Bruno: A Gobby in the Lobby

Main picture: The statue of Bruno with his gobby ball was commissioned by the Std 5 class of 1970 and has pride of place in the lobby of Herbert Hurd Primary

This is an obscure memorial, a semi private one. It is a memorial to a dog that meant so much to so many children from Newton Park in the late 60’s and early 70’s. In the words of Theo Rjis, Bruno seemed to belong to nobody but belonged to every pupil in the school and Gary Williams who struggled with schooling, “He was my school Prozac.”

Wow. Actually, bow-wow, not that Bruno said anything. He was the strong silent type as Staffies are wont to be.

This is the story of Bruno, a brindle Staffie, who was memorialized by the Std 5’s of 1970 and still lies guarding his gobby in the lobby of Herbert Hurd Primary School – my school.

The statue of Bruno with his gobby ball was commissioned by the Std 5 class of 1970 and has pride of place in the lobby of Herbert Hurd Primary
Bruno didn’t know about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as he was only in primary school, and even if he did, they were all taken care of. By night he lived with the Roberts, his part-time owners, on the corner of Hudson Street and 5th Avenue and by day he lived at our school. If his owners didn’t feed him interesting stuff, then there were more than 500 kids clamoring to see to his needs. If the Roberts weren’t loving enough there was always Mr Presley, the school caretaker who pampered him, not mention those 500 kids. And as for sex, well the Roberts had taken care of that for him.

Bruno’s only need, nay addiction, that he struggled with throughout his life was the need to chase a gobby ball. If it did sometimes happen that he was ball-less when Mr Presley, the caretaker, had run out old cricket balls or the kids were being stingy, then a half brick would suffice. I was also told that when he was caught short during school holidays, he would become a shoplifter. He would tootle over to Hill’s Chemist on the corner of 3rd Ave and Cape Road and steal a used tennis ball out of the basket where they were loosely kept – needs must and all that.

I suppose that there are many other stories, but I personally know of two:
It was around 1968 and Bruno was by now solidly in his middle age. One day, a white bull terrier – the kind with the bullet nose and who say nothing but just take your name down – appeared on the grounds during break. HKGK. Before we knew it, the two were having a rort . They went for each other as only dogs of those breeds can do, with Australian subtitles since they were on mute as these breeds are wont to be. It was a cage fight of the most vicious kind with us forming the cage. When someone eventually managed to part them, Bruno was beaten and slunk bloodily away. We were distraught.

This new dog became king of the school, but not for us. We missed our happy, friendly Bruno and this young pretender with pink eyes did not cut it for us. Unbeknownst to us Bruno was at home licking his wounds, thinking to himself, “I’ll be back.” A long week went by and then Bruno returned. They had a massive rort again with Afrikaans subtitles thrown into the mix this time. Bruno saw off the pretender and was never challenged again. Order in the Universe had been restored.

On another occasion we came out at first break to find Bruno furiously digging around the concrete base of a post or pole that had long since disappeared. This was on the Willet Street side, about half way down the rugby field. That day we forwent our ritual games of Cops and Robbers as we munched our wax paper wrapped peanut butter sammies while curiously watching him. It was like a rort and we boys formed a rowdy circle around Bruno and his protagonist – The Rock. We shouted encouragement and advice but he didn’t need any, he knew what he was doing. Bruno, with his stiff little tail wagging enthusiastically in the air as he scrambled with his forepaws, was trying to dig around the side of this lump of concrete. Eventually the bell went and we trudged bemused back to the classroom wondering what second break would bring. Second break came and we eagerly rushed outside to see what progress had been made. There was Bruno proudly standing next to his lump of concrete which was about half his size and which was now out of the hole. His nose was all bloodied from nudging at the lump but his smile was bigger than ever.

Plaque on statue to Bruno

The plaque says it all:

A friend who gave so much pleasure to so many for so long while visiting this school.


[1] We used the word rort to describe a fight.  Why, I don’t know but there is a dated Australian usage that means a wild party.  Seems reasonably apt to me. 

