Thursday, May 31, 2007

1962-63 Apartheid, Durban North Primary School and Thieves

1958 Esslemont Brothers shooting Skelm, overlooked by mom's old Melmoth flame, 22 Chelsea Drive

My standard four (year six) teacher called pupils, "Blithering Idiots" and "Nincompoops," and pupils called her, "Battleaxe," behind her back. When Battleaxe was absent, we threw chalk, and crunched chalk into floorboards.

Before school, Fraser and I swam in the school pool, which kept us fit and strengthened my Perthes hip. We knocked on the school khaya door, where school "boys" lived, and called, "Woza Ndlovu! Come Ndlovu!"

Ndlovu, with nostrils like sunglasses, unlocked the pool gate and greeted, "Sanibona amatokoloshe."

"Sawubona umnumzaan," I replied.

After our swims, Ndlovu said, "Hamba kahle tokoloshe - Go well."

"Sala kahle - Stay well." Fraser and I became good swimmers, and won silver cups at galas. Ndlovu and "boys" did munts' cleaning work at school. They cleaned the pool, but weren't allowed to swim in it. After work, Ndlovu and "boys" sat on curbs, smiling, oppressed.

After mixing lime in a 44 gallon drum, Ndlovu painted lines on the school sports' fields, using an iron trolley leaking lime. On sports days, kids did wheelbarrow, three-legged, egg-an'-spoon, tunnel-ball, balls-in-basket races, flat races, relay races, long jump and high jump. I won sack races, hopping on one leg.

Mom's unrest: "Mandela's been arrested in Howick. We English vote United Party, but thank God for the Nationalists." Mom didn't explain who Mandela was. (Anthony Sampson, Mandela, Harper Collins, London, 1999).

Pom was my standard five teacher. I enjoyed overseas geography, reading, art, woodwork, debating, and joined the school choir. Pom took boys for PT. When boys didn't bring PT shorts, Pom put his hand up boys' shorts, pinching bums.

On Saturdays, I went to art classes at Natal Education Department (NED) building in Acutt Street, near Durban City Hall. My fat art teacher taught me little about art, but she became a NED art inspector. After art classes, Fraser and I borrowed library books from City Hall children's library. We watched free educational flicks, then saw stuffed fauna in the City Hall museum. We smaaked an elephant and her calf, lions, and a hippopotamus. A stuffed dodo reminded us of school "boys" who swept classrooms, and dusted with ostrich feather-dusters.

At woodwork I made a wooden bath-mat. "Jislaaik! Manual work's munts' work," said Skelm my friend. "You're wysing - showing off chiselling joints!" Skelm's ol' toppies were Dutch immigrants. Job reservation ensured good jobs went to white men, including immigrants, who became rich, while natives stayed poor. Our woodwork master, Polish immigrant with WW2 scars on his leg, removed the "School Hall Savings Fund" thermometer from the quadrangle, and made Skelm paint red sections on the sign, showing raised funds.

With dosh stolen from mom, I bought comics from Central News Agency on Broadway. Once, Skelm came with me, then joined me outside with comics under his arm. "Where'd you get those?" I asked.

"Scaled 'em. I'll wys you. Baba-baba-boo!" Every week, after I paid for my Dandy and Beano, in-like-a-sin, I slipped Casper The Friendly Ghost, Eagle, Wendy The Good Little Witch, Richy Rich The Poor Little Rich Boy and war comics under Dandy and Beano, and hobbled out on my crutches. I also stole from Astra Cafe on the corner of Broadway and Kensington Drive.

Skelm upset Rosie when raiding our fridge. Homemaker Rosie cackled: "Maram! Cheeky rogue Skelm stealing vege-tables! Aai-yai-yai-yai-yaaai!"

Breadwinner mom ordered: "Skelm, don't steal! Mark, you and Skelm check for termites under the house!" Skelm and I crawled about, bashing termite mounds.

We climbed on mom's garage roof, overlooking Durban North Primary tennis courts, and threw stones at kids hitting tennis balls against a practice wall. Big boys climbed our garage roof and rorted us. When Skelm went home, boys ambushed him behind an umdoni tree outside our home, punching Skelm, giving him umdoni eyes.

Content & Pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

1958 Mom, Red Hill Primary staff (Mumby)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

1950s - early 1960s Apartheid Durban, Trekking and Sickness

< 1956. Mark Esslemont, class 1, Durban North Primary.

