Dear Mr de Beer,
Thank you for the kind invitation to visit my old school again. And please accept my deep regrets: I have been working in Malawi for a month now and am finding that travel in Africa can be very time consuming, expensive, and arduous; plus, “I am an old man,” who must return home shortly.
Instead I shall share some of the remembrances I have of my days at Whitestone over sixty years ago (c. 1950-52). I was there at the time of Elizabeth II’s Coronation (my sister and I were invited, but, two small children, weeks of travel during schooltime, for a few hours of pomp and ceremony? We did not go, the precedent for today.)
I remember the School was located far out from Bulawayo, in the middle of wilderness shared only by a few indigenous farmers. The property was vast, and wondrous. I remember a game of “ball tag” we played on weekends, where players ranged over the whole property. I remember one player running up a path, cresting a hill, and confronting a mamba basking in the sun only twenty feet away. The surprised serpent spat, striking him on the forehead, luckily not in his eyes directly. But the boy’s face swoll so badly he could hardly see for a fortnight.
I remember swimming matches in the outdoor pool; cricket matches in the lower field, where hitting a four might mean prolonged foraging in the bushes. I remember experiments in altered consciousness-a boy hyperventilating and holding his breathe while another boy squeezed his chest. The player swooned to the ground and soon awoke filled with hilarity (this game was quickly banned, but never forgotten).
I remember cub scout ceremonies in the midst of the veld, which stimulated me to climb a mountain here yesterday! I remember long conversations in trees. I remember when a new chapel was being built, a black cobra fell into the excavation, and was stoned to death by the boys. They paraded the corpse back to school in triumph to be placed in the museum. Is the snake still there, preserved in formaldehyde?
I remember so many other events and impressions from those many decades ago. One thing I do NOT remember however, is the names of my teachers, or of my classmates, save one. I could not find these on your website and wonder if the school kept records from that far back. I can still see some faces, but no names. I would be grateful to see those names again, if you have any records. I am sure I would recognize some of them.
Anyway, I imagine that Bulawayo has grown apace, even to the gates of Whitestone, and that what was once unspoiled wilderness is now a modern suburb. But I shall not be able to see for myself. I hope you, or the school’s website will eventually reveal more.
Once again please accept my deep regrets, and gratitude for your invitation.