Left to Right, me, my parents and siblings: John, Gail, Mom, Dad, Monica
You may believe that I am too old to enjoy receiving gifts. At a recent celebration, my granddaughter gave me a small rock with the inscription “My Grandpa Rocks.” Delightful. Frequently for birthdays or Father’s Day, it may be an article of clothing. January 2021 was extra special. I received an inheritance from my mother, who died on November 29, 2019, a few years after my dad passed on November 22, 2013. It may have been a reward for Linda and my parent’s support during their time of need.
Mom was born in Sandflats, later renamed Patterson in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. When I was five years old, I had my first opportunity to visit my maternal grandmother, who lived in a small house on a tiny plot. The home had no electricity, no running water, and the lavatory was an outhouse a short distance from the home. The toilet consisted of a horizontal plank with a large and small hole for adults and a child’s use. There was no shortage of flies, and old newspapers to help with cleanup were plentiful. Rainwater from the roof fed a storage tank outside the kitchen with water drawn for use in the house for bathing and cooking. The kitchen had a woodburning Aga Stove, and water boiled using a small Primas kerosene (paraffin) burner. It is no stretch to say that my mom grew up dirt poor. Mom was seriously burned when a pot of boiling water fell off the Primas onto her upper body at age 14, ending her schooling. Mom spent weeks in hospital in Port Elizabeth and elected to earn an income as a clerk after her recovery.
Despite mom’s lack of formal education, she was a voracious reader. She consumed tomes such as Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and other challenging books reread several times. Mom enjoyed singing lessons but never sang professionally. I grew up in a home filled with music. Mom loved all things, Irish. I have no idea why. She watched the movie The Quiet Man more than a dozen times, even owning the CD/DVD version. Mom was of French (Marais) descent from her father and Portuguese (Ferreira) from her mother. My Dad’s ancestry was from British Barry’s located in the northwest of London, not from the infamous Thomas Barry, prominent guerrilla leader of Irish Republican Army fame. Additionally, Barry’s relocated to South Africa from Scotland.
My selection of sweaters/jerseys my parents produced for me
Dad was born in the small village of McGregor, in the Western Cape, South Africa. He was sent to high school in Cape Town at age 16. Dad became a refrigeration technician through a contact his father had at a refrigeration company. With motivation and studies, he later qualified as an electrician. Dad was a member of the Cape Town Highlanders and sent to Port Elizabeth for military exercises. Smitten by mom’s beauty, they married and set up home in Cape Town. Dad started an electrical store, ran short of money, took in a partner who drank, stealing money from the cash register. The year I was born, mom insisted dad get full-time employment with regular secured income. Joint Pump Company hired dad, and after they split the organization, he transferred to Mobil Oil, today ExxonMobil. Dad retired 35 years later. Due to the international pressure against the apartheid policies of the South African government, many American multinationals withdrew their business from the country. This development impacted dad’s pension. Mom and dad started a home knitting machine business utilizing a few electric machines. By that time, Linda and I had relocated to the United States. My parents were struggling financially; we provided a monthly cash infusion until their knitted merchandise supported them financially.
Dad was born with abundant intelligence and intellect. I respected those qualities. He was creatively practical. While I was at university, I had a challenge with a chemistry question. Lamenting my struggle to dad, he solved the problem using common sense. What was there not to love and admire about my father. When I was a young kid, probably six, dad purchased a secondhand car, an Austin A40, stripped the engine, and while helping my dad, learned how a motor car functioned as we rebuilt the vehicle.
When my maternal grandmother died, she left a small estate split between my mother, brothers, and sister despite her mother’s impoverished circumstances. Eight years later, the attorney informed my mom that there was no money to distribute. Mom was devastated. She clearly understood that the attorney had used the money over time to feed his pocket, leaving nothing for her and her siblings.
Dad (Fred) and Mom (Monica)
From very humble beginnings, mom and dad grew into a solidly middle-class family through hard work and dedication. Mom and dad built their first new home in Claremont, a southern suburb of Cape Town, in 1961. They purchased a newly built home in Durbanville’s Pinehurst garden village after retirement in 2003, a northern suburb of Cape Town. Later they sold up and moved to Montagu in 2011, a two-hour drive from Cape Town, to live near my sister Gail, where she provided them free accommodation. My parents invested the proceeds from the sale of their home to provide for retirement.
After my dad’s passing and needing to draw up a new will, mom approached an attorney. I can only imagine the negotiation that went on at the initial meeting. Mom was not going to allow eight years to pass, resulting in zero inheritance for my two sisters and me. I will add that the time to wrap up the estate took far longer than anyone anticipated. We had not counted on the COVID-19 pandemic to impact response times, including the fact that many of the regulatory offices in South Africa were either closed or working short-staffed. Eventually, everything worked out well. My siblings and I were rewarded with our inheritance a few months late but in time to celebrate a Happy New Year, 2021. Mom gifted each of her seven grandchildren and three compassionate caregivers.
I owe a very special thanks to my sister Gail Whitehead who ultimately forwarded my portion of the inheritance to me.
It begs the question; how wisely did Linda and I pay tribute to our inheritance? In retirement, we are no longer able to generate new income. We decided to apply our gift to increase our stock market investment, building net worth over time to honor mom and dad. We loved you, mom, and dad.
Mom died after a protracted battle with Alzheimer’s on November 29, 2019. Watching her deterioration over time as her mind stopped functioning was heartbreaking. It motivated me to research forms of dementia while focusing on Alzheimer’s. I downloaded my DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) genetic code to determine if I carried the APOE3 or APOE4 gene variant. I was not smart enough to understand if I had that or the E1 or E2 gene. I initially read everything that I could find on the subject.
On January 4, 2021, while listening to National Public Radio, I heard an interview Terry Gross held with renowned Neurosurgeon Dr. Sanjay Gupta regarding his experiences with dementia, including the fact that his grandfather had Alzheimer’s, and this disease was personal to him. Dr. Gupta recently published his book Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age.
When I read a book, I love to see that within the first sentence in the very first paragraph, a book is professionally written, grabs your attention, and is a page-turner to the very end. Sanjay is an excellent author, explaining medical and scientific detail written for a grade school kid. What did I learn?
5.4 million people in the US have Alzheimer’s, projected to grow to 13.8 million by 2050, and 50 million people worldwide are inflicted with this condition. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. No pill to pop or available injection to magically make the disease disappear. However, there are lifestyle changes that you can follow to avoid getting Alzheimer’s. Sanjay’s research covers one hundred people and societies where he solicits information. He discusses what he observes when he performs brain surgery. His global travels included Japan, the Amazon jungle, and especially The Netherlands, where he found how people can be compassionately cared for during their end times. Expect to find checklists to follow as you change your lifestyle for a better tomorrow.
What was most alarming to me was to learn that it is possible to begin your journey to Alzheimer’s in your 30s and may continue on for decades before you may become fully aware of the disease. Prevention at any age is possible by following sound advice through lifestyle changes, including diet and food choices. More than $1 billion is spent annually in the US for over-the-counter dementia medication with zero benefits. It is not a regulated industry, so manufacturers can make exaggerated claims if you are prepared to part with your hard-earned funds. We are all after a quick fix, aren’t we? Exercise, food selection, weight loss, and sleep habits are all essential to preventing dementia in general and specifically Alzheimer’s. I was shocked to learn that even brushing your teeth is necessary!
My only message here is to invest in yourself and your family. Please purchase Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s book, read, learn, and apply all that he is striving to do to help you avoid this devastating disease. I highly recommend Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s book.
To have read about one’s erstwhile classmates before seeing them again at the 1963 class reunion would add even more to those brief encounters!
(All photographs are loaded as a thumbnail. Click on each photograph to get a full-size view, and where applicable scroll right on the far right center to see the subsequent pictures. Please understand that photograph sizes are a function of the images we were supplied. Some are large, and some tiny).
In the 1960s it was the custom of Mr ‘Herbie’ Helm to present, as his personal gift to departing Head Boys, a framed photograph, taken by himself of the Memorial Hall, from across the Rugby ‘A’ field. We felt, in borrowing the picture received in this way by Lindsay Kennedy, it would make an appropriate cover for this book. It is an historic photograph, fifty years old, and the view is as we remember it. (Photograph courtesy of Lindsay Kennedy).
After some tortured self-editing I thought I would, after all, insert these introductory notes into this publication, simply to say what sparked the idea behind it and to thank those who have contributed to it.
In Lindsay Kennedy we, the Rondebosch ‘E63 matrics, had a Head Boy of great energy, skill and good humour. He led the school in a most distinctive, caring and kindly way and the immense support he received from the staff and pupil body showed that without question. The fact that he has, uniquely, maintained that same persona amongst us all – concerned, involved and in touch – for the past half century seemed to me worthy of a kind of memorialisation of our schooldays by as many of us as could be persuaded to put pen to paper, or fingers to keyboards.
At reunion functions, one typically has a snatched moment of conversation before the next half-remembered face comes into view. Tantalizing but truncated! I thought that, to have read something about one’s erstwhile classmates before seeing them again would add even more to those brief encounters! What John Barry and I have enjoyed so much in making this book has been, of course, the zest and innocent clannishness almost all contributors felt about having been at Rondebosch at that glamorous and gilded time of their lives. The reward also has been in the candour and compassion that many of the entries reflect about their contributors’ schooldays and of their subsequent life journeys. And so, to all the contributors, you have been the sine qua non as ‘Doc’ Watson might have put it, and very warmest thanks from us all.
It’s one thing to have an idea and another thing entirely to make it a reality. John Barry, an enthusiast and communications specialist probably without equal, picked up the idea of a book of memoirs and ran with it for many months, even at the cost of his own business interests and I and all of us are seriously in his debt. As John said, “If it hadn’t been fun, I wouldn’t have done it!” John Hill, staunch supporter of so many Rondebosch ventures, has played a key part in the production of this book and Johnny Kipps, in his immaculate way, has taken care of all the financial aspects of it. My most sincere thanks to both of these men. And finally, Lindsay and the Reunion Committee themselves were generous in supporting the idea of the book when they were half way through planning the Reunion itself and they have most grateful thanks from John Barry and myself.
Our hope is that these recollections will bring back something of the atmosphere of Rondebosch to the matric class–‘E1963’-however far from it they may be.
In June 1954 when I was 8 years old in Standard One at RBPS, a lighthearted series of photos of me winding my way home from school was published in the Cape Times Weekend Magazine. In an email exchange with Johnny Kipps this past June 2012, he brought up the subject of these photos:
“Often think about the photogravure Saturday morning page in the Cape Times of you making your way home to Kenroydon. Stopped at ‘Arli’s’ to buy sweets, kicked a ball around in Keurboom Park, went for a ride on the swings or roundabout. What else? Can’t recall except that it was a wonderful page of pictures. Wonder if you still have it? It would be a great memento to show the guys at the 50th next year!
“The years have sped by — certainly doesn’t seem like +50 years since we all went down and stayed at Jean Mary Duthie’s – Sandy Marr’s sister’s place, Woodburne, in Knysna. In fact, that was probably when we were still at the Prep, so probably +55 years ago!”
I wrote back:
“You have an amazing memory, even down to the name of our house, Kenroydon. Dick Morris, who was in Knysna with us, bought the house opposite Kenroydon and lives there now, he told me at an E’63 luncheon Lindsay arranged a couple years ago when I was in Cape Town. If you like jazz, Abdullah Ibrahim (formerly Dollar Brand) has a great CD called Knysna Blue.
“I spoke once via phone with Sandy Marr (maybe it was via email?) a few years ago when Lindsay was trying to track down guys to add to his E’63 list. Sandy spends part of each year in the Caribbean chartering his yacht.
“Believe I do have those photos, the originals, though not sure about the newspaper page. Will look. It would not have occurred to me that they might be of interest to others, so I guess your idea for me to share them is a good one.”
Gentlemen, I planned on bringing the originals and the gravure (brown) page from the newspaper, which I located, with me to the 50th Reunion braai on Sunday 17 March 2013 and then thought you could use them in ICOO (In a Class of Our Own) if you want to. A few of the photos may have general appeal . . .
Who can you identify in the group scrambling out the arch? The figure on the far right looks like Peter Hodes and next to him is definitely the late Johan van Schoor. Continuing right to left, next is the late Alec Cassarchis, I believe. Not sure who that is close behind me. Far left looks like, maybe, Farquharson?? Do you recognize yourself Old Boy?
The last photo (fading decomposition) of me finally arriving home from school contains a spoiler belying the storyline. Can/did you spot it? The answer (I can still hear my dad deriding the oversight): To set up this shot, the photographer had to take it from inside the house from behind my mother standing in the doorway. So what happens then? The chauffeur has parked the photographer’s car right outside the front gate and then stands there observing the shoot. And the photographer doesn’t notice, nor do the editors, and so this is how the photo is published.
The window-shopping photo reminds me of a plastic trumpet which was in that display and which I eyed for a long time, each time yearning more to own it until eventually my dad bought it for me. This foreshadowed a sunken musical career which played it itself out in later school years. I played this toy trumpet in the bath tub, enjoying the echo-chamber effect of the bathroom, till its gold paint peeled off and, with it, the lustre attached to imagining myself another Louis Armstrong. An early dream drowned in finding that all that glitters is not gold – to the echo of my dad singing I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.
The photo of me ‘kerb walking’ is on Keurboom Road just around the corner from where brainy Stephen Buchner (whose mental-arithmetic voltage stunned me) lived, and close to Roydon Wood’s home set in a grove-like garden of leafy trees. In those days, he went by the name of Kelvin Grove, I mean Kelvin Wood. I remember having political discussions in Std. 6 with Richard Spring in the bus on the way home along Camp Ground and Keurboom roads. I got off the double-decker by Keurboom Park leaving Richard behind on the upper deck to survey the world from above all the way to the Upper House of Parliament in London. I found our childhood chats intellectually stimulating though can take no credit for his later Lordship’s illustrious political career, except perhaps as a pikkie practice-debate partner. Neither of us were Whigs. That’s another’s Tory. Ask Cameron. We both then still had our wits about us covered by full heads of hair. Walking home through that same park while still in Prep, I was threatened by a wit skollie boy who pulled a flick (switch-blade) knife on me. My athletics career kicked in early as I shot off without starting blocks and sped for home. He threw the knife at me, the handle striking me on the back. I stopped, spun round, picked it up off the pine-needled ground, instantly resuming my sprint. As I passed a hedge, I threw the knife into it to divert the teenage thug closing in on me. Soon safely home panting for breath scared out of my wits, my step-mother wouldn’t believe what had just happened, fobbing off my tale as a tall story! (Did I imagine the attack, a phantom chasing me? Am I imagining a memory now? How can we know for sure when reality is perception?) Hiding between the shrubs age 13 on the slope above the athletics field next to Keurboom Park, on the eye-darting look-out lest we be spotted, I puffed up my curriculum vitae with my first cigarette, with who was it? Do you remember Old Boy?
It was another politician, my brother Ken Andrew, who roped me into politics in 1960 soon after I turned 15 in Std 7, working in the United Party office in Rondebosch approximately where the Woolworths food shop is now, to help get out the No vote against leaving the Commonwealth. This was around the time Ken took me along on a protest march from the old railway station near the Grand Parade up to District Six to demonstrate against it being declared a Whites-only Group Area. The first time I was arrested was around midnight at the corner of Sandown and Milner roads putting up a ‘Vote No’ poster over a stop sign on the eve of the 1960 Referendum on becoming a Republic. I was with Hadden Steer and others, and we were taken to Rondebosch Police Station where they declared me a “minor in need of care” and turned their attention to the older boys. That’s when I darted out of the Charge Office and dashed home for my life, taking a short cut through RBPS and the soccer field near where David Taylor lived at the bottom of the playground, with my heart pounding in my throat, panting for breath but too afraid to slow my sprint.
It was in Std 8 when I began to bunk out of home at night to travel to the top of Long Street in town to a jazz club called the Vortex where Dollar Brand and many other later famous jazz musicians played. The club owner was a Dutchman by the name of Wim and he hung a painting I did in art class at RBHS up on a wall of the club. There was an escape route out the back door into an alley for the “non-Whites” to duck in case police raided this colour-blind joint that contravened Group Areas Act law forbidding mixed-race clubs. In those days, I fancied myself as a beatnik, wore sandals and dark glasses, and studied the standard beat manual, Jack Kerouac’s On the Road which evoked alluring wanderlust escapades.
That was also the year Obie punched me repeatedly on the chest in gym class because I was wearing a St Christopher or didn’t have a parting in my hair or some such free-spirited non-conformity, till I burst into tears and ran out of the gym. I never went back to gym class and this was never questioned, probably out of fear I would report him for his sadistic abuse. But I loved gymnastics and so attended Gym Club after school, which Obie ran. We never said a word to each other again and it was easy to avoid making eye contact because his spectacle lenses were as thick as the bottoms of Coca-Cola bottles. I got onto the RBHS Gym Team and competed at meets against other schools although I was not that good at gymnastics compared to champs like Alan Musker.
There is a steep hill on Keurboom Road as it goes down from Camp Ground Road to the Black River (which runs through the high school) where the photo of me leaning over the bridge was taken. Later on in prep school, I had a bike which I painted gold and used to race down that hill on my way home from school until I hit a car and landed on my head with a lump on doing arabesques on the saddle, my forehead the size of an egg. The late Peter Korck lived at the top of Keurboom Road, and my best friend during high school and dear lifelong friend the late Hugh Murray also lived nearby.
In the summer holidays, my mother used to run the Cape Times Fresh Air Camp at Froggy Pond beyond Simonstown. Also attached is a photo of her leading a line of children and counselors up from Windmill Beach with me right behind her at about age 5, about a year before I started at RBPS in Sub A in 1952 at age 6. We lived in Rosebank then and I used to ride to school on my big rear-wheel chain-driven tricycle, taking a short cut between Mossop Tannery and Marist Brothers, parking it in the bike shed along with the big-boy two-wheelers. As independent as my motorbike-racing and pistol-shooting Kenya-raised mama brought me up to be, I still remember assembling in the Prep quad the first day of school feeling gut-churning separation anxiety when she left me there on my own after Enslin barked at the mothers to leave although I did have two brothers already in RBPS: Angela, wife of my oldest brother, Roy, has run the Old Boys’ Union for 23 years, and Ken was headboy in 1960 when I was in Std 7. Both Roy and Ken have lived near the High School nearly all their lives. I remember ‘queue’ camping overnight with my brothers at Newlands age 9 in 1955, replete with campfires in the street outside the stadium, to watch the Lions play the Springboks. My dad didn’t want to let me go but I kicked up a fuss and he relented when my big brothers (aged 12 and 14) promised to take care of me. We got a place right up against the railings in front of the Railway Stand from where, peering between the metal pickets, I was totally awe-struck to witness the legendary fleet-footed Tom van Vollenhoven speeding on the wing to score three tries for the Boks to win 25-9. What tickled me no end is the Lions had a chap called Dickie Jeeps on their team. The humour of that funny name sounding like a Dinky Toy was submerged in the suffocating subway after the game in the swirl of the surging crowd when two-pint me was frightened of getting crushed after being separated from a not-much-taller brother. Even the name ‘Vollenhoven’ still sounds swift to my ear (flying-hooved), like my mom speeding our car up to 100 mph on the way to watch the Killarney motor races along the gumtree-lined road, or perhaps it was to pick field mushrooms among the Darling daisies, when my dad nodded off on the front seat beside her, three bouncy boys egging her on from the back seat: “Faster Mommy, faster!”
In Sub B when I was 7, Jonny Silbermann, who was in Sub A, and I became friends with a common interest in playing music. We met in the RBPS hall where he but a mite, but of musical might, played the piano by ear. Within a few years, I had a one-string tea-box bass, and we had a jazz band with David Lear on drums and Robert Beer on trumpet. (David’s older brother blew half an arm off making a pipe bomb at their home in Tullyallen Crescent.) Jonny’s mother drove us to orphanages, such as Marsh Memorial Homes, and to old-age homes, like Avondrust on Rouwkoop Road, to entertain the residents. By this time, I had graduated to a double bass taller than myself with strings almost as thick as my fingers. I took lessons in the music room by the RBHS main gate. But to get this behemoth there from home called on my dad’s ingenuity by way of a picture frame laid horizontal, to which he attached wheels and a walking stick for me to roll this cart, with the bass resting in the frame, up and down the Keurboom Road hill to RBHS. Turns out I didn’t have Jonny’s ear, nor fingers thick enough, so to compensate at our concerts, I would lay the bass down on its side and ride it like a jockey while plucking away at the strings but not too loudly so no-one would hear if I played out of tune because I didn’t really know what I was doing musically although my Kenilworth races antics wowed our audiences. Jonny, who has lived in New York City for about 45 years, had the world’s largest jingle company (that helped propel Jimmy Carter into the White House with a catchy tune) and now writes songs and mentors blind musicians. Very kindly, he still says I didn’t play the double bass badly. Perhaps that’s because I managed to play quietly enough. Just last November we met at the Yale Repertory Company theatre in New Haven, Connecticut to see one of his grown-up sons act in a play before his Broadway debut in another play.
I remember becoming keen on gymnastics in the RBPS hall where Mr Laidlaw also taught hygiene and advised us to cut our toenails straight to prevent them from becoming ingrown. “But don’t the sharp corners make holes in your socks, sir?” I asked, observing his razor-edged toenails. I was focused on feet, having persuaded my dad to buy me a pair of brown leather Italian slip-ons which I wore half-proudly to school and half-fearfully that school rules would trip me up on the lace-less nature of my sleek footwear. This hall is also where I took part in a boxing tournament. I remember spending the entire boxing match trying to knock out my opponent with a solitary upper-cut but swiped air missing every shot while he landed enough body blows to win the match. My son tells me he met the holder of that crown, Hugh Hodge, now a poet well-versed in the rhythmic art of landing literary blows without need of knock-out punch lines. Call it metering out punishment. Whoever it was, please own up to your past glory at the 50th Reunion so I may congratulate you again for “floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee” to quote that other boxer-poet Muhammad Ali, my childhood idol, the mercurial-footed Cassius Clay who KOed the scary towering monster Sonny Liston to win the world heavyweight crown.
My interest in gymnastics took me and other boys from the RBHS Gym Team, including Frank Einhorn’s brother Eric, into touring the world as flying trapeze artists with Keith Anderson who began his circus career walking across the RBHS swimming pool on a tight rope, the same pool where Eric Smith and Derek van den Berg spent countless hours swimming laps, their moms urging them on from the edge, which might have given Derek flipper feet that made him the deft dancer displaying fancy cha cha cha footwork and waltzing the Rustybugs off their feet at the ‘Strictly Ballroom’ lessons we took in St Michaels Catholic Church hall on Rouwkoop Road. I ended up visiting 50 countries, though not to all as a trapezist. This brings back many fond memories playing in the garden of soothing, no-Raging, Bull Le Roux’s home next to the High School with Derek and Johnny Kipps because I said then that I wanted to travel the world and have plenty of variety in life, to which the soothsaying boy-guru Bull counseled: “A rolling stone gathers no moss”. Rolling stoned, one certainly can get covered with moss though for my biltong addiction, I owe Bull thanks: they kept an ample supply in his kitchen from the plaas, including in that “cookie” jar on the top shelf which beckoned and to whose irresistible lure I once secretly succumbed without first being offered its contents. Felt shame ever since but now it is off my chest, confessed, I feel emancipated from the decades-old guilt. Actually I got my poetic-justice come-uppance with a rude jolt of instant karma jumping over a lit and frizzling fireworks rocket in a bottle the moment it launched itself skywards striking me painfully on the perineum. I pretended it didn’t hurt but the stinging pain extracted stringent payment for that sliver of sin-tainted biltong. Not quite karma running over my dogma, which I’ve tried to dodge artfully all my life.
Another treat was roaming through the expansive gardens and grounds of marbles-master Sandy Marr’s home in Kenilworth. (I can still see Sandy’s beaming face behind his Prep playground multi-tiered shy challenging all-comers to topple it – after tiring of Red Rover.) In his home pool, I transposed my first heart-stopping swimming lessons in the old pool by Mason House (reached in crocodile file through Sandown Park) to bomb drops in the deep-end until Sandy’s big brother John ducked me under the water, after which I preferred the relative safety of the shallow end. It was the huge hedge by his pool that conjured fantastical make-believe secret passageways as we found ways to crawl through and climb up inside it. Alas, this imagination when transplanted into Jack Garlick’s high hedge at his home near Newlands Cricket Ground ended less happily when his parents phoned my father to complain I had disheveled their immaculately manicured box hedge. My dad drove me to their house, parked outside and sent me in to apologize. Feeling sheepish but mustering reluctant pluck, I marched myself up their front path, knocked on the door and went inside to deliver my formal regrets to both parents in the drawing room at pre-dinner drinks time. Thank goodness my own now adult children have been relative angels . . . that I know of . . .
In Std 3 when we each acquired a World Atlas, I wrote my name in the front and my fantasy address as being in Beverley Hills, Los Angeles where the movie stars lived. But my vision didn’t stop there because after United States of America, I wrote: Planet Earth, The Universe. I was floating in outer space having beautiful Miss Hartman with her film-star looks as my teacher, and carrying her books home to her flat overlooking the RBPS soccer field. She was the best feature in my life at that time after a rough year in Std 2. Six months after those pictures were taken of me walking home from school in Std One age 8, my mother died age 39 in 1954, and the world beneath me fell away. I was already somewhat adrift without an anchor in Miss Cope’s Std. One class because I couldn’t sit still and was ‘diagnosed’ as having “ants in my pants”. My mom died of lung cancer. She smoked 50 cigarettes a day. I was a nicotine baby, the 1940’s equivalent of today’s crack babies. No wonder I was jumpy and loathed school: confined to sit in our desks, it was torture for me. Even the first day of Sub A, it felt I had been clamped in stocks and scurried round the classroom in a frenzy. I can still see the stifling chalk dust lit up in the air as the afternoon sun shone through the window of Miss Cope’s classroom that felt like a prison I wanted to run from. We had learnt our multiplication tables up to 6-x before my mom died, which I can still recite. But don’t ask me to go higher than 72 without hesitating, though multiplying the stack of cat’s-eyes in my own marble stack was a thrilling playground pastime.
The following year in Std 2, my wish to be outside the classroom came true but not as I had hoped. (That was the year 1955 Geoff Duckitt arrived at RBPS from Darling unable to speak a word of English but how quickly he learnt this strange tongue we speak with almost as many exceptions as rules and which ultimately comes down to having an ear for it. I loved grammar. It was my best subject, not that I can recall all the arcane rules which I have long since internalized.) Miss Kirby was my Std 2 teacher and she had a habit of sticking her hand down inside the front of her blouse to scratch her breast. Of course I opened my big mouth and made the wrong observation about this habit of hers. She sent me out of the classroom into the corridor for two weeks with all my books which were piled up on the window sill. Mr Enslin came round and instead of sticking my head between his legs and smacking my bottom, took me into the cloakroom to caution me in grave gravelly tones that unless I behaved, he would have to expel me. I was transferred to the other Std 2 class and recall the instant empathy I felt for theatrical Miss Nancy Watson-Morris who burst into tears upon my letting loose a live white mouse onto the classroom floor near her feet accompanied by a blood-curdling shriek for her to “Watch Out!” It had already been out of sympathy that I had rescued this poor mouse from drowning in a bowl of water above which two cruel boys imagining themselves to be pirates had forced it to walk the plank along a ruler, prodded by pin pricks to its rump.
Talk about 2012: the year that I thought the world was going to end was 1956 when, on the first day of Std 3, I was put in terrifying Miss Baumann’s class. She scared the daylights out of me far more than I had frightened Miss Watson-Morris. Thankfully, I was put out of my misery pretty quickly because Miss Baumann had one boy too many in her Std 3 class and pretty Miss Hartman had one boy too few in her classroom. Since Andrew was at the top of Miss Baumann’s list, I was transferred to Miss Hartman’s class – a life-saver. Unfortunately I had become an angry little boy feeling victimized for being made motherless and got into fights in the playground, until a fed-up, even littler, freckled and furious Martin Pelser swung into me with whirling windmill fists, pulled me down a peg or two and put me in my place. Perhaps that’s when I took to poetry (the justice of it) and to impress lovely Miss Hartman, learnt off by heart ‘Muskietejag’ which I recited in class with butterflies in my stomach, my head reeling like a muggie (miggie) spinning in the air, and with wild gesticulations trying to swat imaginary mosquitoes, then ending with a loud slam of an open palm upon a desktop:
Pardoef! Dis mis! Daar gaan hy weer! Maar dood sal hy, sowaar, ek sweer – my naam is Van der Merwe!
A couple years after my mother died, my father married the RBHS art teacher the day after April Fool’s Day in 1956 when I was in Std 3, from which time my memory rapidly fades for the rest of prep school except I remember the location of every classroom from which I wanted to flee, and that in Std 4, we had a male teacher who used to be in the Royal Navy and taught us how to push a broom properly to sweep the classroom floor with vigour just as he had learnt to swab the decks aboard some grey ship somewhere I suppose. I have zero recollection of Std 5 except for being bored out of my mind at cricket practice staring up at the mountain and into space when I should have been catching the ball hurtling down at me in outfield, and a kind of “Lord of the Flies” game we invented in the little playground by the RBPS tennis courts involving hoarding palm-frond stumps that we called gold, roaming gangs raiding each other’s treasure troves, complicated by switching gang allegiances, unable to trust who was on whose side, who was a spy, oh my, such taut tensions, so much at stake!
With gymnastics and athletics established as my seasonal sports in high school, I could dodge ball games that failed to engage my interest, which was in competing against myself, seeing how far I could extend my own physical agility. As many were awards for hurdles and high jump, long jump and the 100-yards, they embarrassed me to the extent that, after one annual athletics meet, I stood with my brothers on the field chatting with their friends, hiding my haul of cups that day behind my back for fear of attracting praise. These unholy grails I gave away exposed a shy teen, that my stunted herd-instinct masked: the vegetable in me knowing it didn’t want gladiator cauliflower ears though my Icarus animal aspiring to be Pegasus, of the ‘flying horse’ petrol we put in our Ford V8 that took us exploring around SA with my dad, the adventurous crocodile hunter and Kilimanjaro mountaineer, at the wheel with my mom gone, also my brother Roy driving this suped-up tank from age 13. With no rugby and cricket matches to play, this freed up my Saturday mornings which, from age 12 in Std 5 in 1958, I spent working for four years at the first Pick n Pay supermarket, on Belvedere Road, Claremont, until Std 9 when I went to boarding school to escape my step-mother and learn Afrikaans, the language of the Nat oppressor – so that I could defeat the oppressor. The extra pocket money earned bought me fancy clothes (before I became a beatnik whose bohemian fashion was to dress down in somber shades). These threads included shocking pink socks and a matching pink tie which I put on to go to a party at the Van Breda’s house at the Belvedere end of Keurboom Road. Until my father caught sight of this outfit as I was leaving home. He made me take off the pink accessories and dress in more sober tones. (I wasn’t into drinking yet and it took a long weekend in Hermanus with some E’63 Old Boys to discover how to become motherless, in a ‘projectile’ sort of way, on cheap sweet wine to the chorus of “I rather have a full bottle in front of me, than have a full frontal lobotomy”.) En route to the Van Breda’s, hiding in a hedge, I pulled out the pink socks and tie stuffed in my pockets, and rocked and rolled around the clock at the party as if I were Bill Haley himself, or was I swaggering Elvis the Pelvis that night? I wrote down and memorized the words on his first album so I could sing along while practicing his moves with the broomstick from my old tea-box bass as microphone. I’ll never forget the jolt of his movie Jailhouse Rock shaking my psyche like electric-shock treatment, as will I never forget the gravelly voice of Satchmo in the film High Society that out-graveled Enslin’s, and later the heartache crush I had on Grace Kelley’s daughter Princess Caroline, which was finally consummated, in a surrogate way, when I danced freestyle with her sister Princess Stephanie in Monte Carlo at a party for performers in the International Circus Festival sponsored by their father, the late Prince Rainier of Monaco.
Lindsay said we could be frank, so let me attempt to clear the air about a couple of incidents in the hope that peace, friendship and goodwill can be achieved. Hugh Murray once spoke to me of his having enemies at RBHS, Old Boys who wished him ill. I did not really understand what he meant – and he did not want to elaborate – until two occurrences in my own life.
The first is that a former girlfriend of mine, Judy Mossop, told me that a former classmate of mine had told her I had made his life a misery at school. My friend, Jonny Silbermann, says he remembers me as an intimidating clown. Hugh Murray said I had an odd-ball off-beat (like jazz) sense of humour. Therefore I fear there may be some truth in an overbearing exuberance, a remorseful thought if unkind or insensitive to others. My aunt tells me that at my 6th birthday party, I jumped on the table and, scanning with a pointed finger not unlike Khrushchev banging his shoe on the UN Assembly podium, demanded to know who hadn’t brought me a present because I had counted them and there was one short! O dear, I guess I must have been a tiny terror. If this Old Boy would like to say Hi to me, I would be grateful for the opportunity to ask him for his magnanimous forgiveness and in no way consider him, or hopefully anyone, an enemy.
The other incident followed working as the Economics Reporter on the Pretoria News in the latter 1970s when I discovered the beginnings of the Information Scandal, or Infogate, and began to unearth news that my editor Andrew Drysdale (Cliff’s brother) refused to publish. So I contacted Sunday Express Assistant Editor Kitt Katzin and began funneling my investigatory revelations to his newspaper which published them. Hugh Murray put me in touch with the Rand Daily Mail and I began feeding them information as well. (Hugh and I attended the Argus School of Journalism together in 1966, the year Verwoerd was assassinated in Parliament.) When the Info Scandal picture puzzle finally came together for me, I phoned my brother Ken, an MPC then, later a Member of Parliament, Shadow Finance Minister and who, as Federal chair of the Dems, played an ‘honest broker’ role shuffling democracy into SA. He arranged for me to meet Opposition Leader Colin Eglin. I flew down to Cape Town and met Mr Eglin in his Parliamentary chambers to give him the inside scoop on what was going on. Tears welled in his eyes at my news of this gargantuan betrayal of the public trust.
He raised questions in Parliament about the secret funds, which led to a Commission of Inquiry finding Prime Minister Vorster was implicated in the fraudulent scheme. I was now working on The Weekend Argus and got a tip-off from the same Deep Throat character who fed me leads when I was investigating Infogate (yes, we met in a parking garage) that Jackboot Vorster – under whom also torture and assassinations soared – was going to resign. (This made way for the Groot Krokodil PW Botha, who couldn’t bring himself to cross the Rubicon, and had to be superseded by FW de Klerk the dove: like Gorbachev had to be usurped by Yeltsin to usher real change in that other totalitarian state, the U.S.S.R.) The Weekend Argus led with my front-page banner headline story predicting Vorster’s resignation (in disgrace).
A few days later (before Vorster had resigned) I received my story headline, cut out of the newspaper, in an envelope posted in Cape Town with a comment handwritten next to the headline accusing me of performing, ironically, a disgraceful act myself in Charlie Hallack’s history class. Being a hard-nosed investigative reporter, I met the Postmaster General in an attempt to identify the sender of this unsigned note. When I showed him the handwritten note, he couldn’t contain his mirth and my over-zealous quest was laughed out of court. If the Old Boy who sent me that mystery note would like to let himself be known to me, please let me assure him I have only compassion for anyone subjected to offensive behavior of mine, of which as wild as I was there surely was heaps, and much worse than he ever witnessed, imagined or not. Like the time I pulled down the old South African flag outside Nobby’s office in the middle of the night with guerilla tactics in my part-Boer blood. This was when we were forced to celebrate becoming a Republic, having lost the Referendum. The cruel apartheid regime was my enemy, their inhumanity, and the wasted opportunity to educate and train the African population to share in governing South Africa. Apartheid all but ruined my beloved country which now the formerly abused are abusing as their former masters taught them. Africans missed the Industrial Revolution, are riding on the coattails of the Information Revolution, and may emerge at the vanguard of humanity only when the nascent Intuitive Revolution comes of age to replace fidgety communication gadgets with telepathic software programmed by brains wired to heart wisdom. There is an ancient well of long-forgotten wisdom in South Africa, richer than all the gold, sparkling beyond all the diamonds, that one day may be re-discovered, unearthed from deep inside the souls of lion-hearted South Africans, and tapped to lead our planet to peace. As for my own awakening – from a self-possessed Rip van Winklesque sleepwalk – it was approaching 21 that I heard my bell tolling in No Man Is An Island. Abandoning my inner state of apartheid, of seeing myself as a separate entity, did Gandhi’s autobiography, My Experiments With Truth, set me on a path to track down like a bloodhound, sniff out this demure ‘truth’ wherever its forgiving nature (later majestically exemplified by Mandela) was hiding. To get over the hump of my ego lump into seeing self in other and other in self, would certainly be preferable to running into the hidings that had been hitting me.
My close encounters with knobbly knuckled Nobby were oddly at the opposing extremes of brute force and cerebral analysis, though I remember him most for an impressive lecture he gave in Assembly on the virtue of moderation, long before Buddha’s Middle Way caught on in the West. The first time I met Nobby man-to-man was to take six of the best from him, to encourage me that my boisterous History with Charlie should not repeat itself. Fortunately, I had previously been assigned to write down the words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “ If ” about 20 times (sitting on the stone floor before it, where it hung on the entrance hall wall outside Nobby’s office by the stairs) for some earlier transgression, and so had prepared myself to be “a Man, my son!” enough to bend for his long cane which he drew far back to shoulder height for each swinging whack. The expectation of pain as the cane whistled through the air, followed by the thud on my pants marking the dreaded moment of impact, hurt more than the skin sting of the cuts themselves. My second brush with Nobby was at UCT where he taught poetry after he retired as headmaster. Talk about poet Hugh Hodge metering out punishment in the boxing ring, well Nobby’s dry quantitative way of dissecting poetry in the steeply tiered UCT lecture theatre on hot, stuffy afternoons just did not gibe with the jazz in my bones. It was all about the maths, nothing about how the music moved the emotions. I sought the meaning of life, not how to measure it, and fled to Prof Tinkie for no-bull counseling. He advised an equivalent of the Middle Way: The less fraught I could be, the more taught I could be. But seeking the meaning of life at UCT was barking up the wrong tree and the mixed philosophical metaphors for the true nature of reality being dished up were leading me up the garden path, so I moved on to fresh pastures believing the grass greener on the other side, in the hope of finding the light at the end of the tightrope before I tied myself in knots trying to regiment verse like on a boring, hot Friday afternoon marching out of step on the athletics field to spice up the deadly dull Cadets drill.
The first and last time I wore black tie was when I could no longer be declared a minor in need of care: for my 21st birthday party at Kelvin Grove in 1966. (We’ll rename it Roydon Grove.) It will be almost half a century later on the road so to speak that I could be caught in such fancy gear again. Must be a very special occasion to get me all dressed up like that and to admit that my hair I see in the mirror still as blond, truly has turned grey and, as my wife and children keep telling me, I need a hearing aid. But I’ll have to skip the Boulders costume: playing penguin means I order the fish when I’m going for the biltong dish. Our 50th Reunion feels almost as scary as my first day at RBPS about 61 years ago: all those strange new faces. Who will I recognize at the Reunion? Do I need new glasses? Who will I remember? What if I have to ask someone his name: will I even be able to catch what he says? Will we still speak the same language? Much excitement awaits . . . It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. All I have to do is regress and re-imagine, not much different from the way we unconsciously invent our reality by projecting our preconceptions – while reminding myself how suspect, subjective and selective is memory. Yes, fiction is fancy, truth is stranger than fiction, and who lets the myth of objective fact (disproved by quantum physics) get in the way of a good story? Meaning and beauty flow from connection to self, others and cosmos, through seeing the same soothing light radiating in All. Which draws us E’63s together to celebrate our 50th Reunion humming along with the vynbos hemming the crags of Table Mountain. How fortunate we are to have rounded our youthful days attending such a fine bosch school in the “Fairest Cape in All the World”.
My acceptance as a pupil at Rondebosch was fortuitous to say the least. I had already been accepted at Wynberg Boys’ High but thanks to the intervention of my Standard 5 teacher at the time I was granted an interview with Mr Clarke for possible admission to RBHS. My teacher had been one of Mr Clarke’s pupils at Grey High in PE. I would be accepted at Rondebosch on condition that I took French as a subject. Whether this was done to swell the numbers of the French class or to satisfy the powers that be that the fact that I wanted to study French meant I had to be accepted, as Rondebosch was probably the only boys’ school other than Bishops that was offering French as a subject at that time. Whatever the reason, I was indeed privileged and grateful to Mr Clarke for affording me the opportunity to attend this great school.
Our French class must still stand as an RBHS record for the smallest class ever. There were only 4 pupils right through to matric – John Gibson, Barry Lloyd, Leslie Lang and yours truly. Madame Alting-Mees was an enthusiastic teacher and many of our lessons took place in what is today’s Headmasters office.
The highlight of my Std 7 year was watching our unbeaten first rugby team beat the also unbeaten St. Andrews from Grahamstown. My hero, scrumhalf and captain Andre Tulleken putting over the winning kick late in the second half. I remember 1960 being an excellent year for Rondebosch sport generally.
My Standard 8 year was memorable for many reasons. By then I had settled in well and had Billy Trengove as my English teacher who was to have a significant influence on my last three years at Rondebosch. My classmates who I can remember from that year (1961) -Bruce McLagan, Leon Boonzaier, Keith Perry, Coetzee, Peter Goble, Tony Monk, John Hill, Guy Murcott, Cedric Gilmour, Geoff Duckitt, Rory Beamish, Peter Barrett, Norman van Zyl, Johan Walters, John Barry, Gavin Stanton, Donald Andrew, Robert Hoets, John Gibson, Nicky Penstone, Peter Loveland, Buzzy Beck, Leslie Lang, Barry Lloyd and Ian Newall.
I can still see Geoff Duckitt sitting at the back of the class devouring Norman van Zyl’s sandwiches before going to Canigou for his boarders’ lunch. It was also time for our introduction to the ways of the world and Lady Chatterley’s Lover was read with great interest by most of the class.
I also vividly recall the touch-rugby games played at little break on the rugby A between the tryline and the deadball line. John Gibson and Peter Parkin being the flyers in the team. Peter Parkin incidentally nicknamed me Danny Kaye after the celebrated American actor/singer as he felt I was his look alike. Most of the boys called me Danny for the remainder of my schooldays.
1961 was the year that Billy Trengove introduced Tubby Price and I to the stage of the Memorial Hall. We started off with a 2 man one act play performed at the annual “At Home” evening. This was followed a year later when we played the lead roles in The Admirable Crichton. In our matric year Billy had to obtain permission from Mr Clarke for Tubby and I to once again play the lead roles in King Henry IV as traditionally the annual school production was performed by Std 9s only. These were wonderful years and also gave us exposure to the young ladies of Rustenburg which was particularly pleasing. I am happy to say that this resulted in at least one marriage- Lindsay Kennedy to Tessa Anderson.
I was indeed saddened to hear of Billy Trengove’s passing on 16 December 2012. I was privileged to have had lunch with him on 4 occasions over the last few years and I will remember this gentleman who had such an influence on my life with much affection.
It was always an ambition of mine for my 4 sons to attend RBHS as boarders. This they did with 3 becoming Head Boys of Canigou and also school prefects. Two became First Team rugby captains and achieved distinctions for rugby and athletics. Probably the most deserving one, however, did not share in these achievements due to an indiscretion on his part. He paid the price for “borrowing the school’s bakkie” one evening to visit his Rustenburg lady friend in Constantia. His return to Canigou was badly timed as he was met by Chris Murison returning from a late night stroll. He has no regrets and feels he has in some small way reciprocated the favour shown me by Mr Clarke all those years ago to admit me to Rondebosch by living with and providing support to Marjorie Clarke during her twilight years at her home in Pinelands whilst he was a Law student at UCT.
I would like to thank Lindsay Kennedy with whom I shared a desk in our matric year. Thank you Lindsay for your friendship whilst I was at Rondebosch. It makes me proud that E 1963 always seems to be at the forefront of Old Boys Union affairs. This is almost entirely due to your efforts commitment and loyalty to our school. We are indeed in “IN A CLASS OF OUR OWN.”
The Admirable Crichton 1962 production. L to R: Clive Downton, Susan Rowe, ? , Jan Rozwadowski, Alfred Baguely, Johnny Kipps, Gail Ashburner, Peter Barrett, Cheryl Clarke, Brian Clarke, Tessa Anderson, Ferdi Fischer, John Gibson, ? (Photo courtesy of Alfred Baguley)
Matric Dance L to R : Renee Logie, Alfred Baguley, Diane Jack, Roy Schreiber, Neil Kritzinger, Marlene Drucker, Lindsay Kennedy, Tessa Anderson, Richard (Spring) Risby, Lorna Martin, Judith Watson, David Price
I was born in Rondebosch under the shadow of Table Mountain and have lived within a mile radius of where I was born for all but about four years of my life. These years, shortly after World War Two, were spent in the then very small, rural village of Durbanville.
Prior to starting school I had been told that I would be going to Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory School. I had not a clue about Rondebosch and at five years old, well, school was school. My Mother who was a teacher, had taught at Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory School for a number of years in the early 1940s under Mr Law with Miss Baumann and Miss Human, amongst others, as colleagues of hers. However, when the time arrived to go to school, because of the distance to travel, it was decided that I would go to the local school, Durbanville Primary School. Sub-A, was for boys and girls. An ‘old’ lady called Mrs Sieberhagen was our teacher. Bun, black-rim spectacles, tall and thin. I shuddered. But she was a wonderful person, a great teacher. Durbanville Primary was different! My first exposure to school work and to writing was with a slate pencil on a slate.
As time went by I heard more and more about Rondebosch School and mid-way through sub B I had been enrolled at RBPS to start in Standard 1.
We moved back to Rondebosch with much excitement. Tarred roads and street lights, sophisticated telephone system, not a big box on the wall as we had in Durbanville. A handle that one had to turn backwards and forwards and Sophie on the switch board would say, “good morning /afternoon number please, nommer asseblief!” We had arrived in the big city. Milk was delivered to the front door in bottles, chickens were not allowed in the backyard, fish was sold from a Cape cart roaming the quiet suburban streets, announcing its presence by a blast on a fish horn and empty bottles were collected by waifs.
RBPS 1954, Standard 1. Cap, blazer, white shirt, knitted tie (still hanging in my cupboard) grey shorts, school socks, black shoes and off to school. The first teacher whom I encountered was Miss Trow, a most pleasant, strict but kindly person. The school was amazing. I admired the beautiful stone building with the class-rooms around a quadrangle and I was impressed from day one. The other thing that impressed me was that I did not have to write on a slate. The year flew by filled with singing lessons with Miss Cope, gymnastics with Mr Laidlaw and making new friends. This and the memory of walking in a ‘crocodile’ from the Prep School to the old swimming pool, near the Canigou boarding house, for swimming lessons, all comes flooding back.
I was getting used to having different teachers for subjects, not as with my previous school where the same teacher taught everything to everyone. In Standard 2, Miss Ferguson was in charge and I was enjoying school life. However the year was marred by an un-scheduled stop at Mr Enslin’s office. The head boy, I believe Ken Andrew, felt that fighting in the play ground was not acceptable behaviour for young gentlemen and promptly dragged me and the other ruffian, who will remain nameless, followed by half the school, off to see the Principal.
The following year in Standard 3 we were taught by Miss Baumann and this was also my first introduction to playing rugby. The Standard 4 teacher and rugby coach was Mr Robinson. A very good and likeable teacher. This was also the year I took up the violin, an instrument I sadly did not excel at playing. It was however an introduction to the classical music that I grew to love over the years and which still gives me great pleasure. Standard 5, our class teacher was Mr Sephton, who was in my opinion extremely strict. However I made it cheerfully through the year not getting on the wrong side of this martinet. A game for which I had a real passion and yet did not excel in at all was cricket. Obviously my ‘passion’ did not cut it at the end of the day. At that stage of my life I was not interested in tennis, so thank goodness, there was still rugby. This was under the guidance of Mr Robinson whom I met many years later when my son was playing junior school rugby. Mr Robinson was then a teacher at Fish Hoek, and, much to my surprise, he remembered me instantly. I therefore modestly assumed that good impressions were lasting impressions!
Then there were of course the plays under the direction of a wonderful person, Miss Nancy Watson-Morris. I still have a couple of photographs. In one, a winter scene, I am standing holding a sprig of holly with Nick Diemont, dressed up very prettily as a young girl with John le Roux next to him/her! In Standard 5 the play was ‘Princess Ju-Ju’. It had an oriental flavour which is all that I can re-call of it. John Barry, Jack Penfold and I had similar roles, I assume, as we were dressed alike and Alan Musker is pictured with an axe, no doubt an executioner of sorts.
Thus ended my first five years at RBPS. Besides enjoying playing rugby and day-dreaming in class, academic achievements were ‘OK’ and I received the Oral English prize in Standard 4 and the Perseverance prize in Standard 5. Thereafter my academic achievements at school petered out. In Standard 5 or a bit earlier, I had become fascinated by the events of the Second World War and read prodigiously of the battles and horrors that took place, including even the adventures of Biggles! So with the proceeds of the prize monies, I acquired a book (which I still have to-day) on the Memoirs of Field Marshal B Montgomery, my hero, which one of our teachers, Mr Spearing, arranged to have signed by the great man.
From the Prep School up to High School was an automatic step. Athletics, cross-country, rugby, rowing and school work of course. Geography made interesting for me by Mr Diepeveen, who also coached rowing. I enjoyed English with that great teacher and gentleman Mr Trengove. Mr Mike Reeler, for whom I had a lot of time and respect, made mathematics come alive for me and I enjoyed immensely. I say this with no disrespect for the other dedicated teachers and the subjects they taught. I enjoyed all my subjects with the exception of science, which sadly I was never inspired to understand or enjoy.
Special mention should be made of the school magazine which came out twice a year. I have all issues from 1954 to 1963 with a couple of additional ones I received thereafter. The articles reflect much of school life as we knew it. Interesting articles on various topics, many of a high standard written by pupils who were already indicating the path they were to follow on leaving school. At the end of the magazine happenings and details of Old Boys appeared in ‘Old Boys Notes’, an important aspect. It is a very nostalgic experience for me to read through these magazines and see familiar faces, a reminder of one’s ‘best friends’ over the years and the particular interests shared with them. Our last year at school, 1963, and also, co-incidentally, the final chapter of ‘The Historie of the Rundebuschians’, the author Evanius Martinius better known as Mr ‘Bob’ Martin. To quote this gentleman and summing up the end of school, ‘TAB’ …………………that’s all buddies.
Come the end of Matric, school as I had known it was now suddenly over. The daily morning assembly, the many friends made, the joys and struggles of learning, Debating Society, Historical Society, Social Welfare Society, Cadets, school plays, two of which vividly stand out for me, “The Admirable Crichton” and “Henry 1V part 1” in which David Price excelled as Falstaff and then, the final assembly. These, were then all behind me. A whole new beginning lay ahead.
Looking back, what did schooling at Rondebosch mean? What did it instil? What did we benefit from this great school, with its dedicated masters/teachers, whether for academia, sporting or extra-mural activities? My view in simplistic terms can be symbolised by our school badge. ‘Rondebosch’, a rounded tree. A tree of learning. An all encompassing “rounded” education.
So how have we all done? Does it matter, as long as we were equipped to deal with what we were given or chose in life? It is with admiration that I read of colleagues who have gone on to achieve much as politicians, authors, businessmen, academics or sportsmen. We are all bound by the common thread of the school that gave us as much as we wanted to take out of it, to guide and help with the building of our futures.
After leaving school, I did my stint in the army. I was seconded to the Cape Town Rifles (Dukes) eventually retiring with the rank of Major. I studied accountancy doing my articles at E R Syfret, thereafter I went into commerce spending most of my time in the engineering field. The last fifteen years of my working life were with a listed property company. I retired at sixty two.
After school I continued with rowing, road running and later took up squash, until a back injury requiring surgery and a hip replacement put paid to all such sport. My wife, Margaret, and I have been married for forty one years and we have a daughter and a son. Our children settled in England after finishing their studies at UCT. We have been blessed with two lovely grandchildren, but as we have to keep this article short, I will not elaborate further. We therefore make frequent trips to England. I love England, steeped in history with its beautiful countryside. Besides visiting family, and friends, the V & A Museum and other galleries are always on our list of things to do. My interests, besides travel and classical music, are English and colonial history, English country houses and gardens, the theatre, art (forgive me but real art, not the toilet door hanging on a wall, or a pile of old shoes and bricks or ‘stuff’ that the Turner prize is given to) and antiques, with a particular interest in oriental porcelain.
We have been worshipping at Christ Church in Kenilworth since 1984 having left the Rondebosch Congregational Church after thirty years.
Despite having lived in Cape Town (in or around Rondebosch) it is surprising that I come across very few old boys from ‘E63. The first few years after school one bumped into former classmates and socialized but this became less frequent as the years went by. Going to the odd Saturday rugby matches and the athletics meetings at the school were always cheery re-unions. Obviously one does meet many Old Boys in all walks of life and from other years. My next door neighbour at one stage was Miss Watson-Morris (Mrs Farquharson) and I maintained a friendship with her son, the late David Farquharson. Through their family I was kept abreast of what Richard Spring was doing in his life. I have met up with Lindsay and had tea with Martin Furman when he recently came out from Israel and we were joined by Johann Mostert, David Munro and Norman van Zyl.
