YENTA breathlessly chasing mills

Passionata, my enthralment with mills.   I was terribly disappointed last year when I was unable to join the Border Historical Society, in East London as an invited speaker, on the subject of my passion, ‘mills’. 

‘Raised’ in my formative years, in the NE Transvaal, by my beloved grandfather, {and orphan, escapee from Estonia 1917} he indulged my interest, as a true Rabbi  by searching for mills while was away at boarding school. On my return, there would be an adventure to a farm in the district, to visit, that had a mill.

Main picture: Bradshaw’s Mill

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Eskom: What really Happened?

Numerous reasons have been trotted out over the years by the powers-that-be as to the exact cause of load shedding. Amongst them were the unbelievable such as the coal being wet to the non-sensible excuse in which Apartheid was blamed. In the latter case, the logic was that Blacks were now permitted to use electricity, thus creating additional demand. Finally, last week, the real underlying cause of the shortage of electricity was eventually revealed. Why have these reasons been hidden from the public’s purview for so long?

Main picture: Cartoon encapsulating two of South Africa’s ogres – corruption and load-shedding

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Hobie Beach. From a misnomer to a sobriquet

Officially Hobie Beach is called Shark Rock Beach. But even that name is incorrect for two reasons which will shortly be explained. Notwithstanding the fact that the origin of the name and its derivation is inaccurately attributed, why would the sailors in their billowing Hobie Cats, the gaily coloured visitors on the Shark Rock Pier or the sun-blistered sun tanners on the golden beach care about such historical inaccuracies?

Of course, they don’t care a fig! But I do. Because I am interested in history but not to needlessly pick an unwinnable verbal brawl.

This is the saga both of the naming of this area from a misnomer to a sobriquet to uncovering its long-lost use prior to the establishment of posh suburbs in the area and the construction of the Shark Rock Pier.

Main picture: This is the oldest extant photograph of the mouth of Shark River with Hobie Beach on the tight

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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.

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The Khoi and San – The First Inhabitants

During the mid-1700s, as the Dutch farmers pressed ever eastward, the only other humans they encountered were bands of itinerant Khoikhoi. Even Bartolomeu Diaz in his squat wooden caravels had in 1488 noticed them in spite of their sparse density. The footprint of this nomadic people was light and easily erased. Never settling in a location long enough to leave an imprint, their influence was ephemeral. 

This peripatetic people, who left no trace of their existence, were the first people in what would become Port Elizabeth.

 Main picture: Statue of Dawid Stuurman

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Port Elizabeth of Yore: Kragga Kamma

Up until the late 1700s, this area was teaming with wild game with large herds of elephants abounding. Various explorers and adventurers attested to the fact that this part of the country once boasted incredibly dense populations of most of the species encountered in South Africa. Until recently, none of these animals could be seen in this area anymore. Now, a recently opened game park has put this to rights.

This blog has been based almost exclusively on the Heritage Impact Assessment by Jenny Bennie. 

Main picture: Homestead of Henry Bailey Christian from 1889 to 1892  Continue reading

Port Elizabeth of Yore: The First Official South African Cricket Test

Due to its overwhelming British influence, Port Elizabeth was regarded as the most English of all the towns in South Africa during the nineteenth century. Therefore it is fitting that the first official test match – of that most quintessential of English sports, cricket – should be played in Port Elizabeth between the English and South Africa.

Main picture: The South African team in the first test

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John Dunn: Part 1 – Background to the Bondelswarts People & the SAC

Now faded in the mists of time, the Bondelswarts Rebellion of 1922 is a mere footnote to the history of Southern Africa. In the early years of the 20th century, the whole of the area was in tumult. South West Africa was captured by the South Africans from the German colonisers in 1915. With South West Africa now controlled by South Africa in terms of a League of Nations mandate, the khoikhoi peoples of southern SWA became restive, mainly for legitimate reasons. 

This series of blogs covers the first-hand account of a South African Police Force officer, John Dunn, who was involved in the suppression of a rebellion by the Bondelswarts people in southern SWA. 

Part 1 provides context to this rebellion, the Bondelswarts way of life and their homeland and only provides a terse introduction by John Dunn into being assigned second-in-command of the S.A. Police Mobile Squadron. 

Main picture: John Dunn in later years

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John Dunn: Part 5 – Through a Desert Wonderland to Kalkfontein

Now faded in the mists of time, the Bondelswarts Rebellion of 1922 is a mere footnote to the history of Southern Africa. In the early years of the 20th century, the whole of the area was in tumult. South West Africa was captured by the South Africans from the German colonisers in 1915. With South West Africa now controlled by South Africa in terms of a League of Nations mandate, the khoikhoi peoples of southern SWA were also restive. 

This series of blogs covers the first-hand account of a South African Police Force officer, John Dunn, who was involved in the suppression of a rebellion by the Bondelswarts people in southern SWA. 

In Part 5 of the series, John Dunn describes in exquisite detail the beauty of the trip from the Orange River through the dusty town of Warmbad to the railhead at Kalkfontein. 

Main picture: John Dunn in later years

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John Dunn: Part 4 – Unspeakable Cruelty to the Donkeys

Now faded in the mists of time, the Bondelswarts Rebellion of 1922 is a mere footnote to the history of Southern Africa. In the early years of the 20th century, the whole of the area was in tumult. South West Africa was captured by the South Africans from the German colonisers in 1915. With South West Africa now controlled by South Africa in terms of a League of Nations mandate, the khoikhoi peoples of southern SWA were also restive. 

This series of blogs covers the first-hand account of a South African Police Force officer, John Dunn, who was involved in the suppression of a rebellion by the Bondelswarts people in southern SWA. 

In Part 4 of the series, John Dunn provides in graphic heart-wrenching detail the level of unspeakable cruelty inflicted on the donkeys during the convoy’s journey through impassable sand between Steinkopf and Goodhouse on the Orange River. 

Main picture: John Dunn in later years

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