Mrs Hasking. She died on the river, and Trader Horn took her body down river to be buried. I found out more about her here.
Here‘s a much better, two-post review of the Trader Horn phenomenon – and Tim Couzens’ book – by fellow ‘tramp philosopher’ Ian Cutler. Do read it!
On 27 October 2016 I wrote to Ian Cutler:
Sad sad news today: Tim Couzens the master tramp sleuth has
moved off to join his Tramp Royal in the afterlife.
At 72 he was about the same age as the old rogue at his death.
Regards, Peter Swanepoel
Sad news indeed Peter. Thanks for letting me know.Ian
The first part of our 1988 honeymoon was highly organised and efficient. We flew into Orlando Florida, were taken to a hotel and from there ferried to DisneyWorld while there, by bus or steamboat. Seamless. Aitch had organised it.
I was a bit ho hum, but guess what? Aitch was right to insist: these pics came in very handy ten years later when we adopted kids! They were briefly impressed.
Times’ up! We escape. What have you organised? asks Aitch. Um . . I’ll find a rental car. And, um, I’ll find a nature reserve. Where will we stay tonight? Um . .
Then let’s fly to Miami and go to the Everglades! I suggest, and we’re off. Our Delta Airlines pass is valid for sixty days.
On to Big Cypress
We drove back to Miami – next stop San Francisco . . .
Fresh out of that Hole in Wyoming we landed in Seattle and immediately headed for the hills. Or the sound. Puget Sound. I’m a bit allergic to cities, so we picked up a little rental car – would you believe a Toyota Tercel, with all-wheel drive and six forward gears . . what? I’ve said this before? OK, I did enjoy those cars.
We drove onto a ferry in Anacortes and disembarked on Orcas Island. We looked for a place to stay. I had something in mind – the thing I usually have in mind: cheap. And we found it, right on the other side of the island. Ah, this is good value, I thought. Aitch was fine with it. She liked the laid-back friendly approach they had. We were determined to avoid boring same-old places and anyway, she was always a great sport and tolerated me and my frugality. Hey, it was a lo-ong honeymoon. We had to stre-etch things. This was week four of our 1988 honeymoon.
Years later I read a Lonely Planet review: There are resorts, and then there’s Doe Bay, eighteen miles east of Eastsound on the island’s easternmost shore – as lovely a spot as any on Orcas. By far the least expensive resort in the San Juans, Doe Bay has the atmosphere of an artists’ commune cum hippie retreat cum New Age center. Accommodations include campsites, a small hostel with dormitory and private rooms, and various cabins and yurts, most with views of the water. There’s also a natural-foods store, a café, yoga classes ($10), an organic garden and special discounts for guests who arrive by bike. The sauna and clothing-optional hot tub are set apart on one side of a creek.
Ours was a cabin. We paid $10 for the night. Camping and the dormitory were cheaper, but hey, I’m no cheapskate. Our cabin was called Decatur and was luxuriously made of packing cases and a double layer of plastic sheeting in the windows. Cosy and warm. Seriously.
We’d seen a sign ‘Hot Tub’ on the way in, so we went looking. Walking down the path to where the bath house overlooked the Pacific, the sign said ‘suits optional’ and we realised that meant bathing suits, so we happily hopped in naked as we were the only people around.
Getting ready to leave, Aitch froze and I started laughing: voices, coming down the path! Aitch ducked back underwater, as we were joined by two couples who shucked their clothing and joined us. The view as they clambered down the steep metal stairs! You almost had to avert your eyes. We had a long chat, they were from Seattle and ‘South Africa? Optometrist? Did we know Rocky Kaplan?’ Well, actually I did know of him. ‘Well he has reduced my short-sightedness so much; I’m now only wearing a three eyeglasses!’ OK.
By the time they left up the steep metal stairs – the view! you almost had to avert your eyes – and Aitch could finally emerge from the steam, she was wrinkled like a prune.
Then it was back on the ferry, island-hopping our way back to the mainland. Next we were headed for Texas, the Gulf of Mexico! New birds and warmer climes. Except we wouldn’t get there . . .
We flew into Jackson Hole from San Francisco. Change in temperature. I was still in short pants – had to change pretty quick! This was week three of our honeymoon, so we were into the groove: Fly in, find a car, then look around for the best places to visit and find cheap lodgings near there. Aitch was better’n me at that. She’d actually look and weigh up options.
