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Many families in South Africa have long and proud histories. Find them here!

Thelma Becks

Thelma Jane Becks (Symons) (nee Fisher)                                 1924 to date 2008

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Speke House

 

RESUME rather than BIOGRAPHY

 

Having read Edone (Monkton) Petherams biography, graphic indeed, covering a wonderful life to date (her sister Mona was senior  to me at Girls High School), I felt the urge to submit an article, having had encouragement to do so from my two nieces, Penny and Moira (Symons) also Girls High School scholars.  The focus of this feature is mainly on family as opposed to self, they are my life.

 

I attended Girls High School 1936-1940. Cambridge had just been adopted vice SA Matric. Many years later I was privileged to hold office as President Old Girls Guild for a few years during 1950/60, followed by the late Janet Robinson.  I resigned enceinte, aged 38, 1962. My son Ivor arrived that year, followed by Gerard 1966, after Independence the previous year.

 

Valued friendships emerged not only from schooldays but from association with OGG. I do miss contact with members many of whom became friends..

After this rather choppy introduction to phase one Id like to mention the impact                     Silkie Form III, had on my writing ability! She constantly reminded me NOT to split the infinitive, but habit dies hard.

 

Pre  1980, the year my husband retired after 40 yrs in the Standard Bank,  we had planned to spend our twilight years in our Highlands home. However when the time came to reach a decision, with mixed feelings we opted to live nearer the sea; we were both SA born, hence settled in Pietermaritzburg.

Gerard completed his schooling at Maritzburg College. He had 2 years National Service in the Navy, Ivor  in the Air Force. As it transpired two wasted years, but the lads have said the experience revealed  to them their strengths and weaknesses, perhaps a learning curve?

 

My earliest memories age about 3, take me back to Livingstone, where I attended Nursery school. Often we were not allowed to play outside as the Matabele ants big and very black would swarm onto our feet, nip our legs, causing tears on many occasions!! They marched after rain. My  father was a Building Contractor.   When he died  of Blackwater Fever,  Mum and I moved to Bulawayo, where I attended the Convent as a boarder aged 6; my mother took a position as  bookkeeper at the Grand Hotel. Senior pupil Hilda Arbour was my heroine, often rescuing me from crack the whip a game in which I was usually the end kippie being the smallest, resulting in many scrapes. I also learnt that  nasturtium leaves added to a sandwich resulted in a fine relish yummy.  I recall one dear Sister , determined that I should become a speller-de-luxe (std 1) explaining time and again that business  is not bizznizz

 

1931 we moved to Gwelo. My great interest was dancing. Weekly highlight was lessons at the hotel given by Miss Puck Eley. Another notable event was the acquisition by my mother of a Whippet, a tourer car with Perspex windows which had to be fitted or duly removed depending on the weather. Mum had driving lessons. The Inspector advised her to avoid reversing if possible, as she had reversed into the corrugated iron barrier at the Police Station. However the licence was granted which enabled us to visit relatives at the Dunraven Mine, Selukwe.

 

Our move to Salisbury 1934/35 came about as my Aunt and family  had moved there from Umtali, mother decided as an only child I would benefit from company of 5 cousins.I attended the Public School, now Selborne became a boarder at Beaven House.

 

Mr Farmar was Head, I especially remember teachers Mr Hardie and Miss Lillienfeld as they were kindly as well as strict. During my time there I enjoyed the company of the Godley girls (gifted hockey players) Thelma and Ethelwyn Brent, Sheila and Mary Kelly, whose mother owned the Ace of Spades Night Club on the old Gatooma Road. I recall it was a popular  Club during the war years.  Thelma and I had weekly piano lessons, taught by Mrs Hathaway. We had to walk from Prince Edward St to beyond Cecil Square in Baker Ave near Goldfields Bldg. On the way back we would call in at the SPQR shop just before Moffat Street for marshmallow fish at a penny for two.

