I cannot remember how we spent our first Christmas on Hopewell but the church must have been important. We were members of the Salem Methodist Church and most of our neighbours were Methodists. My mother, Thelma and Bertha were busy with confirmation classes in the Free State and this had to be discontinued when we moved. I can remember when they attended classes at the home of Aunty Joe Payne. After we were settled on the new farm, they continued their classes on Sundays after the services at Salem. So it was that during early 1945 they were confirmed in the historical Salem Methodist Church, and at the same time my dad was welcomed into the church as he had been a member of the Church of England until then. He and my mom were married in a Methodist church and all we children were christened as Methodists but he had never been recognised as a member.
“The church at Salem is the oldest Methodist church in South Africa. The original church at Salem was built in December 1822, but this was demolished ten years after erection, to make way for a more solid edifice. Just across the road from the church is the oldest cricket pitch in South Africa that is still in use”.
Salem is a settlement about 20 km South of Grahamstown and 20 km north of Alexandria. It was founded as a settlement of the party of 1820 Wesleyan settlers under Hezekiah SEPHTON. The name is of Biblical origin (Gen. 14:18) and means "peace"; the local application refers to an incident in which Richard GUSH succeeded in securing peace with marauding Xhosas by means of a sermon, and gifts of tobacco and pocket knives. The original foundation stone of the church was laid by WH Matthews J.P. on 18 July 1850. The church hall bears the date of 1832.
Daphne and I were joined at the Alexandria School by little brother Leslie. Our cousins attending the same school were Walter, Florence and Gracie. Les started school in July but soon caught up to the other Sub A’s as he was clever and had been schooled by our sisters (he was always known to the family as Boetie). Walter was back at school after taking a year’s break to help his dad on the farm, but all the same he was still sixteen when he wrote matric.
At school we all had to participate in sports but there wasn’t much to choose from so for me it was PT, rugby and running. I hated rugby but ended up playing hooker for our school’s barefoot team. I can remember coming second in a two or three mile running event. That was quite an achievement. Unfortunately I was never a sporting type and only participated because I had to.
I can remember attending a welcome home party on a farm with the family somewhere near Seven Fountains when one or two prisoner of war soldiers returned home. I can remember Ossie Long specifically, but I can also remember the great sadness of Mr and Mrs Fred Gush whose only son had been killed during the war and for him there would be no homecoming. It was at this party where I saw and met my dad’s cousin, Aunty Pearl Pittaway, who lived and worked as Mrs Mabel Gush’s companion. She was the daughter of my Grandpa’s sister, Harriet Pittaway. I understand that the death of the Gush’s son was a devastating blow to them which they never overcame.
Thelma and Gordon became engaged during 1945. After his parents had met mine she was allowed to spend some time with them in Port Elizabeth where Mrs Bradford taught her the customs of city dwellers. Mr Walter Bradford was a pucker Englishman, always well dressed and wore a bow tie, whereas Mrs Miemie Bradford was from an Afrikaans family and she never lost her Afrikaans accent. She was a very smart lady who dressed well and had beautiful manners. Her one sister was married to my mother’s brother, Uncle Arnold Randall, and it was because of this relationship that Gordon and Thelma had met. The wedding was planned for March 1946 and in the mean time the Bradfords would extend their house to make a flat for the young couple.
It was on the 29th September of that year that our little brother Johnny was born. Any “Laatlammetjie” is a special child and this was no exception, he was loved by us all and when his sisters were working, they would buy him toys and clothes like not one of us ever had. Like the rest of us, Johnny was breast fed and grew into a healthy and strong little boy.
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