Friday, April 6, 2012

South African Childhood- PARKHURST - Johannesburg ..

Johannesburg. South Africa-  The City of Gold.

I was born on September 6 1948 in the Queen Victoria Hospital- in Johannesburg South Africa.
My parents were Afrikaners .My paternal ancestor immigrated from Germany to Cape Town in  1773  as a soldier-for- hire by  the Dutch Indian Company- that brought him to the Cape of Good Hope.

Cape Town today.

My father, Fred grew up on a farm- Boschbult in the Western Transvaal between Ottosdal and Delareyville -the eldest of four boys.

The red dirt roads of the Western Transvaal.

 My father became ill with rheumatic fever  when he was about seventeen, so he was shipped off to live with a friend of my grandmother -who was a nurse in Johannesburg, a  Mrs Swales .
She nursed him back to health and he decided to stay on in the big city while his three younger brothers remained on the farm and became farmers, and married neighboring farm girls.
My father never completed his high school diploma but started to work for the CNA- the book and magazine chain that is still in business in South Africa.

My mother Rina, was born on Krugersdorp near Johannesburg . She was the fourth child in a family of eight children  -four  brothers and four sisters, and  grew up in Springs.

Potchefstroom University .

My mother was sent  was sent to Potchefstroom University. She was the only one of her siblings that went to College. Those days the Government would lend  money to a student who wanted to become a teacher. My grandparents were not wealthy so my mother took out a  loan to study. To pay it back it was deducted from her salary once she got a teaching job.

Reinette House- Graaf Reinette.

 Both my grandmothers were educated women and both were teachers. Almost the only profession a woman could follow at that time.My maternal grandmother Kitty studied in Graaf Reinette  and my paternal grandmother Anna  at Wellington Teachers College .My mother followed in their footsteps.


Wellington College.

After my mother graduated she was sent to teach at a farm school at Grootvlei  near Heidelberg .Soon after she was  posted to the Doringbult school between Ottosdal and Delaryeville -the school where my Ouma  Anna -was the third teacher on the staff.My grandmother took to her immediately and she was invited home for weekends where she met my father's younger brothers  Johannes, Tienie and Uys .My Ouma Anna  never had any daughters so she just  adopted  my mother as her own.
By this time my father was working in Johannesburg and only came home now and then for a weekend. The farm was about 250 miles from Johannesburg.When he came home one weekend they met and that was the start of a love affair that lasted for 53 years  and borne them 6 children in 13 years  .I was the eldest of five boys and a daughter. It ended when my father died in 2000. My mother is still alive at 91 years of age and in excellent health.

My father was 25 and my mother 23 when they got married. He was then working for Bouwer Cost Plus and big importer in Johannesburg. They were the importers of the Bernina Sewing Machines from Switzerland.

Bernina Factory in Switzerland.

Me in front of our house in Parkhurst about 40 years later.

My parent bought a house in Parkhurst .Number 59 15th Street with the help of my Oupa Henry .
My father started his  own business by  opening a retail outlet for the Bernina Sewing Machine in Johannesburg a couple of years later. My father's friend, Wilhelm Theron started an outlet  in Pretoria and his Swiss friend Goetz opened a shop in Durban.To keep the cash flow going my parents and his two friends would make visors and  pins to sell at the Sports Stadium when the All Blacks Rugby team from New Zealand visited South Africa in 1949.

Suid Afrikaanse Rugby Unie.

Me with our black dog in the background

I was the only child for 4 years and that set me apart from my brothers and sister that came later and were much closer in age. I almost grew up as an only child. Even as I got older I enjoyed listening to the grown ups  talk- more than play outside with the kids. I had to play it very cool and tried to be invisible, until my father noticed me and told me to go and play outside.

 My cousin Charline  and me .

Me and my cousin Charline and our black dog.

Wearing the shirt and shorts that my mother made.
My Uncle Zackie took this photo. He told me to look for the bee that was in the flower.

We were members of the Dutch Reformed Church and went to church on Sundays. I would sit in the pew with my mother as my father was a deacon and sat up front. I would play with her gloves and amuse myself. There were patients from a hospital for epilepsy that came to church as well.I was rather scared of them as very often during the sermon one of them would have an attack and fall to the ground and make rattling noises. This really unnerved me as I could not see what was happening . The preacher had to stop mid sentence until everybody  calmed down  and the patient taken out side. This  really bothered me and I was like a cat on hot griddle and if I heard any strange sound coming from the back of the church I was ready to bolt!

