“Jesus” and His Little Girls…

Hold onto your hats, things are about to get a little wild….

My late father was a Methodist Minister.  We always thought that Dad, being Irish, was cool. Firstly, he had this lovely lilting Irish brogue; secondly, he was a lot older than other dads, and therefore, he appeared calmer, patient, connected, interested, interesting and charming.  Oh yes, I almost forgot – he was also slightly dippy (I mean that in the kindness possible way).

Because of the nature of his job, we got to spend time with him. He was our Nurturer, the one who kissed our scrapes, bruises and heads whenever we fell, hurt ourselves or had a headache. He made the tastiest sarmies, and read the best bed time stories as they were always interesting and lively.

Now, for the wild bit!

During school vacations we used to accompany Dad on various trips, be it to visit farmers in the district or the odd bit of business he had to attend to in neighbouring towns.  One such trip was to visit a Methodist Minister in Peddie. En route to Peddie from Port Alfred, my father stopped off in Grahamstown to attend to some business. I kept telling my Dad that I needed to use the bathroom. “In a minute Pet” was his reply. Well, that minute turned into five minutes and longer!

I pleaded with him: “DAD, I really need to use the bathroom NOW!”. “Sorry Pet”, was his charming response, “we will just pop off to the town hall and you can use the lavatory there”.   

With great speed we hastened to the town hall and my sisters and I ran in, only to discover that we needed to insert a penny in a slot in the door to ‘spend a penny”. 

By this stage I was feeling very desperate. I ran out, got the penny and ran as fast as my little 10 year old legs would carry me. Alas, I just didn’t make it in time.

As I inserted the coin into the slot, the inevitable happened. One of my sisters ran out to call Dad, who then had to comfort a weeping child.

“Ag, don’t worry Pet; it happens to the best of us”. 

I was furious and embarrassed. My sisters starting giggling and, as a result, a huge argument ensued.  Dad ran across the road to the general dealer and bought a new pair of knickers. Whilst apologising profusely to every woman who came to use the rest room, he rinsed out the wet knickers and my mustard coloured long pants under the tap. No problem to Dad, situation calmed and restored, he bundled us into the car and off we drove to Peddie – a pair of mustard coloured long pants flapping in the wind.  The pants dried very quickly and all was well…or so he thought…except I was sulking.  

“Now then, Gail, it’s not that bad – worse things can happen. We all just have to learn to laugh at our mishaps”.  (Imagine, if you will, all of this being spoken in a soft Irish brogue…always so charming.)

Often times, Dad would take a wrong turn which resulted in us getting lost or late because he had forgotten to fill the car up. On one occasion we even got stuck in a river! These little mishaps were always treated like an event of sorts and a BIG adventure, and his standard retort always:

“Ag girls these things happen, nothing to get alarmed about.”

One day whilst Mum was at work and Dad was out attending to something in the community, my sisters and I decided to raid the used clothes charity box.

The three of us dressed up in whatever dress we could find and because they were designed for adults, and not little girls, hitched them up with the use of belts, and pins, donning hats, gloves and high heel shoes that were way too big, we decided to take our dolls for an outing to the trading store, just down the hill from us. 

Ever so pleased with ourselves, we “kliff, kloffed” along, holding on to each other and the dolls prams, for dear life, and then:

“Oh no! Here comes Dad.“

Coming to a screaming halt, Dad jumped out of his car and roared at us:

“Home, go home, the lot of you, NOW!”

Hastily, we took off the high heels and threw them into the prams, hitched our dresses to our knees and ran for our lives.  Years later my dad confessed to us that he laughed so much, at the sight of us hot footing it up the hill, in a very un-lady like fashion, shrieking away.

During our teenage years we were privileged to live in Oudtshoorn, but because we missed living at the Coast, our parents arranged a lovely family holiday at the very basic and rustic Rainbow Holiday Resort just outside of Port Alfred. Great excitement! Dance sessions were on offer at the Blue Lagoon Café in town. My Dad agreed to drop us off and then fetch us again at 10:00 pm.  All dressed up, giggling, nervously eyeing out other teenagers, and of course boys and their clothes and mannerisms… were they cool or nerdy, and more importantly, were we cool or nerdy?

We waited and waited…nothing was happening…it soon dawned on us that the event had been cancelled.  Now what? We did not have access to a phone and even if we could call it would have been pointless – the only phone at the resort was a pay phone.  As the local police station was diagonally across the road from the venue, I assured the others that our best course of action would be to get the police to give us a lift home in the back of a van. We walked into the charge office, I explained our situation to the officers on duty who were so understanding and willingly took us back to the resort.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with our parents yelling: “What have you done, wait until you get out of that van”, to looking rather sheepish when one of the police officers told them that they should be proud of their very responsible children, and their power of persuasion. Ha! Dad, you sure taught us to be charming!

One abiding memory is a visit to a sheep farm, after driving up a very long tree lined driveway to the farmhouse, we were greeted by this lovely little snippet.   The farmer’s little boy very excitedly ran to his mother shouting.

“Mommy, Mommy, come quickly, here comes Jesus and His little girls!”

Ours was not an easy childhood – we as a family faced serious health and other challenges. Growing up in a Manse was different, exciting, challenging and sometimes heartbreaking. Remembering these little gems always brings back such good memories.

Born and raised in Northern Ireland, during the Second World War – dad was posted to serve the RAF in South Africa. After demobilising, he decided to stay in SA and candidate for the ministry.

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  • What a beautiful story. It brought back so many memories of my childhood and my Dad. I love that you documenting these beautiful memories and sharing it with the world. Thank you, Gail

    • Gail Charalambous

      Childhood memories are always so special aren’t they?

    • Gail Charalambous

      I am so happy that this story took you to a happy space. Thank you for your positive comment.

  • Samantha

    Ahh this was lovely to read. Yes, I think your dad was right. It does happen to us all. 🙂

  • Diane Connell

    Had such a giggle at this, it was delightful.

  • absolutely enjoyed this one , Just like u said I will. What a beautiful childhood memory Aunt Gail, Your father does indeed sound like a very charming and patient man. Wednesdays are my favorite days nowadays!

  • Thank you Gail for sharing your younger years memories with us. I enjoy reading about real people. Looking forward to the next one.

    • Gail Charalambous

      Thank you for your encouraging words – so much appreciated.

  • Michelle

    I so look forward to your posts Gail, they bring a smile to my face and a touch of lightness to my day. Thank you for sharing your life with us.

  • Michelle Brown


    What a fabulous Post – loved reading it!!

    Take care xx

  • Salvelio Meyer

    I remember your mom well, but never met your dad. I think I would have liked him.

    • Bradley Millar

      I said the same thing as soon as I saw his photo and read this article. He would have made for great company!

  • I remember your dad well. Played gold with Him in Oudtshoorn and in PE.
    He was a gentle soul with a calmness, and down to earth demeanor.
    I remember us playing a couple of guys who were trying hard to behave in front of him, minding their language.
    Eventually your dad said “please swear” your golf is terrible.
    They obliged on the odd occasion, and their golf did improve.

    • Gail Charalambous

      Darling Terrence, your reply made me laugh so much. He was certainly one of a kind.

  • Masizole

    Ahhhh Aunt Gail – Such a lovely story and and a good memory of your Dad… and Yeah I managed to spot you on the first picture you took with your sisters and I guessed right. You have always be a beautiful soul. Now I cant wait for next week to read another story.