Mom, using her teacher's rail concession, took Fraser and me on steam-train holidays. "If anyone asks," said mom, "You're ten years old darlings. Life is full of unknown parts, until you meet them, and learn them and know them." As South African Railway tickets were free for a white teacher's child ten years old or younger, Fraser and I stayed ten years old for some holidays. At Durban station we watched white porters and white tappiologists. The aroma of good coffee still reminds me of SAR saloons, and railway crap reminds me of SAR flush toilets... We stuck our heads out of sash-windows, and our faces and hands blackened with soot... We threw pennies to piccanins begging in the veld... From Ndola, Northern Rhodesia, we didn't visit the Congo, as natives killed Belgians there. At Victoria Falls baboons were bigger than Fraser and me. At Zimbabwe Ruins, Southern Rhodesia, we screamed like fish eagles: "Kaaa! Ka-ka-ka-ka-kaaaa!..."

Mom and Rosie dragged us up. Rosie: "Maram! Cheeky rogues playing fools, trowing broeks under da beds! Aai-yai-yai-yai-yaaaai!"

Mom: "Put your pants in the wash-basket now!"

After school each day, mom drove Rosie to her Indian bus-rank in the Durban North slum, a "black spot" north of the Umgeni River - river of sweet-thorns. Mom then drove to the Blue Lagoon, on Umgeni River estuary, where Indian waiters brought mom tea, while Fraser and I fished. Fraser liked boatie "Captain Silver," who took Fraser on speed-boat rides on Blue Lagoon, and motorized Swan rides up the river. I found white balloons amongst Blue Lagoon rocks. One day, while mom drove me home, I blew up a balloon. Mad mom yelled, "Jesus Christ!" She chucked the balloon out her Morris window. At home, mom made me gargle Dettol. "Never do that again!" I couldn't understand her fuss about blowing up balloons.

Durban North Primary's motto, "Work Hard, Keep Faith, Think Deep," was on a badge above the school door, shaded by palm trees. Boys wore khaki safari suits and sandals in summer, and navy-blue blazer, cap, shorts, white shirts and black shoes in winter. Girls wore navy-blue blazers, corn-flower blue dresses, baggy cornflower-blue underrods and white Panama hats all year round. Fraser battled. I drifted. We learnt reading, writing, arithmetic, stealing: for love and attention. We plundered school cupboards, mom's purse and Broadway shops for sweets and lucky-packets.

Mom didn't talk politics much, but said, "Apartheid is all around you darlings. Read about unrest in Natal Mercury, like cops shooting kaffirs at Sharpeville." Our school closed early that day, and ol' toppies fetched their children early. When SA became a Republic, every white school child received a plastic South African flag and medal.

Francis, mom's ol' flame, courted mom. He toadied Fraser and me, but we shot him dead with our cap-guns. Mom whispered, "Francis's brain softened all those years farming with Melmoth munts." Year's later, Hubie another ol' flame stored his belongings in our khaya.

Fraser and I grew boils. I got Perthes hip disease. My right hip socket crumbled, and I lay tractioned for months in Addington Hospital. I stumped out of hospital on calipers, which I endured for a year. For another year, I wore a shoulder-sling with a loop below my bum, through which I placed my right ankle. I slogged around on crutches, and kids borrowed my crutches during school breaks. Having seen suffering in hospital, and enduring mom's anxiety for the rest of her life, I disliked petty complainers.

I heard hadeda ibises calling, "Haha-ha-ha-haaa..." when they flew to and from their roosts. Sometimes, they stood on our roof, crapping white on tiles. Hadedas pecked for prey on our lawn, and nerve-deafening mom said, "Hadedas are damned noisy like you darlings!"

Content & Pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.


For Durban North Primary, see Chelsea Preparatory School.

< 1957 Stellawood Cemetery, Durban. Esslemont Brothers, Maternal Gran & Grandpa Cosnetts' grave.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

1950s Apartheid Durban, Genealogy, Holidays and Deaths

1955 Mark & Paul Esslemont, Broadway Methodist Pirates (Stuart) >

Mom drove us to many parts of SA in her Morris Minor, while we scoffed lekker padkos. We visited friends in Cape Town, Afrikaner aunts in Somerset East, Wolhuter friends on their farm near New Hanover, and aunt Dorothy in Bloemfontein. Mom took Mary, one of Rosie's grand-daughters, on one holiday in Orange Free State, where it was illegal for Indians to live. "Yoiks!" said aunt Dorothy, "I'm hiding Mary in my maid's room, as it's illegal for Indians and whites to live together."

