Tuesday, May 29, 2007
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 Smuts. 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 stamp 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 English 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 >