 Zackie and Henry .

I was sleeping this Sunday afternoon  and not in a mood to be photographed!
Thinking back I was a stubborn kid and wanted my way .This lead to a lot of confrontation with my father and later my brothers. My poor mother was so overwhelmed with raising kids that all she wanted was peace. I was very bored with the domesticity of our household so I went out to seek my own amusement.

My infamous friend Lettie ,holding my brother Zackie, photographed beneath the washing line in our backyard in Parkhurst.
My best friend was Lettie Supke. She was about two years older than me.They lived down the road from us. Her mother worked in a toy factory and when toys were not up to standard her mother would bring them home for her so she had stacks of stuff to play with. Her mother even took the two of us to the city on the bus and after tea and scones at John Orr's, to a bio -café.Lettie had a African woman Bettina, that took care of her during the day, but we had the run of the house. We could drink as much milk as we liked and have thick slices of white bread and thick butter with sugar over it. Nobody stopped us! I loved it there -not at all like a our house where this was not allowed. My mother was a stay- at -home mom and not as much fun.Looking back I think this might have been a second marriage for Lettie's  parents as she had two older brothers that were at least 10 years older then we were. She threatened the one that she would tell her mom that he humped his pillow. She was very world wise .Half the stuff she told went over my head. I should have listened more carefully - I might have learn a lot!
Our next door neighbors -the Anderson's -where English speaking.They had two daughters and Jennifer was around my age. Although we spoke only Afrikaans at home we had to speak English to the Greek at the Café or to the Portuguese family  that owned the vegetables market. My grandparents visit from the farm once and on the way they had a flat tire. When I told Jennifer about it I had to tell her in English as she could not speak Afrikaans. My Grandparents where hysterical when they heard me say to her "My Oupa's wheel is pap".  Who cared ?....She know what I meant. Jennifer could be quite vicious and one day without any provocation she took a blade and sliced me twice across my right arm. Thank heavens it was not too deep -but deep enough for me still to have the scars!
Across from us where lived another family that  immigrated from England .They had a boy younger than me called  Kevin. His mother always wore white shoes during the summer like the Queen .It was a very English thing to do for woman to wear white shoes in the colonies. I was very surprised one day to see her serve tea to the African girl that worked for her. The African girl was also very embarrassed and did not know how to handle the situation.We had a African girl that came in once a week to help with the washing ,but for the rest my mother did most of the house work herself. Later on as the family grew there were more help.

The rule was that we had to be home at 5:30 pm when my father came home from work and at 6:00 pm we all sat down -and after a prayer of thanksgiving- we ate dinner together.My mother did not like cooking and baking, but loved to knit ,sew and crochet. My poor mother's mantra everyday was "what should I cook tonight!" As the family grew she even hated it more. We always had a meat - lamb, beef or sometimes chicken with rice or potatoes and another vegetable.My father like his dessert so we had something sweet after each meal. I was not a fussy eater and ate what was on my plate. I had no other option -any nonsense at the table was not tolerated .
My mother said my father could not leave me alone  when I was a baby -but by the time I became  aware of him he had his business to worry about . He had a  young wife, three sons and another baby on the way. He was about 33 years old then. The stress must have been unbelievable. I only appreciated what he must have gone through, when I  started my own business.
 Many a night I did not watch the clock as I was having so much fun at Lettie's house. Specially when her Mom came home with some fresh new loot I would  miss the 5:30 pm deadline once again.
When I eventually got home the back  door was locked and I had to sit and wait outside on the steps until, they were done with dinner. When it started to get dark I got a bit frightened and would knock and plead to be let in. Once inside I was sent to bed after I ate my plate of  cold food .I would remember this lesson for a few days but once again the temptations of the outside world became too much and I would stay out late again. My mother called me " 'n regte rondloper " (a walk about) and I would just sigh.Lettie learned a lot of swear words from her brothers that she taught me. We went to Sunday School so we knew the song " Jesus loves me". I remember my mouth being washed out with red Lifebuoy soap when my mother heard me singing the latest swear word I learned, to the tune of "Jesus loves me". I did really not understand why I was punished. I did not even know what that word meant!

Shops on 4th Avenue Parkhurst.

She also taught me to steal candy from the Greek's Café. She would go in and talk to him and I had to do the reach around and take some candy from the glass case. We never got caught but I knew that was wrong.I was saved from a life of crime and loose woman when my parents decided to sell their house and move to Linden another suburb about 5 miles away when I was  seven years old.


