My first place of employment was not what I desired or expected, but through circumstances beyond my family’s control, one day I was attending school and the next day I was placed into the mainstream workforce. My early induction came about because my father had contracted double pneumonia and then pleurisy, which caused him to be unfit for work for four months, and being the eldest of six children at 14 years of age saw no alternative but for me to gain permanent employment because my mum had to look after the rest. We knew these neighbours whose daughter Ann Manning was employed as a seamstress at Truline Suitcases in Nyanga where I was to be employed. Prior to that the only other monies that my mum was receiving was from weekly workers donation collections where my dad worked, which was done in those days because there was no sick leave paid then. Other sustenance was through kind family and neighbours and our life-saver too was Mrs Baatjies our landlady, who we lived next-door to. What I did as reciprocation for her kind deed of not only deferring our rent but also at times exempted it, was to scrub and polish their home while my dad was incapacitated.
Employed full time and having to rise at an ungodly hour to travel by train packed by workers and to be told how, when and where for tea breaks, lunch and toileting was a real eye opener and a pain in the butt because everything was a clock in and out. Experiencing both sexes of all ages working together though in a pleasant jovial atmosphere and who helped each other when there was an overload of work, and went out of their way to assist me as a first timer, which subdued my fears and nervousness, made me soon feel right at home. Always eager to learn not only about life’s lessons but also to improve my workmanship made that type of work situation ideal for the application of both. What also made it easy for me to apply myself was through my father and mother’s teaching me to be diligent in home duties performed. And then there were also Brother O’Farrell’s conscientious endeavours of finding me after school work when at Saint Columbas High School. This entire combination of skills saw my only trial period turn into being indentured for four years as a qualified Luggage Maker. Fibre suitcases, lunch boxes and cabin trunks, and fabric and leather suitcases and bags were the commodities that were manufactured, and my instructions covered all aspects of those products. My proficiency exceeded the tradespeople, the boss and my expectations, and that in turn benefited my work ethic and remuneration. But what I always had in the back of my mind was my ambition to be a maths teacher like Brother O’Farrell, so what I did to continue my schooling education was to enroll at night school. I really tried to make a go of it but the continual nights there played havoc with my working days and it also was becoming very difficult in my beginning of dating the opposite sex and I had to get my priorities straight.
As my work skills became more proficient my confidence grew, and accepted as one of the boys by the men really boosted my ego. The only problem was that the woman started to see me that way too. Becoming matured on that environment had not only its drawbacks but also its advantages. Sexual harassment was a unknown factor then, and sexual banter, touching up and putting the hard word on seemed to be the done and accepted thing by both sexes irrespective if they were going steady, engaged or married. My instructor, who was a married man and one of those, in the making of cabin trunks, which was made from scratch, had a female from another department who assisted him with assembling the lids to the bottoms of the trunks. The large lids and bottoms with house and staple locks plus hinges that were attached by me on a staple machine and made in lots of fifty were stacked arm high in rows that he designated between my work areas and enclosed his assemble workstation. The assembly of the cabin trunks consisted of the house and locks locked into each other with pressure applied by the female assistant leaning with both arms on top of the cabin trunks so as for him to secure the hinges by drilling and riveting. My work conscientious of keeping my produced goods closely stacked as ordered had been my only concern, until told by one of the woman, who seemed to be watching out for me, if I had taken notice or seen what my two co-workers got up to behind the concealing stacks of cabin trunks. When answering in the negative and also telling her that he only allowed me into his workstation when asked to, she told me that it was the very reason why. I didn’t pay her any heed because of thinking that it was none of my business and that my boyish peeping days were over. But she was like a dog with a bone and would always harp on if I had seen anything yet. So to get her off my back I thought I’d have a look see and told her so. It was easy to pack the cabin trunks in a manner that would let me observe them but not them me, and also because that department was situated in a corner of the factory that had no people passing traffic, and we never ever also saw the foreman or others coming to that department because of its seclusion and self-efficiency.
