New Year’s Eve in Africa

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New Years Eve Dance at the Globe and Phoenix Hall late 1940s Mom and Dad far L standing Mr. Forster 2nd R standing Mrs. Davies seated left Mr. Al Davies 2nd R seated

New Year’s Eve in Africa

In the 1940’s Old Year’s Night was bigger than Christmas.  It began with a dance organized by St. Luke’s Anglican Church.  There was a lavish buffet supper spread at the Globe and Phoenix Hall. Everyone went to the dance. Old and young mingled so that a young girl could find herself floating on the portly stomach of an unlikely dance partner.

New Year’s Eve in Africa

Since the hall was not licensed people used to nip out to their cars to indulge between dances.  There was little snobbery or class distinction of any kind.

In the 1940’s the train was still the main link to the outside world. On Que Que’s New Year, revelers from the dance trooped down to the station to hail the passengers as they passed through on the 2 am from Salisbury to Bulawayo.  Everyone danced on the platform. Some climbed on to the flat roof behind the rounded Cape Dutch gable of the station and cavorted there.  Mom and Dad too joined in the festivities their first year there in 1946.

After the big Garratt engine pulled out hissing and belching, people went ‘first-footing’.  The first port of call was usually to Mayor Harry Watt’s and his brother Reg who ran the local garage.  They were Scots and kept their old traditions.  Traditionally the ‘first-footer’ was a tall, dark and handsome man bearing gifts of whisky and food: harbingers of good fortune for the coming year.

Dad, dark, but hardly tall, and hardly handsome, with only a half bottle of Johnnie Walker in hand, ignorantly crossed the threshold at Harry’s house first. It was not an auspicious start for the superstitious Harry.

Mom promised a full tin of homemade Scottish short bread and a full bottle on the morrow.

Thanks to Mrs. Phoebe Pratt for historical information.

8 Comments

  • Betty Goolsby

    Reply Reply December 31, 2010

    Sounds like so much fun, and so happy that all ages were included. That’s where the kids and young adults learned how to socialize and conduct themselves in proper fashion…… Kids today do not know how to mingle, talk intelligently or even make small talk with adults these days and they seem bored all the time. All the partying and revelling along the railroad and places in between must have been so exciting ! Hurrah for your mom for always doing the right thing to smooth the ruffled feathers. That gentleman right next to your dad could have been on the silver screen…………..
    va-va-va-boom…what a cutie! A toast to you and Jan tonight!!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply January 1, 2011

      Betty,
      Life was filled with real interactions and experiences back then, not vicariously on screens of various sorts.
      Que Que attracted it’s fair share of handsome dudes one way or another. Remote as it was, it was quite a place!
      Wishing you and Gary a wonderful New Year moving into your dream house.
      Diana

  • Andrew Davis

    Reply Reply January 1, 2011

    Happy New Year to all of those reading Diana’s wonderful blog!
    What a wonderful journey!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply January 1, 2011

      Andrew,
      Yes, this has been a wonderful experience of discovering myself as well as the world I was born into that no longer exists. I’ve so enjoyed sharing it with old and new friends. We all share a commonality in our lives, not withstanding the differences.
      Thanks for all the patience, encouragement and help since inception.
      Diana

  • Bob Atkinson

    Reply Reply January 5, 2011

    Diana. Your story about Xmas pudding reminds me about an incedent that happened in the mid 50’s. My father was still running the Turtle Mine which was about 60 miles West of Kwekwe in the Silobella district. Mom had bought a tinned Xmas pudding that year. It merely required boiling, in its tin, half submergerd in a pot of water. Not even Thomas, who was our cookboy at that time, could mess that up. Having given him clear instructions on how to cook the pudding we settled down to enjoy the normal roast turkey and gammon ham in the sweltering heat. Half way through the meal there was an almighty bang from the kitchen and as we looked up we saw a flash outside the dining room window, which was Thomas disappearing down the road. Dad and I rushed into the kitchen to find the walls and roof splattered with Xmas pudding. Thomas had got the instructions right except for a fairly important one that required the tin to be punctured to prevent a build up of pressure during cooking.
    Bob

    • Diana

      Reply Reply January 5, 2011

      Bob,
      This is hilarious but so typical of taking basics for granted. You can’t explain enough. It reminds me of Dr. Pirie arriving fresh out of the Isle of Man to join The Practice in Redcliff in the mid 50’s. He came with a fancy new car with a plush leather interior. The car soon got dusty. He instructed his “garden boy” to give it a good hosing down followed by a soap and water sponging, which he did, inside and out!
      Diana

  • E.M.Cormack

    Reply Reply September 13, 2012

    I cannot work out which country in Africa this NYEve took place. I assume Rhodesia because the site seems to be about Rhodesia but which town please?

  • E.M.Cormack

    Reply Reply September 13, 2012

    Sorry, I am an idiot. I see that lower down is not a new article but a continuation and it mentions Que Que.

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