Johannesburg 1955 January 21st my parents first daughter. We lived as a family of two brothers and two sisters on the West Rand, situated just outside of Johannesburg. Being four children we endeavoured to drive our parents ‘nuts’, as do all children.
The house we lived in was next to open park (veld) and we had many eventful incidents playing – hiking, cycling in the surrounding area. Girl Guides and Boy Scout camps took place in the hills forming a ridge right across the Witwatersrand, within five kilometers of home. Today this has all been built up and there is very little left of areas where, it was said, large cats roamed in the hills (koppies) and animals ran free such as the black backed jackal.
Schools were separated by language, English and Afrikaans, we were educated in the English medium. We knew very little of the Afrikaans schools, except for sport, there was limited contact. Knowledge of African people was non-existant, no children! It was our ‘live in’ Xhosa lady, Vivienne who had requested a place to live, enabling her to get work, we learned how her children went to school in the Transkei and lived with their Grand Parents, travelling several hundred kilometers to visit them once a year at Christmas.
Jack, a North Sotho, worked on the Railways with my Dad came to our house regularly. Living in a hostel, he opted to sleep on a bed we had placed in the garage, (not having a motor vehicle). This Jack said, gave him a
feeling of being able to live a more ‘normal’ life. He was always in the garden with my Dad growing vegetables or planting fruit trees. I know he was very fond of the family and lived in Hamanskraal, again being very young, you greet elders, not make conversation!
Our parents brought us up strictly believing all are equal; we made friends as we got older with numerous Afrikaans people in our neighbourhood, having English as a first language and Afrikaans a second language, you still did not really mix – since you were educated in different schools. A language barrier being young, did not help, I estimate, I was around ten years old before I realized we could be friends, play, and talk. Some families had one or two children go to English schools and one or two go to Afrikaans schools in the same home!
At night around 9pm a siren would ring out, from the water towers on the top of the hills, when questioning our parents, embarrassed, they said it was for the children go to bed. Only finding out later in life, it was for African’s to be off of the streets, those ‘fortunate’ enough, who resided with people for whom they worked had to be “at home” by that time.
On two occasions I witnessed my Father cry, once was when an African who he had worked with was jailed, Dad stood witness that what this man had done, was in innocence, he knew no better; the other occasion was when Sir Winston Churchill passed away. I know my father was brought up on a farm in the Meyerton area, went to school under a tree, when children walked together, he too questioned why we had ever been segregated???
Mom, like Dad was from a family of four children, they had lived in the city and life had not been easy, little reference was made to her childhood. Mom was a champion at sewing, useless as a cook and loved to travel.