David’s new life in Zambia started at Solwezi Secondary School
Early 2018: a special note about this page and pictures below: About four years ago, I started this website with the pictures below. Shortly thereafter, I learned how to make pictures enlarge and pop-up when clicked. Only now, am I making major revisions to this page by incorporating vignettes from my letters to dad and mom. Please read these vignettes if you or someone in your family attended Solwezi (SSS) in this period or if you have an historical interest in Solwezi in this time period. A second special note: In October 2015, I added many other pictures of SSS (taken by Alex Nisbet) to a new webpage: Nisbet Photographs: Solwezi early 1960s . Click on this direct link to that page: Nisbet Photos.
August 1963: arrival in the NWP. While I had taught in a multi-ethnic school in the city of Cleveland, I was certainly not wise to the wider world. While time in London helped me understand the wider English-speaking world, this was not adequate for preparing to live in what was still Northern Rhodesia. Immediately after arrival in Ndola, a cosmopolitan center of Zambia’s mining region (simply called the Copperbelt), I was quickly hustled off 200 kilometers west to Solwezi, the eastern-most corner, and capital, of the NWP. Immediately below are pictures of my home and neighbours (all fellow teachers at SSS). Solwezi_arrival _1963
New School Term at Solwezi Secondary School (SSS) for boys. The school’s new term had started just before I arrived. I plunged in immediately with a very full teaching schedule. My learning curve as a teacher was enormous as they desperately needed me to tackle subjects that I had never taught before. I taught several Form I English classes (junior high school) as well as a Form IV History class (like 11th grade to Americans). All students had been highly selected to get into secondary school and spoke and wrote far better English, a second language for most, than I was used to when teaching in Cleveland. Many had a British accent and certainly spelled as the British would.
Besides teaching, I was asked to supervise Chuma House. This was one of six dormitories for this boys’ school. In addition, I was also placed in charge of both the school’s very small medical dispensary and its library.
Chuma House Dormitory
Solwezi’s Library, Clinic, Basketball, Travel, and Bob Hammond
Wider Challenges. The mid-1963, local geographical, social, political environments also presented me with many new challenges, both easy and quite difficult. For example, having spent long periods on my grandparents farms in Ohio, I easily related to the rural life of the NWP. Having also been raised in a very conservative Christian community, I could also immediately relate to the conservative Christian environment that pervaded the government school. In contrast, I was immediately deeply troubled by British Colonial society in the waning days of Northern Rhodesia. New Zambian officials were being hastily trained for government positions and society was also being transformed, but often more slowly. The Anglican church (only English-speaking church) was open for all and Solwezi’s private social club had just invited its first Zambians to enter as the color bar started fading. Still race mattered in a multiple ways, some very subtle and some still quite obvious.
Solwezi Town. The main town was about 3 km. (1 1/2 miles) away making for a long walk, even with short-cut paths through the woods, or a short drive. Three fairly large stores had basic (but expensive) supplies and were branches of their larger Copperbelt stores. See pictures below of the town centre and these stores.
Solwezi Town Centre: Main street, stores, P.O. and Provincial Boma
No paved roads in the NWP. Throughout this period, from not only 1963-68, but also 1970-79, there was not a single paved road in the NWP. The nearest paved road was reached just outside Chingola in the Copperbelt, about 160 km. to the east.
Morris Mini (picture above). Despite no paved roads, I somewhat foolishly purchased a small Morris Mini. On Solwezi’s roads it was marginally useful and much less so in the rest of this vast province stretching westward almost 600 km. Although not a mechanic, I nonetheless, relentlessly traveled throughout the NWP until the end of 1964 when I moved to Zambezi. A guardian angel seemingly watched over me and I never had a serious accident nor was I forced to sleep along the road for even a full night. As transport was so desperately needed, I almost never traveled alone, but had more than one passenger as well as supplies.
Racism confronted. In Ohio in the early 1960s, I had worked against racism in all its forms, but here I confronted a different version that took me off guard. I immediately learned that Americans (of all races) were regarded as “European.” Individuals of both races were very polite and cordial. The British endured my different view of society and Africans regarded me as a kindly white guy who differed somewhat from the British majority of the white officials.
