Been a cabinet maker came in handy when I began constructing furniture for our home as soon as we moved in. With the kitchen only having a sink when moving in, I soon had built-in kitchen cupboards from the ceiling to the floor with a breakfast-nook within and a hand-built table and window bench to accommodate it. And for Joan’s convenience I also built a cupboard to house her sewing machine that had a drop-table that could be lowered within when not in use. At the kitchen sink I built cupboards on both sides with one against the electric stove and the other leading off till the back door and then on a right-angle back into the kitchen with an open raised shelf on top of that to act as a bar, which was a must with all the boozers in the neighbourhood. Then the lounge that only had a fireplace with a mantelpiece on the top was just as bare. My parents had one of those oak dining tables that could seat eight with a solid top and solid two round-shaped legs that tapered into a wide pedestal base that I sawed in half and placed one-half on each side of the fireplace. They also had a mahogany sideboard of which the doors I removed and replaced them with sliding glass partitions, and then re-polished it. Now it’s not like I was letting them go short on furniture in their home, because by then they had moved in with my sister Shirley and Manny Manim at 43 Zenith Road, and like we all know in those houses you could just about swing a cat. To complete the décor I hung pictures of my Merchant Navy travels, knocked up window pelmets, got the kids to assist me in making bead and dowel strung curtaining that hung in the lounge/ kitchen doorway, and I made an upholstered seat up against the front window so as to view the passing world at our leisure.
Our house became the hub for family and friends to congregate invited or uninvited. Our families of Lorenzo’s and Johnny & Grace Rhode; Children: Cyril, John, Terence, Joseph. Patrick & Gladys van der Byl; Children: Carol, Peter, David, Patricia, George. And Robert & Iris Fisher; Children: Ralph, Samuel, Marion would pop in whenever they liked just as we could do the same at there’s. The Fisher gemos (rubbish), as the maternal mother called them, where the ones who almost lived at our home and we at theirs. We at one time all lived together in a double-story house in Albert Road, Woodstock that was a really spooky place with creaking steps, noisy backyard neighbours, shared banging outside toilet doors, and with no electricity only kerosene lamps, made for an eerie joint. Robbie and Iris when becoming the managers of Montpelier Hotel in Woodstock, whereby they lived upstairs, became our hangout place for weekend’s card games of rummy and klaverjars and an occasional game of dominoes, all with pooled monies. We called ourselves the ‘babbalas dowelaars’ (drunken gamblers) because we never left a drink out of our entertainment, and that went also for the card games and parties given at their home and ours. That car of Ralph really worked overtime in conveying his parents and Marion, his wife Dawn when they lived in Mannenberg, and Sam and my other nephew Bill Fisher to parties and card games at our home. Ralph and Sam were inseparable from the word go that would see them always together at their Ma Fisher’s home it seemed from morning till night, which was because they lived just down the road from her when younger. They also grew up with my children that would see both of them joining up to either go to Woodstock beach, Cape Town Gardens, the Glen for a sleep out and braai, and to Kloofnek to walk the Pipe-track. And then there were the dart games that we all lived and breathed from Pa and Ma fisher’s home first, that extended to their children and then their grandchildren of Ralph and Sam who became dart champions in their own right.
I was then 35 years-of-age and Joan and I had five children; four boys and a girl, but the circle of life was beginning to repeat itself. The wife and I were doing our parents thing and the children were doing ours when we were at their age. There was no scope, advancement or improvement in any field of achievement for any of us. Life was becoming a dead-end in a country that had everything going for it with so much to offer, the problem was that it was only being offered to the so named White South Africans. By then, Nelson Mandala and the freedom fighters were incarcerated on Robben Island for life; however, to compensate for that, a White man assassinated Prime Minister Verwoerd. The Afrikaner National Party then introduced the Terrorism Act to provide for indefinite detention without trial because of the beginning of the ANC guerrilla warfare against the Afrikaners. 1967 saw them create Bantustans; designated areas in South Africa for particular African ethnic groups in accordance with apartheid. An Afrikaner, Vorster, then became president in place of Verwoerd and he cancelled England’s cricket tour of South Africa because of the inclusion of Basil D’Oliveira who was England’s Cape Non-white all round player in the English team.