Soon I was warm. Toasty, in fact, as I was sitting – still in short pants – in a Toyota Tercel! A little all-wheel-drive station wagon with four doors and a barn door in back. The four wheel drive system included an unusual six-speed manual transmission with an extra-low gear. It could be moved from front- to four-wheel-drive without coming to a full stop; That was nifty. The 1500cc engine produced 71 HP and awesome torque – more than ample with that light body. I had a SIX speed gearbox on honeymoon in 1988! Formula 1 cars only had five at the time. Plaid seats, two gear levers, four pedals and an advanced 4WD monitoring / information system were standard. Trish asked me, ‘Who do you love more? Me, or this one-week rental car!?’
I cleared my throat . . um, YOU – in a Toyota Tercel!
Then we found the Antler Motel. I said I LIKE the look of this place. She said ‘You’re only looking at the price.’ How do they do that? Only married a couple weeks and already she can see right through me!
We found out we were too early for Yellowstone – the road was still blocked with a wall of snow and we were turned back well short of the park boundary. Still, the view was breath-taking. All the way on our left the Grand Teton mountains loomed, disappearing behind cloud and then fully revealed as the cloud cover cleared from time to time. All around was deeper snow than either of us had seen before and on our right were rivers with Trumpeter Swans. And a moose!
One evening we went to the elk winter refuge, and enjoyed a sleigh ride on which we saw a grouse in a tree. Grouse, swans and elk in the wild – things I’d read about all my life, and here they were! I was chuffed. Also, being married . .
Also, I had read Thunderhead as a ten year-old. About a horse in SE Wyoming. I loved that book and also My Friend Flicka (Thunderhead’s mother), which I read next. Those books’ descriptions were all I knew about Wyoming, but it was enough to want to get there. Plus the attraction of Yellowstone (which I could have checked if it was open before we flew in!).
Every stream I came to I’d get out and search. Then I saw it: A Dipper – at last! It flashed down onto a rock next to the current – and dived underwater! I’d spotted a dipper! I’d read about these little songbirds for years – and here was one doing what they do: hunt underwater!
What a honeymoon! A. You, my dear; B. The Dipper; C. The mountains; D. That Toyota Tercel.
That night in our cozy motel room my sternest critic suggested I was thickly settled:
Wait! Did I show you a pic of our Toyota Tercel? It was all-wheel . . what? oh ok
Next: On to Washington State . . . we have a ferry to catch.
Jesse W. Sharp, a 28 year old bachelor from Ocoee, Tennessee attempted to ride over the brink of the Horseshoe Falls in a 3.6m long plastic kayak on June 5, 1990.
Sharp, unemployed at the time, was an experienced white water kayaker. Three people who accompanied Sharp to Niagara Falls to video-tape his trip told police that Mr. Sharp had been planning the trip for years. They also told police that Sharp was attempting to go over the Falls in the kayak to advance his career in stunting.
Sharp’s idea was to gain enough speed in his kayak to project himself over the falls and the pummeling water that would surely claim his life. He would then traverse the rapids below the falls, ending up four miles downstream in Lewiston. So confident was Jesse about making the trip that he parked his car at Artpark in Lewiston and made dinner reservations for that evening.
Powerhouse operators, noticing what was about to unfold, diverted water from the river in an attempt to ground the kayaker.
But to no avail, Jesse Sharp was determined, and simply skirted around the rocks in his kayak. Just as Sharp reached the brink of the falls he raised his paddle above his head and then, at 1:45 pm, the kayak plummeted over the brink and vanished into the raging waters below.
Sharp did not wear a protective helmet so his face would be visible on film. He also didn’t wish to wear a life jacket, believing it would interfere with his ability to escape in the event that he was caught underneath the Falls. After “shooting the falls”, he intended to continue down river through the rapids to Lewiston, New York to the restaurant where he’d made his dinner reservation. His body has never been recovered.
Oh well, I’m sure this at least qualified Jesse for a Darwin Award! Especially as he was a bachelor, presumably leaving none of his genes behind.
The sixth week of our honeymoon in 1988 was an eagerly awaited visit to good friend Larry Wingert. He’d been a Rotary exchange student to Harrismith in South Africa back in 1969-1970.
