It Takes a Villiage

6085820357_1dab5f4e29.jpg

Piper Moss Mine. Demolishing an old house donated by Mr. Varkevisser. Bricks were cleaned and transported on an old WWII ambulance to Echo Park at Dutchmans Pool

It Takes a Village.

I’ve written a lot about my parents and the contribution they made to developing Que Que from a paltry village to the industrial hub of Rhodesia.  However, of course long before Hilary Clinton coined the phrase It Takes a Village Que Que knew the meaning of this all too well.  For instance, this is how Echo Park came into being.

It Takes a Village

Around 1959, ten or so acres of beautifully wooded land with huge granite outcrops, splendid msasa trees, as well as a variety of other trees and shrubs and most importantly a fairly large flat area for campers, was donated to the Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements by Que Que Round Table.  It was just eight miles out of town along a winding dirt road.

The Scouting and Guiding movements raised five hundred pounds towards development of the park, the dream being a Lodge for training purposes for Guiders from allover the Federation, and where Brownies and Cubs not yet old enough to camp could enjoy holidays.  State Lotteries took a hand and agreed to loan one thousand pounds provided it be repaid.   But the enthusiasm of the Guides, Brownies and Cubs and Scouts made the State Lotteries decide to give six thousand five hundred pounds as a grant. Fund raising from the pantomime The Magic Shoes raised sixty pounds. Subsequent pantos, the Aqua Follies and Nonsense Galas involved the whole town one way or another and continued for years.

Lady Baden-Powell, the World Chief Guide visited the Dutchman’s Pool site on her World Tour as well as Rhodesia’s National Commissioner Mrs. Wynn and her successor Mrs. Rae.

The Lions Club, whose young and enthusiastic members had youngsters in the movement, organized work parties to lay water and stand pipes.  Ron Freeman, with his very pink knees, directed operations.  In all, over time, as funds allowed, ten standpipes with municipal water were installed.

Mr. Varkevisser of the Piper Moss Mine gave a derelict building.  It was demolished.  The bricks were cleaned and stacked by the Guides and Brownies.   Word went out for donation of abandoned doors, window frames, roof beams or piping.

Somewhere along the way the movement acquired an old WWII ambulance.  Only Mrs. Elaine Tyzack and Mark Gilby knew how to get the gears to do what they were supposed to do.  It was not licensed, chewed petrol and was not supposed to carry humans.   The bricks and supplies were loaded into it and transported to Echo Park campground.  The ambulance served well in all manner of ways.

Cubs and Brownies brought their own picnic lunches, and had great sessions rolling rocks and stones down from the hill to be carted away to what was to become the foundations of proper toilets and later on a brick shower house and pit toilets, as well as a caretaker’s cottage.

Surplus logs from the telephone or electricity department were supplied. There were enough to build a log cabin.  Dave Morrison and his Scouts erected this cabin on the Scout Hall grounds, labeled each log and then transported them out to the site, before the next challenge of the roof installation from the donation of thousands of surplus red tiles from a building.

Beds with narrow iron bedsteads, that an African school had refused to buy, were moved in.  Mattresses were made and covered with heavy plastic

A covered kitchen and washing up area followed in due course.

The multi racial weekend training facility had been realized.  It also allowed the Brownies and Cubs to enjoy all the fun of the outdoors and the thrill of sleeping in a real log cabin.

The caretaker’s cottage was built near the entrance.    The caretaker received weekly wages and rations. He fished in Dutchman’s Pool.  On the sly he set snares.

Mom would lament over and over again “my heart is very sore,” as the snares were repeatedly discovered.

Finally splendid entrance gates of wrought iron were erected and a short brick wall built that went around a tree and ended up in a rocky outcrop, vivid with red aloes in the winter, which was the camping season.   It was a beautiful area with the Sebakwe River nearby and baobab trees a short distance away along a winding path.  Sable Game Park was developed adjoining it and later a beautiful stone fisherman’s tea- room.

In the 70’s, John Nee, as a young policeman in Gatooma, a small town forty miles from Que Que, captured a large python thirteen feet (4m +) long and a second half that that size that had got into a farmer’s chicken house, wrecking havoc. He rang Vic Jenkinson, Que Que’s then town mayor and architect of Que Que’s  handsome new Civic Center at the top of Main Street. Vic drove to Gatooma in his Citroen DS20 and collected the snakes from John for release into Echo Park.  He opened the sacks at the park and stood back with the caretaker prodding the sack. No problems as the first meter left the sack but when the second meter came out, the caretaker backed off and by the time the third meter came out he was trying to climb on his car.

Echo Park was as wild as the adjoining Sable Game Park that was later developed, a gem of a place to explore the great outdoors for all ages and races.  It was available for a fee to church and youth groups as well.  It had taken a village and more, a generous hand out from the National lottery to donations of used materials and willing hands young and old to realize the dream.

