Friday, June 8, 2007

1965 Apartheid, Stutterheim HS and Cadets, Northlands Boys HS

1967. Northlands Boys High Cadet Band.

Worrier mom had a nervous breakdown at Forest Sanctuary, then admitted herself to Queenstown Komani Hospital. Fraser and I stayed at Forest Sanctuary, and went to Stutterheim School where we had brief donkey wagon rides. The Eastern Cape form 3 (year 9) curriculum was backward, as most subject content, except book-keeping, I'd already done at Northlands. Winston Churchill died. We listened to a Springbok Radio broadcast of his funeral. SA didn't have TV yet. Besides English and Afrikaner pupils, some Stutterheim pupils had German ancestors. Herman, in my class, shoved Fraser around in the playground. I sneaked up yelling, "Los my boet!"

"Mind your own blerri business! Fraser called me Afrikaner-vrot-banana!" Herman backed off. "Rooinek soutpiel!"

Fraser and I visited mom: Shock-treatment had stuffed up mom's memory, and garbled her speech. She had scabrous temples, where electrodes had been attached. She showed us the ward where she'd been electro-shocked.

Back at Forest Sanctuary, Fraser and I stayed in a rondavel, where we watched coloured men re-thatch rondavel roofs, completing one roof a week. Outside Forest Sanctuary lounge, I saw a puffadder sliding along a gutter. I called Xhosa gardeners, who hit the snake with knobkerries. We kept our school books in a potty-cupboard. While chatting to the lady manager, my hand lay on top of the potty-cupboard door. "Snake! In your cupboard!" shrieked the manager. I skrikked, slamming the door.

Gardeners poked the door open with a knobkerrie. Another puffadder flicked its tongue, its head raised to strike. Gardeners clubbed the puffadder - longer than the snake they'd killed earlier. Our school books were blood spattered. Ancestors called.

Every school day, Fraser and I were driven to school by a farmer's wife, who picked up local kids and drove along a dirt road to Stutterheim. One evening, too young to die, I woke in Stutterheim Hospital, concussed, retching into a kidney-dish. Fraser, in the bed next to me, with a sprained ankle, explained, "A tyre blew out, our lady driver lost control, rolling her car down a bank: we flew from her car - a write-off."

I had dizzy spells for years.

Mom drove us back to Durbs and resumed teaching. Mom regularly visited a lady psychiatrist, who fixed-up mom with melleril tablets, keeping mom stable. "My depression's like having a huge weight pressing on my head," said mom.

July holiday: Ol' ballie Mr. Russel's Rosetta scout camp was one of the coldest places in Natal. On our last camp night, a polishing-gang searched tents for victims. Our young scout-master, powerless to stop assaults, wandered about the hell-in. I escaped into the veld. Skelm, Fraser and others were polished. I hid in the sick-tent and escaped polishing.

Back at Northlands, RC McFarquhar reprimanded me for misbehaving. He thought I'd had polio during the 50s polio scare. I didn't bother to explain about my Perthes hip. Ol' ballie Blobjob Davies, English teacher, battled to control our class. I tape-recorded Blobjob Davies's rowdy lesson. Afterwards, boys crowded round my desk, listening to the tape.

Ol' toppie VP, Nobby Noble walked in. "What's in that desk?" asked Nobby Noble. Boys slipped from class. "If I haven't heard what's in that desk by lunch-break, this class stays in after school..."

I owned up. Peer pressure. RC McFarquhar, former POW, interrogated me in his office: "Rat!...Strip your tape!...Throw your tape in the bin!...Put your recorder in my storeroom!...Choose a cane from my shelf!...Bend down!...Touch your toes!..." I had bum-stripes for weeks. My classmates were ashamed.

Cadet-master Kaydee played the tuba in a military band and walked with a backward lean. I became bugler in Kaydee's cadet-band, which had a side-drummer rank; a rank with two tenor-drummers, cymbalist and bass-drummer; trumpeter rank; and bugler ranks. Preparing for band competitions, we practised before, during and after school: marching, left-wheel, right-wheel, counter-marching, figure-marching, music. Blowing my guts out, I liked Aida March. Neighbours complained when I practised Last Post and Come to the Cookhouse Door Boys after midnight. Our drum-major threw his silver mace, and yelled at band-players. I, smallest band-player, wearing the smallest boned army boots, swaggered next to wyser Skelm.

Aged fourteen, at my first band competition, and proudly wearing my khaki cadet uniform, with green beret, gaiters and boned brown boots, when Northlands band marched onto the field the crowd laughed. We came last, and Durban High School won. For years I paradiddled to "Boomalakka!...Ooompapa!..Eh! Kwa! Dammit!" For three decades in the land of my birth, I'd witness militarization, including SA producing nuclear weapons. (John Pilger, Freedom Next Time, Bantam Press, London, 2006).

At school, I learnt my lessons of involvement and detachment, which would characterize me. I was involved with family, friends, rugby, cadets, choirs, drama and some lessons. I detached from other lessons, like maths, and my hours of swotting, reading, hitching, surfing and jogging detached me.

Unrest: 1965. Rhodesia. Smith's white government declared Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain. (Glen Lyndon Dodds, The Zulus and Matabele Warrior Nations, Arms and Armour, London, 1998). Rhodesian white conscripts would fight a ten year Bush War against Mugabe's Shona terrorists and Nkomo's Matabele terrorists. "Kaaa! Ka-ka-ka-ka-kaaaa!..."

Christmas Eve: Tapping woke me. Tokoloshe? I prowled outside our house, and crouched between our hedge and yesterday-today- tomorrow bushes. "Mina shaya wena!" I shouted. Tapping stopped. "Thieves!"

Christmas: I found bicycles chained together on the verge outside our home.

New Year: Mom chopped down our dying avocado tree. As Paul's death-mask had become dusty, mom cleaned it and painted it gold.

1965. Northlands Boys High Cadet Band, Durban North. (Bird). Principal RC McFarquhar. Cadet masters Mnr Booyens left & Mnr Bonthuys right

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