Sunday, January 31, 2010

Museum News

-Gunda Hardegen–Brunner

By definition a chair is a movable, single seat with four legs and a backrest – but, as with everything in life, you also get exceptions.

Chairs are named

  • from the material used: cane, bent wood or plastic
  • from the purpose for which they are designed: barber’s or dentist’s chair
  • from their construction: a folding or rocking chair.

The oldest chair in the Fransie Pienaar Museum is a riempie chair made in 1840 by F.F. de Wit, brother of Christina de Wit, who was married to Andries Pretorius, the Voortrekker leader.

In the same year the builder Carel Lotz settled in the Parish of Swartberg (Queeckvalleij). The “holbol” (concave/ convex) gables on his Cape Dutch houses are unique.

On 10 February also in 1840, Queen Victoria married the German Prince, Albert van Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, in the Chapel of St. James’ Palace. The weather was dreadful, stormy and rainy.

In December 1901 the Municipality of Prince Albert was proclaimed in the Government Gazette. The first council meeting took place in 1902.

About that time, while the councillors were sitting on spindle–back chairs with bent-wood armrests around a big table (to be seen in the dinning room of the museum), General Jan Smuts and his Commando were sitting on the backs of their horses riding through this neck of the woods with the ‘khakis’ in hot pursuit.

One of the above-mentioned exceptions of the definition of a chair is a patented stroller (walking ring) which belonged to Fransie Pienaar and is now in the bedroom of the museum.

All those who, like myself, were under the impression that strollers are an invention of the plastic–age, take note – this stroller, made out of wood, spring steel, leather and metal castors, was in use for several decades from the early 1900s onwards.

While the children of the Pienaar family were strengthening their muscles in their “loopring”, lots of things happened in Prince Albert. Here are just a few of them:

1908: The Municipality received a £5000 loan from the government to lay on water pipes for drinking water and for 50-60 taps in the streets for those homes that could not receive drinking water.

4 October 1912: The first issue of a weekly newspaper “De Prince Albert Vriend/ Prince Albert Friend” was published in Dutch and English.

1918: The first yearly show of the Prince Albert Famers’ Union was held.

1922: Prince Albert got its first telephone exchange. It was closed at night and calls to the doctor were handled with the help of the police.

1934: The Municipal council gave permission for a merry-go-round on Market square, but directed that it was not allowed to operate during church services.

Up to 1975 J.J. Bothma ran a barbershop in Prince Albert. The male population of the town was raised, lowered, swivelled and reclined in his barber’s chair (now in the museum), while in,-

1953: Kerk Straat was tarred

1960: The Municipality ordered the prosecution of residents who ignored water restrictions.

1972: The Museum was opened in a house on the corner of Kerk and Jan Louw Streets. Tannie Fransie donated her collection of antiques to the town. In the following years the museum’s collection grew considerably and in 1982 it was moved into the former hospital, where it is still today.
When Piet Basson, born in 1918 at Vye-vlei, retired as a Director Superintendent from YSKOR, he dedicated most of his time to his lifelong hobby, carving wood. During his time at YSKOR he often visited the Middle East and he was a frequent guest at the palace of the Shah of Iran. The four ornately carved, leather upholstered armchairs in the museum’s Basson Room show a definite Middle Eastern influence. Piet Basson made these chairs from 1985-88. During those years in:

1985: the rugby field was completed with the help of a donation by the S A Rugby Board.

1987- 88: a pipeline of about 4.6 km was laid from the town to the entrance of the Swartberg Pass.

The newest chairs in the Museum are those bought for the office in 2001 with the money received from the Piet Basson Trust.

In the January edition of the ‘Prince Albert Friend’ in that year plots in the Queeckvalleij Landgoed were advertised for R36 000 - R70 000!

Alltogether there are 42 chairs in the museum and there is one for YOU.

You can choose one of six bentwood chairs made in Vienna in the 1800s to sit on, leaf through books, magazines and newspaper cuttings and find out fascinating facts about the history of the town and its surrounds; the beginning and the end of the Prince Albert Gold Fields for example, or the Ladies’ Shooting Club, and lots more...

(Reference: Prince Albert at the foot of the Swartberg, History Calendar 1762-1995, compiled by Frieda Haak)

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