 

An important phase dawned in 1936. I entered High School at Girls High School. Miss Jones was Headmistress, I recall her large dog Shumba always a passenger in her car,  causing an accident through bumping her arm.

 

At the end of 1940 I entered SACS House. Mrs Cockerell  our matron was everyones best friend. I left after 5 memorable years which coincided with the war years. During that time we had our first robots and Stop streets. My room was next to Philippa Berlyn (Christie), a good friend, Nan Pilsworth (Elcombe), Marian Collins (Francis).

 

Dances on Saturday nights were usually at Meikles or the Grand Hotel,  Movies were at the Palace, the Princes or the Victory Cinemas. I attended Marie Flemings Dancing School. On and off during the war years we would stage Shows, all proceeds going to War Funds. Life moved along at a seemingly rapid pace.  Air Training Schools sprung up, the general atmosphere was low key  we were fortunate not to have endured bombing nevertheless loss of dear ones touched many families/ friends.

   

The war, Sept 1939 brought about unexpected disruptions. After Form 1V I had a year at Queen Elizabeth, a new school, at that time, offering  commercial subjects. My first assignment was writing into PLAY form the Book of Estherdaunting but worthwhile.

 

I learnt typing during school holidays at Mrs Tylers Business School, (daughter Tatters yes an unusual name) above Strachans Chemist Manica Rd, opp Broadcasting House.  Govt loans for students for further study were put on hold at that time. The University was built much later.

 

Conscription caused many vacancies in Govt and Commerce. Keymen, the backbone of the System, were retained to train new staff.  School leavers, women  and pensioners filled these vacancies. The end of 1940 saw me installed in the Govt Audit Department in Milton Bldgs. The first week was frightening. I was given a book of  The Statutes, told to browse through it. You can imagine, trying to absorb the laws of the country was rather heavy going at that level!! However,  after five happy years I applied for a transfer to Forestry H/O under Mr Kelly Edwards.

 

In 1945 I married George Symons and as my now brother-in-law was the Senior Examiner in Audit, I felt it inappropriate that I should remain in the Dept. Secondly I hoped for the post at Govt Forest Nursery, Highlands   as we lived in the area.

Some colleagues became lifelong friends, most are spread far and wide now, or deceased, Ebbie Draper, Vera Southwell,  Haidee Webb, Joan Barker (Larter). In Audit I worked beside Andrew Milne , Norman Dyer who were awaiting Call up, which would happen when they turned 19.

 

 I had a year at the Nursery acquiring a useful knowledge  of shrubs and trees, still of great interest today. We were blessed with the arrival in 1949 of our daughter Georgina.  George and I were devastated at our loss when she succumbed to cystic fibrosis at 5 months. It is still incurable, but it seems that great strides have been made in recent years to control the condition.  Two months in the Johannesburg Childrens Hospital yielded no notable progress  .At least she had the best medical care and attention.

 

More heartbreak was to follow when George died in his office five months later in 1950.

 

He served with the RWAFF in Sierra Leone, took ill unresolved pneumonia and fever was sent back to SR 1943.  Once he had regained fitness he was back  refereeing rugby..

 

Spectators love criticising refs, but now there was confusion as the Symons twins were identical, hence identifying  their target was a problem. They were the best  of refs, for sure.

 

At that time I met Jess, Phils wife who would become my best and special friend. One of the saddest times for me was when we lost her. Thora Symons, in mid-nineties, a gracious lady I greatly admire is  resident in Port Alfred. I hope I shall be as healthy, as cheerful and as positive as she is when I reach that age.

I am indeed grateful and in fact most fortunate that so many wonderful people have touched my life.

 

Another  exciting chapter about to take off.  1950. I met Stan in 1952, we were married a year later. He was a golfer of note, however I preferred gardening to golf   but I was never a golf widow!

 

I joined the Grain Marketing Board twelve happy years ensued. As technology progressed Power Samas punch card system was installed accounting took on a new face. Wonderful people to work with ensured a good working environment.  Once again I resigned enceinte Ivor arrived 1962, followed by Gerard 1966 both the joy of my life. Much later I became   Secretary Highlands School, , taking over from Jean Milne. Colleagues over that time, Marge Batten, Rhona Barker, Ellie Cartwright, Marion Conacher, what a pleasure knowing them.

