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My Life in South Africa 1947 to 1951 (my preschool years)

Updated on July 14, 2008

My Life in South Africa 1947 to 1951 (my preschool years)


I was born in June 1947. For the life of me I cannot remember being born or before I was born.Some people claim to remember warmth, a red and gold vortex (the birth canal) and blue bright white light (the birth itself). Me no such thing! In the mean while, during the year of my birth,

  • The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered at Qumran
  • The Transistor was invented.
  • India and Pakistan get independence from Britain
  • The DC6 was brought into service as a commercial aircraft in the US
  • Britain open the world's first Atomic energy plant at Harwell.
  • The Soviet Union rejects US plan for UN atomic-energy control.
  • The world's first commercial Air crash occurs, killing 40 people.
  • Oscar Peterson, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Count Basie, Louis Armstrong and Frank Sinatra are making popular music.
  • Mahatma Gandhi is a key figure in India. Jawaharlal Nehru becomes premier of India.
  • Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrier.
  • Howard Hughes pilots the world's largest aircraft (The Spruce Goose) on its first flight.
  • The House Un-American Activities Committee blacklists over 300 actors, directors and writers for involvement, or alleged involvement, in communist activities.
  • Gentleman's Agreement wins the Academy Award for Best Picture, Ronald Coleman wins for best actor in A Double Life, and Loretta Young wins best actress for The Farmer's Daughter.
  • Pan American is the first airline to offer round-the-world service: the fare is $1,700
  • Thor Heyerdahl completes his epic Kon Tiki expedition

My first real memories are when I was about 3 years old. My brother was born at home. I was terribly disappointed, I wanted a sister and as I pointedly told my mother "send him back, I want a sister and I don't care if she is black!".

Encounters with snakes

As an adult, and as far as I can remember, I have always had a fear of snakes, I still go cold with fear , even in a snake park! However as a three year old this did not seem to be a problem for me.

I used to play in the road outside our house. All the roads around our area in those days were sand (or dirt) roads. One day while playing with my toy car, I came cross this snake lying there. He seemed dead, so I poked him with a stick. He then reared up and spread his hood. This snake was a rhinkals which is a relative of the cobra family. They are known for playing dead when threatened! I then entered into a bin match as he swayed from side to side. Eventually he slid away. I told my mom about the nice snake that I had a boxing match with1. my mother was horrified. The next encounter I had was in our garage. My Dad used to use the Garage as a workshop. We did not have a car in those days. My dad was a talented woodworker as was making dolls furniture for our neighbors daughter for Xmas. I was watching my dad when I spotted a snake sliding down the rafters from the roof. My dad dispatched the snake which was quite near to me at the time. According to custom at that time, he burnt the snake's body in a tin can covered in spirits. The belief was that other snakes would stay away from an area where a snake had been cremated. This certainly did not work!.

Trix our dog

At around that time we had a magnificent Sheppard named Trix, who was my constant companion and protector. My parents were very worried, when I approached a coal bin in our back yard. We had no electric stoves in those days' only coal stoves, so everyone had a coal bin and coal was delivered by a coal man with a horse drawn coal truck. However, on this particular day, Trix appeared to very aggressive a kept growling and me and pushing me, eventually knocking me down. My mom called my dad and said the dog was going mad and was attacking me! My dad investigated an we found a large snake in the coal bin and Trix was just protecting me, after all. My mom was always a little chary around Trix. Eventually she persuaded my dad to ‘get rid of the dog". He was given to a farmer who had a farm in Krugersdorp some 40km away.

A month or so later I was playing in the road, yet again, and suddenly this skinny, tatty dog came runnuning up to me, licking my face and whining and whimpering and jumping with excitement. It was Trix! She had found her way home!. Her paws were bloody from the walking and she was a little malnourished, needless to say Trix stayed. I know my dad had to negotiate with the farmer but they agreed Trix was to stay, much to my mother's chagrin.