[2] “I’ll be back” are the immortal words spoken by the robot played by Arnold Schwarzenegger in the 1984 science fiction film, The Terminator.

Estina Dairy Farm: The World’s Greatest Business Plan

Even according to the most favourable estimates, the Estina Dairy Farm was at best, a marginal enterprise. Even giving the proposers the benefit of the doubt regarding its viability, surely the accountants who perused the proposal would have poked numerous holes in the financial logic.

On checking the current status of this project, the Sunday Times has uncovered an even deeper hole.

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The Uninvited Guest Who Stayed – Part 1

Herbie arrived uninvited at our house one night in 1973 when Dean rocked up with a buggered 1961 1200cc VW Beetle.   We didn’t actually name it Herbie but that name had been made famous by the 1968 movie, The Love Bug, and so I shall refer to it thus from time to time.   The family all trundled out into the dark to watch proud Dean show off his new little baby.  Dad was aghast as, with his superior experience, he knew that it was a piece of junk and washed his hands of it.  Dean’s friend, Michael Baker, owned one and it was he who had convinced Dean to buy it for R90.  I was in Standard 9 and this was a lovely, real life challenge for me.  I had done my apprenticeship on Mom’s sewing machine and Dad’s lawnmower.  Now for the big time.

Main picture: 1960-1969 Volkswagen Beetle – Not my vehicle as only one photo exists of it

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Happy Valley: Trip the Light Fantastic

Happy Valley was a magical place for young kids and probably still is even for the jaded visual palates of today.  In the daytime it is a pleasant stroll alongside the babbling brook that is the lower reaches of that misnomer, the Shark River, where it spills out under the bridge into Humewood Beach.  There are lily ponds, rockeries, gigantic palms and peaceful retreats in which to sit. Every few meters there is another delightful interpretation of a fairy tale or nursery rhyme scene to consider.  

Main Street: Aerial view of Happy Valley with Humewood beach on the upper right

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Harvards: The Iconic Sound of Summer

One forever associates sights, smells and sounds with where one grows up.  Sometimes they are pleasant and sometimes not so, but they all define our childhoods and underpin our lives in subconscious ways.  The sound of the surf is one of my most pleasant memories as much as I’ll never forget the rotten sulphuric smell of the aptly named Smelly Creek at the shunting yards in Deal Party.  But a distinctive sound that I oddly found soothing and comforting, probably because of its familiarity, was the otherwise harsh sound of Harvards flying lazily overhead, particularly on beautiful summer days.  Being a boy and a WWII buff, that sound would always bring out the Biggles in me and get my pulse racing.

Main picture: The iconic North American AT-6 Harvard (Texan to Americans) resplendent in SAAF colours

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Buffalo Rally: Easy Rider

Hard tailed Hogs with their equally hard tailed chicks on the back burbled laid back into town from points North and West, occasionally emitting an ear shattering bark to serve notice of a weekend of mayhem.  The Kawas, Hondas and Yammies made a more strident entrance, racing between robots but the attitude, chicks and threads were the same.   It was September 1977 and 4000 horsemen of the Apocalypse – well the Nomads Motorcycle club amongst others – had descended on PE for a weekend of exhaust fumes and burning rubber fueled by high octane petrol as well as high octane chicks, brandy and rum – Coke optional.

Main picture: The 1978 massed bike parade through the city

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Schoenies: A Very Special Place

Mom hated Schoenies, or Schoenmakerskop, to give it its full name.  Maybe that’s a bit strong, but she was bored, bored, bored with the place.  Dad was seldom adventurous and since he grew up there in the early 1900s, he kept returning to it like a homesick baby desperately trying to return to the womb.  Saturday afternoon, summer and winter, would invariably find us there.  Maybe Mom had a spirit of adventure after all.  I, however and I think my siblings, loved the place.  We kids knew that place like our own backyard as we explored every little bit of it – multiple times.

Main picture: Main gully at Schoenies showing the two islands at mid tide and how the obliquely running rocks form a natural breakwater

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