And then there was my sister Shirley, brother-in-law Manny Manim and the start of their brood of Anita, Helena, Bernard and Maria, plus my parents who lived at 43 Zenith Road. Because of our close living proximity, Joan and I visited whenever we could and encouraged our children to go over and play with their cousins. We also invited them to the numerous parties given at our home so that we could socialize, and them too with our numerous friends and our other families too, which saw my brother Paul and sisters Rita and Gertrude attending. Manny was a real inspiration and role model for all of my kids, and other kids in the neighbourhood, because of his dedication to encourage and teach different survival skills. My kids and others never missed a swimming, judo or callanetics session that saw them the fittest in the neighbourhood. He also prepared them for the hard-knocks of life by actually not only having them compete against other clubs, but also to have the best in those fields to come and give demonstrations of those skills. I can still hear my kids shouting those words of ‘Rei’ to bow before starting, ‘Hajime’ when beginning their judo fighting, ‘Ai’ when agreeing and ‘Yame’ to stop. When going to watch them it reminded me so much of my younger days when doing wrestling, boxing and weight-lifting in the school rooms of St Raphael’s under Mr James Battle who was a professional wrestler then. My sister Shirl (Shirley) was another kettle of fish who I always teased about her ‘looping rond’ (walking about), because others and I would bumped into her all over the estate, Welcome Estate and Athlone scurrying around like someone on a mission, and she was. Her mission in life was doing good where ever she could even if not knowing those people because their dire circumstances counted to her. I think she invented fast food because I also use to tease her about her vinnage kos (fast food) the way she use to cook, which was like Jamie Oliver the TV cook in five minutes flat. Slice, slice, chop, chop into the pot with the whole bloody lot. I never partook of her culinary concoctions; however, her family all seemed to survive and looked really healthy for it. What she also loved to do was to have a chat with all and sundry and never minced her words or outspoken comments. One that will always stick in my mind is when she bumped into one of our aunts when shopping in Athlone and that aunt pulled out a photo to brag about. It was of that aunts niece in Canada who had married an African American, and Shirl’s to the point comment was that she might as well have stayed in South Africa and married an African, touché!
My mum on the other hand, which isn’t meant as a pun or a joke, had a lame one due to a stroke. Didn’t stop her though from smoke, smoke that cigarette that we did together when going to visit her, plus getting me a glass to have a wee dram of whiskey of my dad’s stock that was supposed to stay hidden behind the dressing table in their bedroom, which we did when he was there too. I loved my mum dearly but wouldn’t have wished her as a mother-in-law on any one because she had a barbed tongue that could spit venom like a cobra through innuendos indiscriminately at all in-laws. The problem as I saw it was that she loved her children to much and wanted to protect them by wrapping them in cotton-wool as she use to do when we were kids. Now on the lame hand that she used to move around with the other hand; funny, was really something to see. She use to place the lame hand onto anything she wanted to hold down, no not my dad but like ironing my dad’s clothes, or use it to wave goodbye by holding it with the good hand and flipping it in a wave; funny again. My dad was the main culprit in spoiling his grandchildren by popping in on his way back from Emdon Caterers to distribute to our kids delicacies obtained there and to visit with us, and then he would continue to the Manims, where he lived, and distribute the rest to Anita, Helena, Bernard and Maria. It was difficult then for outside communication by telephone into the estate, which only the babbies shop had one, especially for my dad who had to receive phone calls from Emdon Caterers for his type of work that depended some times for a day in advance. But thankfully Mr Adams, who lived in Zenith Road and had become a Justice of the Peace, was granted the first and only telephone in Vanguard Estate, which was convenient for my dad to receive messages conveyed to him by Mr Adams children or brought over by him. What my parents really enjoyed, which I think the neighbours didn’t, was that on New Year’s Eve I would set the children up with penny whistles, party noise blowers, a tom-tom drum and me with a bell that was used from our home in Leader Street to them in Zenith Road when the clock struck twelve. We also did the same thing but with a twist when the Springboks played the All Blacks at rugby, which saw is wearing the white leaf and waving the black flags with the white leaf motif on it, which I made, while walking to Zenith Road. My dad because he also preferred the All Blacks, and whiskey, would see the two of us downing a few while listening to the match on radio. Even today, down to my grandsons, we still love to watch the All Blacks in preference to the Springboks and Wallabies…must be the hakka!
