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

Having One’s Mistress Eating At Home

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My mother was pregnant again that year and had started showing around June. So the house was once again being made ready for the arrival of another baby. From about August the house was turned upside down and given a complete clean. Father spent more and more time away from home, if he was not away in Europe he was looking after his other branches. He had opened a new one in Durban as well. 

One evening when my mother was just over seven months pregnant they returned home together rather early. The top of the driveway was blocked by a new delivery of building sand, so they were forced to use the front entrance. They exited the car like champagne corks and sort of argued quietly as they climbed the stairs to the veranda, the next thing my father spun round, I have never been sure if he was attempting to grab her or whether he pushed her, but the nett  result was that she tumbled head over heels down the stairs and landed on her extended stomach. She picked herself up making use of the hand offered by my father and proceeded to her bedroom and lay down. A week later she was admitted to hospital in order to save the baby. 

Before my mother left for hospital, she prepared frozen meals for my father and left instructions for Hubby as to what to feed us while she was gone. The evening following my mother’s departure to the hospital, Caroline arrived home with my father. We were introduced to her as an overseas visitor, trouble being that I recognised her from the tennis club. She was ensconced in Granny’s old room where all our visitors stayed and was to stay until after the birth of Kern. During her stay it was amazing to see how she tried to interfere in the routine of us children she only stopped when Hubby told her “That her Madam had given her instructions and when she, Caroline was the Madam of the house would she, Hubby, change those instructions”. 

The day after Kern was born she disappeared faster than she had arrived. Kern was born two months premature, and was declared clinically dead a few minutes after his birth. The doctor that had just delivered him had also given my mother a hysterectomy and left the closing up to others when he rushed through to the baby and did enough to resuscitate Kern. Kern was kept at the hospital for a few weeks and mother only returned home about a week after his birth. When Kern was finally brought home he fitted into my mother’s shoe boxes, I know as I tried it and he fitted. 

After Kern arrived home a sort of truce descended over the household as Kern needed peace and quiet to enable him to sleep and grow without unnecessary crying that would take away what energy he had for growing.

Lots of Hugs and more,

Peggy-Sven

Child Labour and Complicity In Betrayal.

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The one thing that I wanted more than anything was a bicycle, and I never stopped nagging my parents about getting one. Well eventually my father came up with a scheme that would allow me to get my wish. I was to work every Saturday at his office and if he was satisfied that I had not shirked my tasks I would be given a bicycle for Christmas. It was agreed that every Saturday morning I would leave with him and head for my day of work. There would be no pay, except for the bicycle at Christmas if in his opinion I had earned it. 

Back in the sixties it seems that Saturday was just another work day, so I can only deduce that the five day working week had not become law. My father’s shop in the concourse of Johannesburg station consisted of the front part being a show room, with the rear of the showroom being the administrative section. His desk was situated in the left-hand back corner of the showroom, the receptionist desk in the middle and the accounts desk where my mother sat in the right hand corner. 

There was a door leading off my mother’s work area into a passage that led to the back of the shop. Just off to the left of the passage as you entered it was the door to the storeroom, where all the stock was kept. The storeroom was filled with metal shelves with all types of stationery neatly placed on the various shelves. There was also a mezzanine level to the storeroom that had been built out of wood to double the area without expanding the floor area and therefore the rent. At the end of the passage was a door that led onto the service corridor of the station, where small diesel tugs pulled the wagons loaded with goods to the respective platforms to be loaded onto the trains. 

On the other side of the corridor was a set of double doors that opened up into the paper cutting room of my father’s business where flat reams of paper were cut to various sizes for the printing industry and office use. The room was dominated by a very large guillotine. Four or five natives worked in this factory cutting paper and wrapping the cut reams in brown paper and labelling the reams as to size and type. At the far end was another door that led outside to the area where the migrant workers congregated every weekend to catch their train home. 

It was an area that throbbed with life and was filled with the colours of the rainbow as everyone waiting wore a blanket of a different colour and design; I think these blankets were called Basotho Blankets. They were of the highest quality and very soft. Wares of all sorts were sold to the returning labourers, from metal mirrors to bicycles, cars been out of reach for the average native due to Apartheid’s policy of minimum wages for maximum work. 

When I worked there and had a break from work I would wonder around and they would give me sweets and portions of the food that they had. Not once did I ever feel that someone would hurt me. There was also a very large contingent of Railway police patrolling the area to stop the sale of illicit alcohol to the Natives, or so I was told by my father’s staff.

My first task was to assemble the steel shelving on the mezzanine floor of the storeroom. It was not a very difficult job, as there were four steel uprights pre-punched with holes and the shelving that had also been pre-punched, with the strengthening braces that were attached to stop the shelves collapsing. Two uprights were placed on the floor and the top and bottom shelves were loosely attached and then the structure was turned upside down and the other two uprights attached to the shelves. Once this was done the braces were screwed on to the back and sides which created a very stable structure. Then it was just a matter of inserting the other shelves with the correct spacing and bolting it all tightly together. 

So easy that a seven year old could do it alone, at the end of every shift John would help me to lift them into the upright position. We used to finish just after two in the afternoon and my father would always take me to the little cafeteria across the concourse to have a bite to eat, those were wonderful lunches, where we really had a chance to talk father to son, even though we were always interrupted by some woman, who would always arrive and sit on the opposite side of my father as we used to eat not at the tables but at the serving counter seated on those high chrome and brightly upholstered stools, that were anchored to the ground and the seats swivelled which lead to me being constantly chastised for acting like a child . 

It was not always the same woman that interrupted our meals and I thought my father was very nice talking to these strange women, people who must have worked in other shops in the concourse. It seemed strange then when he told me that I must not tell mother about them and I was proud that he trusted me with his secrets. I was too young to even think that it was anything more than innocent friendship, years later I understood the role that I had played in her betrayal.

Lots of Hugs and more

Peggy-Sven