A Ducktails Signature Erased.

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After my parents dropped me off at the school for the second term, it was made known to me that it was to be the last time that I was driven to school, and that I was to be catching the train back home and would from then on use the train for all journeys to and from the school. Reason being that my parents had obtained a divorce during that first term while I was enjoying the wonderful hospitality of the Barberton hostel.

My parents’ divorce turned out to be rather news worthy, it appeared in the main body of the Sunday Times, and every person in Barberton was scandalized. It turns out that my mother named something like seventy two other women in her divorce summons, including most of my mother’s so called friends and the mothers of a fair amount of my friends. One thing that Barberton most definitely was, and that was a very conservative God fearing town and the thought of a white man having so many concubines was more than a scandal, it was definitely the work of the devil.

I had become an instant celebrity in the town, wherever I went people pointed and whispered under their breaths, it would have been funny if it had not made the bulling at the hostel worse. It seems that people had passed the sins of the father onto the son. A lot of my friends at school started to avoid me, fortunately my friends at the hostel at least had no option but to stand at my side for the safety in numbers theory. Also their parents were not there to force them to stay away from the devil’s child.

In the last weeks of the school term I was told by the house master, who had at that stage not warmed to me due to rugby, that my hair was too long and that on the next Saturday visit to town I must have my hair cut. There was only one problem, I had already spent all my pocket money and if it was not cut by sundown I would be punished, when I informed him of this small problem I was told he did not care where I got the money from, for all he cared I could beg, borrow or steal it. As my friends had also run out of money and that I had learned about stealing the previous year, begging was the only way that I had the chance of getting the money. It turned out I was not at all a good beggar, so as I was unable to afford a haircut, it wasn’t cut.

I must take this opportunity to point out that my hair was not that long, just over my ears and collar and I was going home in a matter of days where my mother would arrange for my hair to be cut. That Saturday, I went to town as was usual to escape the hostel and spent time with ‘Ticky’ the Clown’ a dwarf who claimed to have been the original ‘Ticky’ The Clown at Boswell Wilkie circus, whether that was true or not did not matter to us, he made us laugh and that was what I needed that Saturday to take my mind of the caning that was sure to follow having not had my hair cut.

When I returned to the hostel that evening, sure enough the house master was waiting for me, he had decided to make an example out of this ‘rooinek’s’ devil child. He grabbed me by the arm and dragged me to the bathroom calling for some of the older boys to fetch a chair, a pair of scissors and a safety razor. He then proceeded to cut all my hair off and shaved my head until I was absolutely bald. Not a very wise thing to do to a very fair skinned child especially in Barberton where the sun beats ruthlessly down and cloudy days are far and few between.

By the end of Sunday I was in the hostel sanatorium with sunstroke. 

Till next time, lots of hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

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Spiders and Real Fear.

 

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Bath time at the hostel was a strange ritual as there were three baths for about thirty inmates, and only enough hot water to fill them each twice, which equated to five people having to share the same water before the baths could be refilled.

One thing that had been drilled into me at home was that cleanliness was next to Godliness, so this bathing in dirty water was abhorrent to my senses. I would always attempt to be the first person to enter the bath room when the bell rang, even being punished when found sitting in one of the bath cubicles before the bell for bath time was rung. Also I took a lot longer to bath, what with scrubbing toenails, feet, hands and washing my hair everyday.

This was too long to wait for the other boys queuing up to bath. They tried many things to speed up my bath but the thing that they found out really worked was to toss a baboon spider over the cubicle wall. It is the only creature that I have an unreasonable fear of.

Once they found out I was scared of spiders my life became a living hell even worse than the days that I was only beaten to a pulp by the Afrikaners for giving them what they called back chat. I would now find spiders everywhere, in my bed, slippers, shoes, locker, toiletry bag and anywhere else that they could think of.

Baboon spiders are harmless, only enormous in size, even today I have an agreement with all spiders if they move into my house and that is, stay where I can see you and do not disappear because if I cannot see the spider it means I have to search the house and exterminate the creature that keeps the fly and mosquito population under control. I fear spiders, but hate flies with a passion.

Lots of hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Rugby, Not a Sport, But a Religion.

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There were only three English speakers in the same standard as me in the hostel, so naturally we gravitated towards friendship as there was safety in numbers, it was unwise to be caught alone as a so called ‘Rooinek’ or “red neck”, the name that we were called because Englishman’s necks always burned red in the severe African sun.

We spent a lot of time sitting in the highest branches of the Marula tree that grew in the playground that the hostel provided for the exclusive use of the boys, the girls played elsewhere. When the tree had leaves on it we were invisible from the ground and therefore safe until dinner. On the days that we had sport practice we were not safe even if there was a teacher present.

There were two sports offered, rugby and athletics. Athletics was a summer sport and most importantly not a contact sport well mostly not a contact sport. There were things like long jump, high jump, discus and the sprints that were definitely non-contact. The five hundred, one thousand, and cross country were very much contact sports as you would be pushed, shoved and trampled on if the opportunity arose. So we rooineks stuck to the non-contact variety.

Rugby season was another story. Rugby was a compulsory sport, every able bodied male youngster had to participate in this almost religious passion.

