Richard Sloan

Name ID 1944

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Extract Author: Torsten Möller
Page Number: 2004 09 26a
Extract Date: 1956-1958

Torsten Möller - Arusha School 1956-1958

I was at Arusha School from May 1956 to December 1958 and in the 46 years since leaving I have not had any news. To then come across your site and explore its contents has been just marvellous. The photograph of the dining room, redolent of tough liver and ‘frog spawn fruit’, was for me the most poignant, with the very same benches and Mt. Meru ascension boards still in place. That says a lot about the values and traditions handed down over, literally, generations. The living embodiment of this constancy is of course the tortoise - may it outlive us all!

I was born on 5th May 1949 of Swedish parents at the hospital in Arusha, which also features in one of your photographs. My father was District Medical Officer, with postings in Monduli, Mwanza, Bukoba, and Moshi, and then ran the Health Education unit and the University Dispensary in Dar es Salaam until 1967. Dar is in fact the beginning of my most vivid memory of life at Arusha School.

It was the end of the Easter holidays in 1958 when I contracted mumps and missed the first days of term as a result. My best friend, Richard Sloan did well out of this because despite not falling ill, he was told to stay away from school as well, as a precaution. Richard and I then made that interminable journey by train from Dar to Dodoma at what seemed like walking pace. I particularly remember a vile, unsweetened jelly dessert served on that train, made from the equally vile Dodoma water. Onwards the next day by bus, arriving in Arusha after dark. This was my first term after graduating from Junior School Block to a dormitory on one of the ‘quads’. The first delight that night was getting into what was an ‘apple pie’ bed and re-making it to sniggers in the dark from my, as yet unseen, fellow inmates.

The next day we were, as usual, required to lie on our beds for an hour at noon to read and rest, no doubt to give the masters some respite during the hottest part of the day. A sharp look-out was kept for ‘Lanky’, a master held in particular fear on account of the fact that ‘six of the best’ from his Size 12 tackie were particularly painful. As soon as the coast was clear, the prefect leapt off his bed and made for mine. All the other 11 members of the dormitory also gathered round, grinning in anticipation of the fun about to begin. The prefect produced a loaded gun, pointed it at me and pulled the trigger, but with no more serious consequences than the laughter at another entertaining initiation.

Other than this hair-raising experience, I have retained little of note; I remember the swimming galas when the ‘floating competition’ was invariable won by the headmaster, Cyril Hamshere who was well endowed with natural buoyancy. Then there was the occasion when a purchase of ground nuts in a twist of newspaper for 5 cents laid me out for a week and left me with a life-long aversion for peanuts. I also remember the fabulous chameleons we used to befriend with offerings of dead flies and then keep on our shoulders as we hunted insects for our charges with strips of rubber as our weapon. To this day I am deadly accurate with a rubber band thanks to early training at Arusha School, Box 42, Arusha, Tanganyika Territory, British East Africa, Africa, Earth, The Solar System, Space…

Thanks for your email full of wonderful memories. I’m sorry it’s taken me a little while to reply. I also received, and took full note of your request not to place it on the web site.

We must have overlapped by a few months. I left, aged 11, in April 1957. My brother was born in Arusha Hospital in 1954, and we took the photo of the hospital when we went back 10 years ago. Since then I have been lucky enough to make a few visits (another one next week!), and slowly develop the web site. I was thrilled to find the tortoise – my children thought I was joking when I told them about it, and were amazed when we turned a corner to find it still there. Still there also in April this year, as my last check.

I was also very surprised to see the dining hall looking exactly the same with all the old furniture, and the achievement boards still in place. For me the hated memory was the smell of burnt onions.

My father was the rector of Christ Church, just across the river, so I never had to suffer the privations of boarding. But I do remember being beaten on the palm of my hand by the master in the carpentry class. When I visited last year, there were about 1200 pupils, but using the same buildings erected perhaps for 300. They were all taking exams, with their desks spilling out onto the grounds around the classrooms.

I too suffered from mumps, but from exclusion from school, rather than the illness itself. My mother had mumps while breastfeeding me, so I must had acquired some immunity, and had to spend 56 days in quarantine (working at home, as we would call it now) as each of my brothers went down with it.

The swimming pool is also still there – but now a dry hole in the ground. It seems so small, and hard to realise the feeling of terror it invoked in one to whom swimming did not come easily. Somewhere I had a snap of the swimming gala, which I must put on the web site when I get a chance.

Extract ID: 4830
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