At 37 years-of-age I was completely grey at the temples, which wasn’t due to the stress created in South Africa but heredity, and I had applied to immigrate to Australia. Was accepted, but the problem though was selling my house within the time frame set down by the Australian Embassy of one year before our acceptance time expired, or we had to apply again. My first bought home was in a nice suburb of Vanguard Estate, one of many situated out of the hustle and bustle of city life in a more quite pleasant country atmosphere. Now not to go all political but, the circumstances leading up to my decision was due to the amalgamation of the Afrikaner National Party Government’s discriminatory policies. It’s not also my intention to rack up old coals but, they thought it appropriate and for the common good of all South Africans to introduce a Group Areas and Coloured Property Act that made it unlawful to live, own property or a business in a declared, designated area proclaimed White. One of many was District Six, which was a city division of Cape Town, where Coloureds, Muslims, Africans, Indians, Chinese, Jews and poor Whites lived and had businesses there. They co-existed and lived in a congenial atmosphere until apartheid lifted its ugly head. They were systematically and belligerently moved out to areas designated for them, and District Six was razed to the ground so that it could be declared a White area for Whites to build, live and establish businesses, which still stands today as a vast vacant lot to remind them of their stupidity. If they weren’t erasing black spots out of declared White areas they were drawing lines in the sand that nonwhites could not cross, and they were railway lines that virtually separated us from them. The forward planning of the government was to move all nonwhites over to the other side of the track regardless, with the conceited idea that Whites were in a superior class of their own and shouldn’t be tainted with inferior nonwhites sharing the same facilities. Cape Town City would be only theirs for enjoyment, entertainment, recreation, diversion and relaxation, and that also included all the beaches right around the Cape Peninsula. The beach allocated to nonwhites was Strandfontein (Dutch = Beach-fountain), where the only way to reach it was by motor transport or horse and cart, and where sharks and a horrific sea backwash that was a hazard, was deemed to be natural to non-white survival skills. My majestic Table Mountain was not seen fit to be traversed by nonwhites, and the lush and fertile valleys, the meandering rivers and the lakes was taboo, as was the learning institutions of Technical Colleges and Universities. One of the reasons for me getting the hell out of South Africa was the Afrikaners government policy of the restraining of a God given right to the freedom of choice. The other was their conniving indoctrination to be susceptible of their misrepresentation that White was right for my family and me to accept.
The government was enforcing the herding of other nonwhites into types of homelands like the Africans. They were nothing short of compounds for the working class, and cheap flats and units sprung up like mushrooms overnight on the Cape Flats to house those that were dislodged from non-white areas, which had been declared White areas. It didn’t bother the government if nonwhites were disgruntled, disillusioned and frustrated, even to the separation of families, the workers from their place of employment, places of worship, shopping areas and the community spirit that had been built up over generations. They didn’t give a damn, and their hastily built cramped styled quarters for nonwhites that was eagerly negotiated and snapped up by non-white entrepreneurs, who I’m ashamed to mention, to line their own pockets, became breeding grounds for the criminal element. Gangs roamed the streets, and fighting, assaults, robbery, rape, stabbings and murder became the norm, and so did unemployment. What non-white skilled and unskilled workers through diligence once gained, was then allocated to Whites only. Due to all of that and the defeated attitude felt, the criminal element vented their frustration and anger on the people closest. All nonwhites were in their line of fire because the Whites were completely isolated in their White utopias. In our neighbourhood we were hassled for money even when walking in our street, and some used their self-trained dogs as a threat to obtain whatever they wanted. Others would smack, kick or chase you if one looked better off in dress, and it was known that some would divest a person if the clothes fitted. Children who were sent by their parents for purchases at shops were robbed of monies and girls and women were touched up indiscriminately if ignoring them in passing. The government’s operation of separate areas was twofold. The obvious one was that White was superior and couldn’t be inferior to non-white. And the other was to have a barrier of sacrificial lambs between the Africans and Whites. That was where the rest of the nonwhites came in, for their chicken cooped dwellings were strategically built and placed so that they could be first in the line of fire from any crime, unrest or uprising from the Africans. Those enforced dislodged nonwhites from all their then declared White areas were firmly entrenched in blocks of flats right up against other nonwhites privately owned houses. That was the Whites first line of defense followed by squats adjoining for African people in townships like Guguletu, and those areas were eventually fenced off as enclosures to keep wild non-white South African government made animals firmly in their place.
