Attending Marist Brothers Linmeyer played a pivotal role in my life.
I have often said to our three sons when they were still at school that schooldays are among the best times of one’s life and that they should enjoy these to the fullest. I was blessed to attend Linmeyer from the beginning of the school in 1966 until I matriculated in 1976. The teachers, pupils, friends, sporting teams, tours and school activities are what will always remain in my memory. Now over forty years later I can still remember people, recall events and the fun times that we enjoyed.
I could not attend Linmeyer in Grade 1 because that was the final year of Koch Street which was the forerunner of Linmeyer. My parents applied for me at Marist Observatory to attend Grade 1 but fortuitously Observatory declined. So I spent one year at Belgravia Convent which like many other convents unfortunately closed.
Come 1966 and there was great excitement for young Eric in his blue and yellow striped blazer off to be taught by Mrs Nathan in Grade 2. In Standard 1 I was blessed to be taught by Mrs Carolin who was one of the most influential teachers. She taught me how to write in cursive and she prepared our class for First Confession (now called Reconciliation) and First Holy Communion, both very important milestones in a young Marist Catholic boy’s life. Miss de Kock our class teacher in Standard 2 was different; she was young, attractive and Afrikaans speaking, quite a change from the teachers that we were used to. This year in 1968 was when a whole new world opened up for me because I was always academic and studied hard. But now we started to play soccer in winter and cricket in summer, sheer bliss. Playing with my classmates and those in the class above for the Terhorst cricket team and for the under 10A soccer team showed me the true meaning of playing in a team, representing the school and just enjoying sport.
In Standard 3 I was again very blessed to be taught by Brother Finian, an Irish brother who had a nasty little cane tucked into his cassock sleeve and which he produced with lightning speed before this became politically incorrect for canings. I must add that in our day, we all received the cane to a greater or lesser extent and it did us no harm. On the contrary we were disciplined and listened to teachers! That was the first year which a Linmeyer soccer won the local Johannesburg soccer tournament when our under 10A team beat Kind Edward Primary School at the Rand Stadium. Yes, I was part of that victorious team and very proud to say so. Brother Paul was my class teacher in Standard 4 and in short we didn’t get on that well. Unfortunately, Brother Finian left Linmeyer after our class completed our year with him. That seemed to be a pattern with many of the teachers and our class and he was sorely missed. Who could forget his two Alsatian dogs which used to walk beside him as well as run all over the school, one a distinctive white one named Mitzi and the other more conventional black and tan dog, named, Arab. In Standard 4 our under 11 soccer team again triumphed in the final 4-1 beating Orange Grove, in fact we were undefeated in all matches for two years. Those were the golden years of our soccer team.
Standard 5 brought Mr Kaufmann, a nice and decent person who unfortunately could not control some of the naughty boys who were by now adolescents. I remember the boys, some of whom were my friends, Joey, Mark B, Jose, Ricky all of whom would cause the poor teacher to get so angry and to lose his temper. He used to call them Robin Hood and his merry men and kick the side of the mobile lab in frustration. That year was also my first sports tour away to Cape Town for soccer. Some of the players from the previous two years came on tour for a reunion because we were unbeaten previously. My memories are of playing in pouring rain and mud in Cape Town , a far cry from dry and dusty Johannesburg fields. We won all three games in Cape Town but an abiding memory is that after one game, my fingers and hands were so cold that I was unable to untie my bootlaces. Some of the players who will remain nameless, met up with the girl guides who happened to be staying in the hostel next door but the girls were much older than us and from Durban!
Brother Christopher was my one and only principal and interestingly he was transferred at the end of my matric year in 1976. He was the cornerstone of Linmeyer and ex pupils, alumni and present pupils all owe him a debt of gratitude for firstly establishing our school and then to extend it from a primary to a high school. He had foresight and the courage to venture into the unknown as always ably supported by the Board of Governors and PTA. Our first matrics matriculated in 1973 and many have gone on to successful and meaningful lives which is a witness of the 50 years of Marist Brothers Linmeyer. Personally I am extremely grateful to Brother Christopher because when I was in Standard 6, I became arrogant and an unpleasant young person. He pulled me into line and wrote in my school report that I must think about my attitude at school. The previous year in Standard 5 I was awarded the George Roy Bursary for academic and sporting excellence and this resulted in a swollen head.
There are other unforgettable teachers like Meneer Ludick who insisted that we only speak Afrikaans in his class. He was an excellent teacher who commanded respect from all. I thank him for my Afrikaans which is still excellent despite English and Chinese being my two home languages. Who can forget Mr Baverstock our Standard 6 teacher who taught us how to play rugby together with Brother Christopher even though most of us preferred to play soccer. Due to our limited numbers, it was compulsory to play rugby in high school and I grew to enjoy the camaraderie of the game. Cricket was always my favourite sports besides soccer and rugby. In my matric year I captained the first Linmeyer XI to defeat Marist Observatory, something the whole team was justifiably proud of. Mr McGill was our cricket coach and he was exuberant to the point of being biased for us with lbw decisions. Of course there was always the athletics season, culminating in Sports Day and selection to represent Linmeyer at the Inter Catholic. Mr Burgers our Standard 7 class teacher was an avid runner and he used to run to school instead of drive. On our way to school by car, we would see him jogging to school and it was not a short distance either.
Now for the forgettable teachers and number one must be Mr Snook! He came from Sir John Adamson(which had a bad reputation in those days) and he taught us Geography. On his first day he threatened the whole class not to steal his text book because he numbered it on certain pages so he knew which was his book. Everyone was shaking because he seemed so fierce and strict. Over the next few weeks we discovered that he was a toothless puppy dog whose bark was worse than his bite. Together with our English teacher whose name escapes me, they invited themselves to pupils’ home for dinner whenever they wanted to mostly uninvited. These boys were afraid of any possible repercussions so went along with them. He introduced boxing as part of PE lessons and he brought boxing gloves for the fights. To this day I still think that he paired me with my friend Michael S to fight. Unfortunately, Mike connected my nose flush with his first punch and I started to bleed. We had spoken before not to hit hard and to box out the time. This made me literally and figuratively see red and I started punching back. We really boxed each other and I think that Mr Snook secretly enjoyed setting up two friends to punch the daylights out of each other.
In matric we enjoyed a lovely rugby tour to Durban which we commuted by train. We were paired to stay with a St Henry’s player and William B and myself stayed with Mark C. One night as boys usually do, we went out for a drink with the others. Unfortunately, Mark didn’t drink much and became very drunk. When we sneaked back home late that night/morning. he insisted on singing and shouting despite our hushed pleas to keep quiet. The next morning his father came to speak to us and he was very understanding, reassuring us that when he was young he also did such things and that nothing further would be said to anyone. Imagine my relief because I was the both the head boy and vice-captain but I must add that I didn’t drink! Unfortunately, we were beaten by St Henry’s but I don’t remember much of that game because Mark tackled me possibly out of revenge for the night before and caused me to be concussed. I don’t remember packing to leave with the train but team members would tease me and say that I was swearing at the coach and principal (hopefully I didn’t because I was not expelled).
After writing our final exams, we organised a great matric party at Ian B’s place, thanks to his parents and family who were very understanding with all the noise, drinks and chaos. In retrospect I should have cherished those final days with classmates even more than I did because my final year at school whizzed by.
I hold Marist Brothers Linmeyer very close to my heart, it has formed a huge part of who I am and what I became. Linmeyer enriched me to develop a close devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary. With the excellent education which Linmeyer afforded me, I was able to enter medical school at Wits University and to qualify as a doctor. I stand open to correction but Wayne Hon who was in the 1976 class qualified with me in 1982 and we may be the first Linmeyer boys to qualify as medical doctors.
Congratulations to the school, staff, present pupils, past pupils and alumni on this our Golden Jubilee and may Linmeyer be blessed for at least another 50 years. I look forward to attending the Jubilee celebrations on the 30th September and to meeting old friends and making new ones as well.