|Pinetown Boys' High School Recollections (1985 - 1988)|
|Pinetown, KwaZulu-Natal, Republic of South Africa|
|by Gregory Donner, updated: February 21, 2009|
These pages are intended for, and will obviously only mean something, to those who attended PBHS (but if you enjoy it, you're welcome to be an exception to the rule). :) Note to any Americans reading this: PBHS is a public high school; not a "prep" school (usually considered 'snobby'). The use of uniforms are from the British school system influence.
I was admitted to Pinetown Boys' High School on April 16, 1985, just in time for the second term (at that time, approximately 1,200 students attending). Having already attended a British-based school system, Alexandra High School, (and also a boys-only school) there was only a minimal learning curve involved. Here are some interesting tidbits that happened during my four years there:
Bomb threats (I remember at least two) were always welcomed by the students, since they lasted for at least one period (35 minutes). All the students had to group together on the rugby field in their homeroom classes and the teachers took attendance. The police were then called in with their dogs to check the school over for bombs, and once they gave the "all-clear", everyone returned to their respective classrooms. My only regret was that there never was a bomb threat during math class.
There was always a rumor while I was at PBHS that Pinetown Girls' High School was going to reunite with ours (since Pinetown High School, was of course both originally coed and bilingual—English and Afrikaans). Sadly enough after all these decades, still just a rumor...
Having learned my place at Alexandra High School as a lowly second former, I was surprised that Pinetown Boys' High had no such initiation (harmless hazing) rites. After inquiring about it, I was told by fellow students that (allegedly) sometime in the past, a second former had been killed in the process. Apparently, after being ordered by matrics to climb into a trash can on the third floor, which was then stacked on top of another trash can (raising it above the edge of the corridor wall), it then somehow toppled over the wall onto the quad below, killing the student. Until that time, I'd thought Alexandra High School was rough. However, I haven't been able to confirm whether or not this actually happened.
If you hated rugby, and yet were forced to give up three or four hours of your Saturday afternoon attending both first and second team rugby games at an all boys' school—dressed in full school uniform (blazer and all!) on a blisteringly hot summer day—would you be cheering? The answer to that is "yes." Especially if one of the prefects in front of the rugby field stands noticed you weren't. They even had prefects guarding the school entrances/exits to prevent anyone from "escaping," and required you to check in as being in attendance. A few bold (but lucky) students always managed to sneak off the school grounds undetected after signing in by jumping over the fence.
The weather in Pinetown rarely got too cold or too hot as to prevent you from riding a bicycle, and after finding the bus ride fraught with foul language and lewd activity, I decided to ride my bike to and from school. It was good exercise, and on the way home, part of the enjoyment for a high school guy was riding past Pinetown Girls' High School not more than a mile away.
One day I decided to be bold and ride through the small paved drive that curved off the main road, right by the entrance of the girls' school. Naturally, this convenient drive was popular with parents who parked there, waiting to pick up their daughters. As the girls' school got out at the same time, this area was literally swarming with girls as I rode through. It goes without saying that, with head turned, I was taking in the sights and enjoying some newfound attention...until I slammed into the back of a parked car. Thankfully, the driver was very forgiving, and the only damage done (aside from my pride) was to my bike—a few bent spokes in my front wheel. Several girls who witnessed my ineptitude thoroughly enjoyed the free entertainment.
If, after leaving the school grounds, you felt the urge to smoke or fight with someone while you were in your school uniform (and were discovered and reported to the school), you faced the same disciplinary action as if you had done it on school grounds. A good policy, since your actions—whether good or bad—reflected on the reputation of the school. The advice given to the student body by the headmaster, Mr. Visser was: if, after leaving school grounds, you decide to smoke or fight, take off your tie and remove your blazer. This left you unidentified with the school (since virtually all South African high school uniforms at the time consisted of grey pants and white shirts) and posed no threat to the school's reputation. I witnessed this advice being followed on several occasions.
I matriculated (graduated) from PBHS on November 30, 1988 with my Natal Senior Certificate. Three days later—December 3, 1988—I left for the United States. I believe this rapid transition from South Africa to the U.S. has been largely responsible for the fact that I find it hard to let go of my memories of PBHS. They truly are fond ones. My only regret is that my years of attending all-boys schools throughout high school (the other being Alexandra High School in 1983 and 1984—back then, also a boys-only school) has somewhat hampered my ability to interact with women, making me more of a nerd than I'd like to admit.
|My good friend Eugene Wolff and myself
on Annual Speech Day, November 3, 1988
(utilizing not-so-secret-anymore handshake)
Even after all these years, I still have dreams of not having my homework done in time, forgetting my tie or blazer, or not having studied for an exam...even a few where PBHS has suddenly become coed, and I'm completely bewildered and apprehensive with girls present. I can still visualize the whole school grounds (and thanks to a friend of mine who sent me newer pictures), not that much has changed after more than 25 years.