Robert Plain

Would I visit again? Never! I prefer to have good memories of Northern Rhodesia.

Zambia is not the same and can never be. What we had was so special but it could never last. We were all just pawns used to enrich people abroad with serious money to make more money for themselves. In 1964 they and others in power abroad decided that handing power over to people who a hundred years before were a few locals roaming the bush, living a simple life, was a good idea. The natives were illiterate, hungry, had no use for money and did no real harm until explorers and missionaries came along to exploit the mineral resources and convert locals to Christianity.

A Personal Experience of Northern Rhodesia 1950 to 1965

My name is Robert Plain usually known as Bob Plain. My mother and father, Andrew Plain & Elizabeth Copeland were married in North Berwick, Scotland back in the 1930’s I know this for sure as I have a copy of their birth and marriage certificates which I had to get following being cleaned out by burglars one night while I was out of the property. In 1965 following being made redundant as a result of Africanization by Bancroft Copper Mines I needed a new British passport to replace that had been stolen so I could leave Zambia to travel to Britain.

Mum & Dad immigrated to South Africa under the 1820 settler’s scheme some time in 1937 and finished up in Port Elizabeth. We lived in and around Forest Hill, Port Elizabeth and my father Andy worked as a Plumber. I was born on the 12th of March 1943. At an early age it soon become apparent I was a wanderer. Often I was found in a Luna Park across town fascinated by the rides. My mother had to sew my name & address onto my clothing so that a kind Nanny could bring me back home for a reward, usually a Tickey or so.

I spoke Afrikaans before English, which caused my mum the occasional problem as she didn’t speak Afrikaans. The problem was easily solved as the neighbours- who were Afrikaans and bilingual they acted as interpreters when needed. Now I can’t speak Afrikaans although I do know a bit.

I was reared on KLIM as there was no baby food available. My brother also Andrew Plain was born on the 25th of July 1946. I can’t recall what he was like until he was older.

In 1946 or so my father secured a job a plumber with Rhodesia Railways in Bulawayo and we moved to Southern Rhodesia the same year. We lived in rented accommodation in and around Bulawayo I remember living in Saurestown & Queens Park before moving to Broken Hill in about 1949/50.

My first recollections of Broken Hill were living in a wood and iron house on the corner of Fourth Street & Central Avenue in the Railway Camp. While at this address my grandparents on my father’s side came out to live with us, Granddad Plain loved it, Granny Plain did not and they left after about six months. They flew out to us and arrived by Flying Boat on the Zambezi. We met them at the Flying Boat station by the side of the Zambezi and travelled back to Broken Hill, probably by train (cheap staff travel) It did take a while as the trains were not renowned for their punctuality in those days and it was not uncommon for the mail train to be a day or so late.

Granny Plain had an aversion for water- bath water that is. She would get the servants to heat up the bath water in square 5 gallon paraffin tins on the old “Welcome Dover” stove in the kitchen and when heated carry it in the same 5 gallon paraffin tins to the bath room which was on the veranda on the other side of the house, pouring the contents into the bath. Granny Plain would make the appropriate noises and when it was time, would drain the contents of the bath straight onto the void below the house (no water borne sewage in those days), then emerge from the bathroom almost as smelly as she was before sent went into the bathroom. I don’t think she ever had a proper bath.

We moved house many times, after the wood and iron house on the corner of Fourth Street we moved a few doors nearer the Railway Station. At this address I became friendly with the Keany family, Jennifer, Denise & Brian. I was also friendly with Copper the Ludick from across the road.

As a group of 6 or 7 year old boys on one hot afternoon while playing with the garden hose pipe we got somewhat damp and our cloths became a hindrance to the fun. No problem off with the cloths and on with the mud. As we all know at that age boys and girls were quite active at that age and we were no exception. Covered only in mud it seemed like a good idea to run as a group along Fourth Street, so we did, no one was offended, our parents even took a few photos, sadly they have disappeared into history.

I was still a wanderer and when the LUNA PARK was in town they would set up shop by the railway line near the church and the railway crossing into downtown Broken Hill. I could usually be found sitting on a horse or a car on the roundabout.

In the early 1950’s two circuses used to come to town on their own train “Boswells” & Wilkies”. They had all the usual acts and animals, lions, elephants, horses and daring trapeze acts. Both circuses used to erect their tent in the same place as the Luna Park. “Boswells” was the best, the children Ioved the clowns in particular “Tickey” was their favourite. Do some of you remember the “crazy car” what a laugh that was. In later years the Luna Park and the circus use to use the a bit of ground on the left just going north out of town near the 1 mile peg on the great north road.

While Dad “worked” as a plumber in the works yard for the Railways. When I say Dad “worked” I mean employed as he was hardly ever around as he travelled up and down the line assisting the maintenance of the provision of water supply facilities for steam locomotives at various small points within 150 miles of Broken Hill. The water supply points usually were just a railway crossing with maybe a small station run by a station foremen assisted by a platelayer and a pump attendant plus enough labourers to do the heavy work., The hamlets were there so that the Loco’s could top up their water supply every 20 miles or so. Normally there was a siding which had a metal water tower with a square steel water tank on top which gravity fed the water to a water column. When on the line Dad usually had the use of a “Caboose” which was a sort of home on wheels and comprised sleeping, eating and cooking facilities. The “Caboose” came with a cook boy which was just as well as I never saw Dad cook anything. If there were quarters for visiting staff I.e. a tin shack or rondaval at the side of the railway line with cooking facilities nearby and the Caboose was not sent out and Dad would travel in the guards van to where he was needed. Dad supervised the same gang of boys who did all the work Dad just kept an eye on them when he was sober and when he wasn’t they carried on anyway and got the job done. There was always a friendly Indian store nearby that supplied adequate quantities of food, drink and other basic items. The water came from various sources such as rivers and boreholes not too far away. Occasionally Drew & I would accompany Dad to where he was stationed at the time, once the whole family stayed in tents near the railway station in Mazabuka for a week or two. It never seemed to stop raining and we were flooded more than once, all we could do was pile up earth round the tents to stop the ground water coming into the tents. Of course the facilities were non existent, beds were canvas and wooden folding camp beds and washing ourselves and cleaning eating and cooking equipment was down in a folding canvas and wooden sink. Lighting was provided by hurricane lamps. The permanent residents of Mazabuka had the easy life proper houses with a lounge, dining room, Bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and toilet, lighting Tilley Lamps, cooking, a wood stove.

I went to Broken Hill Infant, the Covent and Broken Hill primary schools. My time at the convent was short and the reason I went there was I was being bullied while at Broken Hill Primary School. After my spell at the Convent School I returned to Broken Hill Primary, beat up the bully and after that everything was fine.

While living in Fourth Street we moved a few doors down the road on the side of the road before moving to a house in Second Street, while there I could help but notice Dad would argue with Mum when he got back from the golf club drunk and on one occasion he beat Mum up after which she Drew & I went to the Police Station late that night, they Police officer asked Mum if she wanted my Dad charged but she didn’t so the situation got worse instead of better. On my ninth birthday my birthday cake was showed into Mums face by Dad, that was my last birthday celebration. A short wile later we moved with Mum & Dad to a new house in Metcalf Avenue it was a nice house being on a corner so we could get second helping of sweets from “Father Christmas” (Roy Welensky).

I was not a particularly good student and was surprised when in about 1955 it was decided to send Drew & me to “Muir College” Boarding School in Uitenhage. The same year Mum Drew & I travelled down to Uitenhage to see if we would like the school and they would accept us Mum was interviewed by the headmaster Mr Skilicorn and we were offered places there starting the following year. In January 1956 we travelled down to Uitenhage with our father and all our gear. Drew & I had a roaring business selling “Dinky” cars which were not in the shops in town. We travelled back by train after six months for our first school holiday, I was really looking forward to seeing mum & dad and telling all about our great adventure. When the train arrived in Broken Hill some at about 2 am four days later we peered out of the carriage window keen to see our parents. Mum was there Dad was not but there was a strange man standing next to Mum. To cut a long story short Mum and Dad had split up and the strange man was our new dad. I was devastated while I knew Dad treated Mum badly this was totally unexpected.

The separation of Mum & Dad had big effect on my behaviour at Muir College. I was always up to things I shouldn’t be up to. Bunking off church on some Sunday evenings. Nicking fruit. Getting into the roof of the main school building and worse. After bunking church on Sunday getting back into the dormitory was sometimes a challenge as the schoolmaster in charge of the would check the boys came back to school in the right group, if one had bunked off one would have to climb up the drain pipe to get back into the communal bathroom area, dust off the white paint from our best Sunday best clothes and scramble into bed in the dormitory just before the head count. The schoolmaster knew I and others sometimes bunked church from time to time but he could not prove it as we always had a plausible story about the other church we went to when questioned.

Travel to and Muir College was by train and each one way trip took four days each way. To boarding school, first by Rhodesia Railways to Bulawayo, leaving Broken Hill in the dead of the night and arriving in Bulawayo about mid morning a day and a half later where we had to change to South African Railways. South African Railways always put on a couple of old coaches for us as some of the boys were somewhat wild and boisterous and on occasions damaged the coaches I.e. ripping the compartment door off it’s hinges. Piggy Wright from Choma was particularly mad as he would climb out of the compartment window and into the compartment next door while the train was on the move. On one trip our compartment door was ripped off its hinges it was not us but we got the blame anyway. It was cold and the blanket across the open door offered little security or warmth. We continued our journey but at Kimberly the SAR decided we had to be moved to another coach, which delayed the train and instead of the usual route we travelled via Bloemfontein”what a dump”. At the time it was the South African winter and there was a dusting of snow on the ground as we travelled across the veldt towards Port Elizabeth.

The return trip to Broken Hill started by taxi to Uitenhage Station, where we would buy Peter Stuyvesant or Rothmans cigarettes for the journey back home. The journey to Port Elizabeth took about an hour where we changed to the train to Bulawayo. We did get a small cardboard box of sandwiches and hard boiled eggs each which were usually finished by the time we were 30 miles from Port Elizabeth. We ate in the Dinning Car for the rest of the journey. The food was always good and the service excellent. On the return journey the train would stop for long periods at places in Bechuanaland. This was great fun as we would heat up pennies with a candle before tossing them out to the Picanins begging at the carriage windows. We sometimes bought Night Apes but they always escaped, where they went is still a mystery. The train usually arrived in Bulawayo in the early evening of day two and we would have to lug all our gear trough the Customs Hall where it was checked and a large white chalk cross or tick made on our luggage. The Rhodesia Railways train north left later the same evening and we crossed the at Victoria Falls railway bridge the following morning. While crossing the falls bridge many of the green leather bolsters were consigned to the bottom of the gorge as the train crossed the bridge. In late1956 and early 1957 the Africans had begun sabotaging the railways lines by removing sections of railway track resulting in derailed goods trains, many of which we saw as we crawled by on the temporary track past the wrecked train.

Drew & I left Muir College after two years as Mum & Stan could not afford the fees anymore and I think I was getting close to expulsion. When we returned to Broken Hill we lived for a short while in temporary mine accommodation opposite the Broken Hill Mine near the Big Hole before moving to 16 Malota Avenue in the railway camp. We stayed here for a number of years.



Broken Hill Mine & the Big Hole.

To those who knew of Broken Hill will recall there was a Lead, Zinc, Vanadium and Silver mine there. I’m sure it’s changed a lot since the 1950s

As children we found the mine very interesting and fun, one of our activities was to make “Canoes” out of 4 x 8 sheets of corrugated iron, tar and scrap wood, the end result was an extremely leaky and unstable vessel, which at a pinch could accommodate two mad kids. We used to attempt to sail the canoes in the tailings canal just outside the mine. What fun! The boats always capsized and the occupants deposited in the nasty toxic waste material, we didn’t care and I don’t think it would do us any harm.

The surface plant itself was a dirty & dangerous place best avoided.

We found the Big Hole irresistible, a few brave souls attempted to climb along what was left of the path down to a tunnel about fifty or so feet below ground level, I don’t think anyone ever went all the way down to the tunnel though. I never even tried – I was too scared.

The whole area had a unique odour, probably fumes drifting across from the surface plant on the other side of the railway line. The waste material was all around the big hole, contained fascinating rocks, & crystals, oh how I wish I’d kept some crystals.
Broken Hill Aerodrome.

We did have an air service to and from Broken Hill in the form of a Central African Airways single engine De Havilland “Beaver” which would land each day at about 15.30. Usually the freight was day old chicks. When we heard a plane a bunch of us would mount our trusty bicycles and race at great speed from the Railway camp to the aerodrome to see the aeroplane. I don’t recall ever getting there before the plane but we always got there before it took off again.

My mother Betsy who worked for “Beasley’s” sometimes used the air service when on buying trips. This made Drew & me very proud as our mum must have been very important to be flown about the country on business.

On the land around the airstrip one could find indentations made by large planes in years past, I thought they were made during the Second World War, as in the very early days there was a search light tower near the spot where the Luna Park & Boswells set up shop near the Railway Station.
The Railways

As a railway kid living in the railway camp I knew the loco sheds, shunting yard, station, works yard and railway camp well. I still have pictures of these places in my mind.

Andy my Dad worked in the works yard as a plumber although a lot of the time he was out on the line, maintaining pumping stations and erecting water storage tanks for the locos at various locations between Kafue, Broken Hill and N’dola. Drew & I visited him on occasions, once when he was working at a place called “Kafulafuta” or something like that. He did not seem to do much except boss the gang up and get drunk in the evening. While there Dad became ill and he had to drive back to Broken Hill Hospital in the black Ford popular. It was I ride not to be forgotten, Dads vision was impaired and negotiating the narrow tarmac road 60 mile or so back to town while avoiding crashing into the lumbering Central African Road Services (C.A.R.S) lorries trundling up and down the narrow tar road was hair raising. We got to the hospital ok and Dad was admitted – Malaria! and pretty bad at that, but he pulled through. Drew & I were none the worse for wear but this was our last trip on the line with Dad.
Roy Welensky

Roy Welensky used to dress up as Father Christmas each year and hand out Christmas presents to the railway children at the Railway Club. We all knew it was not really Father Christmas but the presents were always welcome as were the sweets.

I was friendly with Roy Welensky’s brothers’ family who lived in Second Street as did the Ludicks and their crested cranes. Can any of you remember seeing these magnificent birds wandering along Central Avenue?
The Old Slaughter House

There was a large area of land between the Railway Camp and the older mine houses us kids found interesting. As the Old Slaughter house was there. As curious kinds who loved to go out early in the mornings on our bicycles for the morning’s adventure quite often we would go to the Slaughter house sit on the wall and watch the Cattle being slaughtered. I know some may find this activity macabre but that’s what some kids do. Anyway the beast would be brought into the slaughter area, a pistol put to its head between the eyes and the animal shot. Simultaneously the beast’s throat was cut to drain the blood. After this the animal was turned on its back or side and the internal organs including the smelly bag of pooh. The pooh still in the bag was placed on a wheelbarrow and taken away to have the contents washed away. The process was quite smelly of course. I think the Cattle knew that when they reached the holding Penn of the slaughter house their number was up.

In the same area there was a small caved in area, which was fenced off to prevent the likes of us hurting ourselves. It wasn’t very deep and seemed to have a hole on the side at the bottom which may have led to underground workings. None of us ever climbed down the hole though. Maybe someone remembers this cave in and where the hole led to. If they do please let me know.
The Cinemas, Mine Club & Swimming Pool

As I was a Railway kid most of my friends were from the same environment but we did fraternise with the Mine & Government kids. Drew & I got our pocket money of 1 shilling each week, which was to us anyway a lot of money. On Saturday mornings Drew me and a group of others would venture across the railway line to the old mine club as they had a matinee that day. Oh what fun watching Zorro & Tonto, Lash Laroo, Roy Rogers, the three Stooges and many others. We sat at the front of the cinema so that when it came to the interval we could be first with the comic swapping, it’s strange someone else’s comic’s always seemed better than the ones we had – Grass is greener on the other side until you realise from the other persons view it’s greener on your side. We also attended functions at the mine club can’t remember what it doesn’t matter really at the time they were worth the effort. Once I slipped in the mine club and got a large splinter in my hand, WOW did it hurt everyone was so concerned and kind and I was soon as good as new.

Near the Mine club and the old cinema there was another large hole opposite where the swimming pool was built in the early 1950’s. The hole was quite frightening as it contained all sorts of nasty things. Thankfully it was filled in before the swimming pool was completed. Once the pool was complete it became a popular venue for all the kids to be seen at. It did not open to the kid until the outside temperature had cooled and the water was round 72c F. A Tickey got us through the turnstile before rushing off to the boys or girls changing rooms to change into our “Cozzies”. I learnt to swim there being taught by Mr Kelly who was everything the Life Saver Pool Attendant etc etc. After a while we would get our pennies together and visit the tuck shop, my favourites were sherbet and the strips of liquorice which I would carefully separate into each stand so as to savour each morsel. I was quite a good swimmer and competed in the school gala’s which always seemed to be won by one of the Kelly kids which when you think about it is not surprising really as they were the children of the man who ran everything there plus they were good, very good indeed.

Some years later the new cinema was built a short distance away. What a fine place it was any place that boasted the name of “Vistarama” had to be special. They had afternoon matinee’s which the children enjoyed, do you remember “Gigi” I do, at the time I was soft on a young lady (dawn Crabb) who lived in the mine camp. The cinema was ever so posh, upstairs bar and everything. In the evening one was expected to dress smartly wearing tie and at least a blazer. Once evening, Drew and I went to see the “King and I” with Mum & Stan. I think Stan would rather have been in the bar as he kept falling asleep only to be woken by some nutter in the film banging a huge brass gong.
Broken Hill Railway Club

The Railway Club and the Bowling Club and Railway football ground were all situated off Fourth Street near the Railway Station opposite the Railway Surgery

The Railway Club was a grand building containing a Library, Large lounge cum dance floor, Snooker room, Men’s bar and large verandah facing the clay tennis courts. Waiter service everywhere except in Men’s bar. Roy Welensky alias Father Christmas handed out Christmas presents to us in the library around Christmas time prior to age 10 or so, our names would be called out and we went up to meet Father Christmas to get our presents which were usually just what we wanted (how did he know all this?).

On Saturday or Sunday evenings there was usually social evening at the club, they were popular with everyone. The ladies usually stayed in the lounge, smoking, drinking, gossiping and dancing with the single men. Most of the ladies husbands headed for and stayed in the men’s bar. I think it was here that Stan first met Mum but I’m not sure. Kids played outside, climbing the Frangipani trees, letting off steam or causing chaos on the station “platform”. We also had “Braai’s” in 45 gallon drums in the club grounds. At the sun downer dances music was supplied by the “Works Clerk” from the works yard, I think he played a saxophone and his wife played some sort of organ & drums, I think his name was Sid Mace, I’m not 100% sure, they were quite good and enjoyed by all. In later years they could be seen playing in the “Elephants Head” hotel.

Both the snooker room and the clay tennis courts were popular. The men played snooker and the ladies played tennis.

The bowling club was quieter and popular with the older folk. They had their own clubhouse and two bowling greens I recall, sometimes we would watch them play rolling their balls to as close to the jacks as they could. Couldn’t see what they saw in the game but they were all quite serious about the game and competition was always fierce.

The football ground also had a rugby pitch; mostly it was football with teams from all about playing against each other. Once Stanley Matthews visited, he gave us an exhibition of his dribbling skills. What skilful player he was I have never seen such a good dribbler since! At football matches the crowd sat on the two or three movable stands and shouted their lungs out supporting the team of their choice. Not much rugby was played at the football ground. The venue was also used for important events. At these events the Police Band was usually there strutting their stuff, of course there was a bar where much lager was drunk. Once my friend and I were there drinking and we befriended two girls who lived not far from where we did. As the evening wore on and the alcohol took its effect the girls became more and more attractive so we went off to the park between Second and Third Streets and had a kiss and a cuddle. My girl had buck teeth but I did not notice this until next day when she and her friend called round our house. We were so embarrassed by their plainness, the girls who appeared to be keen on us, we were not! My friend and I got rid of them as quick as we could.


Broken Hill notes

School chums Copper Ludick, Nigel Westley, Brian Kearny, Kenny Long, Trevor Hollow, Mike Hartley, Mike Fitzpatrick,

The Girls Jennifer Kearny Veronica De Swart, Dawn Crabb

16 Malota Avenue

As teenager a group of us visited Mulungushi at the weekend on a number of occasions, usually transport was provided by kind grown ups or a grown up, or we just hitch hiked there and back. The journey to and from Mulungushi was an important part of our visits as the road being dirt and a bit windy, the car or truck we were travelling in would slip and slide in the fine sand in some places, can’t recall any accidents though. We enjoyed seeing the old steam traction engines that had been abandoned in the bush just off the road.

The canal was the main attraction; we usually parked on the large short grass area about 200 yards up from the safety chain where the canal flowed into the pipes down to the power station at the bottom of the gorge. On arrival we would strip off get our Cozzies on and jump into the swiftly flowing water of the canal and try to swim against the current, waste of time it was just too strong but oh what fun we had.

Once some of us took the opportunity to go down to the power station on the Skip; scary or what, the gorge was quite deep and the Skips path down was very steep.

Mulungushi village itself was quite pleasant; seeing the rambling mine houses in bone dry gardens that stood along the avenue of distempered tees that lined the rocky and dusty road.

In later years Ma & Stan lived in Lunsemfwa where Stan worked on the power station and Drew & I hitch hiked as far a Mulungushi village, telephoned our parents in Lunsemfwa and asked to picked up which of course we were; problem was that when we telephoned the car was being worked on by Stan who was going on shift later that day, Stan put the car back together and Mum collected us, good old Ma, she had not driven for years but she managed the trip there and back without incident.
People I remember

Mr Bell. The Dentist I think he was Australian and had his practice near Radio Limited. Mr Bell was a bit of a butcher and sometimes would do work that did not need doing. I recall that when I applied to join the Royal Rhodesian Air Force he filed in 16 of my teeth. Needless to say while I passed the entry exams I failed the Medical “Bilhazia” next time I applied I passed the medical and failed the exam instead. So I joined the Railways instead
Teachers at King George V1 High School.

Mr Wright taught English but he did it in a different way. Sometimes he would sit on the top of his desk with folded legs a yoga like position and proceed with the lesson from there. He would also get us to make a short poem on the spot from a different word he gave us, the results were hilarious. Once he asked each of us to pretend out chair was the driver’s seat of our car, we had to open the car door, start the car and drive off, as most of us had never driven a car the results. were most interesting. One day he taught us the Siamese National Anthem ‘Oh Wa Ta Are Siam’

Oh by the way he was a dam good teacher as well!!

Mr Wykes was our science teacher. He thought well of me and even gave me a reference when I left school which stated I would make a good Tradesman. I will never know if it was true as work was scarce when I left school and I finished up as clerk in the goods office in N’dola. However I do seem to be able to make simple wooden articles from wood that other people throw out.

Mr Nightingale was our Geography & RI teacher. He was a kind religious lanky man who accompanied us with Mrs Mc Kormick on a flying trip in a Hunting Clan DC3 to Kariba.

Doc Hollow was the headmaster at King George the V1 High School. We used to meet quite often in his office where I would be told off for doing something bad. Following this I got the cane usually three or more strokes.

Mrs Kormick was a straight laced lady who was not one of my teachers but she would march around school telling us off for whatever reason she could think of in addition if we were spotted by her in town in our school uniforms after school hours Doc Hollow would be informed.

Dudley Garner was a close friend and he was very popular with the girls. I do not know what became of him.

Nigel Westley was also a close friend while I lived in Fourth Street. I think his father was a Handyman on the Railways. Nigel’s father died suddenly and he moved back to the UK with his mother. Again I do not know what became of him. Nigel had a Brother Bernard who stayed on and became well known for motor cycle racing.

Kenny Long was a scallywag and led me astray after I returned to Broken Hill after leaving “Muir College”

Trevor Hollow was Doc Hollow’s son and we used to go camping with other chums each year at a farm dam about 15 miles from Broken Hill

Copper Ludick also lived on Fourth Street when I did and he also went to Muir College

Mike Hartley was another railway kid who came camping with Trevor and a few other chums each year. Mike moved to Lusaka and I would hitch hike down to stay with him and his family on the odd occasion. Mum was never asked if I could go but was always informed somehow and she would get what I need to me in good time. Mike I went fishing quite a lot. When we stayed in Kafue he also lived there and we spent many happy days fishing near the Kafue Railway Bridge. Of course we did not have our own boat but were always able to use a small punt in return for the Barbel we caught. Often we would fish just off one of the floating Islands and on one occasion two Hippo’s appeared to let us know that we were parked across their access to the isle land. It’s amazing how fast one can paddle away in a tiny punt when confronted bay an angry Hippo.

Mike Fitzpatrick another railway kid enjoyed fishing and came camping with the gang each year.

Brian Kearney was the brother of the first girl I had an intimate friendship with. She showed me what to do when I was seven.

I can’t remember them all but I do remember.

Veronica De Swart another railway kid lived more or less opposite our house in Malota Avenue. Veronica was a very pretty girl but an awful tease.

Dawn Crabb was a mine camp girl. I was very keen on her and would spend time with her at her house after school. We went to see “Gigi” together
Muir College, Uitenhage

Drew and I were despatched to boarding school when Mum and Dad decided to part company. We were only there for two years. I was always up to something naughty and Mr Skilicorn the headmaster & I saw great deal of each other. As Uitenhage was four days travel by train from Broken Hill we only travelled home twice a year during the long school holidays. The train trips were very interesting and those of you who have wondered where the green leather bolsters from the compartments disappeared to, a lot flew out of the carriage windows as the train crossed the Victoria Falls Railway Bridge. For the shorter Holidays we would either stay on a school or if we were lucky were invited to school chums homes during the holidays I remember staying with a Jewish chum in Addo and other times with chums near Port Elizabeth.
Chicken, Monkey Nuts and Mealies

Can you remember how fresh chicken was in Northern Rhodesia in the 1950’s?

I can! Chicken was usually found scratching around in the dusty garden. If one wanted chicken for dinner that day the cook boy would chase after the best one and cut it’s head off with a kitchen knife, sometimes they carried on running around the garden headless, once the reluctant meal was re-caught and de-feathered and gutted before it was taken into the kitchen to be cooked, they always tasted good. Once while on school holiday from Muir College Drew and I were playing amongst the Mealies near an African Village not far from the mine camp and after rummaging about amongst the Mealies and Monkey Nuts we pinched a tiny chicken each and took them home to keep with the chickens our Mum’s friend who were staying with at the time. Into the chicken run they went and scratched around on the ground with all the other chickens there. A few days later off to boarding school we went, completely forgetting our feathered friends. About 6 months later while back from boarding school we had chicken for lunch one Sunday. When we had finished our meal we were told we had just eaten the chickens we had nicked on our last visit.

Monkey Nuts

Could be found underground at the base of the Mealie plants. We used to get into the Mealie plots near a native village, dig them up and eat them there and then, tasted ok and never gave one stomach ache.


The best ones were pinched form the Mealie plots. One would pull the Mealies off the stalk peel back the leaf’s and pull off as much of the hairy bits as we could and eat the raw there and them delicious!




