This is the second chapter of a three-part series about former star athlete and sports coach, the 84-year-old Eddie May remembering his long-time friend, celebrated author and academic Richard Rive. (Read part one here.)
EDDIE May laughs a lot during his conversation with Athletics Clipboard as he recalls some fond memories of District Six, Richard Rive and the lady in his life at the time.
“I courted Richard’s niece, Sylvia Davids. Her mom Lucy Rive (Davids) and Richard were brother and sister,” says May with a broad smile.
“Richard and I did many things together. He was a fantastic guy. You know, he was a better swimmer than an athlete,” he adds.
May tells the story of how he and his friend travelled by bus to Kloof Nek, ran down into the Glen (a wild park) and to the beach for a swim. From Camps Bay, they would take the bus back to Cape Town.
May says Rive was a good high jumper and long jumper. He was not a track athlete.
“He participated in other events too, but these two were his main events,” says May.
May and Rive were Western Province teammates at a time when Boland was part of Western Province.
“The athletes in Paarl were part of the Western Province team in the 1940s,” says May.
In those days Natal and WP held an inter-provincial meeting.
Rive and May were in the WP team together for several years, one athletics programme indicating they were in the team together in 1948 as junior men athletes.
“In 1950, I won the 100m, 200m and 400m in Durban and, at the time, Norman Stoffberg was the manager,” says May.
May tells a story of a Willie Smith whose name is in the 1948 programme as a junior athlete (W Smith).
“Smith used to bully Richard and myself, and we always wondered why, until we found out that he was over age. He competed in the sprints. Richard and I teamed up and sorted him out. But that was not the end of it,” says May.
“Some years later, Richard and I were walking on the parade when I threw out my ice-cream. Smith who, worked as a policeman on the parade, spotted this and gave me a ticket for throwing out the ice cream,” says May laughing.
More seriously, May is very concerned, if not unhappy, that nothing is being done by the younger generation to memorialise the achievements of Stoffberg, Peter Forbes, Dr JM Joshua and many others.
“Dr Joshua poured a lot of money into athletics. He served athletics in a number of positions,” says May.
Joshua was the honourable secretary of the South African Amateur Athletics and Cycling Board of Control. He was also a sports official in his capacity as the medical officer on duty on the day of the championships.
May recognises a number of names on the 1948 programme from his heydays as an athlete.
“Carl Cooper, Kenneth Maggott, Johnny Schaffers, Edwin Kruger and Peter Forbes should all be honoured,” he laments.
He says Peter Forbes was a beautiful athlete over the 1500m and 5000m race. Forbes moved to Toronto and Stoffberg to Vancouver.
Besides their shared love for athletics, May and Rive were also in the scouts.
“Richard was the scouts master and I was his assistant,” says May proudly.
The name of the scouts was 2nd Cape Town. The Scouts Hall was in Harrington Street, behind the District Six Museum.
“The building is no longer there,” says May.
As the bulldozers moved in, the buildings were systematically being flattened.
(The National Party came to power in 1948 and implemented its policy of apartheid; the separation of white people from black people. By, 1966, District Six was proclaimed a white area under the Group Areas Act and the people of District Six were forcibly removed over a period of number of years.)
From Ayre Street, May bought a place in Sheppard Street in District Six.
When District Six was flattened, Rive stayed with May in Perth Road, Walmer Estate.
The academic and the panel beater
Rive followed the academic route while May apprenticed as a panel-beater and in time developed and owned a hugely successful panel-beating firm in Cape Town and in Canada.
While still in District Six, May had a panel-beating shop at the top-end of Hanover Street in a place called the Dry Docks.
“There was a side street called Sheppard Street, I had a workshop there in the Dry Docks.
“There were gangsters like anything! They were all over the place in the Dry Docks which was up against the mountain which is now De Waal Drive,” recalls May.
May emphasises the Dry Docks is not to be confused with the Dry Docks down below, near the sea.
“There were no boats there, it had something to do with the English. The Dry Docks was at the top-end of District Six and against the mountain,” emphasises May.
He later moved his panel-beating firm to Hadji Ebrahim Road, near Rylands in Cape Town, and subsequently moved from Walmer Estate and bought a house in Belgravia Road, Athlone in the 1970s.
To be continued next week.
(Eddie May was interviewed by Clement du Plessis, April 2016)