by Carol Ava
Thoughts and memories of the 1960's in Apartheid South Africa
|1960 was my favourite decade: These were my childhood and teenage years and I was cloistered in a bubble of wondrous oblivion.
Sharpville, the Rivonia trial, forced removals, banning of the ANC and PAC might well have happened on another planet! My world was one of joie de vivre!
Our dads all had jobs and moms were at home taking care of the children, cooking, baking and sewing.
There were no TVs, and we went about our merry lives blissfully unaware, and blinkered.
We walked, or cycled to school, roller skated in the streets played hop-scotch, cowboys and crooks, marbles, yo-yo’s and hula hoop. We roamed our neighbourhoods with freedom and in safety; built tree houses, soap box carts and kites to fly on windy days.
Forgetting to lock cars and doors at night presented no problem. Assaults and robberies were so rare that they made headline news.
Giving lifts to strangers was a courtesy and a breakdown in your car would elicit help in no time. People were perceived as kind, respectful and patient.
Doctors made house calls and would offer words of reassurance, whilst neighbours would proffer homemade soup and cookies.
The ethos of the day was “if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well” so quality and excellence were the norm. Appliances and motor vehicles were built to last whilst services were regulated to meet high standards.
I remember trips by train to Johannesburg and admiring the tall skyscrapers, manicured parks and clean swept pavements.
Men wore smart suits and ties and women were elegantly dressed and coiffed with bouffant hairstyles, strutting in their stiletto heels.
Later Mary Quant, and Twiggy emblazoned the magazine covers and hairstyles became sleeker, skirts became Mini and “Hotpants” all the rage.
The glitter and glam of Johannesburg at night to visit “His Majesty’s”, “the Coliseum” and “Panorama” to see “Lawrence of Arabia”, “My Fair Lady”, and “Sound of Music” were unforgettable experiences.
We also went to matinees at our local cinema. I remember seeing “Pollyanna” “The Swiss Family Robinson”, “That Darn Cat” and “Mary Poppins.”
Books and magazines were scrupulously examined by grey-haired spinsters and men of the cloth and relegated to the “banned” list if found to be risqué.
Sex before marriage was taboo.“Shotgun weddings” were scandalous and unmarried couples were said to be “living in sin.” Prostitution, gays and lesbians were virtually unheard of.
Things were defined as black or white in more ways than one. This was a time of naivety at its best.
For entertainment our parents would take us for picnics, and visits to the zoo or library. We went “window shopping” at night when the shops were closed?! And afterwards we would stop off at the road house for milkshakes.
On Friday nights we were allowed to listen to the wireless and sometimes we would go to the Drive-In theatre and take along a picnic basket for supper.
Friends and neighbours were always welcome. Grown-ups would visit and play card games, or put on music and try out the latest dance moves: the Twist, Jive and Locomotion.
Children were encouraged to play sport purely for exercise and enjoyment. We tried your best and accepted defeat graciously. There was no pressure; no designer labels, and sports brands were limited so nobody felt inferior or superior.
Teachers were strict and corporal punishment ensured discipline and respect. Smoking or drinking alcohol was a serious offense and drugs were unheard of!
When I turned 14 I went to Speech and Drama, Ballroom dancing, tennis and swimming training.
In High School we had debates in our history class, were introduced to “The Goons”; read Shakespeare under a big oak tree; and were bussed to Johannesburg to watch “Macbeth”, “A Man for All Seasons” and “Dr Zhivago”.
We participated in the annual school plays: rehearsed lines, slopped paint on sets, donned costumes and learned to apply stage make-up.
On Saturday nights we went to “Happy Teens” a club run with strict adult supervision or we went to home parties. Bands played the latest hits and we danced to the music of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Cilla Black and Petula Clark.
We relished teen magazines with all the latest gossip and pinned posters on our bedroom walls.
For our holidays we went to Margate: a popular holiday destination with hotels that went all out to cater for young adults.
They organised Beauty Pageants, Dances, Talent Contests, and Beach Sports. We would all congregate at the “Palm Grove” to listen to Dickie Loade and “The Blue Jeans.”
But all too soon, my favourite decade came to an end. And like the title of one of their hit songs, “Sea of heartbreak” the 70’s arrived in a wave, flooding my wondrous oblivion, as the realities of “Apartheid” could no longer be denied.