Mindolo, Mutanda and new friends. Shortly after settling into Zambian life, I accidentally learned about the Mindolo Ecumenical Centre in Kitwe and started visiting it regularly whenever I went to get supplies on the Copperbelt. It was devoted to religious and racial healing and understanding as Zambia transitioned from colonial status to independence. Here, I immediately found new friends, first Jeff Iredale and Jones Banda, whose photos appear below and later Muriel Williams (later Sanderson). The photos of Jeff and Jones were taken when they visited Solwezi and Mutanda. Also, see also the whole webpage on Muriel. Mindolo 1963
Mutanda Mission (30 km. to the west of Solwezi) was quite different from Mindolo. It was part of the South African General Mission (SAGM), an international conservative evangelical group. SAGM later became part of the Africa Evangelical Fellowship (AEF) in Zambia and SIM internationally. (AEF still receives some international funding and help from SIM.) In 1963, Mike Warburton (from America) was a senior leader. He and his wife’s hospitality were always appreciated and also he helped church services at the secondary school.
Extensive travels in 1963-4. The “wide-open” spaces of the enormous NWP, the rest of Northern Rhodesia, Southern Rhodesia, South Africa and S.W. Africa (later Namibia) all beckoned me. In the space of about 18 months after I arrived in Solwezi in August 1963, I traveled southern Africa quite extensively before I moved to Balovale (Zambezi) in January 1964.
When I drafted this Solwezi page for the website four years ago, I wrote from memory and had not yet reread these old letters. Thus, I had forgot how extensive these travels had been! Now, as I continue to reread and edit these old vignettes from my letters, this part of the Solwezi page will be expanded considerably as I proceed into 2018. I will not describe all these travels in a strict chronological order, but will be careful to note exact dates. Also, some of the pdf files will include my main experiences in almost tiresome detail for anyone interested in my basic stories of Solwezi in 1963-4!
Kansanshi Mine in 1963-64 and Kariba Dam with Philip Muke. At this time, Kansanshi Mine was still a large hill — just behind us. It is now a very large open-pit, one of Zambia’s largest and most profitable. Kariba Dam, which we generally saw when when visiting Livingstone or on our way to Salisbury (now Harare) in on the right.
Mwinilunga with Philip Muke. On the 1964 Easter weekend, a long weekend holiday, I set out with Philip, a senior student as my guide, to visit Kalene in the northern corner of Mwinilunga District. Kalene was Philip’s birthplace and he was eager to show me his home district. (Like many other school “boys,” Philip was as old as I was.) As noted in the pictures below, we went to the source of the Zambezi, the Zambezi rapids, the bridge leading across the border to Angola, large pineapple fields, and some CMML missions stations of historical note. These places are described elsewhere on this website.
As I continue updating this Solwezi page, I will note other places where Philip and I traveled. These included Kansanshi copper mine (just 12 km from the school), Kariba Dam, Livingstone and Salisbury (now Harare).
Livingstone and the Victoria Falls. In late September 1963, I make my first visit to the Falls, about 20 km from Livingstone. I would visit this city and the Falls nearby very often. Later in 2018, I will quote vignettes from my letters to my parents with my initial observations as I update this page.
The pictures below illustrate one trip with several students and a teacher. I took the students as a reward for good writing.
Salisbury (now Harare). After my very first visit to the Falls, I drove south into Southern Rhodesia via the Wankie (now Hwange) Game Park and Bulawayo to Salisbury. [I will add many vignettes later.] At that time, at least for me, Salisbury was almost an awesome place, a “real” city like what I was used to in America; not mining, “cow” town, or “whatever” as Lusaka was!
South Africa and Namibia. On the long six week school holiday In Dec. 1963 and Jan. 1964, I took off for Cape Town with Clive Inman, a student teacher from the UK. We traveled though the Zimbabwe ruins in Zimbabwe, then though Johannesburg and Soweto, and along the Garden Route through Genadendal to Cape Town. From there I flew to Windhoek, capital of Namibia (then South West Africa). From there I took a train to Swakomund and Walvis Bay and went by tourist land rover northwards to see the seal rookery at Cape Horn. [A link will be added here from my long narration of this memorable journey.]