So in ending, to Neil Veitch, for the idea of reminiscences and ‘In a Class of our Own’ book, the mammoth task of reviewing the articles and to John Barry for co-ordinating, chasing up and putting together the contributions, to both of you gentlemen, a sincere thanks for a great idea and your personal time and input. I look forward to the read but more so to meeting and being re-acquainted with my old classmates.
RBPS Under 12 A, 1958 Coach: Mr. Robinson Standing: Peter Barrett, Sakkie de Villiers, David Finlayson, Lindsay Kennedy, Antony Davidson, Kevin Richter, Fred Versveld Seated : Richard Morris, Mike Taylor, Derek van den Berg, Mr S Robinson, Douglas Crisp, Royden Wood , Roy McCallum Front Row: Neil Robertson, Allan Musker
My twelve years at Rondebosch were a stable and happy time in my formative years. It had its ups and downs, but when I reflect on those times I rate them positively. Getting into Rondebosch was in itself a story. My parents were both raised in Afrikaans homes. My initial home language was Afrikaans until at about the age of 4, when my parents decided that I would have a better future in the country if I was raised ‘English.’ My dad liked to joke that the only two English words he knew were “yes” and “no” and he frequently confused them! Our home language remains English. I clearly remember the day that my mom put on her best dress and took me to meet Mr Roche Enslin, the principal of the Preparatory School. He had a colourful carpet in his office and asked me to point out the lilac color, which I did, passed the test, and was accepted into the school. My mom was particularly proud because we had a neighbour who could not get her boys into Rondebosch.
My bilingual background did benefit me; I think it was about Standard 3 that I won the class prize for Afrikaans. I recall a prize that I could not win in the lower grades. Some boys were rewarded because they stopped biting their nails. I could never qualify because I was not a nail-biter.
Life was not always easy at Rondebosch. Neither of my parents finished high school, both came from humble backgrounds and we were poor until I was in Standard 8, when my parents moved from a rented house to our own newly-built home. My dad worked extremely hard putting in significant overtime to provide for us. When my two younger sisters were old enough, my mom went to work to supplement the household income, and that helped save money for our residence. I never had excess clothing. In fact, I never had anything but school shoes to wear—a single pair at a time, which was only replaced when I outgrew or wore them out. I remember all too clearly walking in Claremont Main Road and seeing Martin Furman walking along, wearing brown shoes and I was amazed that he had anything other than black shoes! I was good friends with Jack Garlick. His parents had a chauffeur, Cornelius. My mother would die a thousand deaths when Cornelius showed up to drop Jack to play at our humble abode. Cornelius would fetch me sometimes to play at Jack’s home. I remember attending a birthday party for Gregory Coplans and they served Coke for refreshments. I drank so much of it that I could barely eat any of the food served. Fizzy drinks were not a normal part of my diet. I took part in athletics and fancied myself as a runner. My dad borrowed a pair of spikes hoping to give me the edge I needed. I practised diligently the night before the race on the Ackerman’s Sports Field off Keurboom Road. The next day I was too stiff to run a good race. While at High School, my mother bought me a Barathea blazer. I was very proud of my expensive possession. I was sitting on the wall across the river near the swimming pool one lunchtime with my hands in the pockets when a friend (a medical doctor today and I’ll protect his identity) pretended to push me. I ripped my hands out the pocket to steady myself and tore the a gaping hole across the jacket’s back from the one pocket. My mother had it invisibly mended—but it was never the same again.
I think back on two teachers. One, an English teacher who will remain anonymous, requested us to write a creative essay for homework. I clearly remember the effort I put into that piece of prose, handing it in with much pride. A day later the teacher asked me to read my work aloud in class because he had never read such rubbish in his life. Without exaggeration, that incident affects my confidence to write good English to this day. My job requires that I write extensively. I am currently writing specifications for a new software system and have already produced 800 pages with an equal amount to go, and then too, I write a monthly blog for my website. The other teacher was Willem Diepeveen, our geography teacher. I was blessed with the name Johannes Christoffel Barry, a family name passed down from my grandfather, uncle and numerous cousins who have also had that handle. I always thought it a bit dumb because all my family members went by John or JC. We had to provide Willem with our full names and I was reluctant to blurt out mine. He told me to stop being stupid because he too had an Afrikaans name. However, there was a second and more important event. Our knowledge was tested and I did not do too well. In class, Willem said to me “John, you are capable of doing so much better.” That was my wake-up call, and a comment that I respected so much that I made contact with Willem and Yvonne a few years ago to say thanks. I don’t believe teachers fully appreciate the influence, for better or worse, that they have on their students. By the way, when you arrive in the US, you can take any name you want without any questions asked. I am now officially ‘John Christopher Barry.’
My dad is about as mild-mannered a man as you will find anywhere. He did not ask too much of me other than I should never take up boxing. My dad was a boxer in his day and although he was good he also learned to hate the sport. He is taller and a bigger build than me. Today at 92 he has shrunken a bit and is quite thin. I have rarely seen him get angry. I was in Standard 9 when our gym teacher and rugby coach decided that a number of us needed to be taught a lesson. I was captain of his rugby team, and we were in for a caning. I cannot remember what we had done wrong. While hitting me the coach made some stupid remark about promoting me from captain to corporal. When I got home that night, my dad had to help me get my underpants off because the blood had congealed into the fabric and was even more painful to remove than getting the cuts had been. The anger in my dad swelled up, and he was ready to go to school and beat the living daylights out the coach. The only way I could stop my dad was to warn him that the Standard 9 tests were more important at school than the matric results. If I did not score well I would not be promoted to Standard 10. Allowing the situation to escalate may have been reason for the teachers to make me repeat the year. With that, he let the matter rest. My Standard 9 results were of the best in all my school years. I do remember studying hard and taking those tests seriously.
Attending a boys’ only school had it disadvantages. I was deathly afraid of girls and never dated any until after High School. The matric dance was a problem for me, who would I ask? Jennifer Flowers lived a few doors from us. She was a very attractive girl and I plucked up the courage to ask her. She accepted. My dad borrowed a tuxedo from his brother and, though it was an ill-fitting garment to say the least, it had to do for one night. As much as I liked her, I never dated Jennifer again. A similarly named Gennifer Flower claimed to have had an affair with Bill Clinton, and during that 1992 scandal, it brought back High School memories.
I was friends with Leon Boonzaier and in Standard 8 I visited him at his house when he had distant relatives staying from Pietersburg (now Polokwane). Rina Lister was there with daughter Linda. I recall sitting on a lounge chair opposite Linda and at 16 was quite smitten. I met Linda again through Leon when I was 21. Linda had moved to Cape Town to be in a bigger city and to be watched over by her aunt. I asked her out the instant we met up again, and our first date was to ‘Carmen’ at the Alhambra Theatre in Cape Town (no longer in existence). After the performance, we drove to Muizenburg to walk on the beach. It was a late night, or early morning for us. Linda was working as a conveyancing secretary for Balsillie’s law firm in Cape Town, and I was at the head office with Mobil in the computer department as a programmer. We dated for 4 years, and after 42 years of wedded bliss (?), somehow stayed together.
Somewhere during Standard 6, Ernest De Wet encouraged us to take woodwork and metal work if we planned to go on to university to study engineering. Since that was my likely path, I followed his recommendation. Once I got to ‘varsity I learned that Richard Frantz (if I remember correctly) was headed to study engineering but his parents had advised him to take pure physics and chemistry at school as that was a better track for engineering. I learned a valuable lesson 5 years too late.
When I see what is going on in schools in the US today, I can only look back in gratitude at the opportunities we were given. Today in America, it is all about budget cuts, no money for physical education or other lessons or activities deemed unnecessary. Most sports are after-school community affairs if the parents are interested in getting their kids involved. Many parents try to make ends meet by both working with little opportunity to run junior around. I have spent 44 years in the computer field, love technology like iPhones and iPads, and am quite amazed to see how even my 3-year old granddaughter proficiently operates the iPad. I clearly understand the dangers of kids getting home and playing computer games and not socializing or exercising, so adding to the obesity crisis facing our kids today. I believe it is up to the parent to keep moderation in the lives of their offspring, but too many attempt to sub-contract these responsibilities and blame the schools and teachers for all their issues. I see with my four granddaughters how my son and daughter work to keep a healthy balance, but parents too are in pressurized jobs calling for long hours on the job and turn to us grandparents for support. We are blessed.
The concept of uniforms came home to me recently while in Bangalore, India. My business partner is Hindu, but his 10-year old son and 6-year old daughter attend private Catholic schools. We were talking education and cost for their kids’ education is not cheap, but includes the school uniform. They are each at single sex schools, and made clear to me that the students are from all social strata; rich and poor alike. I was shocked to learn that the son is one of 66 children in his class with a single teacher. In my case, I was in class with Peter Goble whose father was an executive at an oil company, while my dad was a supervisor at a different oil company in one of the operations. What a contrast. I also remember an incident where one of the principals was called to ask how many Jewish boys attended Rondebosch, only to be told “they are all Rondebosch Boys.” The diversity was another great big plus for the school.
One talking-point in America is the cost of a university education. Many leave university with a significant debt burden. Linda and I are from the old school. Robyn earned a double major in International Business and Spanish graduating cum laude. Sean graduated in computer engineering summa cum laude. Both attended expensive private universities, and left without debt. Both married spouses with university debt. We are proud of being able to provide our kids with a great education, and their contribution was to take their studies seriously.
I set a goal at 21 to have my own business. I knew the constraint would be that it would have to be brainwork because I did not have a nest-egg I could draw on. That became a reality when I turned 36. My first consulting company in South Africa was my springboard to getting a position in the US in 1986. I started business number two in the US in 1988, closed it in 2005 when I ran out of money. I started my current venture in 2010, but now only operate as a one-man band. I no longer need the responsibility of employees or worrying about people issues and making payroll.
In reality, I have given my family a torrid time with constant moves. We have had apartments and homes in Claremont, Sea Point, Johannesburg, Germiston, Pietersburg, Rondebosch, Tokai, Edenvale, Brookfield, Wisconsin in the US (where we lived in 3 different homes), and finally to nearby New Berlin where we live in a condominium. At least I can say that we are adaptable!
Linda and I have a daughter, Robyn, married with identical 5-year old twin girls, and a son, Sean with two girls aged 3 and 6. I remain motivated to succeed in business. My inspiration is to design a new computer system being developed in India at present. My area of specialization is supply chain management—inventory systems for manufacturing, wholesale, distribution, and retail companies, the highest investment for these companies. Rondebosch Boy’s was my springboard to success.
My feelings about Rondebosch are mixed, ranging from pure terror (Mr Brauer, the woodwork teacher at RBPS, who caned countless little boys, including me), to utter disdain (“Civi” Olivier, a worthless RBHS Afrikaans teacher, who flicked boogers at the students), to awe-inspiring (Tickie de Jager, one of the most flexible minds I have ever encountered), to great respect (Buck Ryan, Doc Watson and Herbie Helm for being excellent teachers who knew their subjects well and inspired me to work hard), to hilarity (Charlie Hallack and the many stories I still remember with a smile) and finally to gratitude (Tinkie Heyns for encouraging me to play rugby).
The fact that Rondebosch encouraged, and now requires, every student to play sports and provides the necessary opportunities is one of the things I value most about Rondebosch. No matter your skill level, there was a team to play on, and all the teams played against other schools. My love of sports is directly attributable to this aspect of Rondebosch and it has given me great pleasure over the years. Not only did Rondebosch encourage all to play sports but, and this may sound corny, the emphasis was to try your best and that winning wasn’t everything. I still remember the annual cross-country run, where all the runners, not only the winners, were cheered by the spectators, but those finishing at the end received the greatest cheer because it was clearly more of an effort for them to finish. I often thought of Rondebosch when my two sons were in high school. In a school of 800 students there were two soccer teams, one for freshmen and one for all the rest. Although they were decent players, they were not selected for the team and so stopped playing soccer.
The person most responsible for instilling an interest in sport in me was Tinkie Heyns who tried to get me to play rugby for the U13 team when I was in Standard 5. He encouraged me to try out for the A/B teams that he coached because I had had a growth spurt and was one of the bigger fellows in Standard 5. I was paralysed with fear at the try-outs and Tinkie sent me down to the C/D teams. After the winter break Tinkie again asked me to try out and I reluctantly agreed. I remember expressing my concern to John Le Roux that it might be too rough for me, but he laughed and said I was plenty big enough. Somehow I must have believed him and I made the team. Tinkie had a system whereby we played for “dough-nuts or cuts” and that included Tinkie getting cuts from the team captain using the string to which his whistle was attached. That kind of agreement would be frowned upon in the United States.
The one aspect of Rondebosch that was both degrading and sadistic was the system of punishment by caning. Good that it has been outlawed! I spent a fascinating afternoon with Ticky de Jager in 1997 discussing anything and everything, as was his habit, and one subject he brought up was the system of caning. He told me he was baffled by the passivity of parents in allowing their children to be beaten sometimes by sadistic men. I remember when we were in matric I went to “free swimming” after school. We had to remain in the changing room until a “master” showed up. Someone bet Derek van den Berg that he wouldn’t jump into the pool, which Derek promptly did. Unfortunately, Nobby Clarke was walking by and saw Derek in the pool. He was told to report to Nobby’s office the next day and was caned – a little extreme given Derek’s status as a nationally recognized swimmer.
Another memory of Rondebosch that concerns physical punishment, though in a less traumatic way, involved Charlie Hallack. During a history class with Hallack in Standard 8, Christopher Mundy looked Charlie straight in the eyes and, in a high-pitched voice, said “Charlie”. Charlie asked Mundy if it was he who had said the name, which Mundy vehemently denied. Charlie then asked Paul Duminy, sitting behind Mundy in the back corner, who also denied it. So Charlie decided it had to have been Neil Tuchten, sitting in front of Mundy. He was called to the front of the class, where Charlie bent him over and administered a “caning” in his comic way. Each time Charlie hit Neil, we all let the desk lids drop so that every stroke was accompanied by a loud bang. This kind of punishment was regarded as a joke. I must say I have never laughed so hard as during Charlie’s history classes. What made it so hilarious was that we were flirting with danger all the time because Charlie would not hesitate to physically attack any student he caught doing anything wrong.
Sometimes the reaction of the school was unreasonable. For example, on our last day of classes at the end of matric before leaving to study for the exams, Paul Duminy arrived at school in a carriage drawn by a horse. Nobby Clarke, who seemed not to have an appreciation for creativity, ordered Duminy and the horse-drawn carriage to leave the school property immediately. I can still see the disappointment on Duminy’s face as he rode out of the school grounds.
Mr Jayes had a unique way of teaching physics. First, he had an initiation ceremony for entrants to the physics laboratory that involved all the students holding hands while he touched live electric wires so that we all got a hefty shock. Another habit of his was to ask trick questions when he first walked into the classroom, such as the difference between pound and poundal. You had to write your answer on a piece of paper and he would then walk up and down the aisles, giving everyone who got it wrong a good hard smack on the back of the head. What a wonderful way to encourage students to study physics! In spite of these two quirks, Mr Jayes could not deter me from studying physics at university. He stressed problem-solving which stood me in good stead at university.
One activity we had at Rondebosch, which I think was immensely valuable, was “development week” which occurred at the end of the year. All students spent time on chores that benefited the school. I remember one year we saved the school a lot of money by planting grass on the Oakhurst field that had recently been graded to allow water to drain. I felt proud that I had helped with that task and I think activities such as “development week” are useful in encouraging loyalty to the school.
Naturally, attending Rondebosch from Sub-A to Std. 10 was a privilege that has had a lasting effect on me. In particular, the opportunity to take advanced courses in physics and mathematics, unique to Rondebosch, eased my introduction to university courses and played a role in my eventual career choice as a research physicist. During my matric year I decided to see if I could continue my education in the United States and applied to Princeton University. Fortunately, I was accepted and joined the freshman class in September 1964. It was a humbling experience to encounter so many immensely talented young men (at that time Princeton was all-male) from all over the world. I still don’t know how I survived the four years of undergraduate study. My brother, Michael, who wrote matric in 1964, joined me at Princeton a year later. Adding to my sense of inadequacy was the faculty at Princeton. At the daily afternoon tea to which all students and faculty in the physics department were invited, there was an amazing collection of famous scientists, including Nobel Prize winners, some of whom had worked at Los Alamos during the Second World War to develop the atomic bomb, while others pioneered quantum mechanics and relativity. Some of them even taught introductory undergraduate courses. One aspect of my educational experience that was very different from what would have been the case had I stayed in South Africa was the exposure to a wide variety of courses that undergraduates were expected to take. In my case, I took courses in German, history, philosophy, astronomy, politics and economics.
While in graduate school I met Susan and we got married after I received my PhD degree. We moved to the Washington area where I started in a position at the corporate research laboratory of Lockheed Martin, a large defence contractor. It was there that I first started my work on the effects of space radiation on electronic circuits aboard satellites. When that laboratory was closed in 1993, I moved to the United States Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) in Washington where I continued my research. After 8 years I moved to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, where I was responsible for investigating, assessing and approving electronic components used in satellites. One of the satellites I worked on was called Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) whose mission was to study the sun. It was launched about 3 years ago and is one of NASA’s most useful instruments for understanding the physical processes occurring in the sun. NASA’s web site contains amazing pictures of the sun taken by SDO. Three years ago I decided to return to NRL because I was offered a better opportunity. An interesting aside is that when I was a graduate student I was discouraged from studying high-energy or nuclear physics because it involved travelling to particle accelerators, gaining access to the machine only a few times a year, and working long shifts (24 hours is not unusual) while there. As a result, I chose solid-state physics as my area of interest because I could work in my laboratory whenever I wanted to. It is, therefore, ironic that one of the experimental techniques I use to study the effects of cosmic radiation on electronic circuits is to expose them to high-energy particles at accelerators – just what I wanted to avoid doing more than 40 years ago!
With no mandatory retirement age in the United States, I intend working for a few more years as I find work very satisfying. The many recollections I have of Rondebosch are still implanted in my brain and I enjoy retelling them to friends and family. Overall Rondebosch Preparatory and Rondebosch High Schools provided an excellent education and attempted, with limited success in my case, to make us into men of character and integrity.
Altius et latius.
The Four Seasons Back Row: Peter Barrett, Nicky Diemont, John le Roux, Trevor Bluewitt, Robert Hoets, Adrian Low, Derek van den Berg, Keith Perry, Johnny Kipps Second Row: Hugh Hodge. Roderick Lumb, Alex Cassarcis, Stephen Buchner, Donald Andrew, Robbie Thomas, Anthony Hillier, Kevin Richter, ??? Holman Front Row: Paul Duminy, Alex Cohen, Peter Hodes, Robbie Meyer, Johan van Schoor, Erik Smith
Ian and Ronnie
I had the privilege of joining Rondebosch Boys’ Prep in Sub-B, having done Sub A at Pinelands Junior and I remember my trepidation at the interview, sitting in Mr. Enslin’s office with my late parents.
For the first couple of years my father drove my brother Denis and me to school. Later we caught the Golden Arrow school-bus from our home in Pinelands to Rondebosch – the bus picking up other boys and Rustenburg girls on the way. This continued right up to J.C. when we moved to Kenilworth. Being a junior we were only allowed to sit downstairs, as upstairs was for seniors! On the first day, we were put into classes and allocated a house; Fletcher (Dark Blue), Marchand (Light Blue), and Andrews (Yellow). Boarders were automatically in Canigou (Red). As my brother was in Fletcher, I was put into the same house.
Miss Nancy Watson-Morris, our singing and dancing teacher, always had a kind word for me. I had absolutely no voice or rhythm, and this has not improved to this day.
As we moved up in the standards, the goal was to cross Campground Rd to Canigou Avenue, and to the mighty High School gates that awaited us.
In our junior years we couldn’t wait for the break-bell to ring so we could go outside and play Bok-Bok against the hall wall, or marbles – shying with one’s bag of marbles and goonies with the likes of John Le Roux, Dick Morris, Lindsay Kennedy, Barry Clarkson, Martin Furman, Alan Evason, Clive Downton, and many others.
Summertime was cricket-time: Under Don Laidlaw, we used to practise in the nets on the dusty playground. The excitement of being selected to play in the under-12 team against Bishops and winning on the postage stamp Lilacs Field was unbelievable. Summer-time was also for swimming and although I wasn’t too bad at swimming, I was like a snail compared to Derek van den Berg who was like a fish and really excelled in the water.
Boxing at junior level was fiercely contested in the hall, and many a time I had a bloody nose and tears.
Winter-time was rugby-time: I only participated in up to Standard 7, but I remember the great enthusiasm with which we used to chase the rugby-ball – bare-foot – before we were taught the basic rudiments of the game: the scrum, the back-line, and so on. I was completely sport mad and coming from a football (soccer) family background, I elected to play hockey in winter in order to allow me to play soccer at Hartleyvale on Saturday afternoons.
Standard 6 at high school and the decision on what subjects to study loomed. My academics were put on the back-burner for sport, sport, and more sport! Failing Standard 7 and 8, I fell behind – even though the senior years seemed to fly by.
Inter-house athletics will always be remembered: How we cheered ourselves on, but some guys were just unbeatable – Athol McLean’s 880yds and Barry Burmeister’s 100yds. Every point you achieved was appreciated not only by your House but also by your other competitors. Canigou was unbeatable in the cross-country.
Under the guidance of Steytler Thwaites, cricketers such as slow right-arm spinner Dick Morris and wicket-keeper Gavin Pfuhl and others developed into formidable players. Outside school hours I enjoyed surfing at Clovelly corner with Clive Badenhorst, playing golf with Barry Clarkson and his dad at Rondebosch Golf Courseand sneaking across with Barry to play at Mowbray Golf Course.
When my parents went on a three-month holiday overseas, I was put into Canigou and I had to study for 2 or more hours every evening under the watchful eye of Mr. Baartman. I eventually made Matric.
I was caught smoking I believe by just about every prefect and sent off to the office for six of the best. Although I gave up smoking in 1984, the damage of heavy smoking had taken its toll and my circulation was buggered. In 2008 I had to have a stent put in due to heart problems.
After school I was called up to do 9 months’ Military Service; 3 months’ basic in Tempe, Bloemfontein and 6 months in Walvis Bay. During my stint in Walvis Bay we had an unbelievable soccer team and we competed in local tournaments, invariably walking off with the trophies.
While patrolling the border out of Rundu base, in the Caprivi Strip between Botswana and Angola, my fellow soldiers and friends were talking of going home to S.A., I realized I had fallen in love with the desert and this harsh but beautiful and tranquil territory and decided to stay. SWA was to becomethe independent Namibia in March 1990.
On being discharged in Walvis Bay, I still had no direction regarding a career path and for the next couple of years I drifted in and out of various administrative clerical positions, until 1970 when I met my first wife (now divorced). I joined Rennies Consolidated in the shipping industry, then through amalgamation, Manica, and finally Grindrods. Working from a junior entry clerk, to ship’s agency runner, on to managing Shipping and Logistics at branch offices and terminals on both east and west coast, Mozambique – Maputo, Namibia – Walvis Bay and Windhoek, where I was involved together with Unicorn in registering the first Namibian shipping line.
In 1996, I was transferred to Johannesburg and you can imagine the culture shock I had, coming from the desert and a small business community to the buzz of Johannesburg with its millions of people! We settled down after some time but when in 2OO7 our friends were hi-jacked twice in their home and we had also suffered break-ins, it was time to return to good old Namibia, where we are today. I have two daughters Michelle and her three children live in Namibia, and Nicolette and two children who are in New Zealand.
During my working and sporting career I have had the privilege and opportunity of servicing the community and became Lions President of Walvis Bay, as well as serving on various other committees.
Regarding my sporting career, I played cricket for SWA 1970/72, and then lawn bowls became a predominant part of my life. I was selected to play for SWA in 1978 and played until independence in 1990, during which time I was SWA Champion. I obtained my Griqualand West Colours and was Singles Triangular Champion for Griqualand West, Southern Free State, and Northern Free State for 1982/84.
After independence, I was selected to represent Namibia at the 1992 World Bowls in England where I met my present wife Ronnie. I was selected to manage the Namibian team for the 1994 Commonwealth Games, the 1996 World Bowls in Australia and the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India. During the I2 years while I resided in South Africa, I was selected for the Provincial side more than once and in 1999 while playing for Near East Rand our team won the S.A lnter-Provincial Tournament. Since returning to Namibia I have been a Namibian National Bowls Selector.
In conclusion, thanks Rondebosch for setting me on the path for all the sport which has given me so much enjoyment.
Having been at Miss Blackwell’s nursery school next to RBPS, I found going to school was not quite the trauma that my parents thought it might be as most of my friends were also enrolled in the then Sub A class. My teacher was Miss le Grange who gathered us together and took us to the hall for assembly. There, on the stage we encountered the mighty Mr Enslin, who after giving us a talk, read prayers and then proceeded to conduct the hymn with his cane-his solution to any problem in the school. After the assembly Miss Lampbrecht played some marching tunes on the piano and off we went to class.
My time at the Prep was fairly uneventful until I met Miss X in Standard 2 who had the idea that some of her students should spend more time outside the class than inside. Her class was upstairs next to a cloakroom which had a very big cupboard. This became the salvation for those of us who were told to leave the class. As we heard someone coming up the stairs we would move around the cupboard and avoid being seen. If you were unlucky you were taken to the office, where the cane would solve the problem and you were sent back upstairs to stand outside the classroom. A lot of good that did!
My interest in amateur theatre was a result of Nancy Watson-Morris, starting with the mammoth production of The Land of the Christmas Stocking. At High School it was Billy Trengove and his great productions that gave me the background and knowledge to be able to stage manage and produce various shows I have done over the years. He was truly a remarkable person, not only in his extra-mural work but as an English Teacher who gave his all, teaching us to read great literary works and enjoy them.
After I left school I qualified as a commercial teacher due to Bob Martin’s good Bookkeeping lessons. For most of my career I taught and subsequently was the Principal of Gardens Commercial High School. In 2010 I retired after 44 years of service and have the honour of wearing an Old Boy’s tie with a mortarboard on it! There was a total of 21 boys from the Clarke era who became headmasters. At present there are 20 of us who try to meet once a year in the honours room for a chat and a drink. I have been married to Denise for the past 40 years. She is a music lecturer at CPUT and we have a daughter, Nicolette, who is an advocate and a son, Marc, who is an Old Boy and now teaches music at RBHS. Marc is married and the next generation of Rondebosch products, our grandson will be born in June!
First Hockey Team Back: Alex Cassarcis, Laurence Payne, Rory Beamish, Mr Baard, John Boonzaier, A Clark, ?, Front: Bruce Ferguson, Jack Penfold, Eric Wells, ? McIntosh, ? Duthie(?) (Photograph courtesy of Eric Wells)
After being privileged to be educated at both RBPS and RBHS I immediately after matric did my compulsory 9 months military training. After that I joined Old Mutual and during my time there completed a correspondence accounting diploma. I then moved on to S A Breweries and worked in the Admin department for their retail liquor outlets. I married and became the proud father of three daughters. After my compulsory 9 months military service I was posted to the Cape Town Highlanders for the remainder of my 3 years’ service. RBHS has the proud record of having at least two old boys who served as Commanding Officers (Bud O’Brien and David Plane). After volunteering I eventually served for 22 years which included two 3 month stints in Angola. Over the years I achieved the rank of Warrant Officer and was awarded the John Chard Medal, John Chard Decoration, Pro Patria Medal with Bar and Chief of the Army Commendation. My less noteworthy achievements include getting divorced. I remarried but regrettably after a short marriage my second wife passed away and I now remain a bachelor. After many years in various admin positions at S A Breweries retail subsidiaries I ran my own retail liquor outlet first in Sea Point and then one in the Northern Suburbs.
After too many years of working 6 days a week including every public holiday I decided it was time to slow down but am still working for a national retail liquor chain managing their house brand imports warehousing and distribution which involves no weekends, public holidays or long hours but keeps me reasonably active and alert. My three daughters have all done well for themselves. One is the bursar at a private school in Somerset West and has been awarded Springbok colours for croquet. The second works for a wine estate in Franschoek and also serves on the Wine and Spirit Board of S A and the youngest had carved out a successful career at a hotel group in England but is now a professional mother and home maker. I can say with pride that I and my daughters’ lives have been greatly enhanced by my education at Rondebosch Boys and the many long-suffering teachers who had the dubious pleasure of having me in their class.
Mr Young (U13C) Back: Morris, Swart, Duckitt, Versveld, Owen Fletcher, Clive Downton, Chris Buyskes, Mark Swift Center: Block, Russel, Eric Wells, Jeff Leeuwenburg, Tony Monk, Sapieka, Barber Front: Richard Frantz, Chris Matchett, John Barry, Mr. Clive Young, Johan Walters, David Cohen
My most vivid memories of RBHS revolve around the six years in the boarding house. As we all knew at the time, the boarders were known to be the backbone of the school. Therefore I am concentrating most of my recollections and memories around the boarding house.
My memory takes me back to Mason House, “The best house in the world,” according to Prof Tinkie Heyns. I was particularly privileged to have been associated with this great man. His love and affection towards us is something which has stayed with me all the 50 years since leaving school. One incident that I can vividly recall was the way he treated me after I broke my collarbone in a rugby match one Saturday morning. He accompanied Mrs Clarke to the Rondebosch Cottage Hospital where I was treated by Dr Tuppy Owen-Smith. In 1958 the Barbarians Rugby team toured SA and that particular day they were due to play against WP. Knowing how I had looked forward to this game at Newlands, Tinkie took me along and gave up his seat on the Grand Stand amongst the Players. As a little boy, 12 years of age, you can imagine how delighted I was to be rubbing shoulders with all those famous rugby players.
With all the excitement, the pain I was suffering was temporarily forgotten until we got back to Mason House. Then I really started suffering. Prof Heyns had my bed pushed into his small room so that he could keep an eye on me all night long. Just another small example of his love and affection for the boys under his care.
I was not much of a scholar at school and most of my time was taken up on the sports-fields. My love for the game of rugby was given a kick start in the under 13 age group where I was privileged to have Tinkie Heyns as my first coach. The lessons I learned from him stood me in good stead for the rest of my school career and I am proud to say that I represented the 1st XV team for 2 years.
Although, as I have mentioned, my scholastic ability sometimes left a lot to be desired, I have very fond memories of some of the teachers I was fortunate enough to be associated with. Although English was probably my worst subject at school I still rate Buck Ryan as the best teacher I ever had. He had a fantastic way of working with boys and it has been mainly due to his patience with me that I eventually mastered the subject of English.
Other teachers who come to mind and with whom I had particularly good relationships were Mr Diepeveen – Geography, Ronnie Wiggett and Evan Martin. Although I did not take history in matric, my path did cross that of Charlie Hallack in the lower standards and I can only say that on the whole my relationship with him was very good for the simple reason that he knew my father very well and that they both belonged to the same political party.
My six years in Mason House, The Lilacs and Canigou were probably the best years of my life. The friends I made have been friends for life. Yes, we were very naughty and bunking out and smoking were all part of boarding house life. Yet the love and affection shown to us by house masters and teachers have stayed with me for 50 years.
I actually matriculated quite easily and did my 1 year compulsory military training in the naval gymnasium at Saldanha, after which I headed home to join my father on the family farm in the Darling district.
In 1971 I married Leslie and we had a fantastic life together and produced 2 lovely children. Mandy, who lives in the Wolseley district on a farm with her husband Koos, runs a very successful guesthouse business. My son John (E93) still farms on the family farm with his lovely wife Gillian.
After a long illness Leslie passed away in February 2008. During the latter half of 2008 I got involved with Marlene who had also lost her husband in February 2008.
After a courtship of four and half years we got married on 12 December 2012. We live in her flat in Bloubergstrand but still spend a lot of time at my house in Yzerfontein.
Unlike most other boys of E63, I started at Rondebosch neither in Sub A nor in the High School, but in Standard 2.
My Dad was the principal of Claremont Primary and as it was just around the corner, I went there for my first 3 years. After that it was no longer deemed appropriate. For example ‘bok-bok’ was outlawed. Big boys would come to me and say, “Can we play bok-bok?” I’d give the go-ahead, teachers would eventually come running out to find the ring-leaders, who would say, “Fergy said we could play!” Good trick. Clever boys.
My first introduction to Rondebosch was not encouraging. We lived very close to the Newlands Cricket Ground and I spent a huge amount of time there. During January, before the new school year had started, I was out on the field during the afternoon tea-break and drifted somewhat out of my usual territory. All of a sudden someone bellowed, “Ferguson! We’ll see you in 2 weeks’ time!” He looked to be an older boy, full of confidence, with an assortment of mates around him. How did he know who I was? What a worry. It was Bull Le Roux.
My second exposure, on day 1 of term 1 was no less frightening. In the Prep School hall, waiting for my name to be called out. Ensie covered every year bar Sub A, and then turned to the young beginners. My mother was mortified and had to approach Ensie for direction. Eventually, late for the first class, I had to blunder my way to Miss Vickerstaff’s room. She seemed very severe, but of course wasn’t. Standard 3 was great – Miss Duminy. Everyone loved her and she was sweet, generous and very kind. However, there was an episode which bothers me still. We had a very quiet boy in our class, Jeremy Day , not a great scholar, but boy could he draw. At that age I blushed a lot, most often for no reason. One day Miss Duminy produced Jeremy’s drawing book and showed us that some swine had defaced one of his lovely drawings. There was utter silence and I could feel myself blushing…..for no reason other than Miss Duminy was looking carefully around the room. Her eyes settled on me and I just knew that she thought it was me. It’s always haunted me.
When Miss Duminy married Mr Helm, Lindsay Kennedy and I cycled to her house and waited for her to show up. Quite why we thought she would be at home on her wedding day I just don’t know. I guess we just loved her.
All our teachers in the Prep were good in some way or another even the ancient Mr Law who filled in for a term or two.
I can’t finish with the Prep without mentioning woodwork. I liked working with wood, but was, and still am, totally useless. We were making a pen-and-ink stand and although mine faintly resembled the article in question, its point of difference was the underside. It was smothered in bent nails; in fact it looked more like metalwork than woodwork. Never ever got used.
One year we had a school play. Can’t remember what it was but several of us were “green ladies”. At one rehearsal there were boys from Standard 6 participating (as thieves?). The scene called for us ladies to scatter. “Just stand around the thief of your choice” was the instruction. Twelve clustered around Ian McCallum, 10 around his mate Kilburn. No-one else was as popular. Later in life my only view of Kilburn was of him running down the white line in the middle of Rondebosch Main Road at midnight, just outside ‘The Pig,’ chasing a bus! Never saw him again.
Another memory relates to cricket, which has always been a passion of mine. Playing on the Oakhurst field I took 4 wickets in 4 balls, against Bishops. This was announced at morning assembly by Ensie. As we were in Standard 5, the whole body of students swung round to stare at me, which was something of an embarrassment, leaving me wishing, for a moment that I hadn’t performed so well.
Then on to High School. Starting wasn’t too daunting as my elder brother was there, so I knew a bit about the School and whom to avoid. We were in temporary classes as the Standard 6 classrooms were being renovated. We were in a huge room, making a noise, waiting for a new period to commence. In came a very short, bald fellow, bellowing for silence. “You!” he shouted “stand up!” Thank God it wasn’t me, he was looking at the far left corner and I was in the distant right corner. It was Tickey de Jager and he WAS looking at me, with his odd eye. I never took to Tickey and vice-versa. I know it’s sacrilege to say so, but there you are.
We had a team quiz and I fancied myself academically. I was eliminated in round one by Tim ffoulkes-Morris, who by the end of our schooling was a brilliant pole-vaulter. So much for being in the top class.
We were blessed with so many great teachers, who not only taught us well, but cared for us too. How could one have had a better start to the High School than with Dudley Baartman? Then there was Vic Ryan, Steytler Thwaites, Charlie Hallack, and Tony Viljoen amongst many others. My favourite of all was Doc Watson, a brilliant Latin teacher and also a fond cricket master. I was so upset to hear of his death after I’d left Rondebosch, in an accident on the mountain. In about Standard 7 or 8 Mr Goldie was our Afrikaans teacher as well as our class master. Although he came across as a strict man, he had a much softer side too. He told us he would be leaving for a while to have an operation. The whole class immediately stood and lined up to shake his hand and wish him well. He was very emotional and quite teary-eyed at our caring.
Mike Welsh was a family friend and I wish he had taught me as his sarcastic wit was legendary. Sarcasm and irony have always cracked me up.
The ultimate in legendary status was Russell Kilgour Hallack. I’m sure that many others will write of escapades in his class, so I will desist, apart from noting that my last memory of Charlie was he and Hugh Hodge pulling each other around the classroom by the tie. Hugh was always something of a free thinker.
Sport at school was just brilliant. I know they have many more options these days, but what we had was enough. Cricket and rugby were the stars. At the 45th reunion I asked Lindsay Kennedy to imagine what it was like to be in the B team. Two practices a week against the As. Twice a week being battered and bruised, hardly ever attacking, just trying to defend. And defence was not a particular forte of mine. The upside was when one was dropped to the C team and got to practise against the Ds. Heaven!
Cricket was always a passion and I played on after school until aged 56. Shoulders and hips are paying for it now! One of my memories which still gets me giggling uncontrollably is under 14 or 15 A. We were playing on the lower desert, possibly against Belville. Chris Steyn and I were stationed at deep mid-on and mid-wicket. I can even remember the batsmen – Kasselman and Gerstner. They wielded the long handle and everything was in the air – all to the leg side, always just to Steyn and me. After we each dropped a sitter, we were write-offs. Another high hit, we would both start laughing and another catch would be grassed. There must have been at least 8 of them. These days we would probably have been stood down for a game or two.
In matric I decided to change tack somewhat and settled on tennis and hockey, both of which were most enjoyable. The only problem with tennis practice was trying to lob over the head of the ever-growing Le Roux at the net. Hockey was an excellent sport. One almost had to have a medical certificate to leave rugby’s clutches, although we had a solid team, the stars being my cousin, Jack Penfold, Lawrence Payne and young Sean McIntosh, the latter from a surfing and hockey family. I later played a lot of cricket with his elder brother, Junior.
I was called on to play one game of cricket, a house match against Andrews or Marchand. Once we were on the field we worked out that we only had two bowlers of any ability – Keith Perry and I. So we two had to bowl the whole match. There was a strong sou’-easter, so Keith having some speed got to bowl with the wind. Somehow we won the game.
I also dabbled in athletics. In our last year I somehow bumbled my way into the 220 final. There must have been a stopwatch error in the heats. On the day I found out that Neil Tuchten (now Judge Tuchten!) was in charge at the start-point of the race. He said to me, “pick my left hand and you’ll draw the inside lane.” I did. Feeling less nervous I was then accosted by Cedric Gilmour: “I’m the favourite for this race and to break a record, let me have your lane. We’re in the same house.” How could I refuse! He won and I came last. Every time the school was shown a clip of our athletics, that 220 final was featured and I had to relive the result.
My Dad had negotiated with Nobby Clarke that Rondebosch would accept two Claremont boys each year. In our year it was John Simon and Graham Wittridge, so Rondebosch did pretty well. John and I have remained friends ever since Sub A at Claremont and still wake each other up with text messages at some ungodly hour regarding cricket and rugby scores. There is nothing better than being woken up at 3am with “Black Caps not good enough!”
Given our word-count restriction, I’ll now have to turn to a potted history of life since school. First the army, like everyone else, at Oudtshoorn and Walvis Bay. At WB I came to know the inimitable Chris Krige rather well. What a character he was, what fun to be around and what scrapes he got us into. So devastating that he died in Australia at such a young age. There weren’t that many Rondebosch boys around, so my mates were mainly from Pinelands and Bishops, apart from Chris. On the day we left WB, John Simon arrived and it was good to catch up with him albeit briefly.
After the Army it was UCT for a BCom and then to Ernst & Young for 6 years, apart from a year off in Europe, the UK and London with my wife Denise, from Pinelands. In 1975 we immigrated to New Zealand, which was a very good decision. There seemed to be no end in sight to apartheid. I started there with Ernst &Young for a further 6 years, before leaving to join a major client, Lane Walker Rudkin, a very large clothing and textile conglomerate, listed on the Stock Exchange and operating out of 6 countries, including South Africa. One of our major subsidiaries was Canterbury International, the rugby and sport apparel manufacturer. In those days we made gear for the All Blacks, but were eventually ousted by Adidas. However, the brand lived on with other international rugby teams, including the Boks. The “CCC” emblem is styled as 3 heads of a kiwi, the national bird of NZ. I always wonder if supporters know that they are playing with 3 kiwi heads on their jerseys!
For 17 years that was my career, Company Secretary then Chief Financial Officer. Since then I’ve used my financial knowledge for a hospital, a tertiary education provider and now part-time in an early childhood group, all good jobs.
We have done a significant amount of travel, often returning to South Africa or to England, where my parents and brother emigrated. For business, most trips were to Japan and the States, especially San Francisco. Now we travel to catch up with our family, most recently to Japan where our son is currently the national cricket coach and to Hawaii, to see our daughter participate in the Ironman. Although she has a young toddler, she is a Pro athlete and finished 7th in the gruelling Kona Ironman. Our eldest daughter has a PhD in genetics and works for Massey University in Auckland. New Zealand has been most kind to us, apart from the devastating earthquake!
Mr. Laidlaw (U10A) Back: Peter Barrett, Chris Munday, Hugh Hodge, Fred Versveld, Owen Ashley, Malcolm McCrosty Center: Frank Einhorn, John Barry, Derek Van Den Berg, Mr. Laidlaw, Richard Morris, Mike Taylor, Roydon Wood Front: Bruce Ferguson, Lindsay Kennedy, Lawrence Payne, Douglas Crisp
Having come to RBHS only in Standard 7, my fund of school anecdotes may be limited, but some (outlined below) do come readily to mind. I enjoyed my 4 years at Rondebosch but remember, my not being very good at sport and struggling a bit with being a year younger than my peers and possibly being a bit immature for my age as well were obstacles to be overcome! I will always be grateful to ‘Doc’ Watson for introducing me to rock climbing and mountaineering via the school mountain club – an interest I have pursued ever since. Although I have had contact with a number of classmates over the years (on visits to the Cape), my closest and most regular contact has been with Johnny Kipps (a near neighbour when he is in London), Brian Fraser and Jean Rozwadowski.
I think most of us were slightly intimidated by Arthur Jayes’ severe manner, however, one day he was demonstrating to us in the physics lab that your body can withstand a high voltage shock provided the amperage is low enough. He duly held onto a rod with xx000 volts – Nicky Diemont: “Sir, don’t you feel a bit of a prick?” Just a smile from AJ!
In E1 we recorded on paper some of Steytler Thwaites’ (Peanuts’ or Twinkletoes’) more colourful sayings (such as “goddamit man, you’ve got the manners of an uninhibited cat”) and placed them under a floorboard for posterity – perhaps they are still there. He caused an uproar when he proclaimed as 2 classmates returned from a short external test halfway through a lesson: “Ah, here come the testees!”
Tickey de Jager produced 3 excellent A4 sized books which condensed the entire matric syllabus for respectively algebra, geometry and trigonometry. One day Achim Lenssen pointed out to him what he thought was a mistake in one of them. Tickey: “I don’t make mistakes”; Achim: “to err is human”; Tickey: “boy, whatever made you think I was human?”
Mike Welsh, who taught us Latin in Std 9 was a cynic and, by the standards of the time, probably a bit of a leftie: if you tried to excuse the omission of some homework with: “but Sir, I thought—-“, the response would be: “listen, boy, good South Africans never think!”
After my civil engineering degree at UCT, I worked for 2 years in Namibia and in the Cape and then earned my passage to Europe as a supernumary on a German freighter to “see the world” (never to get back to SA on a permanent basis). After travelling through Europe (and meeting my future wife, Ann) I settled in Munich, first working for the organising committee of the 1972 Olympic Games and then for a major contractor. Neither job was very demanding, enabling me to indulge my passion for skiing, mountaineering and travelling. I then moved to Fontainebleau, France to do an MBA at the “INSEAD” business school, making many new friends from a huge diversity of backgrounds. One of them, whose father was a friend of the Shah, got our entire MBA class invited to a 2-week graduation “study” tour of Iran: having got this far, Ann and I continued travelling East (including the remote parts of Afghanistan, NW Pakistan and Burma) ending up in Singapore.
With funds running low, I joined a Dutch company engaged in the installation of oil and gas platforms and submarine pipelines for the oil industry, using large converted ships with huge cranes. This turned out to be a great ticket to see the world: we spent some months in Trinidad, 2 years in Holland, 2 in New Zealand, 1 in Singapore and another in Houston. Our family expanded on the way: Mark was born in New Zealand, Oliver in Singapore and Saskia in the UK – still angry that she wasn’t born a bit earlier while we were in Houston (green card!)
With kids approaching school age, we decided to get off the “expatriate bandwagon” and to put down roots in the UK. After a few years with a London-based shipbroker, I joined a small start-up investment company specialising in oil services and shipping. Raising money from various sources, we invested in capital intensive hardware, company turnarounds and distressed debt and also did corporate advisory work. The cyclicality of these sectors made for great opportunities and also for a bit of a rollercoaster ride but we got involved with some fascinating projects worldwide and, as a small team, had a lot of fun. These were also the magic years of family life: watching the kids develop, sharing their triumphs and upsets and enjoying many adventures together, London being an easy location from which to explore the world (as well as reaching the fairest Cape regularly).
Tragically, my wife Ann died of cancer early in 2001 after a 12-month illness: by then, the youngsters were old enough to be a real comfort and support for dad. A few years later, I reduced my workload to doing one-off projects (now fully retired), went back to university part-time (an MSc degree in Development Studies from SOAS, University of London) and dabbled in some charity work. In 2008 I married Mae-Le, a doctor I had met 4 years earlier in a remote part of north-eastern Burma (close to China’s Yunnan Province) where she was chief medical officer of an HIV/AIDS/malaria clinic run by MSF (Medicins sans Frontieres).
I still enjoy my travels – just as well, with one son (plus family) living in Brisbane, another in Madrid and Mae’s family in Singapore and Los Angeles!
Student Offices 1963 (Photo courtesy of Johnny Kipps)
More cast members in Princess Ju-Ju 1958 (Photo courtesy of Johnny Kipps)
My first memory of my grandfather was of his giving a talk on “Health through Common Sense” to the whole school. We arrived in his 1936 SS100 Jaguar, a car that I have had for the past 48 years and which will go to my own grandson one day. One car-2 owner in 77 years!
My wife passed away 5 years ago having developed Alzheimer’s disease. I have one daughter, Taryn, who, with her husband, is in Dundee, Scotland, with their 5 children – two boys and triplet daughters, who will be two on 4th February.
For the past 40 years, I have been a franchisee with Spur Steak Ranches and until 2 months ago, had the branch in Strand Street, which I sold. Spur is a fantastic franchise – I always said that I must be the proudest franchisee. Forty years loaded with fun and laughter! The support level is amazing but I decided to leave while I still enjoyed every minute – and not wait until it became “oh no, not another day.” I had three staff – all with 30 years of service who went on pension on the same day as I did. Everyone always says –“oh the hours are so long in the restaurant game!” Rubbish -12 hours is only a half-day job!
I am involved with conservation and helping to assist homeless folks reintegrate back into society.
The masters who made the biggest impression on me were Mr Arthur Jayes, the most perfect gentleman, Bob Martin, he made the classes very interesting, and Mr Clarke. How I hated Latin, Mr Olivier with his “plankie” and his motor car with a two digit registration number! Sport – no, not for me. I remember playing Zwaanswyk and getting a major hiding –sixty something–nil… We were shi**ing ourselves in Assembly on the following Monday morning but Mr Clarke congratulated us on fighting till the very end –whew!
I live in Green Point in the same house I built for myself 30 years ago!
The practice in E1A (I guess a carry over from D1A) was to see who was last to start studying for examinations. The exception was Brian Fraser who I recall set out for examinations with a well planned programme. Somehow nobody failed even with this unorthodox approach to writing and passing examinations.
I guess this may have been one reason why the experiment of spreading the “D” and ”E” years into smaller classes was never repeated, to the best of my knowledge.
Interesting that the spread was achieved by creating two E1 classes rather than adding an E5. Some academic psychology in this one.
When I went to UCT with the knowledge that many failed in the university environment, I decided that I could not continue with our scholastic approach to studying. Which probably explains why I did a little bit better with exam results at UCT than at school.
The sobering aspect when one has come to an end of your career is that ultimately it hardly mattered what the exam results were, as long as you passed.
2. Our names.
I owe this feature to my mother who was always confused by the practice. When speaking to third parties, such as my mother, we referred to one another by our surnames. Hence “Joubert
“van den Berg”, “Le Roux”, “Matchett”, etc. I guess this was an old “private” school/army tradition which I think has long since died out.
The teachers of course also referred to us by our surnames.
When we spoke to one another or introduced one another to third parties we would use our first names, so we became, “Andrew”, “Derek”, “John”, “Christopher” , etc.
Then there were the nicknames, of which there were few, and the only one I can now remember is “Bull” Le Roux. Why “Bull” I never knew nor was anyone ever interested in finding out. We had more important things on our minds in those days
3. The secret of the E1/E1A sash window frames.
A group confession.
If the sash windows in the E1 class room have not been changed in the last 50 years then the evidence of this misdemeanor should still be there. We did allow ourselves to get carried away at times.
Someone brought a wood drill and bit to class one day. Can’t remember who. At some stage during the day we drilled a myriad of holes through the lovely wooden frames of the class room sash windows. Then the one and only prefect we had in EI A allowed his “Prefect Conscience” to come into play and we were headed for trouble. Fortunately the diameter of the wooden pencils we used in class just matched the size of the holes drilled. So after much hammering of pencils into the holes and cutting them flush with the frame surface, all evidence had been attended to.
I guess if someone looked carefully at the window frames they may find the evidence still. I had thought we had drilled a lot of holes but on reflection after 50 years I conclude it could not have been a lot as we did not have a lot of wooden pencils at our disposal at any time.
The last two points that follow I have come to realise when trying to jog a not very good memory of those distant school days are probably two of the greatest legacies that I gained from my years at RBPS and RBHS. It could well be unique to the environment we enjoyed in the D1A and EIA class as passing exams may not have been the struggle it could be for others.
They were certainly years memorable for the fun times we had together; we enjoyed what we did and laughed at what we did. I even have a dubious memory that we talked about this as we came to the end of our school years. Or maybe we came to appreciate what fun we had had as we ground our way through university.
In my working career I have been faced at times with various difficulties, challenges and disappointments, but I have come to realise that by being able to laugh in these situations and see how you can still have fun at the most difficult of times, it is possible to get through the trials and tribulations and not let them get totally on top of you. It can be hard at times but it has worked for me in the leadership positions I have held. It is a message I have left with staff and colleagues in our business now that I have “retired”.
5. Breaking the rules.
The challenge of rules at school for us was – which could be broken? I suppose learning which should not be broken and which were fair game. And rules we certainly did break.
In my working career I have been fortunate that I have been able to work at the edges of new technologies where the rules had yet to be made or were still immature and hence open to be broken. Then as I moved into more management and leadership roles I was more entitled to “break the rules” where they got in the way (and it was not illegal to do so.)
I have also learnt that as you get older you become entitled to be eccentric which is also a good guise for breaking rules.
It is only recently that this all fell into place when I came across a book that immediately attracted my attention “First Break All The Rules” and subtitled “What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently” by Buckingham and Coffman. The book is the result of extensive research studies undertaken by the Gallup Organisation.
Something ingrained in those fun school days came to stand me in good stead. An interesting debate. One I am sure the teaching staff did not apply their minds to. But fortunately they did take our approach to rules in their stride and did not totally stifle us.
Last Day Of School L to R Jan Rozwadowski, Theo de Rijk, Lawrence Evans, Richard Frantz, Christopher Matchett and Paul Duminy
I married Cecile Waddington (St. Cyps) in 1970 and we have our daughter Tracy (40) in Newport Beach, California, married to Jory with two sons (Koby 10 and Josten 7) and one daughter (Shylah 3), and a son Hugh (39) in Toronto, married to Jenn with one daughter (Waverly 1.5).
After leaving E 63, I proceeded to Youngsfield for 9 months of further education in the intricacies of WWII anti aircraft guns and the social adaptations necessary to fit in to the South African armed forces – a true broadening of horizons and perceptions, not to mention the acquisition of Afrikaans skills never encountered in the Taalbond. I started a temporary job with the Old Mutual only to have it cut short by a major rock climbing fall that sidelined me until I started at UCT in 1965. I completed B.Sc. (Chem Eng) in 1968 and an MBA (along with Peter Gibb) in 1969. I spent most of my leisure time rock climbing and hiking in the Cape and Natal.