Most of the Africans lived in villages in the bush and those working in town, the government, the railways or the mine lived in their employer’s compounds. Domestic servants usually lived in a Kia to the rear of their employers rented house. The Mine Compound was huge and straddled both sides of the road a few miles outside Broken Hill. I never ventured into the Mine Compound. The Railway Compound was also large and not far from where we lived in Metcalf Avenue. I did venture into the Railway Compound on a number of occasions and I would play quite happily with the kids about my age. Due to mixing with blacks being frowned on in time I ceased mixing with the African kids in the Railway Compound. Like most other Europeans we had domestic servants who lived in the Kia in the corner of the back garden. Quite often I would visit them in their humble abode and share their evening meal and evening with them. I was always made very welcome and even got the impression it did not matter to them that I was white, so much so that on occasion I felt that having intimate friendship with single African girls was ok so long as I was not caught or suspected of doing so, at the time I did not for fear of reprisals from white racists.


Most Europeans lived in either their respective employer’s camps i.e. the mine camp, the railway camp or the government, commercial camp. At the time most Europeans appeared to be kind and caring towards their African employee’s but the races did not mix much with each other, which is a pity as had the races mixed more maybe things would have turned out different in future.

Mixed Race.

Sadly, I can not recall any “Coloured” people in Broken Hill but I know there were a few there.


Most Asians were shopkeepers. Best remembered was Mr D H Patel who had a large shop on “Broadway” I remember the day he opened for business sweets and balloons for all the kids oh what a day that was! Another Asian I remember was Mr Solanki who had a little tailoring shop not far from the Big Tree. We sometimes made fun of him, which was cruel. After all he was simply going about his business and did not harm anyone and as I recall was a good tailor. As usual the Asians had their own residential area which included the Hindu Temple and cinema. I never visited the temple but did visit the cinema occasionally. The films were most interesting as the good bits were in colour while the boring bits were in black & white

Bunking off school, when I returned to Broken Hill I went to King George the V1 High School and Kenny Long & I would visit Leopard Rock some seven miles or so from Broken Hill as we did this quite often in fact Kenny & I bunked off school for six weeks once but were found out when Doc Hollow contacted our parents to enquire where we were. Of course we got the cane

Running away from home, once Kenny & I decided to run away and live off the land around “Leopard Rock” I pinched Stan’s 2.2 rifle and a supply of ammunition and cycled off to Leopard Rock, Kenny never showed so in the afternoon I returned home to face the music.

Air Gun Fights, most of my chums had Air rifles and we used to cycle to a disused brickfield excavation and proceed to try to shoot each other with real pellets, luckily we kept our distance and as a result no one got hurt.

Smoking, started at an early age my Mum was the unwitting principal supplier of my cigarettes and when I had the money I would by what I needed from the little Kiosk near the “Third & Fourth Class” waiting room at Broken Hill Station, Usually I had to make do with “Tip Top, Tom Tom or Ok” cigarettes.

Drinking and African Beer.

Tried it once, No thanks I preferred “Lion or Castle. I was very good with alcohol did not start drinking until the age of sixteen or so and then only in moderation. Ma & Stan used to make Mango wine in wooden barrels from Umtali we would dip in the wine on occasion. Once evening Drew’s chum Tommy Alder had more than he should have. We got found out when Ma & Stan returned later the same evening while Drew and I were trying to sober Tommy up in a cold bath. Nearly killed the poor chap. Tommy never drank alcohol again.
Shops, Hotels, Clubs, Bars & garages

Beasley’s, was on Broadway more or less opposite the big tree Ma was some sort of manager there.

Holdsworths Chemists, Hislops Butchery, Broken Hill Cycle Works, Mehta Brothers, Sterns Bookshop, Radio Limited, Railway Club, Mine Club, Masonic, Moth, RAOB, Luwensemfwa Club, Boons Bar, Elephants Head Hotel, Seven Mile Motel, Kapiri Mphosi Hotel, Procter’s Garage, Moresby Whites

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