Flip van der Merwe: With Tongue firmly in his Cheek

After 50 years the old Flip, or is that young Flip, instantly makes his presence felt. Within 30 seconds the serious tone belies a flippant comment meant to amuse and sometimes confuse the real from the unreal. Then comes the warning to me as I commence the interview: All replies must be taken with a boulder of salt. To expose the real Flip, I might have to interview “the girl”, now his wife of 50 years, Renée.  

Personally for me, three attributes define Flippie. If one could capture the essence and bottle it, they would be the car, the girl and witty tongue-in-cheek over-the-top statements and mannerisms.

Instead of a formal style I have adopted Flip’s flippant style. But in order to obtain a measure of balance, I have allowed Flip to write the captions to the photos.

Main picture: Na 36 jaar. “I have lost my class”

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Class of 1971: What did they do after school?

This blog was written by the pupils of the Class of 1971 themselves. It would be great to hear from everybody. Two photos of Then and Now would also be super. There are no rules about how much or how little you would like to share or indeed what you would to include. The latest submissions will be included at the top of the blog thereby making the unread entries at the top of the blog.  

Main picture: Montage of Class of ’71’s Assembly & Service Program as well as the Valedictory Address and Signatures [Thanks to Sonia Slement (Venter)]

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Alex of Yore: Bob Welsh – One of the Originals

In the photograph of the original staff of Alexander Road High School, is the visage of the lanky teacher of Geography, Bob Welsh in the front row. Bob never demanded respect from his pupils but rather he earned it. In many ways Bob was a more progressive teacher and the antithesis of certain senior teachers at the time. By evoking an interest in the subject, pupils responded in a like manner enabling Bob to teach with a light touch seldom if ever submitted the pupils to tirades of screaming.   

That is my enduring memory of Bob Welsh, a kind and gentle man, never given to histrionics.

Main picture: Alex staff members in 1956 [front row 2nd from left]

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Alex of Yore: The Formative Years

Having lived in Joburg for 41 years, when I told my friends that I was writing articles on the history of Alex, they were perplexed. Their worried scowl told of their concern for my mental well-being. When I nonchalantly added that it would involve numerous interviews, their suspicions were confirmed. Days later when I explained that Alex refers to my Alma Mater and not what generally springs to mind: Alexandra, a squalid township in Gauteng their relief was palpable. I had not lost it. Yet!

With few exceptions, what one most vividly recalls of one’s schooling, are various incidents involving fellow pupils or teachers. This series of blogs will mostly cover these experiences. It also goes without saying that certain teachers will definitively be covered, and their quirks and idiosyncrasies exposed.

Main picture: Alexander Road High School from the fields

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My Mid-Life Crisis: How did I attempt to regain my lost youth?

What did it take me to get over my mid-life crisis in my early forties?

Maybe the whole world was not aware that I was having a mid-life crisis but I certainly did. I was forced to confront the fact whether life was slipping me by when I received an invitation to the 25th Reunion of the 1971 Matrics of the Alexander Road High School in Port Elizabeth.

Up until that point I would have rated my Personal Satisfaction Index as fair to good. I would never have rated it is as excellent because intrinsically I realised that I could have done better. That feeling was certainly more visceral than intellectual. But now I was forced to confront the issue from a practical point of view rather than in some indecisive way.

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