After graduating, I joined AECI in Johannesburg, got married and then went over to the UK for 2 years of acclimatization to the ICI way of making chemicals. We lived in Chester, a medieval walled city which was superbly situated for climbing and hiking in North Wales, the Lake District and even Scotland, and within easy distance from the sights of London (in those days you could drive to London and beat the train before they invented gridlock on the motorways). We spent all our weekends and vacations travelling the UK, Ireland, Scandinavia, central Europe, and Greece, as well as learning to ski in Austria. After being suitably indoctrinated in ICI methodology in the UK, AECI sent us back to Sasolburg (2 weeks notice) which had not been high on our travel priorities. Workwise I had an interesting 2 years there and then decided that the bright lights of Joburg and the Industrial Development Corporation held better prospects for job and family.
We lived in Bryanston for 4 years before deciding to emigrate to Canada in 1977. We had found Joburg quite frustrating with its distance from any real mountains and also the first oil crisis that kept our speedboat locked in the garage instead of the floating on the Vaal River. Had we lived in Cape Town, we probably might still be there, but the job scene for my experience was sparse and new fields beckoned.
So, we sold up lock, stock and barrel and moved to Calgary in 1977, at that time a bustling small city of 460,000 people located in the eastern foothills of the Rockies. Calgary gave us a chilly welcome with the temperature dropping to -40°C for two weeks in our first winter! That truly is COLD. Fortunately that was the exception rather than the rule and, with the effects of global warming, the Calgary climate has become much more benign with only the occasional major storm and generally bright, sunny weather year round with typical winter daytime temperatures of -5°C to +5°C and nighttime temperatures about 10 degrees lower. Summer is balmy. So, we thoroughly enjoyed our 34 years in Calgary, watching it grow into a large city of 1.2 million people with all the attendant problems of rapid growth. It is a bustling, vibrant city with easy access to the Rocky Mountains (1 hour) and a great place to raise kids with such diverse pursuits as biking, hiking, climbing, cross country and downhill skiing (in the city or in the mountains), snowboarding, ice hockey, soccer and so on.
We had got Canadian visas without having to have a job lined up so I arrived in Calgary in the middle of Stampede week in July 1977 looking for a job. I was well equipped with a three piece suit while the rest of the city was dressed in its traditional Stampede week garb of jeans, wrangler shirts, cowboy boots and large 10 gallon cowboy hats. I initially worked as a management consultant and was then lucky enough to be invited to get in on the ground floor of an embryo petrochemical company which was just starting up and which has now grown into Nova Chemicals (now Abu Dhabi owned) whose sponsorship logo can now be seen on the side of Toro Rosso Formula 1 cars. Calgary is essentially an oil and gas city so my petrochemical experience was a good fit with an undersupplied market and it was an exciting period of growth from bare ground to the world’s largest ethylene manufacturing site. Despite being a vice-president in sunny Alberta, after a major acquisition they wanted me to move to not-so-sunny Sarnia in Ontario and it did not take long to decide to protect our good western lifestyle and part ways with Nova Chemicals. Thence in 1990 it was into more traditional engineering with a large local engineering company with a lot of very interesting new development projects in Canada’s Arctic and Alaska’s North Slope. Quite a step out from engineering at UCT. After 15 years with that outfit, I joined SNC-Lavalin, Canada’s largest, most diverse and most international engineering company where I worked primarily on front end conceptual designs for large megaprojects in North and South America and the Middle East as well as carbon capture and sequestration projects to counter global warming.
When one works in an industry that is at the forefront of oil and gas technology and petrochemicals in a city whose major companies have wide international interests, there are plenty of opportunities to travel on business and see the world. I visited China in 1983/84 just when the transition from parochial Communism and Mao jackets to more open worldly dialogue and western style clothing was occurring. I could not believe the Beijing of the 2008 Olympics and how far it had developed since I was first there in 1983. Other destinations over the years included Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, the UK, Argentina, Venezuela (scary), Brazil, and then in the Middle East, Oman, Abu Dhabi and Syria (sad current developments).
Being located in a booming city in North America affords plenty of opportunities for business travel, holiday travel and sightseeing within North America, a continent with tremendous diversity in people, cultures and rich in physical and geographic attractions of nature. Business has taken me from negotiating major project financings with the financial moguls of Wall Street to spending the proceeds in Alberta and the shores of the Beaufort Sea on the North Slope of Alaska and Canada’s Arctic. Between those extremes, I also travelled to most of the major cities in the US and Canada from East to West and North to South. For relaxation and family vacations we have visited Cape Town every couple of years and more recently, every year. Outside of family visits we have visited New Zealand, Fiji, Hawaii, Mexico, Costa Rica, some Caribbean islands, UK and Ireland as well as some hiking in the Dolomites and the French Alps.
Having decided to retire in 2011, we had to decide whether to stay in Calgary with many good friends and continue a cool outdoor lifestyle, or move to milder climes where the prospect of icy winter roads and pathways was much reduced. I have had increasing problems with my knees, probably due to running down too many mountains, as well a back problem from a skiing spill (now hopefully fixed by surgery), so we elected to make the move in 2011 from Calgary to Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, the site of Canada’s mildest climate and where we also have transplanted friends. So we have traded in our bright sunny Alberta winter snow and temperate summer, where all you need to do in the garden is to mow the lawn for three months a year, in exchange for British Columbia’s rainy winter with minimal snow and beautiful mild summers. Being situated on Vancouver Island (a distinct island 450 km by 100 km), not to be confused with the city of Vancouver on the mainland, we wanted to buy a house with a view of the sea and the Gulf Islands. Unfortunately this combination only comes with large houses on large lots so after looking for 8 months we finally “downsized” to an acre of land and a house nearly double what we had in Calgary. We are now unpaid full time gardeners – the consequence of living in a rainforest type climate, and mowing all year.
When we are not hiking or gardening, we either visit our kids and grandchildren, or spend time at our holiday cabin at Shuswap Lake, a large lake about half way between Calgary and Vancouver. We thought retirement would be relaxing, but life seems to be busier now than it ever was with the structure of the workplace. Now that we have moved to the ocean, we have to decide whether to keep or sell our lakeshore house – which was a haven of relaxation from the Calgary lifestyle, but is now essentially just another body of water 9 hours away instead of on our doorstep.
Memories of school.
Basically all good from Sub A to Matric. I was lucky enough to live close to the school and spend lots of time on the sports fields even if I wasn’t that good. I still liked the opportunities and was glad to be able to play field hockey after being crunched too often as a lighty in rugby. I was pleased to see that the available sports have expanded since. I think the best thing about Rondebosch was the relationship between staff and students and the camaraderie that many teachers exhibited both in the classrooms and on the sportsfields. With hindsight, I realize what a well-oiled machine it was, even if it seemed normal at the time. And when I see the unionized teaching system here in Canada, I realize what a privilege it was to have teachers who were mentors in the classroom and friends outside.
Memorable experiences since leaving school:
Rock climbing fall in 1964 off Barrier Buttress – 50 feet bouncing off a hard ledge, stopped by Ferdi Fischer from going another 150 feet. Shouldn’t have survived, but glad I did!
Introduction (fortunately as a spectator) to ice hockey – an exciting, fast, tough and altogether tremendous human display of raw emotion and skill, not to mention fighting. Canadian quote – “I went to the fight and a game of hockey broke out”. Hopefully they’ll clean it up before someone gets killed. Very exciting to watch. The Canadian equivalent of rugby in SA.
Seeing the 1989 Stanley Cup final in Montreal when Calgary beat Montreal in the seven game series. The noise of the fans was higher than 10 rock concerts. The Montreal fans just wanted to beat up any Calgary supporters after the game. We slunk back to our hotel, fortunately unscathed. Montreal regularly trashes their city when the home team loses.
Multiple 4-4 day attempts over many years to climb Alberta’s highest peak (Mount Columbia 12,200 feet) with an approach on skis over the Athabasca Glacier and camping in total whiteout at temperatures of -20 C or so. Eventually succeeded after five annual attempts on a glorious sunny day – it was worth the wait.
Backcountry skiing in flat light in powder snow up to your waist or higher and not knowing what is up or down until you find yourself flat on your back and buried. Then when the sun comes out, paradise reveals itself.
Seeing Fonteyn and Nureyev in Swan Lake at Covent Garden.
Regrets since leaving school:
Not learning to fly.
Canada’s vanilla politics.
Notwithstanding our distance and relative isolation from Cape Town, we still manage to see Ferdi Fischer and Johnny Kipps and respective families either when we travel through London or when we are in Cape Town. Also the occasional lunch with Lindsay, Peter S, John LR, Roy Mac and others when I have been in Cape Town. I have also managed to attend a few of the E63 class reunions as well as the School centenary so have been very pleased to meet some other of my old classmates at those occasions. My, how we have changed! When reading Lindsay’s various communications, I, like other classmates have been surprised and concerned about how many of our class have already died – certainly it seems to be quite a high proportion. However, I delved into life expectancy statistics and found that our class mortality rates are closely aligned to the life expectancy of both British and Canadian males. So, sad as all these deaths are, they do not seem to be out of line or a result of rubbing mercury on all those pennies to increase their value. Personally, I am hoping to attend the 2046 reunion of E63. I paid the grand sum of $2.00 US to a witchdoctor at Victoria Falls and he predicted that I would live to 101. Since my dad died at 101, my hope is that the good witchdoctor did not mix our genetic stamps up.
One beautiful warm spring morning in 1951 I was awakened by my mother much earlier than the usual “rise and shine.” This was followed by, “No Kindergarten today, today we are going to see the school you might be going to next year.” I also noticed that my clothes were especially pressed for this special occasion. Little did I know how this would influence and benefit my future life.
The day in question produced many new firsts in my life. Not only was it the first visit to a proper school, it was my first tram ride as well, travelling on Main Road from Wynberg and alighting at the Rondebosch Fountain. Thereafter I remember my Mom asking directions for the easiest route up to the Rondebosch Prep School. As we entered the gate I remembered clutching my mother’s hand as she lovingly and gently reminded me only to speak when spoken to! We reached what seemed this massive brown-stone building, somehow reminding me of a medieval king’s castle.
On entering Mr Roche Enslin’s Office I recall my amazement at the size of his big, bushy eyebrows which enhanced his stern appearance as did his deep, deep voice. The interview ended and smiling broadly and shaking my mom’s hand, he extended that huge hand to me saying, “Welcome to Rondebosch my boy.” Needless to say the next time his hand was extended towards me it held an 18-inch ruler in it and I was not standing but bending over his office table. That incident occurred 6 years later when I was in Standard 4 during the period when Mr Law, an elderly retired former headmaster of RBPS, replaced our class teacher Mr Vere Parkin, for a period of time. Law spoke with a brrrrroad Scottish accent and he caught me out trying to impersonate his speech. Grabbing me and pulling me by my tie to the classroom door, he said “Furrrrman I thought that you werrre my frrriend but you’rrre a dirrrty little dawg.” Mr Enslin, unnoticed by us all, was watching from the corridor – no need for further explanations!
One of my favourite ‘extra’ activities at school was the annual school play directed by the very talented and patient lady, Miss Nancy Watson-Morris. In Sub A I remember being a sea shell and in Sub B I was a snow drop. The pupils that became the main actors in these productions were natural actors and those with good voices. Those that I seem to remember were David Price, Richard Morris, David Taylor and Gordon Slabbert. Apart from the school plays who can ever forget Gordon Slabbert, our own Elvis and Roy Gordon and his ukulele singing R and B in Standard 3?
Here are the classes I was in during my Prep School time and I know this information is accurate because lying in front of me on the table as I write are 12 slightly yellow faded RBPS school reports which were part of my late mother’s hoarded treasures found by my brother Saville and I whilst we were packing up our parents home.
1952 Sub A Miss IMI Johnson, 1953 Sub B Miss IMI Johnson, 1954 Std 1 Miss B Trow, 1955 Std 2, Miss G Vickerstaff, 1956 Std 3 Miss Erina Duminy, 1957 Std 4 Mr N J Parkins, 1958 Std 5 Mr E E Sephton.
Mighty I add that in 1956 most of us had a “crush” on Miss Erina Duminy and those became her hardest – working pupils. All our dreams were really crushed by her engagement and later marriage to Mr “Herbie” Helm, an Afrikaans RBHS teacher who later taught me in Standard 7.
Thinking back to tea and lunch breaks I remember getting hot milk or ‘choco’ and our mothers would take turns in serving the boys. Thereafter I recall playing touch rugby, playing marbles (goenies, ironies, Cat’s eyes etc) swopping comics, playing bok-bok until it was banned. I think, also, that lots of true and firm friendships were formed during these breaks as pupils attending the Prep lived from Fish Hoek to Mowbray and Pinelands and this did not include the boarders.
As a pupil I very much enjoyed all types of sport, excelling at tennissette and being partnered by Richard Morris in the 1953 in the Cape Peninsula Primary Tennisette Association Boy’s doubles junior championship. I enjoyed rugby, playing in my first 2 years scrum half and hooker but never reaching higher than the C or D teams in all my school years. I also enjoyed boxing but once again being short and weighing nearly as much as Derek van den Berg immediately stopped me from this sport. In Standards 4 and 5 I distinctly remember Lindsay Kennedy’s boxing ability and how he exercised in order to improve his physical shape.
Whilst still in Std 4 I started helping the Std 5 pupil responsible for the screening of films in the hall using the 16mm projector. He taught me to cut, splice and join film and this knowledge was important because of the age of the films received and also the age of the projector itself causing many breaks in the middle of screening a film. I enjoyed the responsibility for maintaining the equipment. Every time there was a break or a problem someone would shout out “Vat hom Fluffy” my new nickname because of the amount of hair that had started sprouting “all over and under” in Standard 5.
Many fraternal and genuine friendships were formed at the Prep and remain firm and honoured until today by us all.
The immediate difference between the High and the Prep School was the size and the height of the school prefects checking uniforms and haircuts on the first day. The catalyst binding them so close together was their love of English poetry, especially Rudyard Kipling’s famous poem “If,” which I certainly knew by heart, having written it out umpteen times in my first two years at high school!
As known to all, my nickname from Prep School days was Fluffy. As winter set in around April-May and so I started to wear a hand-me-down jersey from my young uncle – a v neck, long-sleeved grey jersey made from a very smooth mohair wool. One cold day, as I was wearing this jersey, Clive “Mousey” Young and “Buck” Ryan passed me by and Mousy laughingly said to Buck “Fluffy is not so Fluffy any more – he is now “Moleskin Harry”. By the following day all the teachers returned a cheerful “Moleskin Harry” greeting with sheepish grins. This new nick-name lasted until the end of Matric and then disappeared – thank the Lord.
My favourite subject at which I truly excelled was bookkeeping and commercial arithmetic, taught to us by a teacher loved and respected by all – Bob Martin. His opening sentence to the basics of all accounting practice, constantly repeated, “for every debit there is a credit and visa-versa or debit receives and credit gives.” I was very proud to attain an AA result in the matriculation final exam. He was also a wonderful rugby coach showing as much patience as in the classroom.
It was with much sadness that today, while writing these memories, I received the very sad tidings of the passing of my favourite, most loved and respected master, the late “Billy Trengove”. He was a real gentleman, with his coy smile and one hand held up hiding his amusement at our antics. Trevor Klette renamed him “Evognert,” his name spelt backwards. I was greatly affected and influenced by his teaching and became an avid reader. I did not expect a reply to the mail that I sent him for his 90th birthday but was proved wrong as I received a very informative and newsy mail which included his thanks to us all. Billy Trengove and “Mousy” Young were both at an ‘E63 re-union given for me in the Honours room, a fact greatly appreciated by me. May our dear Billy Trengove’s soul Rest in Peace – a very humane and loving teacher and friend to us all.
From the moment I witnessed the school cadet band practising on the 1st team football field I was fascinated by their playing of the instruments but especially their marching and the different manoeuvres achieved while playing. I do not think that I ever missed a day’s practice as an on-looker sitting on the steps or after I entered the band myself. My brother Saville joined two years later, also playing the bugle. I was later instructed by the CO, Mr Diepeveen, to attend a bugle majors’ camp at Youngsfield for 2 weeks which I thoroughly enjoyed. In 1963 I was runner-up in the silver bugle competition. On two occasions the band had the pleasure of leading the drum majorettes and the ‘Varsity Rag through Adderley Street and a good time was enjoyed by all especially at practices. Personally the most, moving and satisfying ceremony for me was bugling the “Last Post” in the stairwell of the Memorial Hall on Armistice Day. We were brought up in the early ‘50 and 60’s when we were taught that the 2nd WW would be the last. Little did I know what lay ahead of me.
In January of 1964 the majority of us were called up for military service. I, together with Jeremy Duthie, underwent 3 months’ basic training in Potchefstroom at the School of Artillery and thereafter we completed the final 6 months at Walvis Bay in South West Africa (Namibia). Then assigned to The Cape Field Artillery Regiment I was promoted to Student Officer in 1965 and in 1966, commissioned as an Assistant Veldkornet (2nd lieutenant) eventually reaching captaincy in 1971. Peter Tuchten E66, brother of Neil, joined the Officer ranks as well. He proved to be a very efficient and popular leader.
In October 1964 I joined the family Kosher Poultry Slaughtering Plant working with my parents, who had established the business in our matric year of 1963. I was extremely fortunate in having to learn the art of poultry farming especially in the new type of broiler production, changing the face of the poultry industry completely. The business made quick strides and we became partners in poultry houses in the Agter Paarl area. In 1965 I studied C.I.S. at the Cape Technical College working from 04:00-18:00 and then studying at Tech until 22:00. This lasted until the intermediate exam in which I did well but it was not possible mentally and physically to continue working and studying together.
In 1970 Linky and I met and we were married in Johannesburg in November, Linky at that time working as a legal secretary. Our eldest daughter Ilana was born in November 1971 and in April 1974 I left the family business and joined Shoprite Supermarket where I became a branch manager and after a year or so I joined Grand Bazaars and after 2 months managed the new warehouse in Epping 2. When Grand Bazaars took over Punky’s, Leon Hurwitz who was a regional manager of Punky’s, joined our ranks and one of my nicest Sub A friends and I were re-united.
Our second daughter was born in February 1974 and, having been sent by the Directors of Grand Bazaars to manage and improve the Sea Point branch, which I succeeded in doing, we left South Africa for Israel in November 1975.
We arrived there with 2 daughters aged 4 years old and 18 months old and we went to Straight to a South African-founded kibbutz named Tzora which is in the Valley of Sampson near present day Bet Shemesh. We were on a special course run by the Jewish Agency where one worked for 4 hours and studied Hebrew for 4 hours every day. Linky worked in the kindergarten and I worked in the turkey houses where flocks of 50,000 were grown.
After 6 months we were accepted as candidate members to join a Co-op Moshav named Cfar Daniel, situated near the old green-line border, quite close to the Ben Gurion International airport. After 3 months I was made manager of the Poultry Dept consisting of closed environment poultry houses and each cycle grown consisted of 95,000 birds received as day old chicks and grown until approximately 42 days. Linky at that time worked on the moshav in the small supermarket. There was a big agricultural department producing cotton, wheat, sweet peas, lucerne, sugar beet for the dairy. The dairy consisted of 180 milkers milked on automatic equipment 3 times daily. Apart from the agricultural side there was a furniture factory and a piano factory. The moshav consisted of 52 families and each family had their own house which was 68 sq. metres made up of 3 small bedrooms, bathroom, toilet, kitchen and lounge-dining room. The house belonged to the family as long as they remained members. Whilst we were on this moshav Leon Hurwitz and his first wife Janice arrived in Israel.
In February 1978 a son, Avi, was born to us and and in May 1978 we moved to our present day Moshav Timorim whose founder members were mainly ex South Africans who had left between 1947 to 1952. This moshav was run on the same lines as our previous moshav and when we arrived the first children who were born to those early members had begun to marry and quite a few were already members with small children of their own. Linky in the first few years worked in the supermarket and thereafter studied teaching English as a foreign language and worked for the Ministry of Education at the provincial school in our area. Of course I was back with poultry but this time with heavy breeders producing hatchery eggs for baby chicks that would be grown for meat. We produced 10 million hatchery eggs per year. I really loved the work and also enjoyed training labourers how to handle the birds. Funnily enough at that stage the production of the main flock was being sent to Iran.
The agricultural side of the moshav was huge altogether 6000 dunam was cultivated (1 dunam = 1000 sq. metres) flower bulbs were grown for export not as the song goes but we “sold tulips to Amsterdam” and many other types of flower bulbs, sweet peas, sunflower seed, lucerne, wheat, cotton, oranges, lemons, grapefruit and tomatoes. The dairyherd was 400 Holstein Dutch milkers (similar to the South African Frieseland cow).
In August 1980 I was called up to 4 month military service at the age of 35 and lo and behold, who do I meet at the entrance to the camp, but Leon Hurwitz! Those 4 months saw us either in the same fox holes, or in trenches, in the mud, or on guard duty. Leon is such a wonderful listener, empathy is his 2nd name and his first name loyalty, he is so good to be with. Both of us were in the 1st Lebanon War but in different regiments. A few years ago Leon underwent a bone marrow transplant which thank the Lord was very successful and over the last year had a mild stroke from which he is making a slow but sure recovery. Leon, who received his B. Com at UCT, began in the Israeli textile Industry and after a few years started working for the Israeli government, rising to a very high management position. He has remarried, is extremely happy and we are in regular contact.
I have worked with and befriended many Gazan Arabs who worked daily in our poultry houses. We have had an amazing working relationship and we honour each other’s religion and customs. This situation continued until the 1st Intifada when the start of Moslem religious fanaticism sowed its seeds of hate and turmoil in the Middle East.
In 1987 at the age of 42 I suffered a slight heart attack and, becoming diabetic a few years later, I also underwent many operations for of acute tendonitis. I carried on working in the poultry department despite my medical problems until 1998, under medical instruction, I went over to working in the pipe and tube factory on the moshav. Thereafter I worked until 2009 when I received a disability pension and volunteered for an NGO for people with special needs, the most rewarding type of voluntary work you can imagine.
My daughters matriculated and served 18 months in the Israeli Defence Forces – my eldest daughter was a social worker dealing with problem soldiers and my younger daughter folded parachutes and also earned her parabat wings. My son served 9 and a half years in the air force – 6 of those in the permanent force. All of them are now married and they all live within an 8 km radius of our moshav. Our greatest blessing in life is that we have been presented with 10 beautiful grandchildren who all were born with the luck of not looking like their grandfather!
We unfortunately live approximately 34 km from Gaza, meaning that we fall into the range of the grad missiles and over the last 2 years 5 missiles have fallen on our moshav 2 in the fields last year and 3 last month causing terrible havoc. We thank the Lord above that nobody was killed or injured on our moshav. Once the grads came into their arsenal we have approximately 20 seconds to be in a concrete shelter. We moved off the moshav and stayed with my eldest daughter as she has a special concrete walled and roofed room. Soon a representative of a factory producing these concrete rooms is meeting with us in order to issue us with a quote for a special concrete 2 x 2 metre structure with a 40cm ceiling and 20cm thick walls can be put down close to our house.
This war was more frightening for me as I was with my children and grandchildren and it was more frightening than being in the fighting in Lebanon where one sat, waited and prayed. Funnily as it may sound to many people not living in Israel but we also prayed for the children of Gaza who do not deserve constant bloodshed, but who have been taught only to hate and, the greatest pity of it all, is that it is taught to them from no other than the Imam, preaching and spewing hate instead of love and brotherhood. What chance does peace have in these sad circumstances?
A week or so before the missiles and actual war started we received our first emails regarding this new Rondebosch project I had the pleasure of renewing my association with John Barry and Johnny Kipps. During this recent war I was bombarded by emails regarding the safety of myself and my family and exchanged news with them regarding the progress of hostilities.
Before lifting our heads to the heavens let us look at each other and love and help each other. No extremism, political or religious, will help mankind save itself from itself. May the Lord help us all in the quest for peace.
I am very proud and lucky to have had the opportunity of attending both the Prep and Rondebosch High School. Lifelong friendships were formed and I would like to thank our honourable friend, leader and head prefect of ‘E63 and sometime Chairman of the RBHS Old Boys’ Union, Lindsay, who has lovingly dedicated himself to us all, in sickness and in health and this loving feat could not have been accomplished without his caring and supportive wife Tessa. May the Good Lord bless them with many years of health, happiness and peace. I would also like to thank the remarkable Ideas, thoughts, plans and time given by the strong team of John Hill, Bruce Ferguson, Johnny Kipps, John Barry, Peter Scholte, Roy McCallum and Neil Veitch. I thank you in the name of us all.
I have many fond memories of my time at RBHS. Dr Tinkie Heyns’motivation for the U15 C rugby team of “doughnuts or cuts.”
The real challenges that teachers such as Tickey de Jager, Tony Viljoen and others set the students – creating an excellent foundation for university.
The awful taunting that the class inflicted on Charlie Hallack – and yet I think we all learned history.
The many good school friends that I am now just beginning to find again after so many years, through this initiative.
I was approximately 2 years younger than most of my class mates, so after matriculating I went back to school, and did my A and S Levels at Malvern College in England – an interesting contrast. After spending a short time at Cambridge University in England I returned to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering and an MBA from UCT.
Following that I joined a subsidiary of Anglo American, where I was fortunate in that that my job allowed me to spend time in a number of different countries – Sweden, Germany, UK, Australia, Zambia, Portugal, Canada, Brazil, Ireland and the USA, amongst others.
In 1976, I ended up in the USA on a short-term assignment. Fifteen years elapsed, during which time I had married an American, had three kids but had still not completed the original assignment!! So I changed careers and began ‘consulting’. I am still doing this right now; consulting on financial systems and business processes to the Internal Revenue Service of the US government – of all possible clients I could have chosen, but at least they will never go out of business!
My kids have all largely left the nest. The oldest, Bryan, has a PhD in biochemistry and is doing research at Columbia in New York. His house on Long Island was hammered by hurricane Sandy but fortunately neither his wife nor he was hurt.
My younger son, the athlete of the family, has started a couple of businesses and is doing quite well.
My daughter is doing her PhD in nano-technology at UC Berkeley, after spending time in Singapore on a US State Department Fulbright scholarship.
Right now I am looking forward to retirement in the next year or so and hope to be able to travel back to visit South Africa – it has been 20 years since I last returned.
Of all the sporting opportunities I was involved in, I enjoyed athletics the most. Tickey de Jager and Tinkie Heyns with his broad Malmesbury “Brrei” were excellent coaches and mentors. I recall clearly, that we were preparing for sports day and the field was abuzz with scholars, although Tinkey was not on the field at the time. The 800m boys were being timed by Tickey and were coming into the home straight but there were a number of pupils on the track and trouble loomed. Some bright young schoolboy colleague of ours shouted at the top of his voice “CLEARGHRR the TRGHRRACK”. Immediate reaction and problem solved. Even in his absence, Tinkey’s presence was still felt on the field.
At the end of my Standard 9 year during the 6 week holidays, I got pimples all over my chest and by the time that I went back to school, I had a fine growth of thick black chest hair. On sports day among other events, I ran the 100 yards. (I can’t remember if we had changed over to metres yet at that time. As far as I can remember we ran the 100, 220 and 440 yards). As I headed for the finish with my newly acquired growth of chest hair and passed the spectator stands, I heard someone shout “Unfair – that boy must run in the Old Boys’ race!”
Another memory was being selected to represent RBHS at the SA Athletics Championship in Bloemfontein. Tickey de Jager and his wife Claire had decided to drive up to Bloem and I was to accompany them. We left a few days early so that I could acclimatise to the altitude in Bloemfontein, but Murphy was also in the car! The car blew a top gasket at Touws River and there were no spares available locally for the Simca. We thus spent two days booked into the Hotel at Touws River (how many of you guys can claim to have done the same?) waiting for spares to arrive by rail from Cape Town and a day for the local mechanic to do the repairs.
On another occasion we were playing rugby early one cold rainy winter’s morning (first game at 9 am) and there was a loose ball which I chased and tried to pick it up on the run, but as I put my hands down to grab the ball, our opponent kicked the ball from the opposite side. I felt a very sharp pain and heard a distinct “crack” and when I looked at my left hand, my thumb was pointing back towards my elbow. Play was stopped and Ronnie Wiggett came to my rescue. He twisted my arm behind my back so that I could not see what he was doing, and another sharp short stab of pain and another “crack” sound, and my dislocated thumb was pointing forward again. Play resumed. It may be belated, but thanks Ronnie, I owe you. Just one question though, why the heck did you send me back onto the field again in dire pain and unable to catch a ball?
Then there was the school nativity play with Billy Trengove in charge. He decided that I was to be one of the “angels “ – all in white with big wings and a white dress. Can you believe it, me an angel?? It might have been a pantomime. All went well for three weeks of training and timing and who followed who at which cue or prompt from Billy. Then the dress rehearsal before opening night. There was an air of excitement all around. Suddenly reality sets in. Cedric Gilmour, an angel, had not only grown chest hair, but great big underarm bushes of black hair, and as I lifted my hands above my head to “move my angels wings back and forth”…. Have a laugh on me!!
One of my pet hates at school was the rule that we had to wear “headgear” as part of our uniform, either a cap in the junior years, or when we were “promoted,” to wear a grey hat up to Standard 9, and, to show that you had “arrived” or were in matric, to wear a cheese-cutter in our final year. To this day I do not wear a hat or any form of headdress, but looking back, I spent many hours after school in detention writing out lines because I had tucked my hat inside the front of my blazer while I was on my bicycle. My matric year was a real “hassle” to me, because I was a prefect and had to set an example, so against all my wishes I kept my cheese cutter on my head.
My favourite subject was woodwork and subsequently metalwork and these have stood me in good stead all my years after school. I don’t remember the woodwork master’s name (De Wet) but the following two anecdotes bear repeating. The teacher was to demonstrate to us how to heat up metal to a glowing red colour in the hearth and then bend and shape it on the anvil. Enter my naughty friend Francois Coetzee from Tulbagh with a lump of yellow sulphur from the farm where they grew and dried peaches and apricots. Francois opened up the coals, placed the sulphur strategically, then replaced the metal bar which was shortly to be used by the teacher in demonstrating something or other. We all stand well back “for safety reasons” and, as the metal bar is removed, the room fills with a pungent acid smell which makes your eyes water.
This same master had just bought a brand-new VW Beetle which was his pride and joy and he parked it under the trees below the metalwork room. Measuring that Beetle’s length from bumper to bumper we found that two of the trees were about 6 inches wider apart than the Beetle was long. As a class, we “bounced” the Beetle so that it was parked exactly between the two trees but there was not a hope in hades that the vehicle was going to be “driven” out of its parking place. He was not amused.
My last school story concerns the opportunity we had to learn to dance with the Watson-Morris School of Dance and, of course, the girls from Rustenburg Girls’ High. I was in Standard 8 and mighty shy but just a little bit brave. All the RBHS boys sat against one wall of the local church hall and the Rustenburg girls in a row against the opposite wall. The indomitable Nancy W-M then demonstrated a simple dance sequence and, as the music rolled, prevailed upon the boys to cross no-man’s-land and select a partner. Believing in strength in numbers, we decided to stand up “as one man,” cross the floor, and select our partners. Well, the music started, and I found myself a man alone, as if in the middle of a desert with all eyes on me in the middle of the floor. If you will excuse the pun, thinking on my feet, I quickly looked for the prettiest girl (the choice was mine after all) and went and asked her to dance. My heart was thumping in my chest and the beads of stress perspiration popped out of my forehead. Hell man, this took more courage than tackling the biggest front row oke from Hottentots Holland rugby team full front on. Once again, those far-off dance classes have stood me in good stead throughout my life.
Class and learning at school was – well – yuckie, but the sport was fantastic, and even cadets taught me a sense of discipline. All in all I can honestly say that RBHS has the perfect balance between academic education, sport, discipline, the opportunity to develop leadership through a growing confidence in yourself as a person. I am sure that our “class of its own” led admirably by the undaunting work of Lindsay Kennedy has its roots in the “masters in a class of their own” because I can only look back with respect for all our masters that taught us in the class and on the field. They did not just give us an excellent education, they built character. I salute each and every one of them.
My friendship with Francois Coetzee from Tulbagh improved my Afrikaans to such an extent that I am fully bilingual. I spent many happy holidays on the farm and learned to ride a horse, drive a bulldozer, a truck, a tractor you name it. Incidentally driving a car came quite a while later. We would go to parties on neighbouring farms (Die boertjie, en die Soutie) , slink back onto the farm quietly at about 4 am only to be awakened by “Oom Bill Coetzee” at 5 am to go and pick apricots. Unfortunately, Francois was killed in a freak hunting expedition in Namibia in 1975.
With my ability to speak Afrikaans fluently in both the social as well as the work environment, language was no barrier to communication with either English or Afrikaans girls. I married Hermani Carstens from Villiersdorp (known as Mani) in 1970 and we have just celebrated our 42nd wedding anniversary. We have two sons and three grand daughters.
As far as after school is concerned, I was not able to go to UCT, but attended the school of hard knocks and the University of experience. I started to work immediately after school and then attended classes at the Cape Technikon. Fortunately some of my employers were forward thinking and sent me on a number of technical courses, as well as management courses. I started work with the Cape Town City Council in their Roads and Drainage department as a draughtsman and then soon afterwards as a Technical Assistant. My main functions were surveying and then designing of roads and services. After 3 years, I wished to expand my boundaries and experience “in the private sector” and joined a consulting engineering company as a technical assistant. Once again mainly surveying, but much more detailed design of reticulation networks such as gravity sewer networks, pressurised drinking water networks and then storm water networks. One of the engineers at the consulting company left to start his own contracting company and asked me to join him as a site agent and project manager. Here I gained a lot of practical experience as I had to be hands on with the projects. The lifestyle was very nomadic with a contract in Durbanville, then George, then Plettenberg Bay and always staying in a caravan or hotel. As I wanted to get married and settle down I looked for a more stable sort of employment.
One of my former colleagues from the consulting company had just joined a progressive plastics company called Agriplas which was to manufacture, design, sell and install the new “drip irrigation” concept in South Africa, and he invited me to join them on the design and hydraulics side. I spent a total of 19 years in the irrigation industry, and my hydraulics experience led me to be sent on technical courses involving pumps and the effect of air in pipes. Agriplas went into a joint venture with a Brazilian company and I was fortunate enough to be selected to represent our company for a one year contract in Sao Paulo. Needless to say, I had to learn to speak Portuguese very quickly.
I then joined Andrag (Pty) Ltd in Bellville as the manager of their industrial division and here my main focus was designing pump stations, doing mechanical, electrical contracts. It was an honour to be asked by I & J Fishing company, to join a technical team together with a civil engineer, a marine biologist, and an electrical contractor to develop their first abalone farm at Danger Point near Gansbaai. As an Andrag employee, I was responsible for all matters relating to water. Continual circulation of large volumes of sea water for the abalone, drinking water for the admin block and the personnel housing, fire fighting water reticulation and of course the sewage system. Pumping sea water is a special science as it is extremely corrosive, and goes “stale” when standing and then gives off ammonia. The other challenging assignment was from Overberg Water where I had to refurbish 5 off pump stations. The contract had to be done within the three winter months with penalties for late delivery. Leading the project to success was a personal achievement, when all goals set including completion time were met.
My last 4 years before being forced into retirement in January 2012 (age was a convenient excuse to get the company’s BEE ratings right and thus I was “retired” and was replaced by a BEE employee). For the last 3 years I managed a “technical desk” where I did quotations, made presentations and recommendations to consultants and contractors and was fortunate in having the services of other technical desks at our factories in Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Finland. Via e-mail, the world became a village and having this huge pool of world wide trained expertise to refer to in a case of emergency was re-assuring. This was certainly the most rewarding end enjoyable time of my whole working life.
We moved down to the Cape from Natal in 1954. My Dad worked for B P. He had received a promotion to Head Office in Cape Town. We settled in Rondebosch. It was too late for me to get into the Prep School; the baby boom had kicked in and schooling was at a premium so I started at Golden Grove. Ray Holmes was the headmaster and I enjoyed four happy years in his care. My sister attended Herschel and my older brother was left behind to finish his schooling at Durban High.
During the summer of 1959 we lived in a rented house near the school, next door to Richard Morris. In spite of his best efforts as a coach in street cricket he could not save me from being dropped from the U 13 A to the Cake League in a matter of three weeks after the start of school.
My other memory of those early days was getting off to a bad start with our class master, Mr Oberholzer, the gym teacher. He was a staunch Nationalist with a fervour bordering on sympathy for the Nazi cause. He certainly did not like David Cohen. I was a bit of a smart-ass in class and, along with Cohen, would get into serious political arguments with him, which usually ended up with the two of us getting thrashed in front of the class. To this day I can remember the slightly bemused expression on Cohen’s face as he bent over and took his punishment without flinching.
Oberholzer was the exception on a staff of outstanding men and women – others will do them better justice than me. I am so grateful that people like Tinkie Heyns, Tickey de Jager and Billy Trengove were there to help shape my life during those all-important years.
Six months after I started school at Rondebosch we moved to Constantia. In Ranulph Fiennes’ first book he writes about the wonderful childhood experiences he had growing up in Constantia. He was only there for a few years before his family moved back to England. When I read his book years later I was amazed at how his descriptions of experiences, places and people were exactly as if we had been there at the same time.
We arrived when the big farming estates of Constantia were being cut up for housing developments. In fact our house was one of the first built in what had been a working vineyard. We had two acres of land on Southern Cross Drive. One acre was taken up by house and garden and the other acre was left under vines.
In those days logistics were a problem. Usually a parent would take us to school but getting back involved a train and bus ride. Riding home as a shy thirteen year-old I soon realized that I was usually the only boy amongst a bus-load of girls.
Buzz-bikes had just come on the scene, the first were those dreadful things that involved bolting an engine onto a bicycle. Paul Schipper lived across the way from us. He was writing matric and had outgrown his Rex, so he sold it to me for five rand. Most buzz-bikes were driven by an inefficient roller system but the Rex had a chain-drive, making it a deadly weapon in the wrong hands. What amazing freedom we had, no license, insurance or crash helmet and yet allowed to go where we liked.
The Rex was soon replaced by a Santa Maria—before Honda arrived all the mopeds were of Italian origin. Peter Flint was also into motor-bikes. Later, when we were allowed to go to school on our bikes he would ride up from Fish Hoek and accompany me to school. We must have annoyed a lot of people because the exhausts made a terrible racket.
Carolyn was one of the pretty young girls on the bus riding home to Constantia. We attended the Rondebosch Matric dance together and have now been happily married for 44 years.
My great-grandfather had a dairy farm near what is now the Kings Park Rugby Stadium in Durban. Most of his vast family migrated to farms up the North coast.
My grandfather chose not to go farming, instead he became a transport rider in the Eastern Transvaal. Unfortunately, like Sir Percy Fitz Patrick, all his oxen died from tsetse fly and he never made much of his life after that.
So my father did not have the opportunities of his rich sugar farming cousins, though his older brother kept the dairy farming tradition going and settled on a farm near what is now Midmar Dam. When I was a child we visited the farm often and from the age of four I started saving for my first tractor—later the money was all blown on motor-bikes!
After school and the army I attended Cedara Agricultural College and then worked on a sugar farm in Zululand. There I renewed my love of the sea and spent most of my free time surfing at Zinkwazi. After a long-distance romance Carolyn and I were married in 1968.
When my parents retired, they moved back to Natal to live at Kloof. Some money was left over from the sale of their property in Constantia and my father generously offered it to me to help finance the purchase of our first farm, which we bought in 1969 in a valley near Greytown.
Greytown is still a frontier town. It overlooks the vast Msinga reserve where faction fighting takes place to this day. It also is a transition area of three climatic zones. To the north-east lies dry thorn veld with sweet grazing. To the south lies frost-free sub-tropical sugar cane country. Our farm was in the area to the north-west of the town— called midlands sourveld. It has cold frosty winters with rainfall typically coming from thunderstorms. The lonely thorn tree at the top of the farm warned us that we lived on the edge of the high rainfall area.
It was pioneer work from the ground up. The farm was covered in stunted wattle trees which had to be removed along with the stumps. We eked out a living from timber, a small patch of maize and Afrikander cattle which came with the farm. I had sworn that I would never become a dairy farmer but it soon became apparent that dairy farming was the only viable option for us.
What a wonderful time to be taking on this challenge! The seventies and eighties were kind to farmers, we worked hard but still had time to enjoy life. Round Table, Polocrosse, canoeing and trips overseas provided relief from the daily grind. We had many farming friends the same age as us, all making their way in life.
Carolyn got very involved in managing the dairy, being ably helped by a foreman who was an excellent stockman. His name was Vey, a giant of a man who loved his animals. He had a limited education but learnt to copy her handwriting for record keeping. He had a photographic memory, so when a calf was born its markings were imprinted in his mind for life. He did not need to count cattle. He could look at a herd and know every animal in it and know if one was missing.
Our two sons went to Merchiston Prep school and later Maritzburg College. This was the time that Joel Stranski (ex Rondebosch) was making a name for himself in “College” rugby; Jeremy Thompson played alongside him. At that time Peter Dixon was at prep school, already a big boy! Few people in our school lift club had a vehicle big enough to carry the Thompson, Dixon and Goble boys!
By the early nineties we were farming seed maize, potatoes, cabbages and growing food for the cows. The farm was stretched to its limits. We relied on dams for irrigation water but during the drought of 1992 they dried up. Our son Nick came back from his conservation job with Ted Reilly in Swaziland to help us. He spent his time foraging for food for the cows. Sugar farmers donated cane tops and vegetable farmers gave us old cabbage and broccoli plants. We hired land and cut and carried grass for our cows. Angus Buchan describes this drought in his book ‘Faith Like Potatoes’.
1993 was a good year but in 1994 the drought returned. By December we had had virtually no rain. The maize crop withered and died and the Kikuyu grazing camps had not greened up and were still black from a fire we had had during the winter months. A vital decision had to be made, either to sell the farm and move or sell the cows and stay. Without the dairy income the farm was not viable, so I quietly started looking for another farm. I knew that the Pannar Seed company, our neighbours, were looking for extra land and they had expressed a wish to buy our farm. We purchased a dairy farm in the magnificent Karkloof valley near Howick. This area has the highest rainfall in Natal, it is seventy kilometres from Greytown. By then Nick had started a job with the Seed company and Bruce, our younger son, joined us on the new farm for a year before leaving to work in England.
Carolyn and I were at the coal face on the new farm and our ideas and standards clashed with the existing labour force. It took five long years to put in place an acceptable standard of management. Vey was magnificent. He calmly went about his business, leading by example. For him the cows always came first.
Aids was having a devastating effect on our farm people. At one stage we were losing either a worker or one of their family members every month. Vey died after a very short illness in 2002. Bruce has now taken over the management of the farm. Carolyn runs the local Conservancy and is very involved with farm school conservation projects. I mow the lawn and spend as much time sailing as I can!
I have three sons in their 30s/40s from my first marriage, and a small sprinkling of grandchildren in Sydney. I arrived in Melbourne, Australia, in ’82, the family soon after. I had practised law in Cape Town years ago, but never requalified in Oz. A couple of years with the law firm that sponsored me here, followed by a stint with an introduction agency – this long before online dating.
Finally, 13 years driving cabs in Melbourne until retirement – hooray! Twenty plus years ago I remarried, to Ilse Novackis, a special education teacher who had been working with my middle lad. We were both in our mid-40s. For a few years we lived in the hills east of Melbourne, a 45-minute drive from the city. Picture: secluded, surrounded by trees, views down over the suburbs below, and, on the whole, quiet. A perfect place to be unsociable (anti-social?).
I do very little: just reading, tv, listening to music and pottering around the house – that all on a good day. Add an occasional game of competitive bridge, the odd coffee with friends, some email correspondence and there you pretty much have it – more dull than either altius or latius. Ilse on the other hand is always busy and craves more down time. I hate people with so much energy! I should add that my calendar includes a once-a-year lunch with Jeff Leeuwenburg (E63) and ditto with Mike Lazarow (E62). (Mike works part-time running tours to exotic places e.g. Kruger Park, Antarctica.)
As for school life, it was neither good nor bad for me. I sort of scooted around the edges, neither achieving anything nor doing much harm and with a good enough memory to take care of exams; sort of the story of my life, really. My favourite teacher by far was ‘Doc’ Watson; what a lovely man. In prep school it was Miss Duminy – later to become Mrs Helm – but that doesn’t really count, everyone was in love with her. On the other hand, one day near the end of Standard Six ‘Tickey’ de Jager whirled into class announcing we had to do and mark an impromptu maths test. I must have been having a bad day (I am bipolar) because I managed to score 0 out of 10, possibly breaking a high school record.
Mr de Jager was apoplectic; I can still see his eye wobbling at me – terrifying. Fast forward some years to Standard Nine. All four Standard Nines are in the gym hall; it’s free study time, Mr de Jager ringmaster. Ominously, he calls me up to the stage where he is marking papers, thrusts a maths exam at me. ‘How did you manage this?’ he says, menacingly pointing to my 70% mark. Definitely an accusation; after all, I am a known maths offender plus I don’t even play rugby so no excuse really for that kind of mark.
What can I say?: ‘I’m sorry sir, I didn’t mean to’? Or even worse, ‘It’s Mr Reeler’s fault sir; he’s such a good teacher and such a nice man’? I think not. From memory, I just mumbled something, staring at my shoes. As one does…
So at school, as in later life, trying to avoid the ball at all costs. Stay out of trouble. Count down the years till you flop over the line and no one can tell you what to do. A life of dedicated mediocrity. It was tough, but someone had to do it. After all we couldn’t all be CEOs or professors. If it’s true nice guys come second, I came third. A bit like debating against Richard Spring (hard) or Robert Schrire (impossible). (Richard is now a member of the House of Lords, and Rob, when I last heard, a politics professor at UCT.)
And certainly only good thoughts about our school, Rondebosch. It was all there, if you wanted it. Finally, I’d like to thank all the Rondebosch Teachers and Old Boys who helped shape my life, though the mistakes were all my own. For all the daft things I’ve said and done over the years, I take full responsibility. To those of you fellows who were half decent to me at school – and especially to those of you who weren’t – my very warm regards. Neil Veitch, you were always a scholar and a gentleman. To Lindsay Kennedy, yours have indeed been broad and tireless shoulders for Rondebosch.
As a young kid, going to ‘big school’ was eagerly anticipated – and an unbelievable disappointment for me when it finally occurred: I remember being in a large crowd of little boys in oversized Prep uniforms sitting huddled together on the floor learning to sing hymns by heart for assembly. Not very exciting for a 6 year-old! I knew most of them anyway as I had learnt these at home and I couldn’t really see the point of school then.
I recall a certain fascination we 6 year-olds had with smoking; most adults smoked in those days and it did seem so grown-up to imitate our granddads sucking away at their pipes. We used to make toy-pipes out of flowering-gum kernels in the little-boys’ playground during break. Later, as a 12 year-old, I swiped some cigarettes from my mother’s 50s pack of Westminster 85 and together with some local kids we smoked them on the banks of the meandering Kromboom River at the bottom of Sandown Road close to where we lived then. I was as sick as a dog the next day and had to stay home from school. My mother wasn’t at all sympathetic. I think she knew, but she never let on. As a young adult I started smoking, gave up once, went back to cigars and finally gave up completely some 30 years ago. I’ve rarely been ill since!
From a very early age I was great pals with Chris Ormrod who lived in our neighbourhood between Rustenburg Junior School and the railway line. Adjacent to Chris’s home was the entrance to an old brick-vaulted tunnel that probably ran under the present Main Road to Rustenburg House and was most likely used by slaves. Although the entrance had been bricked up and the brick-vaulting had collapsed a few metres from the entrance, it was a great secret hide-out for us youngsters. There was a hole in the bricked-up wall just big enough for us to crawl through and many a plot was hatched within the confines of this lair. Both Chris and I were avid movie goers and we were always dreaming up ways to earn some cash to pay for our adventures. We used to climb over the rear perimeter fence of EK Green, a liquor-shop in Rosebank, swipe some empty bottles from their back-yard storeroom and then ever so innocently sell them back to unsuspecting counter-hands inside the shop. We raised ready money in this and similar ways fairly often. We were never caught and always had just enough money for our escapades.
I have a sight defect: now a minor lack of 3-D or stereoscopic vision after several eye-surgery attempts, but way back in the early ‘50s it was a noticeable squint and I wore corrective spectacles from the age of 5. Known by the neighbourhood kids, Paul de Groot and the Bakker brothers, Peter and Chris, among them, as ‘Goggles’, I took longer than average to learn to catch and hit a ball. Being batsman in cricket was sometimes fun, especially when it was a fast-moving ‘tip-and-run’ game – and, when my eye was ‘in’ and I could hit the ball almost anywhere I wanted, but mostly my eye was ‘not-in’ and more often than not cricket was no fun for me at all: Cricket was bowled out – for a duck! As a result my confidence waned and I learned to loathe cricket and this attitude was transferred to most forms of sport until I learned to cope with my sight defect in my teens. Thankfully, the nickname ‘goggles’ didn’t last.
Maybe I was slightly ‘lexdystic’ too: I hated reading. Not only did my sight defect hamper me, our prescribed reading books, or ‘readers’ as they were called, had little meaning for us kids. The Water Babies (Kingsley: 1863) was one such ‘reader’ we had in Miss Vickerstaff’s Standard 2 class. Although a fantasy written for children, Vickerstaff found a way to make the experience incredibly boring for us 9 year-olds. In the same class I also had difficulty with spelling: just how does one spell ‘tow hundered’? All my attempts seemed wrong and I had a wooden blackboard duster and pieces of chalk flung at me by Vickerstaff for my efforts! Obviously, we didn’t see eye-to-eye.
There was a pail of water behind the door in Vickerstaff’s classroom for each boy to wash his hands after breaks: After all, our work had to be clean, neat and impeccably presented. That year we were introduced to writing in ink and the indispensable dip-pen. The joys of flicking ink at one’s mates and the inevitable ink-splodges on shirts, school-desks, walls, the floor and school-books were soon commonplace: Vickerstaff’s continual need for her class to be as neat as a pin must have been sorely frustrated! At about this time the new-fangled ball-point biro was coming onto the market and many a teacher thought our handwriting would suffer as a result! It may have, but the dip-pen was nevertheless soon dispensed with – to be replaced by the Tropen Scholar, an innovative plastic fountain pen with a real nib, leaving only the ubiquitous ink-pot holes in school-desks as a reminder of the ‘bitter-sweet’ existence of the dip-pen and the ‘ink-flic’ era. And, I don’t recall any of our generation ever developing copperplatehandwriting – or ever really needing this skill – either!
I survived Standard 2. At the end of that year I acquired a much-wanted bicycle and rode to school with classmates Lyle Ovenstone and Roy Schreiber. Sometimes, however, when my bicycle had a puncture or some other defect, I used the Pinelands school-bus. In April 1955, I suffered a life-changing accident: I fell off the school-bus and cracked my skull on the Pinelands bridge. This gave me headaches that have plagued me ever since.
Nevertheless, I gradually became more accustomed to school life at the Prep and, although there were some terrifying moments of bullying and fear of the consequences of doing or not doing something, I actually started to enjoy school a little.
I remember going to Robert Hoets’s home one afternoon after school when we were in Standard 4 or 5. We had hatched a plot to ditch our school books at my place, load up my train set and ride over to his house. We had just started setting-up in his attic room, which he called Peace-and-Sanity, when his mother, a real Celtic dragon, arrived home. She was absolutely furious. She told Robert loudly and in no uncertain terms in her soft Irish accent, “I don’t want John Hill here. Tell him to go home – NOW! You’ve got your homework to do”. When Robert looked at her quizzically and started to respond she added, “And, don’t you look at me in that tone of voice!” Terrified, I packed my train set and left hurriedly. I don’t recall what happened to Robert: his school books were still at my place and they were still there the following day after school. Somehow, I don’t think Robert ever did any homework, yet he had an incredible sense of humour and often repeated his mother’s mutterings much to the delight of all who knew the Hoets family well. Sadly, Robert is no longer with us.
Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, I was becoming rather good at solving practical problems when I was about 12 or 13. Without realising it, I was applying the principles of Action Learning (Revan) to achieve my goals. I wanted a projector – any kind would do – and I made one out of bits and pieces: I used an aspirin tube with a pin-hole for the lens and managed to project a dim image onto a wall. My father, with whom I didn’t get along much, was suitably impressed and bought me a magnifying glass to use as a lens: sadly, this didn’t work very well. Little did I know then, way back in 1958, I was destined for a career that would include film – and Action Learning!
I really didn’t like our Standard 5 teacher, Mr Florence. Although he was a smallish man, he towered over us 12/13 year-olds. He wore a ring, or two, on one hand and when he deemed it necessary to discipline a boy for being out of his desk he would turn the ring(s) inward and then, bending down, hit the offending boy across the backs of his bare legs with his hand, chasing the boy down the aisle until he was back at his desk. The protruding bit of each ring added to the effectiveness of each blow. Nasty! Very nasty!
Florence left the Prep, presumably on promotion, in June and was replaced in July by a Miss Kirby who had us make cubes out of stiffish paper for a maths project. I developed overlapping flaps for my cube which made it collapsible, something I was proud of (more Action Learning) and something I hoped Kirby would like. Strangely, she wasn’t interested.
All in all, aged 13, I was more than ready for high school.
