When beginning to serve as an altar-boy at Saint Teresa’s Catholic Church at the age of 9 in 1942, it was just a little hall in the bush of Welcome Estate. The reason for me been there was that I would go with the priest of Saint Mary of the Angel in Athlone to assist at mass there because there were no altar boys there then. From Klipfontuin Road, up 5th Street into 4th Avenue was all bushes with an occasional wood and iron shanty scattered along the way on both sides. The whole of the area running from Klipfontuin Road and up Vanguard Drive on both sides was also bushed, with the only entertainment then on the right side of Vanguard Drive and Klipfontuin Road was a golf-course of sorts. An event that caught Athlone’s golfing enthusiast’s attention was when ‘Papwa’ Sewgolum, the champion Indian golfer from Durban, played a friendly against Gary Player the South African World Champion golfer there. It was packed and my sons and I went along, however, my son Neil almost caused a disaster when one of their golf balls landed at his feet and he picked it up. Poor kid he didn’t know any better, but they accepted my apology, had a drop ball and played on. That game must have been a warm-up to the 1965 Durban Golf Open where Papwa beat Gary to take the championship, which saw him banned from playing against white golfers.
Because of also before then when employed at S Stones and Son Furniture Manufacturers in Gunners Circle, Epping, I use to cycle back and forth from where we lived in Lincoln Estate onto Klipfontuin Road, all the way up Vanguard Drive and into Gunners Circle. Obviously there was no Vanguard Estate then, nevertheless, I had observed when cycling pass Welcome Estate that there was a hive of building activity occurring from 4th Avenue into the vacant land there. My further investigations let me discover, when finding out where and who to contact, that all applications were filled. My further enquirers when finding out that a deposit of 600 Rand was required, got me to go directly to my bank and withdraw that amount. Method in my madness, yes, because the first thing the next day I rocked up at the Government Housing Office with the cash in hand, handed it over and signed the paper-work then and there. Again my motto of sizing life with both hands eventuated into fruition because of knowing that everyone wouldn’t have that sort of cash handy. When been informed that our house would be at No 7 Leader Street I took a look and a circumnavigation of the area. There were houses on 4th Avenue, the beginning of Bronze Street, Goud Road and Zenith Road, Myn Road, Eendrag Road and Leader Street. My life seemed to have gone in a full circle then. My family and I then lived a street away from the church and school, as it was from Saint Mary of the Angels and Saint Raphael’s School in Athlone, a stone’s throw away from the bus route, as it was from Athlone Railway station, but still in the shadow of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head Mountain, and not with a back lot facing our backyard as in Athlone, but an immense park playground for the children directly facing our front door.
Moving into that basic built house in 1966 and to make it into a home wasn’t for the faint hearted because for most it was from scratch. There were no built-in kitchen cupboards, bedroom wardrobes or bathroom cabinets. Neither was there lawn, shrubbery or a pathway from the front door to the front gate only Cape Flats sand. That was my first priority because of the dust storms that would blow into house almost daily. The lawn I established by every day when walking the distance from Epping to Vanguard Estate, I would pull up and out runners of buffalo grass, which grew in profusion on the Cape Flats, and replanted them in the garden. Constant watering got them to also growing in profusion and so did the weeds. In any case I had a plan for them through my four children who became my weeders with a little bit of incentive by offering them ten cents for every fifty pulled out. The youngest, Harry, thought he had earned a fortune when showing me the amount he had weeded the first time, but unfortunately he was very disappointed when finding they had to be pulled out roots and all. Next I tackled an area that I had left not grassed against the back fence for a vegetable garden, however, because of the sandy loom it had to be well fertilized and garden soiled. Problem, no problem because in that area there were still cows in paddocks and cow manure was freely available. Now I didn’t own any mode of transport then but I had built my sons a billy-cart that wasn’t only used for their enjoyment but for also going to pick up the cow pats. We grew a row of mielies (sweet corn), then tomatoes and in front a row of green beans, which supplemented our veggie intake. Right beside the garden patch in the garden corner was a large Mimosa tree, and in front of that was a huge indentation in the ground that must have been left just like that when they dug for sand to fill up in the house foundation, in any case it did us well when it was overgrown with the grass as a relaxing spot in the tree shade. I also built a South African braai (barbeque) of a pit-hole in the ground, bricked-up and with a metal grill on the top, at the back of the house. And because that didn’t sit right on its own, I constructed and affixed wooden trellises, which the timber strips were offcuts from work, on either side up against the house back wall.
