Thursday, June 7, 2007

1964 Apartheid Durban, Northlands Boys HS Lightie

< 1964. Mark Esslemont, standard 6, Northlands Boys HS. Pop Garner class teacher

According to Verwoerd's 1953 Bantu Education Act, blacks' schooling became inferior to whites,' coloureds' and Indians' schooling. Schools were racially separated, except for some high fee-paying private and church schools. Mom sent Fraser and me to white Northlands Boys High for more donkey wagon rides. Northlands was further from home than newly built Beachwood Boys High off Broadway. Some Beachwood white boys lived closer to Northlands. Apartheid separation of white schools (and other race schools) displaced Durban North high school pupils, according to ol' toppie choices. Black, Indian, or coloured kids, perhaps illegally living on white properties with their servant parents, had no choices. Outcasts had to be schooled in locations or Bantustans.

I began standard 6 (year 8), smallest lightie at Northlands BH. Ol' ballie music teacher, Menck played the piano, teaching us songs in the school hall. Menck sang operatic-baritone, sometimes singing with us, mangling our merriment. His music was naf to pop-singing boys. Menck made us sing old songs like, "At six o'clock of a shining morn we start our little day..." When we mocked Menck, ol' toppie headmaster RC McFarquhar stood glaring at us at the back of the hall. We silenced, as RC McFarquhar commanded respect. Before my voice broke to lyrical-tenor, I joined Menck's choir, singing at prize-givings.

Ol' toppie class teacher, Pop Garner was the only (yawn) maths and science teacher who inspired me. They were scarce. Pop Garner sometimes said, "It's as easy as falling off a log...Hell's teeth! You're sailing for it boy!" When Pop Garner said, "I've got an itchy hand!" we knew we were, "Sailing close to the wind!" If that failed, Pop Garner slapped our backs.

While school buses returned from sports matches, senior Northlands boys grabbed lighties, whose balls were polished with shoe polish, or toothpaste, or stinging wintergreen, then polished lighties were wysed through bus windows to motorists. I avoided polishings, as I didn't play ball sports, due to my Perthes hip.

During weekends, Ndlovu painted our house, and gardened for mom. Once, after I cycled home from school, Ndlovu stood keening by our house wall. He wailed, "Woza lapha tokoloshe! May mudda died tokoloshe! May mudda died..."

I went inside our lounge, and mom said, "Give Ndlovu twenty Rand train fare to shut him up! Tell him to pay me back!" Mom expected me to be, "the man of the family." Ndlovu never paid us back.

Unrest: July 1964. Johannesburg Station was bombed. (Alan Paton, Journey Continued, Oxford University Press, Cape Town, 1988).

See Northlands Boys High, now Northwood School.

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