One of my most memorable moments in Standard 6 was Mr Baartman reading The Thirty Nine Steps (Buchan: 1915) to us. We all sat in awe as he read the last sentence of chapter 1 which went something like ‘… and Hannay saw that Scudder was skewered to the floor with a large knife!’ – then he snapped the book shut and released the class for the day. A far cry from the tedious Beacon Readers we had had up to Standard 5.
I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Rollo’s science classes in Standard 6 too. I had done a fair amount of reading up on science and was more than ready for each class: I seemed able to answer most of the questions he posed. Much later, when I was probably in Standard 9, Rollo remarked to me in front of some other teachers that, if left alone in the school, I would probably blow it up. I found his comment a little bewildering: Me? Blow up the school? Now, why would I do that?
I must have been an incorrigible adolescent in Standard 7. There was a young history teacher who had the temerity to wear an Old Diocesan (OD) tie – to Rondebosch! One day, which also happened to be Peter Scholte’s first day at RBHS, and without considering the consequences, I started shooting this teacher, who was wearing his OD tie, with bits of chewed paper from a ball-point pen pea-shooter. This went on for some time, until the teacher could take it no longer and he chucked me out of his class. Standing shamelessly in the passage outside B2, I was joined a few minutes later by, you guessed it, Peter Scholte. I don’t recall what Peter did nor do I remember the unfortunate teacher’s name as he left Rondebosch at the end of the first term, but that was great fun, and there were no consequences afterwards for either Peter or me.
On another occasion when Mr Thwaites, our B2 English teacher, was going on and on ad infinitum about a finer point of English, Chris Steyn who was sitting just behind me suddenly squawked, “Yakerty, Yakerty, Yak, Yak, Yak”. Thwaites stopped dead in his tracks, turned, and very politely said, “Steyn, you don’t mean that, do you?” I don’t recall Chris’s response then – yet when I reminded Chris of this incident a few years ago, he was quite stunned, “Did I really do that?” he asked. I just nodded. Again, good fun!
As keen as I was on model trains then, Robert Hoets was fascinated by the infernal combustion engine. Under the guidance of his father, he was always dismantling and rebuilding some or other motor. At one stage he was hooked on flying model aircraft and had acquired a small two-stroke airplane-motor with a finger-flip prop-start system. He brought this to school one day and started the noisy engine in ‘Charlie’ Hallack’s class much to the delight of the boys. Charlie tried to grab the thing, placing has hands directly in the path of the rotating propeller-blades. The motor stopped. The engine noise abated – but not the mayhem. And, if Charlie was in any physical pain he didn’t show it. Not at all! He did, however, appeal to the Great History Teacher of the Universe calling, ”God Almighty” – a plea he made fairly often to no avail.
Charlie was cajoled – somehow – into marking Donald Andrew’s third-term history exam paper – before the exam ended. We were in C3 then and although Charlie, the invigilator, was merely trying to help Donald, most of us knew this wasn’t quite right.
Also in C3, John Barry was told he was ‘rubbish’ by a teacher: I don’t recall his name, or why he was angry. Clearly though, John wasn’t of the same opinion. If he was to be called ‘rubbish’ – then he would be rubbish! Nonchalantly, he strolled over to the waste-paper basket near the door and climbed in, lolling into a rubbishy posture, much to the annoyance of the teacher and the amusement of the class. The teacher eventually saw the funny side and managed an awkward grin…
Mr ‘Mousey’ Young was one of the friendliest teachers we had, ever. He always strove for the best outcome in any situation no matter how difficult. He still does. One day he noticed Bruce McLagan snacking behind his open desk near the back of our class. Motioning the boys to be quiet and, living up to his nickname, Mousey snuck up the aisle toward Bruce in his ultra-quiet soft-soled shoes. Just as Bruce was about to take another tiny bite, Mousey poked his head round the open desk-top and said, “Ah! Cheese! Crumbs McLagen, you know what that brings, don’t you?” Caught red-handed, a red-faced Bruce was dumbfounded – and the class erupted into laughter.
All too soon high school was over and, ready or not, we entered the world of real work! We all went our separate ways: Some to varsity and others all-too-soon with their noses to the grindstone.
I started the independent film school movement in South Africa because I wanted to teach film. I was working at UCT at the time and suggested that the university start a film-school. I was told in no uncertain terms that the university would never have a film school. The only film-school in South Africa at that stage was in Pretoria where I had studied film and I wasn’t too keen on living there. So, I started my own school: the Cape Town International Film School in 1980. There was no-one to mentor me then and I had to develop my own philosophy of and strategies for teaching film, many of which like Action Learning were unique to my school. I am privileged to have taught some outstanding young people from around the world, many of whom were attracted by my philosophy of individual determination and have since made their mark on the motion picture industry in their respective countries. Early in the new millennium there were about 50 film-schools of various kinds in Cape Town, including one at UCT! In 2005 I merged my school with the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and served as head and senior lecturer of film and allied media there for several years before going into semi-retirement. Recently, the university honoured me by naming the ‘best student Film-of-the-year Award’ after me. I was present at the ceremony the first time the award was presented in November 2012: a very moving occasion – and I am deeply honoured.
And, now, some fifty years after we have left school, much has changed. Many of the skills considered essential way back then are redundant now. And the exponential changes that are to come are perhaps as hard for us to imagine as the changes we experienced were for our forebears.
As we move forward one aspect for us E63s will forever be the same: the profound appreciation each has for our alma mater for bringing such a wonderful bunch of guys together.
The first day at Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory School was something exciting to look forward to – I could not wait to start and eagerly went off to meet my teacher as our names were called out in order of our designated classes. When I got home at the end of that day I told my parents that my teacher was a lady but she was called mister: her name was actually Miss de Wet!
In the first year or two, our swimming lessons were at the small old pool at the High School near Mason House. My outstanding memory of those lessons was taking part in the board race in the gala, but coming last because I was the only one who kept my legs up and kicking while all the others just walked across. I think I was too short to stand. On the matter of swimming, in those days few families had swimming pools. One whose family did was Sandy Marr. It used to be a treat visiting him and swimming at his home. I remember Sandy having green hair in summer from all his swimming.
Living within running/cycling distance of the school as I did had advantages. I recall going to the school after dark to run on the fields when training for sports day, with my next-door neighbour and friend Tom Robertson (E1964). On one occasion, a group of figures loomed up out of the dark: it was Tinkie Heyns and some of the boarders coming to investigate who these intruders were! We also were able to swim in the new school pool after dark. On one occasion we heard a noise from where we had left our bikes and clothes, and found a group of “real” intruders making off with our possessions. Fortunately they handed them back to us when we challenged them: I am not sure that one could get things back so easily today.
My first hike to the top of Table Mountain was when we as the Standard Nine class went up under the lead of “Doc” Watson to give the matrics peace for the start of exams. I loved the atmosphere at Fir Tree where we spent the night, despite waking up wet from the dew that dripped from the trees, and I still love going up the Mountain. We used to go up after school on a Friday if we did not have sport the next morning, spend the night at Fir Tree, and come down next morning. Often when bored by a lesson in the classroom I would think of being on top of the mountain and become more alert. I never joined the Mountain Club which others did, but my wife hikes with friends who in their university days were Mountain Club members including the likes of Brian Fraser and Ferdi Fischer.
Something else I enjoyed out of school hours was visiting Peter Hodes, a keen photographer, and watching him at work developing photographs in his darkroom at home. I found it fascinating seeing pictures materialise in the development process.
As a Rondebosch boy, I did what many others did which was to attend the dancing classes of Nancy Watson-Morris. I found this a bit of a strain, being rather shy, and missed lessons if I could when something more important arose – such as having to service my bicycle that day!
I was not a great student at school, preferring any opportunity to be out with bat and ball. Although we had plenty of time for cricket and rugby, I was not disappointed when time came to leave school. However, despite being one of the fortunate people called up by the Navy to do my military training, it came as a bit of a shock when we were awakened early on our first morning to the barked order to “hit the deck” and for the first time I thought maybe school had not been such a bad time after all. Eric Wells was one of those who served with me in the Navy.
For a few years after leaving school, I kept in touch with RBHS. I was articled to Carleton Lloyd, Old Boy and a most ardent, generous supporter and benefactor of the School. I studied accountancy part-time at UCT, working for ER Syfret & Company. John Le Roux was amongst those with whom I worked. Other RBHS boys who attended part-time classes at UCT with me were Peter Barrett (also a good friend at school) and Guy Murcott. Apart from work, life revolved a lot around Newlands (cricket and rugby) and Claremont (tennis) and it was easy to keep in touch with the School. I played cricket at Western Province Cricket Club with members who included Bruce Ferguson, and I also played in a side captained by Richard Morris. I played rugby for the part-time students at UCT, with team-mates who included Roydon Wood and Peter Scholte.
My wife Ann and I were married in 1974 and, moving to Tokai in 1976, my interest in RBHS receded. It receded further when, by then working at Mobil Oil (now Engen), I was transferred in 1977 to the Mobil Refinery in Durban a few months after the birth of our first child, Andrew. I attended and enjoyed the RBHS Old Boys’ dinners there, which were usually attended by guests from Bishops. Our second child, Timothy was born in 1979 in Durban, and in 1980 we were transferred back to Cape Town. I found that the move had caused RBHS to fade further into the background, particularly when our children started school. Our third child, Sandra, was born in 1983. All three went to our nearest school, Kirstenhof Primary School (when Bruce Lane, subsequently headmaster at RBPS, was headmaster), and we became very involved with the school and with the parents there (who included Charlie Moir). Our opposite neighbour then and now, David Munro, sent his son Mark to Rondebosch but after their primary schooling, our children went to Wynberg Boys’ and Wynberg Girls’ High Schools respectively. While still a proud Old Boy of Rondebosch, when one has a family going to other schools and being involved with them, (for example we were associated with Kirstenhof for a period of 14 years over the time our children were there, longer than the 12 years at Rondebosch) one’s focus does change and contact with the School becomes limited.
My work at Mobil included travelling around Southern Africa, and also trips to Europe and Singapore. Later I worked for Juta, the publishers. Work there included visits to Zimbabwe and Zambia where the great interest people there had in furthering their studies opened up opportunities for the publishing business. For the past eleven years I have worked as the person responsible for administration of the Anglican Church in Cape Town. One of the clergy I have had contact with is the Reverend Martin Coomer, who, until his retirement, was Chaplain at Bishops.
Also through my church work I have had some dealings with Peter Parkin, a good friend when we were at school. He reminded me recently in the members’ stand at the SA – New Zealand cricket test match at Newlands that it was on the nomination of my father that Peter became a member of Western Province Cricket Club more than fifty years ago.
We are in a typical South African family situation. Our elder son lives in Toronto, Canada and is very settled there with his Canadian wife who is expecting their first child and our first grandchild. Our other son lives in Sydney, Australia. Both are long, expensive trips away! We have been privileged to enjoy visits to Canada and to Sydney, from where we extended our trip to visit New Zealand including Christchurch before its earthquakes. Blessed with generous children who on occasions have given us air tickets, we have also enjoyed trips to England, Croatia, Dubai, Malta and Sicily, and locally a helicopter flight around Cape Town which I would recommend to anyone, not just visitors.
The dedication of Lindsay Kennedy, and recognition of the many unnamed teachers and fellow pupils who played a role in shaping my life, have been instrumental in getting me to write this. With retirement just around the corner, perhaps this reunion will be the catalyst for me to have more contact with former classmates than I have had for many years.
Front Row: Alan Everson, David Sonneberg , ? , Michael Stevens, David Taylor, Clive Downton, Robbie Meyer, Roy McCallum Second Row: Anthony Hillier, Robert Hoets, Christopher Newall, Farqhuarson, John Hill, Adrian Brinkworth Back row; Peter Barrett, Jack Penfold , John Barry , Allan Musker
Since leaving Cape Town in 1970, my life has been full of people, hence the attached photo, more about which later.
I live in London, a great city that satisfies all my needs, and where I lead a very fulfilling life with my partner and the love of my life of some twenty years, Helene. Initially I worked in retailing until 1987 when I set up my own consultancy to teach first-time computer users. I either run courses or teach one-to-one to captains of industry, dentists, doctors, lawyers, judges, law lords – you name it. There are still over ten million people in the UK who have never touched a computer. I could write a book alone about the different things pupils do when trying to learn how to use a mouse! So at 67, I hope to be gainfully employed for many years to come. I said my life was full of people!
Visits to Cape Town have been few and far between. I had no desire to visit South Africa during the apartheid era. But more recently I have made a few trips which have been very pleasant. One was with Helene. I had to show her my roots and why I am who I am. Mind you, I don’t think she is any the wiser.
But there have been many trips into the African bush. The ultimate holiday is taking a fully equipped 4×4 deep into the bush and wherever possible walking with a game ranger. Given half a chance nothing would give me greater pleasure than setting up camp for a year in the Okavango Delta with my Nikon and 600mm lens. If you know anyone who will sponsor me…………..
A pivotal event occurred in my life in July 2005 when, at the age of sixty, I donated a kidney to a great friend of mine whom I have known since 1972 and who originally hailed from Zimbabwe and Cape Town. This whole experience has made me a better person in so many ways and as a consequence I became involved with the Anthony Nolan Trust which is responsible for the stem cell register in the UK and I travel the world as one of their volunteer couriers picking up these life-saving cells for leukemia patients. I also give talks to school kids about becoming blood donors and signing on to the organ and stem cell registers. Fitting this all in with my working life is quite a challenge. Life is never dull!
My passions – the vibrant cultural life that London has to offer, particularly music, theatre and the arts, in which this city excels and which I share with great delight with Helene – skiing in the French Alps or the Rockies, plenty of tennis, long walks to explore London’s ever-changing dynamic – and those regular camping safaris to the African bush and photography, particularly of wildlife.
2012 was a truly wonderful year. Besides my charitable work for Anthony Nolan, Helene and I went on some great trips, skiing in the French Alps, visiting Kardamili, a quiet but wonderful fishing village on the Mani Peninsula in Greece and, most thrillingly of all, a self-drive camping safari to Botswana. Wading through crocodile-infested waters to fathom whether they were shallow enough to drive our vehicle through, scaring off a hyena that tried to steal our rubbish bag one night whilst we were having a braai and the thrill of two beautiful male lions walking right past us in our campsite as we were about to eat bowls of muesli. These were just some of the excitements that we enjoyed. Because of my love of cricket I took on a poorly paid summer job as a steward at Lords. I saw some thrilling games including the test against South Africa, which, sadly, we lost. But the highlight of the year was being a volunteer at the Olympics. I spent virtually all my time showing spectators to their seats in the main stadium, often just above the finishing line. I saw Oscar Pistorius compete in the 4 x 400 relay – the first Paralympic athlete to compete in the Olympics. But watching Mo Farrah win the 5,000 metres must be the greatest sports event that I have ever witnessed. Watching all these amazing athletic events was thrilling, but the strongest memory that will live on for me will be welcoming spectators into the stadium. The “wow” factor was incredible.
Which brings me neatly to my photograph. In 2010 I successfully fulfilled a goal of taking a photograph of a different person every day of the year – it might have been a friend, a client, the fish-monger, a stranger on the bus, the check-out lady at Sainsbury. So the picture of me – taken of course by the lovely Helene, is a mosaic of those 365 images – people!
And what of my other kidney? Well, it is doing brilliantly. After having been so terribly unwell my friend is leading a full and vibrant life. As I write in near sub-zero temperatures in London, she is currently at her holiday home halfway up the mountain above St James looking out over the False Bay coast. Lucky her!
I’m a Baby Boomer brat. I was born in 1946 on Nelson Mandela’s 28th birthday (my closest brush with fame) at Tavistock in Devon, England. Rondebosch Boys’ High attempted to educate me without much success. Later, Essex University endured similar disappointments, but got over them. I’ve (had) three wives, and three children. Each marriage was happy in its own way and in its own time. The children are more beautiful than I expected. I’ve had a job as a small, and sometimes negative, contributor to the technological revolution. Despite being commonly left-brained, and occasionally no-brained, I write poetry that is sometimes published. I attend and sometimes host the Off-the-Wall poetry gig Mondays in Obz, and I also host monthly gigs in Kalk Bay and Kommetjie. I edit poetry, teach English, and also write business software. And, aside from a natural tribal arrogance, I’m kind and tolerant, even of dogs.
Herbie Helm married Miss Duminy, whom I loved with all my cherubic Standard Three heart.
Had I known that, I might have been a good deal less fond of Herbie, whom I encountered in C1, and certainly her choice would have broken my heart. (By C1 I had recently recovered from the year with Miss Vickerstaff, who had attempted to impress Standard Two’s curriculum on my eager little brain, with very little success and even less joy.)
I never understood the practical need to learn Afrikaans at school. Nor did I apply any of the little acquired from the fisherman’s sons in Kalk Bay – much of which contained words of some indelicacy. Even such well-known and oft-quoted slanders, I hesitate now to recall many, as the dyslexic and, possibly intoxicated man near the harbour hiccupped, “Joe marse se soep”, probably confusing me with a lamppost. Not only he, let me quickly add, but that is another anecdote…
Herbie found my indifference to “Die Taal” incomprehensible. Herbie’s world, it seemed, was bordered by crocodile-infested rivers in the north and shark-infested seas elsewhere. Everybody, and I think when he bellowed “EVERYBODY” on that morning, he resorted to English in a not altogether charming tone. He added to his indignity with a short-tempered exercise in blackboard cleaning which resulting in his losing his grip on the implement, which sailed overhead in a splendid arc about which Tickey’s maths class would no doubt have discussed differentials – which would have then further degenerated to the aerodynamics of rugby balls – but I digress. I don’t remember who caught it nor who shouted “HOWZAT”. Whoever it was, it triggered an eruption in poor Herbie, who, breaking four or five pieces of chalk in the process, drew in a great sweep the outline of The Republic on the board. Was it Lang who put up a tentative arm? I don’t remember. Herbie looked venomously at whoever; whose arm deflated slowly.
“HODGE” he said, sucking in his breath like ffoulkes-Morris lining up for another pole vault record, and he started in Afrikaans, which I didn’t understand (of course), but as he noticed that I clearly made out not a syllable, resorted with a hiss to English. “Everybody inside our borders (as I recall he let the R roll contentedly – rather like, if I may say, the sound I imagine the cart made carrying the decapitated remains of the guillotine’s appetite over Parisian cobbles, but I digress) speaks Afrikaans, NOT English.” I saw Lang’s arm jerk slightly as if blood had been introduced to it. “Where are you going to go when you leave school,” he said in a low whisper like second slip telling a joke “and get a job? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm?” I felt unable to resist telling Herbie the truth.
“Sir,” I said in my best English, “I’m going to join the navy and go to sea.”
I have seldom been innocent, but this was me at my most straightforward, and with my beaming unblemished honest side prominent. I spoke with no sense of superior logic, nor did I stoop to sarcasm. Nor to any of the numerous malapropisms English and the English are prone to, no none of that low humour.
Herbie exploded. “OUT! OUT! OUT!” he screamed, pelting me with the pieces of chalk illustrating the borders of the republic.
We were never friends, but I still love Miss Duminy. (Both she and Herbie are long gone now.)
Beside Miss Duminy, whose star waned only slightly with the years, there throbbed another little heart beneath a pair. I refer to Nobby’s Lynne whose presence stirred all of Mason House, perhaps not all, but many houses beyond. Even in Fletcher we noticed. There were those in Marchand and Andrews she could awake by as little as repute.
I must say I seldom went into Canigou or Mason house. (There’s a day-boy reserve which the large Moorreesburg boys and their rather cute braying, as though they had brought a paddock or two with them, and their rather adult size – any one of which was larger and certainly heavier than the Under 16C scrum – seemed to encourage by unjustified remarks, snarls and the bearing of fangs. I remember once going on a camp to a farm in Hopefield se wêreld, where the duiweltjie thorns were the size of shuttlecocks. This was the perfect place for a cross-country race, barefoot, the puritanical and, may I suggest, sadistic organisers who, no doubt, had very robust souls, thought fit for the likes of delicate-footed boys from the southern suburbs. We ran, no, we hobbled except for a local lad who, carrying a large dirty sheep under each arm raced away to victory. Believe it or not, the next time I saw that boy he was wearing the red shorts of Canigou. His name was Billie Hoensen, and he was still barefoot. But I digress. Even though Nobby’s house was very close, I avoid(ed) authority, especially armed with disciplined instruments – interesting word from “disciple”, of which I was not – except one might get lucky and catch a deep-breathed glimpse of her. Ah!
Alan Musker was our gymnast and could do things with his body. I tried once and it took an hour to untangle me. Every lunch break you could find Musker – no doubt his ancestors had acquired the name by due diligence – climbing up ropes, hanging from parallel bars by his upper lip, and various other body-building and mind-numbing practices. All of which require immense muscles. In the service of which there were weights to pump up cannelloni-like limbs. I remember, vaguely, picking up one tiny piece of iron and nearly dislocating my shoulder. It was Musker’s fault actually – such a nice boy who, possibly as a result, left the country with his family for England – who decided to help me lift a bar weighing no more than 30kg above my head. Well the cannelloni gave way and I fell followed by the weight. I didn’t feel pain – I’m told this is a bad sign – but Musker was pointing at my forearm which had acquired a further joint halfway down.
I know you are going to think otherwise, but this was always, actually, a devious plan to gain entrance to Nobby’s house where the heart-fluttering Lynne would stroke my fevered brow for, oh, such a long time before I was fetched off to hospital. Ever after, when she noticed me, I’d sneak a little wave like a toddler asking for a sweetie, and she’d blow me the subtlest tiny wee kiss to make me feel better, or so I thought.
So thank you, Alan, for your complicity which nobody ever suspected, and which I have kept secret all these years.
Today, and first day at RBPS age 6, taken by neighbor Mrs. Mitchell
I choose as my theme memories and recollections of the 7 years spent at RBPS, since I find the task of covering my full 12 years at Rondebosch too daunting a task and thus I leave the latter stage of the journey to my fellow class-mates. My journey begins in the year 1951 and my story commences on a bright, warm, mid-January summer’s morning in Forth Road, corner of Kelvin Road, Newlands, at our household residence, which adjoined Kelvin Grove Country Club and the Newlands Rugby grounds. Frantic last-minute preparations were in progress to get young Leon ready for his first day at Rondebosch Boys’ Preparatory School (RBPS). Dressed in full Rondebosch regalia, all new and sparkling, breakfast completed, satchel with all necessary accessories ready, a quick run over to the house of next door neighbor Angus (Gus) Mitchell, an ex-Rondebosch boy himself, for Mrs Mitchell to take the necessary “first day of school” photos. Then, with butterflies in my tummy, the 20-minute walk with granny to Rouwkoop Road, the side entrance to RBPS. Mom and Dad were on a sea cruise up the coast to Mozambique and dear granny, an immigrant from what was then the land of Palestine who had arrived in Cape Town in 1916 to set up home in Cape Town with her husband and children, including my mom, had the honour of accompanying me to school on my first day.
In those days not all children were sent to nursery school and being one of that ‘species,’ it was with great trepidation that, following the long family tradition of uncles, cousins and older brother, I walked through the imposing gates of RBPS to my assigned Sub A classroom, to be introduced to my first teacher, Miss Johnson. I recall those fearful feelings of abandonment as granny said her goodbyes, kissed me on the cheek and her familiar figure gradually disappeared from view as she nervously made her departure, leaving me to face Miss Johnson and a classroom full of equally nervous little boys. Within the hour, having calmed down considerably, I realized that in fact this could be fun and, as they say in the classics, ‘the show was on the road.’
First and foremost, a word about my teachers:
Sub A and Sub B: Miss Johnson taught me the “three R’s”, the basics of reading, writing and simple arithmetic. I can clearly remember her patience and calm manner and I must confess that, as my first educator, she did a remarkable job handling those 40-odd fledglings.
Standard 1: Miss Trow, whom I can barely recall. What I do remember is the endless repetitive hours reciting the arithmetic tables and having them drummed into our little skulls.
Standard 2: Miss Vickerstaff – I remember the spelling tests at least once or twice a week, the words gradually increasing in length and difficulty and my mom testing me at breakfast to make sure I was up to scratch. After the ‘big lunch break’, when we were all tired and having difficulty concentrating, she would say: “Boys, sit up straight. Place your hands high over your heads and breathe in deeply five times – after me.” Instant success!
Standard 3: Miss Duminy (after marrying a former Rondebosch High School teacher she later became Mrs Helm). A great and dedicated educator, who many students will probably remember in High School days for her extra Afrikaans private lessons and preparation for the Taalbond exam, held at her home on Camp Ground Road – the present writer excluded.
Standard 4: Mr Parkin – I only remember him as a patient and calm teacher with a good knowledge of his subject matter. At end of term, in the final days before the vacation, once exams were completed, papers marked and the class was up to date with the curriculum, he divided the class into sections and held general knowledge quizzes, which were great fun.
Standard 5: Mr Sephton – Also a nice tolerant gentleman and a good educator with a great attitude towards his pupils.
Other teachers and auxiliary staff: Our principal, Mr. Enslin, occasionally taught Religious Instruction to the Standard 5s; Mr Laidlaw was in charge of PT and sports. There was always a steady flow of student teachers (we loved to take the mickey out of them, commonly known to us boys as ‘jacking-up,’ much to their dismay.) There were the Ministry of Education Inspectors too, who often came to check on the teachers; we of course were coached well in advance to behave impeccably during their visit so as to show the teacher in a good light.
In addition there was the school nurse, whose room was somewhere on the ground floor of the quadrangle. She carried out emergency first-aid to boys who had been hurt for whatever reason in the playground and in the early 1950s, with another polio epidemic spreading world-wide, she had the daunting task of organizing vaccinations for the entire school.
Obediently lining up in pairs according to our relevant classes and entering the school hall for morning assembly: Standard 5s at the back of the hall, Sub As in the front, teachers and staff in the very front row, with Mr Enslin officiating on the daïs, reading out important matters of the day and calling out the hymn number from our hymnals. Jewish boys were excused from singing the hymns if they so chose, but believe it or not, despite my being Jewish, to this day I still remember the words of the hymns. As there were no chairs, we stood throughout the proceedings, though if the assembly was extended, were occasionally permitted to sit down on the wooden floor.
Who can remember art classes? What a relief they were from regular lessons and how we used to enviously ogle the beautiful drawings and paintings of David Taylor when compared to our own paltry art renditions.
Coming from a musical family, I was enrolled for extra-curricular piano lessons with the resident Rondebosch piano teacher. However, since (like most children) I hated practising, after two years I managed to persuade my parents that this project was a disaster in the making and they were to give up their aspirations of my being a concert pianist.
It never ceases to amaze me how much discipline there was at Rondebosch, especially when compared to the experiences of my own two children, who were born in Israel and went through the mainstream Israeli education system. Israeli children only start to learn about real discipline on their induction to compulsory military service in the IDF. Discipline at Rondebosch went beyond the realms of the school and included out of school behavior such as: when in uniform not eating in the street; raising your cap to greet your seniors; when in uniform always behaving in a courteous manner so as not to ’embarrass’ the school. Within the precincts of the school, behavior was instilled by the class standing up to greet the teacher and then sitting only after the response: ‘Good morning class, pleased be seated’ was given; lining up in the quadrangle or school hall before being allowed to enter the class or hall; addressing teachers by their surname or as Sir or Miss. The Standard 5 prefects were allocated the task of assisting with adherence to discipline.
In keeping with the period, Rondebosch and comparable South African schools followed the practice upheld in British schools of corporal punishment by canings, administered by the headmaster or his deputy for severe violations, such as insolence or physical fighting with fellow classmates. Mr Enslin’s cane was often not enough of a deterrent to curb us mischievous youngsters and the age-old trick of placing a notebook in a strategic position before being commanded to ‘bend over and touch your toes’, rarely succeeded in escaping detection beyond the very first whack of the cane and only resulting in an extra whack being meted out for trying to outsmart the master – this time without the notebook!
Other punishments for lesser infringements, such as talking in class, warranted a ruler over the knuckles or, if you were lucky, 100 or more lines to be written out after school or perhaps detention after school for an hour or two.
Besides academia, in true Rondebosch tradition, sport was of course the essence of the day and many great names, including latter-day Springboks had the basics and love of their particular sport instilled into them during those early formative years. Practising cricket in the nets at the side of the playground with Mr Laidlaw coaching us in his heavy Scottish accent; rugby and cricket matches on ‘The Lilacs’ field, which was in addition used for athletics in preparation for Sports Day. And then there was tennisette, played with wooden bats with small squares painted on them, on the courts marked out on the side of the school. In our very early school years, during the summer months, I remember our class walking in pairs with a teacher at the front and back, crossing Camp Ground Road, past the Park and down to the High School to the old Canigou pool for swimming lessons. This pre-dated the building of the new modern swimming pool in the High School grounds. Surely this must be where swimming stars such as Derek van den Berg and others learned some of the tricks of the trade?
The playground, adjacent to Rouwkoop Road, was a sandy unpaved expanse where seasonal games specific to the times were enjoyed in the breaks. These included: marbles in all their different sizes and types, including plain, cats-eyes, ‘goons’ (large-sized marbles) of different varieties, ‘ironies’ (ball-bearings) of all sizes. I can still picture us boys with our treasured bags of marbles, including some pockets (those of the lucky winners) stuffed to the brim. If I recall correctly, John ‘Bull’ Le Roux (or was it van Schoor?) had a massive monster ‘irony’ which no one ever succeeded in winning from him and which definitely was a deciding factor in the daily grand haul of marbles gleaned from many a challenger. The specific marble games we played were: ‘follow on’, ‘ringy’, or hitting the opponents ‘shy’ i.e. pyramid of marbles, from the set and designated distance – the larger the ‘shy’ the greater the distance. The excitement and passion of the games were boundless. And then there was spinning top season – of course you had to have the best and fastest spinning top, including the correct string to wind it up, with the correct loop at the end. If you were challenged, you tried your utmost to spin your top so that it would revolve for a longer time than your opponent’s. Next came the yo-yo craze. Yo-yos of all sizes and shapes were to be seen in the playgrounds, with each boy trying to show off his skill with his latest trick. And what about the many sporting games we played in the playground, assuming rain had not washed out play and turned the sandy surface to mud: Red Rover was a favourite, as was Bok-Bok, later considered dangerous enough to be banned for risk of serious back injuries. And there was touch-rugby or miniature cricket, played with those fine-detailed, small-scale wooden cricket bats against the backdrop of the wall of the school hall.
One vivid recollection I have is of viewing educational movies in the school hall. This was a real treat and a deviation from the drudgery of regular lessons. The films were projected with the aid of a well-used Bell & Howell 16mm movie projector strategically placed on a stand above the stairway at the rear of the school hall. More often than not the film broke halfway through the movie, requiring a 10 minute break for splicing. I remember the library, where as a treat we were allowed on occasion to spend a period advancing our literary education by choosing wondrous books such as the Just William series or perhaps one of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five or Adventure novels. There were also activities such as acting in plays. In my earliest years at the school a few plays were performed, the names of which I do not recall. However, I do have recollections of being cast in the role of a shell and of a slave. After many weeks of rehearsals at the High School Memorial Hall, these grand performances were played before packed houses of family, friends, staff and pupils. In one such play David Price played a lead role.
There were many of these, but sadly I have a clear memory of only one: a visit to the Langeberg/Koo fruit and vegetable canning factory in Somerset West, escorted by teachers and parents. Another welcome break from routine school activities, enjoyed by young boys eager to see something different and interesting.
In the early formative years the life of a young schoolboy is full of wonders and Rondebosch supplied no end of surprises and wonderful memories, for example:
Little break: being led to the kitchen for a mug of cold fresh milk, or flavoured milk, (lime, strawberry, or peach flavor), or in winter hot chocolate. Buying goodies at the tuck-shop next to the kitchen. My personal favourites included, amongst others, sherbet in a white paper packet with a licorice straw for a tickey; 4 niggerballs (now politically incorrect and utterly offensive) for a penny; winegums, 4 for a penny; 2 hard toffees in individually wrapped squares for a penny and Sen Sen scented sweets, about 5 for a penny.
Last but not Least
To crown it all, how about the jubilation at the final end of term assembly in the school hall, when the school song was sung with great gusto, reaching its finale with Altius et latius … followed by “Three cheers for Mr Enslin” – Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! – and followed again by “nog ‘n piep, Hooray!!!”
“Those were the days my friend…..”
I served in the SADF at Youngsfield in the anti-aircraft unit there before completing a B Com degree at UCT. I worked for Punkys Supermarket chain, which was subsequently taken over by Grand Bazaars, and in this organization, climbed through the ranks: trainee manager, assistant branch manager, branch manager, regional manager, executive head-office housewares procurement manager. I married Janice Fish in 1973 and we emigrated to Israel in 1976. After service in the Israeli Defence Force, I joined one of the largest Israeli government-owned industrial giants, specializing in international shipping. Prior to retiring in 2010, after 30 years’ service with the company, I held the position of executive director for international shipping services with responsibility for importing raw materials and exporting finished product to over 70 different countries. The job involved sea, air and land transportation, chartering of specialized ships and aircraft. I have 2 children, both born in Israel – my daughter studied education and art, heads a nursery school in Tel Aviv and practises art therapy. My son is studying criminology. I was divorced in 2000 and remarried in 2010 to my wife Marian, originally from north-east England, who is a freelance Hebrew-to-English translator.
I “did time” as a boarder at Mason House, Canigou, and The Lilacs, and imagine that many other E63s will have written about events they experienced at school. I would therefore like, in this note, to pay tribute to the many classmates and their families for their kindnesses shown to me while in boarding school.
Arriving as a stranger in Standard 6 from Malmesbury was quite an experience, although I had the advantage of an elder brother (Christopher “Prof” Joubert E61) and many of his friends (Richard Hunter E61, particularly) who had gone ahead and pioneered the unknown before me. My first memory of RBHS had been the Diamond Jubilee Fete of 1957 at which I bought many packets of stamps for my collection.
Some of the first day-boy classmates to show kindness and hospitality in their homes were Peter Hodes, David Geffen and Richard Spring. Later at UCT in 1968, Richard and I shared a trip through South Africa, the Transkei, and Moçambique. Years later, my wife Jill and I visited Richard at the House of Commons where he was an MP, before his elevation to the Lords. His cousin Malcolm Farquharson E64 (son of Nancy Watson-Morris) joined us in London for Jill’s birthday lunch one year when my sister Penny and her husband Franc Bentley (E64) accompanied us on a holiday to London.
Richard Frantz’s family were also most kind, and had me as a guest to stay in their home. I remember Richard’s father, then Chief City Electrical engineer, taking our class to the new Athlone power station to show us how it worked. Richard’s mother took us to Hermanus for a day’s outing, and I remember having lunch at Grotto Beach.
At Mason House, friends included Richard Dryden and Edmund Lee. I spent a short holiday with Edmund at his home in Caledon, where we built a Webra-diesel-powered aeroplane, which we subsequently flew on the Lower Desert.
At Canigou I met Chris Steyn whose parents were temporarily living in the UK. Chris and I became particularly good friends many years later in Johannesburg. Jill and I moved to Johannesburg in 1979, and I almost immediately attended an Old Boys’ dinner, hosted by Noel Stamper. Peter Terblanche (E61) and I joined the Jhb OBU committee that year, and Adrian Waters (E64) also took the helm later.
Robert Schrire also became a good friend, and he and his American wife, Christine, hosted us overnight at their home in Santa Barbara California in 1973. I visited him again in 1980 at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
I owe a particular debt of thanks to Chris Buyskes. He and I were house prefects at The Lilacs in our matric year. He was quite a ladies’ man, with lovely girlfriends. One Sunday at St Thomas’ Church he introduced me to his girlfriend Jill Birbeck. I immediately fell madly in love with her. We married in 1972 and have two daughters and four grandchildren.
Interestingly, many of our Rondebosch friends have also been married for 40 years and more – Peter and Lynn Terblanche, Chris and Belinda Steyn, Richard and Bonny Frantz, my sister Penny and Franc Bentley, Richard and Margaret Hunter, my brother Christopher and Verity, and many others. I guess we’ve been very fortunate.
On a brief biographical note, I went to the Army Gym with Paul Duminy in 1964, and joined him at UCT Medical School, with Derek van den Berg the following year. I unfortunately didn’t make the grade, but graduated with a B.Bus.Sc. (Hons) at end ’71. Tony Hoenson served with me in the Dukes Regiment, as did many other RBHS Old Boys.
I worked for Foschini in Cape Town, and Avis, Investec Bank, IBM and Liberty Life in Johannesburg. I graduated with an M.B.A. at Wits Business School in 1993. I currently work at Wits University as a PhD scholar, and run executive education courses for the Wits School of Economic and Business Sciences in conjunction with Wits Commercial Enterprise.
My first memory of Rondebosch goes back to Standard 1. I was in the ‘pikkies’ playground when a Standard 2 boy called me ‘Carrots’. I took exception to this – surely my hair was more strawberry blonde than red! Then, to make my displeasure felt, I hit him. Needless to say my nickname after that was Ken and thankfully not Carrots.
I remember so many of the Prep School teachers with affection but must admit that Yvonne Hartman and Miss Wingate made more of an impression on me than the Misses Johnson, Baumann and Vickerstaff! I wonder why? I was immensely impressed when Solly Robinson put over a drop kick from the halfway line on Oakhurst when we were U11 or U12, only later to realise that the halfway line was only 30 odd metres from the poles and not 50!
I was destined to go to Paarl Boys’ High from Standard 6 – my father, who came from Swellendam, was keen that I become bilingual. I implored him to allow me to attend Std 6 at the High School, as Tinkie Heyns was the rugby coach for U13 rugby teams. My Dad, also being rugby crazy, relented, saying that I would however go to Paarl from Standard 7. The rest is history…
The late Billy Trengove features twice in my reminiscences. Firstly, in Standard 7 I incorrectly answered an English test question as ‘Every cloud has a golden edge’, as did Charlie Foord, who was sitting next to me. Not to be fooled, Billy picked up this ‘duplication’. On entering the class he said, ‘Foord and Kennedy stand up!’ Unfortunately Charlie, who was the culprit, was away ill but nonetheless Billy confronted me and asked which one of us had cribbed. Although I was genuinely innocent, I had to say that I was the guilty party as we Bosch boys do not ‘split’. I was duly punished, much to Charlie’s delight. Some years later Billy spoke to me and admitted his error in not confronting both of us as at the time he had known that I was innocent.
Secondly, while I was in Standard 9, Billy produced the play ‘The Admirable Crichton’ and some Rustenburg girls were invited to take the female roles. I was on the admin side and gate-crashed the cast party on the final night. On entering the group of actors I saw Johnny Kipps talking to an attractive girl and I asked him ‘Johnny, who’s your friend’? He then introduced me to Tessa Anderson who became my wife in 1969! We are still happily married today.
Another incident concerning a teacher happened while I was in Matric. Roy Schreiber was on prefect duty after little break and I was in the headmaster’s office discussing some issue with Mr Clarke. We were both due to attend a double period of geography. Our teacher, Attie Baard, was ill so Willem Diepeveen was standing in for him. Upon entering the class Diepeveen said, ‘Schreiber – you are late – get out!!’ ‘But sir, I was on prefect duty,’ Roy stammered. ‘I don’t care – get out’ was Diepeveen‘s reply, upon which Roy went to the prefects’ room. Five minutes later I entered the geography class and received the same treatment as Roy. Needless to say Roy and I had a wonderful free double period in the prefects’ room!
One Friday evening after scouts, Peter Korck and I together with two Marist Brothers’ pupils (John and Gavin Copeland) threw crackers onto Mango van Oordt’s stoep. He opened the front door, upon which we ran off. Little did we know that Mango was a step ahead of us, as he had jumped into the canal and taken a short cut. A little while later the four of us were outside Jill Mabin’s house chatting with her and some friends when up the road strode this very long-legged man – Mango. Peter and I ducked behind the Mabins’ wall, rather anxious that we were going to be busted! Fortunately John and Gavin pleaded ignorance when Mango asked if they had seen two Rondebosch boys running past – it really was a close call indeed!
As you are all aware, I started losing my hair in Standard 9 – or was it eight? At the time we were doing European history and some guys started calling me Garibaldi. I guess I was thick-skinned or just brazened it out and showed no emotion but I must admit that those were very trying and hurtful times for me. Upon reflection I see that as a positive as it helped to develop my character and personality.
I have been blessed that my reminiscences of Rondebosch have been – and still are – ongoing these past 50 years. I have maintained contact with as many of our classmates as possible and have been privileged to share confidences, highs and lows with so many. It is this, plus the genuine camaraderie that we all share together which makes it all worthwhile. I will continue to do so for as long as possible – God willing.
During our Matric year I, together with so many others, was called up to the army for the compulsory nine months’ training – it was the first year of a 100% call-up.
I was all ready to do my duty in 1964 when I was advised that the army had over-balloted and that my services were no longer required. At that stage it was too late to enrol at UCT so I joined Barclays Bank for ostensibly one year (1964). As my scouting career had been noticed by the bank’s South African Head Office, on their recommendation Barclays London picked me as the first foreigner to attend the Outward Bound Leadership School in Umtali, Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) in February 1965. As a closeted white South African, I experienced a truly wonderful multiracial world, one which changed my entire outlook on life and on so many aspects of South Africa.
At this stage I was sucked into the system and stayed with Barclays (First National Bank) for 25 years, rising to a managerial position at a fairly young age.
My big regret, however, is that, although I passed all the various stages of the banking exams (CAIB.SA), I never attended university as was my original plan.
In 1989 I joined Roy Schreiber in a glass agency business and we had 20 wonderful years together. In 2008 we cancelled our agency agreement and I joined Roy in another of his businesses. Sadly, in 2010, through no fault of Roy’s company, the holding company went ‘belly up’ and the entire group was liquidated. This resulted in my going on retirement 18 months before I had planned to.
Fortunately I had started a relatively small glass import company in 2002, which I have now expanded and operate from home. I import glass from Europe, UK, China, Egypt and the UAE.
Tessa and I are having a wonderful retirement together living on this business and plan finally to retire in a few years’ time – perhaps?
We have two children. Lauren is the elder and is married to Luke Hirst from England whom she met in Australia. Lauren is business director of Ogilvy Earth, Cape Town. They have two sons and a daughter and live in Hout Bay. Our son, Ian (E93), is married to Lindy Rosenthal (granddaughter of Eric Rosenthal of ‘Three Wise Men’ fame). Ian is Director of Golf at Steenberg Golf Club. They have a son and a daughter and live in Meadowridge. We are very blessed to have these two families in Cape Town as Lauren and Ian spent nine and seven years in England and America respectively.
I am the treasurer of our local neighbourhood watch, a deacon in our church and Tessa and I have belonged to a small service club for over 40 years. I try and attend gym when I can.
My first recollection of Rondebosch, probably like most others, was meeting ‘Ensi’ with my Mom, and having to do his white door handle, yellow door handle routine. I guess I passed that one. My next earliest school memory is of Brian Fraser who amazed us by announcing that he had read a book, ‘When I was Six,’ by AA Milne. For a Sub A pupil, that was pretty impressive!
Actually, Nick Diemont was the first classmate I met, as I have a hazy memory of going to his Malcolm Road house before we started school, our parents being friends, and hoping to ease their precious little chaps into the rigours of school early.
Sandy Marr’s home in Kenilworth (and holiday house in Knysna) played a huge part in my RBPS life as I have fantastic memories of hours in the pool, playing in the big myrtle hedge abutting Harfield Road, (from where we once watched what must have been one of the last Snoek Town horse-drawn fishcarts go by – with fish-horn calling!), cucumber sandwiches in the lounge at 4pm and lots more; travelling to Knysna and checking off the mile posts as we lolled around in the back of the Rolls. Long before David Ogilvie of Ogilvie and Mather fame came up with his wonderful ad, we knew that – if we shut up – the only noise you could hear in that magnificent vehicle was the ticking of the clock! And the memories of Knysna include digging for bloodworms at low tide, then catching white stumpnose right off the front porch! And another time – perhaps when Donald Andrew and Dick Morris came down and joined us – at his sister’s farm we watched a horse being castrated by a vet; an experience guaranteed to make an impression on an eight year-old!
Sandy and I also spent a week on a trawler. My Dad was in the fishing industry and we got our sea legs early – it was rough and tough, but we had a ball, helping to sort the fish, shooting sharks following the nets and catching seagulls on fishing lines (ugh – how could we do that??)
Lindsay and I met in the ring at one of the annual boxing championships; Mrs Kipps’ little boy certainly came off worst being totally mismatched against the pugilistic Kennedy. That’s where we learnt the expression “technical knockout!”
In Prep School days I joined 2nd Rondebosch cubs and, later, scouts. My Mom and Dad were definitely keen on scouts, thinking that it would keep their boys away from drugs, drink and rock and roll – for a while longer. Camps at Beaufort West amongst the oranges on the vd Merwe farm, Gilcape, Bains Kloof, and Applethwaite (the home of Appletiser) in Elgin gloriously filled our summer holidays, and I’ve always appreciated the independence I learnt through the scouting movement. And learning to drive; unbelievably I remember driving the old Ford, owned by scoutmaster Graham Korck (Peter’s brother) up du Toits Kloof Pass when I couldn’t have been more than fourteen.
What I couldn’t manage with my fists in the ring under Don Laidlaw’s tutelage I did with a rope and a monkey’s fist (the knotted end). Being teased by some of the older scouts, I took a swing at Neil Gold (elder brother of Richard) with the rope – not realising the knotted end was filled with lead – and laid him out cold!
One memory of junior school days was being amazed – bewitched – by the mercurial Keith Anderson on the tightrope over the old swimming pool in front of Mason House. How somebody could stay on that thin wire was beyond the ken of the small boys watching.
In Prep School days we used to go to Newlands to watch rugby sitting inside the schoolboys’ enclosure, edging onto the grass. Those were the days of Tommy Gentles and Tom van Vollenhoven. Later, as we grew up, Bull Le Roux’s Dad had two season tickets for the grandstand at Newlands, which regularly saw four or five of us in the stands. Into the schoolboys’ enclosure we’d go, hop over the fence into the main standing area, then the first two up into the Grandstand and as soon as an exciting part of the game came by, two tickets would come fluttering down wrapped in a hankie, and so it would go.
Up in the stand one day, one of the neighbours, probably cheesed off that four or five boys were now squeezing him out as they crowded into a couple of seats, and tired by the endless backchat warned Bull not to join the SABC when he grew up. Why? “They’d be able to turn you off!”
Derek and I lived in Muir Road and would ride our bikes to school together, with me stopping by at his house to ‘pick him up’. We’d go through the morning ritual of the lovely and tiny Mrs Van, looking up at her youngest son towering over her and asking whether he had a clean handkerchief in his pocket. One morning she told me Derek had gone sleepwalking and she’d found him wandering down Muir Road. Or was she having me on?
The Derek and Bull escapades continued and one year we were camping in Hermanus when we heard that Nick Diemont’s sister, Margaret, was getting married. We thought had they known we’d be in town, we would surely have been invited, so not wanting to deny the Diemont’s our sparkling company, we went along anyway. But I guess we were apprehensive about running into Nick’s dad, Judge Marius, who would have been a scary guy for wrongdoers – so we hung around the back – and lo, that’s where the tubs of champagne were! Heaven; what more could a Rondebosch boy want!
Hermanus must have been a wild place, for I recall a story of some – surely not the clean living ‘E63 lot – running down the corridors of the Bay View Hotel late one night ripping out the flower decorations and playing darts with the arum lilies! The police were called and gave chase on foot – but the miscreants got clean away. One of the darts players was Paul Schipper who was a couple of years ahead of us. Recounting the story later, Paul’s escape from the police came to the ears of Tickey de Jager. He swelled with pride – “I taught that boy to run!” he said.
Another recollection of Hermanus was going into a bar – didn’t they ask for ID in those days? – where Jan Rozwadowski ordered a glass of brandy. Thinking he was being patronised with the shot offered, he insisted he wanted a “proper, full glass of brandy”. History doesn’t tell how he got home that night. But later, for some reason also lost in the mists, the manager stormed over the dance floor and started yelling and prodding Derek van den Berg in the chest. For all his size, Derek is a real gentleman, but it was the manager’s mistake to think he could be shoved around the dance floor. All too soon we looked on in amazement as the manager lay spread-eagled in the middle of the floor. (Why didn’t Don Laidlaw match Derek against Lindsay in the 1958 Boxing Champs?)
One of the masters we revered was Doc Watson, for he taught us how to climb! My Dad loved the mountains and from a very early age over the weekends we were frequently exploring Table Mountain with him. But it was Doc who taught us to “rock climb”, and with Brian Fraser and Ferdi Fischer we steadily increased our skills. We journeyed afar with Doc, frequently to the Cedarberg, and in one memorable trip combined with a master and boys from SACS we went to the Annual Camp of the Mountain Club of South Africa in the Drakensberg for a two week trip, where we climbed Cathkin Peak, Champagne Castle and mounted the heights to M’ponjawane. And these days, our love of the mountains remains undiminished.
As ‘E63 drew to a close with matric study leave, we organised an overnight camp up the mountain at Firtree near MacLear’s Beacon, descending via Ledges the next morning. John Hill reminded me that on the way down he fell and damaged his leg and I helped him off the mountain. What I remember from that day, however, was once we were down, having cycled like mad to Mowbray to watch the SA Golf Champs and sitting beside a bunker, we were ticked off by Gary Player for chatting as he was preparing his chipshot!
Mountaineering also cemented my friendship with the ever-enthusiastic John Klosser (‘E62). Who can forget John striding up to the lectern for the morning bible reading and before halfway up the steps beginning “The reading this morning is taken….”.
In the early 1950s John’s father had the foresight to acquire, in partnership with two others, an unsurpassed property which surrounds the Infanta village at the mouth of the Breede River and stretches about 5 miles down the coast. The guest book records that Alan Clarke (‘E62) and Chris “Skaap” Mundy went to Infanta in the early years, and that Jeff Leeuwenburg, Ferdi Fischer, Brian Fraser, Frank Einhorn (‘E62), Robin Parker (‘E62), Robin’s elder brother, Graham Parker (‘E58?), Gavin Birch, Dave Cornell (‘E64), my brother Peter (‘E60) and Leslie (Buz) Beck amongst others spent wonderful days swimming, fishing from the rocks at Infanta, hiking the coastal trails, birdwatching, gamewatching – and long nights singing and (to use Gavin Birch’s euphemistic expression) “playing”! (Gavin was also good at alliteration, if not at spelling – his telegram when Juliet and I were married, presumably addressed to Juliet, was “Kwit kicking Kipps”).
Jeff L, John Klosser and I shared a flat in Rosebank at sometime during varsity days. One Saturday when it was Jeff’s turn to do the catering, we each gave him our five rands. And what did he bring back to sustain us over the next week – a demijohn of Tassies and an lp, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony! “You guys need some culture” explained Jeff. We went hungry that week – but at least we could drown our sorrows whilst enjoying the stirring music!
Another lifelong love imparted from my Dad is sailing. (Thanks for that, too, Dad!) We had a small dinghy which we sailed in the lagoon at Hermanus and Zeekoevlei. Then Jack Koper, father of Chris in brother Peter’s class, designed the Dabchick. Soon we were building our own Dabchick on trestles in the garden in Muir Road. This gave us years of pleasure down at ‘the vlei’, and formed my friendship with Robbie ‘Rat’ Meyer, who used to cycle with me to the vlei for sailing over the weekends and during the summer holidays. We’d camp out in, or besides the old thatch-roof yacht club – and before anyone asks – no, we weren’t the cause of the ZVYC clubhouse burning down!
From the small beginnings in the little dinghy near “Die Mond” at Hermanus, I’ve crossed the Atlantic three times, including the first Cape to Rio Race, competed in the Admirals Cup, Cowes week, Cork Week, the Fastnet, the BeachComber Race and the Sydney – Hobart Race. Nowadays, whilst still sailing with my mates – we won the Gentlemens’ Class last year in Cork Week in Ireland in a classic Swan 46 – a lot of our “sea time” is spent on the Thames and the canal system of southern England on our wide-beamed canalboat, “Shosholoza”. It’s a lot more comfortable than a Dabchick!
Like many of us, 1964 was time spent (wasted?) courtesy of the Minister of Defence. My journey took me to Oudtshoorn, Pretoria Walvis and Windhoek. There followed a few years climbing and skiing with the UCT Mountain and Ski Club and regattas with the UCT Sailing Club, interspersed with the odd lecture and much sitting on Jammie Steps. Then, more serious stuff at Deloittes. Thereafter, armed with a B Com and CA – I went sailing! The races of Australia and NZ then called, after which we circled Australia and sailed to the Seychelles on Cornelius Bruynzeel’s boat, ‘Stormy.’ I spent two years in the Seychelles, the second on honeymoon, as Juliet and I married in her hometown of Blantyre, Malawi, halfway through that period.
After the Seychelles, it was back to South Africa, first to the Nedbank Group in Johannesburg, followed by a return to Cape Town to join John Le Roux at Personal Trust.
In the Cape we lived in Marina da Gama and our kids went to nearby Muizenberg Junior School. When it was time for our son Courtney to be interviewed for high school, it was a given in our house that he would go to Rondebosch. But we landed up with interviews, not only at Rondebosch, but two other lesser ‘local institutions’, as well. Mr Peake, headmaster at Bishops, looked a rather forbidding character, and, as my brother and I had been at Rondebosch, and my grandfather had been headmaster of SACS Junior school for so many years (33, I think) he asked why I wished to apply for my son to go to Bishops? “I don’t”, I replied. “I’m only here because my wife insisted. I want my son to go to Rondebosch!”
