EXTRACTS FROM MY TEENAGE DIARIES – APRIL 1963

My mother says, as he is leaving, “Thank you for looking after Jean,” and he gives me a fond glance and replies, “I think it’s Jean who’s looking after me.” He gives a short hoot of farewell as he drives over the Juno Street hill on his way home. What a heavenly day.

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1 April – Work. Go to SABC at night. Ruth is there and we have a chat. She is coming to visit me next Monday. Mr Tyler takes us through the Creation.

2 April – Work. Go to singing with a touch of laryngitis. When I arrive I hear Webster and Anne practising the duets for the SABC concert and their voices blend gloriously. They are most sympathetic about my laryngitis. I sing a little, but not much. Webster gives me a lecture on all my inhibitions. He tells me that I am most musicianly and will do well in the exam for I have improved so much.

3 April  – Work and lunch in Ansteys with Mum. Go to SS studios for my piano lesson and talk to Elaine and Gill. Ruth phones and tells me she’ll be here at about 11.45am on Monday.

4 April – Have yet another ghastly day feeling ill. Listen to Leslie Green. Only a few weeks to go before he and Anne tour the country and I work with Webster – Hurrah!

5 April – Go to singing. Webster is trying to teach Lucille the bass clef. My throat is still a bit odd. Webster tells me it’s my imagination and microphone nerves! I manage to sing everything softly. He says that Ruth and I imagine a lot. I phone Betty to arrange to go to the Cinerama.

6 April – Go with Dad and book at Piccadilly as Cinerama is crowded out. We take Betty to see Cloak and Dagger with Gary Cooper and Lili Palmer. Webster plays all South Africans in his Great Voices and includes a record by himself, saying, “Seeing I’m South African too!” which is by far the greatest voice of the evening!

7 April – Go to Sunday school and play the piano. Dad fetches me and we go to town to look at the Presbyterian church. Phone Ruth and she says she had a lovely birthday. Webster kissed her and they gave her a card and a scarf. They managed to get into the Cinerama and saw How the West was Won. She says Anne was most concerned about my throat.

8 April – Ruth comes to the house and has lunch and we work at all our exam pieces together. Evidently Webster got sloshed on Saturday night but sang the Resurrection at the Presbyterian Church beautifully. After supper Dad takes Ruth and me to choir where we hear a recording of The Creation (in German). Webster and Anne sing with Edgar Cree and orchestra on the radio.

9 April – Go to singing and Ruth is there before me. When I go in Webster says he likes my hair. Ruth mentions how much she enjoyed their recording so I say that it was lovely. He says, “Not too bad for a couple of old fogies!” Ruth goes and I sing very well indeed for a change and they both like it. Anne tries on my glasses and I try on hers and Webster’s. He has a new pair with black frames – looks most distinguished!

10 April – Go to town and buy some clothes. I meet Mary Harrison in John Orrs. Have lunch in Ansteys with Mum and then go up to Mrs S. She tells me to tell the Booths how much she enjoyed their performance on Monday evening. She says they are very great people and she remembers how excited she was at seeing them at Broadcast House in 1948. Such a good looking young couple. I go to the library with Dad at night and meet Liz Moir there.

11 April 1963 – Work and go to singing in the afternoon. Ruth has her lesson before me. I sing everything very well and tell Anne and Webster what Mrs S said about their broadcast. Webster says that I should write to the SABC and tell them how much I enjoyed their performance and perhaps they’ll ask them to do another broadcast. I promise to do so. He gives me a list of music for accompanying and says he’ll run me home after we finish at the studio each evening.

13 April 1963 – Easter Friday. Have restful morning and we go for a run in the afternoon. I sing and play exam pieces to parents and they are impressed, contrary to the last time they listened to me. I hope all goes well.

14 April 1963 – Go into Mrs and work with Margaret and Mrs du P. Sing in the SS choir and then come home with Margaret. We see Elvis in Kid Galahad. In Great Voices Webster plays the voice of actor, John Barrymore. They went to the same tailor, and George Formby.

15 April 1963 – I work hard but am so strung up about the exam the following day that I don’t sleep all night!

16 April – Singing Exam. I meet Anne on the lift in Edinburgh Court and we go into the SS studio together. Lucille is quite nervous and makes a few mistakes. Guy Magrath is terribly sweet and apart from shaky studies my singing isn’t too bad. The questions and ear tests are a cake walk as Webster would say! Ruth sings nicely and Anne is very pleased with us. Let’s hope we do well. Afterwards Ruth and I go and have lunch together and see a silly film to relax after our ordeal.

17 April – I work at the piano and go into Mrs Sullivan’s studio where I see Svea, Margaret and Gill. We do musicianship and ear tests.

18 April – Work. Have lunch with Mum and then go to SS studio and practise hard. We see Guy McGrath leaving the studio wearing a navy bowler!

19 April – Go to Mrs S and work with Margaret. Afterwards I go to singing and Webster makes tea while Lucille sings gorgeously. I get my results after much teasing on part of Anne – 78% for Higher Local singing (with merit) which is jolly good, considering that I skipped a grade. I sing Father of Heav’n beautifully due to the elation of doing quite well and make arrangements for Monday. Ruth phones at night – she got 72% for Senior exam and Lucille got 72% for Grade 5.

Grade 8 singing report.