We had great neighbours though that we could chat over the fence with, wave to from a distance, enjoyed each other’s company in our homes, go for outings together and attend braais and parties at one another’s homes. Never lived out of each other’s pockets, but if advise was sought we would lend an ear and give not lend if anyone was short of anything. In Leader Street were: #1 Wessels, #3 Reynolds; Children: Alex, Cecilia, Pearl, Ursula, Lorraine, Regina, Nathan, Sharon, Vanessa. #5 Johnson, #7 Harold & Joan Lorenzo; Children: Christopher, Regina, Neil, Harry, Gregory. # 9 Price, # 11 Klein’s; Children: Kevin, Shawn, Lindsay. Eendrag Rd was: # Dyson, # Le Roux; Children: Charles, Paulette, Basil, Bonita, Mitchell, Danny, Adele, Ulrich, Garrett. # Flowers; Children: Dennis, Keith, Roy, Loretta, Mavis, Jean, Lorna, Vanessa. # Carelse, # Prince, # Claasen; Children: Lionel, Lester, Charmaine, Graham. # Basil & Florence Espin; Children: Mark. # Rinquest on the corner. Crossing at Spar Rd; du Plessis, Ford, Fortes. Down Myn Rd were Roman, de Cock, Campbell, Newfeldt and Josias. 4th Ave back of Leader Street: Morgan, Meyer, Fourie, Pedro, # Robert & Noreen Newman; Children: Carol, Jean, Denise, Neil. # Vigne; Children: Michael, Bernice, Imelda.
The Newman’s had the greenest lawn in the whole neighbourhood due to Mr Newman divulging his secret formula to me when we were imbibing too much at a party of his. He had a drum in which he mixed cow dung with water and then added urine kept from his wife and his peeing in a chamber-pot at night that he occasionally added to that mixture; they must have drunk green tea to wee green pee. On Winter nights we use to rug up and car with a group of friends of theirs either to a beach or a mountain-side area with blankets, grub, booze and instrument music, light a bonfire and really have good times together.
The Espins of Basil and Florence were our bestie friends though because of them living directly opposite us, which was a walk across the park and within cooee distance. I never possessed a car and couldn’t drive, but Basil had a Peugeot car in which his wife, Joan and I we went everywhere together. The two of us use to really booze it up in our homes or when going out to parties, and when coming from one we nearly came a cropper with the law. He was more out of it than me when driving us home and had begun swerving all over the road. Seeing a police car in the distance and warning him about it didn’t seem to register with him so I put my hand on the steering wheel to keep the car from wandering across the road. It must have been noticed by the police because they had slowed down as if waiting for us to catch up, which we did at a crawling space because he only then became more aware of what was occurring. Undercover of me still holding the steering wheel with one hand at the bottom of it while he had both his hands on the steering wheel also, I steered pass them, where by then they had parked on the side of the road to watch us, gave them a wave with the other hand, and that’s the way we drove home from there. Basil’s favourite recording was Frank Sinatra’s song of “I did it my way” that we would sing over and over again either sober or with a few drinks under our belts as we would belt it out without any consideration given to the neighbours. Basil and I were also responsible for starting the Vanguard Estate Ratepayers Association with the thought in mind of the betterment of the area and neighbourhood. Luckily for us the estate was only in its infancy so we were able to cope with the work involved to get it up and running. We had a good support from Mr Doman, School principal and Athlone City Councillor, who attended occasional meetings held at Saint Theresa’s School Hall, and eventually Doman Road in the estate was named after him. Basil was the chairman and I the secretary that saw us having to frank envelopes with the resident’s names, addresses and deliver them by hand for meetings. We had quite a few achievements in the areas of street lighting, scrub and tree planting, street cleaning, garbage collections and what kept our little neighbourhood safe was our instigation of a neighbourhood watch whereby groups of us men patrolled our streets weekend nights.