12 Comments

  • Tony Wood

    Reply Reply August 28, 2011

    Hi Diana

    I so well remember that ambulance !! Painted blue one side for the Guides and green the other for Scouts. And siting on the doorstep as Dave Morrison drove down the dusty few miles from the turnoff. Also the tiling of the roof – just boys throwing tiles up to from scaffolding to other ‘just boys’ putting them in place !
    Wondrous times. Thanks

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 28, 2011

      Tony, Yes, those were the days. The Division of Motor Vehicles must have been very lax, perhaps non existent in those days! I’m going to write a bit more about the ambulance next week. Diana

  • Chris Duckworth

    Reply Reply August 29, 2011

    Ambulance… There must have been one when we left in 1940, but I never remember seeing one!…. And what about fire engines, and an aerodrome, and motor boats on the river?… And Police patrol cars?… Fascination to say the last…

  • Bob Atkinson

    Reply Reply August 30, 2011

    Hi Diana. The piper Moss Mine was a fairly significant mine in its day. It is situated 4.5 kms north of Kwekwe right next to the main road to Harare and infact the road passes over the eastern part of the underground workings. It was first pegged by the Exploration Lands and Minerals Company along a line of ancient workings. Mining started in 1912 and in the first year of production an average grade of 46g/t (1.4 ozs per ton) was achieved. The mine was first closed in 1927 and subsequently re-opened in 1930 to 1950. Since then the surface slimes and sand have been re-treated and some limited mining continues to today. It has produced just over 5 tons of gold at an average grade of 10.8g/t

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 30, 2011

      Bob, I had no idea the Piper Moss showed more promise than the G and P in its early days. With gold about to hit $2000 an ounce, and new extraction methods, the slimes dams must be worth a pretty penny.

  • Fran Lamusse

    Reply Reply August 30, 2011

    And later on in 1965 we used the old school bus to collect more bricks for the High School squash court!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply August 30, 2011

      Fran, I had no idea QQHS had the luxury of squash courts (and acquired its own swimming pool) after I left. It was a great school. diana

  • Chris Duckworth

    Reply Reply August 30, 2011

    And adding to ny list above, the Watering Holes, fishing sites and Sunday afternoon drives..

  • Chris Duckworth

    Reply Reply September 3, 2011

    Additionally, Entertainment… Boswell’s Circus, recall going to performances in ’38 and ’39 just noth west of the station… Plays and films in the Hall… And a Motor car Gymkana down at the Sport’s Ground… Seated next my father he negotiated the See Saw…

    • Diana

      Reply Reply September 5, 2011

      Chris, By the 50’s the circus moved to the cadet grounds behind the telephone switching station which was on the Gwelo Road and the elephants used to graze on the empty lot behind my best friends house…the last one on Fifth Street and the corner of the road to Amaveni and on to Gokwe which wasn’t paved. We used to do trapeze from a couple of ropes hanging from a big avocado tree in her back yard.

      I remember the Station Park. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth and the two princesses visited and had tea in the pavillion there in 1947.

      • John Nee

        Reply Reply September 9, 2011

        Hi Diana

        Vic J and I also went out to the Tapson’s farm and caught a few young warthogs for the park. Together with a large contingent of farm workers and a pack of dogs, we chased a family of pigs on foot and vehicle until they sought refuge in their den. We laid a rope cargo net over the entrance hole and all stood on it. A farm worker started digging in the direction the hole was going. This prompted one of the adult pigs who had reversed into the den, to come to the entrance and, by shaking it’s head and scooping up soil, tossed dirt into the air making clouds of choking dust.
        Before the dust settled, and with a great squeal, the adult pig erupted from the hole into the net, whipping our feet from under us and sending us flying – we had totally underestimated the brute power of an angry adult warthog! Mayhem ensued. The rest of the family came belting out. The dogs broke free of their minders or were released. Labourers, dogs and pigs were scattering in all directions. We rolled frantically out of the way to avoid the charge and slashing tusks of the pigs. One dog’s hide was torn from shoulder to hip by a pig’s bottom tooth but in the madness of the moment, it didn’t falter.
        We chased after the dogs and managed to save a few juveniles from them which we boxed and later released into the park. The labourers seemed quite happy to allow the dogs to despatch the hapless piglets before taking their prize from them. Sadly, the adult pig could not be released and was shot. It had been mauled by the dogs when entangled in the net. The rest of the adult pigs made good their escape. All in all, it had not been a good day. We had planned, in the future, to catch ostrich chicks by chasing them on horseback but decided against it. It was evident that we just didn’t know enough about the business of game catching or the awful consequences of using dogs to run down the quarry.

        • Diana

          Reply Reply September 10, 2011

          John, I had no idea Vic Jenkinson was quite such an African cowboy! It sounds as though you could have used a tip or two from Rupert Fothergill of Operation Noah fame. My best friend Wendy Allen (daughter of Lucky and Gwen Allen on the G and P, who made craftsman motor boats for a hobby) married Mark Astrup a game ranger with Natal Parks. He was involved with the Rhino Round up in its earliest days. He accompanied the rhinos that were introduced into the San Diego Zoo in the early 70’s. They were shipped by sea to Houston and over-landed from there in semi trucks. Watering them at truck stops all along the way caused quite a stir! I dont know what happened to Rupert Fothergill but Natal Parks became the world renowned leader and authority on game capture.
          You chaps were lucky no one was injured….Tell us more stories about Sable Park. It was something that was developed after I left. Diana

Leave A Response To Bob Atkinson Cancel reply

* Denotes Required Field