20 April – Piano exam. Mr Magrath remembers me from the singing exam and is a honeybunch. He tries his best to put me at my ease. I think I will pass. He says I sang well in my singing exam and he is sure I will make a good teacher. Mum phones Anne to congratulate her on my result. Anne is thrilled and says that while she’s away, “Webster will look after her.” (ie ME!) See We Joined the Navy.

21 April – Have a fairly quiet day to recover from yesterday’s excitement. We go for a run in the afternoon to find Webster’s best route home from our house via Sylvia Pass.

22 April – Go into the studio to work for Webster at last. He gives me the key to the studio and tells me I can come in at any time to practise. He also shows me where the key to Chatsworth – his name for the outside toilet – is kept! and makes me coffee. Mary H, John S, Piet van Zyl and others come and I have a glorious time playing for them and listening to Webster’s advice to them.

My mother had told me to go out at lunchtime to give Webster a chance to have a rest, so I do so and return in time for the afternoon session. He takes me home in his car and before he leaves Juno Street I ask if he would like to come to dinner with us one night and he is touched.

23 April – Go into the studio early and practise on the lovely Chappell piano before Webster arrives. During the course of the day he tells me that they wrote an autobiography called Duet and he will lend it to me to read. Doris Bolton (a fabulous singer), Lucille, and Dudley Holmes come for lessons during the morning. When I return from lunch, Webster asks what I was doing when I was out and says that I mustn’t dream of going out for lunch again but must have lunch with him in the studio. We have a long talk in the afternoon and he tells me all about holidays in Switzerland and Monte Carlo. Norma Dennis (Diane Todd’s understudy) has a lesson in the afternoon. Webster takes me home and tells me all about Lincoln and promises to bring their autobiography in on Thursday. Heavenly day!

24 April – Have lunch in Ansteys with mum. Phone Webster to ask if I may practise in the studio when he’s not there and he says, “But of course, darling. That’s what I meant when I gave you the keys. Take some tea and biscuits if you want some.” He says he got home easily last night and then, “Goodbye, darling.” I practise singing and it goes well. I go to Mrs S for a lesson. Elaine is back from her holiday and Gill is in a grumpy mood.

25 April – Work in studio. Webster arrives, complete with his autobiography, Duet. I am delighted. Colleen McMennamin is the first pupil and she sings well. The other three are pretty hopeless and Webster says it should be a boost to my ego to see how frightful they are! Takes me home in the Hillman and tells me all about how they continued writing their autobiography after the ghostwriter began putting in his own pacifist views and they had to get rid of him. He also gives me a lecture on Bel Canto singing, which merely means beautiful song. I start reading their book when I get home – sheer heaven!

26 April – I get honours for all three piano exams! I read the autobiography at the studio and am quite fascinated with it. What an eventful time they had. Webster arrives with Lucille and we have tea. Other pupils prove rather uneventful. He warns me not to laugh at one particular one. He brings me home in the car and we talk about Ruth and her depressions. He is coming to dinner on Tuesday evening – what fun. Life is heaven at the moment.

Grade 8 piano report

27 April – Webster is there when I arrive and makes coffee for us. Ruth phones to say she is sick and can’t manage in today. Quite a few people don’t come so we finish early. “The devil looks after his own,” says he! He takes me home and says that he might take me out to dinner on Monday. We have a jolly, inconsequential conversation – fun. I listen to his Great Voices at night.

28 April – Quiet Sunday. Go for a drive and listen to the villain of the piece – Leslie Green! I miss seeing my darling Webster today.

29 April – Go to studio and Webster is there and makes us coffee. We get through the morning and have lunch together. He puts his feet up after lunch and goes to sleep and snores gently. His cheeks grow pink and looks very dear, sweet and vulnerable.

Anne sends me a postcard but hasn’t written to him so he is cross. One of the pupils asks what Anne is doing while she’s away and he says, “That’s what I’d like to know!” We have pupils in the afternoon and he tells me on the way home that he intends taking me out to lunch tomorrow. He had been thinking of going to the café opposite Show Service in Jeppe Street, but if there is enough time maybe we could go to Dawson’s Hotel instead. All is heaven.

Anne’s postcard to me from Kalk Bay.

30 April – Go to the studio. Webster is there already and then Lucille, Mrs Smith and Dudley. Dudley is the last pupil before lunch. Webster tells Dudley that he is blowing the family savings and taking me out to lunch. Dudley says wistfully, “And I have to go back to the office on an apple!”

Webster takes me to lunch at Dawson’s Hotel and we have a heavenly sophisticated time there. He and Anne stayed at Dawson’s for several months when they first arrived in Johannesburg. He is rather disappointed that I refuse a drink!

In the afternoon he goes to sleep for a while and then plays a tape of his religious songs for me and makes me cry – they are so beautiful. We have one last pupil and then he comes home to dinner with us. He has two drinks and is so sweet to me and my parents. He keeps Shandy on his knee and calls her, “my girlfriend.” He tells us lots of theatrical stories and is absolutely charming.

Shandy – “my girlfriend”!

My mother says, as he is leaving, “Thank you for looking after Jean,” and he gives me a fond glance and replies, “I think it’s Jean who’s looking after me.” He gives a short hoot of farewell as he drives over the Juno Street hill on his way home. What a heavenly day.

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