Memories - Class of 54
THE GOLDEN GROUP
FIFTY YEARS ON 1954-2004 (60 years on when written in 2004)
A GOLDEN AGE
Once upon a time – as all good stories begin – there was a far-off golden land called Rhodesia. In one corner of that country there was a quiet and peaceful city called Bulawayo. Sitting at the top of a hill was a series of red brick buildings which housed a school. A photograph was taken – yes they had photos in those days, but it was black and white – of the top class of its year.
Young men at the start of their lives.
Another world. Another time.
The year was 1954. Bulawayo was in Southern Rhodesia. Northern Rhodesia still existed, the other side of the Zambezi River. This was before construction of the Kariba Dam began, so the river still ran free.
The Central African Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland had just been formed, a multi-racial experiment between the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia and the British Protectorates of Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland. Sir
Godfrey Huggins had moved from being Prime Minister of Southern Rhodesia to PM of the Federation, and his place in the south was taken by Garfield Todd.
Eisenhower was in the White House, and Churchill was back in Downing Street. Admittedly Malan and the Nats held sway in South Africa, but basically all was well with the world – especially when seen from this remote corner.
The Rhodes Centenary Central African Exhibition had been held in Bulawayo the previous year, marking the coming of age of the region.
It was a time of confidence, energy, vitality and tranquillity.
Even sport (and perhaps especially) was different. This was still the age of the amateur. There was no crass commercialism. People played for the love of the game. The sports clubs were clubs, there as much for their social as their sporting purpose - Queens, BAC, Railton.
Percy Mansell and Joe Partridge played cricket for Southern Rhodesia and South Africa. The 1954 British Empire (remember that?) and Commonwealth Games were held in Vancouver, where the Miracle Mile was run by Roger Bannister and John Landy. Northern Rhodesia’s Edna Maskell won the 80 metres Hurdles in world record time, and Joan Harrison (Border) the 110 yards backstroke.
The hit songs of ’54 included Oh Mein Papa, Cara Mia, Hey There, Three Coins in the Fountain, and Sh-Boom. Rock had just arrived. Bill Haley and the Comets brought out Shake Rattle and Roll. And it was a great year for films. The rollcall includes On the Waterfront, Rear Window, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, The Caine Mutiny, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, and The Glenn Miller Story.
In hindsight, which is usually 20/20, it really was a golden age, and Rhodesia was one of the original ‘God’s own countries’. Life was simple, crime was low, danger belonged somewhere else, the world was ours. Houses and cars were rarely locked other than at night, and we cycled everywhere – to school, to parties, to sport, to Hillside Dams and Matopos. And we took it all for granted.
Milton School was Bulawayo’s premier senior school. Form IVa was the top class of its year, the best, the brightest – the cream. And we took it all for granted.
Life would never be this simple again. Already some of us (not all!) were thinking seriously about the future – exams, careers, work. But school was only a morning event. The afternoons were for sport, or prep (if we did it?), or just messing about.
Politics and equality didn’t rate, other than the obvious fact that our British heritage, Queen and Commonwealth, would last for a thousand years. University places were there for the taking, careers and jobs were for life if we wanted them, and as for inflation – what was that? And we took it all for granted.
A school photograph was taken in 1954. There are the pupils of IVa, some already looking like the men they were to become, others still boys waiting for the testosterone to kick in.
Fifty years on those pupils are spread around the world, part of the diaspora of Rhodesia. The world in which we grew up, the world we thought would go on forever, has gone. Everything is different. The Federation was dissolved at the end of 1963, and Southern Rhodesia went from UDI in 1965 to an independent Zimbabwe in 1980.
A few things have remained. Milton School is still there, as are most of the pupils of Form IVa. We have largely survived and prospered. We have all made our mark on some part of the broader, yet also smaller, world in which we now live.
This document is a memorial to those wonderful carefree far-off days, the golden times which we were lucky enough to experience, and to what we have achieved since then. It is dedicated to those of our fellow pupils whose journey is already run, but whom we remember with gratitude and affection.
Vale Peter Sensky, Douglas Waugh, Derek Mitchell-Henry and John Eldridge.
Those were the days my friends
We thought they’d never end
We’d sing and dance forever and a day
We’d live the life we choose
We’d fight and never lose
Those were the days –
Oh yes those were the days
Putt Jackson (deputy headmaster) - Athletics track named afer him in Bulawayo
On the 1st of October, 1988 Mr Frank Greenwood Jackson, popularly known as Pat Jackson, a teacher at Milton many years ago, died in Cape Town. He left a small sum of money to Milton School.