The next on my agenda was the path from the front stoep to the front gate that turned into a bit of comedy drama. When walking around the estate where they were building more houses going hell for leather, I noticed quarter and half bricks that were scattered around and seem discarded. So been the bright spark that I was, on going home I told my eldest son, Chris, to take the billy-cart and to pick up any that I explained to him what he could pick up. He scooted off and came back with quite a load; however, he also came back with an African watchman who was trailing him at a fast pace. Waiting at the front gate and seeing this happening, I indicated to Chris to pick up speed in the hope that the watchman would let it be. While Chris continued at break-neck speed down Leader Street into Eendrag Road and then into 4th Avenue, the watchman slowed down and approached me. Wanting to know what my game was in that child coming to pick up bricks, got me to tell him that it was only throwaway ones that I wanted to use in a pathway. It didn’t at first cut the ice with him because Chris had also taken whole ones that he didn’t think he should have taken, On the other hand, when handing him a bottle of wine as a pacifier, he told me to tell Chris when coming around again to first come and see him. Chris by then had circled into Myn Road and back into Leader Street, and that is how I got my footpath laid, which just goes to show that it isn’t what you know but who you know. My other brainwave idea was to construct a bench for the front stoep so as to sit and admire my handy-work, but in preference to timber I went bush and cut branches to suit that turned out pretty rustic and admired. Thinking that I could rest on my laurels was not yet to be because my wife, Joan, envisaged a trellis on the stoep to make it an enclosed porch. No sooner said than done made again from timber strip offcuts from where I worked, and then to make it pretty, she planted climbing roses that eventually entwined through it.
Now before all of this eventuated there was the settling of the children into a new environment for their well-being. Saint Theresa’s RC Primary School in 4th Street Welcome Estate was the one down the road from us that saw Christopher, Regina, Neil and Harry attend there. The school principal then was Sister Mother Superior Mary Agnes and nun teachers there also was Beatrice Malunga and Muriel Roodt who I went to school with at Saint Raphael’s School in Athlone. There was also the teacher Mr Reinhardt who was the movie man for Saturday matinee movies in the school hall. I use to go with the children at times because of the rougher element that were there too, but what made all of our day at one of those movies was when my son, Christopher, who had a habit of farting at ease, let off a rip-roarer during the movie and one of those shouted out for him to ‘hou jou poep in jou hol’ (keep you fart in your bum). Another episode toward their well-being was when the first time they ventured to go play in the park opposite our home on the playground swings there, and were bullied by a group of boys and chased away. On coming home to tell me this, I took them to the back garden, pulled out and gave each one a tomato stack and told them to go back there and hit and kick the shit out of them, which they did. They had plenty of chommies (friends) from then on in after the word got around in the neighbourhood of not to mess with the Lorenzo boys.
