I Walk Beside You

Rhodesian Garratt forging full steam ahead

Rhodesian Garratt forging full steam ahead

I Walk Beside You

In Que Que’s early days before the turn of the twentieth century, travel was by donkey cart, which took three days to cover the forty miles from Que Que to the nearest town, Gwelo.  With the advent of rail between Salisbury and Que Que in 1901 and from Bulawayo in 1902, the trip took four hours, eighteen all the way to Bulawayo.

I Walk Beside You

In the forties, the widow, Bex Baldachin who kept the books for her father’s store, Paul’s Fruitiers, used to go to the station every evening at nine with her children David, Dora (Cissy) and Paula to see the trains from Salisbury and Bulawayo pass through.  It was quite likely there would be somebody on it they knew.

In the fifties, my Dad wanted to rest every Sunday afternoon.  He gave Brian, David and me half a crown to buy sweets from sour Mr. Kluckow at Vernon’s Cafe on Main Street.  We bought Rowntree fruit gums, Wilkinson’s dolly mixture, cigarette sweets, gob stoppers, licorice shoe laces or packets of sherbet.  Then we crossed the street and cut through the shade of the park to the station to wait for the goods trains.  Once they passed, we knew it would be okay leave the shade of the station for the searing uphill slog home for hot tea.  We got a cool reception if we returned early, which didn’t happen often.

Until coal was available when the line reached Wankie from Bulawayo in 1905, the crew sometimes had to stop the train to cut down a few more trees to feed the engine.  They also sometimes stopped to shoot for the pot if they spotted game.  Mrs. Malehan, one of the first women in Que Que, recalled the train once stopped to settle an argument on the spot, before the circuit court began from 1905 (Que Que did not get an assistant magistrate until 1914). The train also stopped to pick up a milk can, a load of meilies (corn), hand over the post, or pick up Natives beside the beacon of a lone acacia tree.

One Christmas Day, the train was all decked out with tree branches from the bush.  It had hardly got up steam outside Que Que when it stopped at the Gaika Mine. The driver got out, climbed through the two strand fence and visited a friend, the newly married Dora Candy’s neighbor.

After downing a few beers, he returned to the engine cab and the train went on its way.

Thanks to Dora Dunkley (Candy), Val Barbour, Bob Atkinson and Ed Goldberg for the research materials, and http://fatfox9.wordpress.com/tag/beyer-garrett-locomotive/ for the photograph.

13 Comments

  • betty

    Reply Reply February 25, 2012

    The train must have never been on schedule with all the stops and interruptions. That is so funny that your dad needed to get rid of the kids to rest. I love the list of sweets…these were some I saw and tried at the news shop/stationery store in the town of Lakenheath when we were stationed in England. Harry Potter had some of those sweets on the train to Hogwarts! You guys were really in the middle of nowhere……

    • Diana

      Reply Reply February 25, 2012

      Betty, yes we were, but civilization in the form of English sweets still reached us one way or another!

  • Felicity Garde

    Reply Reply February 27, 2012

    I really enjoy reading your stories of Que Que, (Once Called Home). Your Dad was our doctor for a long time, until John Ward and Dr. Crossley joined the practice. Also growing up in Que Que from 1959 until 1981 was so memorable.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply February 27, 2012

      Felicity, So glad you are enjoying the blog. Yes, dad started out with a contract to the Globe and Phoenix Mine Benefit Society, but also opened a private practice of his own to service the town. The practice grew quickly: Drs. Adlington, Ward joined before 1950 with addition of Browne, Pirie in the 50’s and then Crossley in the 60’s. They didn’t quite have a monopoly, but covered the QQ-Redcliff area extensively using the Government Que Que Hospital (which was new when he arrived in 1946) for a whole range of surgery.

