Old Unionites Association

Our Heritage

The original Union High School Past Pupils Association was started in 1929 at 83 Cradock Street - the then home of Captain Barter.  David Light was elected Chairman and remained in that capacity until 1947.  The association did not function regularly all that time.

Hans Muller, then a clerk in the Midland agency was the first secretary, who held this position until he left Graaff-Reinet for Kroonstad to take up the position of secretary of the Board of Executors there.

Hedley Pieters then took over the secretarial duties in 1938 which lasted about one year when he was transferred to Barclays Bank in Pretoria. Miss Nancy Cyrus took over in 1939 and held the position of Secretary for some longer time.  When she left for Port Elizabeth 1946,  Miss Merna Marnewecke filled the position.

The subscriptions then were five shillings per annum or three pounds three shillings, for “Life Membership” with a free copy of the School Magazine every year.  The cost of a Blazer complete with an all wire Badge was three pounds stg.  The association had some money, although not enough to embark upon any big undertaking such as a swimming pool, or a tennis court, etc. although these were the aims of the association.

In October 1956 Mr Arnott asked Mr Hoffie if he would take over the PPA and put it on sound footing. At that stage it was making a very poor effort to survive. Efforts were made as far back as 1929 to get the Association going but with no results. Nobody was interested and what use would such an Association be to the school? Mr Hoffie accepted the challenge but told Mr Arnott that he would tackle the problems in his own way and did not want anyone to interfere.

First of all he obtained the Senior Certificate lists and made copies of each and then sent out these lists to ex-pupils whose addresses he knew asking for their help in tracing their old classmates. He started working on these addresses and sent out a circular to them all, asking for help and the assurance that as long as he was secretary the Association would not fail. The fees were set at R6,30 for life membership and 50 cents for annual subscriptions. These were trying days, but every clue was followed and in many cases these proved fruitful and new members enrolled.

In February 1957 a well attended AGM was held and Frank Joseph was elected Chairman. Mr Hoffie was elected Secretary and Charles Blom as treasurer. Committee members were Henry, Elsabe Hartzenberg, Chookie Geard Snr. Abrie Goedhals, Jan du Toit and one or two others. It was at this meeting that it was decided to change the old Past Pupil blazer to a green one with the badge.

The first get together was held at the Drostdy Hotel in 1958. Unfortunately, seating was limited and only 99 were able to enjoy the wonderful fare served by the Serman family.  After 1958 the meetings had to be moved to the Graaff-Reinet Hotel where more members could be accommodated. The yearly functions there were usually attended by approx. 200 guests. Growth was there and membership increased greatly.

It was during Mr Hoffie's time that the first Old Unionite Bursary was awarded to Ron Abbott.  As membership increased so the number of bursaries increased until eventually three bursaries were awarded annually. One had only to attend the annual past vs. present cricket and tennis matches to see how the association had grown.

Mr Arnott once stated that the strength of school depended upon the strength of the Past Pupils Association.  One had only to see what a difference the association had made to the life of the school. They came from all over the Republic, Rhodesia and SWA to attend the yearly functions.

Membership increased gradually and members were enrolled as far afield as Canada, USA, British Isles and Australia. Believe it or not, a past pupil who was resitent in Timbukto in North Africa was enrolled. She was married to one of the British Commissioners and after three years, her husband retired and they settled in Scotland. It was an exacting work in trying to get this Association going, but in many ways it was rewarding. Different functions were attended and enjoyed by past pupils who came from as far afield as Zambia, Zimbabwe, and SWA. Membership had increased to over 700.

Special mention must be made of Mr Frank Joseph, who never gave up on keeping the association going.
The Old Unionites were instrumental in starting similar associations at both the Training College and Volkskool, and also gave Chum Ochse and Cecil Clement valuable help in getting similar associations going at Paarl Boys’ High School and Muir College.

Currently the Old Unionites Association has a complete database of over 3000 members!  The projects the association has funded include upgrading of the kitchen facilities in the Union Club House and the Union Astro Turf in 2011.

"Heritage is not a luxuray or pleasant recreational pastime, but an integral part of our future."

Dame Jenny Abramsky