We flew out of Lawton Oklahoma to Dallas/Fort Worth, on to Little Rock, to Cincinatti and on to our destination: Akron, Ohio. Friday 8 April. Larry’s friend Dave “Zee” picked us up at the airport, took us to his condominium and fed us. The first meal of what turned out to be a major good food week! Later, Larry fetched us in his Subaru – our third all-wheel drive vehicle this trip, and this one free! – and took us to his beautiful old home on North Portage Path. At home it was all wine, one woman and song, with Aitch and Larry bashing the piano and asking me to please stop singing.
On our arrival in the States some weeks before, we received a letter saying “Please accept these portraits of old American Presidents and USE this plastic card!” Various denomination dollar bills and a credit card for gas (or petrol)! How’s that for a wedding present!? In Larry We Trusted!
I love the canoeing connection with his home: North Portage Path is an 8000 year old path along which native Americans portaged their canoes from the Cuyahoga river out of lake Erie, across a mere eight miles to the Tuscarawas River from where it flows into the Muskingum river, then into the Ohio and on to the Mississippi. Thus they could paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Of Mexico with only one eight mile portage, something any Dusi paddler would do without a second thought! The amazing thing: You can still paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico today, unbroken except for one short section – and while trudging along that section you could pop in to Larry’s place for tea. Or ‘tea’! America’s waterways are astonishing.
Larry indulged us lavishly. There was no tea. Only the good stuff. He indulged Aitch’s joy in shopping, especially deli shopping at the best places. And Larry knows his delis!
Followed by a big cook-up at home . .
. . and music with the two of them on the piano, shoving me aside and asking me to please stop singing!
Then he took us to parks and nature resorts for me to indulge in my birding passion. When he wasn’t able to join us, he handed over the keys to his all-wheel-drive Subaru. Above and beyond . . One morning we visited Cuyahoga River State Park quarry area. Our favourite bird in Ohio was probably the Northern Flicker.
Afterwards we went shopping at another rather special deli – its obvious Larry is GOOD at this! For supper he cooked us some great steaks on his portable barbeque outside his kitchen door. We ate like kings. After supper there was music with the two of them on the piano, shoving me aside and asking me to please stop singing!
A visit to Kendall Lake; Later to Cleveland’s Old Arcade Centre and a look at Lake Erie. Supper at a French restaurant on Larry; He had already spoiled us generously, now this.
Suitably fortified, we moved back home to liquers and piano and song! No tea. By this time my good friend and my good wife had formed an excellent working and jolling relationship. They shoved me aside and asked me to please stop singing. To bed at 2am, rising at 5.30am;
Off to Boston 13 April 1988. In consultation with Larry, we decided Cape Cod was next . . .
Sixty years ago today a plane fell out of the sky and this was finished:
American Rock n Roll musicians Buddy Holly (22), Ritchie Valens (17), and JP ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson (28) were killed when their plane crashed in Iowa.
In 1971 Don McLean sang about that day AND – less known – about another day ten years later:
When asked what “American Pie” meant, McLean jokingly replied, “It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.” Later, he stated, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.” In February 2015, McLean announced he would reveal the meaning of the lyrics to the song when the original manuscript went for auction. The lyrics and notes were auctioned on April 7, and sold for $1.2 million. In the sale catalogue notes, McLean revealed the meaning in the song’s lyrics: “Basically in American Pie things are heading in the wrong direction. Life is becoming less idyllic. I don’t know whether you consider that wrong or right but it is a morality song in a sense.” The king mentioned was Elvis, the jester was Bob Dylan.
Then the song also contains a much longer, and near-verbatim description of the death of Meredith Hunter at the hands of drunken Hells Angels at a free concert in California ten years after the plane crash that killed Holly, Valens, and Richardson. Where the music died a much more tragic and violent death. A death that was not an accident.
Oh, and as I watched him on the stage My hands were clenched in fists of rage No angel born in Hell Could break that Satan’s spell
And as the flames climbed high into the night To light the sacrificial rite I saw Satan laughing with delight The day the music died
In 1972 the title of the song came to bite me when I embarrassingly cocked up the most important part of my matric dance. None of that.
Back when I was seventeen or eighteen I became an American farmer – a certified Future Farmer of America and I can still hear how Mr. Schneeburger would say EFFIFFAY in Ag Shop class. In Ag-ricultural work-Shop I craftily constructed a rotating cattle feeder made of a 55gal drum, mounted on a wheelrim on an axle that would always turn away from the wind thanks to an angled weather vane on top. Thus keeping the cattle feed dry in all weather. Clever, hey!? Trouble was my birdshit welding. So it fell over in the first little breeze. Still, the thought was there and I was – maybe – on my way to greater things. Redemption? I have been found wanting as a farmer on more than one occasion.