I’m not sure what I said to the then headmaster at Rondebosch (who will remain nameless) when we subsequently went through the RBHS interview, but to my horror he told me Marina da Gama was out of the “catchment area” and so Courtney landed up at Bishops. (When I told Lindsay about this a couple of years later, he was as cross as I had been at the time – but by then Courtney was loving his time at Bishops!)
Europe called and we landed in the Isle of Man where, courtesy of Ferdie’s boutique investment bank, I had a stint in the shipping, oil and gas business. Then I started my own business supplying corporate investment and insurance solutions to a client base largely comprising fellow South Africans. Along the way, one of my clients proposed we take over a gold-mining company listed on the Aim market of the London Stock Exchange, so for almost seven years I was a gold-miner in Eastern Europe, focussed on the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan with lesser adventures in Kyrgyzstan, Romania and the Ukraine. Those classmates seeking a quiet life are definitely advised not to follow suit.
In the Isle of Man, Courtney went to the local public school, King William’s College. One day I asked the headmaster why he didn’t do something about the boys who walked around with their shirts hanging out, a sign of ‘cool’ I never quite got my head around! The headmaster explained about the problem of disciplining boys and when I suggested he just gave them cuts if they didn’t listen, he was aghast. “I’d go to jail”, he replied. When I told him about our U13 Pepsi – Cuts training regime (‘Pepsi if you win, Cuts if you lose’) under Tinkie Heyns, he clearly thought I’d come from the Wild West!
My daughters “chaff” me that I meet Rondebosch boys wherever I go; among those who come to mind were Brydon Malleson (‘E70+-) running the London Marathon; Hal Hofmeyer (‘E53+-) who was walking down the pontoon at Cowes Week wearing his OB tie!; Anthony Broadhurst (‘E60) having coffee with my neighbour in the Isle of Man; Georges Le Quime (‘E73+-) in a mining investment conference in London – and the latest, a fortnight ago, skiing in Austria, Hugh Davies, (‘E87) who told me of the wonderful filmmaking experience he enjoyed whilst at RBHS, lectured by our own John Hill and how the film they made that year, “The Final Cut” about the Immorality Act – which would certainly have been a dangerous subject to choose at that time – won the Gold Award at the London Film Festival! (Well done, John!)
It’s always a pleasure and generally leads to extolling the amazing privilege of being part of the RBH&PS family, how the Rondebosch experience crafted our lives, the masters who influenced us and the classmates who knocked us into shape. Thanks to one and all, it’s been a wonderful journey.
On boarding school life: Even though I was a small eater, food was always an issue….. Budgeting one’s R5 quarterly allowance to include tuck shop cream buns. After school tea and bread. Lazy walks to church on Sundays, sometimes rendezvousing at Evergreens on Main Road, Rosebank, for a toasted cheese sandwich. Gallons of Rum-and-Raisin ice cream for birthdays. Occasional visits to the Wimpy Bar at the downtown OK Bazaars (and also at the OK, Roy’s legendary bra shopping escapade, using hand gestures to indicate cup size!). ‘Cookie’s’ meatballs, and musical beans, and the competition for butter. Picking up tuck boxes at the Post Office. And wondering now how come I never found a regular day-boy sandwich sponsor? The race upstairs after study in Mason House to prevent others from ‘volkswagening’ one’s new aluminium bed. After-supper piano honky-tonk in Canigou with David Geffen. Listening to the radio after ‘light’s out’; Springbok and LM radio the tenuous links to the ‘outer’ world. Sunday afternoon duck-diving on the Upper Desert, and touch rugger on the main field. Ballroom duty. Early Saturday morning coffee in the ‘huts’ at Mason House getting ready for a rugby game. Saturday afternoon rugby at Newlands, and the nightmare of being expected to stop Kennedy and Mundy in junior inter-house rugby. After-dinner cricket in the nets. Three days and nights on the school train to Windhoek (bless those Rustenburg and St. Cyps girls for their kindness, wherever they are), star-filled midnight stops to take on water, mad dashes to and from the movie theater in De Aar, and meeting up there with Piet Schroeder. Clay court tennis after supper on the old court at Mason House. Tinkie, of course – his pearls of wisdom that were passed on almost unnoticed, and the ‘light cane’. Occasional Sundays watching surfers with Athol from the wall in Muizenburg. Tickey, of course, especially for his motivating assurance to my parents that I would never be a scholar – which was thankfully only partially accurate. Patting for earthworms on Sundays when there was simply nothing better to do. The wonderful sense of freedom running laps around the Rondebosch Common, and the agony of having to organize ‘socials’ with Rustenburg, and dance with Ms. Thompson (and thanks to Linda Kent and Shirley Douglas, wherever you are, for being ‘blind dates’ when I had no option but to attend a dance!!) And most of all, simply Mason House, where we learned the pleasure of the ‘punishment’ of having to write out ‘If’, and of reading the daily paper, and of doing a (little) bit of daily study. Mason House, for me the place of Kipling’s ’60 seconds worth of distance run’, Tinkie’s gentle chidings, lifelong memories and friendships, first glimmerings of personal independence and, of course, the 5-minute warning bell and cold showers to remind one of the consequences of inaction!
And in between that strange way of growing up, there was school – almost another world! There was Mr. Clarke, who agreed to my admission after a nervous Saturday morning meeting. And Arthur Jayes, who looked like a ‘real’ schoolmaster – not too many of those in Windhoek! Mike Welsh’s Latin exhortation ‘never to fall into the arms of a hairy female’. Marj Clarke’s choir. Billy and Buck, English teachers extraordinaire. The disappointment of not being allowed to do Woodwork and Metalwork, and of having to do Physics and Chemistry instead! And wondering whether Ms. Chambers would ever volunteer to pose nude for life drawing (was I the only one thinking that?!). Friday afternoons in the Mess after it had been concluded that I was not cut out to be a model soldier – and providing free haircuts instead (or was it for cream-buns – I can’t remember!). Writing the 1st XV rugby reports for Die Burger, Mossie’s 7 tries against Marist Brothers, and the intense under 14 and 15 battles against SACS and Paul Roos. Happy afternoons spent on the Lower Desert training for track, and the spectacle of the field on ‘Sports Day’. And with sport so dominant, learning from the always under-appreciated ‘non-sporting-types’, so many of whom have gone on to great things, and the discovery that many of those considered to be ‘rof’, or somehow lesser, had hearts of gold, and hidden talents, and their own stories to tell. And my first hike up Skeleton Gorge, and the quiet pleasure of sorting and tidying books in the Afrikaans Library. And oh, did I mention Lindsay Kennedy, background shit-stirrer supreme?! And Charlie Hallack, of course, but less for all the classroom nonsense than for teaching me to enjoy and respect history – and so here we are now, writing our own……….. Wow, where have all the years gone, especially for those of us who left in body, but never in spirit? I have truly missed so much, but on one of my visits to Cape Town I did have the great pleasure of attending a 2007 Rondebosch vs. Herschel debate – where my daughter out-duelled the boyz!! (I was too scared to volunteer for debating, and my son, sad to say, attended Bishops as a post-Matric). But as much as I may have missed by having left, that wonderful feeling of being a ‘Rondebosch Boy’ never fades. What a privilege it was to attend RBHS, and to share it all with guys like you and with our many deceased brothers. And for those of us who can, what a wonderful thing to be able to get together again. Truly, Altius et Latius, and a special personal thanks to those of you who have taken the time, and care, to keep the flame alive.
Jimmy McDermott and I started life at RBHS in Mason House which is, as you know, Tinkie’s self-declared “Best House in the World.” From there we moved to’ The Lilacs,’ where, at that time, Tickey de Jager was housemaster. Jimmy was an avid reader, and on one occasion was surreptitiously reading under his desk during study-hour. Ticky unexpectedly swung by, in part to check that we were all ‘studying’, but primarily to ask, “has anyone seen the Cape Times?” Having not noticed Ticky’s entrance, Jimmy was of course completely startled, panicked (which he will deny), and loudly blurted out, “8.15, Sir”, whereupon the entire study dissolved into raucous laughter.
The second ‘Jimmy event’ took place on the morning of Saturday, the 23rd of November, 1963 – the day the news broke of Kennedy’s assassination. Jimmy was playing for the 2nd XI on the Lower Desert, against one of the Afrikaans schools, at the time considered vastly inferior competition (before we discovered that not only RBHS Steyn’s, de Villiers’, Morkel’s and Le Roux’s could play the game). Peanut Thwaites was umpiring, but wanted to be on the side lines to listen to incoming news reports, and thus asked for a volunteer to replace him. I loved cricket (rather fancying my ‘leggies’ in the nets with ‘real’ cricketers) and volunteered. A wicket fell, and the incoming batsman was none other than Jimmy McDermott. Our tail was struggling to resurrect the innings against the uncouth marauders, and Jimmy was clearly intending to play an epic knock. But his failings were those we have come to expect of bowlers, which is to say he thought of himself as an unjustifiably misplaced No 4. Unfortunately for him, he played forward to a ball he clearly misjudged (and probably never saw), and one that in my ‘Namibian Hawk-Eye’ estimation was very obviously destined for his middle stump. Up went my finger, more or less at the same time that Jimmy started uttering all sorts of uncomplimentary epithets, closely followed by Peanuts throwing a complete hissy-fit on the boundary!! Like any good umpire, I stood my ground, and raised my finger a second time, just as Peanuts came storming onto the field mouthing his inevitable “bloody fool, bloody idiot man” diatribe!!!
Mark (Swift), I still owe you an apology for the part I played in the Standard 7 dorm giving you the silent treatment. I know you were hurt by it. Pooch Murcott remained a loyal friend to you, and I learned a valuable life’s lesson.
John Bull, you very kindly invited me to play squash with you at WPCC over a long weekend during which I stayed in at the boarding house. The courts were dusty, and the game rather strange, but squash became a life-long love of mine, so thanks for that.
In the category of ‘bad prefect, good decision’; one fine evening towards the end of my stint as head of Canigou, Baartie asked me to check on the upper-study. It was well known that use of the ‘late study’ privilege was a flimsy pretext for having a smoke. I stuck my head in, almost choked, and the occupants miraculously disappeared from view behind a single (albeit sturdy) column. Having been taught by my father that any punishment should fit the crime, and with finals a week or two away, I blithely but falsely reported back that everything was A-Ok! Needless to say, I never received a word of thanks from the Niehauses, Wiggetts, Drydens, Fletchers, and Schroeders of the world!
Such were the commonplace events of our RBHS cricketing days!
Born in the shadow of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, I was obviously destined to seek, find and repair cracks in granite.
I completed my primary education at Rondebosch Prep School – renowned for its prowess on the sports field. I always revelled in the claim that my only claim to fame would be that I completed my entire schooling at that august institution while managing to avoid totally contact with a football of any description. I was a little more enthusiastic on the cricket field as having such poor ball co-ordination, I was always placed as far from the action as possible which meant I was able to contemplate the meaning of life from the shade of the trees on the boundary of the cricket field. My raison d’etre has recently been shattered when I was told by the current generation of Rondebosch students (it is a generational thing – people at school are students) that rugby and cricket are no longer compulsory.
After completing my schooling, I had the choice between studying medicine or dentistry. Accepted for both disciplines, my decision seems to have been influenced by the fact that next to football, the thing I hated most at school was carpentry. Being a bit of a masochist, I decided that micro-carpentry would be a wonderful way to suffer my way through life. I enrolled for dentistry at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and graduated in 1970 being awarded the Henry St John Randall gold medal for academic achievement and leadership. During my stint as a dental student, my love for community work was nurtured and has stayed with me till the present time. I was on the Student Dental Council as well as on the SRC and while on those committees instigated the establishment of the Riverlea Dental Clinic – a clinic to provide dentistry to indigents which still runs today.
Upon graduating, I had to decide between becoming rich in Johannesburg or being poor in Cape Town. Knowing that I would spend everything I earned, I felt that the less I earned, the less time I would have to worry about how to spend it. So Cape Town it was.
I established a practice which emphasized preventive dentistry at a time when that discipline was in its infancy. I also taught Preventive Dentistry at both Dental Schools in Cape Town. Those days, split between the schools and the ever-wailing call of my office staff, were very happy and fulfilling ones for me as I was able to satisfy both my love for teaching and caring, simultaneously.
I completed post graduate work over the years. I obtained a diploma in general dental practice from the Royal College of Surgeons and in special care dentistry as well as sedation and pain control from the University of Stellenbosch. I have also been very active in the affairs of the Dental community having served on the committees of the Dental Association of South Africa as well as Alpha Omega – an International service organization run by dentists. I have also devoted many years working for other service organizations which care for the many underprivileged communities around Cape Town.
The past 10 years has seen my interest in the field of alleviating the stress of the anxious patient blossom and I have become very involved in the teaching programmes for the post-graduate courses in sedation and pain control. In this regard I have been privileged to lecture extensively both locally and internationally.
I claim to have been most fortunate in that my work is my hobby and I love every moment spent crouching over the chair or behind a lecture podium. It has proved to have been a very happy choice of profession and one that I heartily endorse to anyone looking for fulfilment. I am married to my charming wife Jenny, an IT expert, who is a constant source of support and inspiration and we have 2 children Malcolm, who qualified as an accountant (the origin of those genes remain a mystery) and is a senior executive with a large Canadian Bank and Megan, who fulfilled her life’s ambition and became a dedicated teacher. She too lives in Toronto. And of course there are 4 grandchildren who would require a separate chapter in this discourse……
The course of my life has been guided by so many teachers from Miss Johnson in Sub A all the way through school and university where I was so privileged to have been taught and influenced by the most dedicated people imaginable. I hope that I have been able to pay some of that debt back to the community, the students I teach and, of course, my family.
I loved my years at Rondebosch Prep and High and was very lucky to grow up in Canigou Avenue. So I could spend many happy hours after school on RBHS sports fields. Mostly cricket and rugby and a bit of tennis and athletics (even found myself in a 1963 Athletics photo), but didn’t make it in the cadet student officer’s photo – as Lindsay Kennedy frequently reminds me.
Our teachers were legendary characters and some very good. Who can forget the likes of Nobby, Charlie, Jayes, Peanut Thwaites, Doc Watson, Buck Ryan, Tickey, Tinkie and Bob Martin.
Our 1963 Rugby Team ended up as a very good side – 2 of whom became Springboks, Roy McCallum and Derek van den Berg.
Derek and Lyn van den Berg, Mosa and John Le Roux
Derek van den Berg, my best friend, and I met up in Sub A and recently celebrated 60 years of friendship at the Prep school (see the attached photo with our wives).
Thanks to all my school mates for the happy times. I enjoyed every day I went to school. I greatly look forward to celebrating with you RBHS 50 years after leaving school.
Rugby for me was an unpleasant form of conscription, starting in 1959, and wasting 3 years of prime Saturday time. Being tall I was inescapably typecast as a lock, and condemned to the world of eye level mud and boots! 1960 was the worst year with a weather cycle of 15 Saturdays on which the North-Wester blew in and decanted many loads of icy rain. The route to our designated distant field of play lay past the self-importance of the A Rugby field with thick comfortable grass, drainage, change room, benches for onlookers, and moreover a supply of cheering onlookers, mostly female. The U19 team, well out of puberty, had all the benefits. We of the U14 C moved on past the cricket field, past the swimming pool, past the river, past the Hockey fields, past the Lower Desert fields, and up to the Upper Desert – rain-lashed, sandy composition, bleak home to 1,000s of moles and their tunnels to trip in, severe tufts of kikuyu grass, and loads of dog shit deposited by neigbouring dogs being taken for their evening walks. The conduct of the games included stumbling about in a loose maul, jumping, crawling, pausing for sliced oranges, and concluding in almost inevitable defeat. The low point of 1960 was defeat by 86-3 at the hands of Groote Schuur U15A. In 2 years of rugby I scored 3 points, a try which received little credit. But the event still has its place in unsung achievement. For once there was an over-supply of tall U14Cs, and I was assigned the unlikely job of winger. In due course the ball came via the classic route – line-out to scrum half to fly half to centre to centre – to me. I set off for the posts, the whole forward terrain quite deserted except for a small opposing full-back. I jigged left, he blocked right, I jigged right, he blocked left. I had no further ideas, and on the spot delivered what I now know is a Mauri Sidestep, later perfected by New Zealander, Jona Lomu, and went over the top.
Other positive rugby spin-offs were the rather nice togbags, and the rugby jerseys themselves, a strong cotton much better than the contemporary ones. And perhaps the macho clatter of boot studs in the swimming pool change rooms. I still watch the Tri-Nations games and some of the Super-16, and feel that true rugby is between South Africa and New Zealand, played in the rain.
Reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of our formal education at Rondebosch, for the record I did Latin, Afrikaans, Maths, Science, English (with emphasis on figures of speech in which…), and History (the Great Trek, causes of WW1). Little of core value in contemporary Australia. I suppose the science helped with the physics of lightbulb changing, and the maths helps with doing tax. The Latin and the Afrikaans have only occasionally been used. With flaws in the curriculum, it is hard to wax lyrical, but formal classes, especially C2, D1B, E1B core teaching went past fairly peacefully.
The good things
I really enjoyed the supplementary activities, such as darkening the hall for a day or several days of movies. Who organised them I do not know, but I am grateful, especially for the old Ealing Studio classics such as the Lavender Hill Mob, St Trinians, Kind Hearts and Coronets, and Sir John Hunt’s ascent of Everest. Development Week meant marching about in cadet regalia for some, for others, including myself, convening to give the library a make-over. Good grounding for my future role as a librarian.
Outings I enjoyed were the sporadic bus excursions to Kirstenbosch, and the annual turn-out for the Shakespeare of the year at Maynardville, including a 60-year old woman as Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.
Credits for specific teachers
Doc Watson provided extensive encouragement in exploring Table Mountain and the Western Cape Mountains, with trips to the Cedarberg, Du Toits Kloof, Piquetberg, and Koue Bokkeveld. This led to several people going on to join the Mountain Club of South Africa, and keep climbing as a life-long interest. He introduced several of us to rock-climbing, and it must be said his safety techniques were not what they should have been, and he died in a climbing accident.
Willem Diepeveen helped me at a personal level with sailing, in particular with advice restoring a vintage but very high speed International Racing Canoe, which went like a bullet when it wasn’t upside-down or swamped.
Willy Rollo encouraged me in keeping the chess club organised and functioning, from the rough days in Standard 6, when the 6 – 10 tables were in a classroom, open temptation for board-tipping oiks to invade, to the halcyon days in Standard 9 and 10 when we obtained lunchtime use of the Reading Room, and could play undisturbed, and also read back copies of Punch.
The army grabbed me in 1964, UCT from 1965, finishing with a degree in Social Anthropology. Work started with 3 years at the South African Museum and a project on Rock Paintings, which was totally wonderful, but not very well paid. Then followed projects in the Transkei, Namaqualand, and Namibia; marriage to Rina De Wet, and a year of teaching at South Peninsula High School.
Leaving South Africa
Although I had completed most military training in 1964, I had been avoiding my annual camps while finishing my degree, and by 1974 had become an annual 2 months, with no end-point. When South Africa invaded Angola via Namibia, I received notification that I had been made a sergeant, and I should make out a will, do the odd-jobs around the house, be on 6-hour stand-by. Instead I opted for Luxavia and London.
In London I did a library degree, Social Anthropology being in poor demand. Then 2 years working in London. Then moving to Australia, and job-hopping from Ballarat – and birth of son, to Canberra, to Melbourne. From about 1982 I switched to lone-wolf consulting in Information Services, specialising in CD-ROM publishing, document management, and big data bases. This extended to a general line in use of technology in courts, and evidence management in big cases.
My wife and I have done loads of travel, to India, Spain, New Zealand, Vanuatu, and USA, as well as Australia. We have done about 10 trips to South Africa, but to an itinerary which typically is 3 weeks: 1 with my parents, 1 with Rina’s sister, and 1 where we want to go, like the Cedarberg or Drakensberg.
Rondebosch Old Boys’ Union Life Membership at R12.00 in the good old days. (Photo courtesy of Alf Baguley)
My interests now are the same as when I was a boy – things practical, mechanics, the outdoors, nature and animals. All my spare time was spent away from confining walls. My most treasured possession was my bicycle which took me all over the Peninsula, often with my best friend Ferdi Fischer. Destinations such as Bains Kloof, Gordons Bay, Cape Point and Wellington were often visited in a day’s outing. School holidays were often spent happily in a vehicle workshop, earning some pocket money.
My stepfather was an academic who could spend days on end behind some books of figures, working out budgets, schedules and probabilities. We were both blind, bless his soul, as he has already passed away. He could not see my talents and interests, while I did not see his intended career for me when he insisted on my taking Latin as “it is so useful in a career such as Law or Medicine.” When he enrolled me at RBHS in 1961 it suited me fine as it was closer to our home in Kenilworth and I could cycle to school. You will already have guessed that school did not interest me at all. It was an unavoidable part of life which one had to endure to survive.
Career guidance was still in its infancy back then and my bottom-line for a job was that it had to be outdoors. Forestry, Land Surveying and Geology were the three offered alternatives. I chose the latter as it had the greatest adventure appeal. Walking around in nature looking for rich mineral deposits was just up my street; oh yes, and the 4 x4 at my disposal was also not to be overlooked!
I studied at UCT and went to do a three-month practical at the Tsumeb Copper Mine after the academic years. It started off well, with an excursion to locate iron ore for the smelter. Then came calamity. The economic down-turn put an end to all exploration and the only job remaining for geologists was underground mapping and ore sampling. Needless to say more, I bailed out of that career and turned to nature conservation. After three years’ practical training I was accepted in South West Africa where I learned to love the desert. Then followed eight exciting years of game capture during which time I managed to find a wife, Ursula, in the off-season. When my two daughters started asking me when I would come visiting again, it dawned on me that I had family responsibilities too. We moved back to the desert and stayed in nature with all its wildlife. In 1984 I lost my right hand while picking up refuse left in the Park by the SADF. The military was often negligent and several other people lost limbs due to the SADF’s irresponsible management of explosive devices.
After Independence life became increasingly political and another move was unavoidable. We moved further south, still in the desert, to a private game reserve. There we lived for close on seven years till retirement age came near. On my bucket list there was still one item not done and that was to build my own house. We purchased seven hectares of desert, some 12 kilometres outside Swakopmund, and I designed and built my own house with three helpers from the street. In October 2005 we moved into our own home and have been very happy there ever since.
I keep myself active with some tour guiding, some consultancy work and a large garden. To break away I have upgraded from the bicycle to a motorcycle!
Early morning prayers led by the imposing figure of Mr. Enslin, and on occasion Miss Cope leading the school to the hymn O Come All Ye Faithful on an ice cold winters day, the scholars in grey shorts and shivering while hoping that one’s name would not be called out for misbehaving.
The school feeding scheme’s milky cocoa steaming hot and with a thick skin floating on the surface (yug), the aroma of the tuck shop at break, the sweet smell of Bashew and Canada Dry cold drinks combined with that of clusters of Rowntrees Fruit Gums and scenties.
John Hill’s banana sandwiches, multi coloured Crayola crayons and Robert Hoets airomatic farts.
The janitor (never did find out his name) with bucket and mop hurrying past the sport ball room as he rushed to clean-up a scholar’s pink hurl in the assembly hall, more than likely having been caused by the vile feeding scheme milkshakes with just a touch of strawberry flavouring and a lot of skin in them.
Playing marbles in the playground, who can remember Ian Crawford’s 20 Goon Shy? Great excitement on school athletics day, and not to be forgotten school outings in double-decker buses, or better still being driven to the venue in Don Andrew’s mom’s dark blue Ford V8 and returning with packets of labels to swap from Groote Constantia winery.
And finally, teacher Sivvie Olivier picking his nose and flicking the contents at the unfortunate Norman van Zyl for incessant jabbering, while Olivier was trying to peruse the sport page of his newspaper, what a cheek, what a gentleman.
And as for the Percussion Band led by Nancy Watson-Morris, I was so sure I would end up being the new Mantovani of the era, however ended-up not conducting the band or playing the cymbals, but being a Triangle player with three strokes of the instrument being included in the band’s rendition of Lavender Blue.
Then there was also that place of mystery, the out of bounds Staff Room, here one could visualise Mr. Enslin as the Hugh Hefner of the era, with student teacher beauties such as the curvaceous Miss Yvonne Hartman, blonde Miss Anne Wingate and the saucy Miss Erica Chambers sipping tea together. By the way, who can remember Miss Chambers’ cute little powder blue Austin-Healey Frog-Eyed Sprite parked in the Prep School drive.
Other female teachers of note were the two screamers complete with canes Miss Cope and Miss Vickerstaff, boy oh boy, bachelor teachers Solly Robinson, Don Laidlaw and Fuzzy Florence must have had quite a time fighting these tigresses off at social events!
Early swimming lessons, marching in file down to the High School and the old swimming pool keeping fingers crossed that your costume was still in the towel. The cold dark green water with the odd frog swimming around held many a fear for the weary aquanaut, none more so than the two sturdy Loch Ness Monster look-a-like female swimming instructors who encouraged the bather to dive in on a chilly spring day (sometimes nude if you had forgotten your costume).
Finally the school play, after expecting to be acknowledged as the Clarke Gable of the stage, I am cast by effeminate teacher Mr. Davis as one of the girls who lived in a shoe complete with grease paint and ghastly wig, to make matters worse my family insisted that I show my outfit off to uncles and aunts prior to the play.
Upon leaving school I went into the motor trade, worked my way up and became a Dealer Principal with both Toyota and Opel franchises, this opened doors for me within motorsport circles resulting in competing in production car racing both locally and overseas, highlight being runner-up in the WP Championship. I have business interest with auto manufacturers Fiat and Lancia. Later I was asked by the SABC to do commentary on motorsport, while also writing a weekly column in a number of tabloids and magazines. Currently I am semi-retired and run my own Motoring Media Logistics company.
My first memory of Rondebosch goes back to my very first day in Standard One when Christopher Newell and I both arrived from Pinelands. At little break we shot out of our classroom, fleeing from the substantial presence of Miss Cope and her best friends, Little Sam……… and even more scary, Big Sam. (For those of you who were not in her class, those were her pet names for her 15 inch ruler and her feared cane, which she would often use to get her class into line before assembly.) Anyway, both Chris and I unfortunately made the mistake of running across the quadrangle and were intercepted by the formidable figure of the headmaster, Mr Enslin. He made us both stick our heads between his legs and gave us a hiding! Not a great start to a career at a new school! At that stage I couldn’t understand why my folks had made me leave my happy, little Pinelands Red School for this really nasty strict school!
A second memory was of Miss Baumann, our Standard 3 teacher. If she caught us talking in class, she would make us write our names 10 times on the blackboard. Well, being a talkative little chap, I was promptly told to write my name on the board. I did, but was told to write it again, this time bigger so that she could see it. I did as I was told, but this time made the letters enormous! She then told me to do it again and write it out 20 times instead of 10. By now I was ‘justifiably’ a little annoyed, so wrote my name in very, very tiny letters. Well, she had a sense of humour failure and sent me to see Mr Enslin, who promptly gave me four cuts for being cheeky to my teacher. He then asked how I’d feel if I was asked to leave Rondebosch and go back to Pinelands? Although at that moment it sounded like an excellent idea, I was a bit scared to say so in case he gave me an extra six cuts, and kept dead quiet instead. After those and other similar experiences I must admit I could never join in with the enthusiastic “Three cheers for Mr Enslin” at the end of each term!!
My first memory of High School was of some poor guy in our Standard 6 class asking one of our teachers, whose nickname was Mango, what exactly a mango was! Mango grabbed the offending pupil, yelled at full volume – “Open the door. Open the door!” and hurled the poor guy through the door. Nobody ever asked Mango that question again!
Then we will never forget Dudley Baartman who would nearly burst into tears before caning any of his Standard 6 pupils. He was a very gentle guy, wasn’t he? Of course boys were boys and could be very cruel indeed. Midway through our Standard 6 year our Latin teacher was replaced by a very old Latin teacher, whom we called Snowy. During class, David MacGahey would hurl a tennis ball at the blackboard when Snowy wasn’t looking. The ball would virtually explode against the board behind our dear old teacher, who would fall about from the noise. Shame, he ended up by saying to all of us, and I think he was correct, “You dirty dogs. You taunt an old man.” As expected, our Latin marks fell dramatically and I ended up switching to French the following year. If I knew how much homework Madame Alting-Mees was to give us, I might not have made the switch!!! She did tell me in Matric that my French accent was the worst she had ever heard!
One of the funniest incidents I ever saw concerned another Pinelands boy, Peter Loveland, and took place in the gymnasium, where the gym master was the notorious Mr Oberholzer, who we thought had to have been the founder the AWB and the SS. Well, he was a stickler for everyone having clean and ironed white gym shorts and beware any boy whose shorts were even the tiniest bit dirty. Peter’s were un-ironed and dirty, but he had the bright idea of scrunching up white chalk and sprinkling the white chalk dust over his shorts. To his relief he passed Oberholzer’s inspection. All went smoothly until he did something that irritated Oberholzer and got clouted. To Oberholzer’s amazement and the entire class’s amusement, he virtually got covered in a cloud of white dust. Peter’s cover had literally been blown and boy oh boy did Oberholzer let him have it. Shame for Peter, but bloody funny for the rest of us!
Charlie Hallack and I became great friends after school, but at one stage in Standard 9 he decided that the best place for me to attend his class, was from the passage. As he walked into the classroom he would yell “Lloyd out!” Obviously I was in no hurry to leave and was usually in the back desk and all the other rows of desks were lined up horizontally to prevent Charlie from getting to me at the back of the class. Ten minutes later, after fighting his way through the suitcases and desks blocking his path, he would finally get to me and chuck me out of the class. The problem with being in the passage for any length of time, was the worry of being spotted by Arthur Jayes, so I always had to keep an eye out for any person approaching. To amuse myself, I would put one of the school hats on a ruler and walk the hat up and down past the classroom window. Instantly everyone in the class would yell “Mr Hallack, Hat, Hat”. Charlie would then come flying out and chase me down the corridor. The only way he could get me to stop was by threatening to scream, which I thought was cheating, because he knew Mr Jayes would hear and come and investigate. So we would agree to go off to the prefects’ room, where he would end up on one side of the table and me on the other. After several minutes of negotiating, a truce would be declared and we’d both go back to the classroom, where Charlie would be met with a round of applause from everyone for sorting out “that swine”.
Who will ever forget the silent jack-ups where no one was allowed to utter a word, or the chanting of “Lobengula”, or the humming with our hands over our mouths so Charlie would not know from whom the sound was coming. And then Charlie plucking out Rufus, his faithful long ruler, stroking it, looking around the classroom deciding against whom he was going to launch his attack, to the banging of desk lids and shouts of “Kill, Kill” from the rest of the class. There are far too many stories of Charlie to tell and his exploits would fill a book that would put Spud to shame. To my mind, the best times were when he would tell us ‘in absolute confidence’ about his latest conversation with Sir De Villiers Graaff. It would go something like this: “Look. Don’t tell a soul, but Div told me in confidence about this swine…” Normally he’d be referring to B J Vorster or some other member of the Nats. We loved every minute of his classes.
As for my own activities after school. In 1964 the Navy was very pleased to welcome Richard Spring, myself and many others into its ranks?? All in all it was a very pleasant year. We were delighted that we weren’t one of those poor guys going off to the Army!
Thereafter I went off to UCT and ended up with a BSc in Math Stats. After a couple of years as a systems analyst/programmer I found myself at the Readers’ Digest doing all the analysis in their Marketing Dept. Seven years later I left them to form my own direct marketing company called “South African Historical Mint”. I’ll never forget my last meeting with my MD – he told me that I was crazy to go on my own, and that if I stuck around I could be the MD when I turned 40. As I was still in my twenties, that felt like a life-time away, so that was that. I was off on my own to see what I could do!
In those days one could buy only very limited amounts of gold, and Krugerrands were also strictly limited, so the first step was to get a gold licence to enable us to buy and sell gold (no easy task). This accomplished, we designed our first commemorative medallion, “The Independence of the Transkei”. This was limited to 5 000 units and we were fully subscribed within days. Amazingly, the selling price was R250 for an ounce of gold, which gave us a healthy margin. Today the basic cost of one ounce is over R15 000. Quite a change and not a bad investment for those first 5 000 buyers! The first promotion was followed by other successful ones. We then branched out into marketing jewellery through direct mail and among many of the pieces that were produced, was a replica of Princess Di’s engagement ring. Our simple philosophy was to take a relatively ordinary product and turn it into an extraordinary product by linking it to an event, such as a Royal wedding or anniversary or similar. In those days it was safe to send any items, even very expensive products, through the mail without any theft issues. We took over a competitive direct mail company, The Heritage Collection, which had branches both in the UK and South Africa.
By 1998 our business had grown substantially and we then listed on the JSE. We also took over The Readers’ Digest at that time and ended up with a staff complement of over 400 people. However in 2006, at the age of 60, and tired of the hassles of running a business, I decided it was time to venture into the unexplored territory of semi-retirement with the aim of lowering my golf handicap. This has proved to be a real handicap but, like Ernie, I am ever hopeful.
On the personal side, I married my beautiful wife, Anne some 36 years ago, and have two children. My daughter, Cindy, went to Stellenbosch University, obtaining her Masters in Applied Maths (Engineering). She then followed this with a CFA while working for an asset management company and is now happily married to a sheep and mohair farmer near Somerset East – I have 2 beautiful grandchildren. Graeme, my son, was awarded a basketball scholarship to a college in the USA, but returned after a year to pursue his music career. He is now finishing off his studies at a music college, creates and produces his own electronic music and still plays pretty good basketball.
Hindsight is always such an exact science and with that thought, my greatest wish is that some ‘magic elixir’ be found and fed to new students to enhance their desire to willingly absorb the absolute maximum potential out of their school years. Sure I coped, but the ultimate value of that vast sea of knowledge to which one had such free access, on which to develop a meaningful life and career to the optimum, remains largely unknown.
As regards work life I started as a medical technician, but no sooner qualified than I had the opportunity to study civil engineering at UCT, the subject pure mathematics had other ideas and after two finals and two supplementary exams if I did not see the writing on the wall the institution certainly did.
The rest of my productive years were spent in Local Government as a survey technician, eventually getting the higher national diploma and registering with the Survey Council as a Surveyor. My field survey days consisted to a large degree in the establishment of infrastructure of Atlantis.
The latter years in local government were spent behind a computer controlling the land use section. This involved having a team of field workers updating business names across the Metropole along with other community detail. This database served Council well, but in hindsight it would have been an extremely useful data set for the general public to have access to.
That having been said, the most prominent recollection of my schooling years was during a rather dour mathematics class (no names, no pack drill). The teacher involved was in the left front corner and an offending student was in the right back corner. The solution to the problem was for the board duster to be hurled, at pace, at the said student. Luckily, or unluckily depending on whose side you might have been on, the said student deflected the missile by lifting his desk lid and the projectile hit the ceiling apace.
The thought that crosses my mind quite regularly is that Rondebosch might have lost the services of a very capable and competent Headmaster had that set of circumstances taken a slightly different course.
How quickly time has flown since leaving school! The reminiscences of my schooldays at RBPS & RBHS have brought a smile to my face because I loved the social side of the experience so much. I was so grateful to live close to the school in Syfret Road, Rondebosch and to embrace the freedom that my bicycle gave me in exploring my environment without any apparent danger.
I am fortunate to be a descendant of some prominent Capetonians with the surname “Low”:
My great-grandfather, James Barrie Low, MA was born in Forfarshire, Scotland in 1845 and became Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Edinburgh University before coming to Stellenbosch in 1893 where he was the first Professor of Mathematics at Victoria College (Later Stellenbosch University). From 1894-1915 he was the Principal of the Cape Town Training College and, in retirement, became President of Convocation of UCT. His twin sons, James David (my grandfather) and Wallace Barrie Low, were the first of a long line of Lows descended from both brothers to attend the school.
My grandfather started a successful firm of Chartered Accountants & Auditors in Cape Town and was Mayor of Cape Town in 1947 when the Royal Family visited Cape Town.
His wife launched the ‘Cape Town Castle,’ one of the many ships of the Union-Castle line that sailed from Britain to South Africa in the 1950s and 1960s. They lived in a large Victorian home named ‘Belmont’ in Sandown Road and they had a daughter, Marjorie and 4 sons who attended Rondebosch:
Douglas Barrie Low (b1910), my Dad, who became a Chartered Accountant and Auditor with his father after sailing around the world on a schooner, the ‘Cap Pillar,’ prior to the war.
James David Low (b 1912) who went on to become Managing Director of ‘Markhams,’ the men’s clothing store chain.
Arthur Low (b 1914) also a Chartered Accountant and Auditor, went into partnership with my Dad.
Irvine Low (b 1916) who was a Civil Engineer, based in Vancouver, Canada from 1958 and was responsible for the construction of many dams in Canada.
I joined RBPS in 1951 in Sub A and completed my schooldays 12 years later in Standard 10 at RBHS.
Some enduring memories of junior school include:
Being a member of the ‘light blue badge,’ Marchand House.
Lining up in the quadrangle when the bell rang at the start of lessons and before entering the classroom.
Being compelled to sing the school song at regular intervals so that I still know all the words by heart today.
Taking part in the annual school plays presented in the Memorial Hall.
The harsh consequences of talking or misbehaving in Miss Cope’s class. A hard smack on the hands with a ruler would swiftly follow.
The ‘Bring and Buy Sales’ held at little break which inevitably ended in chaos as one jostled to view and purchase the best cookies, cakes, sweets, etc. before the mob arrived.
Participating in ‘Red Rover’ and the marble ‘Shy’ alley during little and big breaks.
The fun of the annual sports day, swimming, tennis, rugby and other unofficial sports such as bicycle races on ‘fairy-cycles’.
Going to the senior school as “pikkies” to play touch rugby and duck-dive in puddles if the rainy weather left any puddles.
Realising by the age of 8 that I had a good memory and could get away with doing very little school work and still get good grades. This mindset gave me lots of free time which would eventually catch up with me in High School.
Some enduring memories of high school include:
My first week spent writing aptitude tests that would decide one’s fate in respect of streaming to classes A1-A4. I ended up in A2. “Amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatis, amant”.
Woodwork, metalwork, and art as enjoyable fun subjects that don’t usually lead to a professional career.
Maths with Mousey Young, Tickey de Jager, and Chris Murison.
Taking German in B2 and C2 with the polite but deadly boring Herbie Helm.
Enjoying English lessons, winding up Billy Trengove who would try to stifle his giggles at the naughty boy’s comments.
Mr Diepeveen giving me a great simple definition of why one studied geography.”to understand why people live where they do on earth.”
Enjoying ‘playing’ with the instruments in the physics lab with ‘hawk-eye’ Arthur Jayes keeping his eye on those of us who had previously visited his or Mr Clarke’s office for cuts.
The fun of utilising chemistry lessons for the creation of products to liven up the bang factor in slow history lessons with Charlie Hallack.
Helping dig the drainage ditch on the sports-field.
Cadets, a pointless exercise in my view as one would have to eventually do National Service anyway.
The great times I had playing rugby, cricket, tennis, and swimming in the best school pool at that time.
Prof Tinkie Heyns coaching the Under 13 rugby team, being 60 years ahead of his time by emphasising the important principles of teamwork, fitness, tackling ankles, catching with two hands, running straight at opponents to create an overlap, and looking for expected support, as passing was quicker than trying to run around an opponent.
The weekend spent climbing Table Mountain and numerous other outings to see important, historical and unusual sights and places.
Attending movies on a Saturday night in the Memorial Hall.
The motivational speech from the 2nd World War RAF Spitfire pilot Douglas Bader who wrote the book “Reach for the Sky,” which ties in perfectly with our motto, “Altius et Latius.”
Chatting up Rustenburg and other schoolgirls who lived in the suburb of Rondebosch.
I can honestly say that my years at Rondebosch, together with my parents’ influence laid the social and moral foundations for the success which I have subsequently had in my academic, work, and social life. What a privilege.
Post school education and work:
On leaving RBHS I was drafted into the South African Infantry Battalion “1SAI”, completing basic training at Oudtshoorn and specialised in Radio Communications. I was later posted to the Walvis Bay Battalion in the Namib Desert and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Upon discharge, I dipped into the world of work, selling food products for Epping Oil Mills and then Janor Fibreglass; designed, built, and tested surf boards during a beach-bum year and then joined the Local Government Department of the Cape Provincial Administration (CPA). After about six months of routine clerical administrative work I decided to apply to read BCom at UCT in 1969 with the objective of eventually joining my Dad in his Accountancy Practice. After 2 months I changed to a BA, BSoc.Sci degree, majoring in sociology, psychology and economics.
After graduating in 1972, I returned to the CPA in the Town Planning Department for 1 year before deciding to give up an ambition to do a Master of Urban & Regional Planning degree because I had noted that the best theoretical plans were corrupted politically prior to approval by the Provincial Council.
I turned my frustration with Bureaucracy in the CPA to Management, Systems Analysis and Organisation, and Work Study under the leadership of RBHS Old Boy, Ronnie Delport. The O&W Division was responsible for creating an Efficient, Effective, Economic and Productive CPA. I embraced the Organisation Development movement during the !970s and for the next two years I attended numerous courses and qualified as an Organisation, Process, Methods & Systems Analyst. I however still found that no matter how well one implemented new work practices, many failed because personnel were inadequately trained and managed.
In 1982 I decided to study part-time toward an M Admin degree though UNISA, specialising in Personnel Psychology and Organisation Development. In the interim to obtaining my degree in 1986, I created a Management Training & Development Division for the CPA.
In 1989 at the height of political tension in the RSA my wife and I decided to relocate to England.
I joined the British National Health Service (NHS) Management Executive in London as Director of Management Development & Training with additional responsibility for Performance Management and Total Quality Management. The NHS employs over 120 000 people in the UK.
In 1995 I retired having created a business based infrastructure for a public institution.
My wife and I really enjoy our retirement in our home in Sandhurst, Gloucester, taking time out for sight-seeing travels in the UK, Europe and the rest of the world.
I married Gail Collins, an interior design consultant, on 25/2/1977 and we spent 3 months honeymoon back-packing through the countries of Europe. Her family live in Gloucester, England.
Over the next 6 years we had 4 children, two of whom attended RBPS.
Francois Telfer Low (b 3/1/1980) RBPS and B.Sc. from Gloucester University. He worked as a teacher at Deans Close School, Cheltenham before joining the Siemens Wind Turbine Division.
James Douglas Low (b 2/11/1981) RBPS and BA (Hons) in Business from Durham University. He is a Detective Inspector with the London Metropolitan Police.
Andrew Michael Low (b 12/9/1983) admitted to but never attended RBPS. MA (Hons) in Theoretical Physics from Durham University and PhD in Theoretical Physics (String Theory) from London University (St. Mary’s College). He is Head of Physics at Wimbledon High School, an independant grammar school in London where the fees per term are £4668.
Amy Antoinette Low (b 3/12/1986) BSc. Hons. in Communication & Media from Loughborogh University.
I look forward to the final copy of this historical family keepsake.
An autographed photo of a youthful MrBilly Trengove (age 35) given to Alf Baguley after the production of Crichton in 1962. (Photo courtesy of Alfred Baguley)
My journey to RBPS started out with a 5 day train journey from Ndola Northern Rhodesia to Cape Town. The school train was notorious with scholars from all parts of the Copper Belt going to schools in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa. Johann Coetzee was the first RBHS prefect I met on the train and along with other Rondebosch boarders were the Penstone brothers Patrick, Martin, Nicky and Simon also John Kilburn, Eric Thompson, and my brother Ian. After two and a half days we arrived in Bulawayo having passed over the Victoria Falls Bridge the day before and spending a few hours in Livingstone and the Vic Falls Hotel where we always had our traditional fried egg and bacon sandwich while we waited for our coal-driven steam engines to be changed. In Bulawayo we picked up the Southern Rhodesian boarders Russell and Angus McTavish as well as Neil, Owen and Mickey Fletcher, Zot, Nigel and Clive (Tex) and Bruce Myles and Richard Dryden. For a shilling and six pence you could have a hot bath at the station with a gigantic towel thrown in which was a great novelty that was used more frequently in my latter years. The Kingfisher Café was a regular haunt for a mixed grill and milk shake for only 7 shillings and 6 pence. Our journey then continued south reaching Francis Town in the late afternoon where we picked up Jimmy and Bryan McDermott. I remember them being bundled into their compartment by this burly policeman who turned out to be their father. Jockey Freeman was the last Rondebosch boy to pick up the train at Palape much later that same night so we did not get to see him till the next day. Jockey (Hilton) went on to marry Nobby’s daughter Lynne Clarke. What happened on that train might need to stay on that train but the memories I have were spectacular. We arrived in Cape Town midday Tuesday having left Ndola on the Friday afternoon.
Once arriving at school I was lucky to have Ian familiarize me with Mason House and hand me over to Dr Tinkie Heyns our house master. Bob Martin and his wife were the so called House Parents at that time. I was ushered to dorm 2 where I met my first room mates Geoff Duckitt, Fred Versveld and Sakkie De Villiers. Life as a boarder was starting to look good until after study that night Geoff, Sakkie, Fred and I were called to Tinkie’s room where we each got 3 cuts with a strap because we all had brothers as boarders and this was the tradition at Mason House. After being introduced to the strap, the light cane and the heavy cane the mighty Dr I de V. Heyns was to become an integral part of our lives as boarders.
My first day at RBPS was quite overwhelming as Mr Enslin looked rather frightening with a big head and bushy eyebrows. Someone I did not want to see for any other reason other than a good one. Mrs Roper, Solly Robinson and Mr Laidlaw were three teachers that left an impression on me although Solly’s one was on my butt! The first break we had I was accosted by this big guy Lindsay Kennedy who kept calling out “kitty’s wee” because I came from Kitwe. Lindsay matured physically very young, but most of us caught up before leaving school. Fortunately I was in Fletcher House so there was some respect between us. Fred Versveld bummed a sandwich from Trevor Blewett for me which was my first offering from a day boy. As a boarder one became reliant on certain day boys for your food sauce. Thanks to all my sandwich vendors whose mothers might not have realised how happy they made me. The first day boys I befriended were Sandy Marr and Roydon Wood whom I spent a number of Sunday outings with in Kenilworth and Newlands. Roydon and his family had a cottage in Gordons Bay where we had much fun. His sister Ceile was my first heart throb although I did fancy Miss Hartman along with the rest of the Prep school boys. I remember Fuzzy Florence a Mason House Master giving me a letter to deliver to Miss Hartman by hand but when I saw the letters SWANK written on the back I dropped the letter in the letter box on Campground Road (without a stamp).
Boxing night was organised by Mr Laidlaw and the build-up to this fight was quite something. Sandy Marr and Lindsay Kennedy were the two local heavy weights to go head to head in the main bout of the evening to see who would be the schools boxing champ. It was an amazing slug out from two guys who refused to back down. I think Lindsay won in the end and I am sure it was the last boxing match they had at the Prep school. Although there was a lot of competitiveness in the sporting arena amongst our same age group friendships became sealed. Lindsay, Derek van den Berg, Geoff Duckitt, John Le Roux, Fred Versveld and Sakkie have been mates since 1958 and there is always a good bond when we get together.
Along came High School when we got sorted out from the bright boys in A1 to those a little slower or streetwise in A4. Mr Baartman was our arithmetic master and had us all introduce ourselves to the rest of the class. Whitey Basson was hilarious when it came to his turn and the whole class erupted. Whitey had a heavy Malmesbury brey and being a bit shy quietly answered “my name is Wellwood Basson”. No one had heard of this name before and Barty asked him to spell it. Then Whitey raised his voice and said “W, E, double L, W, double O, D, Wellwood.” You can imagine the raucous he caused. Whitey always had the highest marks in arithmetic that year (now you know why he does his sums right for Shoprite).
Sivvie Olivier was another character who would pick his dried nasal mucous and methodically roll it into a little pellet and flick it at one of his victims. Mr van Oordt was another teacher who I could not believe could be so badly abused. One day we set up the cord from the ventilation window above the door to drop over his head as he opened the door. The execution was so perfect we almost decapitated him thank goodness he was tall and happened to stay on his feet. Mango was his nickname as his head resembled a mango pip. We had been prepped by the previous classes to ask him what a taxidermist was? Some of you might remember his answer – all you want me to say is STUFF – F —P—S kak you are all bleddy rude and now get out of my class whoever asked that question. We couldn’t wait to get into std 7 or the “B” classes so we could have Charlie to teach us History. Mr Hallack was an amazing legend of RBHS and although we were completely out of line in the classroom both John le Roux and Lindsay Kennnedy were instrumental in inviting Charlie to a number of our dinner functions where we got to see a different person whom we enjoyed and respected. The Fluffy Furman camera episode and Peter Baker tie cutting incident remain the two classics of my time with Mr Hallack.
I think Nobby and Jayes were a good head and vice head and complemented each other well. Tickey de Jager was a maths boffin of note whose classes I enjoyed because he related to rugby stories, athletic champions, great tennis players, and their strategies of winning. Sadly I never learned much maths from Tickey, but he was a great athletic and rugby coach who could motivate anyone who wanted to succeed.
Mr Diepeveen got me through geography in matric as did Mr Viljoen in Chemistry and Physics. Mr Goldie was also a star in helping me through Afrikaans.
I remember Mr Trengove standing in front of Trevor Klette’s desk reading something out of our set work book when Trevor dislodged a horrific silent fart. Mr Trengrove staggered back trying to avoid the odour not knowing where it came from when Trevor announced “Sir that was for the benefit of the deaf”.
Friendships that were made in the classroom were also bonded on the rugby fields, cricket games, swimming galas, and athletics field. Standard 9 and 10 seemed to gain momentum as we started to focus on wanting to get out of school and before long suddenly matric exams were on us and it was time to see that everything you had prepared for was going to appear on that exam paper or not.
Being a boarder was a big plus for me as I had the best of both worlds, I had my special mates as day boys as well as my boarding house buddies. I remember Gavin Birch coming to pick me up on his tandem cycle at 2 am from Mason House and we would ride around Rondebosch for a couple of hours and then he would drop me off again. Gavin was staying with the late Dr Phillip Blaiberg family (second heart transplant patient) who lived just off Tullyallen Road.
Sakkie de Villers and I had a close shave when we bunked out of the boarding house one night only to miss the last train from Cape Town where we were meeting Charles Louw, Chris Starke, and Anthony Malherbe at The Navigators Den. We got back to the hostel unnoticed but some of our poor mates got caught and were sadly dismissed from Canigou. How lucky were we?
I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to be schooled at Rondebosch, and how lucky we are to have Lindsay keeping us all in touch.
The Admirable Crichton Alfred Baguley and Carol Martin (Evan’s daughter)sharing an intimate moment. (Photo courtesy of Alf Baguley)
An incident I remember vividly, involved the J.J. Du Preez Afrikaans school we were playing against. They had a guy bowling huge in-swingers into the South-Easter, who, with Neil Kritzinger’s assistance sent most of us back to the hut, as it were. What Hawk Eye of Namibia failed to point out is that the ball that dismissed me (or, better stated, the one off which he gave me out LBW) would have missed another set of stumps. Obviously his leg spinning, net bowling brain had no comprehension of the dynamics of where a big in-swinger, hitting one on the front foot playing forward, would actually end up in the 6 feet or so it still had to travel before reaching the level of the wickets. Another fact he has omitted is that he gave about 4 of us out in a similar manner before being unceremoniously hauled off by Peanuts. I might well have been the last of these. I also recall that he was referred to as a “bloody mampara” a favoured epithet of Peanuts, if I remember correctly.
This is not my worst cricketing memory from school however. That would be reserved for the day that John Le Roux hit me for 6 consecutive fours in one over during a house match between Canigou and Marchand.
As an aside, about 3 or 4 years after leaving school I played in a game for Stellenbosch University 4th’s against a WPCC side that included the very same Steytler Thwaites in the old 2C league. In this match I got the best bowling figures of my life. Much to my delight this included the wicket of Peanuts. I came off the field rather pleased with myself, expecting some congratulations from my old teacher, only to be told that he thought I was a “chucker.” In cricketing circles that is a lot worse than being called a “bloody mampara”!
I do not remember Neil’s first recollection about Tickey de Jager catching me reading a book during prep one night at the Lilacs. I have no doubt that this is true however. I was known as a “dwalie” (does that word still exist?) at school and, if the truth be told, nothing much has changed over the years. This was the source of my nickname at school. Early on in our first year at Mason House, Anthony Hoenson remarked that I needed a “dwalie” pill to cure me. So, “dwalie pill” I became. This was duly shortened to “Pill” after a couple of weeks and I carried this unfortunate sobriquet with me right through school.
One of my clearest memories of The Lilacs is the Saturday that Tickey caught virtually the whole House smoking in the shed adjacent to the famous swing. He opened the door, said “Oh, so that’s what you boys do here” and invited us up to his office to discuss the matter. There he gave us the option of being caned by him or having the matter handled by Nobby Clarke. We opted for the former with some alacrity and then as a group volunteered the information that “Fletcher (Owen) and Niehaus (Jake) weren’t smoking Sir.” This was accepted without question because he knew we were telling the truth and they escaped the punishment that followed. That was the way things were back then.
