I cannot remember whether or not I was surprised to hear that my mother was expecting another baby during 1945. To me it would make no difference, but my sisters were all very busy knitting baby clothes. In those days you had no idea whether it would be a boy or girl and I think to my parents it didn’t matter either. Farther down the road, my mom’s sister, aunty Dickie, was also expecting. My sister, Thelma, was being seriously courted by Gordon Bradford and he would come from Port Elizabeth for weekends to spend some time with her. On the farm was an old Fordson tractor and Gordon decided that he would repair and overall the engine and have it running again. This he did to my dad’s delight. It had huge steel wheels with steel grips on them to prevent it from slipping, but it used to cut up a road if driven on it. It was very useful and made farming easier and ploughing much quicker.
My parents decided to go in for egg production and built wattle & daub chicken houses and bought day old chickens from Greenwood Poultry Farm to rear themselves. In those days there was as yet no sexing of chickens, so you had to take what you got. They bought Black Australorps but found that these did not slaughter well because of the black feathers. The cockerels were slaughtered at about three to six months but did not dress well, so they decided to go in for the brown New Hampshires as well as a hybrid breed of white Leghorns crossed with the Black Australorps. (The hybrids were white fowls with the odd black or brown feathers). The Australorps were beautiful fowls that shone with an iridescent green sheen in the sun and the Hampshires had beautiful light brown feathers. These fowls all laid eggs with brown shells. It is a fact that while fowls like Leghorns with white earlobes would lay white shelled eggs, our fowls with red earlobes produced brown shelled eggs.
The milk on the farm was separated in the dairy and the cream sent to the creamery in Grahamstown. There were many types of wild flowers growing on the farm and we would pick stems of Strelitzia flowers (called bird of paradise), blue Agapanthus known as blue bells, pink Nerinas as well as white & yellow Chincherinchees which we would send to the florists in Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown. It all depended on the seasons, and at times it would be fynbos and proteas.
On the 29th of September my mother went into labour and my dad rushed off to fetch the midwife in Alexandria, but the baby seemed to be coming sooner than expected so Thelma told me to run as fast as I could and go and call the old black woman on the farm who had experience with delivering babies. As I was running back with the old woman following me, I saw Mrs Suttie also running down the road, but my dad arrived with the midwife before the baby could be born. The baby was born without any trouble and it was a boy!! He was named John Henry Whittal after our dear old grandpa and he was the only Whittal to bear the old man’s names. A little more than a month later aunty Dickie also gave birth to a boy. He was born on the 6th of November and named Robert James Whittal after a bachelor cousin of our fathers. He has always been known as Jimmy and today lives here in Port Elizabeth, not very far from me. Today Johnny has a granddaughter of about twelve years old, and his son’s wife is expecting their first baby, whereas Jimmy is the grandfather of three little children (two boys and a girl). I wonder what the old man would have said!
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