It also did them in good stead with the Welcome Estate toughies who tried it on with them, especially when going to the shop and been challenged for their purchasing money, and other kids that they would also put a stop to of them been robbed. There was one bigger than Chris that lived opposite the babbies (Muslim owner) shop on 4th Avenue who seemed to be the leader of a gang that he and his mates had roughed Chris up when he was alone. Now this same bully where he lived had occasions to have the police raid there home for the cultivation of dagga that they grew freely not only in their backyard but also in their front garden. However, Chris showed him a thing or two when he happened to walk pass our home with his father one day because I stopped both of them to tell his father about what had occurred. His father listened, but when asking me what I was going to do about it and I told him that the two of them should have it out then and there without his sons friends been a backup for him, he had a smirk on his face because of his son been bigger than Chris. Nevertheless, the father had to call a stop to the walloping Chris was dishing out. Now here’s why, Manny Manim, my brother-in-law, conducted a judo class at the St Theresa’s Church Hall where all of my children were enrolled in and they had become very good at defending themselves against just those type of toughies. Needless to say the word spread around there too to tread softly around the Lorenzo boys. One more episode about Chris that bears mentioning was when he broke his shin while playing soccer but never told us about it and rather limped around as if everything was fine. On the other hand or should it be on the other foot, when he began dragging his foot behind him that we took him to hospital where they had to reset it and put it in plaster. Now any other child would walk around with a crutch until it healed, but not our Chris, he was not only riding his bicycle with the plaster on with one leg stretched out in front of him but also playing soccer in the park with his mates. Any other child would also go back to the hospital to have the plaster cast removed and for a check-up, but not him, because he used a knife to cut the cast off that looked like something the cat would drag home and a dogs breakfast all rolled up in one with blackened bits hanging off it.
And then there was our second child, Regina, known as Gina, who although all girly became a Tomboy due to her three brothers rough and tumble influence. Played cowboys and Indians, soccer, the Three Musketeers sword fighting, rough-house wrestling, and judo and even followed the boys on to the top of the roof where they would play Superman and jump off. She came a cropper on that one though because she was at that time going through puberty and the constant jarring had caused her to bleed, which became another hospital case. One thing the boys didn’t care about her though was her spying on them and then telling the mum, especially when peeping through the toilet keyhole when they were in there and then shouting out that they were playing with their willies. She was a damn good baby-sitter and little mother when along came our fifth child, Gregory, whom she adored and eventually he followed her around like a little puppy and she became my little girl again away from the boys influence.
Neil was next in line with his love for creepy-crawlies and his mother’s stubborn streak of wanting to do it his way or take to the highway. He had this scorpion that he had caught and he would feed it all type of caught bugs, especially the caterpillar-worms that would crawl in that funny way of arching its back in the centre as it moved along. Always wondered what he was doing in my vegetable garden and had to chase him out of it until discovering that he was actually doing a good job of picking off the bugs that he fed his scorpion. Although all of our children loved their pet dog Spotty, Neil was the only one that cried when she was run over by a car driven by stupid neighbour who lived in Eendrag Road and was always speeding, whose name I won’t mention because he was an arsehole and even had the audacity to say that dogs should be kept indoors. Neil was actually the one to see it happen and to come and tell me, and because she was still whimpering and nothing else could be done to save her, I phoned the police who came to cease her suffering by firing a bullet to her head, which is what they did in those days. And then I got them a larger dog, Rusty, that became not the scourge but a scrounger of the neighbourhood because he was such a placid and docile dog that everyone would not only pet him but also feed him titbits. He was also a great leaper and would clear not only our fence but also the park upright-metal fence that enclosed the playground equipment when our children were playing there on the swings.
Harold came next, but when little was called baby-Harry so as not to confuse the issue because of my name been Harold and my father’s name was Harold too and he was called Harry. Now baby-Harry was the cutest and knee-high to a grass-hopper in the family, which he still is and would love to be taller, but he loved to sing just like Jeremy Cricket. He seemed to have the same go as I did when a kid in school concerts because he too was singing his little heart out on stage, and one of the crowds favorites was ‘Edelweiss’ from the ‘Sound of Music’. He also had a very good memory and still has, which must be like me with a photographic one, because when writing this he was able to fill me in on bits and pieces that had escaped me because of not experiencing it. Something that he remembered, which I think still annoys him, was when there was a drawing competition at the school to draw a picture of the St Theresa’s Church and he submitted his, it was torn up and discarded because he was told that it had been drawn by me. Oh by the way, the teacher who did that, he is still a very talented artist as is all of my children thank you very much for nothing. And there was also his recollection of an incident of how a Muslim kid, who had the biggest head in the neighbourhood and he use to tease him about it, got Harry in the park when he was alone there, and with his family to hold Harry down, got the kid to sit on him and head-butt him repeatedly until he saw stars. Harry reckons he had headaches for days after but it was sweet revenge when Chris, Neil and he confronted the big-head kid where Harry used his judo skills to throw him time and time again to the ground until he had said he had enough…Yeah! Something else that amused me and has been confirmed by the rest of my brood is when I gathered them all together to tell them about the birds and the bees, which is the way they said I put it. It seemed that Harry, who was baby Harry but because my dad has died he now bears the mantle of Harry, made the comment of why then the neighbours next door who were married didn’t have any children like we did. And my rather left-field answer, as they put it, was that I said that maybe he masturbated too much, and I think confusion must have rained amongst them, then.
