Ex-railway man celebrates 90th with the ATKV
He survived two wars, saw the birth and end of apartheid, and now, at the start of a new decade, the 90-year old uncle Johan van Deventer is a proud member of the ATKV.
This die-hard ex-railway man from Nigel, to the east of Johannesburg, was born on 8 February 1930.
The ATKV was established seven months later, on 19 August.
Uncle Johan joined the Railways as a 17-year-old and worked as driver and later as supervisor.
“I can still remember how the ATKV recruited members at the Railways in Ladysmith in Natal. I was 20 years old,” he told us while resting his hands on his walking stick.
He worked there for 30 years before retiring in 1985.
Uncle Johan and his wife, Suzie (80), have been living in Nigel for the past 15 years.
“I can still remember why I have joined the ATKV. It was for the holiday resorts. A railway man works hard and also needs a holiday,” he said and laughed.
He recalled that they were particularly fond of ATKV Buffelspoort and Goudini Spa in Rawsonville in the Western Cape.
“When I had leave, my family and I went to one of the resorts. The atmosphere was always pleasant. You could find rest for your soul.
“I can still remember when it was fruit season. Then there was a wooden wagon full of peaches and apples at Goudini’s entrance. You could help yourself to as many fruit as you wished. Goudini Spa was always the prettiest to me.
“Those were wonderful times. I never regret joining the ATKV. We have made many friends through the organisation with whom we braaied and had lots of fun in the swimming pools.”
He and aunty Suzie were also active members of the ATKV branch Ladysmith, where they lived.
Aunty Suzie was a member of the ATKV women’s branch in their town for 30 years.
“We have worked extremely hard,” she recalled.
“We organised various fetes to raise money for the branch as well as to compile an ATKV women’s recipe book. Those were exciting times. We were always on the go,” she said.
Aunty Suzie took out two badges.
“For each decade that you were part of the ATKV women’s group, you received a badge. I received the ones for 10 and 20 years, but on my 30th year at the ATKV we moved and unfortunately I did not get the badge.”
During the time that they were actively involved with the ATKV, they also attended six annual general meetings.
“I still remember in the early 90’s, Nelson Mandela was one of the guest speakers. Everybody rose as one man when he appeared on stage.
“We have seen how chairpersons of the ATKV came and went.”
And what about the ATKV do they miss the most?
“I think the unity. You felt part of a family,” replied uncle Johan.
“We all had one purpose, to protect our language and out heritage.