I spent my last two years in Zim at Churchill School  with P Garbutt and Bruce Burns as Heads.

 

Stans retirement in 1980 placed us on the horns of a dilemma. To stay in  our beloved Rhodesia  or to go?

 

Stan and I were born in SA we loved the sea, the die was cast Sept 1980 we arrived in PMBG. Gerard enrolled at Maritzburg College, Ivor on the threshold of his working career.  Stan had been a Spitfire pilot hence he joined the SAAF,  thereby our social life was ensured, we enjoyed annual Congresses  at various venues, from Capetown to Pietersburg. Stan joined the Natal Provincial A., I joined PADCA (Care of the AGED). My first mission was to enrol at the Tech for a Computer Course.. so at age 62  I tackled that head on and remained with them as Accommodation Sec. for 8 years.

 

Ivor married in 1992, I now have three grandchildren another bundle of joy.

I live in Mtunzini (place of the Shade) (near Richards Bay). Sometimes the children spend weekends here with me, we have a huge lagoon, this area in Zululand abounds with Game Reserves and Wild Life. One can even become accustomed to the humidity.

 

I am still driving; I attended the Durban Christmas Luncheon, Std Chartered Bank Pensioners in Dec, many of Stans colleagues attended, I sat with the Kerwin sisters and Wally and Shelagh Clarkson.

 

This has  become a Chapter and Verse bulletin, how can I omit ANYthing? Press on..

 

We now move on to another place another time, the story  friends and relatives say I should record. When I was 12 years old, we lived in Belvedere Rd opp the old Race Course, past the Milnes, Salmons, Gatlands and Wilkinsons. I cycled to school along Rotten Row  

 

Mother told me I had been adopted at three weeks. It was a dramatic revelation I was unbelieving and amazed. This happened in Barkley West, N Cape.

At that time Mum and Dad Fisher lived on the Iron Mask Mine, a way behind the Mazoe Hotel. Mum, born in Kimberley visited her mother in K Whilst there Feb 1924 she heard of the daughter of a friend, who had had a baby, was desperately ill. The father        was prevented by his dad of marrying Wilheida van Wijk, as he had another two years                       to complete his final mining engineer degree at University.. So Mum stepped in. Consent was mutual, Magistrate issued the legal adoption certificate, Mum bought a tin of Lactogen,   and we were on the train to Salisbury next day to my dads surprise.

 

As the details unfolded it was an emotional time for both of us. Mum had been a caring single parent hence I was taken aback at this news. I was curious of course; over the years more information  was revealed.

 

John and Wilheida were married two years later 1926 and subsequently had three more children. They lived at Boskuil, between Wolmaranstad and Christiana.  Years passed my life was fulfilled, I realised it would be impossible that we meet, I had no wish to disrupt their lives, what could one expect or hope for in doing so?.  Eventually 1978 we headed for  3 wks holiday in Capetown, overnighting in JBG en route. We passed the Boskuil turn off  a few kms from Christiana when the car broke down next morning.

 

Stan bundled Ivor and I into a passing car, driven by a kind Arab,  in no time the garage had a tow truck  on the road. So trusting   in those days.

We had  recently bought a Fiat station wagon, absolute bliss until this setback!

We were advised the Timing Chain had broken, a five day wait until a replacement   would arrive from Pretoria.

 

I asked  the office clerk if she knew Kuhns in the area. Her husband was a Policeman, he filled us in. Mrs Kuhn died a few years previously hence Willem the son ran the Show, the Show being 2 farms and Alluvial diamonds. We were soon packed into a police van, baggage and all, Phillipus drove us to the Rob Ferreira Holiday complex where we stayed for five days, alongside the Vaal River. It needed courage to phone Willem which I did that evening, saying we were from Rhodesia, my mother had known his Mum many years ago. Yes, he knew his  late mother had friends in Rh. He invited us to tea next morning. I gave Ansie petrol coupons as they had petrol rationing next morning she drove me 30km to Boskuil  .Willem Bettie his wife and sister Esther welcomed us. Esther was with them from Pta for the weekend where she was a legal Sec.

