Beloved ‘Mr Chips’ of Kingswood
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.
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...