What Rose Scorgie saw
Rose Scorgie was born in Potchefstroom in 1881, grew up and lived her for the bigger part of her life. When she was 87 she concluded a detailed autobiography. The manuscript is held in the archives of the Potchefstroom Museum.
Her parents lived in a house which they had built in 1869 on the corner of Kerk Street (Walter Sizulu) and the Old Market Square, where the West Acres Centre currently stands.
The only building on the Old Market Square then was the first church building of the Gereformeerde Kerk, which was inaugurated in 1867. During the three-monthly “nagmaal” wagons with tents gathered on the square around the church.
Rose wrote that when darkness set in, a lantern was lit in each tent. Now inasmuch as some tents were of light weight material all the figures of those inside were silhouetted on the canvas and their movements defined somewhat like a magic lantern show, or so it seemed to us children. However, as in those days children were sent to bed early, we did not view for long. For another thing Mother considered it unkind of us to do so.
However Rose described a scene she observed: I do remember seeing this little comedy which, however, was in the morning. A girl, about nine or ten years of age, after she’d washed up all the breakfast dishes, took hold of her little brother by the collar of his jacket and carefully washed his face, ears and neck with the wet dishcloth. Judging from the outcry, greatly to his displeasure.
The Town Council’s “chucker out”
In the early days of the town council of Potchefstroom an official “chucker out” was appointed to assist with keeping the peace during debates. This decision catapulted the town council and the town into the national newspapers.
In 1922 a farcical debate occurred over the grant of a pair of riding-breeches to the chucker out, also the town ranger – described as the “Pet of Potch”. This debate took place during a meeting of the town council and was reported on in the Herald of 10 January 1922.
Some members of the council thought that the ranger was sufficiently remunerated to buy his own breeches. If the town ranger wants breeches, some argued, everybody else would soon also demand breeches! One Mr Du Plessis said that these breeches were “for the ranger to wear when he sat in the Council Chamber to chuck members out.” Mr Du Plessis was reprimanded by a Mr Duvenage who said that Mr Du Plessis was making himself and the council a laughing-stock.
A Mr Webster insisted on a thorough inspection of the old garment. “The mayor here turned to the public gallery to suppress the mirth emanating from that quarter.”
“Considerable amusement was caused when it was explained to a Dutch-speaking member of the Council that a pair of breeches did not mean “een paar broeken” but a single garment. ‘Two legs, it means,’ supplemented Mr Du Plessis.”
On 3 February this letter was published:
Dear Mr Editor,
We see in all the colonial and other papers that the Potchefstroom town council are drawing crowded houses owning to the excellence of their performances. As they are shortly staging a new “drama,” “The Fight against the Chamber of Commerce,” we have made up a large party here, and engaged a special train to take us to Potchefstroom for that occasion. Will you please let us know the date when this sensational play will be staged?
On 10 February 1922 the Herald reprinted an article that was published in the Sunday Times.
Talking of town councils reminds me that they are having a lot of trouble at Potchefstroom over the appointment of that Usher of the Iron Rod whose function it is to see that all town councillors obey the chair or leave the room – presumably with the mighty assistance of the Usher’s hard haarh toe. (What a ‘haarh toe” is, is a mystery.)
Even Volksrust has never had an official chucker-out for its Municipal Pantomine – although occasionally there seem to be some slight need for one. . . If I were a doctor, I should establish my surgery opposite the Town Hall. If I were an insurance underwriter, I should put up the accident rates for Town Councillors!
This all came to shortly afterwards when the Usher of the Town Council resigned.
In An Editor’s Reminiscences CV Bate, owner and editor of the Herald, mentioned these episode:
Although I can recall some lively gatherings of that nominated body (the Health Board that existed until 1904) it was nothing to the riotous proceedings which marked meetings of the Town Council in later years.
The chucker-out, a local prize-fighter, named Randles, became famous throughout South Africa – as indeed did the town council itself – and I was freely blamed for the newspaper publicity accorded the ridiculous scenes which took place. The critics did not realise that they themselves had created the news. Randles was also the town ranger, and he was an aggressive-looking figure in his gaiters, riding breeches, and the braided frock coat with which he had been provided to lend an official touch to his job as supervisor of municipal decorum.
Reuben Gericke – champion of the oak trees
Reuben Gericke (1871-1926) was a city councillor who agitated for the planting of the oak trees. He later assisted with the watering and caring of the trees.
Gericke was born on 3 May 1871 in George in the Western Cape. He came to Potchefstroom after the Anglo-Boer War and was an auctioneer as well as a member of the town council.
Gericke never married and died on 28 August 1926 (Photo: PM).
According to the late Mrs Tina Jooste Gericke was a well-known mischief maker. He had red hair and a large moustache. He resided in a boarding house in Kruger Street (Beyers Naudé). An unmarried female teacher, who also lived there, fell ill and a doctor was called. At the time Gericke shaved off his moustache and entered the lady’s room posing as the doctor. She did not recognise him, but only later remarked about all the gold teeth in the doctor’s mouth!