The above events were when I was around three to five years old which coincided with the beginning of the fifties. Around the world at that time:

  • North Korea invades South Korea
  • U.S. combat troops enter the Korean War.
  • Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower is named supreme commander of Allied Forces in Western Europe by NATO
  • The Vatican confirms the discovery of Saint Peter's tomb beneath Saint Peter's Basilica
  • Movies at that time were Sunset Boulevard, starring Gloria Swanson and William Holden; All about Eve, starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter.
  • Good books were ;Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles; Budd Schulberg, The Disenchanted; Ernest Hemingway, Across the River and Into the Trees.
  • Artists and songs of that ime were; Bing Crosby, "Dear Hearts and Gentle People"; Red Foley, "Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy"; Eileen Barton, "If I Knew You Were Comin' I'd've Baked a Cake"; Billy Eckstine, "My Foolish Heart"; Bill Snyder and His Orchestra, "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered"; Nat "King" Cole, "Mona Lisa"; Sammy Kaye and His Orchestra, "Harbor Lights"; Betty Hutton and Perry Corno, "A Bushel and a Peck
  • The government passes the Immorality Act, the Group Areas act, the Suppression of Communism Act, and the Population Registrar Act (which officially divided South Africans into 'White', 'Coloured', 'Asian' or 'Native')
  • Springbok Radio is launched and a generation of South will grow up on Springboks radio's stories, music (hit parades) and recipes.

Events that I recall were centered on my home life. I recall that my dad had a magnificent Dahlia garden. He fed these plants on horse manure. You may recall I mentioned horse drawn coal carts, we also had horse drawn milk delivery and mounted police. Now this added up to a lot of casual manure being dropped. One day my dad gave me a sack and sent me to collect manure. This was the first time that I recall my mom and dad having an open disagreement in my presence. The fight was about (you guessed it) me having to collect manure. I guess my dad won because I collected the manure.

My Best friend

Other things I remember were double winger planes which flew over our house from time to time. My best (and at that time I think only) friend Barry and I were typical little boys. We used to stare at these planes making up stories about the pilots and where these planes were going. One day I got hold of a box of matches and we proceeded to set the veld alight. This caused a fairly big veld fire. The mounted police arrived and we hid from them in the servant's quarters of Barry's house. We also figured if we took our clothes off no one would be able to identify us. So we did so but we wer wrong. The Mounties rounded us up and took us home. I was banned from consorting with Barry for a period of time after that incident.


After the incident with the ghosts (see my Hub My encounters with supernaturals...) we moved out. I recall waiting for the moving vans coming to take our furniture. That day we had Vienna's and Chips (hot dog sausage and fries) for lunch and it was the first time I had eaten take away food. We were going "far way" to cape town and that chapter of my life came to a close.


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    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      10 years ago from South Africa


      Hi praise indeed coming from you. It is much appreciated. Yes I did slip up on the bing Crosby reference in 1947 but being my year of birth my eyes were not completely open yet.

    • William F. Torpey profile image

      William F Torpey 

      10 years ago from South Valley Stream, N.Y.

      I thoroughly enjoyed this hub, sixtyorso. The mixture of your personal history as a youth and the history of world affairs is very enterprising. I was just a little surprised that you didn't mention Bing Crosby with the others in 1947 making popular music, but delighted to see he wasn't forgotten in the 1950s artists and songs. Good job.

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Hi CW thanks for stopping by once again. I am glad that you enjoy my hubs. I really appreciate you stopping by and making insightful comments.

    • countrywomen profile image


      10 years ago from Washington, USA

      I learnt something new today that rhinkals is a relative of cobra and pretends to be dead. I am also scared of snakes. Also ghost encounters creeps me out. You got that right India got independance. The most moving part was when trix made it back to where he wanted to be with you. Great personal story and lots of history lessons in there.

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      10 years ago from South Africa

      Gwendymom thanks so much for stopping by and commenting. Yes Trix was a rather special dog!

    • gwendymom profile image


      10 years ago from Oklahoma

      Dang, hit submit twice.

      Still a great story!!!

    • gwendymom profile image


      10 years ago from Oklahoma

      Sixty, I love this story. It's great to have a small glimpse into the lives of other that you consider friends. I love that your dog returned to you, He knew you needed him.

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Talented thanks for stopping by and commenting. much appreciated. Comments always add to and enhance the hub experience.

    • talented_ink profile image


      11 years ago from USA

      This is a great read for me. Being that you're from South Africa, I'd like to pull on your ear about life there considering what I've heard and read. I feel it's better to get the story from someone who's lived the experience.

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa


      Thanks for stopping by and taking the trouble to comment. I have never thought about "sub-naturals" Hmm food for thought. I often wonder whether the fact of ubiquitous use of electricity has changed the "ether" and hence "ghosts" are not so visible or comfortable in our realm? Thats perhaps why this subject is not so much discussed any more?

    • level1diet profile image


      11 years ago from Albuquerque, NM

      You could add one more great moment that happened in September, 1947 -- my father 'knew' my mother, which resulted in my birth 9 months later in May of 1948.

      About 'supernaturals' -- I've always considered ghosts as being 'subnaturals' since they are people who at least temporarily, depending on one's religious inclinations, have lost their 'natural' body. That would make them 'sub' somethingorother... subnatural to me. Now a god, or perhaps an angel, those folks would likely qualify for being 'super'. And, I've always suspected that both gods and angels do have their body intact. Hence the thinking that relates to 'resurrection' or 'reincarnation' and such. 

      For some unknown reason nobody seems to talk about those subjects anymore. Everyone seems to think that ghosts and spirits are superior or more powerful than we 'mere mortals'. Not so, say I. I think our power, being fully incarnated into bodies is the envy of ghosts and spirits. That's one of the reasons they are so often in a foul mood...

      And, if I have figured out the universe, their bodiless misery should be a temporary status and frustration. They will someday be wrapped up in flesh and denser matter again, which should significantly improve their attitude!

      Good hub, sixtyorso!

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Shadesbreath I guess I was just lucky but I was left with a fifty some odd year old phobia about snakes! Maybe It was because I was "boxing" him he was following my movements muchlike snake charmers in India do. The Rinkhals is a member of the cobra family, hood and all. Thank you for your comments and praise. Coming from you I value them very highly. thank you!

    • Shadesbreath profile image


      11 years ago from California

      Wow, this was great. Dude, how did that snake not bite you man? Sheesh. You're hella lucky. Oh, and LOL@ taking off clothes to hide your identity. I love kid logic. Good idea sticking in the events of the time too. Awesome read.

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Louis, Rodney, Francia, Marisue

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. as always I value your comments and praise. I am certainly trying to weave a historical time line linked to my own personal experiences, hence some of my other hubs IBM, Traditional history follow a similiar pattern. Also the hub Schoolyard ecomomics is part of this history.

    • marisuewrites profile image


      11 years ago from USA

      Trix was so devoted to you that risking life and limb to come home to you was the only option.  Love from animals is so self sacrificing!  I'm so glad he made it back where he wanted to be, with you!  Mom's don't ALWAYS know best....=) 

      Enjoyed the read and thinking about those any land, we have much in common, just trying to grow up. 

      Can't wait for the next years...

    • franciaonline profile image


      11 years ago from Philippines

      Whew, how I enjoyed reading this hub! 1947 was also the year I was born and reading the events in the world that year and thereafter which you wrote in your hub was of great interest to me. Thanks for sharing a very well-written account of the landmarks in your childhood years. Your story can be a thread in the social history of your country!


    • Just_Rodney profile image

      Rodney Fagan 

      11 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      Geat hub, keep those memories alive for the next generations.

    • Louie Jerome profile image

      Louie Jerome 

      11 years ago from UK

      Snakes and ghosts? Sounds bad to me! Excellent, interesting hub though.


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