According to mom's genealogy, there were early stamvaders of the Hendrikz Dutch family in SA, like stamvader Fook Hendrikz who sailed with Jan Van Riebeeck and stamvader Thielman Hendrikz. Although from 1661, one of Van Riebeeck's managers, Thielman Hendrikz was granted the farm Coornhoop on the Liesbeek River (Amstel or Fresh River), Cape Town, mom's later stamvader was a sailing ship purser Hendrik Jacobus Hendrikz, who eloped with a French contessa Caroline Antoinette De Sanderes, marrying her on 25/03/1793. (Source David Hendrikz).

According to mom, her stamvader Hendrik Jacobus Hendrikz and contessa Caroline Antoinette De Sanderes produced a son Willem De Sanderes Hendrikz, who married Rothman Micta Botha, another French connection, who produced 7 sons and 1 daughter including Willem De Sanderes Hendrikz junior, Louis Bernadus Hendrikz, Carl (Karel) Theodorus Hendrikz and Charlie Hendrikz. (Sources Dietmar Stephan and David Hendrikz). Brothers Carl Theodorus Hendrikz and Charlie Hendrikz trekked to Rhodesia in the early 1900s to grow the Rhodesian branch of the Hendrikz family (Source David Hendrikz).

1910s Ouma Hendrikz, Mark Esslemont's maternal great grandmother: Dorothea Wilhelmina Roux m. Willem De Sanderes Hendrikz, parents of 7 sons & 7 daughters who grew up in Somerset East SA

Willem De Sanderes Hendrikz junior, mom's oupa married Dorothea Wilhelmina Roux, another French connection, and raised seven sons and seven daughters in their karoo home with corrugated iron roof and front stoep in Paulet Street off Charles Street, the main oak-lined street of Somerset East. One of the Hendrikz Victorian brat-pack was Rosa Hermina Hendrikz, mom's mom.

1930s Mark Esslemont's maternal grandmother Rosa Hermina Hendrikz from Somerset East SA m. Weslyan minister Rev. Frank Frederick Cosnett from Birmingham England

Offspring of the Hendrikz brat-pack, mom had 17 "Hendrikz" cousins throughout SA, (like Banderlierskop, Bloemfontein, Cape Town) as her mom, granny Rosa had six sisters and seven brothers, who grew up in Somerset East. Granny Rosa smelled of Eau de Cologne, and sewed clothes for herself and us. We holidayed at Somerset East where granny Rosa's sisters, kwaaitannie Winnie (spinster, retired teacher) and tannie Beattie (who'd buried three husbands) squabbled in their Van Riebeeck Straat home. Cross aunty Winnie was skinny, wore flowery dresses, and scolded us boys. Fat aunty Beattie wore black, lacy dresses and wide-heeled shoes.

Late 1920s Mark Esslemont's mom, Valmai Wilhelmina Cosnett & her favourite aunt Beatrice Hendrikz, sister to Rosa, Winifred & Isobel Hendrikz

In the mornings, tannie Beattie obsessively washed her hands and clothes, and in the afternoons sat on her stoep while chatting to mom. Tannie Beattie had a bass voice, laughed like a quacking duck, and chain-smoked Lexingtons, using a long, black cigarette-holder. Kwaaitannie Winnie made biltong, jams and chutney, and using her coal-range stove, she cooked boerekos we smaaked.

1920s, 1950s Mark Esslemont's great aunt Winifred Hendrikz, sister to Rosa, Beatrice & Isobel Hendrikz

We used our tannies' long-drop toilet, stole grapes from their vine, and dried apple-rings on their garden wall. Kwaaitannie Winnie didn't like walking, but during late afternoons Beattie walked with us around the dorp. She klapped us boys with her black, silver-knobbed stick, if we kicked up dust, and she waved her stick at barking dogs and swore at them, "Voertsek kaffir-brakke!"

Paul, Fraser and I threw acorns in Charles Straat; attended Dutch Reformed Kerk; swam in the dorp pool; played at Bestershoek (non-Europeans forbidden); climbed Bosberg, where baboons skrikked us screaming, "Woohaa!..." from sweet-thorn trees.

