The left field stand at Parktown Boys’ High School (PBHS) is just large enough to fit the whole school – an impressive image when 800 young men line up in their black blazers and red ties for war-cry practice.
The bleachers strain beneath the force of a resounding “Parktown” when they respond to the cheerleaders’ chants. In contrast, the right field stand is empty. A recent Saturday saw it fill up with old boys returning to watch the annual rugby encounter.
“We are gonna hammer those old boys, we’ll play to the final whistle,” said Rivo Mabunda, 17, a member of the first team, ahead of the much anticipated match.
Parktown Boys’ High School has had pride of place on the Parktown Ridge for almost 90 years, dating back to 1920 when it was first known as North Western High School.
When the original “heritage block” was first built in 1923, the red brick building had to be carefully constructed on great mounds of rock with views south toward the city of Joburg. It overlooked the Braamfontein Spruit below and a cattle path now called Empire Road.
The importance of sport at PBHS is evident in the gradual claiming of the land in the valley. Cricket remains one of their strongest sports and dates back to the early days when the first fields were ploughed by oxen. The course of the river had to be diverted through a storm water drain.
In 1931, rugby was identified as a potential sport and Rand Mining Timber company offered to purchase timber from the school in order to pay for new fields. Five years later, a freak snowstorm coated the fields white on September 11, 1936.
The original pedestrian gate has been given a new home on the hill where various improved facilities have been built over the years, like a new fitness centre that features a rowing room, squash courts and a gym.
Aspects of the extra-mural programme remain distinctly traditional, with a Scottish drum corps, brass band and cadets. Alternative sports are also encouraged and PBHS boasts a long list of post-school achievers. Teachers dedicated to the task of grooming these young men in a modern world, are also very fond of their pupils.
“Parktown attracts boys as diverse as the suburbs from which they come. The boys grow together and leave as part of a brotherhood – as proud Parktonians,” says Zoe von Klemperer who teaches grades 10 and 11.
Both in and out of the classroom, Parktown boys are encouraged to embrace a code of conduct that gives them a sense of direction. A pictorial representation of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour greets them on the wall of the hall, with artwork done by the boys themselves. In their blazer pockets they carry a little booklet to remind them of this pledge.
As Alessandro Petrus, 17, says: “It’s not just our school, it’s our lifestyle.”
As it turned out, the “Old Boys” won the annual rugby match by 24-7.
l PBHS can be contacted on 011 642 4531 or www.parktownboys. com