His father was a primary school teacher who was requested by the education department in 1937 to fix the school there because it did not perform well. The school was later named after him. In those years they were still taught the "stupid" Imperial system of pounds, shillings and pennies. The British royal family's visit in 1947 made little difference to them; they were "not exactly lovers of kings who also spoke English." He was a great lover of Tarzan books.
Thys later went on to study at Stellenbosch University, making sure he "passed safely" every year, because his father had cautioned him that they did not have money to waste. He later went to Ikeys for postgraduate studies and later to Tukkies to complete an Masters degree. Yet Thys believes that as one who had a lifelong sense for the comic, he may never have truly outgrown his youth.