Strangely I excelled at it, being as small as I was, it was almost impossible to tackle me around the chest or neck, as most of the opposition were prone to do, also being small I could not bring the huge opposition that I faced down if I tackled them around the waist, so I learned that no matter how huge the opposition, if tackled around the ankles they had no option but to come crashing down to ground level, inevitably spilling the ball forward. Also I was surprisingly fast for my size, so I was made a wing.

The position furthest from the brute force of the scrum or mincer, it suited me fine. My friends were not as lucky, as they were slower and larger than me, at the end of every practice or game they returned to the hostel sporting either a black eye, bleeding nose or rake marks somewhere on their bodies or all three.

The attitude of most of the Afrikaans teachers, which up to then had been very anti-me, changed when the second term started and they noticed my ability to play their sacred game so well.

My little under eleven A team went unbeaten that season and that may have played a large part in their change of attitude. It did not help me in any way with the Afrikaans students in the hostel.

Up until that time my dormitory was in the main hostel block, with the other younger children, this was changed by the hostel master, and I was moved to one of the outside prefabricated barrack like buildings with the older boys and the rugby elite. Believe me when I say I could have done without the honour, I was the only rooinek or “Soutpiel”, as I was called by the Afrikaans students, in the place, so I was totally vulnerable. Soutpiel means one leg in Africa and one leg in England with the middle leg in the Atlantic Ocean.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

A School With More Than A Little Dicipline.

The internal economy of Dotheboys Hall

Barberton hostel’s rules were definitely based on the Afrikaans culture, from the separation of the sexes, haircuts, choice of food to the attendance of church. After breakfast, that normally consisted of corn porridge (lumpy and normally undercooked) a slice of bread and a cup of tea, the separated sexes were lined up in two’s and then marched to the actual school, girls in front, boys following.

Once at the school, the different language groups immediately dispersed to find their respective friends of the appropriate language. The English and Afrikaans teachers also practiced a type of Apartheid, even though they shared a common staff room. The English teachers were also a lot more humane then their Afrikaans counterparts, so we English speakers would try and remain close to the English supervisor during breaks, as our chances of being punished if we strayed too close to the Afrikaans side of the playground was about a hundred times more likely than if we stayed on our side.

Actual lessons were not at all that bad, as all but one subject was taught in English by Englishmen, the exception being Afrikaans itself. It was a subject that we all learned to dread, I think most of us would have preferred being caned six of the best, than have to attend Afrikaans lessons. The Spanish inquisition would have been proud to have our Afrikaans teacher as one of their interrogators. He hated us English speaking kids and made no bones about it either. Afrikaans is a rather guttural language and most English speakers battle with the pronunciation. I was told once that to speak it properly, it helps if you have a throat disease.

As none of us had even a sore throat, let alone cancer of the throat, we battled with the correct pronunciation. Whenever we got it wrong, we were caned. The theory I suppose being that we would try harder to avoid pain or maybe it was just the theory that knowledge could be beaten into a child, both theories failed miserably.

At the end of lessons it was back into lines and the march back to the hostel. After lunch the primary school children had the afternoon off, the high school kids were marched off for the afternoon session.

The one thing that was extremely foreign to me was the fact that children were allowed to go to school barefoot, at all the other schools I had attended if you walked around barefoot you were punished. I was to find out that in general the Afrikaans population was poor and many could not afford to buy their children shoes, that did not stop them affording alcohol, just shoes and school uniforms were unaffordable.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Eating Habits and Other Surprises

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There were many differences in lifestyle between home life and boarding house rules that I had to adjust to, the hardest being the rules in relation to meals. In our household you were to eat everything that you had chosen to put on your plate, at Barberton there was no choice. The food was passed around and you were forced to take a portion of everything that had been prepared.

Now you will have to understand that I was used to a very different cooking style, to the Afrikaans way of cooking and there was certain things that I would not eat at all even when prepared by my mother, spinach being a definite no, no.

There was one memorable occasion at home where I left the spinach that had been put on my plate by my father, which I refused to eat. I was about seven at the time, he ranted and raved that I would not leave the table until the spinach was eaten, so I sat there staring at the spinach until one in the morning, before I was sent to bed. The spinach was given to me to eat for the next two days for breakfast, lunch and supper and no matter how hungry I was I steadfastly refused to eat it. That is where the rules at home changed, that we only had to eat what we ourselves put on our plate, even when our eyes were larger than our stomachs.

The hostel rules had no exceptions written into it, no one left the dinning  hall until all the food was gone, you were not even allowed to pass what you did not want onto someone who obviously could either eat some more or desired that particular food. Not only was your plate checked, but you had to open your mouth to show that you were not hiding food in it to spit out later.

Learning to half swallow the food I did not want to eat, it took a long time to perfect. The technique of getting the food to slide only half way down my throat and to hold it there before regurgitating the unwanted swine’s food into the nearest dustbin. I could only hold it like that for as long as I could hold my breath, once I had to breathe I was forced to swallow. So I always ate the food I liked first then waited for the hall to be dismissed and the crowds to exit, I was always the last out as waiting in the line to be inspected took longer than I could hold my breath.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven