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Africa have long and proud histories. Find them here!
Thelma Jane Becks (Symons) (nee
Fisher) 1924 to date 2008
rather than BIOGRAPHY
Having read Edone (Monkton) Petheram’s
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 I’d
like to mention the impact
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
a game in which I was usually the end
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
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 everyone’s
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 Fleming’s
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/
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
I learnt typing during school holidays
at Mrs Tyler’s
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
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
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
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 Children’s
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
unresolved pneumonia and fever
was sent back to SR 1943. Once he had regained fitness he was back
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, Phil’s
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
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.
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
I am still driving; I attended the
Durban Christmas Luncheon, Std Chartered Bank Pensioners in Dec,
many of Stan’s
colleagues attended, I sat with the Kerwin sisters and Wally and
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 dad’s
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
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
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
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 Esther’s
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.
P.O. BOX 249 MTUNZINI
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
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.
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
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
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,
email us a link.
2 If you don't yet have a website
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export a GEDCOM file and attach it to an
3. If you have not used any
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