Chitchat The days when Riebeek res­i­dents fetched their water in buck­ets in Fon­tein Street

go! Platteland - - CONTENTS - HC Pauw, STEL­LEN­BOSCH

The ar­ti­cle “Val­ley of Grapes and Olives” in the Au­tumn is­sue brought back many mem­o­ries. I was born in Riebeek in 1927. We lived in Fon­tein Street be­fore there were any street num­bers. It was named as such be­cause there were foun­tains where res­i­dents used buck­ets to col­lect water daily, as there wasn’t yet a mu­nic­i­pal wa­ter­dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem.

My ear­li­est mem­o­ries, how­ever, are of water be­ing piped in from a foun­tain in the moun­tains, which was later sup­ple­mented by bore­holes. Res­i­dents could buy water in mul­ti­ples of 100 gal­lons a day – it was de­liv­ered con­sis­tently, whether nec­es­sary or not, and there were no water me­ters.

Oom Wil­lie Kirsten was the water su­per­in­ten­dent. His big bike had a can­vas bag over the bar in which he kept all his pipe span­ners and pli­ers. On ev­ery prop­erty there was a wooden box that housed the con­trol tap, which had a lock. Oom Wil­lie would set the con­trols to de­liver the al­lowed vol­ume of water per day at a con­stant flow. Many houses were so prim­i­tive that they didn’t have run­ning water and those peo­ple would carry their water in buck­ets from the tank or dam. Ducks fed on the wa­ter­weeds that grew where there was an over­flow, so the water wasn’t all wasted.

There wasn’t enough metal avail­able dur­ing the war years to re­place metal pipes, so wooden pipes were used. These were made by slant­ing the edges of long wood pipes, like the sides of a bar­rel. As the water en­tered the pipes, it pressed these slanted edges against a sturdy wire hold­ing the pipe to­gether, mak­ing it wa­ter­tight.

In ref­er­ence to one of the let­ters in the same is­sue, I would like to men­tion that I also grew up with a long-drop, which stood 30m from our house.

They tell the story of Koos van der Merwe (not from Swart­dam, but from the Ka­roo) who had to move their long-drop af­ter long use. There were a few dry oil wells on his farm that were more than 1 000 feet deep and so, to avoid the ef­fort of dig­ging a new long-drop hole, he moved the struc­ture over on top of one of these wells. Shortly af­ter­wards, his cousin from town came to visit and went to use the toi­let. He en­tered, closed the door and didn’t reap­pear. When they went look­ing for him later, they found he had died while sit­ting there. There was much spec­u­la­tion about what could have caused his death, and Koos said, “No, man, it’s ob­vi­ous. We Van der Mer­wes al­ways hold our breath un­til we hear it drop!”

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