Dr Heyns (U15C) Back: Richard Frantz, Chris Matchett, GC Botha, Alex Cohen, Clive Downton Center: C Latham, Owen Fletcher, Bruce Ferguson, Andrew Joubert, JAM Garisch, Fred Versveld Front: MJ Russell, John Barry, Dr Tinkie Heyns, Hugh Hodge, Neil Tuchten
Not considering myself much of a raconteur on classroom antics and personalities, my offering below is a potted history interspersed with recollections of school, its influences and times.
Born in Sea Point, I actually started school at Sea Point Boys’ Junior. With the post war influx of immigrants to the suburb, many of them economic refugees from war torn Europe, the ever increasing demand for accommodation resulted in large scale re-development of once long established, ample, family homes along the beachfront and behind, even along the Main Road, where we lived at the time. This rapidly changing landscape of buildings and population prompted my parents into a decision, that it was no longer an ideal place to raise children.
Father was a Rondebosch Old Boy, having been sent from Knysna to the school as a boarder, accommodated at the time in Ivydene, a large family dwelling, off Glebe Road. In those early days, the High School was a short walk across the park, to where the Prep now stands. Dad had played first team rugby and been a prefect in matric and wanted his sons to complete their education at his old school.
So, in 1952 aged 5, just months after personally witnessing the arrival on the 6th April in Granger Bay, on a replica of the Drommedaris, the re-enactment of the landing of Jan van Riebeeck and his party in 1652, this marking the start of the Van Riebeeck Festival (I wonder how many readers remember these events?), the family made their new home in Rondebosch.
After completing Sub A and a little of Sub B in Sea Point, the late Mr Enslin took pity on this tiny mite who, with my Dad and big brother commuted daily, leaving in the pitch dark and often heavy rain during winter, on foot to the railway station, by train into town, by bus to Sea Point, then back again every school day. I still remember vividly my first meeting and interview in his office off the main entrance foyer, now the Headmaster’s secretary’s office, with rather intimidating but kindly Mr Enslin who, although we were informed the class was full, made a plan and accepted me into RBPS.
Growing up in the neighbourhood of Locarno and Tullyallen Roads, just off Oakhurst Avenue, where the family settled was idyllic. In virtually every surrounding home were children of a similar age. Immediate neighbours included surnames such as Crisp, Castle, McDonald, Walker, Steyn, Coleman, Theron, Lehr. A little further away were other familiar Rondebosch School names, Ashley, Klette, Mills, Roberts, Schrire, Clark, Douglas, Kipps, Honikman, Low, to name a few.
Memories abound of those times, growing up together, playing on the school grounds, kicking a rugby ball or playing pickup games on Oakhurst field, or in the cricket nets and on the tennis courts over weekends, or during school holidays in summer. Then there were the regular opportunities to swim during “freeo” as it was known, always under the supervision of a teacher or housemaster. I remember well the antiquated old swimming pool behind the Sick Bay, near Mason House with its corrugated iron fence and change rooms, situated on the natural earth platform above Oakhurst field and its flooding of the entire field that occurred whenever the pool was drained, those being the days, I suspect, before sophisticated filtration plant and equipment. That all changed with the construction of the magnificent new swimming pool, change rooms and plant room in the mid fifties, something we watched excitedly while being built.
With my change of school, instead of the tedious daily trek back and forth to school many miles away, the short walk up and down Oakhurst Avenue past the girls’ school, to and from the Prep, had become a pleasure. Often passing me on the way, I can still picture seeing the late Tinkie Heyns, dressed in his flannels and sports jacket, usually running, hurrying from or back to Varsity around lunchtime, to enjoy his daily meal at the boarding house. I suppose he found running uphill easier than peddling, because I never saw him on a bicycle, unlike the late Tickey de Jager.
Life at the Prep School was mostly happy under the instruction and guidance of fine, committed, teachers to whom we owe so much for our early education and ability to flourish in High School, Miss Castley, Miss Trow, Mr Holmes, Mr Laidlaw, to name a few. Lingering memories of this period are the informal games before school and during breaks, playing marbles, spinning tops, miniature cricket and pick-up games of soccer on the dusty playground behind the school hall, tennisette, the tennis court and the Lilacs, still being used as a boarding house then and the sportsfield below, with the footpath skirting it, providing short and easy access through the sturdy teak gate to and from the railway station. With ongoing development over the years, although much remains the same, those of us who return to the Prep for assembly on the 15th March will see that much has also changed.
Other more entertaining memories of this period are the many class outings enjoyed with those mothers who didn’t work and who owned cars, providing the transport (yes, not everyone owned a car in those days). Who remembers the outing that ended on a hot day at Jonkershoek, outside Stellenbosch, with most if not all stripping naked and frolicking in the river, unconcerned about amused onlooking mothers and lady teachers? Others memories are of breathtaking fireworks displays on the A rugby field at the high school and for me one of the more enduring, the wonderful celebratory diamond jubilee fete in 1957, with brilliant amusements and acts by senior boys Keith Anderson and Tommy Keyser on a tightrope they erected, suspended over the new swimming pool. Another in particular that captured my imagination, was the scary Tunnel of Horrors authentically created in the below stage storage area under the Memorial Hall.
I also remember that period as being a flowering of remarkable schoolboy artistic talent with names such as Roy Sargeant, Keith Anderson, who went on to make his mark internationally in the circus world, who with Frank Spiers produced wonderful stage sets and mural decorations for matric dances in the tuck shop under the hall.
For me, 1958 was a high point, yet sad ending to time spent at the Prep. I had been made a prefect and enjoyed being taught by class teacher and Vice Principal, Mr Sephton, remembering well our classroom (today the staff room….more about that later) with its impressive bay window, a prominent feature over the school’s main entrance. Junior school life ended for us all with the last week spent replanting Oakhurst playing field, one that had become a sandy patch from overuse and probably too many episodes of flooding from the old pool. All will remember the enormous task, most successfully undertaken by our class, removing the remaining old grass, digging neat furrows and planting new runners, an effort completed easily within the week and gathering much praise from teachers.
The somewhat daunting prospect of suddenly being the junior boys in High School, after confidently being the “big fish” or seniors at the Prep, was soon overtaken by the increased schoolwork load and expectations of us, I recall. After two years of Latin as a subject, something I came to appreciate in later years but not at the time, impressed by the high standard of handwork produced there, I decided to switch to Woodwork. Under the instruction and guidance of the late Jack Love, I discovered an aptitude I hadn’t realised before and flourished, catching up two years work in one and passing it well at the end of Std 8. In particular I enjoyed the technical drawing, something I didn’t realise then, but would stand me in good stead later in life.
I found Jack Love an inspirational teacher, very dedicated and extremely knowledgeable. His vocation was also his passion and hobby, something I discovered while keeping him company on many afternoons after school while he worked away on the prize model of his proud acquisitions for the school, his three Myford lathes, in the impressive Metalwork Room he was responsible for having built and equipping. Little wonder the School’s Wood and Metalwork Departments were the envy of other schools during his time at Rondebosch. Also, little surprise he was rewarded by being appointed an Inspector of Schools, something that deprived his pupils and the school of this fine educator and man, during our year in Std 9.
The finely detailed scale model working steam railway engines Jack built from scratch were really something to see. I’m not sure of the exact year, or of all details, but recall him losing his life years later when he died tragically in a motor accident on the N1 near Laingsburg, while returning to Cape Town transporting model engines.
On the 2nd January 1964, hardly having had any holiday or time to celebrate passing matric, I found myself in the Navy, a CF conscript assigned to the then recently commissioned, brand new shore training establishment, SAS Simonsberg, in the West Dockyard at Simonstown. In quick succession, basic training, followed by leadership training, with variety added by representing the Ship in sailing and pulling regattas, also the Ship and Navy in athletics, then appointed a junior instructor for the next intake of conscripts in April. After completion of their basic training, off I went to the ships and to sea. Fortunate to be drafted to the latest addition to the fleet, SAS President Steyn, a brand new frigate that arrived from the UK in late 1963 I, together with other recruits from our intake, were the first to replace any of that ship’s original commissioning complement. The ship’s company was well trained and drilled, making the ship a formidable fighting unit, also Cock of the Fleet at the time. So it was that serving aboard was a privilege and wonderful proud experience, at the time when arguably the SA Navy was at its peak.
Pres. Steyn was commanded by Capt John Fairbairn, whose daughter Tessa, some classmates may know, became Headmistress of St Cyprians, a post she held for many years. Someone else, all will remember, someone with whom I served onboard was Bertie Reed, then still a relatively junior NCO, someone I recall whom at that point hadn’t sailed much. As we know, subsequently Bertie excelled in that sport and became a legendary international yachtsman.
Active service aboard Pres. Steyn included plenty of sea time, in particular participating in the last of what were known as Capex exercises, until then an annual event exercising with and against ships from the British Royal Navy. These joint exercises in terms of the Simonstown Agreement of 1955 were suspended unilaterally by Britain post 1964, because of mounting international pressure against the SA Government.
Sad as I was at the time, nine months later, to complete continuous training, as it was known, nevertheless I continued active participation in the Navy for altogether 18 years, on a non-continuous basis at SAS Unitie, as a member of the Naval Reserve. Today, the present Government with its systematic de-commissioning of all Reserve training bases and units has brought all that training and accumulated experience and proud tradition to an end.
Late 1964 saw me follow in my Dad’s footsteps into the banking world. After experience in various aspects of banking, the last of which was in property, an interest in the design of buildings and the creative seeds that Jack Love had sown, began to germinate. However, had I not devoted as much time to drawing, athletics training, and other pursuits, I would probably have achieved a better matric maths pass mark. Now anxious to correct that, I approached the High School’s ever-patient maths master Geoff Ilsley for personal tuition. So, something like 8 years after matriculating, I found myself rewriting another maths paper in the very same E classroom, where I had written it previously in 1963. The motivation for this was to improve my mark to qualify for admission to study architecture. This I did, beginning as a student, in residence, at what was then UPE in Port Elizabeth, eventually transferring to UCT, where I graduated.
Meanwhile, in my mid 20’s while preparing to study further, I met Pam Hare. Pam was a beautiful mother of four children, recently widowed in tragic circumstances, with whom there was an immediate mutual attraction. Although the timing of our meeting was not ideal, 40 years later this year we are still together. Unfortunately, I was destined not to have children of my own.
At the time of my graduation, the economy was in recession and positions difficult to find so, for some years I operated on my own. At some point, the increase in computerisation made it clear I needed to follow suit. Where to begin was the question. Yet again, RBPS was to play a role in my education. Offered by computer teacher Warren Sparrow, adult computer literacy classes were being taught in his computer lab at the Prep. Without doubt, one could say my journey into computers started on a day to remember. We had just completed the first session and were taking a tea break. Sitting in my old Std 5 classroom, now the new staff room, Warren’s cellphone rang. The caller was his wife to say she had just heard the news of an aircraft colliding with one of the towers at the World Trade Centre in NY. The date was the 11th September 2001…the day the world changed. We continued with the lesson, only to discover later the full impact and significance of the event.
Having only just learnt the basics, further study was needed to understand, master and apply the available technology, so I followed up with a part-time course at CPUT (previously Cape Tech). Now suitably equipped, the question was whether to acquire, at huge cost, the hard and software needed to operate effectively or to join an office already equipped. Just then an opportunity arose and I joined the firm of R&L Architects whose senior partner, Douglas Roberts, started the practice, coincidentally, in 1964.
Ours is one of the larger practices in Cape Town. Past projects include several prominent buildings in the city, Metropolitan Life Centre opposite the CTICC, Woolworths Head Office, 35 Wale Street, to name a few. Lucky to have big corporate clients, we operate nationally, also internationally. Our current focus includes shopping centres, distribution centres, industrial and residential complexes, but occasionally also individual private residences.
Two recent large projects of note have been our 2010 World Cup soccer stadium in Mbombela (Nelspruit) and our association with KMH Architects on the new Cape Town International Airport. R&L Architects is well represented by RBHS Old Boys, two others being John During and Bruce Levin.
As for the present, four and a half months ago I suffered a slight stroke, but a stroke nevertheless, just six days before flying to the US to visit family. Fortunately, I received medical approval to make the journey, something that proved to be a good rehabilitation exercise, even though it curtailed some of our activities and full enjoyment of the trip. Today I am grateful and lucky to have recovered almost completely and hope to enjoy many more productive years.
Richard, Rich, Dick, Tuffrey… during my schooling years, which are better remembered for my sporting achievements than my academic ones, I was known by my peers as ‘Dick’. Later, during my cricketing career, my team-mates referred to me as ‘Tuffrey’, one of my middle names. This was discovered during a Currie Cup trip to Rhodesia when one of my team mates got hold of my passport and revealed that my middle name was ‘Tuffrey’. My family and friends call me Richard, Rich or Rich-man………I answer to them all!
I attended Rondebosch Boys’ Prep and High Schools and should have completed my matric year in 1963 (I skipped sub B). However, I had to repeat Standard Nine, which meant I only finished school in 1964, thus having the benefit of being included in both year’s celebrations. Had I not repeated that year, I would only have qualified to play U16 in my final year at school and would have been denied the opportunity and privilege of playing first team rugby for this amazing school.
You may find it amusing to know that the reason for my skipping Sub B, was because one of the kindergarten teachers, Miss Ferguson, thought I was a potential genius – due to the fact that I had played darts with older siblings from the tender age of four and as a result was able to do multiple adding and subtractions far beyond the ability of any of my peers!
Clearly, she had made a mistake and it was the end of my academic achievements – Sub A was the last standard that I passed with flying colours!! However my later sporting successes went some way to compensate for this ‘minor’ academic set-back. I was fortunate enough to play both 1st team cricket and rugby for our school and was privileged to captain them both.
My cricketing career blossomed under the guidance of Steytler Thwaites, the master-in-charge of cricket who himself had represented WP. He believed strongly in discipline and doing things the right way i.e. “God dammit man, see that your boots and pads are clean and your laces correctly tied!”
Whilst the masters had a great influence on my game, perhaps my real passion was nurtured during the many, many hours, (days, weeks and months) spent playing cricket with John le Roux and Chris Mundy in the back yard of John’s parents’ house in Canigou Ave. John would often make sure that he arrived home before we got there in order to water the ‘wicket’ and make conditions more challenging for the batsman! Great to see that Chris is planning to attend the reunion!
Perhaps this early enthusiasm and dedicated practising led to my selection for WP Nuffield and SA Schools for 3 years. Thereafter, for the next 11 years I was fortunate enough to be selected to play cricket for WP during South Africa’s isolation period along with some of South Africa’s cricketing greats. What a fantastic era that was!
After retirement from 1st class cricket my interest and involvement in the game continued as a cricket selector for WP. Later I became Convenor of Selectors and was a member of the WP Cricket Executive Committee until 1994.
Whilst cricket was the sport that I pursued after school, my happiest memories and proudest moments were achieved on the rugby field at Rondebosch. They started at U13 with the late Prof Tinkie Heyns and culminated with my captaincy of the unbeaten Rondebosch 1st XV in 1964 under the guidance of Tickey de Jager. The winning culture started with Tinkie Heyns offering the team a challenge – a choice between cream buns for winning or cuts for losing! Needless to say the challenge was accepted and we were fortunate enough to win virtually all our matches as cream buns were definitely the better option! My ‘slim-line’ figure of today is testimony to the amount of matches won and the high quality of the cream buns!
The winning culture had been born and continued its positive path right through to 1964. Part of that winning culture can be attributed to the time and effort spent with Tickey De Jager in coaching, teaching and practising the art of successful goal kicking and the mathematical angles associated with it. For instance, one of his disciplines was to make us practise conversions a metre from the corner of the try and touch lines – virtually a zero degree angle. He maintained that if you could get anywhere close to converting from this position, everything else would be relatively simple.
Apart from successes against our traditional rivals Bishops, SACS and Wynberg, there are 3 matches in particular which stand out in my memory. Firstly, comfortably defeating Grey Bloem who had long been considered one of the best rugby playing schools in the country. Secondly, the victory towards the end of the season against DF Malan (also unbeaten at that point). The match attracted massive interest, both from within the school and amongst the local communities. This was the season-ending showdown and winning was everything! But perhaps the match I most vividly remember was against Paarl Boys’ High in Paarl. With just a few minutes remaining and trailing 8-3, we managed to score a try (worth 3 points). I was the kicker and the conversion would’ve drawn the match – but I missed the reasonably easy kick. The score was now 8–6… with only 30 seconds remaining before the final whistle. They kicked off and after virtually our whole team had handled the ball, we managed to score a try in the far corner! If my memory serves me correctly, it was scored by Athol McLean, resulting in a famous victory snatched from the ‘jaws of death’. The final score was 9-8 to Rondebosch!
This victory epitomises our team spirit and the winning Rondebosch culture that had developed over those years – what a privilege and honour it was to have been part of.
Our family has had strong ties with Rondebosch over the years, starting with my two older brothers Vine E54 and John E57 (both sadly now deceased), my two sons Robbie E98 and Matthew E04 and my two nephews Andrew and Bruce Lawley (Andrew sadly died in a car accident in1992).
Both Robbie and Matt had a wonderful school experience at Rondebosch which has continued into their adult lives where long-lasting friendships are still intact. They both participated successfully in cricket, rugby and water-polo. Robbie now serves on the Rondebosch Old Boy’s Union Committee and helps to arrange the sporting events for Old Boys’ Day. Their love and support for Rondebosch continues from year to year.
Since leaving school I have been involved in printing, advertising and signage businesses. At the start of my working career I worked for Creda Press which was owned by the inspirational and unique Rondebosch Old Boy, Dennis Nick. He inspires one to be a better person and to follow your dreams – what a fabulous grounding he gave me!
I was then offered a position with an advertising agency as Account Director handling the Gilbey’s account and ended up as Managing Director of Barker McCormac until the company was sold to O & M.
For the last 10 years I’ve been employed as Manager of Sign-A-Rama Claremont which is a franchise owned by Mike van Zyl, whose three sons all attended Rondebosch too.
I’ve been happily married to my wife Nici for the last 33 years and apart from our two sons Robbie and Matt who live in Cape Town, we have a gorgeous daughter, Kelly, who is married to Herman. They are currently living in Houston, Texas and have just produced our first granddaughter – Ayla Grace, who was born on 24-1-2013.
I’m looking forward to the E63 50th Reunion Celebrations and in particular to meeting some long-lost classmates and reminiscing about the good ‘ol days!
Old Boy’s Luncheon (Picture courtesy of Donald Andrew)
I experienced the dichotomy of 2 worlds with a change of school from Sea Point to Rondebosch – from a sun and surf environment to one that exuded a more serious but also sport-loving atmosphere.
The facilities, the willing and helpful staff were there, the camaraderie was there – a little input on behalf of an individual was all that was required to make a success of and have an enjoyable school career at Rondebosch, which I did have. But I must admit to times when I lapsed into the mode the Italians call, ‘dolce far niente’ – pleasant idleness!
I remain grateful for the morning assemblies and the RCU (Rondebosch Christian Union) where programmes were enthusiastically organised by Mr Clive Young – these really assisted in building a strong foundation of faith in our Creator. While on the subject of faith: to my mind it is a great pity that in our schools, evolution is being taught as if this hypothesis is based on scientific evidence – the fact is that the contrary is true – for example, simple reasoning shows that the human heart and many other parts of our anatomy would never have had the opportunity to ‘evolve’ over time.
It was easy to build up friendships at Rondebosch – in fact it was just prior to joining the school, while playing for an opposing rugger side, that I first met a young Rondebosch hooker who stood at least 15cm above the rest of his team, and the colour of whose hair would probably be described by today’s fashion writers as ‘..to die for…!’ He had this mop of bright red hair and, yes, this was Lindsay Kennedy, who inadvertently helped me to score the winning points in the self-same match!
Any regrets? Yes – but only one. I am sure that thousands of Old Boys vividly remember our history master, Russell ‘Charlie’ Hallack. On occasion, I too gave reason for the fierce rise in Mr Hallack’s voice tone in the classroom. After leaving school, there were times when I was able to meet with Mr Hallack and his beloved wife. What a humorous, sensitive and charming person he really was – I left him with a heavy heart, knowing we hadn’t given him the opportunity of exhibiting those wonderful characteristics during his classes.
At this time of our 50th anniversary, we are mindful of our class friends who have passed on into the realm of eternity – they have left us with fond memories and we think of their families too.
Mr Wiggett (U16B)
Back: De Wet, Stephens, Fred Versveld, Botha, Swart, Neil Robinson, Chris Buyskes Center: Frank Einhorn, John Barry, Keith Payne, John Dew, Cramton, Anton Starke, Johann Mostert Front: Peter De Villers, Owen Ashley, Mr Ron Wiggett, Chris Steyn, Rousseau
I did not make matric at RBHS, having departed after Std 8 in Dec’ 61. I was extremely reluctant to leave but I had little choice as my English father was promoted to head up the National Mutual in the UK (formerly an Australian company but now French owned AXA).
Perhaps coincidentally we left SA the year after Sharpeville. My father was of the view that dramatic change in SA would happen far quicker than subsequently occurred.
I then spent my next 10 most formative years at school, university and working in the UK in international sales at a major oil company before making a decision to explore warmer climes, ultimately settling in Sydney, Australia.
I have lived a modest but very enjoyable life in Australia – happily married to Helen with 4 kids between us and 6 beautiful grandchildren so far. We live an outdoor lifestyle, similar in many respects to South Africa.
Sporting contests with SA are of course spirited to say the least – today I have watched three guys named Steyn, Amla and Kallis give us hell!
Most of my working life has been in marketing, sales and general management roles in the appliance, building and solar energy industries. As the AUS $ has appreciated by over 30% to an abnormally high level over the past 2 years, Australian manufacturers are now struggling to compete in this global world where China is in the ascendancy, so most of us are either totally shifting our manufacturing operations to China and other Asian countries such as Vietnam, or at least hedging our bets. Essentially we now have a 2-tiered economy with manufacturing, agriculture, tourism and education compromised by our strong resources sector. Meanwhile immigration to Australia is accelerating and the country is becoming much more multicultural, especially in Sydney.
South African immigrants have been extremely successful in most areas, significantly in medicine, finance, law, education and retail. I note on the E’63 list, Gavin Birch and Tim ffoulkes-Morris, neither of whom I have had the pleasure of meeting in Australia. But I did see a lot of Chris Krige as we pursued similar business objectives over many years. Chris was tough and uncompromising and very successful, not an easy husband but a great father. Sadly he died relatively soon, 10 years ago, only a couple of years after his wife, leaving 2 sad but talented teenage girls to make their way in life.
Over the past 50 years I have visited SA briefly only four times, on each occasion being the recipient of warm hospitality from John Le Roux and his delightful wife, Mosa, backed up by the ever so loyal Rena.
My first 15 years in Cape Town and at Rondebosch were simple and uncomplicated by comparison with life today. School memories revolved heavily around sport – from cricket in Le Roux’s back yard (pity those hydrangeas) to the wonderful fields of Rondebosch, Tinkie’s absolute dedication to the U13As and those cream buns, Kennedy’s determination on the right wing (our quicker left wing was Mostert or Gilmour), Roy McCallum darting everywhere, Tickey marking out the athletics track when he wasn’t throwing the chalk at inattentive kids or teaching Ian McCallum to place kick, old-fashioned English cricket coaches from the conservative Gibb, who made Boycott look like Barry Richards, to Gimblett and Bates, van den Berg lengths ahead in the pool and ffoulkes-Morris feet above in the pole vault. And Buchner’s big serve on the tennis court (he who recited his school class everywhere in later years – to me in Germany of all places). And let’s not forget Scholte, forever charming the girls even in those early years!
In the classroom English grammar was taught as it should be by ‘Buck’ Ryan, Watson and Thwaites. And of course Charlie’s extra-curricular political briefings were oh, so much more interesting than history! Outside of school, scrambling up Table Mountain, Muizenburg, Hermanus and Cape Infanta topped my list. And our family only once went to a restaurant – Le Rici’s !
In those days we were of course highly privileged and protected from the harsher aspects of a troubled country. I am unsure whether or not I was fortunate in being relatively oblivious to the pain and suffering of so many in South Africa.
I notice that over 70% of E’63 have stayed the course in SA – I have often wondered what life would have held for me if my father hadn’t got that promotion over 50 years ago.
Finally my thanks to Johnny Kipps for “finding” me and to Lindsay for imploring me to, Kom, Chris, Kom’ – granting me a second chance after I failed to respond in 1988.
Helen and I are looking forward immensely to experiencing the reunion in 2013 and seeing how much Rondebosch and Cape Town have changed since our last visit in 1996!
E1a Back: Ferdi Fischer, Achim Lenssen, Richard Frantz, Jean Rozwadowski, Brian Fraser, Chris Matchett, and Theo De Rijk Middle: Paul Duminy, Lawrence Evans, Peter Gibb, Kai Albrecht, Johnny Kipps, and Chris Newell Front: David Geffen, Andrew Joubert, Derek van den Berg, Mr Herbie Helm, Nick Diemont, Jack Penfold, and Stephen Buchner (Photo courtesy of Andrew Joubert)
I was pleased to see that part of our 50 – year celebrations would be to attend assembly at the Prep School.
A lasting memory of Don Laidlaw, was the huge influence he had on what turned out to be my successful Prep School record in rugby, cricket and boxing…. the latter was a legally recognised school sport in those days! One shudders to imagine how that would look these days!
Don Laidlaw had arrived in South Africa as a tough PT instructor from Scotland at roughly the same time as I arrived as a post war 5 year old on the ‘Winchester Castle’ from England.
Eighteen years after I left the Prep, Don Laidlaw began our interview for my son’s admission to the Prep School, with a cricket ball in his hand and the words, “bring back memories, Joe?”
As many will recall, my nickname “Joe” (after Joe Louis – the World Boxing champion of the day) was tongue-in-cheek and was coined during my junior boxing “career,” when many an opponent in my weight division faced the unfair advantage my height and reach afforded me and some left the ring in tears, I’m embarrassed to admit!
The name ‘Joe’ stuck, and it did so to the extent that many fellow classmates and teachers who only knew me as Joe then – still refer to me by that name now!
It would be great to know WHO was responsible for landing me with that nickname!
Funny how the Prep memories remain “fond” despite my dubious record of receiving “three of the best” for three different misdemeanours on the same day: bunking choir practice, letting off a fire-cracker in the hall, and…. memory fades as to the third crime but all corporal punishment that day was efficiently administered by my sport coach, none other than Don Laidlaw!
High School memories are many but a high-light has to be our 1963 1st Team rugby tour to Bloemfontein and Johannesburg. In Bloem we faced the all-conquering, intimidating, unbeaten mielieboere of Grey College’s 1st team and beat them 11 – 3, an incredible team effort on our part!
U16C Back: de Wet, Geffen, Basson, Meyer, Frantz, Cohen Middle: Matchett, Ferguson, Joubert, Garrish, Payne, Buyskes Front: Downton, Hodge, Mr Watson, Tuchten, Russel (Picture courtesy of Andrew Joubert)
I arrived Rondebosch in March ’51, a term after everyone else had started! Dear Miss Johnson, Miss Trow, Miss Vickerstaff, Miss Baumann, Solly, Mr Selby…The Janny? They reside so easily as a bright memory…and there are lots of school childhood memories…largely happy ones of times in the playground and with young friends. A few fights, a few losses at marbles, and many highlights—such as when a massive lorry turned up in the playground and distributed 7UP to everyone. FREE! Happy days. Only got the cane from “Ensie” once-when I got 3/10 for spelling and couldn’t spell “necessarily” (I can now!)
At High School…Baartman, Civvie,….Oberholzer!!..Tinkie Heyns. So many real characters. I was something of a gymnast and remember our wonderful trips to the SA championships in Pretoria. U-14 SA agility champion!! The memories come flooding back – but then I was whisked to England aged nearly 15, to start in an English “Grammar” School. 4 years later I was Captain of Rugby, vice head-boy, 6’2’’, and off to Uni. Sadly, and too soon, SA and Gymnastics became a distant dream. After Uni it was all about Physics, Psychology, Maths, – and Rugby! – I emerged with a 2:2 in Pychol/Physics at London U, idled a couple of years, did 3 years with a school’s “slow learners”, a PGCE, and could be found in a college 15 years later as Senior Lecturer in Maths in a Tertiary college! I was probably well-suited to teaching, and (I think) definitely at home in a college for people aged 16 to 60 – often (like me) with sizable interruptions in education.
Now I coach. In Maths. For fun and for pocket money. I don’t have children, but have two “step children” now grown up, and producing kids themselves. I lost my first partner (a Thames Artist) to cancer 20 years ago, but feel lucky indeed to be so happy with Miriam and her small family. And at the moment I’m reasonably fit, well and grateful for it.
What’s it like to be returning to the 100+ 14-year-olds that I left in CapeTown in 1961? Dangerous! But now, irresistible. I did come to CT in 1986 on my own, for a flying visit of 10 days to see how it felt. It was wonderful. But I met almost no-one. Only Tickey de Jager (by chance ) kicking a ball endlessly back and forth to a flyhalf 50 yds away!! Does anything change? I spoke with him. I told him that, like him I taught maths. “Nobody teaches maths like me!” he said! I think I rather agreed – he was an exceptional teacher.
Since then, I have braved a romantic visit in 2002 for 4 weeks with Miriam. But that is it, Africa-wise. I think I’ve resisted the frightening thought of all my Rondebosch childhood school pals living their 50 years while I lived a totally different (British) existence. Money, politics, life in England, probably all combined to make the journey back to childhood more difficult than leaving such emotional storms well alone.
But this call up is too strong to let it pass. It seems time, and I am really looking forward to what it brings. There is, of course, a sober side to what the images bring via the communication lines. Youth, age, and a bit of loss. At a personal level, I’m immensely sorry that my Miriam isn’t able to join me to re-visit this past. But it’s a great idea, a chance – and a great call! And I’m more than excited to be part of the adventure.
Here are a few of my “remember when’s” that buzz the memory….
What about when:
Some boys “Boo’ed”, after a rather dull puppet show was given by visitors at the Prep School. Mr Brauer, the woodwork teacher went berserk-ranting up and down the rows of us demanding to know “WHO”! Terrifying!
When Mr Enslin conducted the hymns in each morning assembly with his very fine cane! Then he also used it as flag-staff to suspend any items of lost property that had arrived on his table. This, in front of the whole school. Underwear, towels, whatever, were formally raised for the unfortunates to come up and collect! I even had to collect a bunch of carrots I had apparently dropped while bringing them for the Friday Bring and Buy sale. From the end of his stick. Scarlet, appalling embarrassment!
When I ran headlong into the rather dangerous wires that held the Prep School nets. They used to leave them at “neck-height” and without the nets on for the winter. Result? A split lip. A personal trip, (bleeding) in Ensie’s private car. And a scar that I still have on the lip, where a Cottage Hospital doctor sewed it up without anaesthetic. Apparently the medic thought I would still be in shock! Wrong!
I hesitate to mention the time poor Peter Hodes was the recipient of a cricket ball, skied from the nets in the Prep playground, but landing amongst the boys. It landed so square on Peter’s head, that it bounced 10ft up as if on a hard surface. Incredible. Yet Peter told me years later, that he’d had a headache for a week! Sorry Peter! Hope they’ve improved the health and safety since then.
When Hugh Hodge once lifted a 75 pound weight above his head, in socks, in the Gym, – only to slip backwards and come crashing down on his arm. I had to lift it off him. He’d broken it really badly in at least three places. But he was probably lucky. And I could hardly bear the sight of anyone lifting any sort of weights for many a year.
Few people saw the time I was attempting Grand Circles on the school high bar. Did the big swings. The handstand at the top and the swing over. You use undergrasp to do them one way and overgrasp to swing the other. Then got it wrong. Result: one broken and dislocated wrist 15 feet from the high bar! Luckily Peter Wilse-Sampson had the presence of mind to look at the wrist and “tweek” it back into place while it was still numb. Then a quick trip on the back of Ken (fish) Alston’s moped, (left arm dangling) and once again the Cottage Hospital did the rest… No gym for 5 weeks! Dodgy place, that school gymnasium.
I would just add, for those who came “home” to England in the middle of their schooling, (I know Chris Mundy was one who returned and went to Epsom College), that we did, of course, start in a whole new school set up. New friends. New teachers. New Rules. New playgrounds. On reflection, the task of starting again at 15 seems immense. But I found it OK. And it was certainly manageable. My 10–year start in Rondebosch had prepared me pretty well, though the English boys did start off spending much time trying to get me to say something-just to hear that clipped South African accent(!); but in 1961 anti-SA feeling was low in Britain, and not yet a problem. It did get worse. And now it’s better. Much better. And we all seem to have lived through it, one way or another. I feel privileged to be part of it all.
I arrived on a ship from Durban half-way through our Standard 8 year. My immediate assessment of Rondebosch was that it was quite a lekker school.
In Durban I had been to a thrashing school. We all expected the cane. Even the best-behaved boys would get thrashed from time to time. Chief Thrasher was the vice-principal, a man named Noble (you couldn’t make it up, could you?). Noble was a tall, thin, bald-headed man with an enormously strong right arm who spent most of his time thrashing boys. In fact, sometimes there was a queue outside his office. We would shuffle along the passage listening to the whack of cane upon trousers, waiting our turn.
At Rondebosch I fully expected to get thrashed in the first few weeks. After all, as a new boy I was certain I would inadvertently transgress some rule or other and have to face the inevitable consequence. But Rondebosch was much more grown-up. The school seemed to function with little or no thrashing and, besides occasionally writing out ‘If’ a few times as punishment, we all got on with our business in a pretty amicable way. This is something I shall never forget.
Arriving half-way through a year is not easy. Relationships are already established and it is hard to break in. But I discovered another boy who, like me, had arrived mid-year. His name was John Gibson and he had arrived from England. We became friends. Today we both live in England, John in Essex and I in Yorkshire, yet we somehow never manage to meet up. Eventually John and I became friends with Johan Walters and Alfred Baguley. Nicknames became the order of the day. Because I was from Durban, I became Banana while John’s origins destined him to be Limey. Johan was, naturally Wally and Alf, curiously, was Danny. Once we left school we gradually reverted once more to our given names.
Of all the guys in our class I particularly remember Geoff Duckitt, Peter Goble and Peter Barrett, probably because we sat near each other. In the eighties I regularly bumped into Peter Barrett at Issy Bloomberg’s gym on the foreshore. We both had beards. I had dark hair and a grey beard, while Peter had grey hair and a dark beard. Or was it the other way around?
My memory of the guys who were further away becomes blurred, but in the mist I see Rory Beamish, quietly leaning against a wall, flicking a comb through brylcreamed hair, looking incredibly like Elvis. Then Robert Hoets, though my memory of Robert fuses quickly into that of his sister… Also in the middle distance is John Barry. Didn’t he write the theme tune for the James Bond movies? Ah, Ursula Andress emerging from the sea in a white bikini…
Sadly Rory and Robert are no longer with us but John is very much alive and harassing me to complete this. A teacher who sticks in my memory is Billy Trengove. English was not my favourite subject but somehow Billy made it interesting.
Two decades after leaving Rondebosch I found myself at a graduation ceremony at the University of Stellenbosch, waiting to be awarded an MBA. The speeches were as boring as the afternoon was warm. My slide into unconsciousness was halted suddenly by a familiar voice speaking English. The voice belonged to none other than Billy Trengove, Stellenbosch Professor of English!
I also recall that one year, probably Standard 9, Billy appeared with a very tall student teacher by the name of Jonty Driver. One day Billy must have felt sufficiently confident in Jonty to let him loose on us unsupervised.
dreaming, et cetera, of Your smile eyes knees and your Etcera
No doubt, trying to show us rough boys that poetry wasn’t just the sissy stuff in our set work book, he read us all kinds of ‘modern’ poetry like EE Cummings. In particular, I remember Cummings’ ‘my sweet old etcetera’ which ends:
This was pretty cool stuff, not to mention a tad racy, and it sent me in a direction that lead ultimately to TS Elliot, Allen Ginsberg, Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen.
Not long afterwards, Driver became driven and was deported for his role in blowing up some electricity pylons. The next time I spoke to Jonty Driver was in the late nineties but that, as they say, is another story.
I recall the feeling of dread when my post-matric idyll was shattered by the inevitable arrival of national service. I was privileged to be called up to the navy while most of the poor sods from our year ended up in the army. Six weeks’ of basic training was followed by six weeks at Gunnery School, followed by deployment to Walvis Bay to man a shore battery of WW1 (yes, First World War!) naval guns. Our purpose: to defend Walvis Bay harbour and the entire African hinterland from the communist onslaught, represented by the Russian ‘fishing vessels’ that would anchor provocatively off the coast.
We arrived in Walvis Bay, about 30 sailors in blue and white, to be billeted in the army camp and were immersed in a sea of khaki. Peering out of our bungalow we saw what seemed like thousands of ‘pongos’ stamping around in the desert sand. They seemed to have very strange habits. For example, we very soon realised that one of the curiosities of army life was that they all stole from each other – all the time. So, if a soldier washed his kit, he would sit watching it dry because, if he turned his back, the chances were that his kit would be gone by the time he turned back.
One Sunday, as I strolled through the camp, I came upon a soldier watching his socks dry. The soldier was none other than Alf Baguley. Never one to shirk hard labour, I sat down to help him. Although watching socks dry is tiring work we managed to talk quite a bit, reminiscing about school/civvie days and sharing thoughts about how kak the army was.
After Alf’s socks had dried, we asked someone to take a picture of us. Leaning casually against an army jeep, we swapped caps and there we are, frozen in time, an army/navy collaboration. If an officer had come by there would have been trouble – we could have spent the rest of Sunday writing out ‘If’.
I find it quite difficult in a way to remember anything that stands out really for me of my long life at Rondebosch, all the way from Standard 1 through to matric. I did, however, with Barry Lloyd I think it was, have a fairly undignified start to my career at Rondebosch. We had just arrived on the first day and were running around the quadrangle at the prep-school just before assembly shouting and screaming, as 7 year old kids are apt to do, when we very sternly shouted at and called over by old Ensie. who asked us what the hell (although I am sure that didn’t he actually used those words) we thought we were doing. Stuttering and stammering we said we were just playing the fool – or something like that. It was obviously not the right answer and the next thing he bent each of us over, there and then, and promptly smacked our bottoms a few times. I don’t remember any physical pain but that’s not surprising seeing he was only using his hand. It was, though, a bit embarrassing being dealt with like that by the principal in front of the whole school, seniors and juniors alike, although that feeling did soon pass!
I did enjoy my school years though, even though I never really made it to the top of anything. We had good camaradie in our final two years matric class and a fantastic class teacher in Tony Viljoen. I can remember how the first period was quite busy, in between the banter as we passed around homework to make sure we had all got everything done. I always did Maths, and usually Latin which I happily shared but did rely often on others for English, Afrikaans and Physics, usually from the guys to the right of me and behind me who were Richard Frantz, Andrew Joubert and Derek van den Berg. One thing I will also never forget was Chris Matchett and his baiting of Steytler (Peanut) Thwaites. He was always able to get away with so much more because I seem to remember there was some family friendship there. The funniest ever, for me was the time Peanut was trying to explain in that earnestly passionate way that he did for the things that were beautiful for him about the English language, the image of the ‘chaste goddess Diana bathed in soft moon light’. Chased by whom, Chris Matchett asked. I seem to remember that was one of the many occasions he did get sent out of the class to stand in the passage for that chirp!
I thoroughly and enthusiastically enjoyed my sport, although not achieving much other than making A team in under 13, 14, 15, and 16 rugby. Academically I was always in the top ten, with maths being my strongest point, but I never ever won an academic prize.
After leaving school and serving nine months in the navy, I was successful with an actuarial bursary application to Old Mutual for studying at U.C.T. where I graduated in 1967 with a BSc in Mathematics and Mathematical Statistics. I then commenced employment with Old Mutual and ultimately qualified, after many years of part time study, as an actuary in 1981. I was also fortunate to rise through the ranks there and ended up in the general management team on the Corporate or Pensions side of the business, eventually retiring at the age of 55 in 2001. During my career I served on various industry bodies, including being President of the Institute of Retirement Funds in 1995 and 1996.
After retirement from formal employment I then had a second part time career as a professional independent trustee for a number of Old Mutual’s sponsored retirement funds, only finally bowing out of this in December 2012, to become a full time pensioner!
On the personal side I have been married to my wife, Viv, since 1996. She is an old St Cyprians girl and a G.P. by profession, having graduated at U.C.T. She ran a very successful practice in Pinelands but gave up her practice in 2001 when I retired from full time employment so that we could spend more time together. We are blessed with five wonderful children collectively, three being from my first marriage (the eldest being a daughter Lindsay, then a son James and a second son Damian) and two, both girls, from Viv’s previous marriage (Megan and Justine). At present I have one granddaughter with another on the way.
As far as contact with school mates is concerned, I was very friendly with Richard Frantz at school and that did continue after school as well. He was my best man at my first wedding and also godfather to my elder son James. We have however lost contact in the last twenty years, and hopefully this 50th re-union will enable me to re-establish that contact.
I also had a lot of contact with Peter Scholte when we were in Round Table together, and also while at St Thomas church in Rondebosch. I have also bumped into Lindsay Kennedy quite regularly, very often at the Pick n Pay in Pinelands which has been very rewarding as he always has a news snippet relating to somebody in our year. I used to see quite a bit of Barry Lloyd when we had a house at Hermanus, but it is quite a while since I last saw him. Others with whom I have had contact have been Paul Duminy, Keith Payne (in and around Pinelands) Chris Steyn, Theo de Ryjk, Billy Fullard (client or supplier contacts while at Old Mutual), and then of course also Richard Spring, John Le Roux, Roy Schreiber, Roy McCallum, Geoff Duckitt, as well as some others I have probably forgotten about, at the lunches Lindsay organised when Richard Spring comes out here. I am sure there are some other contacts I have also forgotten about here and there, but then of course there have also been the various reunions or other get togethers for visiting guys from overeseas where one has been able to get to speak to a lot of the class.
Viv and I have now moved into full retirement and are in the process of selling up our Pinelands home and relocating to Robertson where we have had a holiday townhouse on the banks of the Breede river in the Silwerstrand Golf and River Estate. We both play golf and are looking forward to playing more golf (in fact here, as we have already, over the past few weeks, made our physical move). Incidentally Roy McCallum also has a place on the golf course here and I do bump into him from time to time. I have always been a very keen waterskier and can still manage to put together a good slalom run so I hope to continue with that while my body can still manage it. That, together with some canoeing and golf, and also maybe some mountain biking, should keep me going for a while! Because the actuary in me does keep reminding me that the older you get the greater the probability becomes that you won’t reach your next birthday, it is important to make the most of your life while you can.
The other part of our retirement plan has involved purchasing a property on the Hans Merensky Golf estate at Phalaborwa where we hope to spend most of our winters when the weather is not good here in the Western Cape. We are also great bush lovers and try to spend at least one holiday in the Kruger National Park, so having a home up there will enable us to do that more often. We have already done a couple of Botswana trips in the past three years in having a base up north we are looking to do some trips into Zimbabwe and Zambia into the future as well.
Rondebosch played a major role in my early life and also in the schooling of three of my uncles. The story goes that my four uncles were unhappy at Marist Brothers College. Having a rather strict father, they decided to solve the problem without his knowledge by enrolling themselves at new schools. One uncle signed himself into SACS and the other three wise one’s enrolled themselves at Rondebosch. And the first their father knew about all this was when he received their school reports. These must have been reasonable as they all finished happily at their new schools of choice! My how the protocol of life has changed.
And so having had uncles at Rondebosch, I was fortunate to be enrolled at Rondebosch from Standard 1, with the full knowledge of my dear mother Rose! My school days were happy and rewarding and, from them, many good friendships continue to this day. As a young boy at school without siblings or a father in South Africa, I never felt alone at Rondebosch. For this I will always be thankful for wonderful school friendships and I am especially grateful to Mr Clarke, to my grandfather Sir Ian Parkin, CBE, who used to travel from England and visit the school, and to my Mother, for all their guidance and encouragement throughout my school days.
After school I volunteered for military service in the Navy Gymnasium, becoming a commissioned officer and thereafter graduating with a law degree from UCT. In 1986, when canvassing for election as a Cape Town City Councillor, I was taken into an unknown constituent’s home, only to encounter the legendary Mr Hallack, who supported the opposition candidate and told me I was far too young to be a councillor. After being elected, I invited Charlie to a formal Council lunch which he was gracious enough to accept and enjoy. As Councillor for the area Woodstock to Rosebank, I landed up as leader of the Open Woodstock Campaign, which included Bishop Tutu and Helen Zille, and which featured in Time, Newsweek, BBC, CNN as the first successful campaign against residential apartheid in South Africa. In 1986 I established Parkin Attorneys and added to this in 1999 by starting Eton Properties both of which continue. Other interests include: Law Society’s committee, tennis, golf, life membership of WP Cricket Club, honorary life membership of Kelvin Grove Club, and legal consultant to St Andrew’s Church. So a big thank you Rondebosch and I very much look forward to seeing you all at our forthcoming reunion – Altius et Latius forever!
With some regret, I have never taken much part in the Old Boys’ Union and my memory of teachers’ names is not what it should be – hence the acknowledgement of their valued activities below is not complete. No excuses, laziness and a fairly busy career have occupied my time.
I arrived at RBHS in Standard Six (whatever that is now) in 1959, having transferred from SACS junior school, most of my male cousins being at RBHS at that time. Beautiful school grounds with friendly co-scholars (no “learners” then, but many hard-working scholars) assisted by dedicated teachers who arrived on time and supervised many extra-mural activities. I suppose that made us “previously advantaged” individuals (rubbish, one makes one’s own advantages in life).
Standard Six stands out in my memory for two subjects that would influence my career. One was my utter ineptitude in Latin (and regrettably, not much better at English or Afrikaans) and the second was Mr ‘Bob’ Martin’s enthusiasm for bookkeeping and commercial pastimes. Being a failure at Latin before really starting it, was a dampener on my ambition to study medicine – fortunately by 1964, Latin was no longer a requirement for Medicine at UCT. The logic and money interest of bookkeeping and commercial, appealed to my personality. Mr Martin’s philosophies through Standards 6 – 8, probably benefited my financial interests for the rest of my life. Woodwork was a non-examination subject but a constructive and satisfying break from desk work. The two woodwork teachers, Mr De Wet and Mr Love, gave up their Saturday afternoons for several months to supervise canoe-building by young scholars. My canoe was greatly used for the next 18 years!
Standards Seven and Eight are a bit of a blur; can’t recall too much there. Certainly, Mr Hallack for History and Mr ‘Buck’ Ryan for English, have their faces and teachings embedded in my consciousness – they were my teachers in Standards 9 + 10, but also in 7 + 8 (?). History continues to fascinate me, in no small part due to the enthusiasm and insight of Mr Hallack. Mr Jones was always complimentary about my essay writing style but tore his hair out over my spelling. My spelling failure has remained throughout my life – fortunately my secretaries always spelt well and nowadays “spell-check” is a saving grace.
Standard Nine confronted me and several others with pure physics and pure chemistry. Mr Jayes being the physics teacher, and Mr Reeler being the chemistry teacher. I and several classmates had taken the pure sciences for the supposed benefits those subjects would provide in various university courses. Unfortunately, pure physics proved to be pure confusion and much to Mr Jayes’ delight, the original two physics classes reduced themselves to one class, while the rest of us scuttled back to physical science, the same as other schools took. Mr Jayes was of the old school regarding teaching and his duties as vice-principal – and very successful he was too.
Half-way through Standard Nine, I re-entered the physical science class and met Mr Rollo, one of the highpoints of my school career. He was a science fundi and delighted in teaching his subject. He quickly took it upon himself to ensure that those of us who were aiming for science degrees at UCT achieved the necessary marks for entry. Mr Young’s classes in bookkeeping provided a stimulating environment and springboard to university entrance – logic and good marks. The maths teacher, Mr Murison, was very good. I recall him trying some mind experiments. We were to sleep on difficult problems in the hope that our sleeping subconscious mind would solve the problem. I still do that with some success – probably just a fresh morning mind resolves problems that a tired night mind can’t.
For those who aren’t already terrified by inflation, a useful little story of the olden days: Mr Young (he was young in those days!) sold me his elderly Ford Anglia to use as my ‘varsity car. For R35! Granted the engine was finished, but a reconditioned engine cost R50. Today’s university students all seem to drive very recent model cars.
Headmaster Mr Clarke never taught me in class but his management style for the school and his life-principles infused the school ethos, and stayed with me throughout my medical career. Those, with input from three or four equally honoured medical teachers, have been major influences on my career ethos. Mr Clarke’s brother had been my junior school principal at Pinelands Primary up to Standard three – a gentleman of similar quality to that of his brother.
Then there was sport – always a vital part of RBHS activities. But not my activities. Rugby was played for four years – under 13 to under 16 years. Dr Heyns was the coach for much of those times. Wonderful chap, and a jewel for any school. For myself, all four years were played as a front-rank prop in the second team, always scrumming against Derek van den Berg who just grew bigger and stronger each year (he became a Springbok lock forward, as you will recall). My scrummage efforts were not successful. Hence I dropped rugby in Standard Ten, ostensibly to concentrate on a university entrance matric, but also to save my spinal column from further concertinering. Cricket in summer was avoided at all costs.
Sports day – you all recall the obligatory three events in which we were compelled to participate? Like many of the “nerds”, I always chose the 100 yards sprint – not because I could run but because the humiliation would be over in the 15 seconds (or was it 20 seconds?) it took me to run a 100 yards; the long jump – about 5 foot, the same as the other nerds; and the shot put – that was over very fast, one push and you’re out!
University of Cape Town.
RBHS certainly provided a platform for life at UCT. Despite the advice of a “career guidance officer”, I applied for medicine at UCT. As did a few other RBHS co-scholars who had also been advised against medicine by the careers officer. All have done well in our chosen careers.
Medicine at UCT (and all medical schools) is a hard task-master for students. But as for all students, the social benefits of campus life proved to be very enjoyable. As most of you found out, university lecturers are very different to school teachers, but my feeling was that at RBHS our teachers had prepared us well for the step to university. As I recall, all of the ex-RBHS students achieved their medical degrees. For me, 1964 to 1969 passed in a frantic rush of lectures, clinical work and the dreaded examinations and I obtained my MB ChB in 1969.
My university days were lightened and made pleasurable by my girl-friend at the time, from the beginning of third year through to the end of sixth year. Lynne was a steadfast support. Two weeks after graduation we got married, our first son was born in 1975 and the second in 1978. I have been happily married ever since. A doctor’s wife is not an easy occupation.
1970. For those who have never suffered the rigours of a 1970’s 12 month medical internship, be eternally grateful. Worse than anything I experienced in the war years in Angola. Still, everything comes to an end. In 1971 I did my nine-month military conscription at 1 Military Hospital in Pretoria spending the time in the operating theatres, teaching myself anaesthesia. That would never be allowed today – formal training is required before anaesthetising patients – but 40 years ago, things were less regulated. That sparked my interest in anaesthesia as an area for specialisation.
In 1976 I spent a year at Tygerberg Hospital as an anaesthetics registrar, followed by three years in Auckland New Zealand, to complete my anaesthesia specialisation. New Zealand is a beautiful country filled with lovely people who are very friendly – the South African contingent there is large, especially the SA medical element. Unfortunately, New Zealand was not a very exciting place to be, so back to Africa. I obtained the FFARACS in 1978 and an honorary ANZCA in 1992 (only honorary because I already had the older degree of FFARACS). The FFARACS is an Australian degree – New Zealand being a province of Australia for the purposes of medicine (Ag sies, hey or should that be Ag shame hey?)
From 1980 to 1999, I was an academic anaesthetist at Tygerberg Hospital. That was at the time of a high gold price, plenty of money for academic hospitals and research was well financed. A good time to be a full-time academic civil servant. Paediatric anaesthesia was my area of interest and various research interests in that area resulted in an M.D. in 1990.
As you will recall, there was also the euphemistically named ‘Border’ War at that time. For various reasons, I volunteered my services in 1981 as an anaesthetist on the surgical team into the operational area. This meant annual voluntary stints to provide anaesthesia in mostly well-equipped military hospitals at the Oshikati or Ondangwa military bases but with the occasional mission into Angola – Pereira D’Eca/Ongiva being a common venue. These stints came to an end in 1988, when the war was wound down in preparation for the political peace that came later. Interesting times they were.
Unfortunately from 1990 or thereabouts, academic funding started to dry up and by the end of the 1990s academic medicine was in the doldrums. In 1999, I transferred from Tygerberg Hospital to 2 Military Hospital in Wynberg as Head of Anaesthesia with nine posts in the anaesthetic department. No one seems to know where 2 Military Hospital is – just as well because it’s a state secret. As you drive down Wynberg hill with Wynberg Park on your left, the big white building amongst the trees on your right is 2 Military Hospital. It is a busy tertiary hospital that serves all military personal in the Western Cape – army, navy, airforce. Mostly it treats the families of military personal plus the large numbers of military pensioners who retire to the coast. As a civilian appointment to the SANDF, my “useful” working life terminated abruptly at the age of 65 years, at the end of May 2011. The computer then forcibly retires one. So now I am a pensioner.
