Thursday, October 10, 2019

Memory Lane redux

Stanley - Thursday

I am in Denmark waiting to head to the airport where we'll fly (via Oslo) to Kirkenes near the Norwegian/Russian border. Then over the next two weeks we'll take a ferry along the coast to Bergen.

Joining Mette and me are two old South African friends, who have never been in Scandinavia - they are nervous of the upcoming cold. The main purpose of the trip is to find and photograph the northern lights.

Of course, some of the conversations we've had are about South Africa and its customs - which reminded me of an old blog that I wrote of things from my childhood that young South Africans today would probably not recognise. Here they are again,

I was thinking about my childhood recently - of the Fifties and Sixties.  And how fortunate I was to have a loving family, food on the table, and parents who prized education and, of course, books.

That sparked memories of things that if I told youngsters of today, they would look at me blankly. 

A tickey box

Public telephones used to cost threepence for a three-minute call.  In South Africa, a threepence coin was called a tickey.  Hence the name.

I remember the tickey box at the tuck shop at school - some enterprising future scientist had rigged up a wire from the innards of the box which, if you touched it to a small metal plate on the receiver, completed the call without having to pay.

Abandoned tickey boxes
A one-and-thrup

Comic book stories - longer and more complex than Superman or Popeye - were very popular.  For us they were expensive, but much sought after.  They cost one shilling and threepence (thruppence).


A popular sweet (candy) was a small packet of what we called sherbet that came with a straw.  Sucking the fine powder was wonderful, except if you accidentally inhaled it.  I'm sure it was just flavoured confectioner's sugar.

Brown cow

I still enjoy an occasional brown cow - half coca cola, half milk. 

White cow

I never enjoyed a glass with half milk and half lemonade (Sprite).

A sammy

My family bought most of its vegetables from an Indian man who drove along the streets with a specially adapted bakkie (pick-up truck) displaying his wares.  I guess the word sammy was slang for an Indian man.  I don't remember if it was pejorative, but it probably was, given this was South Africa.



Bug house



Cloth on the back of a seat to protect the fabric from being stained with hair oil (macassar or brylcreem).  "Brylcreem - a little dab'll do ya!" was the radio jingle for Brylcreem.

Anti-macassars on a train

Swimming costume

Bathing trunks

We still use this term in South Africa.


Swimming costume

Spend a penny

To urinate.

Public ablutions used to cost a penny to use.

Monkey gland steak

Exotic simian meal.

Just kidding!  Monkey gland sauce is a tangy sauce to put on steak.  A good recipe can be found here.

Chappies bubble gum

Fruit-flavoured bubble gum

Nigger balls

We never knew that the name of those hard, black sweets was offensive - partly because the word 'nigger' was not in common use in South Africa.  We had our own offensive terms.  They are now called black balls.

Nigger balls

Delivered milk

At the front door - every day. With dollops of cream at the top.


Pronounced as many Americans say 'roof'.  Or perhaps how Caro would say it. Or a dog barking. It means to swim.

Louis Washkansy

The recipient of the first heart transplant - done at Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town by Dr. Chistiann Barnard on December 3, 1967.  He lived 18 days.

Apartheid signs

No comment necessary.

Ag, Pleez Deddy

The most famous song from the Sixties was what was known as Ag, Pleez Deddy.  Jeremy Taylor wrote and played "The Ballad of the Southern Suburbs", which mildly mocked the language and accent of the southern reaches of Johannesburg.  Taylor was later banned because of his anti-apartheid stance.  You can listen to the song here, scratches and hiss included.

I'm sure everyone reading this will have similar lost memories.  Please share some.

1 comment:

  1. Those apartheid signs are disgusting and inflammatory, dangerous to African people. So is the use of that horrific term for candy.
    So glad that apartheid was defeated, but now economic equity is essential, in addition to eliminating old prejudices.