In our estate we were forced to organize a neighbourhood watch and patrol the whole area on weekend nights. Break-ins, assaults, verbal abuse and harassment became common practice from our new neighbours. I was attacked twice, once luckily to get away with my life, and my wife and children were affronted, threatened and often chased. Having the good fortune and opportunity to experience what real freedom was through my merchant navy travels, gave me the foresight to investigate which countries were accepting South African immigrants, what were the social conditions and most important human freedom. Canada and Australia both came pretty close as ideal. Having had the experience of Canada though and wanting back the complete freedom my fore parents had attained and enjoyed over a century ago, I opted for Australia. It seemed that because it was a young continent they were learning from the past mistakes of the others. Also, there was no apartheid, it had social freedom, one man one vote, labels were of your own doing, and their having a fair go made it an excellent situation for my children to grow up in.
Being financially secure to start a new life as a family of seven and to pay for the sea voyage was a big ask, for the Australian Government didn’t offer us assisted passage. The fares were 2500 rands, and by my calculations 6000 rand was required to restart our new life in Australia, so what I required all up was 8500 rand. The glaring problem was how the hell I was going to accumulate that within a year, which was the stipulated time before an application expired. I knew I wouldn’t be able to get that from the sale of the house because of it been purchased through a government rent paying ownership scheme and I had only had ownership for six years. My wage earning capacity was in the region of sixty rand a week depending on my output in a time and motion bonus system, and it only covered comfortably our family of seven. With sleepless nights and scheming, I set my groundwork into operation after consulting a banking friend of mine. His advice was to set a flexible selling price of two amounts whereby the lower price would be the one that a prospective buyer would go for. In addition, I was told to renovate my home with a new splash of paint, jazz up the garden with a bit of landscaping and advertise it as a furnished house. With all of the furniture remaining, my asking price was between 5400 and 6000 rand, however, the advertising had also to be done by word of mouth without the Government Housing Office getting wind of it. The other problem then was that I would have a shortfall of 600 rand, and with only fifty rand in the bank and still the passage fare of 2500 rand to consider, my contemplation on various outcomes that would achieve personal success for that to eventuate was foreseen in a sure fire method within the bounds of possibility.
At that period of time, sporting clubs held functions in homes called a bob hop. It entailed an entrance fee of two bob (two shillings) or (twenty cents), dancing to record music, the sale of light snacks and alcoholic drinks, and because it was a cheap social night out it was always well supported. The illegal part was the selling of liquor; nonetheless, it didn’t bother me because of knowing non-white police that would attend when off-duty and so too staff of hotels when closing at night, especially if it was low key. Seeing a way to cash in for the shortfall, Joan and myself worked out a scheme. Our first priority was the sale of the house so it had to be in top condition for any prospective buyers viewing at all times. An indoor function was out of the question so we decided to have it outdoors. Our property was grassed from one side of the house to the backyard that had a large overhanging leafy tree growing at the top end of a wide sunken grass depression, and that extended into an enclosed barbeque area. That became our bar area because it was enclosed, secure and hidden from neighbours preying eyes. My next-door neighbour Mr Johnson had a 2.5 meter brick wall between his and my property, so by affixing a canvas sheet from my house front edge to his walls front edge and another canvas sheet from my house guttering to the top of his wall, it completely enclosed the whole side right up to the barbeque area. A lead of coloured lights strung along the roof guttering and his wall, and with music played through an open bedroom window it set the scene.
