Very brief epistle of my college days. Unquestionably one of the highlights of my life, and I’m very apprehensive that I will not be able to give it the justice it deserves. The college was situated a very short drive from Salisbury, the capitol city of Rhodesia in an area known as Mount Hampden. A comfortable drive especially from some lads coming back from a party on automatic pilot. Shivers. Believe it or not, it had a reputation worldwide of being the finest Agricultural College in the world. In my time there we had Americans and Austrians, Germans and God alone knows who else, getting a first class education there.
Now it was an idyllic time and war and sanctions notwithstanding, and some of the lads had completed their National Service, and some hadn’t. The wonderful time before political correctness became the in thing. So nicknames were rife. Bents, bolt, chunky, chimimba, django, enos, gege, fonebone,fluffy, flash,jesse joubs, jungle jaw, john barry, john jockstrap, john van wheelspin, kd, mazumbaan,mielie pip,mombi, pops,pedro, punjab, simbi, social, sheriff, sqeegh,rumplestiltskins, tupper, vera,and an almost endless list.
These are a few of my favourite things. Lets start at the very beginning, which is a very good place to start? Apologies to Julie Andrews.
Now the long and short of all this is, I had already been accepted at an University before deciding to do my National Service first. Unfortunately whilst doing this I became profoundly deaf after a long illness. Having being taught to lip read it soon became obvious that doing Law was out of the question. So having family as farmers, I decided to apply to Gwebi Agricultural College, sometimes known as the College of Knowledge. Blow me down but I was turned down by the Principal, who made the added mistake in his letter to me, by saying, “I didn’t have the required educational requirement.” Furious, I arranged a meeting with him and when this was granted, I went on the attack in his office by stating; ” I have ten times the required education to get into this college so will you please tell me what the real reason was for turning me down?”
Down goes the head, the eyes cannot focus on you, going every which way, but, on you. “The staff members and I had a meeting at which we discussed whether a deaf boy could pass or not. The consensus was, no.”
So I said, “how did you reach this ‘consensus’? To which he said, “we had a vote.” To which I said, “was the vote close?” To which he said, “yes, very close.” So I said,” would you mind voting again?” And turned around and walked out of his office. Two weeks later I got a letter in the post congratulating me as being accepted at College. Oh ye of little faith?
Put simply, the two year course consisted of, Animal Husbandry, Field Husbandry, Farm Management and Engineering. Each of these fields had sub-sections which were vast and varying, from Entomology, Botany and Building to name but three. So it was a well rounded grounding involving one week of lectures and one week of practicals. Without a shadow of a doubt this College diploma was the equivalent of most University degrees these days.
So let us begin there again. The basic thing was one must arrive at College with short back and sides, thereafter one was free to look like a Fiji islander if one so pleased. It began with a few photos of your course, looking like a line up of police mugshots. Ostensibly so that the staff could identify and learn your name. Such was the legend of ribaldry at this hallowed college so the police or anybody else for that matter could point you out. Suffice to say we were banned from every hostelry in the entire country. So the mugshots of my course. In alphabetical order.
Mugshots courtesy of pictured here, the one and only Mazumbaan, Ken Worsley.
Did I mention short back and sides? One can see here from the above photos, how many lads had so many differing views of what consisted of short back and sides? It is of course well known the difference between going to a boarding school as opposed to being a day scholar. Actually in the course in front of us (seniors), one of my mates arrived with shoulder length hair. Whereupon the course ahead of him shaved off one side of his hair and left the other long, and he had to stay like that for 6 months. What a gas man? Seriously, it just goes to show the enormous amount of fun and camaraderie we had here. After the initial period of being new and ‘initiation’ was over, fine friends were made across the divide.
So, in alphabetical order, two lads shared a room or study for the first year and thereafter for the second year, the Warden put two people in a room together whom he thought got on well. My first room mate was Thomas Millar, hoots mon, Dooooonald where’s your trousers, proud of his Scots heritage and shortly thereafter named by me as, Thomarse Millarse, and he was the most hirsute person I have ever come across. Character of note and sportsman extraordinaire, or so he believed. So here we were in the room as newcomers and people were coming in to check the monkey (me), word spreads fast. Eventually I chimed into the conversation with these immortal words; “F**k the beds are hard?” To which Bentley soon to become known as ‘Bents’ equally impressively, replied with; “F**king hard.” And another friendship was formed on this riveting repartee.
Now part of the college folklore was the ‘initiation’ process where the older course put one through its process. Did I mention day scholars, lads who hadn’t done their National Service yet? Put simply many of the lads were traumatised by this and the principal was attempting to put an end to it. Essentially then it had been toned down a lot. My old school friend Runt, now senior to me, made me strip and then put a pair of pantyhose where the sun don’t shine. Then flapping my arms, jumping off the wall and back again, all the while chanting, “I am a firefly, I am a firefly.” I mean really.
One of the lecturers, his forte being Poultry and named Jungle Jaw Keene (courtesy of a wispy beard), was a cricket lover of note with a vast repertoire of strokes. Consisting of, front foot forward, and then a jab with the bat. Snicked through slips again? Anyway he was the manager of the cricket side and also automatic selection. After all what’s the point of being a selector? Between the two courses that year there were 8 Nuffield players (Rhodesian schools cricket), and Jungle Jaw was in his element thinking of the best Gwebi cricket season of all time. He was also a keen member of Old Hararians sports club. So he arranged for their team to come and play us of a Saturday afternoon of. Flexing his muscles. I actually made fifty something. A wave of approval swept the College like a tsunami. Lecturers, their wives, Gwebi lads, their girlfriends, provided they had one, and a vast array of assorted hangers on, all were unanimous. “There cannot be much wrong with a lad who can rattle up fifty against respectable club bowling, deaf as a stone or not?”
