Fond memories of growing up

Exactly nine months after my late father returned from active service in North Africa in May 1945, I made my appearance in the big world.

I grew up in Cape Town during the 1950s and except for the Korean War, things were pretty peaceful.

Being a rather bright child, I could read by the time I was five and consumed any book I could get my hands on.

From our house, we could see the cable cars whizzing up and down from the cable station to the summit of Table Mountain.

When I was five, myself and my brother Mike – he’s 15 months older than me – built a soapbox and walked with it to the top of Kloof Nek, then rode it back down towards the city.

It was a madcap, hair-raising and dangerous adventure seeing as the soapbox boasted only a rather weak braking system!

But we survived, if only because there wasn’t much traffic around in those days.

Every Sunday, we would go with neighbours to the Sea Point Pavilion, where we would potter among the rocks with our toy boats, then jump into the shallow end of the pool.

During 1952, we moved to Rondebosch.

Our school in Rosebank was about 3km away and we were given 2d bus fare (1d each way) every week day.

Now, it didn’t take us long to realise that if you walked there and back you had 2d each day to spend, which equated to four delicious Wilson’s toffees, our favourite.

So we were soon fit and healthy, except for our teeth, which took quite a battering.

Every Saturday morning we would walk the 5km to the Savoy cinema (or bioscope as it was known then) for the morning matinee.

We would enjoy a short film, followed by the current serial which always ended on an exciting note to ensure you returned the next week for the next exciting instalment.

Then, after interval, the main movie, on many occasions a B-type Western.

The serials we saw included King of the Congo (with Buster Crabbe), Captain Video and Tailspin Tommy, the story of a young biplane pilot in the 1930s.

We would arm ourselves with comics to swap with other kids there before the show or during the break. Dagwood and Blondie, Porky Pig, Donald Duck, Goofy, Little Huey, Nancy and Sluggo were all favourites and you felt mighty pleased if you picked up a Superman or Batman comic.

And, of course, once we arrived home at lunch-time, there was the rest of the weekend to read the comics, ready for swapping the next Saturday.

In 1954, I recall watching the movie The Student Prince, with Edmund Purdom in the title role, singing the songs of Mario Lanza, and thereafter, whenever I heard the song, Drink, Drink, Drink I’d get goose-bumps.

Mike and I had our own little business going.

We would knock on neighbours’ doors and ask whether we could go to the shop for them for bread, milk or the newspaper.

This could result in 6d or 1/- tips, and with the shops being only about 700m away, business was brisk.

I recall in 1958 watching in wonder the lights of Russian rocket Sputnik moving across the night sky as it orbited the earth, heralding the space-age.

However, things changed when we moved to Wynberg.

At the Boys’ School, I had the privilege of playing U10, U11 and U12 rugby and then later I represented the U13A cricket team where my love for the game grew.

We would cycle to Newlands cricket ground to watch Currie Cup and even international matches.

Entry was 2/- and with half-a-crown in hand we had 6d to spend. Heaven!

At the lunch and tea intervals, we would join one of 100 or more games around the ground with tennis balls whizzing around our heads. It was chaos out there but great fun and I can, in all honesty, tell my five grandchildren that I played on the hallowed turf of Newlands!

However, all too soon, the decade was over. I was 13, and teenage years beckoned, followed by adulthood, marriage and fatherhood, with all its many responsibilities.

But, looking back, those carefree childhood years were the best of my life. They were happy years, free of stress and unwanted fears.


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