Answering an advert for a site surveyor for Strydom, Newmark & Anthony, Inc. a firm of consulting engineers, for their contract with LTA, one of the largest civil engineering companies in South Africa, I went to Pretoria for an interview. That was my first meeting with the Managing Director, Dolf van Huyssteen. Accepted, I resigned from Concor Construction. My over riding motivation was the location of the site. Near home. The site offices were only eight kilometres from Warmbaths, so found myself home every night. What a pleasure.
It was strange checking other surveyors’ work instead of setting out my own. The contract was a new toll road, a double-lane highway with a continuous island, about twenty-five kilometres in length, bypassing Warmbaths and Nylstroom, with a toll-gate at the Nylstroom end. (The toll-plaza was to be known as the Modimole Toll-Plaza, named after a steep-sided mountain that reared out of the flat plain. It had tribal legendary status, Modimo, meaning God. Friend Andre Lambrechts and I had climbed it as teenagers.)There were two bridges and two agricultural underpasses, on-ramps and off-ramps.
The company had its own laboratory on site, so with the lab technicians, the resident engineer and his two assistants and myself for SNA, the senior staff of LTA’s two road construction teams and their subcontractors, there was a lot of after work social activity. The two teams, each with its own site agent, started from opposite ends of the job and worked towards the middle. Their chief was a man named Rutherford, who rewarded their achievements with parties and dinners out in Warmbaths restaurants. And their achievements were many.
They were the first company in South African civil engineering construction to submit a one month’s certificate that exceeded one million Rands. And soon afterwards for two million, then for three million! And all of SNA was invited to join the celebrations…
On my first day on site, I sought out the two site surveyors. The first was one Frikkie Strydom, whom I assumed to be Afrikaans. Indeed, he was, but his accent as he introduced himself in English was pure hot potato! He was born and raised in Rhodesia; hence the accent! Good bloke, too.
The other surveyor was English speaking South Africa, Ray Hamilton. Talking, we discovered that we had been in the same class at the same school – Form Two, Pretoria Boys High. On top of that, his wife was Sheila and his son was Ryan, as was mine, as well! Weird, indeed. (I ran into him in Botswana, when he and his family were on holiday, in 1996, and again in 2010 near Komga, Eastern Cape, where he was with a firm of Consulting Engineers, and I was on a trip to Durban to promote my first two novels. He kindly bought a copy of each.) No only that, we were both surveyors, and he had recently been surveyor on site on a mine shaft job that LTA had been involved in. LTA was replaced by Concor so we had missed meeting each other by a matter of days. Life is strange, that way.