The family of engineers has witnessed changes, from wearing blazers and carrying heavy drawing boards around campus, to (barely) wearing t-shirts and using computer-aided design.  

Imagine this. The year is 1951, and you are a first-year Wits student staying at Men’s Res. It is that time of the year when intervarsity raids are in full force, and you are on guard duty in the freezing cold.  

University of Pretoria (Tuks) raiders can pounce any time, to ‘kidnap’ you and others and take you back to their campus to hold you ‘hostage’ and perhaps give you a terrible haircut while there.  

Dirk Jacob Hugo as the president of the Association of Municipal and Electrical Undertakings in the 1920s. Photo: Supplied by Anthony Hugo.

It is your job to make sure the Tuks raiders do not enter your residence, and to protect the residence’s wooden-cloaked mascot, Phineas. To guard against getting kidnapped, you stealthily hide in the grass, watching and waiting.  

This was the experience of Anthony Hugo (89) in his first year at Wits when he stayed at College House and Dalrymple House, more commonly known as Men’s Res. He can still remember vividly the thrill of the intervarsity raids that took place between Wits and Tuks.  

Each side attempted to steal the other’s mascot and take as many ‘hostages’ as possible. College and Dalrymple had to protect their mascot from being taken by Tuks while others would trek north to raid Tuks residences and attempt to steal their mascot. 

“It was a great time at res. We had lots of fun… I made good friends at Wits…at res and university It felt like we belonged,” he said. 

Hugo, who studied towards a BSc in electrical science from 1951 to 1954, was following in the footsteps of his father, Dirk Jacob Hugo, who came to Wits in 1923 when the university was just a year old and completed a BSc in electrical and mechanical engineering in 1929.  

Anthony’s greatest memories though are of his time in res because of the excitement and mischief that the students got up to. 

He recalls his father’s stories as different from his experiences. Dirk was the president of the Association of Municipal and Electrical Undertakings for a year and his stories involved something called ‘Tin Temple’ that Anthony is still wondering about: was it a place on campus, an actual temple, or something else?  

Here is the answer to that. In Wits Medical School Heritage published in 2010, Katherine Munro writes that Tin Temple was a corrugated-iron building located on Plein Street where lectures were held before the university was built. It was mainly for medicine, the sciences, and mining as early as 1912. Even after the building of the university commenced in the 1920s, Tin Temple continued to host lectures. However, although many old university buildings got refurbished, Tin Temple did not make it. 

Colin Hugo graduating in 2022 with a bachelor’s in economic science. Photo: Supplied by Mark Hugo.

Anthony observes that everything is “now completely different” when he looks at his two grandchildren who picked up the baton (after Anthony’s son, Mark, went to study at Wits Technikon which is now part of the University of Johannesburg) and are studying at Wits in the year that the university officially turns 100, nearly a century after their great grandfather first set foot on campus.  

Carolyne, in second-year chemical engineering, says it is “rough” to have family members that studied engineering before her as everyone has different opinions on how things are done. She learnt of the differences in learning from her grandfather. Anthony would carry a massive drawing board around campus whereas Carolyne simply uses computer aided design for her drawings.  

Her older brother, Colin, who graduated with a bachelor’s in economic science, is a journalism honour’s student. He says it is an honour to be part of nearly four generations of Witsies.  

“It’s nice to keep the family at one university,” he says, as he feels a “sense of belonging”. When he started university, his grandfather gave him his Wits blazer that he wore in the 1950s. Even though Anthony was aware that students do not wear blazers anymore, he was still proud to pass on a piece of his own history to his grandson.  

FEATURED IMAGE: Anthony Hugo (left) next to G. R. Bozzoli, who would later become vice-chancellor in 1968, and other graduates in 1954. Photo supplied by Anthony Hugo.