Every Sunday was church day and every inmate in the hostel had to attend church even if there was no church that represented your brand of Christianity. As there was no Lutheran church in the village I was told to pick another or the choice would be made for me, the little blond girl attended the Methodist church so I decided that I would accompany her to the Methodist version of the scriptures as I had already tasted two years of the Catholic variety.
I will admit the Methodist version was not as regulated nor as pompous as the Catholic version. The priest though was hilarious, he obviously had false teeth that did not fit properly and every now and then he would be in the middle of damning adulterers and sinners to everlasting hell when he would whistle certain words. It was very hard to take these whistling sermons very seriously and if it hadn’t been for my young blond friend pinching me every time the whistling started, I am sure that I would have burst out laughing. There was not a Sunday that fornicators were not mentioned, I am not sure if it was because of my father’s son being in the congregation or that he knew many fornicators in his congregation.
After church we were marched back to the hostel not being allowed to share in the tea and cakes that were supplied by the ladies of the parish as there was a tea laid out on the lawns, for all the children of the hostel, after the last service was completed. Normally the Afrikaans churches had the longest services, up to two and a half hours, so tea was set for eleven. Every Sunday these large baking trays were laid out with a yellow sponge cake, that was completely tasteless, smothered in sugar icing that leant some taste to the tasteless cake and large urns of tepid watery tea. Tea lasted exactly thirty minutes and then everything was returned to the kitchen.
During the sixties, the South African government enforced a curfew for the Natives, and every evening in Barberton a siren would sound and all Native people had to be off the streets of the Town. Not only that, they had to be in the place that was designated in what was called the ‘Dompas’, it was a book that contained their complete work history, place of present work, designated living address and their criminal record if any. No Native could find work or be in an area designated as a ‘White area’ without producing the Dompas on demand. I am not sure exactly what time the siren sounded, but I think it was at ten at night.
One Sunday returning from church I was to witness the law in action. A Native gentleman had been stopped and his Dompas demanded, he tried to explain that he had left it by accident in his normal work clothes and the police could take him to his employers house and he would produce it for them. A fair request you would think. What happened next was so totally uncivilized that it is really hard to comprehend let alone describe.
The two white police officers started beating him with their truncheons until he fell to the ground unconscious, they then picked him up as you would a hundred kilogram sack of corn and threw him head first into the back of their patrol vehicle. The sound of his head striking the back of the steel bulkhead was similar to the sound a pawpaw makes when thrown against a wall. It was a scene that I have remembered all my life. I can never say that I did not know of the brutalities committed under Apartheid, I knew. What did I do to end it? Or did I just put it out of my mind and support it? Read on and discover.
Lots of HUGS and more,