Does anyone remember the night of the 29th September 1969 and where they were at the time and doing what? Well I do, because it was when an earthquake that struck in the Tulbagh and Ceres area that was felt all the way to Cape Town. We were all in bed in our home in Vanguard Estate when I felt the earth move, no not that but factually as the house seemed to be doing that. It was when felling the constant tremble and the rattling of crockery that I jumped up and when to front-room window to peer out to maybe ascertain what was the cause. Seeing movement across the park at the Espins house with Basil bundling Florence and Mark into his car and speeding off made me think that something disastrous was happening because he was a cool and collected type of bloke. While going to round up my family, my thoughts wandered to what I had learned while overseas where earthquakes was an ongoing occurrences, and it was advised to seek shelter in the safest room in the house. Our bathroom been enclosed by the other rooms was to me the safest and that’s where I herded them all into, and prayed. When everything had quieted down and going to investigate, I found neighbours in their nightwear all agog about what had caused that tremor which had scared the shit out of all of us, especially Basil. His story was that he was heading for the hills because of thinking to get to the highest point where they would be safer. We had quite a chuckle about that because on the Cape Flats, which is why it’s called flats because of the flat land, there was no higher ground than the many dotted mole-hills there. Where he actually landed up was at Rhodes Memorial on the sloops of the mountain where he stayed until felling it was safe enough to return home and relieve his tension with a good few brandies.
Our home had also then been increased by two more bodies in the shape of Joan’s mum and dad. Now these were in-laws that one would give your eyeteeth for because like since when I first courted Joan they hadn’t changed one iota in their loving tender kindness to one and all. When our children were little and we lived at their Ma and Pa Fisher in Woodstock, they were given every consideration that grandparents could bestow on them, and nothing ever seemed a burden as far as the children were concerned. They and the children were older with a lot of water having flowed under the bridge, but it seemed like all of us were still on that bridge watching together the water of life flowing in the same direction. It was also a pleasure having them living with us because not only of Pa taking over the veggie garden and getting the boys to assist and in teaching them a few gardening skills, but also of Ma with her culinary skills of doing the same in the kitchen with Joan and Gina. The two of them also enjoyed our parties given, which was something new to them because of never been to any before, and even though they would just sit and watch our over the top sometimes party exuberance, they enjoyed it as much as we did with almost permanent smiles and laughing. It was also at these parties that Ma took a liking to champagne shandies that she would never say no to refills, and Pa wasn’t lazy too for the cocktails that I mixed.
Although we frequently took the children to visit their cousins of the Manims, Rhodes, Fishers and Van der Byls, their neighbourhood friends were also in a close relationship with them. There were also outside the neighbourhood friends like Rodney Campher (Rotte) who was a friend of Nathan Reynolds and who became a friend of the boys. Rotte was a very colourful character who had known Nathan when they lived in Bridge Town and had also attended Saint Theresa’s School together. The thing is that although at first frequenting Nathan’s home, he then shifted over to ours not only because of the boys but more so for Regina that he seemed to be very sweet on. But then again there were heaps of boys who felt the same way about her because she had become very feminine and attractive. Although Gina wasn’t much into book reading then, Rotte use to bring her books just so that he could be in her company and occasionally brought nibbles for the family to keep in our good books, but all in all he was a good friend and company for the children. He also at times brought his guitar around to entertain us with his playing of songs that we use to join in with the singing that the family loved to do because we loved to sing. Other times he would entertain the boys with unusual snippets of his life that took in everything from soccer to the many fights had with others in his neighbourhood of Bridge Town. It seemed that he could really take care of himself were street fighting was concerned, and when relating one of those, he would perform all of the actions relating to it with his favourite of stomping down with one foot, twisting the heel into the ground as if he was doing it to his opponent, with a loud exclamation of 26 cents…funny guy. He wasn’t a bad influence on the boys but they sure learned a few choice words from him, like when others annoyed him he would forewarn them by saying ‘jou kop sal lek’; meaning, your head shall leak, that is if he had to hit someone until their head would bleed. ‘Jou ma se linke tet skiet bullets’; your mother’s left tit shoots bullets, which was a favourite of Chris, as a putdown. He was also a crack at soccer that the neighbourhood boys and he played in the park opposite our home, which I refereed at times, and I also did for a church junior team. Rotte also had a peculiar walk as now seen by young Afro-American kids with a bit of swagger and a leaning to one side of the shoulder as if saying to the world watch out here I come, which I suppose was his coping mechanism of having to live in a tough neighbourhood. And then there was another ‘boyfriend’ Eldred Maggott, who now lives in Canada, that when the first time came to visit me due to his been an apprentice where I worked, just kept on coming back after meeting Gina, and he too walked all the way from Bridge Town where he lived. But nevertheless, Gina’s bestie was Eleanor Peterson who also went to St Teresa’s School and church, the same as Nathan Reynolds and they both frequented our home.
Nathan was a dependable good bloke not only to his family, which must have been a pain in the arse surrounded and brow beaten by sisters, but also to my children who at times thought the sun shone out of that same arse. Don’t laugh, because although there were others in the neighbourhood that my children associated with, he was their main chommie (friend). Where you’re going I would say to them and they would say, to Norras. Yip, that was his nickname to them just as the rest of them all had nicknames if they really liked you. Chris was called either Kipper or pongo brown because of his farting, Regina was called Gina or Ginger, Neil was called Neila or Maletjie because of doing his nana at times, and Harry was called Haroldtjie because of also his smallness. I used to like watching them from the front stoep while sitting there with a beet in hand while they played at cowboy and Indians in the then over-run grown bush in the park opposite us. Or else at times play hide and seek and on-on; similar to tag now, with childish shouting and laughter that use to get me smiling too. Norras at those times, I use to notice, was the prime target for the boys to get him to be the seeker or the chaser, but because he was such a nice guy he didn’t seem to mind because he always seemed to be enjoying himself. Did they have fights, yes, but with a camaraderie that didn’t continue into ill-feeling amongst them. Harry related one such incident when wanting to play with the big boys as he put it, and so did Norras to me. According to him, Haroldtjie used to bloody “be in the way” of us “big boys” plans! And Haroldtjie confessed to be a right whinger in trying to play with them and would continuously plead with a please, please I wanna play too. It seems the gentle, passive giant in the form of Norras just lost it one day and punched Haroldtjie in the midriff to shut him up because he wanted to take Norras on. He folded up like a bag of potatoes with the wind knocked out of his sails, which did the trick for all of them of sorting that out like real little gentlemen.
But all in all it not only sorted out the boys from the men, but it also built there characters for further growth, which wasn’t all that it set Harry’s direction in because he excelled at Saint Teresa’s School in all fields of his endeavours. He was one of those kids that had a flair for learning that was not only soaked up like a sponge but was also spurted out to all and sundry who differed from the taught subject. He use to have a field day with his teachers who he would rectify if their teaching so much as strayed one iota, which got him into strife but he also became their teacher’s pet for some reason or other. When in standard one though he came across another smarty as himself in the form of a girl by the name of Nicolette Van Driel, who gave him a run for his money. Nicky and Harry it seems according to what both have been conveying to me, due to Facebook’s ‘Im A Vanguardian’, is that there wasn’t only a fierce competition going on in the class room between them, but also a liking of each other between them. Could be because Harry use to tease her because of liking her and she use to get all girly about it and give him soft punches, which so I was told. It all came to a head that who was the academic intellect in the school when the School Inspector came around calling and landed up in their class. He must have found out through the principal and wanted to make a showing of it because of asking their teacher who was the best student in that class between Nicky and Harry. I don’t know and they don’t neither if the teacher was playing favorites seeing how Harry was a teacher’s pet, but she first looked at Nicky and then Harry, and pointed Harry out. Now maybe also the teacher wanted to keep in the principal’s good books seeing how Nicky, in her wisdom, was combative with the inspector on sentence construction and contradicted him. Now also as the story goes, the School Inspector gave the principal instructions to promote the two of them immediately to standard two, but unfortunately it didn’t occur maybe due to the inspector having his five minutes of fame, recanted, or it got conveniently lost in the principals files. Now here’s a coincidence or was it fate, because that was Nicky’s last year at that school and so Harry’s too and both for different reasons. Nicky’s message to me; Harold, I meant to tell you that I left St Theresa’s after that one year, 1971. I then attended Primrose Park primary and gave the boys in class a run for their money. In particular, Ebrahim Rasool, who later became premier of the Western Cape and tried very hard to beat me, but that, is another story. And Harry’s story is that when he left Saint Teresa’s School in 1971 he boarded a ship early 1972 with the family to Australia and continued his schooling there in a completely different environment. What strikes me as strange though that after all these years is how those twos thoughts have come alive with recollections by just a simple hello, which just goes to show how long and far a friendship can last.
Our daughter Regina receiving her Judo Competition trophy at Manny Manim’s Judo Club held at Saint Theresa’s Church/Hall, Welcome Estate.