      • Diana

        Reply Reply February 27, 2012

        Andrew, Thats it! You are absolutely right! (memory not serving me too well)(I’ll correct the blog). Mr. Kluckow used to get rather exasperated with us when we couldn’t make up our minds on our purchase for the day. Back and forth we’d go. At one time there was Rick’s Furniture Store next door (’50). It was huge and it sold new and used. It was managed by Mrs. Heimowtiz. (?sp) We called her Mrs. Heimi. she was very old and almost bent double with a bad back and a very hooked nose, but she could navigate around all the jumble of furniture and had a ‘special price’ just for you.

        Yes, I remember the pin ball machines and the juke box and the tunes changing with the times. It was a popular spot. And Vernon’s served a great tea. Thanks for the correction and the happy memories.

        • Andrew Kluckow

          Reply Reply February 28, 2012

          Hi Diana

          Thanks for your reply and correction, I have now looked deeper into you blog and I remember Dr Hirsh. Mum was a Sister at the Que Que Hospital for many years. We still own the old Vernon’s building on First Street. Mr Rick used to live in one of the rooms above the Cafe after Mrs. Rick kicked him out, his sons now have the Spar at Balantyne Park in Harare.

  • Andrew Kluckow

    Reply Reply February 27, 2012

    Great read, just one thing – who was Mr Cloete at Vernon’s Cafe?
    My Grand Parents started and owned the Cafe – Vernon Kluckow. He passed away when I was three but Gran live above the Cafe till about 1980, I remember as a kid when I used to spend the night at Gran’s,walking across First Street with one of the servants to watch the steam trains shunting etc.

    I also remember the Cafe as I grew up, it became Nyore Nyore Zimbabwe Furnishers in the early ’70’s. One vivid thing I remember, I must have been 5 or 6 years old, we had just done the sponsored walk out to Dutchman’s Pools and someone kindly gave me and a group of friends ‘Two and Six’ (25 cents) for our efforts. Dad asked the group how we would like to spend the money and we all said lets go back to the Cafe and play Pinball. So we did.

  • June Parker (nee Fitt)

    Reply Reply March 20, 2012

    Hi Diana,

    I was given your website by my cousin Val Moller(Jackson). I was so excited to read all the old goings on in Que Que. Your father delivered me and my daughter and came to our wedding in 1970. My gran Agnes Dill Russell was the 1st Police Woman in Que Que.
    My mother ran the Showroom in Slomans and my Father was Mine Manager at Risco. Look forward to hearing more news.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply March 20, 2012

      June came across many photo’s of you in the various pantos. You were a lovely dancer. So glad you are enjoying the memories.

  • John Roberts

    Reply Reply July 8, 2013

    Fascinating stuff! I’m beginning to write a novel and it opens with the arrival of an ex Army Colonel in Salisbury 1946. I’m assuming he would have arrived by train – would this have been from Cape Town and how long would it have taken? I would also be grateful for any information about successful tobacco farming in Southern Rhodesia between 1946 and 1980 when my main character returns to UK. Any anecdotes, refernces to books or other websites would be very helpful

    John Roberts

    • Diana

      Reply Reply July 9, 2013

      John, Glad you are enjoying the blogs. It took three days to get from Cape Town to Bulawayo with a change in Johannesburg and Bulawayo and then onto a Salisbury passenger train which was overnight. (Showers and a restaurant were available in Bulawayo.) Of course there was a first class dining car available all the way to Bulawayo with early morning coffee and tea served to the carriages on the Sby train by a (European) steward.
      I’m not that familiar with tobacco farming details except to say that cigarette smoking soared during WWII. This was when Rhodesia’s tobacco industry took off and became a major source of foreign exchange there after. It was ideal country for it and the Rhodesians cured it to perfection and it was world class. Look to back issues of Rhodesian Farming magazines for details or better yet get some first hand info from the farmers themselves. This gives you the fresh immediate perspective. Best of luck with your book.

  • Leon Smith

    Reply Reply January 21, 2015

    Are you still looking for information on tobacco farming in Rhodesia?

    Kind regards,

    Leon Smith

    • Diana

      Reply Reply February 1, 2015

      Yes, I can use it for book two…tell me what you know. Authentic knowledge from those that experienced life in the field is what my books are all about.

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