Tag Archives: New Zealand

Post 5. Honky Tonk

Concert nights.  Sue REALLY got into it.

Concert nights. Sue REALLY got into it.

Dad built a closed-in veranda onto the back of our little house. It was his pride and joy.  It hosted many a sleepover of boys and girls, lined up on mattresses and in sleeping bags.  When it was a girl’s sleepover, Dave and his friends would climb through his bedroom window to join us and we climbed through ours when the boys were around.  It was all good, clean fun which usually ended with someone kissing someone.  BUT, our main goal was to see who could tell the scariest story and of course they all started with.. “Now, this is a true story…”

“The back veranda” was also home to an old piano; our very own honky-tonk piano.  It was slightly out of tune but perfectly in tune when dad played ragtime and honky-tonk.  It was just slightly awful when someone tried a Richard Claydermann number.  Our favourite style was “bums”.  We would put our feet on the stool and our bottoms on the keys and bounce up and down the octaves with a great sense of creativity and musicianship.  Of course that had nothing to do with it being out of tune. We also loved opening it up and watching the inner workings of the hammers and strings. Dave got into honky-tonk and blues and would bash it out with great gusto.  Once a mouse got into the piano and snuck out and bit his toe while he was playing.  All of us learnt to play “by ear” and “by bums”, just because it was there, available and open for abuse.

Our house was filled with music. We were a singing family, except for Dave who preferred to do the Zulu dance.  Nothing like the Von Trapps but did we sing. We sang from the moment we could and if we couldn’t we had to anyway.  Whenever friends or family came around there was a concert and the Lowe kids were always on show. Sue loved “My favourite Things” and Peter was born to entertain.  He would sing “In the Good Old Summertime”  “I’ll Be Loving You, Always”  and many other golden oldies.

The big French windows of the veranda looked onto our backyard.  Until I was 9 it was a place for Dave’s white rats and snakes, our 2 dogs Kim and Lady, one cat called Peanuts and rabbits.  The names of our rabbits came from Beatrix Potter: Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton Tail and Peter. It was the perfect Lowe song, since our names were Susan, David, Linda and Peter.  No matter where we were, and no matter how tired he was, whenever we sang that song, little Peter would stick out his little neck and belt out the last line and have the last word:

We’re a happy fam-i-ly; yes a happy fam-i-ly

And we live at the foot of the big fir tree

Flopsy, Mopsy, how could they be sweeter

And funny little Cotton-Tail…. (BIG PAUSE)


Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and... not sure where Peter was.

Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and… not sure where Peter was…

Post 4. Dad was a D.J.

Happy chaos at the Bluff Drive-In

Happy chaos at the Bluff Drive-In

Dad was also the DJ at the Bluff Drive-in for many years.  Every Friday and Saturday night we would pile into our embarrassingly big-winged red Holden station wagon and head off for the drive-in.  Goodness knows how many we packed in there; blankets, pillows, friends and anything else that would fit.  The memories are numerous and pleasant except for one.  Parking.  Poor Wilf just couldn’t get it right.  The bumps were a challenge. He either parked too far to the left or too far to the right.  Then he didn’t go up enough and the bottom of the screen was cut off. Then he was too far up and those at the back couldn’t see the top of the screen.  It happened every time.  He just couldn’t please us all. When Val started manifesting, we all jumped out and disappeared with our blankets and pillows and Wilf went into his DJ box to entertain the world.  He played the latest songs and ran competitions during interval and between movies.  He had Lynne McCann the go-go girl dancing on the roof of a car, people running all over the Drive-In to find clues and hopefully win prizes.  He was great. He was also blissfully unaware that his teenage children were meeting boyfriends and girlfriends and smooching in all kinds of dark drive-in places. 16 year old Sue (the first born) dressed in her full white cat suit with loop belt, was approached by a rather suave and charming young man who asked for a bite of her chocolate crunchy.  His name was Rigby.

There was a big rusted out ship behind the screen and we spent hours climbing around in it before the movies started and during every break that there was.

The Holden and the park.

The Holden and the park.

Rain and the drive-in should not have been compatible but they were.  It was a time when our whole family snuggled up under blankets and watched the movie between the to-ing and fro-ing of the windscreen wipers.  Driving home, tired and movie-d out was amazing.  When we were much smaller, the four of us would  lie on our backs in the back of the station wagon and listen to the soft voices of our parents talking all the way home.  Lying on my back, with my eyes closed, I got quite good at working out all the bends in the roads, which traffic light we were stopping at, which part of the Southern  Freeway we were on, when we were entering Woodlands, our driveway at 28 Rolleston Place. At that point my eyes would close and I would pretend to be asleep. Wilf and Val would then make trips to carry us into the house and put us all into bed.  Dave (18 months my “senior”) once made the mistake of opening his eyes and saying, “Thanks dad” as he was put onto his bed. That was the last night of carrying for him.  I wasn’t as polite and just a little bit smarter.

Post 3. I was born.