We also had a lad in our side whom I happened to know before college. He had polio in one arm and sometime in his teenage years, playing polo cross, he inadvertently hooked out one of his eyes. Immediately known to us lads as Rumplestiltskins, or Rumple, for short. Another unbelievably brave lad. Look him up on mugshots under Savory. Short back and sides my ass. So now onto lecturers and the beginnings of our superb education.
The lecture room.
Very impressive, is it not? Now our first lecture here was by Bolt Whitworth. Surely you can work out his nickname for yourself?
He began our first lecture by quoting Albert Einstein. ” The angle of the dangle, is directly proportional to the heat of the meat.” And once the laughter had died down he gave us our first lecture. To be quite honest I forget on what. He was followed by the legendary agriculturalist and lecturer connoisseur, a certain Peter Chard, codenamed Sheriff. Sheriff had a moustache which would put most second world war pilots and hells angels handlebars to shame. He was quite the accomplished lecturer doing Animal Husbandry and Farm Management. His first lecture for us was on Animal Husbandry which he began with these immortal words: ” Did you hear about the shepherd who dropped his crock and f**ked his flock?” I keep on trying to impress on you the level of education we had.
Battling to get the flow going on this blog story and have just realised why. It was a long time ago and my memory is playing tricks. So I better skip to the end and this may explain it? You see after two years I failed the course but we now had a new principal, Mielie Pip Mclean, who wrote to my parents about a week after the results came through. He told them that I had failed one subject (Engineering) by 1% and he felt this unduly harsh. He had been talking to members of his staff and between them all they felt that the country owed me something? So would I like to come back and do the last year again? My Mum was fuming and said the boy I got notes from also failed, and my reasoning was, Mum what does that matter. So I went to see the principal again and asked why can I not just write another Engineering exam. He said, “no, either you come back for a year or not at all.” The long and short of this is I decided to go back. As one of my course 26 mates said, “Spook I hear you are going back for the third year of your AA course and best wishes and best of luck.”
So what this really means is that I spent two years with two different courses and characters and am confusing the two. Anyway this time I borrowed the notes of the guy who won ‘Top Student'(Dave Holman) in my initial course and never looked back. The other thing to understand is Engineering was far and away the easiest subject, but, much of it involved using your ears. You cannot very well determine what is wrong with a tractor by putting your hands on it?
Glad to have got that off my chest and now back to telling stories of many characters involved. Second time around I passed with grateful thanks to all concerned, staff and good friends.
Well friends and being deaf. One morning walking down to lectures during my second year I was ahead of the pack for a change. Chunky Steyl of Green Fowl school was busy talking to me behind my back and getting more and more riled because I was not replying. So Pedro Veldsman said, “Chunky he’s deaf, if you want to talk to him you must get his attention.” To which Chunky said, ” I know but he seems so normal I keep on forgetting.” Meanwhile Pedro was ferreting around for a stone, which he found, somewhere between the size of a golf ball and half a cricket ball. He promptly threw it with all his might and it thudded into my back. Appalled, furious and in mortal agony I swung around with, “who the f**k was that?” Pedro then said, “Chunky now you have got his attention tell him what you want to say.” And everybody burst out laughing.
The thing to remember is that this was a boy’s or men only College, consequently the language left a lot to be desired. We never talked this way in front of women, perish the thought. Another thing which is worth remembering, people today speak like this all the time whether men, women, or children. So why must people be offended by trying to tell a story truthfully on some blog? To the devil with the PC brigade, as always they know not what they preach or talk about anyway.
Anyway lads could only take so much lecturing, so about halfway through the morning a tea break was required. We wandered out of the lecture and walked to the back and down to the tea room. A type of open aired thatch premise with a couple of benches spread around, close to the dairy. Ambling from the back as usual, I got there late, and we were now the senior course with another course of sprogs below us. I lip read Holman, Bents, Tupper etc. having a talk. I knew they were talking about me so piped up with; “telling little fibs about Spook are we?” To which Holman replied, “no we are actually saying that we have so many different lads and characters here, and some get on well and others detest each other. But funnily enough everyone, for some reason unbeknown to us, likes Spook.”
That shut me up very quickly and to be quite honest, never have I felt so proud, then, or since. The finest bunch of lads I ever knew and as already mentioned I knew four courses as opposed to most peoples three. Ah, when Irish eyes are smiling, sure the whole world smiles with you?
So many stories to tell, so little time. It’s been my experience on the Internet that people have very short attention spans. Consequently, if one makes a blog post to long people won’t read to the end of it? So I had better cut this epistle short, and then I will follow it up with a series of blogs on the unforgettable times and characters we met there. You have the gist of it now? One last thing.
Driving back from Salisbury late one night my car was packed. Everyone wanted to get a lift with me as high as a kite or stone cold sober I was considered the safest driver to ever hallow these portals? Well I was. So I was doing 120 km/hr when I was overtaken by Runt in his clapped out old banger. With his left hand clutching the passenger window and his right the drivers window, was Gaskell standing on the roof, kaalgat, and giving us a brown eye. Suddenly Runts car veered off left into the dip and grass verge, and just before hitting the barbed wire fence he corrected. The car shot back across the road and went down the right side in the process described and once more, he corrected and managed to get back on the road again. All the while with Gaskell still perched precariously on the roof. Somebody was indeed watching over us in those days?
More to follow on another blog post, provided of course you wish to read it?