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