Breidbach: Entertainment in the 1960's & 70's
© Brecht, R, 2009. Imvubu, 21: 3, 4-5.
Breidbach was originally established in 1857 as a settlement for members of the British German Legion. The article explores the humorous and not so humorous social and sport events that occurred in Breidbach during the decades under discussion.
“Breidbach was largely multiracial in character and a few Xhosa families owned large pieces of land – Ncapo, Siyo, Gxonono and especially the Ntoni families. Several coloured families owned land, like the Thompson, Bossr, Cumming, Fritz, Cramford, Jurie, Adams, Leppan, Esben, Windvogel, Weimers, Free, Meyers, Sharpe, Matroos and Harris families. White families, like the Putzier, Bottcher, Tessendorf, Kieck, Van Eck and Lotterings, lived on agricultural plots in the vicinity of the settlement.” The round metal board, which is still to be seen when entering Breidbach (see photograph), is embedded into the old milkwood tree and pays testament to a by-gone era. On the unofficial notice board community sport and social events were advertised simultaneously serving as a favourite spot where “Hontaai” Kleinhans and others used to meet and sing their favourite songs.
“The original four-acre lots, what local coloured people referred to as the ‘lande’ or fields, were situated near the present-day Breidbach High School. The coloureds lived in stone houses vacated by the Germans, which were roofed with corrugated iron, while a few red brick buildings and mud houses were also present. Four-roomed stone houses with a typical dung floor were also very common.” A few corrugated shanties, a later generation named Groovy Town, stretched downwards from the Tutu residents towards the Yellowwoods River and a few houses down Klasie Meyer Street. “Although multi-racial in character, the Xhosa, coloured and white inhabitants of Breidbach were largely living in separate sections in the settlement.” Regardless of their separation, everyone played together, although they attended different schools. According to ‘Antie’ Elizabeth “Babatjie” Williams, coloureds attended the Congregational Union’s Coloured School situated in the old German Baptist Church. Because of limited space, Standard 1 to 3 attended school in the Owl Hall or ‘Jerman School’, Standard 4 in the old Dutch Reformed Church and Standard 5 and 6 in the Congregational Church. As scholars, they often got into mischief during first break by stealing granate (pomegranates), kwepers (quinces), pampelmoese (pomelos) and moerbye (mulberries) from neighboring households. She vividly remembers the school principal, Mr. A.D. Meinie, the inspector of schools, Mr. A.W Lister, and teachers, like Mrs. Harry (nee Jacobus) and later Mr. Stagler, Mr. W. Meyers, Mr. Hoffman, Mr. Jurie, Mrs. Frieda Strachan, Mrs. Mamsie Basson, Mr. F Esben, etc. During break, every learner had to run to the Owl Hall to fetch his daily quota of soup and bread, cocoa and peanut butter bread with the occasional fruit in season prepared by ‘Antie’ Ellen Brown and later ‘Antie’ Francis Lottering. The Owl Hall was also used for various events, like school and community concerts. Xhosa, like Pumla Bongco, Zinzo and later Bongophi attended the local Methodist Church.
Basic amenities, like electricity, flushing toilets and running water, were non-existent forcing residents to carry water from the nearby Yellowwoods River for daily use. The collecting of water and wood became a daily routine for young and old, while the Primus stove became an essential item in virtually all households. ‘Antie’ Babatjie vividly remembers the story her late mother, Nene Bora Jurie, told her about the notorious Bush Ranger and Forester, Mr. Alfie Boy, “who was in charge of collecting dog tax and the granting of licenses for the collection of wood and also conducted the pound and kept the keys to the cemetery”. During a routine check, Mr. Boy caught her and her mother red-handed busy collecting wood. While hiding their axes behind their backs, they screamed at Mr. Boy: “Nee Baas, nee Baas, ons het niks nie.” Concerning the origin of the sobriquet given to the Bush Rangers, Rooi Lorrie, one can only speculate.
Various social events took place that kept residents and visitors alike entertained for days on end especially over weekends. Sporting events, like rugby and netball games between Rubberhides and their respective opponents, like Shamrocks, became legendary. ‘Antie’ Lya Swartz, c/o Welcome and Kolk Street, converted her living room into an entertainment area where youngsters used to hang out after these games. The concerts or ‘Potsoyi’s’, Xhosa slang for concerts, a word coloureds later used in their day to day vocabulary, were visited by young and old to socialize, meet new friends, the opposite sex and talk about the games. In the 70’s a group called the Starlights, consisting of Larry “Larrie” McDonald, Mella Adams and Gavin Tutu as lead singers, Martin “NoPiep” Booysen on lead guitar, Booy Booysen on bass guitar, David McDonald and Bennet Cramford on drums, supplied the musical entertainment. ‘Antie’ Lya also ran a shop and did some needlework. In 1963 an Indian family, Tommy and Avis Pillay, moved to Breidbach with their whole family and opened up a shop and cinema appropriately called the Pilladium. The Pillay siblings, Wayne, Gavin and Sherell, attended the local coloured school. ‘Oom’ John “Slowly” Smith’s shop became a favourite hang-out since many young boys later joined his boxing club, which he ran from the same premises. Young boys, like Johnny Williams, “Boysie” Williams, Gordon, Graham and Johnny Smith, Tommy Esterhuizen, Denzel Maart, Willem Block and Mackie Esterhuizen participated in boxing tournaments against clubs from Zwelitsha, Queenstown, Tshatshu, Dimbaza and Tyip-Tyip.
On Sunday afternoons, young and old were entertained at the “Wayside” in Kolk Street when Mrs Birkholtz and her whole family from the Baptist Church in town came to Breidbach to sing religious songs, like “Joy, joy is in my heart”, “Deep and Wide” and “Wide, wide as the ocean”. Occasionally, afterwards, sweets were handed out. A gathering all welcomed since it offered some sort of alternative religious participation to the youth, albeit supplied by whites. Although living apart most of the time, interaction between different groups was very common including the daily trips we took to the farm of ‘Oubaas’ and ‘Miesies’ Schmidt to buy fresh farm milk and cow dung to be smeared on our floors.
A story about Breidbach would be incomplete without mentioning the role the Bellstone played, which was then situated on the old King William’s Town-East London road. I can vividly recall how the community church congregations would gather round the stone for prayer and gospel readings during times of drought. Many residents recall how on such excursions to Bellstone, the heavens suddenly opened after a church elder, like ‘Oom’ Jacob “Tottie” Gosling, had just finished his prayers. Call it the miracle of divine intervention or mere coincidence.
Everyone interviewed unanimously agreed that Breidbach was a close-knit community since all sport and social events served as unifying agents. Soccer games between teams like Spurs, Young Brazilians and Leeds were examples of sporting rivalries that emerged, while the more sedate who were less inclined to rough physical sport played tennis.
Stephanie Victor ‘Segregated Housing: the coloured people of King William’s Town, 1895-1946’, Unpublished MA thesis: Rhodes University.
Interviews with Jenny, Myrna and Olga Anthony, Lydia Brecht, Karel and Desiree Campher, Welma Damon,Tony Gosling, Denzel and Alice Maart, “Larrie” McDonald, ‘Oom’ “Slowly” and Graham Smith, ‘Oom’ Pieter and Elizabeth “Babatjie” Williams.