Medicines Control Council.
The Medicines Control Council has been in the newspapers recently, being under public siege by a few disaffected pharmaceutical companies. The criticism is unjustified as the MCC does sterling work. I was co-opted into the MCC in 1983 as an outside consultant for the evaluation of new medicines and have fulfilled that position ever since. Initially it was only anaesthetic medicines for my evaluation, but over time that work load has grown, like “Topsy”. Interesting work and all laypersons will be happy to know that a clinical committee of some twelve experts comprehensively assess all medicines before those medicines are released onto the South African market. The clinical committee is ably assisted by several other specialised committees eg pharmaceutical, biological, manufacturing and veterinary committees – the last only for animals of course. It is said that full retirement hastens death, so my plan is to delay death by continuing the MCC evaluation work indefinitely.
With thanks to parents, teachers/lecturers, family, colleagues and pre + post graduate students. It will be good to read what you all have been doing these past fifty years. Some will have died, some will die sooner rather than later and some will go on to 100 years. Actual age does not matter; we all lived in interesting times.
Senior Cross-Country Team in 1962 with Dr Tinkie Heyns and Mr Tickey de Jager Back: Daly, van den Berg, Hodge, Paul, Scholte, Mathews, Levinson Middle: Swift, Klosser, Schrooder, Kipps, Kennedy, Jones, Duckitt, Patric, McCallum Front: Dr Heyns, Brice, Penfold, McLean, de Wet, Kritzinger, de Jongh, Mr de Jager (Picture courtesy Johnny Kipps)
Let’s face it; I never wanted to grow up. From the moment my mother accompanied me to Cape Town aged 12, a full five days travel by train, sooty, dirty, hot, exciting, and deposited me rather unceremoniously into the hands of Bob Martin in Mason house, I had to accept this was to be my destiny. Tinkie Heyns was now my only source of adult contact outside of the fearsome “teachers” who now controlled my life. It would be six months before I could return home again. After the heart wrenching home sickness, tears shed in private, would I ever see my faithful dog again? Where would Kabundi our bush baby find toes to bite at night, if not mine?
Then there was school. Latin! Never heard of it, we did not speak that strange tongue in Northern Rhodesia, neither did we speak Afrikaans. Extra lessons to be bunked at all costs – Nobby Clarke gave four cuts for missing those. This was a regular visit on Fridays, something to budget for. But did he know we had the run of the school over weekends? Running along those long dark corridors, sliding around corners in a helter-skelter of fear and the pure joy of knowing we were doing something really naughty.
From Mason house we graduated to “the Lilacs” Tickey de Jager was our Housemaster. He taught me more about maths on the tennis court, table tennis table and billiards table than I ever imagined possible. And our first responsibility! Road monitors! We could control the cyclists of Rustenburg girls. A whistle and all traffic along Camp Ground Road came to a standstill. Notes deposited in girls baskets to be delivered to the girl prisoners up the road. What about the once a term socials? Our only contact with the female form unless we bunked out at the weekends. Sam Wiggett and I did it on occasion, creeping past the sleeping form of our prefect Ian McCallum. Nothing woke him.
Then finally onto Canigou and ‘Barty’ Baartman who ruled the dining room with his rod of plastic! Swimming pool duty so as not having to attend assembly. School was all about rebellion. When Ron Wiggett offered to award me a braided blazer for these duties, I was quite offended. This was our domain; I could have a quiet smoke without interruption! Cadets. Not my thing. Mr, Diepeveen recognised this and promoted Owen Fletcher and I to sergeant in charge of the obstacle course, I loved it. The following year it was shooting range duties until the government withdrew all arms from schools in the fear of the ANC raiding them for terrorist purposes. Half the ammo disappeared into our pockets to be used in goose hunting during the 10 day holidays. Too short to return home we went mostly to the Melks at Kruispad. We went back to marching with broomsticks.
John Barry’s (not the E63 one) mother took pity on a poor boarder and kindly made sandwiches for me over a period of two years.
Matric was a great year, parties, study. (Sometimes). Swimming galas. And the final exams. And I have never forgotten the last poem read to us by a blushing Billy Trengove, E. E. Cummings – “may I touch said he?” That was awesome, perhaps an insight into the future? I used it to woo my now wife, thanks Billy. In between, the mountain goat, Doc Watson took us up Table Mountain for a nights camping. Stunning.
RBHS made me, moulded me, and set me up for adulthood. If only I could have stayed there forever.
Today I am semi-retired working three days week as HR Manager for a Dutch shipbuilding Company called Damen, it is a great company to work for. Previously I had 25 years in the mining industry finishing up as a Director of Rand Mines then onto Tiger Brands, Director for Albany Bakeries. Married to Margot, I have two daughters and three granddaughters. Managed to be selected to play squash for South Africa at master’s level and have won bronze at various world championships in the UK, Finland Australia and South Africa twice, in 4 different age groups. Golf is now my passion and both Margot and I play at Erinvale in Somerset West.
I was happy at school, but in retrospect it is not wholly clear to me whether it was due to the school per se. After I had been a Member of Parliament for some years, the political lobby journalists voted me the happiest parliamentarian, and indeed in all the snakes and ladders of life that has been a characteristic which has prevailed.
I landed up in the school somewhat by accident. I had failed the entrance exam of another local school. I remember sitting the test with a truly appalling headache. The decision was then made that I would be despatched to a school in the eastern Cape. As the time approached, I was surprised that nothing had been done to ensure this, but in the meanwhile my father had died and my mother was going through several troubled years. Her sister, Nancy Watson-Morris, was on the staff at Rondebosch, and settled the matter. Subsequently my mother frequently tried to persuade me to leave the school. I adamantly refused and we had some quite disagreeable moments on the subject.
If you were not in the first cricket XI or first rugby XV or an athlete, you had precious little status. I was a reasonably good tennis player and that was about it, but was very busy all the time, including editing the school magazine. Nobby Clarke tested me by asking me to stand up in front of the school and recite Lincoln’s famous speech at Gettysburg, to commemorate the assassination of President Kennedy. Shortly afterwards I was made a junior prefect and then subsequently became an unlikely prefect, despite the strongest objections from Doc Watson.
I genuinely think we had some marvellous dedicated teachers, however Charlie Hallack stands out for me. Nobody, including the two stepbrothers I later acquired, could believe the stories. However it was he who actually set the course for my life. During the school holidays I would spend many an hour at his house in Mowbray, drinking tea and discussing politics. I quietly started reading political biographies, a habit which in later life has drowned out virtually all other reading. Politics became for me the love that dare not speak its name, as I felt that it could not be expressed in South African public life.
During the latter stages of the apartheid era, I was an infrequent visitor, but more recently have greatly enjoyed doing so quite often. Lindsay, a wonderful head boy, would rally together some former classmates for lunch, and this has given enormous pleasure.
All of this having been said, I have watched over the years my parliamentary colleagues in England being recognised by their former school or university. I have been somewhat bemused never to have heard from the school. In our day we had visitors from abroad to speak about their lives and experiences. Perhaps it is because public service is not held in much esteem.
Being schooled so far away, people here have no reference point, and that includes my own children. Virtually never have I been asked where I went to school until – quite recently — when a colleague asked me if I had been to St Michael’s College (sic). I said I had not, and am very glad I went where I did, for without knowing it at the time the school gave me a solid base in beautiful surroundings for what has been, despite the inevitable slings and arrows of public office, an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding life.
Break at RBHS Newell, Frantz, Gibb, Le Roux, Joubert, Taylor, Mundy, de Rijk, Kipps, van den Berg (Photograph courtesy of Michael Taylor)
Initially, on receiving this request, I was reticent, finding it difficult to remember anything significant that could be of interest. But, thinking some more, here are some thoughts. Up to you to decide what is printable, relevant and of interest. Rondebosch actually represented 25% of my life in SA, therefore most important! My education there started at Mrs Wilson´s school in Grabouw, up to Standard 2. Mostly “apple barons’ kids” who would then go on to Bishops and other such places. Then for one year, I was in Standard 3 at Grabouw High School, where they were inaugurating an “English Medium school” in what was a 100% “Afrikaans Language school.” Mostly “plaas japies”, taking a school bus barefoot, warming ourselves at the bus-stop by a fire in the freezing Elgin winter mornings. Bus, sort of a back-of-a-lorry with wooden benches. I think Tim Morris featured on that school bus too! Playing “skop die blik” and other such past times. Then Standard 4 to 6 at Somerset House (2 years as a boarder, then 1 year as a day-boy when my father changed jobs from managing Applethwaite Farm – where Appletizer was invented – to Lourensford Estates in Somerset West).
Then in early 1960 on to Standard 7 at RBHS. English and maths were the subjects I preferred. I was not much good at rugby or cricket. Tickey de Jager was very inspiring and I enjoyed maths with him and the sense of satisfaction at getting good marks. In Standard 9, I believe there was a school play with Rustenburg Girls. “The Admirable Crichton” was the title. I remember having a good time. I went on to Wikipedia to find out about the plot/story. Nothing I could remember. I believe Lindsay and Tessa Kennedy were part of that play. And that Richard Spring had some important role (already!) My parents did not want me to be a boarder at RBHS, as they wanted me back on Lourensford on week-ends. So, I ended staying with various friends of the family. One year was with a Polish family on Camp Ground Rd, the Rosenwerths. Mrs Rosenwerth went on to create a local fashion house. Then 2 years in Kenilworth at Ferdi Fischer’s (whose grandmother had known my grandmother in Vienna!) During our final year, we had some interesting escapades. Arriving at school with a horse-drawn carriage and top-hats from Cape Town station to Rondebosch one morning. Our friend Paul Duminy was part of that. I also thoroughly enjoyed the climb up Skeleton Gorge, camping on Table Mountain and then down to Clifton beach the next day for an icy swim!
There were some riots in Langa and Nyanga in the early sixties, and my mother, driving me in early on Monday mornings from Somerset West, had to make some long detours to try to get me to school on time. When I wanted to stay in town for a Friday night party, I used to hitch-hike back to Somerset West on the Saturday. I guess there were fewer security issues in those days for a 15 year-old kid.
Some other post-Rondebosch recollections. While based in Miami from 1999 to 2004, being in charge of MasterCard Latin America, I attended some Old Boys’ “bring and braai” reunions in Fort Lauderdale. There was a sort of sports bar called “Kalahari Bar” run by Hal Hofmeyr (E ’46)! Colourful character whose father had been close to the Smuts Government, based in Washington DC during WW2. Many of the Old Boys attending these braais were in boating/shipping-related activities. Ft Lauderdale is one of the leisure boating capitals of the world. That’s when I realized to what extent those being raised in SA of the 60s/70s/80s at Rondebosch were a tough, “rough and tumble” but sophisticated lot prepared to travel the world, very capable of adapting to any environment, etc. Some of those in Florida were in boat-repairing, others in insurance and other forms of brokerage, etc.
When I had to deal with the Middle East (before Florida/Latin America), I also realized to what extent South Africans in general were recognized for being capable of coping with all cultures, degrees of literacy, in all climatic conditions! Places like Dubai were riddled with South Africans in PR, event management, advertising, etc.
One incredible coincidence regarding Don Andrew. When I was getting my MBA in the early 70’s at Amos Tuck Business School, Dartmouth College, which was an all-male Ivy League university in New Hampshire, we used to drive 2 hours in snow, etc. to see girls (they called them “mixers”) at a “Seven sister” girls’ university called Smith College. Smith was to Dartmouth what Rustenburg was to RBHS. Fast forward to early 2000s, when all these universities had become “co-ed”, there was an effort to hold a RBHS USA Old Boys’ reunion (I could not attend because of scheduling issues), and I discovered that Don Andrew who had ‘trapeezed’ (does the word exist?) his way around the world, was now in charge of Student Affairs at Smith!
Had dinner once with Steve Buchner and his family near Washington DC (when my son was at university there). Steve had some important US government-related job.
I have been so blessed by the life I have been given!
I was born to Dutch parents in Singapore and at the age of three my dad was transferred to Mombasa. At the age seven, dad was transferred to Port Elizabeth for a year, then to Johannesburg for a year, and back to Port Elizabeth for four years before we came to Cape Town.
1960—Monday, the 3rd week of the First Term I arrived at Rondebosch.
After assembly Bruce McLagan took me to B2 and left me standing at the front of the classroom. My thoughts were, where can I sit? All the guys were just chatting before the Master came to start the lesson. A guy at the back of the classroom, after what seemed ages, stood up and said, ‘NEW BOY’ sit here, pointing to the seat next to him. I was saved. The second pupil I met at Rondebosch, Chris Krige. Chris was also a new boy, having come from Worcester at the start of the term. The beginning of a new friendship!
Break time. Walking through the grounds to see my new school with Chris, I had someone kicking the back of my foot, trying to trip me. By the time we got to the cricket scoreboard I had had enough and turned around and asked him, ‘are looking for a fight, if you want it, no problem!’. Classmates name…..he may remember the day!
After a few weeks at the school I was elected to go on the WP Schools swimming tour with Derek v d Berg. I had a wonderful tour (my first ever) and we had a lot of fun, and got into some trouble. Threatened, but not serious enough to stop us from swimming at our first SA Schools Championships. A new friend and we had a few more tours thereafter.
I was very fortunate that I loved and was talented in sport, it helped me get into the ‘Rondebosch clique’.
Playing under 13 and bowling (medium pace) to a batsman who snicked the ball, I witnessed a catch and thought, wow, this is the best wicketkeeper I have seen, Gavin Pfuhl!
A ‘new boy’, and I wanted to play in the ‘A’ team! The team was unbeaten Under 13, coached by Tinkie Heyns. They were a close knit unit, pals and playing together in prior years. I wanted to play in the ‘A’ Team! To get there I played my heart out and was initially called ‘Dirty Grey’. I was playing ‘hard rugby’ and as far as I was concerned, I was not playing ‘dirty rugby’. I had come to Rondebosch from Grey School, Port Elizabeth.
I was a lazy scholar and enjoyed my days at school and after school.
I was not balloted for the Army and joined a firm of Chartered Accountants studying part time by going by going to lectures after work and on Saturday mornings. I enjoyed life and took quite a few years longer to qualify than a disciplined student would. But I did qualify.
To-day I am working as a Chartered Accountant, sole practitioner, doing accounting, auditing and taxation, and financial consulting.
I got married in April 1971 to Bridget Silberbauer. Bridget is/was a Nursery School Teacher. We have three children, a son Anthony (37), and daughters, Lucy (35) and Gillian (33). Anthony is unmarried, Lucy is married to Paul Copson (Fish Hoek) and they have twins (a boy and girl, age 14 months), and Gillian is married to Graham Deneys (Wynberg) (no children).
Anthony attended Rondebosch from sub A to Matric and I thoroughly enjoyed my involvement as a parent at my old school. My hope is that my grandson will follow the same schooling tradition.
We are living in Claremont and have been in the same home since 1979.
Having been in Sales my whole life “The gift of the gab”, for me, has always been a lot easier than “The power of the pen!”
So here goes-short and sweet! The following is my history.
The great years where undoubtedly with you lot at Rondebosch Prep and the one year at High School.
My father, as some of you may recall, arrived in Cape Town to start Grosvenor Motors in 1947. The motor industry was thus ingrained in me from an early age.
After Rondebosch I attended Marist Brothers St. David’s in Inanda (1960), as a border nogal! What a culture shock that was for me! From A4 destined to do Woodwork and Metalwork I ended up going Math, Science, Latin and whatever else went with a JMB matric.
Sport was a disaster at St David’s as we only had 33 matric students. Regardless of our size we were still matched against the traditional schools the likes of Jeppe, KES, Parktown St John’s and the rest. We most certainly learn what losing was all about. One positive thing however is that we all had to pitch in e.g. seven of the 1st rugby team played for the first hockey side and so forth which funnily enough did very well. We all had to participate in cricket swimming athletics and everything else that went, including the Debating Society.
I received my rugby colours in std. 8, all credit to the Rondebosch background. The Catholic Brothers (Spanish, Italian, Irish, Portuguese, etc.) only knew from the likes of soccer and soft ball. The general knowledge that I had gained from Tinkie Heyns and the other coaches proved to be invaluable and in many instances my little knowledge was way ahead of theirs. My life consisted of sport, sport and more sport.
Matric was very much secondary in my life and subsequently I rewrote my matric at Damelin. I was finally accepted into the Dental School at Wits. Lord forbid! Imagine me with my “Bull in a China shop mentality” being let loose I would have done more extractions than fillings. (Probably would have had a good practise in CT.)
I entered the motor industry on the retail side in December of 1966 and have been there ever since. My partner and I started James and Slabbert Motors in 1977 and are still in partnership to this day. This on a handshake!
I was married to Grete Van Coller for twelve years and had three girls. My life at this time was great and many years were spent at the Vaal River where my partner and our families spent virtually every week-end participating in all forms of water sport. Quite a few of you were part of my boating initiation at Zeekoeivlei when we flipped that little speedboat we were cruising in.
After getting divorced I lead a bachelor’s life for five years and it was during this time I came into contact with a host of Old Boys in Johannesburg, namely Andre Gross, Graham Pfuhl and the Staegemann brothers. It was Paul Staegemann, Lexi’s cousin, who encouraged me to become more active in the Old Boys circle. Lindsay and Roy have over the years kept me in the loop. They and the news letters have kept me touch. I will also concede to being somewhat remiss in my endeavours in staying in touch.
I married Lexi Winter in 1992. Lexi is a Rustenberg Old Girl and was previously married to Neville Thornton also a Rondebosch old boy. What with Lexi having strong family ties in the Cape, as well as having the Cape ingrained in her we have, for the best part of the last 20 years, been returning to the Cape on vacation.
Three of our daughters, in the meantime have been living and working in the Cape. Lexi and I have a small apartment in Claremont and will most certainly be returning to live there on a more permanent basis. Our plans are to relocate towards the latter part 2014.
Should this plan come to fruition along with health and finances I look forward to sharing a few jugs and lunches with those who are available.
Thanks for the wonderful memories and experiences that I’ve been able to share with you in those early years!
My optimism at entering Rondebosch Boys’ High School from the Prep school was quickly disillusioned by a prefect catching me in the corridor eating a banana (I think it was a banana, it was a long time ago). Because arriving there with the expectancy that I was now in “High” school, everything was going to be rubicund. So with this brashness I entered my high school career with enthusiasm, only to be cut off at the knees by this prefect (who I thought was full of himself!) taking me to task for doing nothing wrong!
The upshot of this encounter, which I did not handle very well or with any remorse, was a penance that required me to write out Rudyard Kipling’s “IF” twenty times and return it to the prefect by the following Friday.
I returned to the classroom, highly piqued, telling my classmates of my encounter. After several options were put forward, like, “don’t even do it”, “he’ll never ask for it” or “tie 5 Bic pens together and do it only 4 times”, I decided that the best way out was to write the lines.
This unbeknown to me at the time, was to make an indelible impression on me for the rest of my life, not the punishment but the words in the poem!
Many times in my life from then on, particularly after leaving school, phrases of the poem would come to me and give me encouragement, consolation and hope at various points of crisis, high or low.
I have had several successful businesses and a wonderful family and kids that make me proud to be a father with high expectations and all of these have been guided subconsciously by those words of Rudyard Kipling. By the way, the kids have been indoctrinated in the “IF” way of life!
Although I could not live up to all the expectations of the poem it, gave me a standard to live by in those moments when you need a crutch to get you through the day.
After matriculation I tried working in the corporate environment but after several years of frustration with the “politics” I started my own business in Computer Output Microfilm and grew that into large-scale laser printing bureaux.
The toughest time in my business career was in 1999 when all the hype was around “BEE”, and getting your business properly “dressed up” for our new SA business model. I found a business that wanted to use our skills and expertise and it sounded like a perfect solution.
Long story short – it was a disaster. It was devastating and after 9 months of legal wrangling and missed court dates I took my attorney’s advice and walked away from that tragedy.
So in true Rondebosch style, I picked up the pieces and subsequently put together a very successful business which my youngest son now runs and I have moved on to building storage units for equestrian services which should serve as a handy retirement income for my wife and I.
This is where the words : “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools, Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken, And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:” hit home really hard.
So I guess I do owe a vote of thanks to the prefect back in 1959, Mike Behr, for inadvertently giving me a lighthouse for my life and although I haven’t reached ……..
“If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”
I still have a long way to go and lots to strive for!
My first impression of moving to RBHS from Bergvliet Primary School in 1959 was a sense of being a very small fish in a huge pond. Competition in all things, both sporting and academic, was fierce.
As it turned out, Rondebosch gave us an excellent introduction into the real world, as we were exposed to boys from widely diverse cultural, religious and social backgrounds.
My family’s house was very close to the school fence, so for 3 years until my parents left for the UK, I could walk to school when the bell rang. My last 2 years were spent as a boarder in Canigou – quite a culture shock for a day bug!
For some reason my overriding memories of school were of countless hours spent playing touch rugby and ‘gaining ground’ on the school field, often involving John Le Roux and others. Tinkie Heyns and Dudley Baartman stand out as teachers who treated us boarders with particular kindness, as did Marjorie Clarke.
Of my school friends, I have seen John Simon a couple of times at class reunions, Bruce Ferguson once during a brief business trip to Christchurch, and Andrew Joubert (whose parents would often have me to stay in Malmesbury when my parents were overseas) with whom I have remained in close contact.
The next 50 years have passed in a blur.
After a ‘gap year’ in the UK (I sailed with Peter Gibb on the Windsor Castle in December 1963, and haven’t seen him since) I did a B Com at Stellenbosch, where I was in residence with Jimmy McDermott, with whom I had shared a study in Canigou. This was followed by a year in the army, accounting articles in Cape Town and a CA at UCT, then two years spent working in London and travelling the world.
On my return to SA, I joined the Barlow Rand group in Johannesburg, and spent the next 30 years in a variety of management positions in various divisions, before and after the group was unbundled. I have been very fortunate to have worked in businesses which required me to travel to many interesting countries.
34 years ago I married Belinda Bailey, a Rustenburg girl, whose brothers went to Rondebosch. We have two sons, Sean (30) who recently married an English girl and lives in London, and Paul (28) who lives in Cape Town. They were schooled at St Stithians in Jhb, which we felt was acceptable, as Wally Mears was the first Headmaster!
The call of the mountain led to us to return to Cape Town last year. Its great being back, and I have also enjoyed bumping into Lindsay Kennedy from time to time – hats off to him for his untiring efforts in keeping us all updated.
Mr Charlie Hallack (Photograph courtesy of Chris Steyn)
At this remove – a half-century and counting – it is astounding how readily memories of childhood and adolescence spring to mind. We may live worlds’ away and long-hauls’ apart, but friendships forged at school can survive crowded years and the hands of the busy clock.
I was a pre-teen boarder and rites of passage were played out in Mason House, The Lilacs and Canigou. After years in the arid Eastern Cape, I was half-blinded by the vivid green shock of the school’s lawns and fields. I enjoyed gymnastics, cross-country running and athletics. However, as the introduction to my first book noted, ‘Swift rebelled against school discipline’. My refuge was a girlfriend’s flat, where I spent long hours lost in music and sharing cigarettes with Guy Murcott (all secrets will out)!
Schooldays were for me a confusion of sorts. My brothers Peter and David were Bishops boys; my father had been at White House before them. First-team rugby matches presented a conflict of loyalties as Peter was captain of our muddied rivals.
Of the lessons? I enjoyed geography and history, with the threat of being ‘expelled to Westerford’ hanging over us all. Billy Trengove was an inspiration; a dedicated teacher and original thinker. He fanned the early flames of my passion for language.
The long holiday journeys to and from school were by train; a piston-packing sway through time in a narrow world of varnished, grumbling teak, green leather seats and wooden shutters gallowsed-up with thick, saddle-leather straps.
Years later I embarked on a nostalgic steel-wheels return trip. No teak, only plastic and formica. The bulkheads were thin. From the adjoining compartment, Country and Western maudlined over the dark Karoo… squalling over the stone bones of dinosaurs. Also, no deep-panting of steam. Now, the steady roar of diesel. And no gaggle of awkward boys; no giggle of girls from St Cyps…
My father (a doctor) died when I was 16; I left RBHS and returned to the Eastern Cape.
Friendships remained… I was happy to learn recently that Donald Andrew had bought a home in St James. I telephoned from Fish Hoek; a precious moment. After my return to Cape Town as a young man, Don and I remained in contact for years – mountain-climbing and socialising (a little too energetically). He may remember snatching a cap from an unsuspecting security guard at UCT. We were working together at the ‘Cape Argus’ when he obtained a Green Card for the USA. As he told my eldest son recently, ‘we walked on our hands together’.
I saw Jonny Summers frequently and married Caroline, his ex-wife. I was very saddened to hear of his death… the bright boys leaving. I remember receiving a morning call from Jonno, he had lost a car ‘somewhere in Cape Town’! Jon van den Heever spoke at his funeral in Rondebosch and other friends, including John Wilse Sampson and Keith Miller, were present.
Caroline and I probably over-stayed a warm welcome from Timmy Owen and his family in Cornwall and they visited us in Cambridge. A Blues-lover, Tim was probably more drawn to our home by my friendship with Johnny Mars, the American musician, than by the past!
After my school years I studied art and sold graphics at group exhibitions. I decided on a journalistic career and worked on the ‘Cape Times’ and ‘The Argus’ before leaving South Africa. In England, I was employed for many years on national newspapers and magazines.
I began publishing poetry and criticism in my early twenties and struck up great friendships with the novelist Jack Cope (my mentor) and The Sestigers, among them Jan Rabie and Uys Krige. My first collection was awarded the Ingrid Jonker Prize for the best debut volume in Southern Africa and I later won the Thomas Pringle Prize. One of my books had a long history of banning and unbanning in South Africa (one of the reasons I left the country) and was published in New York.
My poems are published frequently in SA and the UK. I have prepared a new collection and I am completing a novel.
I am divorced and have two sons, Adam (a motoring correspondent) and Dylan (a student). They both live in Cambridge in the UK.
I recently bought a house in Fish Hoek – where I now live – and I own a converted chapel built in 1785 near the fishing harbour in Folkestone, Kent, 22 miles from France. We have all taken to our own twisty roads; the journey matters more than the destination… Memories die hard…
‘Free scrap here! Free scrap here!’ the rhythmic chant repeated, an irresistible summons. A quick scamper from The Lilacs summer house, a daring break out from the protective sanctuary of the Pikkies’ Playground to dash across the flowering gum avenue, there in the Big Playground to savour the primitive orgy of unrestrained fisticuffs and furious boy-wrestling; myself a rather tiny dandelion nervously peering between the thicket of baying Big Boys… a small loss of innocence.
The Prep School: the tumbling images jostling for prominence… lining up in the Quad to flop down, dusty and sweaty in our diminutive Sub B two-seater desks to colour in rows of letter patterns for Miss Castley, a visit to the austere and doubly uncomfortable bench outside Ensie’s office – the prelude to punishment for some juvenile offence, the stampede to the playground at Short Break, filing first through the dispensing room for free (flavoured) milk in RBPS porcelain mugs, quickly gulped and returned to the band of moms on duty: I still have one – the mug not the mom, but now cracked and sans handle through a recent domestic carelessness.
Alongside these familiar boyish faces, flash those of the adult figures who imposed their imprint on me – including two cuts, once, from Mr Enslin (I remember being stunned late in my Prep life by the discovery that Ensie had a first name, Roche at that, and a life and home beyond Camp Ground Road, farming in Constantia). Miss Johnson, Miss Ferguson, Miss Earp-Jones all part of the patient scaffolding that nurtured our early exposure to learning the Three R’s. Miss Edna Cope was probably the first to really take me in hand, in Std 1, when she donned her swimming costume to teach me, an extremely reluctant candidate, to swim during the weekly class visit to the old cement pool below Mason House. My right knee still aches at the memory of her thick cane (Sam?) descending heavily and without warning when, during percussion band, I boldly played a beat on my drum when everyone else respected the rest indicated in the score.
I was born in Sea Point while my father was a young schoolmaster at his alma mater, Sea Point Boys’ High. We later moved to Stellenbosch for my father’s postgraduate studies when my parents apparently had the foresight to put down my name for RBPS.
Following his studies, my father taught for two years at Paul Roos Gymnasium, where I was mascot for the First Rugby XV. This was not an omen for my own future in any team of Doc Craven’s, but it turned out that after four years at UCT I also completed postgraduate studies at Stellenbosch. Again unintentionally following my father, I then taught for ten years at Paul Roos Gymnasium (where I helped to establish hockey in the face, initially, of stiff prejudice), before spending six years doing research at Oxford University, a period which culminated in a DPhil and four children.
From Stellenbosch, my parents moved to Simonstown for my father’s first appointment as a school principal. Simonstown was influential in shaping early interests in my life, ships and ship design in particular, to the extent that drawing and designing ships in minute detail was an obsession throughout my youth and naval architecture my undivided goal as a career until the Suez Crises and oil price hikes knocked the bottom out of shipping.
My entering a career at RBPS was not entirely the reason for our move; my father had decided to take up what he saw as the educational challenge of his dreams, as founder headmaster to establish a new co-educational high school Westerford, in the shadow of the University of Cape Town and alongside famous established schools like Rondebosch, SACS, Bishops and Rustenburg.
If there were unhappy memories of RBPS they were short-lived. They have faded and what remains is a fairly unstructured, tumbling tract of happy activity not heavily demarcated by standard-specific memories in the same way that I find more typical of my high school years. School was more fun than holidays. I remember, for example, that once we were into the first few days of a new school term, the past holiday seemed to fade instantly and I seemed oblivious of the arrival of the next holiday until it was announced by the teachers to be the day after tomorrow (or almost as sudden).
One holiday that did stand out though, was the summer holiday at the end of Std 1 when a classmate, Donald Andrew, youngest brother to Ken and Roy, lost his mother Audrey to cancer. My parents knew Donald’s parents and apart from my not realising how incredibly young an age this was for a mother to die, I had never known someone who had lost his mother. Donald, apparently quite a handful (naughty), came with our family on holiday to a beachside bungalow on a remote private farm at Gwayang River mouth near George. I realise now that this experience was of incalculable value for me: it gave me the closest opportunity I’d yet had to be sensitive to another’s loss. Although I was only eight at the time, I still regard it as a landmark in my emotional development.
Donald is currently an esteemed dean at Smith University in Northampton, Massachusetts and we still have contact. It has recently been my pleasure to help facilitate a research visit of one of Smith’s promising women students to Stellenbosch.
A searing moment of moral insight and regret, if not sorrow, was also afforded by an incident in Miss Gwyneth Vickerstaff’s classroom in Std 2, when we were visited by a student teacher, whom we treated so atrociously that she left the class in tears. The lecturer, who was present, did not mince words in her disgust at our behaviour and of course Miss Vickerstaff felt humiliated on behalf of RBPS. What made us feel rotten swine (an epithet I was later to relish when used frequently and deservedly on us by Charlie Hallack) was that we were told that the student had failed her practical lesson.
Other prominent classroom memories of a more constructive kind are of Miss Erina Duminy, with whom we were all in love I believe, although we all rejoiced when she ended our Std 3 year engaged to Herbie Helm. She was so crisp, articulate, enthusiastic, confident and well organised (beautiful too) – and positive, lending self-belief, to me at any rate. I think I worked better for her than for any other teacher throughout my schooling. Somehow she created scope for me to develop latent creative talents.
It was about this time that I also began to recognise and admire the talents of other boys around me. As someone who loved drawing, especially ships, I was very struck by the giftedness of Jeremy Day whose sketches of ships were amazing – accurate, imaginative and futuristic. I have often wondered what outlet that talent found as Jeremy was as advanced conceptually as anything marine design has delivered since.
Surely a heroine deserving generations of Rondebosch boys’ respect and admiration was Nancy Watson-Morris (Farquharson), for her sheer organisational skill, stamina and voice in marshalling half of the school at a time through an annual dramatic production? Everyone took part – as a flibberty jibbet, a snowflake, one of Ali Baba’s 40 thieves or, in my case Princess Ju Ju, with Christopher Newell as my father, the Emperor Hoki Poki Tippy Toptop, and Alan Musker as the Lord High Executioner. With a dramatic entry on stage and cry of ‘Ah stay your hand! Stay your h-a-n-d!’ I narrowly deflected the Executioner’s falling axe from severing the head of my beloved from his body, the ‘Poor wandering soul’ whose identity I am embarrassed to say I cannot remember. I’d be glad if he would identify himself so that I can assess whether my intervention yielded good long-term benefits!
A memory for pain rather than pride stirs, from our Std 4 Speech class on Miss Watson-Morris’s first day back after an absence for nervous illness: we had placed a large black fake spider on the teacher’s chair so that she would see it as she pulled the chair from under the desk. On cue, the class shrieked in mock horror. To our shock and dismay, there was no laughter; Nancy collapsed into the chair in genuine hysterics herself, sitting on the spider and sobbing piteously. After a while of confusion, the class groping towards some act that might restore our relationship with someone we really liked and loved, it fell to me to make the apology. Following this, Nancy graciously forgave us and explained why her recent illness had undone her fortitude on this occasion.
I do believe that Nancy Watson’Morris’s weekly Public Speaking classes right through to Matric were among the most formative influences on my life (‘Four score and seven years ago …’ and ‘You ask, What is our policy? I can answer in one word: Victory!’ or Clarence Darrow’s defence in the Loew-Leopold case). For many, the indelible memory will be of Friday afternoon dancing classes with Nancy… perhaps the meeting there of a life partner from a sister school?
It was a novelty to be taught in Std 4, for the first time, by men. I recall a term under the delightful steel moustached Yorkshireman WH Law, a long lost former Rondebosch teacher and Principal of the Prep during World War II, seemingly approaching his century and brought out of retirement as a relief teacher. He presented these 11-year olds with another sort of challenge, of not taking advantage of the elderly when the opportunity was so generously presented by so kind a person.
I will brush over humiliating moments such as when, in Std 5, Mr Sephton descended on me with fiercely bared teeth and called me a ‘little rat’ for a too personal observation in the midst of his Afrikaans lesson. Instead, I remember that year as the year of Little Lemon, the dog that the Russians launched into space in the first satellite Sputnik, about which I wrote a poem for our class paper, starting profoundly with ‘Little Lemon in the sky, how I wonder where you are, high above the earth so far … ‘.
That was also the year that we achieved hitherto unknown success for RBPS at the Cape Town Eisteddfod by winning the junior school choir section with a Gold Diploma, singing the Crimond version of Psalm 23, under the baton of Miss Lampbrecht, a woman of strong if not fierce discipline and makeup, possessed of an amazingly well preserved and impressively organised figure and my first conscious encounter with platinum blond hair. That year I also discovered a particular love of singing that led on to happy experiences at numerous Eisteddfods, of solo and choral singing, later with Marjorie Clarke during my High School years and after school in the Philharmonia Choir.
Much of Prep School memory consists of a blur of break-time activities, often repeated seasonally, like the marble season: ‘Shy up here!’, bulging bags of magical glass orbs traded earnestly for as long as the season lasted, suddenly to be supplanted by Top Season or an overnight swing to Red Rover. Then magically as if by some well managed plan, a rash of Dinkey toys and road building sprang up, starting in a pile of gravel left in the playground by builders and then sprawling out across the playground, roads and vehicles tolerantly being avoided by scudding boys sharing the same territory as they dashed about on some other game.
I was part of a group that spent literally months playing out episodes of the Friday evening serial on Springbok Radio, ‘The Scarlet Pimpernel’, across the length and breadth of the playground, right down to the fig and loquat trees at the bottom corner beyond the cricket nets. As Sir Percy Blakeney, I had the thrill of rescuing numerous victims unjustly imprisoned in the Bastille, a large pine tree down near the Lilacs fence, from the certainty of the guillotine, in the nick of time as the bell went for the end of break. Truly, break times were play times!
Other activities that crowd into this kaleidoscope were of a more extramural kind, not only the regular cricket or rugby practices but tennisette with Mr Soderland and with Jaraslav Houba, as well as the class outings, as frequently as once a term, to places like Kirstenbosch, Rhodes Memorial and the Zoo, the Panther Shoe Factory in Maitland, Humphreys Sweet Factory at Sunrise Circle, the trout hatchery in Jonkershoek, Rembrandt cigarette factory in Paarl, the Cape Town Fire Station in Roeland Street and many more, usually coming home with samples of cigarettes, sweets, leather or whatever commodity we had been allowed to observe, handle or smuggle out.
Two profound dimensions that cannot be separated from the sense of identity, familiarity and acceptance that grows with being a boy in a given school community are, firstly, the sense of place or physical ownership and secondly, the personal relationships that evolve within the scaffolding of school life.
Regarding the first aspect, landscape, I recollect that as my boundaries were allowed to spread from home and school precincts (and I could literally jump over the fence to get home from the Prep), I began to experience the surrounding neighbourhood as ‘my oyster’ – the route down through Rondebosch station, the insalubrious subways, past the Town Hall and Library to the Fountain, Station Café (illicit cigarette purchases there for experimental sampling with my cousin Peter Roos), Scholnicks grocers or Hessens general dealer, or a visit to the barber, Leon Hurwitz’s dad, on Main Road, to sit on the plank for extra height and a short back and sides . Or on occasion the walk in a crocodile down Rouwkoop Road and alongside the railway line, uniformed and with school caps, to spend a nerve tingling 90 minutes right on the touchline at Newlands watching the British Lions playing South Africa, or other similar matches, rugby and cricket. This sense of a hinterland around our school and neighbourhood soon expanded, initially under the supervision of teachers, to include the well-worn route down Oakhurst Avenue (occasionally Canigou Avenue) to the High School to use the swimming pool or Memorial Hall, or watch the heroes of RBHS sporting teams.
Because my home and school bases coincided closely, my expanding horizons tended to radiate out from the Prep School. This included playing in Sandown Park, attending fétes and bazaars there (seeing rock ‘n roll and bopping there for the first time, or ‘kalifa’, fire-eating and candy floss) and eventually discovering the vast reaches of the Rondebosch Common; or crossing Glebe Road (appropriately named) into Weltevreden Avenue and beyond as I was allowed increasing latitude to go and play at the homes of school friends.
Which brings me to the dimension of personal relationships, to the phenomenon of school friends and to 3 Weltevreden Avenue, the home of the Veitch Family, where I think I spent almost as much of my after school hours as in my own home. Probably more than any other influence, far more than mere knowledge itself, the factor which most shapes our lives is our relationships, our friendships, the people who enter and share our lives.
In my case, while I remember with appreciation many peers from Prep and High School days, I realise how much I owe to Neil Veitch as an enduring friend to this day. I’m not sure how we actually chanced to meet up in Std 1; Neil had already had several operations to remedy the effects of polio and won my admiration for dealing with that. What he had also done, unlike me, was to develop an early love of reading that gave him an inherent sensibility, a self-contained yet unprecocious wisdom that attracted me – and a flair for language, ideas and conversation that became the main plank of our friendship.
At the Prep stage, though, friendship was all about Dinkey toys, Hornby Dublo trains – and bicycles. Most afternoons were spent together either at the Veitches’ home, where the three brothers Sandy, Neil and Hugh had assembled an enviable collection, or at Rod Lumb’s home, where the lounge floor was almost permanently covered by a similar layout.
For Christmas, at the end of Std 5, I was given my first bicycle, a metallic blue Raleigh. On the first morning of my high school career I proudly sailed into the RBHS gates on Canigou Avenue, swiftly to discover a new order and a new ethos: An elegant (in my eyes) blazered figure stepped out from the hydrangeas at the first corner of the building and instructed me to dismount. ‘You push your bike from here round the end of the building [pointing beyond the Clock Tower] and park in the Std 6 Quad.’ The dignified but helpful tone of this superior being set the tone for my respect for our Prefects; I would have crawled the remaining 100 metres on my knees. ‘And what’s that?’ he asked, pointing at the blue Marchand badge on my lapel. I began to explain the obvious … ‘I know that,’ he interrupted. ‘We don’t wear those here.’ In seconds, this first willing adjustment to the new setting was achieved and the childish emblem was never again needed to prove my house loyalty.
So gently, yet profoundly, were we introduced to the RBHS ethos, mainly by the Prefect body: the neatness of our uniforms, buttoned blazers, shoes polished (‘Not just the front, Taylor – at the back as well!’), hymn books for Assembly; the periodic turns during a Short Break as Std 6 class groups to be conducted by a prefect through a section of the grounds with wire waste paper baskets to pick up litter. Then too, as a horde of eager Std 6’s in the Music Room on a Friday afternoon being inducted by Ken Andrew and the committee of the Senior Debating Society, into the skills of conducting a debate. One of the first motions debated was the chestnut: capital punishment should be abolished.
Many new forms of independence and responsibility unfolded… being despatched to collect our new books at the Book Room (I remember my first Oxford Pocket Dictionary), being less regimented, sometimes addressed as gentlemen. From the first I was impressed with the grandeur of the building – or buildings – and the beauty of the grounds to which we were given such free access during break times, to walk a full circuit as far as the Lower or even Upper Desert, or just languish on Oakhurst or the Rugby A field. It is extraordinary how the physical facilities of our school seeped into the overall enjoyment and sense of ownership that grew with passing years, both for their own aesthetic qualities and as these became associated with activities and events, with cross country races, sports matches, athletics practices, ‘free swimming’ afternoons or just riding one’s bike over the familiar territory.
In athletics, although not a champion, I enjoyed sprints, hurdles and long jump. A serious and sad memory that has always lingered for me in relation to athletics at RBHS is of the impact on the whole school of the death from cancer of Alvin Schufleder, just a year ahead of us and a brilliant junior sprinter whose leg was amputated to try to save his life. As a Std 6 I was at a very impressionable stage; probably we all were – and hugely impressed with the inspirational visit of the legless wartime RAF Pilot Douglas Bader in support of Alvin.
There is no trite recipe for a school’s ethos or easy explanation of how tradition intersects with daily practice and routines. But for me the essence of RBHS was probably imbibed most profoundly through the ritual of morning Assembly in the Memorial Hall, enacted daily throughout our school careers: what seemed like the achievement of absolute silence, under Arthur Jayes’s presiding eye, before the dignified entrance of gowned Headmaster WA ‘Nobby’ Clarke, the Scripture reading by a prefect, Hymn for the day, Lord’s Prayer in unison, standing, and a few brief announcements, with virtually never a disciplinary injunction to upset the respectful tone of the occasion. Similar lasting impressions were ingrained through the reverent repetitions of Remembrance Day and traditions like Founders Day.
As a structure the Memorial Hall, a superb and versatile facility, played a central role in the multiplicity of the school’s activities, as no doubt it still does. My own involvement with probably the largest society in the school at the time, the Rondebosch Christian Union (RCU), meant frequent gatherings within the Hall’s cool interior. I grew accustomed to the routine Tuesday lunchtime meetings there, often attended by a few hundred boys (the boarders streaming in late after wolfing their lunch at Canigou), as well as periodic evening meetings or Birthday Meetings attended by other schools. An equally memorable routine was the use of the Memorial Hall for periodic film shows on a Friday evening, well-attended despite our having to wear school uniform.
I also remember the movies of the Marx Brothers, The Big Store and Night at the Opera, when we literally slid off our seats onto the floor as wave after wave of slapstick action or outrageous dialogue kept us in helpless laughter. How right Mr Buck Ryan was when, thanking Herbie Helm on behalf of the school at the end of one of these sessions, he commented: ‘This time Mr Helm has surpassed himself.’
What contributed most to the quality of our experience at RBHS was of course the calibre of our teachers, every one deserving of comment and appreciation, impossible though it is to express that here. Many of these gave years of their lives to the boys of Rondebosch, shared their knowledge and love of subject, sporting or cultural activity. For me, those who taught me English somehow succeeded in stimulated an overarching interest in language and literature and even more, in the thinking and ideas of those who shape the world we occupy. No doubt this grand process happened by small degrees, sometimes mundane. Let me illustrate from Billy Trengove’s classes: In Std 7 I had become obsessed with reading novels by Dornford Yates and by following the antics of Bertie Wooster and his butler Jeeves in PG Wodehouse’s novels, so that quite early in the year, the twenty or so titles in the Reading List at the back of my English Composition book reflected this unswerving uniformity. Billy drily noted in pencil: ‘Vary your reading’. My solution was to intersperse the record of my continued reading with the titles of well-known books of which I had seen the film version, or read the comic. To this day I remember graphically moments in Billy’s classes, of both insight and hilarity, and was privileged to be able to share some of these in a tribute at his Memorial Service on 5 January 2013 – a schoolmaster who became a lifelong friend.
I loved Latin, especially the translation of Latin passages into lively English, but was undisciplined about the necessary daily learning so that on occasions my marks were alarmingly inconsistent. On one such occasion of plummeting from above 80 to below 50, Robert (Doc) Watson tersely recorded, for my parents’ consumption, the stinging explanation on my term report: ‘Culpably neglected to prepare for the examination’. Ouch. But Latin taught me as much about English and History as these subjects themselves (after all, we read the actual words of Caesar and Cicero, not third hand descriptions of their deeds and ideas).
There is something incredibly noble about the teacher who is willing to have his or her life cracked open, as it were, under the sustained scrutiny of youthful curiosity. Yet this willingness is what probably endeared many of our masters to us. It was a regular pastime for some of us – Neil Veitch and I were incorrigible observers and critics – to analyse Dudley Baartman’s attire for example. It seemed to us that he was very stylish and dapper, wearing a different suit each day of the week. Similarly we were unfailing in our fascination at the raised dimensions of Marjorie Clarke’s jugular vein when she doubled her efforts in training us at choral singing for a forthcoming school event; I still have a sketch of this drawn surreptitiously in the back of my school hymn book during such a practice.
Few masters in any school in any country in any era can have done more to contribute to the creation of enduring folklore, memories and love of the alma mater than Russell Kilgour (Charlie) Hallack. No record will ever do justice to his life and memory or be able to capture accurately the amalgam of goodwill, optimism, perseverance and courage with which he endured decades of teaching the history of the French Revolution to what were in many respects, simply savages. The cement that has indestructibly sealed the loyalty and camaraderie shared at reunions of generations of Old Boys has been the warmth of reliving the intoxicating experiences of those history classes. Without irony, it can surely be claimed that a universal appreciation among boys of Mr Hallack’s unique brand of teaching stands out as one of the most powerful factors in explaining the unusually high level of solidarity and loyalty that has characterised the Old Boys’ Union for 60 years or more.
So many characteristics endear Charlie Hallack to our memories. Most of these are best illustrated by specific anecdotes or encounters, of which there are multitudes. Many of these are recurring, experienced nearly identically by fathers and sons thirty years apart. One could mention his practice of ‘taking hostages’ for further discipline during break-time, his aversion to the words ‘Jabberwocky’ and ‘Rhubarb’, his threats to ‘Kill’ (using his ruler Rufus), or his hunting down of alarm clocks ringing in a pile of suitcases or a random electric bell wired to go off behind the blackboard, fires in the classroom or feigned suicides by boys jumping out of upstairs windows onto outside ledges only to reappear through the door or by climbing in at another window.
Suffice it here, in this narrative, to limit an illustration to hearing Charlie Hallack’s own down-to-earth wisdom about teaching method as he adapted to the changing context experienced in a school like Rondebosch: Clive Young recounts that when he arrived at RBHS in 1960 as a young history teacher straight from UCT, Charlie drew him aside and advised him: ‘If you have any trouble in a class, just whack a boarder.’ Perhaps boarders in the Class of’63 will recognise with hindsight that they fell under this dictum as far as Charlie was concerned. Things changed, however, as the roots of evil spread from other quarters. In 1969, not long before Charlie’s retirement, while I was still a student at UCT I travelled with him on the suburban train from Fish Hoek to Rondebosch. Probably rather facetiously, I asked him about discipline and changes in behaviour since ‘our day’. Without hesitation, he had the answer ready: ‘If you have any trouble in a class, just whack a surfer.’
No doubt a lot of serious learning took place in all our classes, but the experience was always cushioned by loads of fun and mischievousness. Sometimes the fun was in the dry irony expressed by teachers like Mr ME Welsh who incorporated subversive political allusions into his classroom discipline in Latin classes, instructing nomadic pupils wandering out of their desks to ‘get back to your own group area’ or to ‘sit down, sons of bloated plutocrats’.
Other humour was extracted from daring pranks sustained over weeks, such as when the very gracious retired Afrikaans teacher from the Strand, Mr PAC Weidemann, took on D1a as a relief teacher for one term. He was always puzzled by the titter and bemused faces when he looked up too late to see that the cause of unrest was the repeated throwing of a tennis ball on the wall above his head. The impromptu prank that had to be maintained to the end of the term, however, arose when Mr Weidemann caught Derek van den Berg talking to me about the work we were supposed to be completing silently. Derek was confronted for the misdemeanour, but by some chemistry, Derek and I slipped immediately into a role play to which we had to remain committed, or risk exposure as fraudsters. Derek explained that I was ‘the deaf boy’ and that his role was to be my interpreter. For numerous lessons thereafter, Derek and I acted out this role with exaggerated dedication, sometimes even going up to Mr Weidemann to ask for additional help. Without fail Mr Weidemann took extra trouble to make sure I had understood instructions, with Derek’s help if need be. At the end of term, Mr Weidemann’s compassionate comment on my report for progress in Afrikaans was to wish me all of the best for my future.
When I look back across the decades of subsequent experience, I believe those good wishes stood me in good stead! Up to the age of 16 I’d been sure I was going to be a naval architect, a conviction that evaporated as the future of shipping changed. I left school uncertain whether to become a farmer, a doctor, an advocate or an architect. I was sure I didn’t want to become a teacher, and, much as I respected him, to follow in my father’s footsteps.
After training as an officer during my national service in the Navy, I felt myself drawn to study English as my major with a view to teaching after all. After four years at UCT and a postgraduate year at Stellenbosch University, I spent 10 years of fulfilling teaching at Paul Roos Gymnasium before being awarded the Rondebosch Overseas Scholarship, which gave me the opportunity to proceed to Balliol College, Oxford for an MSc degree in Educational Governance. In 1981 I had married Margaret Lewis, at that time Head of Music at Rustenburg Girls’ High so we were able to embark on the Oxford experience together. A very happy chapter of our lives followed: after considerable travel in Britain, Europe and North America, our first three children were born while my research progressed to doctoral level, including field trips to South Africa, grappling with the rapid changes in this country during the 1980s and the possibilities of educational transformation.
Our return to South Africa was on the eve of major transformation, making the 1990s an exciting time to join Higher Education, lecturing at Stellenbosch University in Education Policy Studies. This field, especially as it relates to governance, management and leadership, has opened out into challenging projects and consulting work, including with the national government, about education system and school development in South Africa.
As a family we have had the privilege and great blessing of living in a town with the resources and opportunities of Stellenbosch, including a first class education for our four children at school and tertiary level. After all having received a fantastic grounding at Rhenish Primary School, the eldest Stephen chose to go to RBHS as a boarder, starting off under Prof Tinkie Heyns in Mason House, ‘The Best House in the World’. Stephen went to Bishops for a post-Matric year and went on to obtain his PhD in Economics from Stellenbosch. Kathleen, an Old Rhenisher, is now a Candidate Attorney at ENS, having finished off an LLM while competing in the London Olympics in 2012. Ross chose to go to Paul Roos Gymnasium, then qualified as a Mechanical Engineer and is now married and working for Defy in Durban. The youngest, Helen, has also just qualified as a lawyer and is working temporarily for a law firm until she takes up a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford in September 2013.
I feel that I have learned more in the last three years than in the previous 60. I look forward to new challenges in my work over the next ten years, yet without all that went before and the Rondebosch foundation there would have been little on which to build.
Through our children we have enjoyed an enlargement and variety in life that keeps us on our toes and trying out new things: three of them have played hockey for South Africa, but they all enjoy music – we have a clarinet player, a concert pianist, a trumpeter and a violinist. In a curious way, it is true to say that the joys and benefits that I have reflected on in this remembrance of RBHS and its people, have flowed into the lives we share as a family. We believe that the value of this legacy will rest in no small way on their future lives and families too.
Waiters at Matric dance 1962 Hugh Hodge, Richard (Spring) Risby, M Sheppard, Peter Scholte, R. Schreiber, B. Buyskes, Piet Schroeder, Barry Price, Peter Barrett, Miss Denning, Cedric Gilmour, Bruce McLagan, Trevor Klette (Photo courtesy of Hugh Hodge)
I joined the prep school in Standard 1 from Rosebank Junior School in, as I recall, Miss Cope’s class and have fond memories of her, as well as Solly Robinson and Miss Duminy.
Mr Laidlaw was my favourite teacher and sports master while the glamorous Miss Hartman was the school beauty on whom most of us had a schoolboy crush.
I remember that the principal, Mr Enslin, who farmed in the Constantia valley, was invariably the first out of the school gates, the sound of his bakkie going down the driveway from Oakhurst, timed perfectly with the school bell.
Without a doubt, Arthur Jayes was my most admired master at the High School. His mere presence was enough to bring a rowdy class to complete stillness. I also held Messrs Ryan, Baartman, Viljoen and Goldie in high regard. Ronnie Wiggett was the sports coach who inspired me the most.
