Memories of life in Hanover Park

Graham Lange, who grew up in Hanover Park and now lives in the UK, is pictured with his children Hannah and George, and wife Sue.

I attended Blomvlei Primary School from 1983 to 1989. With a more adult outlook on life, I can only look back in awe on what our teachers achieved back then.

With everything going on outside the school, inside they maintained high standards and expectations, with the common goal of giving pupils the best they could when it came to education and sport. I remember teachers like Mr Randall, who raised funds though his annual big walks; Mr Ross, Mr Ontong, Mrs Adonis who was involved in school sport – and from whom I got my love of all sport – and Mrs Williams, who, when I was in Standard 5, pushed me and supported me after identifying my academic potential.

To all of them, I would like to convey a very heartfelt “thank you”.

What really stands out for me during my primary school years was the annual sports day, which was preceded by weeks of early morning training before school to get ready for the big day at either Athlone or Vygieskraal stadium.

The big day would start with all the pupils being bused down to the stadium, sometimes with parents in tow, for a whole day of sports. The songs, the singing, the competition … the atmosphere was electric.

During my primary school years, Blomvlei and Parkfield primary schools were the top athletic schools in Hanover Park, with other schools like Belmor, Summit and others fighting it out for position.

Songs like “Dis ’* Blomvlei ding, ’* lekker lekker Blomvlei ding, ons kannie warrie nie, want ons gaan we—-en” still echo in my mind.

Those are great memories and great times.

I attended Belgravia High School and travelled to school either by taxi or bus. At school I had loads of friends, many of whom I am still friends with. Social media and things like Skype make it so much easier to stay in touch.

My friends in Lansur Road, however, will always have a special place in my heart. We played cricket in the street with a taped-up tennis ball, a bin for wickets and line drawn with a stone in the road.

In the summer holidays, we played all day and with Jacob de Jongh, I hold the record of batting whole day without getting out…that’s from about 10am to about 5pm. No one could dislodge us.

Guys like Enrico Gietzmann, Enrico Smith, Stevan May, all the de Jongh brothers and all the Gietzmann brothers, have given me more than a lifetime of memories.

When Wimbledon was screened on TV, we would play tennis in the street. Touch rugby was also a favourite until things got a bit heated and one of our games ended abruptly after someone was tackled into a neighbour’s Vibacrete.

I played soccer for Lansur United in the under-10 and under-12 age groups. I recall going to practise on Tuesdays at Summits field, having to walk through the Hard Livings’ territory and pass the gangsters sitting on the corners smoking buttons.

One day, twins who were prominent HL members, came up to me and accused me of running with the American gang. They were really sure it was me, and had the knives out, but then one said, “issie hy nie”… and they let me go.

I loved playing soccer for Lansur every Saturday, going up to the field in our tracksuits, getting changed and then playing the game.

I played with some greats who had real skill, most notably Benedict McCarthy. He was and is a special talent, and could dribble through the whole team, being known to score in almost every game. He played for Pirates and, when we played each other, it was Benni vs Graham. I came second on all occasions.

I played with Benni, however, when we represented Hanover Park at the 1987 winter code tournament which was held at Turfhall.

I was the captain and we lost in the final against Athlone Board, with Benni missing a penalty. He was human after all.

Living in Hanover Park was great. Everybody was friendly, you knew your neighbours, they were all your aunties and uncles and everybody looked out for everybody else.

One thing we could not do, though, was play too far away from home – just in case there was a gang fight. And if there happened to be a gang fight in the road while we were playing outside, we had to get inside as quickly as possible, and if we were too far from home, we’d make a dash into the nearest house or hide behind a wall.

I recall once having to hide behind a public phone box. Gunshots are really loud when you’re outside. I think that my strict upbringing and good friends in Hanover Park helped a lot. I was never bored, always had friends to hang out with who were not gangsters, and this kept me away from that life.

While in high school during the 1990s, the struggle against the apartheid regime was going strong and while I was only 13 years old, and not very clued up on what was going on, I remember the SRC at Belgravia organising all kinds of gatherings and my friends and I just tagging along.

I don’t recall ever getting into trouble at these rallies, but remember that in Hanover Park during the 1980s and 1990s, the smell of teargas was something we were all very familiar with.

From about 1992, I played rugby for Universals which later become Cities when Universals and Lansdowne merged. Our home games were played at City Park in Thornton Road, either on the A,B or C fields. We always wanted to play on the A as that’s where the stand was. The B field was okay, but C was far in the corner and no one wanted to play there.

Lifelong friends were made while playing rugby for Cities, among them Wayne Abrahams (he was my best man here in the UK when I got married), Sherwin Bailey, the hardest man with the biggest heart, Jason Jacobs – the smallest guy, but boy, could he tackle – Sean Brown, Tyrone Williams and Brandon Taylor.

The Athlone News often ran match reports and we always looked forward to the paper for that.

On some occasions there were pictures as well so when we saw ourselves in the paper, or our names mentioned, we’d cut it out and keep it.

I played in Cities’ first team for most of my years with them, and while we lost more games than we won, we all made great memories.

Having to pay airfare for two kids, Hannah and George, who are growing up really quickly, as well as my wife, Sue, and I, it’s getting increasingly expensive to come back to Cape Town every year, so we try to save and come back every three to four years.

But when we do come, we visit all our family in Cape Town.

Dotty, my eldest sister, still lives in Hanover Park, while Nadia and Carol live in Surrey Estate and Thornton respectively.

My brother Cedric lives in Delft. I have too many nieces and nephews to mention but we take the opportunity to try to see as many of them as possible when we are there.

When I’m in Cape Town, even though my family has now moved from Lansur Road, I still go there to show my kids where I went to school, where I played in the street and to visit my friends who live there.

I love going back because it takes me back to my childhood, but it also makes me sad to see the state the area is in. I’m not sure if it’s because I now see it through adult eyes and can see the area for what it is – a poor area where unemployment is rife, gangsterism is normal and drugs are commonplace.

As a child, you are more concerned with playing with your friends and other childhood things. But as an adult you see things for what they are.

With that said, however, I would not change anything.

Where I came from forms a big part of who I am. The family and friends who were around me while I was in Hanover Park contributed to the man I am today. My hope for Hanover Park is that gangs will put down their guns and shelve their hate for each other.

Social media has allowed me to see some sterling work being done in the community by people who really care about the area and sacrifice so much of their time and energy to make Hanover Park a safe and empowered community.

I salute those individuals who epitomise the values of community spirit.

As Athlone News celebrates its 30th anniversary, I would like to wish all the hardworking people at the newspaper for creating a paper that carries news which affects and reflects the community, giving the area an identity.

The paper was the one thing almost everybody looked forward to on a weekly basis, with neighbours always getting copies for each another and discussing the articles published in it.

Happy birthday Athlone News from me, a laatie from Lansur Road, Hanover Park, who walked to the terminus shops almost every day, played soccer for Lansur United, played rugby at City Park and spent almost half my life in a community that still draws me to it whenever I visit.

May the paper go from strength to strength and who knows, at the 60th anniversary, I may be around to take a new generation down memory lane with me.