It did not take many Saturdays to complete the shelving, and my next task was to fill those same shelves with new stock as it arrived. My father not only dealt in stationery, but also imported Triumph typewriters, Geha duplicators and associated paraphernalia including inks, wax duplicating paper, correction fluids, typewriter ribbons etc. The mezzanine floor had been built so that the lighter stationery could be moved upstairs and the heavier spare parts housed on the ground floor. It was my job every Saturday to facilitate this move.
It was a very dirty and tiring job, as the shop was situated in what was and is probably the busiest railway station in Africa, most of the stock was covered in a layer of dust, coal and mining sand. I do not know how many trips it took to move it all, but I do know that at the end of every Saturday’s work I was filthy, even my hair was black and I was extremely tired. That was probably the hardest of the chores that year, but I finished it and was immensely proud of myself when it was finally complete.
For the last few Saturdays of my early working life I was transferred to the paper room where I attached the labels to the wrapped paper, this gave me the opportunity to learn to drive the three wheeled scooters that my father used for deliveries. During quiet times John would take me to the staging area of the migrant workers, start his scooter and sitting next to me in the cab instruct me how to engage the gears and allow me to drive the scooter on the pavements.
I became rather proficient at driving and changing gears, there was only one minor problem, I was not tall enough to see properly what was ahead of me. So the inevitable happened, I crashed into a concrete dustbin. John immediately told me not to worry and that he would have the dent removed and that my father would never find out, John was like that as long as I knew him, always helping people out. How John kept the fact that I had crashed the scooter from my father I do not know, all I can say that I was forever grateful, as I can imagine the days confined to my bedroom as punishment.
One strange thing about my father’s company in passing, was the fact that he only employed one white, Carl K, the rest of the staff were either Natives, Chinese or in the case of the repair man, Hottentot. I have since discovered that he was in breach of the laws of the time as all supervisory positions were reserved for whites. Carl was, his salesman, all other positions of responsibility were Natives. His receptionist was Chinese, one of his sexual conquests I was later to learn.
How my mother never found out about her I have never understood, as she worked in the same office, rather my mother became very friendly with the Chinese girl’s family. We often visited them in what was known as China Town. Every year we bought our fireworks to celebrate the 5th of November from her father’s shop and what extraordinary fireworks they were.
Lots of Hugs and more,