Dawid Kotze was the fastest sprinter at Laerskool Lorraine. Yooss, he was rapid!
In the inter-house athletics gala, he would beat me in the 100 metres by about 40 metres.
That’s why he jolled wing and I jolled hooker.
When Kotze gave it flat box, he made this “sss-sss-sss” sound, like a steam engine venting steam.
My mate Glen, on the other hand, was a loose forward. He was a fetcher, quick to the breakdown and good at foraging for ball. We used to ride bikes together.
The one year, Glen had a growth spurt. He came back for standard five and his voice had broken, he’d started shaving and he looked a bit like Gerrie Coetzee.
The oke was massive. And as inter-house athletics time rolled around, we knew. This was the year we could take Kotze.
Sure enough, that year Glen beat Dawid Kotze in the 100 metres. When I spoke to him afterwards he said, “When I was behind Kotze I could see clearly. Then when I passed him everything went black!”
Glen was one of the heroes of Lorraine. Another was John Nel, the best dodger. Dodging was big at Lorraine – it made you excel at the lunchtime open-gates games. John was the all-Lorraine open-gates champ and therefore the u13A rugby captain as well.
Michael Bense was the king of cycling. He came fourth in the 1982 Oosterlig Sirkel on his salmon-pink Le Turbo. He won a popcorn machine and got to stand up in assembly.
Gary Gibson was the only oke at our school to master swing bowling. Shaun Paton scored 30 or more in every innings he played in the B section of the under-13 cricket league. He was the best until Gert Nel’s dad bought him a thigh pad and he scored 90 against Diaz.
The cleverest in school was Sharon Hill, coincidentally also the cutest. Strongest was Jonathan Bartlett. Richest, Michael Thomson. Best BMX, Michael White. Best at kleilat fights, Michael Nel.
These were the heroes of my childhood. All of us shepherded towards maturity by the likes of Mrs Ridden, Mr Frauenstein, Mr Lotter and Mr Van Rooyen.
Where are they now?
I don’t know. And I don’t think I want to know.
Growing up changes our perspective and shifts our priorities fundamentally. What was worthy of massive respect and admiration yesterday can become utterly meaningless today. And our heroes, the kids we held in such awe, they can be reduced to the level of the mundane and ridiculous.
I don’t particularly want to see a race between Glen Wasserman and Dawid Kotze these days. They might be faster than they were in 1983, but their showdown wouldn’t have the drama, the gravitas of that epic under-13 final, with White and Blue house tied on points.
I’m sure Sharon Hill is still as lovely as ever, even if her name is different. But I prefer to remember her as she was when she sat in front of me in Mr Frauenstein’s class.
When I think of Gary Gibson, I see a shiny, red, medium-paced away-swinger being edged to first slip.
The name Michael White conjures up images of a blonde kid on a metallic-red Scorpion wheely-ing two whole lampposts in Alsace Road.
And that’s where he belongs.
The golden days of childhood were golden especially because of the boundless infinite possibility that stretched out in front of us.
I see more than enough podgy, slightly cynical thirtysomethings in my daily life. I don’t need to see any more who can make me think, “Sheez, look how he ended up. Used to be the hippest guy in standard five.”
I’ve got a couple of mates I’ve known since childhood and they’ve done very well for themselves, thank you. But the rest of them, I’d prefer to imagine the rest of their lives to myself.
To me, Sharon Hill went on to become Miss Universe, and chief actuary for Investec. Gary Gibson played cricket for the Titans. Shaun Paton emigrated to Australia, where he’s now batting coach for New South Wales. Michael White now designs BMX bicycles out of San Diego, California.
And somewhere, in a parallel dimension, Glen Wasserman and Dawid Kotze are still tearing down the grass track at the back of Lorraine Primary School. Kotze’s got the, “Sss-sss-sss” going on, and Glen’s surging past him, arms pumping and his vision going all black. The fastest oke in the whole of Lorraine.