Am I Really That Old?

This morning after I spoke to my daughter on the phone and to my grandson (the phone was on speakerphone) I suddenly realized how things have changed over the years. It is very true that time waits for non-one! It suddenly dawned on me that I am racing at a head-spinning speed towards 70! By the time my grandchildren reach the end of their school days and are heading towards university, I probably won’t be around to see them going there! Wow, in 7 short years I will hit the old age – scary thought.

Photo copyright

Photo copyright

Strange, I don’t see myself as being old. When you are young and still at school age has no meaning for you – everybody who is 30 is old and if you meet someone who is 60, you think they are ancient!

This brings me back to my schooldays which now seem light years ago! When we moved to Pietermaritzburg from the old Transvaal in 1966 (now it is Gauteng or commonly known as gangster paradise) I vividly recall how traumatic it was to go another school once again. This time however, it was even more daunting, because I was now in high school in the first term of Std 8.

It really was so traumatic, especially when I found out a few days later, that we (i.e. me, Andries, Jack and Bugs) would have to walk to school. That was not the problem however. In those days there was no bridge across the Duzi river in Boshoff Street as it was still under construction. We had to cross the Duzi to get to Gert Maritz School and you had to walk over the stump. Of course the cousins, Gerhard and Dries, were used to it. There was a huge, very thick tree stump across the river and going down Retief Street, we had to go through the field after crossing Bulwer Street. Then you got to ‘the stump’. Well, it terrified the hell out of me. You had to walk in single file across the stump, carrying your heavy case or satchel plus the sports gear and I was the proud owner of a tennis racket.

Well, how I managed to get over the stump a couple of times, I don’t know even to this day. I have a terrible fear of heights and today still I cannot dive into a swimming pool, because even if you stand on the side of the pool the water (in my mind) is way down that way. I don’t like heights and even have a problem just walking over a bridge! I didn’t mind going to school, but the thought that I had to cross the stump twice a day was just too much for me.

Very soon I discovered that you could get a subsidized bus ticket from the secretary at school. There was a bus to town but it went the long way round Commercial Road into town and stopped at the bus terminus just behind the City Hall. In those days a ticket cost R3 and there were a hundred clips on the ticket.The only snag was that in the morning you had to walk to the city hall from Retief Street and catch the bus from there to school. I would rather walk all the way to the city hall before taking short cut over the stump. The boys of course didn’t mind, and there were lots of other children crossing there as well.

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Photo copyright

I heaved a huge sigh of relief when the bridge was eventually opened to traffic and pedestrians. That shortened the route considerably as there was a little dirt road next to the bridge that led straight to school. I think the bridge was opened in 1968 when I was in matric. Martie started school that year and we used to walk to school. It was only in later years that the bus route was introduced to go via Boshoff Street. The bus stop closest to our house was on the corner at Tony’s Cafe which was just one block away from home. It solved a lot of problems for many parents I think.

To think that my own children also went to Gert Maritz School is quite amazing. Gert Maritz started from grade 1 and went right through to matric. My matric class was the second matric class, as it was a new school. Today it is a huge Technikon. It was quite odd the first couple of times that Chris and I attended a concert or prize-giving or whatever at the school. At the back of the hall was a whole wall of photographs and there were my Std 8, 9 and 10 photographs displayed. When I looked at them, and showed them to my children, the memories of my school days there just came flooding back.

Such is life, time waits for no-one.


  1. Karl Schoeman says

    Wow Lol you were so young and looks like you were babysitting your aunt’s kids. Though I think you were older than us when we had our first. The walk in Pietermaritzburg looks like a movie from the sixties. Who is that guy with you?

  2. Yes time doesn’t wait for anyone. I remember that stump. Wonder if it still exists, probably not.

  3. Tree log across the Dusi river.
    I have vivid memories of crawling over the tree log to go to school every morning. Liegie, my cousin, was my age and we swam and played in the dark brown water of the river without fear not knowing that the water was full of the bilharzia parasite. Those were the most glorius days of my life because we had no worries of any kind and every afternoon after school up to 10 school friends rocked up at our house to play rugby or cricket. I sometimes sat in the windowsil of our diningroom and gave live commentry of the rugby or cricket games we played. Some school friends who came to play stayed on the other side of town more than 10km away. Now and again I invited one or two of them to stay over without asking my parents or theirs with painful consequences. I could write a book which could probably become a best seller on all the good and not so good things we did in Maritzburg. Jack

  4. Lorraine, it’s so nice to read a life story from you! Well done! I also used to use that short cut to go to school by bicycle and every morning it was full of us kids going the same way.
    Those were the days!!

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