I went to hog shows – where the winner wouldn’t be looking quite so pleased with himself if he read what his mistress had planned for him on her placard:
I planted peanuts in Fort Cobb – well, watched some Mexican fellas do it anyhow. I sprayed something on Jim’s lands. I drove in Walter & Pug Hrbacek’s – or was it Gene & Odie Mindemann’s? – airconditioned cab of their big combine harvester or tractor (yeah, a farmer should remember which it was!) with an eight-track tape sound system overhead. Remember them?
My farming career peaked when I took part in the big annual roundup, catching, de-horning, castrating, branding and inoculating the bull calves. I was pulled in to the gathering and closely watched to see if this boy from Africa knew anything. At all. Well, by then they actually knew I didn’t, but I was good for a laugh! When I first got to Apache the local cowboys asked me if I could help them round up 18 cows. The maths nerd in me answered, ‘Yes, of course. – That’s 20 cows.’ (actually, that’s a Jake Lambert joke, but not far off the truth!).
As the feverish activity took place I hovered around, just out of helpful range. Then we went home to wash up and joined up again to eat the produce and wash it down with beer. I was better at that. It was my first ‘mountain oyster fry’.
It was like this, but in Walter and Pug Hrbacek’s barn, not at a church, and not in Texas:
They’re delicious, and they smell good – unlike the smell of burning cowhide from the branding! – but I found them best fried and covered in batter. You don’t really want to see them, especially not raw. I only ate the well-battered ones. They also get better with each ice-cold beer!
Recently I found out they do it better in Montana where they add a competitive eating of bull balls, or “Rocky Mountain oysters” and they throw in women’s hot oil wrestling, a women’s wet-T-shirt event, and a men’s “big ball” competition – basically a men’s “wet thin white underwear show”. Sounds like fun, huh?!
They make good products too, good merchandise: One for an insecure man, and how useful is this one for a lady who has a dick of a boss? The Under-Desk Scrotum Stress Ball.
As you take a picture of the kids they say “LEMMESEE” and look at the photo of themselves on your phone, then say ooh! or ugh!
In 1944 a three year old girl apparently said that to her Dad and he had to explain the film would first have to be sent away to the lab when they got back home from their holiday and then the lab would develop it and send it back to them and only THEN could she see the pic he had taken of her. She thought that completely unreasonable and so her Dad set to work and in 1948 the first Land Polaroid cameras went on sale. His name was Edwin Land and his Polaroid Corporation became very famous indeed. Instant pictures in 1948 looked like a miracle, like the fax did forty years later.
Some of you will remember those cameras:
I first got to use a Polaroid camera in 1973 when – in my quest to do as little schoolwork as possible – I was kindly allowed onto the Annual Staff of Apache High School where our job was to be amateur reporters and amateur fund-raisers and to cobble together this school annual under the wonderful friendly guidance of our teacher Virginia Darnell.
We had old cameras with bellows and a newer version.
So why am I not a millionaire? Because everyone knows Polaroid went bust as newer technology came out and nowadays there’s absolutely no need for paper photos when you have all your digital photos instantly viewable and always available on your camera. Everyone KNOWS that.
Except – – – this:
Seems kids still want to hold a paper copy of their image in their hand. Last year Polaroid launched new instant cameras which look very retro-similar to the ‘new’ ones we used in the seventies! My predictions on new stuff that eventually ‘went viral’ has usually been ‘hmph! that’ll never take off!’
Time will tell if paper photos make a comeback. Recently Jess saw a pink one in the window of a camera shop and said she NEEDED it! “Dad, you don’t understand! It instantly prints out a paper photo!”, she said.
Thanks to fellow optometrist Ann Elsner, Professor of Optometry at Indiana University for a lovely article on Polaroid’s 70th anniversary 1948 – 2018.
Greeff took the pic, cutting off the nose of the Lincoln to make sure he got my elbow in. The Lincoln is loaded and ready to take us to paddle the Ocoee River in Tennessee after a night at Dave Jones’ house in Atlanta. Dave is a military man, a dentist and an international paddler. We were there cos Chris Greeff is a military man, a dentist and an international paddler. Weirdos like that tend to stick together.