Early 1900s Mark Esslemont's great aunt Isobel Hendrikz, sister to Rosa, Beatrice & Winifred Hendrikz

Mom liked visiting the Hendrikz grave-plot in Somerset East cemetery, where she honoured her ouma's and oupa's grave. Mom's uncle Jules died in Graaf-Reinet, and her aunt Hannah died in Bedford. An uncle was blown to bits fighting for Rooinekke in France during WW1. In the early 70s, after tannie Beattie died, kwaaitannie Winnie died in Silwerjare old-age home. They were buried in the Hendrikz plot.

We saw wildlife in Kruger Park, Umfolozi and Hluhluwe game reserves. We saw the Voortrekker Monument, Pretoria, and the Vrouemonument, Bloemfontein, while mom told us Boer War stories. Using her box-Brownie camera, mom took square snaps, and pasted them in black-page albums. At the end of one holiday Paul sobbed, "Our lives are hello, goodbye, comeback, voertsek!"

While we holidayed, dad stayed at our Chelsea Drive home. Dad chain-smoked Westminster 85s, mowed our lawn, trimmed our purple bougainvillea hedge, and liked talking to neighbours. Dad did engineering drawings at Durban Municipality office, Old Fort Road. Dad liked reading Daily News and listening to Springbok Radio. With dad, I listened to No Place To Hide, Pip Freedman Show, Consider Your Verdict, Squad Cars, The Creaking Door, The Eleventh Hour, Pick a Box, Top Twenty Time. When we walked to Broadway shops dad sang tenor, "Lily, Lily lout, your shirt's hanging out, three yards in and four yards out." Dad bought ice-cream and sweets for us boys - niggerballs, liquorice and marshmallow mice. Dad taught us bedtime prayers. One night I stuck a grape under his broeks when he sat on his bed. Dad laughed.

While Fraser and I still had our milk teeth, granny Rosa and Brother Fox both died of strokes in Durban. Their Stellawood Cemetery grave had a grey granite cross.

Once, while I chased Paul through our house, Paul slammed our lounge door on my left index finger, breaking it. I shrieked. Paul fell off his bike, while racing home from a white Northlands Boys High film-show, cracking his head on a Chelsea Drive curbstone. Paul died in mom's arms in Addington Hospital. Mom made a plaster-of-Paris death-mask of Paul's bashed head, which hung in our lounge.

Mom's doctor Prox certified dad schizophrenic. "Suck eggs!" said dad to mom, when male-nurses in white Uniforms came to our home, and took dad to Town Hill Hospital, Pietermaritzburg. Dad soon died of a heart-attack due to chain-smoking.

Mom, Fraser and I'd wept at four funerals in eighteen months. Fraser and I played catchers on graves. We took flowers from Stellawood dump, putting them on dad's red granite grave and Paul's white marble grave. We lived with their ghosts for the rest of our lives.

Whenever aunt Dorothy visited Durban, mom ordered Fraser and me, "Hide Brother Fox's Victorian silver-service in our oak sideboard darlings!"

Mom called our home Sparkhill in memory of dad's Brum background. Dad's faded stamps had been collected by his father, who'd been ship's doctor on HMS Revenge, in the Battle of Jutland, WW1. British Empire stamps had been stuck into exercise books. The stamps had trekked from Birmingham, to Calcutta, to Germiston, to Springs, to Durban. For over three decades the fragile stamps stayed in dad's oak desk. Sometimes, I paged through dad's stamps, below Paul's death-mask, looking at stamps and thinking of dad, Birmingham, British colonies and exotic islands.

Content & Pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

< 1956 Mark & Fraser Esslemont, Halcyon Days nursery school, Chelsea Drive (Mumby)  

1950s Apartheid Durban, Chelsea Drive Boykie

< 1945 Frank & Valmai Esslemont's Durban wedding. Mom's sister Dorothy on dad's right. Mom's bridesmaid Netta Manning & mom's parents on mom's left

I lived through 43 apartheid years. "Hello boykie," said mom on my 8 September 1951 birthday, 3 years after DF Malan's Nationalists entrenched apartheid, after beating Jan Smu
ts. Weighing 8 pounds 9 ounces, I was the biggest of mom's "darling boykies," including brother Paul, 5 years older than me. I was born in Durban's Innes Road Nursing Home, near Lion Match Factory on Umgeni Road, near Kings Park Rugby Stadium, near Country Club golf course and Sunkist Beach on the Indian Ocean. Mom (42) sang a lullaby, "Go to sleep my little picaninny, Brother Fox will catch you if you don't..." Brother Fox, mom's dad (90) was a Wesleyan minister, from Birmingham, England. Mom was born in Bethlehem, Orange Free State, to Brother Fox and granny Rosa Hendrikz, from Somerset East in Eastern Cape. Granny Rosa (65) was going deaf.

