End of First Term and A Train to Paradise. (Or a Broken Home)

Train Journey

Eventually the term came to an end and the blissful day arrived when it was time to pack our belongings into our trunks and head of home. I had a lot less to pack when I left than I had when I arrived, but fortunately I still had about seventy-five percent of my school uniform intact. I had arrived with six of everything, shirts, trousers, safari-suits and two pairs of shoes, sandals and all sports equipment as needed. It was to become a sad fact of life, that at every end of term I had less and less to pack even though my locker was always locked.

Our trunks were labelled and sent to the station, then we were lined up as usual, girls separate and marched to the railway station, this was strange since there was no supervision on the actual train. Once there we boarded the local-coal fired train to Nelspruit from where we would connect with the mainline train to Johannesburg. There were students that had made this journey before, so it was not hard to find the train and find our respective cabins as the numbers were printed on the tickets, including a food voucher and a bedding voucher.

The train travelled through the night stopping at every station on the way, dropping off and collecting different passengers as well as milk, as it was known as the “Milk Train” and arrived at Johannesburg station just after sunrise.

My mother was waiting for me on the platform alone, which was strange as my father’s office was just above our heads in the stations concourse and he was not with her. Mother at first did not spot me, waiting for my trunk to be unloaded, mainly because she was looking for my very white hair, and as I now was as bald as cue ball she did not recognize me in the crowd.

She was starting to panic that I had missed the train or knowing her perchance to the dramatic, had been killed or kidnapped, when I materialized in front of her. She took one look at me and burst into tears muttering about my beautiful hair been gone, she looked really shocked.

It was something she was never able to get over, her son sheared like a Marino sheep.

The holiday naturally flew past, especially because I was spoilt rotten, all my favourite foods were dished up, Hubby running around making sure that I wanted for nothing and the other children asking me all sorts of questions of what boarding school was like and being very sympathetic to my situation.

Playing with my friends on the street and not being bullied all the time was wonderful, but my mother was very cool towards little John, as his mother was one of the women that my mother had named, my own mother was guilty of the same crime as the residents of Barberton, visiting the sins of the parent onto the child.

Little John’s parents were busy with a divorce of their own due to the revelation that his mother was one of my father’s mistresses. Granny had also moved back into her room and the house was filled with the aroma of her baking every day that I was home. I was naturally teased by everyone about being bald, but big John decided he liked it and shaved his own head that brought an end to the teasing, as nobody would dare tease him, his temper was always bubbling just beneath the surface and he was the biggest of the friends, the eldest too.

Before I knew it I was back on the train and heading for the dubious pleasures of Barberton. My father did not visit me during that holiday. Nor was the divorce a favoured topic of conversation in our house, so I had no idea where he was living or what he was up to.

Lots of Hugs and more,

PEGGY-Sven

A Little Charity Raising For The Poor, Starting At Home.

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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,

Peggy-Sven