Of course, no memories of Rondebosch could exclude a few Charlie Hallack experiences. I recall the time when for about a week, Barry Lloyd was persona non grata in Charlie’s E1b history class on account of an earlier misdemeanour. As Charlie entered the classroom he would cast his eyes around the room before issuing and the command “Lloyd out”, pointing to the door. He would then make his way down the aisle to collar an unresponsive Lloyd sheltering at the back of the class. Thereafter followed a robust struggle as Charlie grappled with Lloyd to physically evict him, spurred on by a chorus of “Lloyd out” from the rest of the class. The class would erupt into a round of applause as Charlie eventually managed to close the door on an evicted Lloyd. Invariably, as Charlie proudly made his way back to his desk, smoothing his clothing disturbed in the struggle, Lloyd would pop his head in the door and ask ”Sir, can I come in now?”
How we, and especially Lloyd, managed to pass History with all the non-academic distractions is a testament to Charlie’s innate grasp of history and his ability to focus the class on likely examination questions.
I have fond memories of all the friends I made at Rondebosch over the years, especially Sandy Marr and Derek van den Berg in the Prep and Kai Albrecht and Hugh Hodge in the High. Robbie Thomas and Andy Spengler I only really got to know following my school days when immersed in the sport of surfing. Andy and I became very close until our ways parted when he left to live in the US. I renewed my friendship with Johnny Kipps in the 1980s when both our families worshiped at Holy Trinity Church in Kalk Bay, before they left for the Isle of Man.
My Rondebosch education enabled me to qualify as a civil engineer at UCT. I specialised in dam engineering eventually becoming a partner at Hill Kaplan Scott in Cape Town.
In 1999, I accepted an offer from an Australian firm, GHD in Melbourne where I now live with my wife Philippa (nee Pittard who matriculated at Notre Dame Convent in Constantia) as do our children, Claire and James. I have recently ‘transitioned to retirement’, going onto a 4 day week that enables me to enjoy more golf.
We were all set to be in Cape Town for the E63 50th anniversary. However, the almost simultaneous expected arrival of our first grandchild has unfortunately frustrated those plans. I will be especially missing the golf day at Steenberg with the lads.
I have included a number of photographs in separate emails that may be interesting to some E63s.
One is of a group of us in the school grounds during a break circa 1960. Another is of the Under 11A Rugby team and a third was from a photo published in either the Argus or the Cape Times in about 1959, of a rugby test match crowd at Newlands featuring Derek van den Berg, myself, Christopher Mundy, John Le Roux and Hennie Mostert.
Alan Musker was my deskmate on day one – swimming in the slimy green pool near Mason House…and ‘Free Scrap Here’ at the bottom of the playground. Also boxing with Mr Laidlaw.
High School: my whole focus here was sport…swimming, rugby and athletics. The academic side was an inescapably irritating part of life. My behaviour in the classroom reflected this. I must have been a challenge to most of the teachers!
Looking back now one realizes how privileged we were to have the calibre of men who taught us. Growing up in a single parent family, as I did, the teachers provided discipline as well as role model status.
Army call-up followed matric and then medical school at UCT. I qualified in 1970 and moved to Edenvale Hospital in Pietermaritzburg. I married Lyn Davis in 1972. The end of my rugby career came in 1976 and we moved to Matatiele in East Griqualand where I was in a 4-man general practice for 20 years. I returned in 1997 to the Western Cape with wife Lyn and our six children – good Catholics! – and I am still in practice in Somerset West.
I have some wonderful Prep School memories – of the redoubtable Miss Ferguson, ‘Sergeant,’ who always wore striped shirts, ties, a severe bun in her hair and an imperceptible moustache. An interesting ensemble.
I came first in class on one occasion and was rewarded with a prize – a dinky toy motor-car! Worth a fortune these days.
Then, in Standard 1, the beautiful Miss Duminy – what a cleavage, even for eight year-olds. I’m still fascinated by cleavages! Miss McEwan was our soccer coach and Mr Laidlaw gave me cuts. Didn’t he give cuts to everyone?
At High School Billy Trengove was a new master. I cried out, ‘Bloody nose, sir, may I be excused?’ When I returned to the classroom, Billy asked to see my hanky, needless to say there were no traces of blood anywhere on it. He remembered the incident years later at our 25th anniversary in the City Club in Cape Town. After how many pupils had he taught in the intervening years! What a man.
Sivvie Olivier took me for Afrikaans with snot balls being launched from the teacher’s table at offending pupils. ‘Mango’ van Oordt (Bio and Latin) did not take kindly to being asked what the Latin word for a mango was. Thereafter in the Latin class his usual greeting was, “Morning class, sit. Van Zyl – OUT!”‘ I came to know the passage well and having to avoid Nobby and Mr Jayes.
My mother made sandwiches for Geoff Duckitt. (So that’s who Geoff”s hitherto unknown donor was! Ed).
Charlie was just great – the war of the worlds – Nat v SAP was still being fought, intermingled with cries of “Rufus!!” “Swine!!’ “Kill!!” Also of people hanging outside the classroom on the window ledges – Chris Haylett, Peter Goble and others with shouts of “Help, sir! I’m falling!”
Due to acute asthma I was not much of a participant in sport but I did try hockey until the day I tripped up Mr Reeler in the mud on the Upper Meadow field. He looked a lot worse than I did and I never played hockey again. In the cricket ‘Cake League’ we once played against the Old Boys’ first team and I was bowled out first ball of the match. My Dad packed up and left, leaving me to walk home!
Although never an academic, I remember my Rondebosch days with huge affection – a GREAT school and a GREAT matric bunch of E’63 guys!
My grandfather bought a Victorian house in Bonair Road, Rondebosch in 1917 when the same architectural style which predominated in the area was fashionable. An elegant building, it’s still there, almost a century later, though somewhat altered in appearance.
With Rondebosch thus established as our suburb of choice, we settled there for the next two generations, my parents selecting in 1951 as their residence another Victorian house, this time in Weltevreden Avenue. Our home was situated just behind the Park, exactly 4 minutes’ walk from the Prep School, to which my 2 brothers and I were subsequently sent.
I detested the school. It was staffed, as I thought then, by people whose teaching careers had begun well before the War and, well-intentioned though they might have been, there were too many oddities amongst them, all doing their own thing under the more-or-less benign rule of Roche Enslin – ‘Ensie,’ as we were pleased to call him. ‘Ensie,’ he of the waving cane, either languidly conducting the school at morning assembly or hitting the daylights out of some miscreant in his modest office.
The building itself struck me as gaunt and cheerless – especially in the Cape winters – only later did I come to appreciate its period features – the dressed stone ground floor and the Hall’s Broseley tiled roof and fine period interior – by Baker. The roof has just been replaced by nondescript modern tiles.
How lucky I was, though, in my friends! David Taylor, my oldest friend. We met on his first day in Std 1, he having come from Simonstown. I lent him 2/6 for a haircut at Hurwitz Barbers on the Main Road and, 58 years later, we remain close friends. (He repaid the money the next day!) David’s conversation, and writing style, was and remains, ambrosial and our friendship contributed more to my education and growth than any other single factor – certainly more than the RBHS teaching. Other friends were Gregory Coplans and Jack Garlick (both who, too soon, left for St Andrews), Neil Tuchten (charming always and already flexing his intellect for the Bench) David ‘Tubby’ Price (who, to the regret of many, has been below our E’63 radar for so long), Peter Hodes, Alex Cohen and Leslie Lang and many others.
These friends were soon to be supplemented wonderfully by the Standard 6 High School intake, bringing to RBHS Richard Spring (now Lord Risby, recently and fittingly ennobled in the UK), Jeff Leeuwenberg (so well-read and entertaining, even as a youngster) Chris Steyn (always so upbeat and ready to be amused) Tony Kinlay (who, though not from our year, I met and befriended at Stellenbosch University) and Rob Schrire (‘Little Red One’ – on account of his neo-communist leanings – hilarious and professorial by turn). Robert’s outrageous utterances, delighting and confusing his hearers, masked serious learning. What fun we had – ‘I think there must be something wrong with his brain, sir’ (this to Hallack, with the poor man already sorely tried.)
I enjoyed the High School as much as I had loathed the Prep. There was, somehow, in those stately, Parker-designed buildings off Canigou Ave, so much more on the go, more people to observe, extraordinary things being made to happen by extraordinary people. Much of it emanating from the boys themselves. Jayes, de Jager, ‘Buck’ Ryan and ‘Doc’ Watson doubtless taught well and, on good days, even inspirationally, but for me, from that whole galere of Rondebosch schoolmasters, there was no single special teacher. I missed a specific intellectual mentor – someone with the time and inclination to nurture students, such as I thought I already was, on my way to a literary or at any rate a bookish career. Thank goodness for UCT’s Arts Faculty, for which I had tried to prepare myself by my own reading.
My forbears were teachers and clergymen predominantly and I probably inherited the notion of a ‘calling’ from them – such as to set me on a career in teaching for a lot of my working life. I left teaching twice, the first time to become a professional broadcaster for the SABC’s former English Programme – “this is a proper Radio Service,” Dewar McCormack said to me on arrival, “see that it remains so.” I was taught to read the news by Christopher Bennet, who broadcast on the BBC World Service and had himself been taught by the first female broadcaster on the BBC. I enjoyed that sense of continuity and pedigree. As an Announcer-Producer, I had fun reading news, producing actuality programmes, contributing to a famous programme, “Radio Today” from Johannesburg and presenting “Talking of Books” transmitted from the Sea Point studios. This last was great because I was paid extra and got to keep my choice of the better books I reviewed.
The second break in my teaching was when I took the so-called package offered to teachers of a certain age and worked as an editor for my friend David Philip, an independent and very courageous publisher. As is well known, David Philip produced ‘Books that Matter’ throughout much of the apartheid period, and it was a privilege to be a part-time employee of his for some of that time, editing books that the mainline publishers wouldn’t touch. David was an individual of the highest probity and principle and was sorely missed at his death three years ago and as he is now.
My first marriage ended with the new millennium, leaving me, however, with two wonderful and talented daughters, the elder, Rosy, who is completing her research Masters in preparation for a career as a clinical psychologist and Emily, recently married to a film-maker, is a strategist for a Cape Town ad agency. My own incredible good fortune was being introduced to Helen Ziegenhardt in 2003 at a lunch party given by our very own Lindsay and Tessa Kennedy. Now my wife of five years, Helen had 3 fine sons from her marriage to Rob – Luke, Julian and Paul – all of whom went to RBHS after their return from Asia, bringing our family up to seven – not counting grandchildren!
Many years ago I was lucky enough to be invited to join the Owl Club of Cape Town. This is an old-fashioned dining-club founded in the city in the 1890s by the then Astronomer Royal, Sir David Gill. The Club’s object is for its members to dine and converse and it offers, we think, the most critical but also kindly audience before which after-dinner speakers may perform. Having served on the Committee for some years, I’m looking forward to assuming the Presidency next year in the Club’s 120th year.
Always keen to have a writing project under way, I have published five books – 2 on local historical topics and 3 school histories – RBHS, Queen’s College and SACS. I’m hoping to find a sponsor for a book I’m planning on Edwardian Architecture at the Cape. You know what they say, ‘Man creates buildings and then the buildings shape Man.’
Test match at Newlands circa 1959 From left: Derek Van Den Berg, Christopher Mundy, Mike Taylor, John Le Roux and Hennie Mostert (standing). (Photo courtesy of Michael Taylor)
I joined the Rondebosch family at the High School stage. I enjoyed playing rugby and cricket and my favourite hobby, also a sport, was playing chess. On occasions, I played chess in class with Jeff Leeuwenburg and John Le Roux when we were supposed to be concentrating on school work!
Outside school, I enjoyed, inter alia, doing mountain walks and climbs with Stephen Buchner and Jeff Leeuwenburg.
Teachers whom I remember with fondness include Mnr Goldie, Buck Ryan, Tickey de Jager, Herbie Helm, Ron Wiggett and Charlie Hallack. Also. I recall the imposing figure of Arthur Jayes in Assembly.
After leaving school I did a B.Com. degree at Stellenbosch University and then qualified as a Chartered Accountant. After gaining a few years of business experience, I joined “W Voigt Painters Renovators and Builders”, as the financial director.
I am married to Christine and we have four children, Jonathan, Sarah, Paul and Stephen.
My favourite hobby at present is playing bowls, which I have been doing for more than twenty years. My bowling club is Western Province Cricket Club (WPCC). The WPCC grounds adjoin the RBHS grounds!
I have been residing in Rondebosch for over twenty-five years and regularly take my dogs for a walk in the RBHS grounds.
After I had started at the Prep School in Sub A, we moved to Durban for a few years and then I re-appeared half-way through Standard 4 in Mr Solomons’ class. Despite a dose of ‘four-of-the best’ from Mr Enslin, I would have loved to have been able to visit his home in Constantia. The vegetables he produced for the Saturday ‘market day’ were memorable and made me wonder how he spent his weekdays. We stayed in Rondebosch two doors down from the McLagans and sometime later John Hill moved into the same street. Meeting the McLagans meant great holidays at their Hermanus holiday house and an introduction to photography which was put to good use later in Standard 8.
My introduction to the High School was a bit intimidating. On the first day as a new boy I was physically accosted by Ken Andrew who set about reading me the riot act, addressing me as ‘Wolters’ and impressing upon me that I was in for trouble if I followed the same path as my brother. Some might remember the lad of that name who was a year or so ahead of us. Despite that ‘blink’ misjudgment, the incident did carry a message about toeing the line.
Charlie (Photograph courtesy of Steve Buchner)
There will not be many, or even any, who passed through the School’s portals without an indelible memory of Charlie. His reputation seemed to precede him, reaching out to the Prep School like the enticing fresh aromas from your favorite bakery, but garnished with a generous layer of trepidation. So it was that, one Thursday afternoon of Standard 6, I arrived home late from school because I had missed the train to Bellville, (we stayed on a farm in the Durbanville area for a time), and with difficulty had to explain the claw marks tattooed around the front of my neck. How do you explain to your outraged parents the exhilarating experience of manipulating yourself into detention when you know Charlie was in charge of it on a particular afternoon? In classic fashion whilst enjoying the antics of my fellow scholastic sinners that afternoon, for no particular reason I found myself being wrestled to the side of the classroom, an iron fist clasped to my throat and the window sill digging into the back of my neck. It would have been fun had Charlie taken better care of his fingernails… they were like chisels. And a grip a little less fierce to allow me to breathe would have been nice, and of course there was Rufus, working overtime around the knee area. He got the better of me that time but taught me how to deflect the attention for many future encounters.
One of these was to take a photograph two years later in C3, of Charlie having a full go at Bruce McLagan, with Peter Baker, Roy McCallum and Donald Andrew and all those behind him goading and cheering him on hysterically. I remember taking that pic to school one day, never to see it again but being proud that I had got away with not having had the camera smashed. How we got away with the goings on, especially in C3 with its wooden floor above the Staff Room, deserves an explanation.
I believe the most elegant tribute we could pay to Charlie Hallack would be to compile a compendium of anecdotes around the activities in and around his classroom through the ages. Perhaps someone has done this already which John Hill can convert to our version of Mr Chips.
And what would RBHS have been without Tinkie Heyns? The quiet maestro. That cream buns from the Tuck Shop for success, or the cuts from that leather strop for failure, could do so much to shape my future work ethic and life philosophy is true psychological genius. Perhaps we were part of an experiment. This of course raises a taboo of modern day schooling. Punishment and Reward. I reckon I achieved more by knowing where I stood in the class, or by knowing what the consequence of success or failure would be, as was the case on the rugby field.
Speaking of learning, many years later and with my tongue deep in my cheek, I came to realize that I was taught nothing at school. My failing memory aside, I just cannot remember what all those years of teaching effort did to prepare me for what was necessary to succeed in later years. Despite the toil for self-induced recall, what helped me most of all is that I actually attended RBHS. This fact alone carried significant weight with the universities and launched a career in spite of pathetic matric grades. However it would have been useful if someone had taught us how to learn.
For me there were two stand-out teachers who made a difference to my scholastic indifference. Buck Ryan who injected some enthusiasm and meaning into what seemed like an unnecessary exercise and Arthur Jayes, who through sheer intimidation made making sense of things a non-negotiable option. Good preparation for the army that was to follow.
Who remembers the great boomerang week? I recall it was somewhere around Standard 8. Someone a couple of standards above us, (perhaps from Jack Love’s workshop), brought a boomerang to school which was flung around on the Meadows or the Range evoking general interest. The following day there were more, and by the end of the week the 1st team rugby field was chock-a-block with whatever flew, but predominantly paint tin-lids. Whoever brought the first lid should have been credited with the invention of the Frisbee. This insanely irresponsible spectacle persisted for the week until Nobby announced the ban at Friday assembly.
Who remembers Jeff Leeuwenburg breaking a front tooth when playing against Bishops on a Wednesday afternoon, or going to the Rembrandt cigarette factory as a class outing, and the end of Standard 9 overnight on Table Mountain with Doc Watson? Who remembers never really learning to dance with Nancy Watson-Morris, gym with Ronnie Wiggett or sharing sandwiches with those starving boarders….Roy Mac and Co, and enjoying rugby, even in the B and C and D teams, with the likes of Jack Garlick, Bruce Fergie, Blikkies, Kiewiet, and Nicky Krone, or going to Killarney with Ronnie Jones and Ian Newall… all good stuff!
Clearly, the friendships developed at school and cemented in later years, as well as the lessons learnt from our peers were the essence of our school experience. That we had a good schooling there is no doubt. Thank goodness for that. But thank goodness too for the calibre of peers with whom we battled on the sports fields and competed in the classrooms.
Gill and I were married on 15 April 1972 and Shelley arrived late in January 1973. Jackie was born in August 1975. They both went to Wynberg Girls’ Junior and Senior Schools. Maxine, Jackie’s daughter, was born in March 2006 and is certainly the apple of all our eyes!
I did my military training in the Navy from January to September 1964 and then started my Accountancy Articles in October that year. I was a lazy student and only finished varsity after Shelley was born, after which I wrote and passed my Board exams in May 1974. I had already left the profession and begun working for Sweet-Orr and Lybro in June 1972. I left them for a short period after 5 years and was invited back to become Financial Director. In the worst career move of my life, I finally left in May 1984 and joined another clothing manufacturer and then subsequently the furniture company, Bakker & Steyger in November 1990.
While at varsity I had started sailing with UCT Yacht Club and then moved to keelboats in 1979 at RCYC. I became involved with administration and was Commodore of Hout Bay Yacht Club in 1985 & 1986. So, when the opportunity came to manage the Cruising Association, I grabbed it and had eight happy years administering my sport from June 1992 to December 2000. During this time we unified the whole sport of sailing under the auspices of South African Sailing. Sport is, however, fraught with politics and I engineered my way to becoming the Principal Officer of a small medical aid society from January 2001. This business closed in December 2010 and from that time on I have working from home, building up a small accounting and tax business. This may become profitable at some stage – but Rome wasn’t built in a day!
We have lived very happily in Hout Bay since 1979 and, being close to the beach, walk the dog and try to keep reasonably fit by cycling. Starting in 1985, I have completed the Argus 12 times and hope, with any luck, to do so again in March 2013.
I have also pandered to my passion for motorcars by buying a 1967 Hillman Imp – which is a work-in-progress but is fun to drive and goes better than when it first came out of the factory!
All in all, a very happy life, thanks to a loving wife, daughters and grand-daughter.
Mr Billy Trengove’s 90th Birthday L to R: Neil Veitch, Lindsay Kennedy, Mr Billy Trengove, David Taylor. (Photograph courtesy of Eric Wells)
Apart from the great schooling I received, there are many fond memories I have of life at Rondebosch which certainly established a set of values that has stood me in good stead over the years.
I was a boarder at all three houses – Mason House, The Lilacs and Canigou – so the reminiscences are boarding-school dominated but the school and surroundings were the centre of my world for 5½ years at the school.
After 50 years it is difficult to remember the names of those kind day boys (and their mothers) who took pity on a starving boarder and packed an extra sandwich in their lunches to share with me every day – thank you all, kind brethren!
I also remember vividly the smell and atmosphere under the oak trees near the main rugby ground very early in the morning as I studied and crammed for a coming test or exam – awesome!
Then of course there were the more painful memories – while at Mason House getting involved in a silly ambush on the Joubert brothers, ‘Prof’ and Andrew, during their evening walk – the result was a caning from Ron Wiggett (my brother, house master and physical education teacher). The five or six lads involved took the six cuts with strong resolve but I was a bit put out when I straightened up after my six with the customary “Thank You Sir”, only to be told to bend again for one more “because you are my brother”!
At The Lilacs we spent hours on the fantastic trapeze set up in a massive oak tree in the grounds – we used to swing from a branch some three or four metres above the ground. One afternoon one of our group (I think it was Freddy Versveld ) took a dive rather than a swing and the backlash put him flat on his back, knocked out cold on the pathway below! We called Mrs de Jager to attend to him and fortunately he recovered without any broken bones or serious concussion!
Of course our stint at Lilacs would not have been complete without a good caning from Tickey de Jager for having a sneak smoke in the garden shed nearby!
At Canigou we behaved like a normal group of hooligans – I can relate very well to the “crazy eight” characters in John van de Ruit’s “Spud” series of books – we were not very different!
In our matric year the members occupying the seniors study consisted of myself, “Pooch” Murcott, Geoff Duckitt, “Dog” Krige, Freddy Versveld, Jake Niehaus, Peter de Villiers and Metcalf Fick.
Near exams we decided to celebrate our time together so we all requested “late study” and, dressed in our civvies under our gowns, proceeded to consume the snacks and wine which we had bought for the occasion. Needless to say, we lit up the odd smoke and started to become increasingly talkative and loud. It wasn’t too long before there was a knock at the door (which we had locked) and Mr “Nobby” Clarke, the Headmaster, demanded entry. There was no way we could be caught in the act so we explained that we had lost the key! Of course he was not fooled and we had to report to him in the morning for the regulation “six of the best.” Thank You Sir!
There are of course many more memories involving teachers and housemasters (Charlie Hallack, Tinkie Heyns and Dudley Baartman come to mind), an incident with the Rondebosch police (ask Metcalf Fick about that), midnight swims in the pool and evading the house prefects (including Ian McCallum) after bunking out. Very good times were had!
So as we celebrate the Class of ‘63 in 2013 we can also express our gratitude for attending an institution which gave us the grounding and learning opportunities to prepare us for the future. “Altius et Latius”!
Footnote: Since leaving Rondebosch I completed a BSc (Hons) degree in geology at UCT, married Christine and now have a family of a daughter, two sons and six grandchildren. Straight after graduating, we moved to Barberton in the Eastern Transvaal (now called Mpumalanga) where I worked on a gold mine for some 15 years. I was then transferred to Head Office in Johannesburg, working initially on African exploration, then in base metal mines and exploration internationally. I took early retirement in 2002, continued working as a geological consultant for the next 8 years. I am now fully retired and try to visit my children and grandchildren regularly, located as they are in Australia, New Zealand and the UK, as well as working hard on my golf handicap!
Montagu Country Hotel the only Art Deco hotel in South Africa
The Montagu Country Hotel, situated in South Africa’s dried fruit capital and center of the famous Route 62, recently underwent more than just a few nips and tucks! Located in the heart of the quaint village of Montagu, it is the only original Art Deco hotel in the country that has been welcoming visitors through her iconic stained-glass doors since 1875. The now privately owned hotel burnt down in the early 1920s but was rebuilt in the current style during the 1930s.
The hotel has 29 individually furnished en-suite bedrooms, 13 luxury rooms, and 14 classic rooms. Two new self-catering units (one unit of which is wheelchair-accessible) are ideal for families or business travelers who would like to make Montagu their home away from home for a couple of days. Further upgrades include wheelchair-friendly public restrooms and the addition of a baby changing area.
The new south-facing deck area of Feathers & Flatcaps welcomes the morning sun. It provides guests with magnificent views over the Langeberg Mountains while watching the Klein-Karoo sunset after a day of exploring the area. Regional cuisine can be enjoyed on the deck whilst sipping some of the regions’ finest wines, cocktails, or specialty Bootlegger coffees.
Why not settle in for an evening of reading, or catch up with friends before or after dinner in the Lubbe lounge. The lounge is dedicated to the memory of the late Gert Lubbe who played an integral part in the establishment of Route 62 and is well known in the South African tourism industry. Gert was also the owner of the Hotel and mentor to current hosts P-J and Colene Basson.
Lush gardens surround the hotel and provide a tranquil getaway from the everyday hustle and bustle, whilst two swimming pools bring much relief on hot summer days. The on-site Wellness Spa with its unique mineral-rich jacuzzi will soothe all aches and pains.
A welcome new addition to the property is the activity hub, which is now home to three of Montagu’s most popular activity operators – Cape Dry, Flying Feet, and Protea Farm Tractor Trips. Guests are now able to book their daily excursions and activities or gather further information about the area from the recently re-located Montagu-Ashton Tourism Office without having to leave the hotel.
The rustic countryside has much to offer for adventure-seeking tourists such as the ever-popular hiking trails, mountain biking, and even rock climbing in the surrounding mountains. For the classic car lover, why not go for a dashing ride in a Cadillac with American Dream Cars and explore the surrounding areas, and/or wine farms in style!
A new dedicated conference, banqueting, and team building venue have also been established. These new facilities, together with the region’s exciting outdoor activities, its proximity to Cape Town, and our Klein-Karoo hospitality, makes it the perfect location for your next function/event or special celebration.
I started my consulting business in 1982. My travels took me to countries in Southern Africa, North America, Western Europe, and India. Besides, I have traveled with my family to Hawaii, the Caribbean, and many places throughout the United States, Canada, and South Africa. I stayed in hundreds of hotels during that time.
Montagu Country Hotel is situated in the Western Cape, South Africa, about a 3-hour drive from Cape Town through some of the most scenic drives that can be found anywhere in the world. Having an opportunity to stay in the only Art Deco hotel in South Africa and furnished with original period pieces, was an exceptionally special treat. As was an outstanding level of service provided. To learn more about the town of Montagu click here.
When it comes to boutique hotels, a few come to mind. I stayed at specialty privately owned hotels in Clinton, Missouri, USA, and Montreal, Canada. We stayed at a boutique hotel in Paris with a view of the Eiffel Tower. It was an ancient building retrofitted with an elevator/lift so small it could only accommodate one person and a small amount of luggage. These lodgings offer something exceptional compared to the cookie-cutter major hotel group offerings all built to a set standard of design, accommodation, and price. One-off boutique hotels offer bedrooms and bathrooms that are quaint with meals served to delight the most fastidious palate. Montagu Country Hotel is an example of an exceptional boutique hotel.
The original hotel was erected in 1875 by Christiaan Schlacht, of German descent, built with Victorian accents of the period. Mr. Goldberg bought the establishment from Schlacht, a popular landlord, and generous to the community. Ms. Fernandes managed the hotel while married to the former owner of the Springs Hotel. After divorcing her husband, she bought the Montagu Hotel. Mr. A. Idelsdon purchased the hotel from her. The Art Deco Hotel with 31 bedrooms got erected behind the original hotel around 1922. On completion, the first structure got demolished. Mr. Russel owned the hotel from July 1941. Ownership changed hands to the Conradie family, then to Mr. Piet Nel. Carol Gunter took ownership and invested heavily in the premises. On October 1, 1966, the late Mr. Gert Lubbe took over the property from a liquidation sale. Gert Lubbe, who passed away in November 2019, discovered that concrete pavements illegally covered parts of the premises; he had them removed and replaced them with lush vegetation and trees to enhance the street scene.
P-J Basson, General Manager of the hotel for the last 20 years, and his wife Colene took the bold step at the end of June 2020 to buy out the majority shareholder of the Montagu Country Hotel.
How do you market a hotel situated in the most beautiful part of the Western Cape? Gert Lubbe and Jeanetta Marais created the “Route 62” brand—following the USA’s Route 66 concept. Both routes built in the 1920s linking farming communities with harbor towns. Both roads got replaced with highways in the 1950s. Route 62 is the longest wine route in the world.
Gert Lubbe and P-J Basson began the time-consuming labor of love to replace the furniture with Art Deco-style pieces of beauty. All dressing tables in the main building are of Art-Deco style. Lounge suites were re-upholstered to the original specification. The outer gables are Cape Dutch architecture and repeated in the top-most panels of the glazed doors.
My wife and I were privileged to enjoy most of what this establishment has to offer. After checking in to our spacious room, we found it comprised a bedroom cum sitting room, bathroom with bathtub, shower, and toilet. Personable valuables are held in the room’s electronic safe. Dinner is served in the elegant dining room, with attentive waitstaff discriminatingly obliging with tasty à la carte meals. To make the ambiance even more appealing, we were entertained by pianist William who played a grand piano with a wide range of music including songs from West Side Story, Les Misérables, to name but a few classics.
In the mornings we were treated to a hearty country breakfast, selecting from a wide range of buffet-style eats. I had the good fortune to join several local dignitaries one morning to a tea served with scones and crème. A Cape Buffet lunch is available.
We loved the artwork on display in the hotel and appreciated the secured parking provided behind the hotel with a gated entry and exit.
The hotel has many amenities in which we did not partake. A selection offered includes massages, facials, mineral baths, manicures, pedicures, waxing, and tinting. Hourly tours can be arranged in classic American vehicles, with a choice of a 1956 Cadillac Sedan De Ville, 1964 Cadillac Sedan Deville, or a 1956 De Soto Fireflight Sportsman.
Obviously I highly recommend the Montagu Country Hotel as a fun place to stay and spend time in a great tourist destination.
If you are looking for a great vacation spot, I highly recommend Minocqua, Wisconsin, and especially the Marmes’ cottage.
After being locked down in our home for two and a half months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we had the opportunity to travel 4 hours, 250 miles (400 kilometers) north to Minocqua, Wisconsin in Oneida County to stay at Brian and Pam Marmes’ magnificent 4-season T-Bird Getaway rental home on Minocqua Lake. For many reasons, this was a wonderful experience. The beautifully appointed 1570 square feet (146 square meters) 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom home was acquired, gutted, rebuilt with the most inviting furnishings and decorations, including an electronic trash can. Located on the lake with an available 22-foot pontoon, kyacks, paddleboard, barbeque, firepit, makes for an enjoyable stay. Reservations can be made through this link: https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p1808883vb
The cottage comfortably houses a family of six. Located directly on the Minocqua Chain of Lakes for fishing, swimming, and recreational activities, and a short drive/bike ride to walking/biking trails, ice skating and much more. The home is located close to grocery stores, and the one we visited is significantly larger than any in our home environment. I enjoyed the convenience of the Wi-Fi connection, Keurig coffee maker, TV, and everything about this family-friendly home.
My daughter’s review: Brian was friendly and easy to communicate with. The home is in a perfect location in a quiet, pretty, bay with beautiful views, but also close to town and hiking/biking paths. We were thrilled with how spotlessly clean and new the house is. It is newly updated, and everything is so well done from the kitchen and bathrooms to the comfortable beds. There are so many considerate extras – like k-cups next to the Kuerig and shampoo/conditioner in the shower. We loved the availability of the kayaks, bikes, lawn games. Highly recommend and we would stay again!
Oneida County was formed in 1887. Current population 35,470. It was named after the indigenous Native American Oneida tribe, one of the six nations of the Iroquois, comprising Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. Oneida County has a total area of 1,236 square miles (3,200 km2), of which 1,113 square miles (2,880 km2) are land and 123 square miles (320 km2) (10%) are covered by water. Most people visit Oneida County to enjoy its lakes. In particular, tourists flock to Minocqua, a town of nearly 5,000 people with a summer population of around 15,000.
Minocqua and the neighboring communities of Arbor Vitae and Woodruff—are filled with over 2,300 sparkling blue lakes, streams, and ponds. They adjoin the mighty Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest. Locals and visitors can enjoy an incredible array of activities, both onshore and water. The Minocqua area features supper clubs, shopping, cafes, ice cream stands, outfitters, real lumberjack shows, the oldest amateur ski show in the United States, museums, and gaming.
Our drive north on a Sunday presented around 70 campers traveling south, as families returned from the Northwoods after taking a break with many schools closing for the summer. With portions of road construction reducing lanes to a single lane in each direction, it caused miles long slowdowns for the southbound traffic. We returned home on a weekday starting our journey at 10:00 am and did not endure the same frustrating experience. AAA (American Automobile Association) provides me with motor vehicle insurance. To receive a small break in rates I use an app on my iPhone to monitor my driving. The average American scores 74 points. My reading before this trip was 82. To keep the peace with my wife, I decided that I would not exceed the speed limit by even one mile an hour. My vehicle has adaptive cruise control, allowing me to slow down to the vehicle’s speed in front of me, helpful if I cannot overtake due to road works or heavy traffic. At each stage of the journey, I adjusted the cruise control to the prevailing speed limit. Driving on the open roads and highways, I was fascinated to see that I was overtaken by almost all trucks and other vehicles, and had very few reasons to pass other motorists. Driving the speed limit in single-lane construction zones, showed the long line of cars behind me. There were two benefits to my driving defensively. I discovered that I had a range of more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) on my tank of fuel, and I scored 93 on my AAA app. It reflected a driving time of 4 hours 16 minutes, for a distance of 254.4 miles (409.4 kilometers). It begs the question, why do we have speed limits if they are not honored by the majority of motorists?
If you are looking for a great vacation spot, I highly recommend Minocqua, Wisconsin, and especially the Marmes’ cottage.
We left the US on March 5, 2020, for a 37-day vacation in South Africa to visit family and friends.
Update: February 4, 2021. I pondered over the past year the reason we were not sufficiently intelligent to cancel our trip to South Africa due to the COVID-19 pandemic before departing in early March 2020. On returning to the U.S., I did extensive research documenting pages of information from multiple newspaper and website sources. I concluded that as regular citizens, we were not informed of the pending danger, mainly because President Donald J. Trump did not want to scare anyone, electing to ignore the threat to keep the stock market resilient and the economy thriving. Some well informed in Congress were altered to the pending danger, sold some investments ahead of a market crash. These are a few critical dates.
In late November 2019, coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China.
On December 31, 2019, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) became aware of cases in China and reported to HHS (Department of Health and Human Services).
January 1, 2020. CDC Director Robert Redfield got informed by a counterpart in China and alerted HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who shared this information with NSC (National Security Council).
Donald Trump was alerted to the situation in his PDF (Presidential Daily Brief) in early January.
WHO (World Health Organization) issued a report on January 5, 2020, advising against travel.
During the week of January 6, 2020, HHS, CDC, and Dr. Anthony Fauchi, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, met to discuss the situation.
January 18, 2020, Alex Azar addressed the coronavirus outbreak with Trump, who criticized him as an alarmist.
January 31, 2020, the White House banned entry for foreign nationals who had traveled to China within the last 14 days.
February 11, 2020, the WHO announced the official virus name as COVID-19.
February 24, 2020, the U.S. Stock market plummeted over coronavirus fears.
February 26, 2020, California announces the first COVID-19 case in the U.S.
February 29, 2020, Trump announces travel restrictions involving Iran, Italy, and South Korea.
February 29, 2020, reported the first U.S. COVID-19 death in Washington state.
March 6, 2020, Trump signs an $8.3 billion emergency spending package to combat coronavirus outbreak.
As you review the above dates, recall that we were somewhat ignorant of the danger of undertaking this trip on March 5, 2020. Trump was more concerned about a potential market and economic collapse that he saw would impact his reelection bid in November 2020.
Reading Bob Woodward’s book Rage, released September 15, 2020, with 466 pages, covers hundreds of hours of interviews with Donald J. Trump. He warned Trump in January 2020 that the COVID-19 pandemic could reach the scale of the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 675,000 Americans. “In 17 on-the-record interviews with Woodward over seven volatile months—an utterly vivid window into Trump’s mind. The president provides a self-portrait that is part denial and part combative interchange mixed with surprising moments of doubt as he glimpses the perils in the presidency and what he calls the “dynamite behind every door.” Below are a few excerpts from Woodward’s best-seller book.
“A meeting was scheduled with Trump for the morning of March 11, 2020. …. But now the word came from [Jared Kushner that] his father-in-law that he needed immediate help on the mounting Covid-19 crisis. In the Oval Office that morning, there was a consensus among the national security and health officials that they needed to act immediately to close down travel from Europe. Treasury Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin was opposed. Travel from Europe was about five times that from China. “This is going to bankrupt everyone,” he said dramatically. “It’s going to destroy the economy.” “What data are you relying on for that?” asked [Dr. Deborah Leah] Birx [Whitehouse Coronavirus Task Force] “You’ve been asking me for my data. What data do you have?” Mnuchin said that was how the economy and markets worked. Trump eventually approved the travel restrictions. They would be consistent with his decision on China. Kushner assisted with drafting the prime-time television address that Trump had decided to give that night from the Oval Office. It was only the second of his presidency. A nationally televised evening address gave the speech the stamp of important business. That afternoon, the World Health Organization officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic. “This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” Trump said at 9:00 that evening. “From the beginning of time, nations and people have faced unforeseen challenges, including large-scale and very dangerous health threats,” Trump read. “This is the way it always was and always will be. It only matters how you respond.” The president announced he was halting travelers from most European countries for the next 30 days. “Last week, I signed into law an $ 8.3 billion funding bill,” he said. Several hundred times that would soon be required. “The vast majority of Americans: The risk is very, very low,” Trump said. “Wash your hands, clean often-used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.” He made no mention of social distancing—staying six feet apart from others—and urged only those who were sick or not feeling well to stay at home. “This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time,” he said reaching to calm the markets. “The virus will not have a chance against us.… Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine.” The speech received poor reviews. Trump seemed depleted on air, not in command of the material. He displayed none of the verve of the spontaneous, engaged true believer of his political rallies. Peggy Noonan wrote the next day in The Wall Street Journal, “The president gave a major Oval Office address Wednesday night aimed at quelling fears; it was generally labeled ‘unsettling.’ ” That day, March 11, marked the beginning of a new consciousness in the country. There were over 1,000 cases and 37 deaths in the country. Trump acknowledged he would likely have to cancel his upcoming rallies. Testifying before Congress, Fauci said that testing for the virus was “failing. I mean, let’s admit it.” The distribution of faulty test kits had prevented officials and scientists from getting a clear picture of the number of infections in the crucial early days of the virus’s spread across the U.S. By the beginning of March, fewer than 500 tests had been conducted. The Dow Jones fell 10 percent on March 12, prompting The New York Times banner headline: “WORST ROUT FOR WALL STREET SINCE 1987 CRASH.” A giant chart on the front page of The Wall Street Journal showed the surging growth in the Dow from the early days of Obama’s eight-year presidency and the first three years of Trump’s. Then it fell off the cliff, down 20 percent since 2009.”
“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward, as I reported earlier in this book. “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”
Back in Wisconsin, our children, Robyn, and Sean did hit the panic button. They sent their first text on March 19, 2020. “State Department travel warning. Come back to the U.S. or be prepared to stay where you are for an indeterminate amount of time.”
Currently, (February 3, 2021), we have 26,535,848 COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with 450,435 deaths. The U.S. accounts for 25% of worldwide cases and deaths, with only 4% of the global population. When all the election counts were in after November 3, 2020, Joe Biden became the 46th U.S. President with 81,283,098 popular votes against Trump’s 74,222,958 voters. More critical was Biden’s 306 Electoral Votes versus Trump’s 232. Tony Fabrizio, Trump’s chief strategist, reported that Trump lost the election because he mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic, based on exit polling.
Trump’s legacy will go down in history as the only president to have been impeached twice. Without the shield of his presidency, Trump faces several lawsuits, including a charge of rape. Trump will be recognized for encouraging the Capitol’s insurrection on January 6, 2021, where five people died. Between November 3, 2020, and January 6, 2021, Trump and his allies filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts seeking to overturn election results in states Trump lost. All but one failed, and it was inconclusive, providing election workers three days to correct a few ballots. Trump told more than 30,573 lies during his four years in office. Here you can view lies listed by category. Trump will be remembered for his racist, bigoted, xenophobic leadership, supporting white supremacists, and promoting fake news with his constant Twitter feed totaling 56,571 during his four years in office.
Now you can listen to the original blog or read on to see some of the photographs and video clips.
Monday, March 23, 2020. I woke at 6:00 am to a rude awakening! Checking my iPhone messages, I discovered United Airlines canceled our flights to the United States from Cape Town, South Africa, scheduled to fly March 26, 2020. I receive a follow-up message to say they are flying again. What I did not know then is that this pattern that would repeat several times over. Let me back up and tell the account coherently.
We left the US on March 5, 2020, for a 37-day vacation in South Africa to visit family and friends. We planned to return home on Easter Monday, April 13, 2020. For our trip, we flew Delta Airlines from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; to Detroit, Michigan; on to Amsterdam, the Netherlands; to Cape Town. In hindsight, had the Trump administration told the American people the truth of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would never have traveled in the first place. We witnessed our investments plummet. A select few Republican Congresspeople were informed of the imminent catastrophe, sold their investments, some in the millions of dollars before the public learned of the pending danger.
United Airlines started a seasonal service between Newark, New Jersey, and Cape Town on December 15, 2019, through March 25, 2020. Travel to South Africa is on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Return flights to the US are on Monday, Thursday, Saturday. The distance of 7,817 miles (12,580 kilometers) is the longest route flown by United. Flying time to Cape Town is 14 hours, and back to the US, 16 hours. United operates this route using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with 48 business class seats, 88 Economy Plus, and 116 economy seats. Frankly, I had no idea that we caught the last flight for the season back to the US until I did my research from home in Wisconsin. Then too, South Africa went on lockdown at midnight on March 26, 4 hours after our scheduled departure. Consequently, no other flights could have taken off on the following days.
After Trump stopped flights from Europe, and other countries from flying into the US, the rumors started flying, and fake news prevailed. Our daughter and son in the US were in a panic after the US State Department issued a proclamation, return to the US immediately, or remain overseas indefinitely. We sprang into action. We did not want to be stranded forever in South Africa, lovely as the country is. We purchased new and additional tickets on United Airlines flying from Cape Town directly to the Newark, New Jersey, in the New York area, with a connecting flight to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. For the record, our one-way tickets on United Airlines was more expensive than our return tickets on Delta. We canceled our return ticket on Delta and should get a credit toward our next flight, but there is no cash refund.
When I woke March 23 at 6:00 am South African time on Monday morning, it is 11:00 pm Sunday night US Central Time. The first text from United was sent at 10:43 pm SA time when I am already asleep (3:43 pm Central). It states that our flights “are canceled due to the unprecedented circumstances.” At 11:53 pm SA Time (4:53 pm Central), I receive a follow-up text stating the flights are not canceled!! The follow on text states that non-US citizens who have visited certain countries will be denied entry to the US. We may be subjected to 14-days of self-quarantine. We had planned to follow an isolation recommendation in any event. We quarantined ourselves in South Africa for the two weeks, ending March 21, and beyond that date until we departed.
When I booked the United flight on March 20, 2020, there were only two seats available in the economy class, and they were not situated next to each other. I had a decision to make and paid for an upgrade to Economy Plus. In hindsight, it was a wise decision because there is much more legroom. If the passenger in front decides to recline their seat, there is sufficient space available to enjoy the trip without a seat backrest in your face. Our problem is that with this experience, we will never fly the regular economy class again. I have been a frequent flyer for many years, regularly flying for business and occasionally for pleasure with our family. I am knowledgeable enough to know that to get an early boarding allocation; I need to obtain our boarding passes 24-hours before take off. At 8:00 pm, South African time, on Wednesday, March 25, I logged on to the United Airlines website to secure our boarding passes. It was the start of a 90-minute ordeal. Let me hasten to add that I retired after 50 years in the computer industry as a developer, designer, educator, trainer, consultant, and salesperson, so technology should not be a challenge for me. Little did I know.
I keyed in my confirmation number to be informed that the flight had been canceled! My wife was three hours away in Cape Town, so I made contact with her immediately to alert Linda of our challenge. Linda contacted my daughter and son, who were both working from home in the US with their respective companies requiring employees to work from home due to COVID-19. The four of us now worked to figure out if and why the flight was canceled. I started the process off by attempting to secure my boarding pass. At some point, I was required to scan my passport with a warning that it will take some time for the system to register the document. I again received the message that the flight was canceled. We had to verify that we had not traveled to a list of countries where we could not get access back to the USA. My wife scanned her passport into the system, and again we were informed that the flight had been canceled. Our children in the interim were on the United Airlines website and showed that the plane was flying. After an hour and a half, the boarding process was complete, and we could print our passes. My conclusion is that the programming was substandard, and rather than report there were problems with the information we entered, the program reported an erroneous flight cancelation. To verify that we were not unduly stupid, where we were seated on our flight home, a few passengers near us complained that they, too, got these flight canceled messages.
In the US, we are recommended to arrive at the airport three hours before takeoff for all international flights. Our flight out of Cape Town was at 8:00 pm. We arrived at the airport at 3:00 pm, 5 hours before the scheduled departure. We were surprised by the number of people in line, but the gates had not yet opened to allow us to check our luggage. Maintaining our social distance, we had interesting conversations with other passengers waiting in line. The airport itself was a madhouse, especially with passengers flying to the UK. To pass through the multitude of people to get to our check-in position in itself was a challenge with a large number of people, each in very close proximity to one another. The check-in agents arrived about 4 hours before boarding, giving us sufficient time to go through security and passport control. At 7:15 pm, the boarding process started. While seated on the plane, at 8:00 pm, the captain advised us that 28 passengers were stuck trying to check their luggage and get through security. He kept us informed as to how many people were waiting to board the flight. He was wise enough to hold takeoff until all passengers could board. The captain did tell us that part of the holdup was some of the check-in agents had not shown up for work, and that helped slow the process dramatically. The captain walked through the plane before takeoff to answer questions that the passengers may have. Once in the air, and hour and fifteen minutes after our scheduled departure time, the captain made up time to arrive in Newark close to the stated arrival time. He announced the flight crew was volunteers due to COVID-19. The captain informed us that we would not be processed by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) for temperature checks after deplaning.
Arriving at a near-deserted airport in Newark was another experience. We arrive at Terminal B. We proceed through passport control, then had to relocate by train to Terminal C to collect our luggage, pass through customs, and check-in our bags for transport to Milwaukee. Next, take a bus to Terminal A, catch a small regional jet for the two-hour flight to Milwaukee. We knew we had 90 minutes to complete this process, and we were fortunate to make our flight without delay. The jet was less than half-filled with passengers. Probably the most challenging situation was the toilets in the terminal buildings were locked, and I have a weak bladder.
The surprises did not stop yet. We arrived in Milwaukee at General Mitchell International airport at 10:00 am at a deserted airport. The shops were closed, and there are no people around. We make our way to baggage claim, and our three bags are the first on the conveyor. My son and his girlfriend (Sean and Erica married November 13, 2020–a Friday the 13th) were outside the baggage claim area. Sean tosses the keys to my wife, making sure there was no close contact, and headed off home with his girlfriend. My next surprise was my drive home. In thirty-four years we have lived here, I have never seen the roads so quiet. Once back home, we started the sterilization process, cleaning all our luggage, taking a shower, and doing six loads of laundry washing everything we took to South Africa, including the clean clothing we brought home in our bags.
Friday, March 27, 2020, was the start of our 14-day isolation. I cannot deny, now, into a few days of this experience, that we have experienced a significant adjustment. We have arranged to have groceries delivered, and seriously miss our daily 40-minute walk around the neighborhood. I feel starved of exercise. Naturally, we miss seeing our children and granddaughters. Facetiming is not the same. We are not able to socialize with any of our neighbors in our condominium complex.
Now that I have reached the end of my account of getting home, I will start at the beginning.
Thursday, March 5, 2020
A friend kindly drove us to the airport in Milwaukee. Our flight to Detroit was only 75-minutes on a regional jet. Delta requested us to be at the airport 3 hours ahead of departure. With Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee being a small airport, this seems an excessive request. The bad news when we finally got to Cape Town we found the Transport Security Agency had searched my large suitcase, one of three checked bags. They found nothing worth confiscating. The flight was uneventful. We had a three-hour layover in Detroit and had a meal at PF Chang’s.
I filed a complaint with Delta for not issuing boarding passes with TSA Precheck. They said it would take a week or more to respond. TSA (Transport Security Administration) is a government organization responsible for security at the US ports of entry. Precheck is a program that one can apply for at a cost, where your background is vetted, and when going through security at the airports, they are more lenient in what passengers are asked to do. We do not have to remove shoes or belts, for example. More than that, I hold a TSA Global Entry that speeds up the process when returning to the US from overseas travel. Delta advised that the TSA Precheck is a privilege and not always provided to passengers. Strange, when I paid $85 for the convenience.
We boarded a flight to Amsterdam. With the flight time of eight and a half hours, I watched the movie Bombshell. It is the story of Fox News and the sexual advances made by Rodger Ailes on female anchors. South African actress Charlize Theron played the part of Megyn Kelly, who sued Rodger. If any of the faithful Trump followers watch this movie, I cannot see how they will vote for Trump again, unless he convinces his base that this movie is all lies and fake news. I watched Judy about the life of Judy Garland. What a short sad life she had, getting manipulated by men wanting to profit off her voice at any cost. Finally, I watched a single episode of the TV series The Neighborhood with a Chinese family living in white suburbia and the racism they faced. And yes, it was a comedy.
The flight to Amsterdam was not full, Linda and I had a spare seat to ourselves.
Friday, March 6, 2020
By the time we crossed the Atlantic, it was early morning In Amsterdam. We did not have much of a layover and boarded a massive Boeing 777 300 for the 12-hour flight to Cape Town. When you arrive at Cape Town International Airport, the passengers are split into locals and foreigners to go through customers and immigration. There were a handful of South Africans, with the majority of us being international passengers. Frankly, with all the bad press South Africa is getting, I am surprised to see any visitors. I read before our departure that tourism is down. A few days after our arrival back in the US, Moody’s Investors Service cut South Africa’s credit rating below investment grade, delivering the country a full house of junk assessments as it grapples with a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The currency, the Rand, devalued dramatically against the US$, and other global currencies. South Africa has been in a recession for the past six months.
The Hotel Verdi, which is a stone throw from the airport, listed 11:30 pm and midnight as shuttle pickup times. A taxi driver told us that the 11:30 shuttle had left at 11:20. I called the hotel to complain, and they responded immediately with another shuttle. I have stayed at this hotel previously and recommend it highly. Everything from the rooms to the dining facilities is of the best available.
Saturday, March 7, 2020
After a short night’s sleep and a great breakfast, we took the shuttle to the airport to collect our Hertz rental car. Hertz provided us with a Renault Stepwise, a compact small vehicle. We drove to the hotel, loaded our luggage, and I tried to connect my dashcam to one of the two cigarette lighters. Neither worked on this low mileage car, and I was disgusted. The more significant issue was that on two occasions, I tried to close the rear door and ended up cutting myself in two different spots on my face. The rear doors are an above-average height with a sharp edge. From an engineering design point of view, the vehicle is a disaster. Linda bumped her nose on the silly door but did not break her skin.
Hertz exchanged the car for a Volkswagen Polo. I had to change the feed to the dashcam from a cigar lighter to a USB port. So far, it appears that the dashcam did not get the needed electric connection. The Rexing dashcam shows that it is activated when you switch the car on. When I looked at the camera display, after several day’s driving, it was blank. I discovered that the SanDisk micro SD card was my problem in that it will not permit multiple over-recordings with the overwrite feature. I replaced the SIM card with a Kingston product. The biggest disappointment for me is that I was not able to save videos of drives we went on to add to YouTube and my blog.
On leaving the airport, we drove to nearby friend’s home to borrow a Taser for our short duration in the Cape. Wally drove me to a nearby shopping center for me to draw rands from the ATM. At a minimum, I needed cash for the tolls on the way to my sister in Montagu. After tea and cookies, we made our way to my other sister, living in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. Linda had never seen their home, and I had not seen the renovations. After another round of tea and snacks, we followed through driving three hours to my sister and brother-in-law’s farm in Montagu. That night we stayed in Cottage 3 on the farm. Please appreciate that driving in South Africa required me to drive on the left-hand side of the road with a stick shift rental car.
I am the proud owner of three pairs of eyeglasses; one for general use, one for computer use, and sunglasses. When we arrived in Montagu, unpacked, and set everything in its place, I realized that my “regular” eyeglasses were missing. A quick call to Hertz verified that I had left it in Renault’s glove compartment/cubbyhole and that they would keep it in a secure place until we retrieved it on our return to Cape Town on Tuesday.
A dozen of us met for a tapas dinner at the BluVines restaurant, including Simon, and wife Yvette (more about them later), Jonathan and Sharon (additional detail to follow), Linda and me. I wrote about Richard Weilers and his restaurant in a blog, and with the delicious food and waiters who entertain with singing. You may imagine what a wonderful evening we had.
Sunday, March 8, 2020
Eating is essential, so we started the day at Sergio and Cay Fernandes’ Rambling Rose restaurant. Sergio always does an excellent job of making all his patrons feel like royalty, but we are regulars, so we got an even better treatment. Cay’s kitchen skills are unparalleled. Having Linda and me back in Montagu added to the excitement. You can read about The Rambling Rose Restaurant in my blog about Montagu.