Dad (50) had Scottish ancestors, but dad was born in Wrexham, Wales, grew up in Birmingham, dropped out of varsity, worked at Cadburys, inherited his father's stam
p collection, engineered on a tea estate near Calcutta, joined Bengal Mounted Rifles, engineered on Witwatersrand mines at Springs and Germiston, married, fathered a son and daughter, divorced, after the wife and kids ran away to Australia, guarded big guns on Durban Bluff during WW2, punched a fellow officer for calling dad, "Bloody Pommy!" Dad was demoted to sergeant, then married mom at war's end.
< 1923 Frank Esslemont's family, Sparkhill, Birmingham, England. Parents: Alexander, Jeannie. Siblings: Jean, Frank, Marian, Alexander

During WW1, mom's parents voyaged to England where mom attended a Birmingham kindergarten, as they weren't allowed to return to SA during the war. Mom grew up in Natal and Cape dorps; governessed her brother Lesley's two sons on their Clarens farm; was a journalist at The Friend newspaper office, Bloemfontein; was a radiologist at Wentworth Hospital, Durban; read her BA at Natal University, Pietermaritzburg; taught at Melmoth in Zululand for one year; taught on Durban Bluff for ten years; then read her MA at Natal University, Durban. Whenever mom drove us to 'Maritzburg, she sang her varsity song:
1914 Mark's mom Valmai Wilhelmina Cosnett with her mom Rosa Hermina Hendrikz m. Cosnett, Birmingham, England, WW1

"O 'Maritzburg, happy land, happy land,
I'm going back to 'Maritzburg if I can.
O Hallelujah, O Hallelujah,
Daar's plek op die donkie-wa. [There's space on the donkey wagon].
Daar's plek, daar's plek, daar's plek, daar's plek, daar' plek op die donkie wa. [x2]
O Hallelujah, O Hallelujah,
Daar's plek op die donkie-wa!
Boomalakka! Boomalakka! Boomalakkawa! Oooompa! Oooompa! Oooompapa!
Eh! Kwa! Dammit." (Natal University Archives)

Boy! I was taken for a long donkey wagon ride, as Pietermaritzburg was capital of Natal, and Natal Education Department (NED) head office bossed all Natal, apartheid white schools from 'Maritzburg. Decades after mom left Melmoth, one of mom's ol' Melmoth flames became NED director. I reckoned mom's varsity song mocked apartheid white schooling and varsity white education.

I grew up at 22 Chelsea Drive, Durban North, loved by Valmai, my half-English, half-Afrikaner mother and Rosie (60+) our Indian servant. Mom's ancestors were Englis
h and Dutch. Rosie's ancestors were indentured Indian sugar-plantation labourers.

Having been spoilt by Hindu maidens and his first wife, dad didn't do housework. Sometimes dad punched mom, calling her, "Fathead!" or "BF! - Bloody Fool!"

Paul, Fraser (two years younger than me) and I were schooled at Mrs. Jones's Halcyon Days kindergarten, our first donkey wagon rides on Chelsea Drive. We then had donkey wagon rides at Durban North Primary. Paul wrote good compositions. We went to elocution lessons with mom's cousin Frieda at The Echoes hotel, West Street. Frieda gave us two bob each to buy ice-creams and sweets at Ottawa Cafe.

Content & Pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

For Natal University, see University of KwaZulu-Natal.

1954 Esslemonts, 22 Chelsea Drive, Durban North >

Sunday, May 27, 2007

First Post

Woza Mark is about my life and times in South Africa, mainly during apartheid, my travels in Southern Africa, stints in Britain, Europe and Israel, and my early years in New Zealand. It is also about family madness during and after apartheid.
Unless otherwise stated, all photographs and content in Woza Mark blog and Woza Wanderer blog are Mark JS Esslemont copyright. Some photo captions quote Shakespeare's "Hamlet."

2008. Top of Porters Pass, South Island, NZ