Growing up in Africa

October 18 – Thought I would give you a background on the various African Tales I have so far related, and of which there will be more to come. So, some family history, based on our visit to the elementary school on Thursday…

Dale talking with the students about some of the bugs in his collection

Dale talking with the students about some of the bugs in his collection

In 1935 my parents were asked to go as missionaries to Southern Rhodesia in Africa. Southern Rhodesia was named after Cecil John Rhodes, an Englishman who became very well known. They were first sent to Solusi, the oldest Adventist mission station in the world. I was just six years old at the time and liked Solusi Mission a lot, for it had lots of wild creatures and many rocky hills where leopards lived, snakes, lizards, bugs, etc.

On the mission station there were a boys’ dormitory and a girls’ dormitory, and inside the floors were covered with a hard layer of dried cow manure, which kept the dust down and made it easier to sweep, and smelled bad. But the Africans were used to this from their own huts, so they didn’t seem to mind.

I remember on Sabbaths that the students would line up in front of their dormitories and march over to the church, singing as they went. In the church the men and boys sat on one side and the women and girls sat on the other. Those who had shoes often carried them to church and then put them on before they went in. Most of the Africans went barefoot as a matter of course. When it came time to study the Sabbath School lesson, the classes would go outside and sit on the ground under trees, because there were no actual classrooms in the church. If it rained, they stayed in the church.

Giving the kids the low-down on school in Africa

Giving the kids the low-down on school in Africa

The missionary kids didn’t go to school there on the mission station but went far away to a school near Cape Town, called Helderberg College – it was 1300 miles away from my home at Solusi Mission.We kids traveled by train for three days to get there. Then we stayed there for nine months until summer vacation of three months when we would get to go back home again for a while. Even little children were often sent to Helderberg College, some in first grade, and didn’t see their parents for all that time. Parents wanted their children to go to a church school, so they figured it was worth it to be separated for all that time each year. I went there for the first time when I was twelve years old, because I had been taught on the mission station by one of the missionary ladies. There were just three of us missionary kids in that school. One year I came back home to Southern Rhodesia on the train with a pet squirrel. Another time I came home with a big black snake and a small cobra I had caught. I had to keep them well hidden away as the train conductor would not have allowed them on the train.

Mom and Dad moved 52 times
to different homes and places,
and were sent to three different
mission stations in eleven years.

The missionaries did not usually learn to speak African languages as they moved around to other parts of the country quite often where the language would be different. But all of the African students were taught English on the mission, so everybody spoke English. Mom and Dad moved 52 times to different homes and places, and were sent to three different mission stations in eleven years. For one year I taught seventh grade on Lower Gwelo Mission because they couldn’t find a regular teacher, but otherwise I worked in the town of Gwelo about 20 miles away.

Then a young lady teacher came out from Erie, PA, to teach, and we got acquainted. She was Miss Christoph, the lady who is today my wife Chris. I had a German Shepherd dog that I couldn’t keep, so I gave it to her and so I would have to come out to the mission station from town to see the dog. Then I started coming out to see Miss Christoph, and eventually we got married in 1955, and came back to America in 1956.

Our sailing ship, off the coast of South Africa

Our sailing ship, off the coast of South Africa

Missionaries were supposed to stay in the mission field for six years, then go back home to America (or wherever they were from) for a year of furlough or vacation. However while we were in Africa, World War II started and it was too dangerous to take a ship back to America. As a result, we stayed on for eleven more years before the war ended. During those years my dad’s mother died, so he never got to see her again.

In 1945 the war ended and my folks tried to get a ship back to America, but they were all full of soldiers going home from war and we couldn’t get tickets. We finally found a ship at Cape Town, a three-masted sailing ship from Argentina, so we became passengers on that little ship and sailed for a month over to Argentina, and then took another ship to North America. On its next trip back from Cape Town that sailing ship sank, so we were lucky we weren’t on that trip! – DALE

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