Wilf Lowe; Tru-Life Studios

Wilf Lowe; Tru-Life Studios

I was born in Durban, South Africa, on the 6th May 1960. My birth was quick and everyone reeled from the suddenness of it all.  Sometime quite soon after that, I was dressed in a tiny full length, white, finely embroidered dress and bonnet and christened Linda Christy Lowe.  I heard sometime later that my conception was as unplanned as my birth.  It was hard for them to convince me that while I wasn’t planned, I was wanted.  It took me a while to get that one.  My siblings were Susan, David and Peter.

Linda means “charming” or in Latin America, “beautiful”.  I haven’t always been charming or beautiful.  “Christy” means Christ-like.  I was named after the then famous jazz singer, June Christy.   Neither of us were particularly Christ-like.  Maybe my names have grown on me.  As for “Lowe”, my father always reminded us “Low(e) by name but not by nature”.  Mmmm, not so sure about that either.  We got pretty low.  We just covered it up really well.

Being a decent family in a lower-middle class neighbourhood, we tried our utmost to keep the good Lowe name in tact.  Time would tell that even our utmost wasn’t enough.  In the meantime, we were happy to be British/South Africans.

My father, Wilf, arrived in South Africa on a merchant navy ship in his early twenties.  Among his few possessions were some of the first Jazz LPs ever pressed.  His plan was to make his home in South Africa.  Wilf’s youthful marriage to his jitterbug partner in Kent ended abruptly and sadly. He was moving on.

In the local newspaper he noticed that “The Cales” were looking for a boarder.  He moved in and in no time at all he married their beautiful daughter who was an apprentice hairdresser.  Her name was Valerie Elizabeth Cale.   His love for Jazz took him to the SABC (South African Broadcasting Corporation) to apply for a job in the world of broadcasting.  His “Cor Blimey” limey accent was a put off and he was advised to go for elocution lessons.  He found a willing teacher, David Horner,  whose efforts paid off. Some time later his accent was approved and with his passionate knowledge of Jazz, he found himself employed part time by the SABC.

My dad always pursued his passions.  None of them brought in an abundance of wealth, but we were well looked after and never went hungry.

Tru-Life Studio in West Street, above Colombo Coffee and opposite the flea infested ROXY movie house was his place of business for many years.  It was there that the four of us learnt how to develop photos and a love for photography.  I loved seeing the images forming on the photographic paper when they were pegged up to dry.

Weddings were my favourite.  We learnt how to hold the flash and enjoyed seeing dad get the best angles from the bride and groom BUT, when it all came down to it, we were the prime models for dad.  He entered us into every photo competition there was; Beautiful Baby, Funny Face, longest hair, cutest and anything else that was going. We did win a few and those photos were displayed in the studio window for all shoppers in West Street to see.  The Lowe children also found their way into newspapers and were often seen on Saturdays at the Big Top talent shows on Addington Beach with Cyril Sugden.  We sang and danced and won lots of prizes while the beachcombers ate their ice-creams, sun-bathed and watched the show.

On Saturday mornings in the studio, when there wasn’t a wedding and when we got too boisterous, we were taken across to the ROXY to watch double features for 5c.  It was there that we all watched Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds”.  It was all a horrible misunderstanding really.  Mom swore blind it was a Disney movie. She realised her mistake when she picked us up, all sobbing and frightened of birds. I will never forget that movie.  Life changing at 8 years of age.

Post 2. Life is about living.


Life is about living.  It’s about not being dead.  It is about breathing, eating, sleeping, laughing, crying and everything else we do while we are on this planet.  Life happens as we live it.  That is our choice.  To live life the way we should.

For years friends and family have encouraged me to write a book. I answered with questions, “Why me? What would I write about? Where would I start? How would it end? Who would be interested? Why would they be interested in what I have to say?”

At the beginning of 2009 I got the answers to most of these questions. I was given a laptop with the proviso that I had to start writing a book. History is full of stories and documented adventures for every generation to read.  If I wrote my story down and told of faith adventures and real life sized miracles, who would not find it interesting?  I would write because I can and because I enjoy writing.  I could at least guarantee that my kids would be interested.  That settled that.  I would write for my children and my grand children and great grand children.  I would write to inspire others to write.  We all have stories to tell.  They may be simple and they may be short but they are ours to tell.

I have so enjoyed telling these short stories.  I have found myself laughing and crying as I have remembered my childhood and the stories that took place not long ago.  My childhood memories are vivid.  Those that happened yesterday are not as clear.  I am so thankful to have my journals to remind me of things I would never have remembered.

In less than a year there have been over 35,000 views by people from 70 countries.  It has been amazing to know that my story has reached places I have never been.

“My name is Linda Johnson. I am 53.  I have just recently got over some of my life long complexes and I am FINALLY able to swallow pills without gagging.  I have also decided to join the blogging bloggers of the world who all think that what they have to say is going to be interesting enough for busy people to give a hoot about.  Well, a few years ago I started to write our story for our kids and grandkids.  If they are the only ones who love to read this, I will be more than happy.  They are the ones who have travelled this road with me and have opted to stay on it through thick and thin.

Life is a long (longer for some) and winding road. It is full of hairpin bends and precarious edges.  It is on this road that we experience our freaky-iest and funniest moments.  Some of these I will share with you.”

This is an autobiography.  To get the most from this blog, please scroll up to Post 2  and read it like an upside down book.  Enjoy 🙂