1998 was probably the most traumatic year of my adult life. When I think back to that year and what we as a family went through, I am surprised that the black depression didn’t hit me then.
My beloved mom, Ray Treges passed away after numerous strokes. She died alone in a stroke victim rehabilitation facility in Johannesburg on March 15th, a few days after her 67th Birthday on 8th March.
Both my sister Margie and myself were devastated by her death as were most of the our family, we all loved her very much and miss her so much to this very day. I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I don’t think of her.
I had no sooner got back to work after the funeral in Johannesburg, when I was told that the MD of the company would be coming up from head office to have a meeting with me. I was then general manager of a packaging factory in Isithebe- Northern KwaZulu Natal.
Our MD arrived and in a private meeting I was informed that a decision had been made by the board of directors to close down the Woven’s division of the factory and sell all the machinery and assets to a Taiwanese company and that the Woven’s division will only operate as a sales and marketing company and will contract all the manufacturing to the Taiwanese company who were opening in the Isithebe area. In the sale agreement with the new company, an agreement had been reached that they, the Taiwanese company would undertake to employ some of our staff and that I was not one of them. However they DBC Wovens would still retain me on full salary until everything was wound up and the doors of the old factory were closed. They needed me to negotiate the best redundancy package (from management perspective) with the trade unions representing the workers. I did this to the best of my ability and am proud to say that all were happy with the outcome. As far as I was concerned, my redundancy package involved six months on full salary while alternate employment was sought for me within the group. I had no alternative but to agree and on April 1st I moved into a position with the computer company which we had started a couple years prior and was being run by my wife Irene and business partner Joe Náude. This arrangement was okay while I was still earning my full salary from DBC but the computer company was not big enough to sustain me as well. I was beginning to get very anxious indeed.
The third factor to add to 1998 being my most traumatic year was that on June 2nd I turned 50. Where was I going to find a job at the age of 50? I had been trying to find alternate employment but the moment any employment agent heard my age they would smile politely and say sorry, they don’t really have anything for me or that I was far too qualified for the job. I was trying to remain positive and my wife was a pillar of strength but inside the black depression was starting to take hold. I was becoming more and more terrified about what was going to happen. To say that suicide had not crossed my mind would be a lie, I had thought about it but dismissed the thought quickly when I thought about my three wonderful boys, the youngest being only 9.
I was probably at my lowest when I received a phone call from a good friend, Monty Munstermann who was the MD of Ultrapak in East London, one of the other packaging factories within the DBC group. He asked me to go in to see him at the DBC head office in Durban. I promptly agreed and headed off to a meeting with him.
The board of director had found a position for me at Ultrapak but I would have to relocate to East London. The position would involve liaison between customers who were largely Dairy farmers and Bakeries and the Factory. It would also involve production planning in which I was quite experienced. I had met the GM of Ultrpak before and liked him a lot so was sure I could fit in well. However, I was not too keen to move to East London as we had the computer business which was ticking over very nicely and was giving Irene a good salary as well as giving a good living to all who were working for her. I told Monty that I would have to discuss it with Irene and asked if he would hold the position for me for a few days. He readily agreed and offered to send me down to EL to have a chat to John Wilmers the GM of Ultrapak. He also suggested I take Irene down to have a look.
We had a long discussion and decided that it would be a good idea to go to East London, have a look at the factory and the town and chat to John. I could then decide if I should take the position or not. Well I did just that and found that I could probably be very happy in East London and anyway nobody was pounding at my door to offer me any kind of job in Durban. So after a further family discussion it was decide that I should take the job and move to East London. So at the end of August 1998 I moved down and took up my new position at Ultrapak. The Company had agreed that Irene and Evan could continue to stay in the company house in Blythedale Beach until the beginning of 1999 when they planned to sell the house. Evan was to join me in EL and Irene would get a small flat until she could sell the business and join us in EL.
Bradley, our eldest son who had been living in London since 1996, had come over with his girlfriend to spend Christmas with us. The factory closed for the Christmas holidays so I joined the family, Darren, our middle boy had just completed matric and was contemplating going over to London to join his brother Brad. In the meantime he had moved into our bachelor flat in Durban with a friend.
After spending a great Christmas with the Family, Evan, Nancy (our domestic housekeep) and I headed off to EL. I had found a nice four bed roomed house in Beacon Bay and the furniture was packed in a container and shipped down to EL. Irene had found a little flat in Ballito and moved there. She would start the process of selling the Computer Company.
Evan was enrolled into his new school and so began our new life in East London. Irene would join us every second weekend or we would drive up to Ballito when we could. It was quite a trying time for all of us and particularly difficult on little Evan. He was only 9 years old and having to live without the comfort of his mom around. He was a very brave little boy. I was and am very proud of him.
It was about midyear that Darren set off for London. It was particularly hard on Irene as she was now left alone in Durban; also she had lost her beloved dad, Willy Maine earlier that same year as well as finding out that her brother Bert was diagnosed with cancer.
The previous two years had put a huge strain on us all so we decided to treat ourselves and spend Christmas and the Millennium in London with our sons and other family. It was just before we left for London that we got the bad news of the death of Bert. It was a real sad time for all. However the wonderful family reunion and Christmas and New Year helped to brighten us all up.
On our return to SA in January 2000 I decided to start sending out News Letter from EL and also we had decided that when Irene finally sold the business in Isithebe she would move down and we would start making arrangements to immigrate to New Zealand. Irene had applied and received NZ citizenship through her grandfather being a New Zealander. Bert had been very keen to immigrate but unfortunately was never able to fulfill that dream. We thought that to honour his memory we would make the move.
What follows is a collection of most of the News Letters from East London and New Zealand to family and friends in SA and around the world. The News Letters were co-authored by Irene and hopefully take the reader on a journey of discovery and history of our lives in EL and New Zealand.
We tried to make them as amusing and interesting as possible. Please enjoy.