Here’s Herve on all fours studying my map of the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Willem van Riet left of Herve with the ducktail is telling us about the moerse rapids he went through that day.
Here is Hervie again, red cap left back, in the Swim Team, much as he tried to earnestly explain why his swim didn’t actually count as a swim! Competitive swine, our Herve!
. . and here he stands dead centre with the faded red cap at the end of our 360km 12-day trip through the Canyon:
My last supper with Herve was positively biblical: He arrived in a cloud of holy blue smoke in a hundred year old chariot – a faded yellow Merc diesel with four million miles on the clock. Nice car, Herve, I said. ‘Hey! Think of the money I save’, said he. He brought four quarts of beer and six bottles of ‘communion wine’ which he called his ‘quota wine’. I thought, ‘quota for the night!?’ but it turned out he owned shares in a Western Cape wine farm and – just like they did with their workers – he get some of his pay in liquid form. Suddenly I thought through the blur that I understood ‘liquidity.’
We had gathered together, dearly beloved, to write down Herve’s tales of the Umko canoe marathon. As the evening progressed I would say ‘but Herve, wasn’t that the Dusi?’ Oh, Yes! We’re talking Umko, hey? But Herve, wasn’t that the Berg? Oh, Yes! We’re talking Umko, hey? But Herve, wasn’t that the Breede? Oh, Yes! The Crocodile? Oh, Yes! But you didn’t saw your boat in half to get it on a plane to go to Umko, did you, Herve? Oh, Yes! We’re talking Umko, hey?
We laughed for seven and a half hours. We talked of the hardship of owning property in England – Herve’s a farmer, things are very hard, you don’t understand. Then he left after midnight in a cloud of holy blue smoke in a hundred year old chariot – a faded yellow Merc diesel with four million miles on the clock.
We hired a Lincoln Continental Town Car in Atlanta and put roofracks on. Dave the dentist and US paddler put us up for the night before we headed North. Chris Greeff, kayaking legend & trip organiser; Herve de Rauville, kayaking legend; two non-paddlers, Jurie the cameraman, Steve Fourie and me.
And off we went to the Ocoee River in Tennessee. Which was completely empty. Not low. Empty.
Then they turned on the tap at noon and we could paddle (most of the time, the full flow gets diverted to generate power! How criminal is that!!)
Here’s a description of the short stretch of river we paddled:
The Middle Ocoee The Middle Ocoee is the portion of whitewater, on this stretch of water, paddlers and rafting enthusiasts, have been paddling for decades. Beginning at Rogers Branch and just over 5 miles long, this class 3-4 section of whitewater is an adrenaline junkies dream, crammed with waves and holes.
Entrance rapid gives you whitewater from the get-go. As soon as you launch onto the middle Ocoee you are in a class 4 rapid, paddling through waves and dropping ledges. It’s a fun and exciting way to begin your trip. Broken Nose begins with a large S-shaped wave. Swirling water behind it will send you to a series of ledges. This is a great place for pictures, so smile. Next, Slice and Dice: two widely spaced ledges, fun to drop, especially the second ledge. If done correctly, you can get a great surf here “on the fly”. An interesting and humorous set of rock formations highlights the rapid, Moon Chute. After making your way behind the elephant shaped rock, do some 360’s in front of “sweet-cheeks,” then drop through the chute and over the ledge at the bottom. Double Suck, an appropriately named rapid, where a good-sized ledge drops you into two hydraulics. Paddle hard or you might catch another surf here. Double Trouble, which is more ominous in name than in structure, is a set of three large waves, which will have everybody yelling. This is another great photo spot. You won’t find an easier, more fun rapid. Next is Flipper (No, it’s not named after the dolphin). Here, a great ledge drop puts you into a diagonal wave. Hit this wave with a right hand angle and enjoy the ride, or angle left to eddy out. Then enjoy one of the best surfs on the river. Table saw was originally named for a giant saw-blade shaped wave in the middle of it. The rock forming the wave was moved during a flood several years ago, making this one of the most exciting rapids on the Middle Ocoee. The big waves in this one will make the boat buck like a bronco. At Diamond Splitter, point your boat upstream and ferry it between two rocks. Once there get a couple of 360’s in before dropping through the chute and into the hydraulic.
