Vera Jenkins was a well known character in Pinelands for her cheery disposition, always referring to herself as “old doll”. Residents always looked forward to her cheeky somewhat irreverent poems about Pinelands and life in general at public meetings of the Ratepayers Association. Even her closest friends acknowledged she was eccentric.
Vera and her husband, Alf, moved into Spring Gardens, Pinelands in 1948. She involved herself in many community initiatives and was the recipient of three awards, Pinelander of the year, a Rotary Service Award and a Humanitarian Award from Lion International.
Vera wrote many poems but they are difficult to find. On one occasion she wrote a poem thanking the Mayoress for organising an outing for the elderly to the Pinewood cinema for a variety show including the film “The King and I”.
I write for all we Senior Cits.
We kinda love you folks to bits
For putting on the show at Ster –
We were with the four hundred there.
The magic man had hands so quick
We couldn’t fathom any trick.
The singer’s voice, where every word
Though gently sung, was always heard.
(So different from today’s odd trend
Where current pop songs often tend
To send the hearers round the bend!)
The general singing wasn’t much.
So many oldies lose the touch –
Afraid to lift their voices. Right?
Maybe their step-ins are too tight!
But when the cinema went dark
You people really made your mark.
Your choice of film, “The King and I”
Was tops. It surely hit the high.
The shows today are often crude;
Too frequently they’re downright rude.
The bedroom romps, bloated bot and bust,
Do not appeal to folks like us.
And sex films, violence laid on thick,
Is not a choice that we would pick,
Though raw and torrid scenes of lust
Are thought today to be a must.
But I digress. This crazy rhyme
Expresses thanks for all your time,
Your thought, your work, to get it going
The transport, all the to-and-fro-ing.
And we all thought you’d like to know,
How much we all enjoyed the show.
With gratitude I’ll end my verse
Before it goes from bad to worse!
Besides, there’s no more left to say.
In 1969 one of her projects was to create a group which new residents could join to start making friends in the community. It started off with 20 “lonely souls” as Vera put it. They were of all ages, but Vera was somewhat taken aback by some of the reasons for joining the group. Two asked her to find a husband, another wanted employment, one wanted a nice flat at a bargain price, and one wanted to be able to move into the Jenkins home rent free. The initial group dwindled to six ladies and two gentlemen before becoming successful, with members coming from afar as Fish Hoek and Blaauwberg,
In 1983 Vera had a problem with the signage on the Ladies toilets at Howard Centre which read Dames. Vera, who was not able to read Afrikaans, took exception to being called a dame. Vera being Vera, was quick to complain. Taking up Vera’s complaint, the superintendent of Howard Centre, penned an apology in a poem:
Oh dear! oh dear! we’ve dropped a brick
Remedial actions following quick.
It’s not a chauvinistic plot
To make the Pinelands ladies hot,
And Vera, this may ring a bell,
The sign proclaims “Dames” as well
For this one’s old and by good chance
It’s written up in Afrikaans!
Now should you chance to go upstairs,
You’ll find quite different sign affairs.
For “Ladies” is with prominence shown
And “Men” now have a chance to moan.
But this of course does not atone
For having “Gents” while “Females” groan.
We have to use what signs we can,
Hell, signwriting’s expensive, “man”!
But let this doggerel quickly be ended
The “Females” sign we now have mended,
A “Ladies” there; we crave your lenience.
Enjoy it dears, at our convenience!
For many years Vera sold Christmas cards at Pick n Pay in aid of the Animal Welfare Society and St Giles Association for the handicapped. Each year she raised more than R3 000. The cards were not priced but were paid by donations ranging from R20 to one cent by youngsters not able to afford to pay more. Vera made regular visits to hospitals to entertain patients with a poem and her somewhat flamboyant way of dancing.
Alf and Vera were attacked in their home in Spring Gardens in 2001 from which they did not recover. They went to live at the Nest at Robin Trust in the Oude Molen complex. Alf passed away that same year. At age 96 Vera was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s but was wonderfully looked after by the nurses.
Vera died of pneumonia at the age of 100 just three weeks short of her 101st birthday. She wrote her own epithet: “When all seemed lost, she made us laugh”.