Because we were not a sporting club we also had a slight problem of not able to nominate what the appeal for raising funds was for. I though came up with a solution that sounded honest, inviting and different to attract. I hand printed my own cards, which had assisted me once before for employment on the merchant navy, that read of an undercover function for overseas aid that was being held at ‘Lorenzo’s Hideaway.’ Family and friends that knew of our intention to immigrate rallied to our aid. Joan not only collected the entrance fee but also requested those who looked suss, as in suspicious, to hand her any dangerous concealed weapons and they obligingly did, which was kept until their leaving. We also sold snacks and food such as curry and rice, hotdogs and pies, our children organized the music, collected empty glasses and kept the area tidy, and my unceasing bar keeping and looking after the crowd was ongoing. I knew the suss ones were those who tried to trek a skuif (have an illegal smoke) in the vicinity of the tree, which they must have thought because it was a boom (tree) they could smoke their boom (dagga) there. However, when told politely that it wasn’t allowed there and they should go outside in the park to do that, they understandingly complied. What a crowd, we ran out of food and booze. The disco atmosphere, which wasn’t established in South Africa yet, that I had picked up from overseas, had kept the crowd partying on and they demanded a repeat for the following week. Our fifty rand bank account had been used for food and alcoholic drinks, which had been purchased wholesale at a friend’s liquor store, and our profit of 150 rand was more than my two weeks wages. Joan and I came up with another idea knowing that our family and friends liked to gamble at cards. So we set up tables and chairs inside the house for the playing of cards, which wasn’t as raucous and untidy. Doing the same as the bob-hop, we did though also claim 10 per cent off every poker hand won, which at most times exceeded 50 rand that increased our overall profits by 200 per cent. Those games continued into the small hours of the morning, which was excellent for our amounting bank account, and we then had a disco and a small casino operating.
We had to consider our neighbours though, although they attended at times, so we had the disco every fortnight and the card drive every week that continued profitably for seven months until winter set in with rain that kept the disco crowds away. We not only had to contend with that setback, but also that we only had bights for the house and no definite buyers, so we had to employ other means as an attraction to fill our bank coffers. We had a fireplace in our lounge that was a warm comfort in winter; so we made use of it by again hand printing cards that read it as a winter indoor open-hearth evening-spend. Open fireplaces wasn’t a commodity in a majority of homes outside Vanguard Estate, so with no admission fee but still selling food and booze, we had bodies reclining all over the lounge floor. In the semi-darkened fire lit room, chatting, drinking, eating, smooching, telling jokes and rousing sing a longs was spent pleasantly instead of the discos, and the card drives continued in the other rooms every week.
Because a year had elapsed, it expired our acceptance time to immigrate to Australia, and with our house not sold yet we had to reapply. That meant the family had to redo physical examinations, police clearance and immigration. We were accepted again, and although we had the full passenger fare to book our passage, the shortfall and still other monies in the bank, we were stymied by the sale of the house. We also couldn’t receive our South African passport clearance and Australian visa until the tickets were purchased, produce the 6 000 rand entry, which I had designated as having when entering Australia, that had to be transferred to an Australian bank via a South African bank and entered into my passport by the Australian Embassy. The dilemma hinged on the sale of the house. Nevertheless, knowing that I had set all of the positive wheels in motion, we then had a definite prospective buyer who wanted to purchase it for his son. The father, son and their bank manager inspected the house with 5400 rand allocated by the bank on a mortgage of the father’s house. There was no price negotiation required by me because of having deliberately given those selling prices, but I did make a proviso that I would accept the lower price only because of having booked the families passage to Australia already, and that we had to leave in three month’s time.
The morning after in the side of our garden where the bob-hops were given having a drink and playing cards in the shade of the tree and in the grassed hollow with my brother Paul Lorenzo and others of Vanguard Estate.