Slingshot is where most of the water in the river is pushed through a narrow space, making a deep channel with a very swift current. To make this one a little more interesting, see how many 360’s you can complete from top to bottom. Cat’s Pajamas start with a couple of good ledges, with nice hydraulics. After those, it will look as though you are paddling toward a big dry rock, but keep going. At the last second, there will be a big splash and you will be pushed clear. Hell’s Hole is the biggest wave on the river. Start this one in the middle of the river, drifting right. Just above the wave, start paddling! When you crest this 7-8 ft. wave, you will drop into a large hydraulic. Stay focused because just downstream are the last two ledges known as . .
Powerhouse. Drop these ledges just right of center for a great ride. Once through Powerhouse, collect yourself and take out at Caney Creek.
As I settled in the seat of the Delta Air plane en route to Texas and the Gulf I read in the newspaper that I’d scooped up where someone had abandoned it, that the one thing I did NOT want to be doing was flying over Easter.
When is Easter? I asked the stewardess. ‘Tomorrow’ she chirped brightly.
Change of plan Aitch, I announced: We’re going to Oklahoma instead of the Gulf. I explained and showed her the newspaper (airport congestion, overbooked flights – us on a cheap Delta pass). Aitch had been dreading going to Apache: ‘They’ll all know you and I won’t know anyone and I’ll feel left out and . . ‘
But now she had to face her fears. As soon as we landed at Dallas-Fort Worth we booked the next flight to Lawton Oklahoma, heading back north instead of carrying on south. There was just enough time if we scurried. Aitch decided she’d skip the loo and go once we were airborne. Mistake. It was a narrow little propeller plane like this, two seats a side, a narrow aisle, no airhostess, no loo. Ooh!
We landed in Lawton after dark and she made it. We set off further north for Apache in a rental car. Apache: My hometown for a year as a Rotary exchange student in 1973. Arriving on the Patterson’s farm outside town we saw a ‘yuge’ SA flag waving from the flagpole! Jim had borrowed an oversize flag from the SA consulate in Houston to welcome us!
Jim & Katie Patterson, the loveliest couple in the whole of the USA were just the same as ever!
They welcomed us with open arms to their beautiful and comfortable ranch house and it was as though we hadn’t been apart for fifteen years (during which time I had received exactly two letters from them. ‘Well, Peter’ said Jim with his crooked grin and twinkling eyes, ‘We didn’t want to flood you with correspondence’).
Katie took Aitch on a night drive in the pickup looking for owls. Both girls were suitably lubricated plus they took extra stocks of their tipple. They had the windows down and were hooting weird owl calls and hosing themselves. When they returned they were laughing uncontrollably, leaning against each other for support. They had seen a possum snuffling around and Aitch was fascinated – she always LOVED the little night creatures. Katie followed it offroad into the fields, keeping it in the headlights. When it stopped she manoeuvred so it could best be seen and whispered to Aitch “Shall I kill it?” She was surprised at Aitch’s distraught look of horror. Then she twigged: “No, no, not the possum! I meant the engine!”
They collapsed laughing when they both “saw it” and were still laughing helplessly when they got back home where Jim and I were watching ‘the ballgame’ – Basketball I think; OU I think.
One morning I woke up to breakfast in bed. It was 1st April, my birthday – thirty three young today – and Aitch delivered a tray of goodies!
Jim n Katie arranged a lovely barbecue poolside and invited my best mates from high school back in 1973. Jay Wood and Robbie Swanda had made the year unforgettable and here they were again, also with wives now; Robbie wearing the Optometry rugby jersey I had given him in 1984 when I visited after kayaking down the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon.
Jim even unwrapped the Caddy convertible from its winter covering weeks earlier than usual and presented Aitch with the keys. She drove as far as the gate and then said ‘I think you must drive now Koos.’
All I got was this old tractor that I had driven for Jim back in ’73.
OK, in fairness, he also gave me the keys to the Chevy Suburban you can see in the background with the door open. Which was so much fun I missed the Rotary meeting! Now THAT was embarrassing! Unforgivable! Everyone was forgiving / understanding (‘well, you ARE on honeymoon, after all’) but that REALLY was a major gaffe! Damn! Fifteen years later and ten thousand miles away I have ONE meeting to remember and I forget it! *blush!!* We were out in the countryside looking for a Vermilion Flycatcher and I just clean forgot. We did see a lot of birds that day.
