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    Family Biographies

    Frieda Harris

    (from original interview by Aliza Hatchuel and edited by her son Stan)

    Frieda Harris - Born in Bulawayo 1908. Her father arrived alone  in 1899 from Kovna Oeborna. He left a family behind with a six month old baby, Louis. He couldn't make a living in the village in Lithuania as a tailor and looked for greener pastures* Heard from friends about Rhodesia and emigrated. He arrived in East London and was taken off boat in basket, as boat couldn't get close enough to land. Eventually made his way to Bulawayo on the 1st train that came up after the relief of Mafeking (the Boer War).

    His Name was now Banet. He  looked for work, unsuccessfully, even cycled to Gwanda (90 miles) through the bush and eventually back to Bulawayo where he opened a tailor shop (probably financed by a landsman).

     It was six years before he was able to send for his wife and child, She was held up in London because of King Edwards coronation and lived in an immigrants shelter there. Finally she came by boat to CapeTown with Louis.  Nine months later her 2nd child Harry was born. She couldn't speak a word of English and felt quite lost in the new wild country. Conditions however improved and she had three more children, Hilda, then Frieda, then Jesse.

    When Rhodes was buried in Bulawayo, Jacob Banet was member of the civil defense, which formed a line of honour.

    Louis Banet, the eldest son, volunteered for the war in 1914 and was sent to German East Africa and was in Murray's column. His name is in the English Cathedral in Salisbury on a honours board.

     He  played an important part in the Jewish and Gentile  community of Salisbury 1926/7 until his death. He was President of Shul and Jewish Guild, the Zionist society and British Empire service league (they gave him a formal burial at which they  played last post).

    Louis had two sons. Louis was one of the first Jewish boys to go to St. Georges College in Bulawayo - together with Phil Rabinson, Herman Krikler, Paddy Landau (all fought  in German East Africa and  all were members of Kings
    African Rifles).

    Harry Banet, 2nd brother served in Madagascar in 2nd world war. Didn't play much part in communal life. Hilda , the eldest daughter  - married Edward Heller whose father was an ostrich farmer in Outshoorn. Her daughter, Zelda now is in Australia.

    Frieda went to Evelyn School, had a scripture lesson once a week and mixed with Jewish children only. She tells how as a 4 year old she went on picnic with a few families to Essexvale , about 20 miles from Bulawayo on an ox wagon. 
    There was a very good Jewish social life in Bulawayo, centred in the Jewish Guild, an old wooden iron building - opposite synagogue . There they had lectures, and learned about Zionism (Chavevey Zion).

    Frieda went to Cheder – her  teacher was a Miss Budlander, later to be Mrs. Arcadie Kaplan. who became a town councilor in Bulawayo and was a keen Zionist.

    Rev. Weinberg  was the Chazan at this time. Frieda at age 16, 17, 18 was a member of Shul choir for years and was a regular shul goer, as were many others. When she finished High School she came to Salisbury to her brother Louis to learn secreterial work.  After three months. she went back to Bulawayo and worked for Henry Lazarus - a lawyer.

    She then went  to work for Web and Low and eventually "became head typist there. They were one of the oldest law firms in Bulawayo. (they were
    already second generation of lawyers in that firm).

    She tells of her first taste of multi racialism.

    The Firm were the lawyers of African Methodist Church whose main office was in London. As junior girl in the firm she had to serve the tea. One
    day a black Methodist minister came to consult Colonel Webb. Frieda
    brought only one cup of tea !.  Webb a true gentleman, had to ask her to bring another.

    Living conditions in those early days were wood and iron houses. Toilet
    in back yard –( piccanin kaya - a seat and bucket underneath).
    There was a water-well in garden,from which  water was drawn and brought in. Water was  heated on wood stove in kitchen-sink.   A  Wagon
    loads of wood cost five 50 shillings. They slept under mosquito
    nets. She remembered the good bread. (Henry Lazarus father was a baker)
    which was delivered on horse and cart;  Milk was bought in gallon cans and
    had to be boiled. Drinking water was also boiled. Paraffin lamps and
    candles were for lighting. By the time Frieda was 10 there was electricity
    and tap water.

    At  Pessach time milk was obtained from Jewish farmer called Beemer They made their own "bread and babca for Yomtov

     At that time Rev. Cohen was the minister - highly educated and an ardent Zionist who came from England.

    Mr. Weiner ,a kindly soul    provided all Pessach needs. Used to go from
    home to home on cycle with a little black book in his shirt pocket taking orders. He also made the Kosher wine for Pessach. Fowl was killed at his home or synagogue. His daughter Annie Favish became an ardent communal worker in all spheres.

    Lionel Harris came from Port Elizabeth. He stopped in Bulawayo to be with his elder brother Ben and sister - Ethel Harris,who was married to Cessy Harris .He became became a mayor of Bulawayo. Cessy's parents were almost pioneer.They were the founders of the Rhodesian Milling Co

    Lionel worked as commercial traveler. He met Frieda at a 21st birthday
    party for him at Ethel's house.. They had a long courtship as they couldn't afford to wed. He traveled as far as up to Northern Rhodesia – The salesmen traveled in the goods van of the train so that they could look after their samples which were packed in large wicker "baskets "Skips".

    The Train used to arrive at various forlorn stations at all hours of the night where even the station master was not present. They used skips to barricade them-selves and slept under the Skips as protection. In each of these stations there was always a tiny hotel and a couple of store keepers. Who bought their goods.

    He then joined Frieda's brother Harry in agency business in Bulawayo. But then came to Salisbury to join Louis Banet in the furniture firm - P, Lazarus and Co. This was later to become Banet & Harris.

    When war broke out - Lionel was called up but never left country. German Jewish refugees started arriving in Salisbury as well. The community helped in absorbing them. War did not affect them except those who had to serve overseas and life continued as usual. When there was a Jewish fatality, everyone felt it. All helped in Women Voluntary Services - mainly in canteen.

     Frieda was a member of Jewish Guild committee -
    It was the focal social point of the Jews. Association with non-Jews was only
    through business and sport. Lionel joined the Shul committee , later to be  president of Shul and Frieda represented the Jewish community on Loyal Womens Guild which was a busy benevolent society and served for some years as chairlady.

    1963/4? The upheaval in the Belgium Congo caused a major influx of Jews from there. The whole city went into gear to accept the refugee. Loyal Womens
    Guild was responsible for clothings .WIZO was an important community organization and she served at some stage as Chairlady.

    Lionel Harris , whose arrival in Rhodesia she wrote about,  served the community for over 60 years. He was an honoury life President of the Shul, and active in every sphere of the community, both Jewish and secular almost to the end.

    Always sport minded. He played provincial Cricket and tennis and in the early years he involved the young Jewish boys in the Boxing Club.  From the “Belvedere Tennis Club”(  about 1947),that used to have annual tournaments with their Bulawayo counterparts, to being a founding member of the Wingate Country Club..  His business Banet & Harris was a household name in the furniture industry.

    In 1993 Frieda died in Harare. Later in 1999 he left  Zimbabwe and with his son Stanley and his wife and for two years lived in CapeTown where he died in 2000 aged 93.   He was buried next to Frieda in Harare.


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