When I started out as a pupil technician I ended up living in Cradock with my small family consisting of my wife Bev, my daughter Barbara and of course, me. Being a pupil technician I was paid a tiny amount of money. Before tax I earned R125. After tax, pension, medical aid etc. there was little left. The rent was R25, the food slightly less and the rest went on electricity, water, and that sort of thing. Water, being scarce was expensive and, it was said that the wealth of a family was indicated by the size of the grass patch that they family could afford to water. These budgetary constraints meant that certain common household items such as washing machines were considerable luxuries and so washing had to be done by hand which is not too much of a problem for a bachelor or a childless family, but add a baby, still in nappies and the problems escalate dramatically. Washing nappies in a bath was a nightmare and disposables were just way beyond our reach. However there was one remedy which we resorted to on a regular basis and that was a fortnightly visit to Port Elizabeth to visit our parents, both families were still in the city and so we visited often.


Nappies needing washing from about a week before the visit to PE would be immersed in sterinappi in a bucket and kept, waiting for the trip to PE and a washing machine. The bucket's contents were not putrid, but certainly did not bear a good solid sniff. If the smell of diluted excrement didn't get you, a whiff of almost pure ammonia would do the trick. Our technique was simple, on Friday afternoon the bucket was drained and the nappies lightly rinsed and then sealed into black bags. A double layer was used as a leak during the three hour trip was too horrible to imagine. The bag would be ceremoniously and very, very carefully placed on the floor behind the front seats and then layers of other dirty washing would be placed on top of it. A baby mattress and blanket would finish off the layering and Barbara would have a nice secure and comfortable bed and play pen for the trip. This system worked well and continued for the period that we had small children, with the exception that by the time the second child had arrived we had our own washing machine and the laundry patrol had ceased to be a factor in our packing of the car, but the foot well behind the back seat was always filled with soft clothing and the children had a flat comfortable bed. At the time that the nappy expedition used to happen we had a battered, beat up but extremely reliable Volkswagen Beetle given to us by my father in law as a wedding present. It survived a tumultuous 5 year period and never really gave us any troubles, an unsung hero in my life in the early seventies.

One of the problems with going to PE on a Friday was that invariably there would be a road block at Kinklebos just north of the Sundays river. I noticed last time I passed through there, that the cops have even got lights on either side of the road for night time road blocks. Now I am sure you are wondering why Kinkelbos has the dubious distinction of having regular roadblocks. Let me explain. PE is the closest port to what was then the  Transkei and the Transkei in those days and I am sure today had a major export crop. Now you won't read about it in the Department of Trade and Industries annual report and no reputable geography book will acknowledge the existence of this crop, but it exists. What is this secretive crop? Dagga, cannabis, marijuana, weed, grass. It doesn't matter what you call it but tons of illegal crop is grown in the rural areas of Transkei and transported by road to PE for distribution. I suspect some of it goes westwards and northwards, but a large percentage goes south west to PE. Now there are many roads leading down to PE from Umtata, but the major problem for the drug smugglers comes from the Sundays River. The Sunday's River isn't navigable for very far, it isn't particularly deep, but it has cut an impassably deep channel into the soft sand of the eastern cape and there is only one crossing and that is a bridge just beyond Kinkelbos.

In those days I was an apprentice. Actually to sound more larny, I was a Pupil Technician and like all learners, whatever you call them, I had long hair and a beard. Driving the Volksie just completed the picture. If I had painted "Drug Smuggler" on the door I couldn't have been much more conspicuous. Now let me disabuse you further, I was a serious, hard-working Pupil Tech with a family and I didn't do drugs. Boose yes, but drugs were and still are completely out of my league so the image was completely misleading. I didn't even smoke and I could not afford to drink, so I was clean and healthy. Completely not what I appeared.

Driving down to PE with the family and the washing on Friday evenings was hair raising. The Volksie had 6 volt battery and so if we were late, the lights were almost useless. My technique was to get a big truck or car with big strong lights behind me and keep them there. I am not sure why I was never shot at, but it worked quite well.

Soon after starting work in Cradock, we set out on our bi-monthly pilgrimage to PE. We arrived at Kinkelbos and the inevitable happened. I am waved to the side of the road. They check my licence, peer at the car, its tyres, and all the obvious. Nothing wrong there. Then they spot the back seat. Barbara blissfully asleep on the back seat on a pile of clothing. They insist that the baby be picked up and the back of the car emptied. I explain that it is all washing to no avail.

They unpacked the car, black bag after black bag and eventually inevitably happened. They came to the double packaged nappy bag. A young, strong and aggressive cop pulls it out of the foot well. It is heavy, unlike all the others. He is now seriously suspicious. It doesn't even feel like the other bags. This is more compact, harder. I look at the situation and say, innocently, "I wouldn't open that one if I were you."

That did it, the bag hit the ground and he leapt on the knot on the first bag. Open. What another? Even more suspicious. He rips the second open and makes his fatal mistake. He opens the neck of the black bag and bends over to inspect the contents.

The effect was, to say the least was instantaneous. He leapt back and managed not to gag, but he did go an interesting colour of green. And older cop came up and I explained what was in the bag and he started to laugh. He laughed till he was doubled over and wiping his eyes. He then explained the situation to the gathering crowd of cops, who also started laughing. I carefully knotted the two bags closed and asked politely if I could now go. The senior police man nodded and kept on chortling. As we drove away he was patting the victim on the back and trying not to laugh.

We were never stopped again, but every time we passed through Kinkelbos thereafter, we would be waved through with big grins and, if the poor victim happened to be on duty he would be pointed out to us. We used to wave and look sympathetic.