And then there was Gregory who was the only one born there and was six years younger than Harry; well we had to baptize the roof when Joan and I moved in and then we had him baptized at St Theresa’s. Now because all of our other children had been delivered by Midwife Nurse Gow-Kleinschmidt of Athlone, we wanted the same for Greg. However, because of not been connected to a phone I had to bike it to her home to forewarn her so that her son Gown could motor her to our home. With Greg there was a complication of him been turned in the womb when it time for his delivery so I had to assist the nurse. The nurse on instructing me to put one of Joan’s legs over my shoulder while she did the same with the other one, made me realize why, because Greg’s baby head when it protruded out was the largest I had seen of the other children. It was also Joan’s most difficult delivery because she tore in giving birth to him. But maybe that was why he was never a difficult child or then again maybe because he was the youngest and everyone just loved him to pieces. It was fun just watching him tag around with his siblings and try to do what they did, which got him underfoot most times. His siblings had also forgotten the idiosyncrasy they all had when little by wanting to hold any bit of their mother’s clothing against the side of their face when sleeping, and couldn’t believe what he was doing was the same as them. On the other hand, he had one up on them because he used his hand when been feed to hold and rubbed the earlobe of the one giving him his drinking bottle. His was also the biggest party given in our home when he turned one year old. The neighbourhood kids had an afternoon one so that their parents could jol (party) at the night one, and family, neighbours and friends rocked up to rock the night away. There was my Uncle Johnnie Rhode of Johnnie Rhode Fisheries of Athlone, who brought his music of guitar and piano accordion, Andy Weichtman manager of Beverley Hotel, Athlone, who was Greg’s godfather and supplied heaps of booze, the van der Byls, Fishers, Espins and Newman’s, who contributed foodstuff and the rest who made it a night to remember.
Last but not least, Joan who was the rock of Gibraltar through all of that and the glue that held everything together. There weren’t many in the neighbourhood then that I knew of who had five kids, especially four boys who could run one ragged. She really had fantastic coping skills and knew how to use cheap child psychology on them when wanting to get things done her way and not theirs as most kids tried to do. They had a great respect for her, as I also did, because manners was everything to her that showed when they were at others homes, and when meeting up with parents the would sing the praise of their good behaviour. I knew for a fact that when they were at children’s parties or at school functions were eatables were concerned, they would stand back until asked to help themselves in comparison to other kids who would rush and grab whatever was in front of them without been invited to do so, which was what we were told by parents and teachers alike. Saw this for real though when we gave our first children’s birthday party for one of our children, and there was many more because each child had their chance because we didn’t believe in giving anything for and to one child only. The kids in the neighbourhood loved to come to our parties because we put a lot into it to make it enjoyable and memorable. Joan been a damn excellent cook would make the electric stove buzz with activity as all type of delectables would come off the hotplates and out of the oven. She loved making her own stuff instead of buying it in, and that’s why we ate like kings almost every day with her culinary delights that made us at times come back for seconds. And that’s why too the neighbourhood kids looked forward to our next birthday party plus the entertainment thrown in for good measure. We had egg and spoon, three legged, low hurdles, zigzag and piggy-back races plus musical-chairs, tug-a-war, blind-mans-bluff and pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey that had prizes for every event and even for the losers because we thought that every kid was a winner. Joan’s exemplary housekeeping was another of her attributes that she took the time to teach the children that and cooking, that became a sort of life-saver for her as they became handy in helping out around the house, which has also paid off for them even now.
“We Are Family” Neil, Harry, Joan & Greg, Gina, Chris…And Me.