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)