Monday, July 9, 2007

1978 Apartheid Durban, Hillcrest High School Biology Teaching and Plays

1978. Teaching Staff. Indian lab assistant on Mark Esslemont's left. (Leeney) "With devotions' visage and pious action we do sugar o'er the devil himself." >

Hillcrest High School was about half an hour's drive from Malvern, beyond Fields Hill. It took longer, if I was caught in morning traffic on Sarnia Road near Pinetown. Hillcrest was in a western rural area, and most white pupils were well behaved. Girls tempered boys' mischief. If boys did badly academically, they felt foolish before girls.

Ol' toppie principal, Mr. Hawkins had married late in life. His management style was laissez faire. Although pupils had to sing assembly hymns, they mumbled, while Mr. Hawkins stood at his stage lectern baritone-bonging accompanied by lady teachers. I stayed silent, embarrassed to sing lyrical-tenor.

Ol' ballie VP, Herr Flocker, recent immigrant, taught biology, and coached cricket and rugby. Two spectacle-sets hung on chains about his neck. Herr Flocker sometimes threatened boys: "I vill haf you flocked!" After school, he gave school girls Flocker lessons in his Bothas Hill home. Herr Flocker, living off outcast blacks, thought he was favouring SA by immigrating his white skin - And family.

One lunch-break, bad boys lifted my Mini, placing it on a raised concrete-slab. I reported the matter to Herr Flocker, who flogged each boy three-of-the-best.

"Why'd you flog us sir?" Head Prefect asked me. "It was a joke sir."

"You own a motorbike right? If I fiddled with it, you'd be upset right? You must respect others' property."

Old friend Skelm, who was at Dokkies with me, taught PT and art. Rhodie, his pal, geography teacher, had left the Rhodesian Bush War, as he'd witnessed a soldier mate killed by a landmine. Rhodie secretly screwed willing schoolgirls. After work, Skelm and I boozed in a Bothas Hill pub.

My Hillcrest donkey wagon ride would be blissful, as I had my own teaching lab. I taught biology with Herr Flocker, who once complained, "Bik chunks in NED cesspool rise to ze top. I mus' teach vif an upkraded primary school teacher, ja?" Herr Flocker had never taught primary pupils, was quick to snitch to Mr. Hawkins, but slow to lead ECA. Herr Flocker hated teaching maths. Once, I found him blubbing in his office, after juniors had cheeked him. "Leaf Souf Africa!" he said. After his son graduated from Natal University, he left SA. Some contemporaries, often foreigners, got their education from white varsities, then emigrated, avoiding conscription. Mr. Hawkins couldn't start cadets, as conscript teachers, myself included, refused to coach cadets.

Excellent, male Indian lab assistants didn't last, as pay was low. One left for a lab technician job in business. Another got diabetes and emigrated to USA. Job reservation messed their lives.

Besides my coaching rugby, cricket and yachting, I did makeup, props and costumes for school plays, including Royal Hunt Of The Sun. I produced short plays and skits, including The Proposal; Fugue For Eight Players; Sunday Cost Five Pesos; Ernie's Incredible Illucinations. I toured them to the local white mental-hospital, showing pupils SA realities. It was tricky producing forbidden plays by hostile Pom playwrights, due to the international cultural boycott. My choices: direct old plays or forbidden plays. I did both, and resented having my drama career fucked up by verkrampte Afrikaners. As Drama HOD at Edgewood, Hugh resolved his cultural dilemma by annually registering for a part-time Masters / Phd degree at Natal University, so he could "research" and direct culturally boycotted plays.

1978. Leah Esslemont's first Pre-Primary class, Tomlinson's Pre-Primary, Northdene, Durban. (Greenstone) >


Mark JS Esslemont said...

I exchanged emails with an old Dokkies mate who I'd acted with during our Dokkies days, and who I'd taught with at Hillcrest HS. He'd emigrated to Australia in 1987, and had lived in Melbourne, Denmark and Perth.

We both remarked that we'd archived our newspaper cartoons, which "Daily News" cartoonist Jock Leyden had done of us during our Dokkies acting in "Our Town" and "Charlies Aunt" 1970 and 1971.

Some years ago, I'd also exchanged emails with a biology teacher I'd taught with at Hillcrest HS. She and her husband, also an ex HHS teacher, had emigrated to Whangarei, north of Auckland NZ.

Christa Feiffer said...

Hey what a precious find your blog is! You taught me Biology at HHS some twenty-something years ago. I remember you as clear as day - always with a positive attitude and a smile. That HHS staff photograph brought back a flood of memories of my high school years. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. Go well, Mr Esslemont, love Christa Feiffer

Mark JS Esslemont said...

Thanks Christa. My happiest teaching years were at HHS. Must've been all the pretty girls, who I remember so well, like you. Go well too. Love,