Assorted Pictures of my trip to Cape Town and Namibia: Ostriches at Oudtshoorn, Genadenal (Western Cape), Cape Town, Windhoek and Cape Cross’s seal rookery.
I had a safe journey back to Zambia, and peacefully taught at Solwezi. [More will be added here from my letters later.] but several months later set out again.
A sad tragedy. Several months after by return, I set out again for South Africa. Unlike my prior journey, this trip did not end well. I had accompanied three teachers to Livingstone before moving on to South Africa. When I reached Port Elizabeth, I learned of the death of three Solwezi colleagues. These teachers had a terrible head-on car crash in the Southern Province of Zambia, as they returned to Solwezi from their holiday in Livingstone. This was just several weeks after we had all been together relaxing in Livingstone before I traveled on south. All adults were instantly killed with only a baby surviving. These teachers were: John and Angela Nash from the UK and Abe Hassan, a new teacher at Solwezi from Cape Town. On the right below, see two pictures of Gwen (orange dress) and the daughter.) Upon hearing of their death, I determinedly drove over 1400 km. non-stop back to Zambia; longest non-stop drive in my whole life.
Effects of the tragedy. Solwezi Secondary School was devastated, and not only psychologically. Three teachers out of a teaching staff of about 14 was difficult as the new school term was just ready to start. It would take the Ministry of Education in Lusaka six months to fill the vacancies. Everyone filled in as much as possible to keep the school from shutting down.
By mid-1964, Independence fever was hitting Zambia, including the NWP and SSS. Zambians were ecstatic to soon be free of British rule. Conversely, whites were very nervous as they tended to focus on the chaotic independence in the Congo that bordered all of the NWP and the Copperbelt Province to the north. Prices of expensive goods dropped drastically and I got some of the greatest retail bargains in my life during this tense period! Fortunately, the optimists, myself included, proved correct. As the celebrations approached, I decided this would be a good time to see the far western regions of the NWP.
A drive west to Balovale (now Zambezi) at Independence on 24 October 1964. Thomas Samungole, a senior student my age and still a very dear friend today, escorted me to see Zambezi (then Balovale) District which at that time straddled the mighty Zambezi River. This was his home region. The distance from Solwezi was approximately 350 miles (550 km). The road was all gravel and dirt with deep sand in a few places, especially between Kabompo and Zambezi towns. Somehow we made it through and back to Solwezi in my Mini.
At that time the fast flowing Kabompo River was still crossed only by a pontoon. (A much-needed bridge was only built in the 1970s.) Lying far from any town and with no place to stay (especially when heading west), you had to plan your trip to get across before it closed just before sunset. Otherwise, you had to sleep in your car and face hordes of mosquitoes! Many an accident occurred as people rushed at high speeds on the bad dirt roads to get across.
Kabompo Pontoon and unpaved roads in the NWP: 1960s / 1970s
Reaching Zambezi, we first stopped at the Trades School just outside Balovale town, which was to be replaced in January 1965 by a new secondary school.
After reaching Zambezi we turned north and drove along the east bank of the Zambezi River for 80 km. to Chavuma. (Chavuma is now separate district.) This was just before the Independence celebrations. We crossed the river by pontoon and dugout canoe so that Thomas Samungole could briefly visit his family on the west bank.
Independence celebrations: 24 October 1964. From Chavuma, we returned to Zambezi town for the celebrations. As elsewhere in Zambia, they were the biggest event of the year. We stayed in the small government rest house. The small club (formerly whites only and by then more black than white) was the focus for the educated elite. Both Thomas and I had a wonderful time. At the club, I met a South African nurse, Miriam Zindi Nondomiso Gqomo, who within six months become Mrs. Wilkin. She had been in Zambezi less than a year as a refugee from South Africa’s apartheid.
Short visit to Ohio at the end of 1964. Just before I moved to Zambezi (then Balovale) in January, I made a short visit home to the USA. I surprised my parents, which were then both living, by walking in the house unannounced. This was to be the last time I would see my mother before she died in 1967. I have no pictures of this visit, but below are pictures of Greece on a stop-over on my way to America.
Greece: Dec. 1964