I was probably ten when the miniatures collecting craze took hold in the school.
I think it started with one or two children having tiny bottles of Coke in miniature crates.
Soon we were getting into it quite seriously with dentist’s samples of toothpaste and any other “miniature” we could get our hands on.
In the town, maybe one street up from the Primary School and just off the main street was a company called EPEE Distributors. It was easy to remember and sort of a joke because my initials are EPE.
I had been into EPEE a couple of times to ask for miniatures, which, in the form of rep’s samples, they gave me. I remember they gave me a tiny tube of Kolynos toothpaste. It was quite distinctive with the yellow tube with black print on it. (If anyone remembers its colours differently then put it down to my colour confusion). There was also Ipana toothpaste and I had also got a tiny tin of Andrew’s Liver Salts and one or two other things from there.
The woman at reception told me that we could call in every couple of weeks and if there was anything new she would put one or two items aside for us.
One day after I had been playing at school, or at with some friends, I was going to hitch a ride to the Cylnor – if I got lucky, I might even get a lift part-way up Helderberg College Road. As I walked past EPEE Distributors I called in with my friend (I can’t remember who I was with) to check if they had any new miniatures. I think they were busy but they gave us a handful of samples (miniatures) and we scampered out to divide our loot.
Among the two or three items were about six sample packs of Brooklax, consisting of about six small squares that looked, innocently, like a tiny, thin slab of chocolate. The chocolate was even wrapped in silver foil and slid out of the wrapper just like Cadbury’s.
For those who do not know (and we didn’t) Brooklax is a fairly powerful laxative.
We got up to the garage where the fork in the road went right for Stellenbosch, and home for me, or left for Cape Town. My friend lived somewhere near there and went off home and I started walking up the hill. I got a lift as far as the Cylnor and started to trudge up Helderberg road.
I had read the instructions on the Brooklax wrapper without REALLY understanding the dire warnings. I decided a little taste would do no harm, would it? I mean it was just chocolate medicine that they would not just give to children if it was dangerous?
By the time I had walked to Irene Avenue I had eaten, if not all of one pack probably most of it. As I started into my road my tummy rumbled. Google Earth shows the distance from the corner to my then front gate as being 160 metres. I was probably 50 metres from the front gate when I rushed headlong into the bushes, barely able to adopt the position before my bowels emptied.
I made it home with about two more stops by which time there was nothing inside me and I was somewhat worried I was going to turn inside out.
When I told my mother why I looked so terrible she could barely contain her laughter but she made sure nothing bad would happen and I was OK to go to school next day. The lesson was well and truly learned.
To this day I avoid laxatives and even if a doctor wants to prescribe them, as has happened literally once or twice since, I try to talk the doctor out of it!
We children hiked everywhere if we did not cycle and thought nothing of it. Our parents forbade it of course but we did it anyway – a much gentler, law abiding and less dangerous world it was then.