I knew Basil as an acquaintance in Cape Town, but neither he nor I knew that his nephew, Shaun, would become part of our family when he married Joan’s niece, Marion, before they both immigrated to Canada. Like Basil and other nonwhites who were world class in any endeavour, they had to leave or were forced to leave because of discrimination or because of speaking out about the same reason. Now here’s a funny twist of fate against all of that, which could have spelt disaster in our family. My two sisters, Rita and Gertrude, while working as receptionist at the Tudor Hotel in Cape Town met, one an Englishman, Arthur, the other a Scotsman, Brian, and fell in love. That caused one hell of a dilemma because if they had accepted the reclassification to White offered to them and the family before by the Afrikaner National Government, which was when they were looking for those who they had classified as non-whites back to white to fill up their imbalance of been the minority, it wouldn’t have found them in the predicament that followed. The police kept a close watch on mixed racial friendships or acquaintances. They hid, spied and arrested many persons who they felt had contravened the Immorality Act. Undignified medical tests were done, charges were laid and prison sentences were imposed if sexual intercourse was found to be committed. Arthur and Brian were both on working visas and employed by the Afrikaner government. Arthur was employed to survey by plane the Cape Town surrounds and photograph it with the intention of the government to facilitate which best areas of land could be legislated for the Whites. Brian was employed as an insurance broker with the heartbreaking job of making sure that any insurance claim application made by an Afrikaner Boer for any damages incurred on his farm by a non-white was immediately settled.
Those two men were lily-white and stuck out like sore thumbs. My parents were in a quandary in what to say or do when my sisters eventually sneaked them in to be introduced. To be sneaky was what had to be done, and sneaked visits occurred at night when they came via the back-roads in their cars, circled the area in case they were followed, and then all curtains were drawn when they were inside the house. To take the pressure and stress of my sister Shirley, Manny and my parents, they eventually met my sisters at our home in Vanguard Estate, and the same procedures took place. Although living dangerously on the edge, those two men had the time of their lives because they attended every party given at my home or relatives and friends, and accompanied us to lounge bars, movie theaters and rock concerts disguised by wearing a hooded anorak and keeping their lily-white hands in their pockets. Those two also picked up South African’s habit of liking a drink, and when purchasing liquor for entertaining over the weekend, underestimating did occur. Liquor stores closed half day on Saturdays and Sunday all day. That led to pooling our moneys, going by car to a shebeen at night and buying bottles of illegal brandy with my future brother-in-law as the driver. The procedure to buy liquor at those shebeens was to drive up to the house, hit the horn, flash your lights and make a U turn, switch of the car engine and wait. Somebody would saunter across, take your order and money, and go and come back with your liquor and change. We called those shebeens, drive-ins, which I now realize were the first ones before it caught on and became legally worldwide as drive-in bottle stores. The first time Arthur drove me there it didn’t work that way. When the person came over to take our order and saw in the driver’s seat a lily-white man in a blue anorak he ran like hell back to the house shouting that the police were there and were going to raid. I had to run after him, grab and hold him while explaining apologetically to alleviate his fears. There were stiff penalties for those caught, although I knew of a few of those sly grog houses where the police went for a nightcap. Our friends were amazed at our audacity for snubbing the racial laws, and again it was a good feeling to put one over the Afrikaners. To overcome the Prohibition of Mixed Marriages Act, both my sisters went over to the United Kingdom to get married and then immigrated to Australia, and our father, mother and brother followed too.
Now that same brother, Paul, lived with us from the time that Joan’s parents had to move back to live with her sister, Gladys van der Byl, because I had thought the house would have been sold within a short period of time before leaving for Australia. However, because everything happens for a reason and with him there were more reasons than one because it became an eye-opener in the understanding and care of our children towards him. He was an epileptic that would take turns at a drop of a hat, and when out of it, it was then them who not only removed his dentures, which we had taught them to do so that it wouldn’t work loose and maybe choke him, but also they would cover him over for warmth. We were very proud of our children who treated their uncle with respect and dignity that was reciprocated back to them with loving kindness. Now during that time while living with us he would eye an attractive elegant female that passed our home to and fro from work. I knew that she was a neighbour two doors away from us at the Reynolds residence, and after making enquirers found out that she was Nathan’s sister Pearl. Needless to say, Pearl and Paul became an item, eventually married and also immigrated to Australia.
The Klein’s that lived on the end of the street from us were also party goers that liked a good time. One party that we still remember was one that we went to in Zeekoe Vlei with a convoy of cars. It was Robbie and Iris my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, the Klein’s of Vanguard Estate, my brother Paul, my sister Rita’s future husband Arthur Read, my mate Anton and Joan and I and Errol Malloy, who had invited us. It began as a respectable get-together of friends at somebodies home that we didn’t even know from a bar of soap. However, seeing how we always went well prepared with our own snacks and booze just in case others didn’t have enough because we didn’t like running short, and Iris even brought a watermelon, which we almost rued the day for bringing it with. It was fine for Barbara Klein and Iris to cut up the watermelon and serve it without the skin, but it’s what occurred after that set the party into an uproar. It was also those two who begun the watermelon-skin fight and the rubbing of it in others faces, but what caused everyone then to use the skins as to slide on across the floor without falling off was anybody’s guess. Nevertheless, buckets of water and mops quickly cleaned that up to the people of the house satisfaction, however, we were never invited back again and we wondered why?
Joan with the last of the watermelon, Iris & Paul almost getting a shower of it, Me enjoying every minute of it, and the Lady of the house smiling then but not afterwards.