 

I realised I would have to measure every word but had no set plan in my mind. He fetched a phial, asked me to open my palm and poured about two dozen uncut diamonds into my hand to illustrate what their business was all about.  Needless to say all thought of broaching the sensitive subject in mind collapsed.   Later driving back to the Complex Ansie mentioned that Esther was staring at me throughout the visit, she had my profile in her sights.  Years later they confirmed this, wondering where this woman fitted in. We thanked them and departed having said nothing. I mentioned that my mother in Zim would send them the studio wedding photo of their parents as it transpired in conversation he had none.

 

I could not wait to reach CT to phone Mum in Sby, s he was stunned at this development and could understand my reticence. On my return, she wrote a letter to the Kuhns explaining what led up to the adoption and subsequent events. It was mailed  with the photo two  weeks later Esthers letter arrived.

 

She explained they were shocked but understood how this came about. She commented on the likeness between me and Wilheida, which puzzled them greatly at the time.  Willem commented that he just knew I must be a relative as most Kuhns had exactly  similar blue eyes as mine, including his.  In turn I gave my reason for not revealing the facts  during my visit, - they could see my point.

 

Later when we met in Pretoria and on subsequent visits to Boskuil, we agreed a meaningful friendship could certainly grow from this contact, certainly we could not capture the lost years. In 1982 they invited us to join them in Durban for New Year,      - on these occasions we always had so much to talk about.

Willem died two years ago; he was so kind and gladly passed on info which might be important or just of interest to me. He sold the original mine to Govt just prior to his death, Bettie  now lives in Wolmaranstad, while their two sons run the business. We are in touch. Mum  Fisher died the same year six months after she wrote that letter to the Kuhns.

 

As I sit and cogitate, poring over crosswords as octogenarians are wont to do, aware that last year seemingly passed in a heartbeat, I wonder about my friends in Harare.  Is the OGGuild still functioning? Please someone fill me in? I had 56 joyous years in Rhodesia, a good and happy life, having been in SA for 28 years unbelievable.  One blot on my serenity   is the constant Power cut arrangement  affecting the whole country  It is said a crisis is looming.  Minimal compared with the Zim situation.  Thank goodness my muse has deserted me, sparing you another page or two.

Thelma

 

THELMA BECKS                         7                                                                                                      

P.O. BOX 249   MTUNZINI                                          0353401326

KWAZULUNATAL 3867

Griquatown Andersons

Launching this website was inspired by my father Dr Ralph Anderson who studied his own family's history for over 15 years. The result is a website he created http://www.griquatownandersons.com which records the families linked to the Anderson family over seven generations and including over 4,000 individuals. These families span the recorded history of South Africa from the earliest immigration started by Jan VanRiebek to the modern day.

Symons Brown Families

Later I received via my wife, a document prepared by her cousin Merryl Howell (nee Symons) who had studied the Symons/Brown families who go back to the 1820 settlers. More data was obtained from a 1977 document produced by, we think, Percy Symons, youngest son of Robert Symons.

And again, thank you to those contributing daily to our Genealogy website.

Mike Anderson - Webmaster

 

Additional Resources

The main work of the genealogy in this website is done on a program called Legacy Family Tree by Millenia. You can download a free version from their website at Legacy Family Tree.com  The best way to send information for inclusion in this website is to download that program, enter the information into the program and then email a file to the webmaster.

 

How To Have Your Family Genealogy Incorporated Into This Website

1 If you already have a website, just email us a link.

2 If you don't yet have a website and already use Legacy, or some other genealogy software, just export a GEDCOM file and attach it to an email.

3. If you have not used any genealogy software before, .......

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