I was then able to watch him and the female assistant fix the lids to the bottoms. Just as it became boring and my patience began to run out I observed his hand go under her skirt to squeeze her buttocks, which caused me to stand transfixed in disbelief. I had only expected to see them maybe fooling around, but they both had these stupid grins on their face and she was giggling like a school girl. Actually I never could see how she would be attracted to him because he was nothing to write home about because his face was elongated like a horse, a protruding jaw to match and his laugh was similar. She too had a peculiarity, if it could be called that, of her having white liver markings on her face, which always reminded me of the piebald pony on my grandma’s farm. So maybe that’s why they matched up, but to each his own. Meanwhile back at the ranch missus busybody got quite excited when I related what had occurred between those two. I thought that would be that but it was not to be because she wanted to observe them two to. I drew the line there and told her that I wanted to have nothing to do with it and that it was on her head if found out. She somehow left her work station, and while I was busy working with my back turned she had sneaked in to my section without been seen by anyone. The only time I knew she was there was when I felt a tugging on my overalls and then she beckoned me to follow her. Reluctantly I went with her because she had a hold of my sleeve and seemed all excited as she led me into an opening in between the cabin trunks. What was seen might have been exciting for her but it was embarrassing for me seeing how we both were seeing together what they were then doing. She was still leaning with her arms on the cabin trunk, but he wasn’t busy fixing them with drilling and riveting, instead he had his hand up the back of her skirt and was fixing her instead. I had felt a flush on my face and my heart that was beating like a trip hammer was due to what was seen done for the first time in my life. I was also overcome with shame for seeing that and made my way back to my work station. My partner in crime, or more so slime, was all flushed when sneaking away but turned to give me a wicked smile and a wink. My thoughts of thanks heavens that’s over was wishful thinking because I had to suffer her every opportunity when finding me alone to touch me up as an encouragement for sexual activity with her. It really confused the hell out of me because of knowing she was married with children, but it all stopped, when in frustration and desperation I threatened to tell her husband.
I then stayed completely away from the married women and rather kept in the company of the younger and single females. There were a few who seemed to like me and I was invited out either to their homes or to accompany them to a movie, which resulted only in making out. There was one however who latched onto me first as a friend and then as her confidante. She had just become engaged and bent my ear with her supposed fiancé problems. She was looking for understanding, an outsider’s point of view and sympathy, but my expertise in that field was very limited as an adolescent. Still she thought that my sympathetic ear and my understanding nature was a far cry from her family and friends who thought her fiancé was a good catch and should overlook anything negative about him. Everything that troubled her about him was of her own doing, and I realized what was distressing her when confiding in me that he was still a virgin and didn’t believe in sex before marriage, and that he had no knowledge that she was not, even though it had occurred years ago. She was grasping at straws I thought when inquiring from me of all people if I would know the difference when having sex with a girl if she was a virgin or not, if not knowing that she had had sex before. I thought that by been honest and telling her that I was still a virgin too would stop her persistent awkward sexual questions that were beginning to stress me out because of her naivety, at any rate she actually believed me when telling her that he might or might not too because of his virgin status. With her not questioning me any further on that question after that made me believe she had dealt with the issue, particularly as she didn’t seem to be worrying and brooding about it as before, but was more chirpy.
She happened to mention to me one morning that as it was an overcast day her mother had asked her to take the washing in during her lunch break; she though had forgotten to give her the house keys. Their home was in five minutes walking distance from the factory so she asked me to accompany her seeing that I was smaller in build so as to gain entrance through a back window with a faulty latch. Getting through the window was easy, and after removing the washing she made tea to go with our sandwiches. We sat opposite each other in lounge chairs with a coffee table in between us on which we ate our lunches off. What distracted me though was the placing of her feet on the table that gave me a flash of her white panties, and what further stimulated my senses was when talking and emphasizing a point she would place her hands on her knees, push her legs slightly apart and reveal not only the inside of her thighs but also her panties covered crotch. Trying hard not to look up in between her legs because I was having one of those occurrences where at the slightest hint of anything to my mind that seemed sexual, and although knowing it was due to all adolescence male’s high testosterone levels, it did make for some awkward and embarrassing situations. I was hoping that she wouldn’t have noticed, but she did because she must have been watching to see what affect it would have on me, and her comment of if that’s what occurred every time I looked up a girls dress, made me realize that she had done it intentionally, but I had no idea why. But when she in one motion sat astride me and my heart thumping, spluttering dry mouthed question of what she was up to was answered with that with me being a virgin like her boyfriend I’d be able to let her know if he would realize she wasn’t, blew me away to how far she was going to find out. Not having yet learned how to control the gathering feeling before the surging and ejaculation, which could occur spontaneously at times, was a young man’s scourge at all times, and we both came in time to clock in at the factory because I had come at the point of contact against her panties much to her disbelief and disappointment. Her further enticing pleas to try again got me running scared of all woman at the factory too because it seemed that they were only out to use me as a sexual object, but her marriage that I attended ended that.
I was then very wary of any of the factory females that made the slightest sexual overtures towards me and I stuck close to the safety of the males. On such was the store-man who only supplied raw materials and components by a requisition obtained through a foreman. He was a friendly married man with children and was always pleasant and helpful when going to obtain supplies. His wife baked cream doughnuts that he sold to the workers on order, and when telling him on approaching me that I couldn’t afford it due to our family’s financial situation he took pity and offered to let me occasionally have one free. That supplemented my usual sandwich lunch, in addition when he asked me one morning to help him wrap the ordered doughnuts at morning tea so that it would be ready for lunch time due to him running late that morning at home, I saw a free doughnut and obliged. He invited me to come back at lunchtime for a doughnut and we both sat down in his office chairs enjoying the two left. Indicating to my doughnut he playfully asked if mine was as large and thick and if my cream was as white and creamy. The fellows also joked like that in comparing theirs to their doughnut when amongst the women and I laughingly said yes. That was my naive undoing for he made straight for my crotch while unzipping his fly to produce his penis and asked me to take mine out so that we could compare sizes, which made me almost choke on my half eating doughnut. My reaction was the same as my encounter with the tie salesman, my problem though was that the store-man had been craftier and had me pinned in the chair. It had been a different thing when done by a female, but I just couldn’t comprehend that done by a male who was married and with children. I still had my doughnut in hand, and while he was looking down and busy with his hands on my pants I squashed the creamy doughnut hard down on his genitals. He and his chair moved back as he grabbed there and that’s when I used a wrestling mule kick that sent him sprawling and flat on his back. Seizing the opportunity to flee and making straight for the toilets I washed and rewashed my hands to get any semblance of him off me. My shame I suppose caused me not to report it, I though did stay completely out of the storeroom and he in turn had become very wary of me, and my cream doughnut craving had gone. When eventually told by a worker to watch out for him because he liked young fellows, which was a bit late, it also made me very aware of nice older men married or not. However, working there taught me two things; one was the introduction into the rather sordid adult life, and the other was that I realized that I would rather be the hunter than the hunted.
