As all Catholic schools are prone to, we had an enormous amount of fundraisers and collections for some or other charity, I cannot remember a day that went past that we were not asked to donate some or other canned, packaged, bottled or packet of something to the poor. That was if we were not asked to donate money or take a tin home and fill it with our spare change also for the less advantaged in our beautiful country. There were two extremely important fundraisers on the schools calendar, The Big Walk and the annual fête.
For the ‘Big Walk’ we were handed sponsorship forms where we were expected to go around our suburbs and get people to sponsor us a few cents per kilometre that we completed, the person that managed to raise the most money for the school being presented with some or other prize. I was inordinately successful in getting these sponsorships, maybe because I was small for my age and the older people were taken in by my innocent looks. I can just imagine their reaction to having this small urchin on their doorsteps asking to be sponsored a few cents per Kilometre, the form saying a maximum of twenty kilometres, the sponsors had to be thinking that I would not be capable of completing more than five.
Many of my sponsors risked as much as one Rand per kilometre. There was place for twenty sponsors on each form and I completed twelve of them. To this day I cannot justify what I did, but I only handed eight of those forms into the school and kept four of them for myself, the ones with the largest total of potential cash. The big day arrived and we set off on the five kilometre course, which was to be repeated four times, with marshals stationed at one kilometre intervals where the large labels hung around our necks were stamped to verify the distance completed. I completed all twenty kilometres. The following week we were given an official school letter with the distance that we had completed verified and signed off by Sister Kollomkil, the Mother Superior of the convent and as everyone knows nuns do not lie.
We were also given our sponsorship forms back so that we could collect the moneys that were now outstanding and due, the convent keeping a record of what was expected to be turned in. As the average sponsorship was ten cents a kilometre, the average per form was then forty Rand. So I handed the school about three hundred and twenty Rand in sponsorship money and kept a little more than one hundred and eighty Rand for myself. Back in the sixties, the average salary was only about three hundred Rands a month, so for a nine year old I was rich. Also as Karen and I were now allowed to leave the sanctity of the home and I had made friends with a few of the other children of my age who lived in my street, it was shopping time.
My best friend at the time was David T. We had become friends one afternoon at the park that was also in our street, David had been teasing Karen, and it was left to me to protect my sister. After the fight where I had a black eye and David a bloody nose, blood being the sign of the loser and the end of the fight, we had put our differences aside and had become firm friends. David was also a little chubby and had a ferocious appetite, so it was to him that I turned, when with all this money burning a hole in my pocket I decided to spend it at the new steak house by the name of Steers that had just opened in the new extension of the Parkview shopping centre.
A day was chosen and off we went, one afternoon after school, the shopping centre being about three kilometres from where we lived. The waiters were at first a little dubious about seating two nine year olds at a table, but after showing some cash we were treated like royalty. We decided to have at least one item of every category on the menu. We started at the top and worked our way to the bottom. The Steers menus were printed on pieces of wood and had simulated burns around the edge, representing the fact that all meat was flame grilled.
We had one of the starters, moved on to a double cheese hamburger, then a portion of spare ribs, a steak all served with French fries and deep fried onion rings. Finally we were onto the desserts. The most expensive and therefore the only one to order was the ‘Awful-Awful’ a strange name for a dessert but was advertised as awful big-awful nice. It was made with ice-cream, bananas, cherries, walnuts, fruit salad, chocolate sauce and covered in cream. I had never understood the phrase “Too much of a good thing is bad for you”, well after that meal I definitely understood.
What that meal cost I have no idea, as when we had finished the ‘Awful-Awful’, we felt distinctly …well… awful. We called for the bill and rushed to find the nearest toilet so that we could be ‘Awfully’ sick. The balance of the money was frittered away with nothing to show for it, as I was not stupid enough to buy things that I would not be able to explain, at least not truthfully, how I had been able to afford them.
Lots of Hugs and more,