During this time I had a teddy bear and I remember walking to Tannie Calie's  house on 10th street to beg for a piece of fabric that I wanted. Why I don't know- but I wanted to make him a jacket to wear. This was the first time that I though about clothing. Where this came from I had not idea. I did not even know there was something like a fashion designer.
For my birthday my parents  bought me a seven  single of two opera choruses. From Verdi's "Nabucco"  the  slave chorus on the one side and the other the soldier's chorus from Gounod's "Faust." We did listen to radio a lot as there was no TV in South Africa yet. My parents listened on Saturday evenings to the program "U Eie Keuse" ( Listeners Choice)  and that is where I heard classical music for the first time.The two passion in my life started thus very early .

Seven Single.


My mother as bride's maid for her brother, Zackie ,en his wife Calie.

My mother's eldest brother Zackie and his wife Calie live on 10th street in Parkhurst so we saw a lot of them. Their son Andre was my age and his older sister Shani was the eldest of the De Beer grandchildren. André and I went to kindergarten when we were around five . I would meet him and we would walk there, feeling all the dogs noses on the way. He told me for a dog to be healthy it's  nose must be wet and not dry. So went touching the noses of every dog to learn of the were going to live or not!

Jan Celliers Primary School.

We also started school together at Jan Celliers School near the Zoo Lake .We wore grey pants white shirts and a bottle green jacket and tie. Our teacher was Miss Raadt -a tall and thin woman. She was kind and I enjoyed school although I did not make many friends. For PT we walked to the Zoo Lake pool and were taught to swim.

Andre and I would take the bus home with Shani that was "so much older" and mature than we were. We loved sitting upstairs on the first seat.I once wet my pants and had to take the bus with my wet pants. I held the bookcase in front of me if there were kids in front and when they were behind me I held the bookcase at the back to cover the wet spot. By the time we reached the bus I was dry and could not care a hoot. My bookcase was a present from Oom en Tannie Els - an elderly couple who  my parents befriended at church. They lived  around the corner. They never had kids but made a big fuss about me. Their house was spotless  and my mother was on tenterhooks whenever we visited them .So we mostly stayed in the spotless white kitchen.

I was scared of Tannie Calie  -Andre's mother. She was tough and had a stern voice. She threatened me a few times when I misbehaved and I was sure she would whack me if needed so I stayed clear of her. Later I learned that her bark was worse than her bite.She would feed us Pilchards and brown bread ,a fish in a red tomato sauce, when we came back from school. I hated that - I preferred the white bread with butter and sugar at Lettie's house .That was much more my taste !

I remembered my uncle Zack drove a Humber Super Snipe- and also that their dog -a Cocker Spaniel- drowned in the gardener's toilet. I did not care much for cars but Andre was very proud of his fathers blue car and taught me the name .

The Humber Super Snipe 1955.

My uncle Zack was very quite and studious. I remember that he went to American and Europe and we saw him off at the airport. It was as good as he was flying of  to the moon!

South African Airway's plane on Jan Smuts Airport Johannesburg.

 He worked for John Deere in South Africa. He was like most of my mother's family rather distant and cool. He was a great photographer and I have many great photos that he took of us when we were kids. Later in life I got to know him and  my Aunt Calie much better, but this was just my impressions of them as a 5 years old boy saw them. I am still in contact with my aunt on the Internet.
Unfortunately she passed away in December of 2014. She was in her 90s'

My mother's younger brother, Oom Koos, came to live with us when he started working in Johannesburg. I like him as he was in his early 20's and liked to tease me. My mother had a yellow bread tin and on it was an image  of a boy and a black cat. He always teased me and said "Why are you down here -you should be on the tin with the cat"......I thought he was crazy?
On Saturday mornings I would drive with him to Emmerentia Dam to wash his car.
I would help him but get bored and take a bottle and catch tadpoles .

Emmerentia Lake .

One day I was cleaning the back seat and found a beautiful earring wedged between the seats
He was rather embarrassed when he took it from me .I could not understand how a ladies earring could be stuck in the back seat? Apparently it mystified him as well ...... I tried and tried but he just did not know.

When I was about seven years old  my parents sold the house in Parkhurst and we moved to Linden .The family  needed more space.....By this time I had two brothers Zackie and Frikkie ,and Charel was on his way.This meant a new school new friends and saying goodbye to my  deliciously decadent friend Lettie.

Parkhurst today .

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