The Friday Club – a special band of ’old-timers’

On Tuesday 13 November Cyril Jaffe turned 92, a celebration that he enjoyed with a group of his ‘old’ friends.

So happens, such get-togethers have been going on for several years, but never on a Tuesday! Cyril and his pals have been gathering in his home for tea and cake every Friday morning — the Friday Club — most of whose members are today in their late 80s and early 90s.

The club was initiated in 1992, after Cyril suffered a stroke, when his former POW and sports friends started visiting him every Friday morning for tea and cake. It soon developed a wider base and assumed the ‘official’ name. Over the course of the years a number have passed away, but the ranks have duly been added to by fresh ‘old’ members.

Between Cyril’s son Stephen and founder club member ‘in good standing’ (literally) Simmy Lewis, a fair amount of info and data was gleaned.

Today’s members include Lionel Cohen (93), Lionel Jacobs (92), Oscar Cohen (91), the aforementioned Simmy Lewis (90), Morrie Gerber (90), Tommy Thompson (89) and the youthful Claude Reitstein (88).

Irregular ‘sometimers’ are Hym Rabinowitz (87), Judge Harold Levy (80 something) and also Sakkie Katzenellenbogen (86) of Johannesburg, who comes when he is in town, with past ‘regulars’ now too frail to attend, Harold Gluckman (90) and Paul Slot (age not supplied).

And finally, mention must be made of comrades no longer with them: Billy Rom, Herby Frutco, Peter Jaffer, Abe Rogaly, Boetie Becker, Willie Catzel, Louis Mallach, Des Smith, Max Frank, Bennie Burgess, Dr Sid Kiel and Ernest Tuchten.

The birthday boy, Cyril — catalyst for this article, served in the South African anti-aircraft division in North Africa during WW2. He was taken prisoner first by the Italians and thereafter by the Germans. The original 7 founder members of the club, who included Peter Jaffer, Lionel Jacobs, Lionel Cohen and Simmy himself, were all ex-servicemen who had been prisoners of war.

Another feature of commonality was their passion for sport covering soccer, cricket, rugby and (Simmy) boxing. According to Simmy, the discussion focused initially on war reminiscences, but soon broadened to sport, eliciting a good deal of argument and hot debate, adding to the spice of the gathering!

A few years after war ended, in 1948, Cyril married Gene Leibstein, the 54 year marriage producing four children. It ended with her passing in 2002. A lawyer by profession, Cyril was always a keen sportsman, serving for many years as a Western Province cricket and soccer administrator.

In response to the query on who provided the weekly cake Simmy explained that this is purchased out of contributions from club members, although on their birthdays and other special occasions (simchas, no doubt) some do bring home-made cake. And Stephen added that the tea is served by Mrs Jessie Malobola, who began working for the Jaffes in 1973.

Could Jessie be termed an honorary member of the club? No, was the response. The Friday club is most definitely ‘stag’.

A new feature of the club is the weekly quiz — 30 to 40 general knowledge questions which Claude Reitstein sedulously prepares, to make Fridays even more special.
“Is it?”
Says Simmy, “The guys wouldn’t miss it.”


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