Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Memories in a Suitcase

While visiting family in Melbourne recently I stumbled upon an old suitcase amongst my sister Phyllis’s possessions. I admired it from afar as she gave me a history of her childhood stamp collection, that she had carried around in the suitcase from Johannesburg South Africa to Rhodesia, back to Cape Town and then finally to Melbourne, Australia. So I wandered over to the suitcase and discovered it was my old school case. Memories came tumbling out and I wondered what happened to my class mates from 1960 FORM 111D Roosevelt Park, High School, Johannesburg. If anyone knows, hey please let me know.

Talking about memories:
I am reminded of a trip I took two years after the death of my daughter Hayley who was killed in a car crash at age 19. She had been on her way from Cape Town to Johannesburg with her boyfriend, who survived the crash.
In reality I needed some sort of closure and wanted to follow her trip through the Karoo and rest under the tree that she and her boyfriend had rested, minutes before that fateful accident. Normally very gregarious, I had been so silent since we set off from Cape Town.
Sid, my long time companion was driving and he slowed the car down every so often to just to check that I was still breathing and alive. We arrived at the spot where the big shady tree stood and Sid went off to fill the car with gas and he left me alone to honour Hayley’s memory and shed my tears. . After a time I returned to the car and we once again continued on our journey.
Ten minutes later there was a fork in the road, one road led to the Johannesburg where we were headed and one road let to Durban. As soon as I saw that sign I perked up.
“Sid, I want to take the Durban road and visit my old Boarding school”

My memories of Newcastle
dated back some 40 odd years. It was a small town with few tarred roads, and a couple of motels and shops. At the one end of the main road was the Train station and at the other was a dirt road that led straight into St Dominics.
Sid and I arrived in the town when it was dark. I tried to get my bearings with 40 year old memories. To my shock I discovered that the Train station had been relocated out of the town years previously as the town prospered However, to my delight St Dominics was still a school, but no longer a Convent for Girls as it had been in my day.

The next day we located the school. I wandered around until I found some ladies working in the office. They showed me around, taking me into classrooms, and introducing me to the pupils and teachers. It was moving for me indeed to see not only boys and girls but a completely racially integrated school. In the 50’ the political buzz word was the Group Areas Act. There was talk of relocating different racial Groups and moving the few Indian families living close to the school into some isolated place.
Now it was a different time. Mandela was President and integration was the political buzz word. I marvelled at how far we had journeyed. But I digress.
As we walked along a passage leading to the Assembly Hall, I spotted a small door with a padlock beneath an adjoining building. Fascinated I stopped as memories came flooding back “The Box Room” I exploded.
“We have been trying for years to figure out what this door is for,” said the lady who was escorting me.
Nostalgia hit me as I reminisced about the assortment of labelled suitcases, trunks and luggage bags lined up outside the “box room “ for the pupils to collect and pack before going home for the holidays. Mine was special. It was made by my father in his Engineering factory: steel, sprayed light grey, rounded edges and must have weighed 50lbs, no mean feat for a 10 year old girl to carry.
Above picture is:
l-r Phyllis Hoffman,Elaine Sackson, Elizabeth Hertz taken at St Dominics 1955