I was very pleased to get this post as the chairman of the Hottentots Holland High School Committee was Mr “Tommy” Young, who had been principal of the Sea Point Boys’ High School in which I had been educated and who had been a great friend of my parents’. He had retired in 1928 and then gone to live in Somerset West, where he was soon elected to the School Committee. Two of his daughters were in the HHH School. So I was pleased to be able to teach two children of my former teacher.
The HHH School was only two years old when I was taken onto its staff. There were 12 of us and about 250 scholars. The buildings were new, situated just outside Somerset West on the road to The Strand, as at that time it was the high school for both areas. The school was a very progressive one as it had both boys and girls as scholars, at that time a very “advanced” idea for a high school, but was also a bilingual school, each subject being taught in both official languages, except that the Latin classes were all in English and the German classes in Afrikaans. Another thing I like about the school was that each teacher had his own classroom for his subject(s), which meant that he could bring pictures suitable for his subject to hang on the walls and keep books and other teaching aids in his own cupboards. This did mean that the scholars had to get up and change classrooms at the end of every period but, although that did make for a bit of noise as they all had to move along the rather narrow corridors, it meant also that they did not have to sit for a full two- or three-hour stretch without giving their limbs some exercise, which is often conducive to sleepiness!
When I came there in January 1932 the teachers were as follows: Mr D J Ackermann (Principal); Messers P Malherbe (Vice-Principal); Van der Poel; Stadion; Du Toit; Skibe; Groenewoud; Stockenstroom and McGregor; and the Misses Haarhof (in charge of all the girls); Wells-Blake and Smedley-Williams. Of these the ones with whom I had most to do, apart from the Principal, were Miss Wells-Blake, who taught English to the lower classes and Mr Du Toit who, in addition to being the Science teacher, was also in charge of all the sport. I was soon roped in to help with cricket, Rugby and athletics coaching, which I enjoyed greatly. Also Mr Groenewoud became a great friend as he used to give me a lift to and from the school every day and also sometimes to and from Sea Point at the week ends. Mr Stockenstroom, the shortest member of staff, was coach of the Under 15 team, composed of our smallest boys.
In the six years I was on the staff of this school there were not many changes of staff. Miss Haarhof in the second or third year was married to Mr Ackermann and her place was taken by a young man from Stellenbosch University, Mr de Jager, who had specialised in Classics and had been also a member of the Stellenbosch First XV, so he was a great asset in the boys’ sport; he took charge of the school First XV, I had the Under 17 team and Mr Du Toit ceased coaching any Rugby team. Some time later he decided that he wished to concentrate entirely on athletics, so I was given all the cricket.
In my second year in the school I was told that I should teach history as well as English, which pleased me very much. My classes were fairly small, as most of the pupils had their history taught in Afrikaans. Incidentally I was always class teacher for either Std 9 or Std 10; thus I had a class for two years and then was given a new class. I liked this arrangement as it enabled me to know the pupils better.
Soon after Miss Haarhof had become Mrs Ackermann another lady was appointed to the school: Miss Myburgh. I seem to remember that she was appointed because our numbers had grown enough for the school to get an extra teacher. She then took charge of all the girls.
While I lived in Sea Point, Cape, I had joined a Scout troop and became very interested in Scouting. While I was at UCT I was roped in to become a Sea Scoutmaster, of the First Table Bay Sea Scout Troop. I retained this post when I went to Somerset West, as it was arranged that we would have the Troop meeting on Friday evenings and the boat sailing on Saturday afternoons. But a year or so later the committee which ran the Sea Scouts decided that it would suit them better if the boys met on Thursdays, so I resigned from the troop. As soon as this was known in The Strand their Scout Committee asked me if I would help to start a Rover Scout company for The Strand Troop. As there was then no Scout activity in Somerset West itself I had missed my Scouting and was thus very glad to help the Strand troop.
This Rover Company had been started by Mr Dixon who was also the District Commissioner for Scouts, so he needed help. At that time I had no car, so I used to travel to the Strand in the bus which had begun to run between Somerset West and The Strand, chiefly to enable those from the former who wished to go to the cinema, an amenity which had not yet reached Somerset West. This bus used to return to Somerset West when the “bioscope” had ended, usually at about 23h00, which suited me very well. One of the Rovers was named Werdley van der Riet. He was a tall, thin lad and so he soon got the nickname of “Wurm”. He was easily the best of all my Rovers. When war broke out in 1939 he was one of the first to join up. He served with distinction in Abyssinia (where he was commissioned), then as an officer in Italy and then in North Africa. He was then promoted to Major. After the war he elected to remain in the Defence Force where he rose rapidly to become a General. Unfortunately after several years of very fine service he died in 1976.