Burgemeester aangesien vir Prins van Wallis
Toe die Prins van Wallis in 1925 na Suid-Afrika gekom het, was Potchefstroom een van die plekke waar hy aangedoen het. Hy is in Potchefstroom verwag op 22 Junie, maar die Herald begin reeds in Februarie verslag doen oor sy verwagte besoek.
Edward, Prins van Wallis, het onder sy familie bekendgestaan as David. Hy is berug vir sy verhouding met die Amerikaanse geskeide vrou, Wallis Simpson, met wie hy in 1937 getroud is nadat hy geabdikeer het as Britse koning.
Later onthou die stigter van die Herald CV Bate: “the Herald splashed itself over with the visit of the Prince of Wales”.
Daar is van vroeg af berig oor die stadsraad se planne vir sy besoek, of die winkels oop of toe moet wees tydens sy besoek en die £100 wat opsy gesit is vir die besoek.
Nadat hy in April in Suid-Afrika geland het, is daar weekliks verslag gedoen oor die vordering van die toer. In Kaapstad het iemand ’n lewendige haas aan hom geskenk as troeteldier. Sy hand het so opgeswel van die handskud dat hy later met sy linkerhand moes groet!
Een van die groot probleme in Potchefstroom was waar die Prins die skoolkinders sou ontmoet. Daar is later besluit dat hulle in die park (waar Olënpark en die McArthurstadion tans is) sou byeenkom.
Die Prins het om 10:30 op die stasie arriveer, waar hy deur hoogwaardigheidsbekleërs verwelkom is. Daarna is hy na die gholfbaan geneem waar hy tee gedrink het uit koppies wat deur mevrou Goetz geleen is. Hy het die proefplaas besoek, waar hy ’n eikeboom geplant het. Hy het ook die graf van president MW Pretorius besoek, waarna hy deur die park terug is na die stasie.
Een van die kinders wat dié dag daar was, was later prof Fritz Potgieter. Hy skryf in 1988:
Soms het die buitewêreld hierheen gekom, soos toe die Prins van Wallis Potchefstroom besoek het. Al die skole op die dorp en in die distrik het dié dag vakansie gehad, en al die kinders, ook van die plaasskole, is op die dorp saamgetrek en van klein Union Jackies voorsien (daar was nog geen landsvlag nie) om die prins behoorlik met vlaggewuif langs die strate te begroet as hy verby kom. Ons plaasklompie het ons hees geskree – net om agterna uit te vind die man wat agter in die oop motor gestaan het met sy rooi toga en seerowerhoed en wat die teiken van ons krete was, was nooit die prins nie, maar die burgemeester van Potchefstroom. Die prins was die ou valetjie langs hom wat ons nooit raakgesien het nie!
In Reitzstraat gaan dit plesierig
Potchefstroom haal die nasionale nuus in 1996 toe ’n plaaslike bordeel hier oopgevlek is. Die opskrif van die hoofberig van die Herald van 18 Oktober 1996 lui: “Inwoners gons oor Bult-bordeel.”
Die Polisie se Kinderbeskermingseenheid (KBE) het gereageer op ’n oproep van ’n ma wat gesê het sy vermoed haar seun is by dié huis en dat hulle hom daar moet gaan verwyder.
’n Nagraadse student van die PU wat haar honneursstudie in Rekreasiekunde gedoen het oor sekstoerisme het gesê die halfnaak prostitute in die omstrede Reitzstraat-bordeel dra van die uitlokkendste klere wat sy tydens haar navorsing teëgekom het. Sy het dié bordeel besoek om vraelyste te versprei vir haar studie.
Reitzstraat het gou berug geword en studente het in Eleazerstraat (naby Reitzstraat) ’n aanwysingsbord aangebring vir die berugte bordeel. Met die opskrif “AmaWendy-Wendy. No ID Needed, Ryts 75” word daar die draak gesteek met dié huis wat deur al wat joernalis en nuuskierige bekyk en besoek is.
’n Besoekende provinsiale rugbyspan sou glo ook die bordeel ’n maand vantevore besoek het, aldus die eienaar van ’n sekswinkel. Hy beweer dat hyself die rugbyspelers na Reitzstraat vervoer het, “want dit sou baie verdag voorkom as die hele rugbyspan met ’n bus daar opdaag.”
Die bordeeleienaar en sy vrou, wat as ontkleedanser in die bordeel opgetree het, het na Durban verhuis waar sy glo sou werk.
Twee jaar later is hulle weer in die sop nadat hulle hier die Trimparksaal gehuur het en daar ontkleedanse gehou het. Hulle is elk tot ’n jaar tronkstraf gevonnis en moes R10 000 boete betaal.