Well, our five day trip to Apache stretched to a week. Wherever we went all I got was an elbow in the ribs as the local inhabitants shoved me aside and crowded around Aitch. Every now and then one would mutter over his shoulder at me: “Now you look after this gal, boy! Y’hear?” Aitch’s dread of going to “my” hometown had turned into a reluctance to leave “her” hometown!
After ten days I sat Aitch down and said “Now listen girl, we still have things to do, places to go and people to meet. We can’t stay in Apache forever!” She was having a ball, reveling in the attention and she and Katie were getting on like a house on fire. I suspect on all their jaunts when they would breeze off in the Lincoln saying “Ya’ll stay home and watch the ballgame, y’hear?” that Katie was teaching her how to manage me and telling her how she managed Jim. Aitch obviously soaked up the lessons! It was Katie who had asked me as a seventeen year old back in 1973: “Peter, who do you think chooses the marriage partner?” Following my confident (wrong) answer she put me straight, telling me how, when Jim arrived for his first day of work at the bank in Oklahoma City she had turned to her friend and announced “I’m going to marry that man!”
So it was very reluctantly that Aitch agreed that I could book for the next leg of our extended honeymoon.
PS: I forget if it was on honeymoon in 1988 or after the Grand Canyon trip in 1984, but I needed a haircut and went to the local barber, Rotarian Oscar Caldwell. He and his wife Sonia ran the shop. I had dodged them back in 1973, letting my hair drop down onto my shoulders. Their son Dallas was in my second senior class (I did three matrics: HS, second half of one in Apache, then first half of the next one in Apache).
Oscar and Sonia (both pronounced Oh! – Oh! scir and S Oh! nyuh) were full of beans and shit and could stir.
I walked into the barber shop and said to him while he slaved over some oke’s scalp – in my best Okie accent – ‘I have a complaint! I had my hair cut here in 1973 and I’ve never bin satisfied!’
He stopped snipping, stared at me over his specs, eyes widened and he said “Peedir!”
That I remembered. What I hadn’t remembered was a prank I played on Oscar back in 1973. Sister Sheila recently (2020) returned the letters I had written the family back then.
Oscar loaned me a projector to give a slide show and I asked if he wanted it back tomorrow. ‘No,’ he said, ‘That’s too late.’
I said How’s midnight tonight? ‘No,’ he said, ‘I’d prefer 4 in the mornin’.
We left it at that. I gave my talk. With me was my good Apache mate Robbie and fellow Rotary students Eve from Durban and Helen from Zim. We went back to Robbie’s house and jol’d. Then at 3.15am, we drove out to Oscar and Sonia’s farm outside town in Robbie’s Mustang. I knocked persistently and Oscar dragged himself to the door where I said Hope I’m in time! I thought you might be wanting to show some home movies?
He blinked, gulped, then fell right in: ‘Yes, Yes,’ he says ‘I did. Come right in.’ He led us in shaking his head muttering ‘This Boy’s Alright, isn’t he?’
He and Sonia then insisted we sat down and proceeded to show us way too many slides with total bullshit commentary : ‘This is a picture of Mars taken on our second trip there . . ‘
Robbie and I were hosing ourselves, Eve and Helen were falling asleep. Sonia then announced it was actually Oscars birthday, so we sang him HBD and left after 4am!
Played football in Apache Oklahoma in ’73 for the Apache Warriors. The coaches did their best to bring this African up to speed on the rules and objectives of gridiron. We played two pre-season warm-up games followed by five league games. And lost all seven encounters!
Myself I was kinda lost on the field, what without me specs! So here’s me: Myopically peering between the bars of the unfamiliar helmet at the glare of the night-time spotlights! Hello-o! Occasionally forgetting that I could be tackled or blocked even if the ball was way on the other side of the field! Ooof! Hey, what was that for?
At that point I thought: Five more weeks in America, five more games in the season, football practice four days a week, game nights on Fridays. I wanted out! There was so much I still wanted to do in Oklahoma and in preparing for the trip home. I went up to Coach Rick Hulett with trepidation and told him I wanted to quit football. Well, he wasn’t pleased, but he was gracious. We were a small team and needed every available man, how would they manage without me?
By winning every single one of the last remaining five games, that’s how!!
Coach Hulett won the Most Improved Coach Award and the team ended up with one of their best seasons for years!
I like to think the turnaround was in some small way helped by the way I cheered my former team-mates on from the sideline at the remaining Friday night games! Ahem . . .