I was born in The Hague, the Netherlands and my parents decided to immigrate to Rhodesia in DARKEST AFRICA in 1957. My dad left six months before us by plane, A huge constellation with three tails, he flew to Salisbury with a few stops in between to refuel.
Finally the day came that we had to leave by ship. It was called the Zuiderkruis from Amsterdam to Cape town, I was only six and the youngest of three boys. I wouldn’t have liked to be in my mom’s shoes then. Lots of our family came to see us off as most of them thought they would never see us again. The ship stopped in Tenerife where we were allowed to disembark for the day, at the end of the day my middle brother was missing, they searched the whole town and at last found him on the ship, the captain wasn’t happy. Further along the trip we passed the equator and there was a huge party on board, we all entered the fancy dress and I won the first prize of my life, it was a huge wooden crane truck, boy was I proud. My brothers must have been a little jealous because a few days later it ended up in the ocean. We arrived in Cape town from where the journey continued by train, we were so impressed with the vast open spaces and the BLACK people, we went right through South Africa and into what is now called Botswana and finally into Southern Rhodesia to Bulawayo. It had taken three days and nights. We had a day’s stopover and then carried on the overnight train to Salisbury where my Dad was waiting for us with his first car. A morris minor.
The first few months we lived at Cranbourne barracks, an army camp that was converted to a camp for immigrants arriving from all over Europe, there were all sorts of nationalities and no one could speak English, At school they put up pictures on the wall and we all had to say the word and after school we all played in the bush around the camp. We then moved to a suburb called Mabelreign and here I remember the inside walls were built with ceiling board, well with us boys jumping around and fighting there were soon holes in the walls. We also collected bull frogs, they were really large. A year or so later my dad formed a partnership with another Dutchmen and started a flooring business and we moved to Bulawayo.
Here we lived in a huge house in a suburb called Waterford, it was way out of town and next to a dam, here we made catties and shot birds and collected their eggs and became real little bushmen. My dad’s partnership flopped and he applied for a job on the railways. We had to move again as the job was even further into darkest Africa.
We packed up everything and moved to Broken Hill in Northern Rhodesia, a small town but a huge railhead and a huge lead, zinc and vanadium mine so as you can imagine there was a dividing line, the railway side and the mine side divided by the railway line going further north to the Copperbelt. It was a town full of mango trees and in the town centre there was a huge tree, it must have been thirty meters in diameter at least.
The house we moved into was a prefab built out of asbestos sheeting, if you wanted hot water you would have to go to the railway yard for coal and make a fire in the geyser out side so there was always a fight when the hot water was finished. My first school there was Parker primary, a huge school with beautiful sports fields and swimming pool, this is where I met my first friends for life, we lived life to the full, we must have been the naughtiest little buggers in the land as we got into so much trouble, these stories I will write later as they are all apart. After primary school we moved to King George the 6th high school and the naughtiness carried on, we could tell by the amount of canings we got by the head master.
We all kept track of how many we had with stokes on the back of our ties (and behinds).
Discipline was a big thing at school, tie straight, socks up long shorts and short hair, if any of these things weren’t right the prefects would pull you out of line and you would have to go to the head master at break and be caned, first sign the book then your head under the table and then the strokes with the cane. I’m sure Mr Brown enjoyed caning us.
After independence 1964 a lot of Africans started coming to the school and a lot of people were moving away to South Africa and Rhodesia, we stayed till 1967 when my parents sent me to boarding school in Bulawayo Rhodesia. I had just turned sixteen a few days earlier and had had a real free life, it was like being sent to jail for me, It didn’t last long, within two days I had run away, hitched back home, got beaten up by my dad and taken back, that only lasted one day, a long story which I will tell apart, but it did ruin my whole education as I was an average student in the B stream and didn’t mind school at all.
This time I didn’t go home as I knew my dad would murder me, I moved in with my brother who lived in a lodging house in Bulawayo. Within a day the police were at the door but they left me alone as I had just turned sixteen and didn’t have to go to school anymore. The next day I went to the employment office and found a job fitting auto glass. I worked for this company for 11 years, in the mean time I met my wife Linda and we had three daughters. We were really young when we got married and struggled along but were very happy.
The war came along and I was called up into the army, first a year and then call-ups from six weeks to three months. I enjoyed army life but didn’t see my family much. I was blown up in a landmine in ’72, my brother-in-law was shot and injured in ’73 and my second brother-in-law was also blown up in a landmine a year or so later. Luckily we were all still alive. My wife and I spoke about moving to Holland for a better future for the kids and ourselves but we just didn’t have the means, we cashed in my pension which was enough to pay for our tickets and sold everything we had for next to nothing.
I flew to Amsterdam three weeks before Linda and the kids, they were 3 , 5 and seven years old, it was the same as my parents had done 22 years earlier but in reverse, with no job or money I stood shaking at the airport , a friend of my dad’s picked me up and took me to his house, from there I quickly found a job in an aluminium plant in the province of Zeeland at the bottom of Holland, Linda and the kids joined me and we rented a house; the company I worked for gave us moving allowance and we slowly built up a new life. It was very hard in the beginning as I only knew a little Dutch and Linda none at all, the kids learnt the language in no time at school and were soon teaching us how to say things.
My dad and mom also came back to Holland a year later as he had to wait to go on pension as then you could take more foreign currency out of Rhodesia, we found a house for him around the corner from us and a little later one of my brothers also moved back to Holland and he also just lived down the road so we were a bit of a family again. My eldest brother left home in 64 and moved to the Copperbelt and from there moved to Canada.
We have now lived in Holland for thirty one years, my children are married, we have 4 grand kids and my parents have passed away, my brother has moved on and now we are nearing pension, that’s if the crisis lets us. We’ve had a good life in Holland watching the kids grow up and since they all left home we’ve done quite a bit of travelling ourselves. Linda’s parents stayed in Zimbabwe and she went back a few times as she was really home-sick for the first few years. I went back with her after about twenty years and have since been back twice, but never to Zambia, and that is something that is still high on our list. we are just waiting for things to take a turn for the better in Zimbabwe.