Lack of Self Control

Image

All our house masters were Afrikaans except one, the English Gym teacher. If I had one really bad failing as a child, it was the inability to shut my mouth when some bully espoused some stupid comment about me being English.

The Afrikaans students in the hostel far outnumbered the English ones, the reason being that their fathers tended to be farmers and the farms were out of town. The townies tended to be English and their fathers owned most of the stores or businesses in the town of Barberton and lived within the town limits, so most of the English speaking students just walked to school.

We borders also walked to school as the hostel was about two kilometres from that sanctity of learning. The Afrikaans hated the English, still do I suppose, due to the concentration camps during the Anglo-Boer war where some twenty-eight thousand Afrikaans speaking people had died, of which more than twenty-two thousand were children under the age of sixteen. Understandably  they had their reasons to hate the British, but to them all English speakers where British, which of course was not exactly correct.

I was of German extraction, my mother was brought up by my Granny who was Swedish, and I had no ties to the British. My father had decided to bring us up as English speaking as it was the only international language taught in South African schools. Shamefully whenever one of these ignorant oafs started with me, instead of agreeing with them, which would have been the safest thing to do, I proceeded to give them a piece of my mind and to remind them that they were a bunch of mongrels made up of Dutch, French, German and anything else that happened to be passing through South Africa at the time. To say that I was beaten on a regular basis would be like commenting that the sun rose every morning in the East, or that the Pope was catholic. So I had plenty of time to enjoy the bucket parade.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

A Boarding Experience In Hell (TBH)

Image

In the New Year it was off, to John Orr’s, to buy all the things that I was required to have to attend Barberton Primary. The very first thing was a large steel trunk that could be locked, this should have been some sort of clue as to what I was going into, but my mother felt it was just so that it could be padlocked for transit on the train, I did not point out that most of the boys would be from surrounding farms and would have no need to use a train.

By the time that we had bought everything on the list, the trunk would hardly close, as it would be delivered to our home with the roll of name tags that my mother had ordered we were not unduly worried. Finally John Orr’s delivered all the things that we had bought, and Granny and mother spent hours labelling all my school requisites, including cricket bat and even my toothbrush had my name engraved on it, none of these precautions however proved adequate as will soon be seen.

Both my parents drove me down to Barberton and made sure that I was securely enrolled in the school. We said good-bye, with me sitting on my bed surrounded by all my belongings that had to be packed away into a steel upright cabinet that also had a place where a padlock could be used to secure the goods inside. I had a set of five padlocks that all opened with the same key and three spares that were handed into the hostel masters office, along with the recommended amount of pocket money that could be drawn in any amounts on a Friday afternoon, pocket money would also have to cover haircuts as I was to find out later to my cost.

 After I had packed away all my belongings, I went downstairs and started to wander about finding out where all the amenities were, when suddenly a bell started ringing, I had no idea what the bell meant so I hurried back to my dormitory. Before I had even reached the building a teacher started shouting in both English and Afrikaans that we must all report to him, so I headed in his direction.

Once all the boys were assembled in front of him he asked who had rung the bell, as I did not even know where the button to ring the bell was located, I knew I could not even be a suspect, so I was very relaxed as the silence drew out. Nobody owned up to the crime, the next thing I knew we were forming a line and every boy was given one stroke with a cane. Justice I was to find out at Barberton was swift, but by no means just, if someone was caught doing something wrong there was immediate punishment from one stroke of the cane for misdemeanours to six strokes for more serious ones, smoking for an example. If no one owned up the whole school was punished, there was no investigation, either you were caught red handed, someone owned up or the whole school was punished.

Not a single kid even thought of telling a teacher who the culprit was, being caned was one thing, being beaten to a pulp by one of these strapping farm boys was another. The punishment for being caught fighting, even if you were an innocent victim of a bully, was to stand holding buckets with just enough water that you could hold them up, arms horizontal to the ground where you were expected to stand in the blazing sun for an hour without lowering the buckets. If your arms dropped too far out of the horizontal, your shoulders would feel the bite of a cane, two wonderful punishments in one

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

P.S. TBH was the car registration plates of the town, which stood for To Bloody Hot.

A Last Christmas As A Family

Image

At the beginning of the year my father had set a challenge for my sister and I, if we finished in the top three of our respective classes we would receive a portable radio as a prize, the prize to take the form of our Christmas presents. Well Karen was top of her class, I managed only fifth. So when Christmas arrived Karen received her portable radio, I nothing as I had not fulfilled the terms of the challenge.

We were to have one more Christmas together years later, but it would never be the same as those Christmas’ that we shared during our youth. I was informed on Christmas that a school had been chosen for me for the new academic year as my inclusion in the convent was always until the end of standard two. I was to attend a school by the name of Barberton Primary, a co-ed and duel medium school in Barberton. Duel medium meaning the school taught in both English and Afrikaans. It was also a boarding school. My father thought this was a good idea as having attended a girls school I needed toughening up and Barberton was the perfect place to do just that.

The one good thing that happened near the end of the year was that my father had opened a new business by the name of Springbok Office Supplies (1968) and that he was sure he had learned from his mistakes and this new version would be bigger and far stronger than the last business, even though he was down to a single branch again, operating from the same premises.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Lost Keys, Friends Found

Image

The second was the loss of the Mercedes car keys. It happened just a few days before my parents returned from wherever they had gone to.

We had spent the morning on the beach, Granny sprawled on her deck chair under her umbrella, Hubby helping Kirsten and Kern to make sand castles and Karen and I playing with the friends we had made on the beach during our stay there, there was always some we were saying good-bye to as it was their last day and hello to others who had just started their holiday. We always left the beach at noon, as it was decided that the sun became far too fierce in the afternoon. Afternoons were reserved for visiting museums, parks or just walking around the harbour looking at all the foreign cargo vessels and if we were really lucky one of the mail ships that took the mail and passengers to England.

That afternoon it had been planned that we would visit a park by the name of Mitchell’s Park which also housed the local zoo. The reason that we went to Mitchell’s Park so often was to enjoy their afternoon teas, which served the greatest tasting scones smothered in homemade strawberry jam and thick clotted cream that I have ever tasted. Also Granny used to pop across the road and visit with Robert who was now one of the inmates of the old age home across the road from the park, while we were traipsing around the zoo.

When the time came for us to leave for the park, Granny could not find the keys, so we spent that afternoon searching the apartment. By the next morning and after Hubby had looked for them as well we decided that they must have fallen out of Granny’s bag the last time we were on the beach. Off to the beach we marched, first stop lost and found, they had seen neither hide nor hair of the darn things. Then to the plan of last resort, we found the place that we had spent the morning before, or at least the place we thought we had been and started to dig and sift through the sand.

Karen and I enlisted the help of our beach friends and before long there was a hole that rivalled the Great Hole of Kimberly. Our hole however did not give up any treasure mainly the car keys were nowhere to be found. For the next few days the mission was to be repeated over and over, we lost a few of our helpers, but the excavations always brought fresh recruits. When the day dawned that our parents were to return there was still no keys, so with some trepidation Granny hired a taxi and fetched them from the airport. Well the local locksmiths needed at least a spare to make a copy and Natal motors were not much help either. So Carl was contacted and had the spare key air freighted, at some considerable expense, to us.

Lots of hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven