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The class picture.

school children posing for a class picture
Krugersdorp Town School 1953

"The picture doesn't show me", I cried. Not being noticed, or left out of the group, was my greatest fear, and it has come about. Pictures don’t lie. Ranting and raving won’t reverse the situation. The damage to my ego was complete and disastrous.


The memory of posing for this photograph is etched in my mind. Somebody, or some accident had removed me. All my mates are there. Sorrel Waks, John Miller, and Kenny Resnick are all there. Loyal buddies as they were, it’s unimaginable to think that they allowed themselves to be photographed without me.


Some said that I was hallucinating, a common accusation among kids playing a joke on me, making me think that I was crazy or something. Impossible, I was there, why doesn’t my image show up?


Mrs. Deacon’s voice rang loudly in my ears, "The grade photo will be taken tomorrow". Neatly dressed in full school uniform was a strict requirement. Black blazers, and grey socks up to our knees. Ma was informed immediately, to prepare clothes, to be perfectly attired for the occasion. 


The momentousness of the occasion called for an exceptionally smart dress. 


The broad tie treasured by my father as his most spectacular, blue with a glittering silver star atop a bright red comet, hanging around my neck, shined like silk. 


My hand moved over the smooth material. The decorative piece of clothing took hours to put on, almost making me late for the event.

Hundreds of years into the future the photo will be observed and remarked upon. The event had to be seized.


Every episode in Leon’s life had to be recorded for future generations. This is what photography could do for one.


A moon-shaped face smiled. Looming out of the scene like the sun in an overcast sky. All the other scholars were modestly fitted out. 


Clothed like Sir Galahad out to rescue beautiful Princess Guinevere, the auspicious affair could be faced by me.


The tallest boy. All the students were shorter than me, youngsters, not smiling just with sheepish grins on their faces. A broad smile was mine alone. The only happy person in the portrait.


The grim countenanced mistress is not Mrs. Deacon. Somebody must have also slipped in another educator in my teacher’s place, without me noticing. 


Pupils, arranged like, traitors to be shot at dawn, against the red brick wall according to height, in four rows, shorties in front, tall ones in the rear.


Separate rows for girls and boys. 


Mischievous smirks on some of the countenances reveal the presence of raucous children requiring the use of Mr. Kirchman’s cane. A jolly bunch of individuals. The depiction shows that the brood was well-behaved and cheerful.


Photography was my hobby. Photographers played tricks with pictures. Had he been bribed to take me out? Anything was possible and I meant to get to the bottom of the mystery.

Perusing the visages of my childhood friends, the thought came to me that one of them was me, disguised with Photoshop, creating the impression that I wasn’t in the group. How much more insulting could people get? A joke was permissible but this was going too far.


One looks into a black box, a form is seen, a button is pressed, and a temporary event is made permanent. The likeness fixed on the celluloid strip is developed. Fixing solution, finalizes it onto a piece of white paper. Dried, it turns out to be evidence of who was there, case closed, I’m not believed, accused of lying or hallucinating.


The class image, now, fifty years later, draws me to scrutinize and ponder the faces. How did I relate to them then? How do they shape up now? 


Except for four, John Miller, Kenny Resnick, Victor Essakow, and Sorrel Waks, I don’t know their appearances at present, and I can only remember them as they are in the photograph.


Three, I know, sad to say have passed on. Cynthia Sack, Josephine Katzen, and Percy Smith. Encounters with them since STD V, are still fixed in my memory.


The curly lock of hair, falling on the tall girl's forehead, shows that she had a fine sense of fashion. My admiration for her, inexplicable to me at that time, proves that I possessed a sensitivity for beauty and morality, of which I wasn’t consciously aware.


Together we conducted Habonim (Jewish scouts) gatherings in Florida. Now, it occurs to me that the care I took over dressing in my uniform, was done to please Cynthia.


Josephine wrote a poem for me, now lost, about flowers and gardens. 


Percy, considered to be a fast runner and nimble-footed, challenged me to a fight on our front lawn, banged me once on the head and I put down the gloves. Many years later he stood with a downcast head at my mother’s funeral.


Alive and kicking, as far as I know, the only person interested, like me, in stamp collecting, was blond-haired, Jan Geerlings, of Dutch descent. Together, we spent hours sorting stamps. Some were ordered from adverts in boy’s magazines. Hundreds more, in tin cigar boxes, were presented to me by Jack, Kenny’s father.


John Miller, known for accomplishing feats, admired, specifically by boys, also achieved genuine honors, was head prefect, top scorer in cricket, and smartly turned out cadet.


Tommy Martins, where our snazzy green Chev Biscayne, was purchased, belonged to his family.


John’s cousin, who lived on a farm, and I were good friends. The suburb of Noordheuvel stands there now. Aware of my attachment to my rabbits, Dad acted when I was away, and sent my furry pets there to continue multiplying.


Kenny Resnick, teaching me not to take things too seriously, especially myself, laughed at everyone. 


My gang consisted of three. Members rotated but he and Lenny Myers were fixtures.


A psychologist, specializing in parenting, these days, the fellow features at every place, that comes to mind, the baths, bioscope, Shull, Kadimah country club, wrestling lessons with Strangler Fourie in our spare room. A professional canvas mat filled the room from one wall to the other, he was there.


Sorrel Waks, half my height, thin as a pin, very sprightly, and I passed memorable times bunking Hebrew School, to watch Superman and Roy Rogers at the Café Bio, near the post office. 


Food and drink, consumed in the dark, rested on shelves attached to the backs of seats in each row.


The tombola stand at the annual women’s guild fete yielded a prize for us; a green packet holding 20 Cavallas. All smoked, making us light-headed and dizzy. Imagine children being presented today with cigarettes. Those were carefree days.


The experiences that we shared have become unforgettable stories of my life. The print tells all. Where was I, the hero?


Studying the history of education, I discovered that 1953 was the year of new methods of classifying schoolchildren according to intelligence test results. Education, they claimed was better served by homogenous groups. Less than 100 in one unit, and higher in another.


This is a copy of STD V a, the over 100's. The existence of a group, for pupils of my level of intelligence, was forgotten.


No mistake had been made, nothing was fiddled with, no Photoshop, only discrimination.



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