But then good old dad came to the rescue to get me away from that sexual cesspool. He had a good mate who was a foreman at G. H. Stark Furniture’s in Elsies River, and when my indenture at the suitcase factory expired he organized with his mate to start me on an apprenticeship there. I was 19 when that occurred and at 23 qualified in Wood machining, Cabinet making, French Polishing, Upholstery and Furniture Designing of which I did an extra year for. There were no females or sexual overtones there because of the dominant male factor, and neither were there nice old men who liked young boys. My work experience and skills learned at the suitcase factory made for an easy transition to furniture making, although my technical skills had to be honed first. Attending Cape Town Technical College made that possible, and it also made possible getting marked present at roll call and then to sneak out occasionally to spend time in a tearoom movie theater. We didn’t actually go there for that only, what we did after pooling monies for liquor was to sneak it in, consume the tea, use the empty cups as receptacles for our liquor and to also replenish those of the girls who had bunked tech too, we were then honing techniques in the darkened back seats of the theater not taught at the college. As a school going student it was obvious to me that the Coloured Affairs Department, who were administrating educational facilities, were doctoring the curriculum towards a higher education for Whites, who were called Europeans then. The range of subjects was the same but the content was not. When visiting my European cousins we always compared schoolwork, and although one or two forms ahead of them at school, they were receiving and doing the same curriculum in a European Only school for that same school year I was attending. That continued through to Technical College, which was separate from the Whites as they were called then, at which they were receiving and doing practical and theory work, and we as non-whites were only receiving theory and doing the practical at on the job training in our furniture making apprenticeship, and my White cousin at that time, who was an apprentice cabinetmaker, was receiving both at the Whites Only Technical College, and that all fell under the School Boards Act and Apprenticeship Act. But all of that didn’t make for a what for because the firm that I was employed at taught their apprentice all facets of furniture making. Not like other furniture manufacturers that broke up the trades to how we were taught to individual ones as a means to keep their apprentice staff to a minimum. What was also a benefit for apprentice there was because G H Starke was the largest furniture factory in South Africa that produced only imbuia solid ball and claw design furniture in bedroom, dining and lounge suites. Solid panel doors, linen fold dovetailed drawers; upholstered seat covered carved design chairs with dining table to match, Dutch side-board display cabinets, solid upholstered settees and love seats, and other home furniture. What I really looked forward to was when sent to refurbish a board room or board members office, which took one away from the factory for a week at a time. What was done before that according to specifications, was that the panels for the walls was manufactured at the factory by us, for which I had a hand in, and at times inlaid veneer designs on the panels was called for, in which I had a hand in too.
At times my bicycle would be my mode of traveling to work in summer because I loved to cycle. However, at times when it rained heavily taking a train was the only alternative. It involved a two-train connection, and it was not in my best interest for I had never then been an early riser, and missing the connection frequently got me in strife at work. The connection was made at Maitland with a train coming from Cape Town that was always jam packed with last minute rises like myself, and standing room only caused encounters of all kinds. Arriving at my destination station and still having to sprint quite a distance to just about clock in on time made it imperative that I alighted first off the train. It was accomplished by getting on the train last so as to stand against the carriage door. It didn’t matter if there was always a rush of people wanting to get on first in case there were available seats; my objective was to loiter so as to achieve my objective. As everyday brought a different compartment door I never paid much attention to people around me. Having to contend with keeping my balance in a jerking swaying train while trying desperately not to bump and grind against fellow passengers was what really occupied my still in the land of nod mind. All types of human odours exuded in those congested train compartments. On one occasion though my senses were stirred by a fragrant perfume that wafted quite close to me, and I only became aware that it was coming from a young lady who got on just in front of me one morning, and of course the trains jerking and swaying inadvertently caused her to lean against me, for which we both apologized to each other. Because that occurrence was frequent on the train, not too much attention was paid, but when she assumed that same position the following morning with her delightful fragrance I didn’t mind the leaning. Her turning side on to me one morning though did make me pay attention derived from the train’s motion that was causing her body to sway and lean more intimately against mine, and she was also giving me a coy smile with the apology. She then began getting on the train backwards so that when I got on she was facing me. That caused me to assume a slight side on position so as not to stand front-on to her and cause us both a physical embarrassment. That seemed to amuse her though because there were only brazen smiles then, and when the front of her body would encroach on mine at the slightest jerk of the train she wouldn’t even attempt to move away.
