Beloved ‘Mr Chips’ of Kingswood

Talk of the Town - - News - BOB FORD

MOST of the Eastern Cape’s older tra­di­tional schools have had a “Mr Chips” on their staff at some time or an­other. But none more so than Kingswood Col­lege’s Tommy Hartzen­berg, who be­came a leg­end in the 40 years he spent at the fa­mous school in Gra­ham­stown.

Born and bred in the small Ka­roo town of Nieu-Bethesda, lit­tle did Hartzen­berg know that he would grow up to be­come a well-known and re­spected fig­ure at the school and, in fact, the com­mu­nity he would go on to serve in his later life.

He had an in­ter­est­ing start to his ed­u­ca­tional life when he started school in Nieu-Bethesda, which served the sur­round­ing farm­ing com­mu­nity. In those days, par­ents could choose to have their chil­dren taught in ei­ther English or Afrikaans.

His fa­ther was de­ter­mined that his son would be bilin­gual and in­sisted he be taught in English. As a re­sult, Hartzen­berg was the only pupil out of 150 who was taught in this lan­guage.

Af­ter four years, he was sent to Muir Col­lege, in Uiten­hage where he com­pleted his school­ing eight years later.

Like most coun­try boys, he soon made his mark in his new school and ended up play­ing first-team cricket, rugby and ten­nis. He was also an of­fi­cer in the cadet corps and was head pre­fect in the hos­tel.

Af­ter ma­tric­u­lat­ing in 1948, his head­mas­ter and fa­ther de­cided that Hartzen­berg should be­come a school teacher. And so it was that he en­rolled at Rhodes Univer­sity to study for a BA de­gree ma­jor­ing in English and his­tory.

It was dur­ing these years, that his real sport­ing love was ten­nis and he ob­vi­ously had a nat­u­ral tal­ent for this. He rep­re­sented the univer­sity through­out his four-year stay there and went on to be cho­sen for the SA uni­ver­si­ties team in his last year.

His pref­er­ence was dou­bles and he and his part­ner, Brian Rooke, went on to win many tour­na­ments in the sur­round­ing area. He also went on to rep­re­sent Eastern Prov­ince from 1952 to 1961, but per­haps his most mem­o­rable achieve­ment was when he was in­vited to play in an ex­hi­bi­tion match against Jaro Slav Brovny, of the Czech Repub­lic, who went on to win the Wim­ble­don men’s ti­tle that year.

Hartzen­berg’s as­so­ci­a­tion with Kingswood started in 1952 when the then head­mas­ter of the ju­nior school, Jack Slater, in­vited him to be­come the school’s first “stooge”. This suited him perfectly as he had free board and lodg­ing in ex­change for nor­mal hos­tel du­ties. It also meant he was able to com­plete his stud­ies at the same time at univer­sity.

The fol­low­ing year he was of­fered a teach­ing post with a start­ing salary of the equiv­a­lent of R88 at the se­nior school, which he ac­cepted with the in­ten­tion that he could move on af­ter a few years.

“But ev­ery­one, other teach­ers, par­ents and pupils, were so pleas­ant and friendly that be­fore long I lost all thoughts of mov­ing on,” he said.

In 1954, Hartzen­berg mar­ried his wife, Kay, who was a fel­low stu­dent at Rhodes Univer­sity. She also went on to play a ma­jor role at Kingswood when she ran the book room, li­brary, the cloth­ing ex­change and was the chapel’s flower sec­re­tary for more than 20 years.

In 1961, Hartzen­berg was of­fered the po­si­tion of house mas­ter of one of the hos­tels, Jag­ger House, and the fol­low­ing years were to be­come his most sat­is­fy­ing dur­ing all the years at the school.

The school then ac­quired the ground on which the City Lords sports com­plex was sit­u­ated and the Hartzen­bergs were pre­sented with their next chal­lenge – to form an Old Boys’ Club.

And so it was that the now well-known Wyvern Club was started. From mod­est be­gin­nings this has grown over the years into the mag­nif­i­cent fa­cil­ity it is to­day.

Hartzen­berg was sec­re­tary of the Old Kingswood­ian Club for more than 20 years and was in con­tact with more than 2,500 old pupils through­out South Africa and overseas.

Af­ter serv­ing un­der nine head­mas­ters, he fi­nally re­tired in 1992.

The cou­ple’s el­dest son, Neil, has con­tin­ued the fam­ily tra­di­tion at Kingswood, where he has taught for the last 18 years.

Af­ter re­tir­ing, they moved to Port Al­fred and fi­nally set­tled in Da­mant Lodge some 12 years ago. This re­mark­able cou­ple im­me­di­ately be­came in­volved in the lo­cal com­mu­nity and have served on many com­mit­tees.

Hartzen­berg served as chair­man of the Da­mant Lodge com­mit­tee, chair­man of the PA Benev­o­lent So­ci­ety for 15 years, the Kowie Mu­seum’s board of trus­tees for 10 years, pres­i­dent of Probus for a year and on the com­mit­tee for eight and chair­man of Hospice for five years.

Not to be out­done, his wife served on the com­mit­tee of the Good­will Cen­tre for six years and was trea­surer of the lo­cal Methodist Church for eight years.

The cou­ple have four chil­dren, 10 grand­chil­dren and two great-grand­chil­dren.

Pic­ture: BOB FORD

TEACH­ING LEG­END: Tommy Hartzen­berg, who spent his en­tire work­ing ca­reer of 40 years at the fa­mous Kingswood Col­lege in Gra­ham­stown, with his wife, Kay. Now re­tired to Da­mant Lodge in Port Al­fred, the cou­ple also played a huge role serv­ing many...

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