She had looked like a respectable person but she hadn’t acted that way, and I had felt awkward because of not knowing her and also because she had been that pushy. Changing carriages worked for a while, she though was crafty and persistent, and by stand out of sight would then get on right behind me. In that position she would manoeuvre her body to suit herself and it was then becoming embarrassing for me only. Her softness, firmness and erectness felt was then used to her advantage, but it was causing me a disadvantage for what was occurring because of the inner stirrings felt. If it wasn’t for the gratefulness of all young men with strong testosterone urges for deep pocketed pants that became a lifesaver in situations like that when feeling as if dough was rising, it would have been noticed or felt by other standing passengers. She had also taken to wear more revealing clothes. T-shirts, low front cut blouses and short skirts that she also used to her advantage. On warm days when my attire would be a t-shirt and shorts I would feel the erectness of her boring into my back because of not wearing a bra, and her unclad legs and thighs would be rubbing mine. Alighting off the train also worked to her advantage brought about by her waiting till the train completely stopped before attempting to open the door that by that time I had turned around, and with the surge of passengers pushing against me to alight we would be firmly pressed against each other. Becoming adamant to get out of that situation, my bleary eyed early morning rising to take an earlier train only worked for a while because she began to take the same one too. The big difference though was that there were seats available, and all she could do was sit and stare at me because through all that time we hadn’t uttered one word to each other. My efforts to persuade her by my actions to resist her coming on to me and by totally ignoring her had seemed to be working. I could not only believe the way she was pursuing me but also to the lengths she was going. There had been other young women who had tried with more subtle ways when thinking they were the only steadfast quest we fellows wanted to get involved with. Maybe it was also that because they didn’t have an inkling that at times we rather preferred to fill our time with varied manly adrenaline pumping pursuits than there somewhat seemed like humdrum female endeavours. Maybe too it was because they didn’t derive any sort of excitement and pleasure from what we found exciting and were under the impression that we would supply it to them whenever and whatever took their fancy.
Then I found a letter she had somehow slipped into my pocket stating that she didn’t have a boyfriend, what she had though was a girlfriend who she shared a flat with and who had enticed her into having a sexual relationship with her. Because of that she wouldn’t let her out of her sight, discouraged her from men and berated her for wanting men as company too. In me she had seen an opportunity without her friend around to try and get me interested in her. She was sorry to the lengths she had gone to entice me but she though wanted to know what it was like to be made love to by a man. It threw me at first for it seemed that even in a train crowded with passengers you were thought of as easy prey that could be lured with a bit of pussy. Nonetheless, my feelings of my own manipulation by homosexual persons made it conducive for me to try and assist her in some way in discovering and exploring her own sexuality, so it saw me in a different frame of mind when next meeting on the train. We were on talking terms then, but found that a clandestine arrangement was out of the question. Her friend knew her every move and had her on a sort of time clock system. That didn’t deter her and she suggested that we continue in the train to fulfill some of her desires that I was quite agreeable with because the journey wasn’t boring anymore.
Having planned to take an earlier train the Monday morning, it was puzzling though in not seeing her at the station when walking around and looking. What I did notice though was a young lady who seemed to be following me around. To elude her I entered the men station toilet and watched her through the gaps in the brick wall entrance. She though surprised me by entering too. Her inquiry of me for the looking and knowing of my female traveling companion to my affirmative answer brought a tirade of abuse. She was the lesbian girlfriend and had been told over the weekend what had been transpiring. Her girlfriend had stormed out after a heated argument and had moved out after telling her that she was going to only associate with men from then on. The lesbian girlfriend then also blamed me for that and hated all men for only using women for sex. She had moved closer as she spoke and without warning grasped my genitals that she proceeded to squeeze and wrench, which because of the excruciating pain brought tears to my eyes, and then withdrew a knife and threatened me with castration if ever I came near her girlfriend again. Cycling to work was my solution for I valued my penis more, and my traveling companion eventually got married to one of my growing up with friends. Cycling to and from work was a plus too for it was not only a financial benefit but it also again gave me the opportunity to travel along the back highways through bushland and farmland, kept me fit, and the excessive energy spent cycling two hours a day kept my libido down.
My Apprenticeship Contract at G. H. Stark Furniture