Buttigieg- August 2005
to the current TV ad when the grandchild asks the Grannies
what they did for fun, the Grannies answer that they cooked
and baked. Well those Grannies if they were "young"
in Durban in the late 50s, early 60s, would not have been
"hip" and would have been regarded more as "squares"
as the lingo of the day put it. What exactly did the young
people of the late 50'/60s do in Durban for fun? Having been
a young person at the time, I am recalling what we did in
those days, long before TV, and when personal freedom was
slightly more restricted.
of all in those days, there still existed a healthy respect
for one's elders, dress code was rather formal and seemingly
enforced in that you could not access some places wearing
very casual clothes. Virtually no "legal organised"
entertainment continued much after midnight. Alcohol was strictly
controlled due to the fact that anyone remotely under age
was strictly prohibited from entering a bottle store (the
only retail source) where alcohol could be bought. Bars and
hotel lounges (in vogue in those days) again were strictly
for adults and in the main frequented by middle aged / older
men and women (perhaps a World War II legacy) not so much
the younger man. Bars were not the jovial, theme decorated
establishments of today, more just the basic counter, a serving
barman and cigarette smoke. The interiors of bars were well
hidden from public view by entry screen walls or barriers.
Then there was the question of transport. I would venture
to say that up until the late 50s, drivers were 95% men and
5 % women. You hardly saw women driving and it was only the
60s generation that saw young adult girls take to the road
young male (under 18), a new form of transport freedom hit
the streets in the late 50s. The
. Buzz Bike. This was
a 50cc moped which could be licensed by any 16 year old whose
parents could afford to buy him one. I well remember at my
school in the late 50s, the awe that all the boys stood in,
as the 2 buzz bike owners came up the driveway on their respective
Garelli and Dik Dik. For the older schoolboy, having a moped
definitely put you one above the rest, no matter how many
pimples you had on your face. For the rest of us, the NDC
Corporation Bus service was the way to go. It covered the
whole of Durban (at the time) just about, was reliable, on
time and relatively cheap. Finally, if you did not have any
"bread" or "start" (money) for bus fare,
you just had to resort to shank's pony. Generally, your entertainment
was limited by your transport possibilities, the amount of
money you had and, of course, what entertainment, suiting
your age group, was available.
"Saturday Night Out" for the general public. I would
say the most popular thing was "going to the movies."
The "bioscopes" (cinemas) in Durban were all centred
in the vicinity of the Smith Street / Aliwal Street intersection.
Starting in Smith Street opposite the Durban Library / Museum
in the City Hall Building, was the Princes, next door the
Playhouse. Across Albany Grove was the Metro virtually on
the corner of Smith and Aliwal. On the opposite corner was
the 20th Century and next door was the Embassy. Down Aliwal
Street next to what was Forsdicks Motors was the Piccadilly.
Isolated down on the corner of West St. and Warwick Ave was
the Alhambra. In the late 60s the Ice Skating Rink in Sol
Harris Crescent near the Beach Front was reduced in size and
altered to accommodate two cinemas, Ocean City and the small
compact cinema, the O'Connor.
were the main "movie houses" and virtually every
one would be packed to capacity on Saturday night. Tickets
were normally booked beforehand during the week, failing which
you took your chance and stood in the queue before the show
started. You can well imagine the disgruntled look of those
in the queue as some individual, knowing someone way up the
queue negotiated, with them to get extra seats. It just meant
someone further back would eventually not be able to get in.
Going to the movies was no casual affair in those days. It
was strictly dress up with men wearing suits and ties and
ladies dressed to the nines. The Metro Cinema used to have
a notice outside that a jacket had to be worn for the late
show. There used to be 3 shows on Saturday (no movies allowed
on Sunday) 2 p.m. 6p.m. and 9 p.m.. Cinema goers would come
into town in their own vehicles and parking close to the cinemas
was at a premium but you could park at the Albany and Embassy
Parking Garages or on an open space where the BP Centre now
did not have a car and were dating you had to use the Corporation
buses. The Transport Department were very considerate in those
days because the bus termini were all in the centre of town,
mainly around the Cenotaph and Post Office, so it was not
a long walk to the show but, on top of that, buses were available
after the show so that you did have an option of getting home
cheaply without resorting to a taxi. A drink before the show
at one of the adjacent hotels was the done thing (if you were
old enough) and then one joined the throng as everyone headed
for their respective cinemas. Inevitably, as you stood in
the foyer (either upstairs or downstairs) before the show
waiting to go in, the passing parade was inspected and you
checked to see who was there and especially to note who was
mortals, there were two other avenues for going to the movies
on a Saturday night. For those not so well disposed to dressing
up and who were impartial to the "locale", there
were the "bio cafes". In Durban at the time there
were two,; one being the Roxy, which was virtually opposite
the Colombo Tea and Coffee Shop up West Street, and the other
was the Oxford which was down Pine Street opposite the Pessoa
Monument (Pine Parkade). In the late 60s a third was added,
the Capri which was in Smith Street between Beach Grove and
Salmon Grove. The bio cafes were cinemas where the show was
run continuously from about 9 am onward till closing time
which was roughly 11 p.m. You could enter at any time and
leave whenever you had seen enough so, if you came in mid-show,
you would see the end of the film before you saw the beginning
,unless you sat through the whole show again from start to
code for the bio cafes was totally casual so, if a good show
like "The Dambusters" was showing on the weekend,
the whole family would be there. One tried to time one's entry
with the start of the show and these times were normally advertised
outside. There was no booking of seats for the bio cafes and,
as you entered the dark murky cinema from the outside brightness,
you blindly looked around for suitable seats. If the place
was full, families would be split up, sitting here and there
but, as soon as interval came round and an exodus resulted,
you would see families madly regrouping. For the cheap entrance
fee of about 15 cents, you also got a free cool drink or a
cup of tea or coffee. (My mother always warned us to drink
as if we were left handed so that the cup would be turned
around!!) These cinemas were basically for the working class
family but they did provide a form of entertainment. The interiors
were totally undecorated, and there were no screen curtains.
you heard the crunch as one of Durban's finest, those notorious
cockroaches, met an untimely death. The interiors were not
air-conditioned but fresh air was circulated by roof fans.
Smoking in all cinemas was allowed in those days and as the
average working class adult was a smoker, the bio café
interiors were heavily smoke filled. You would see the projected
light battling through the thick smoke haze to reach the screen.
On either side of the screen were two emergency exit doors
with lighted signs above them indicating in large red letters
"EXIT / UITGANG". Occasionally. as one of the "shorts",
(short film before the main show), one would get a bouncing
ball sing-along which the audience joined in. Mostly post
war vintage tunes such as "Daisy Daisy, give me your
", the general response was pretty good
and the audience even used to sway in their seats. If a cartoon
was shown, the laughter was spontaneous and hearty. Looney
Tunes, Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd ("WHAT'S UP DOC?")
, Mr Maggoo, Tom and Jerry, Tweety and Sylvester, and Porky
the Pig, come to mind. During the week these bio cafes were
the retreats of those school boys who were bunking school!
were a few other conventional suburban cinemas in Durban at
the time catering for the people who lived in the vicinity.
There was the Avenue which was a very old corrugated iron
building in First Avenue, near the Queen's Tavern. The Alvin
at the lower end of Berea Road, the Royal at the top end of
Smith Street, not far from the old Technical College, the
Planet in Umbilo near the old Congella Fire Station, the Alex
on the Bluff which occasionally had shows and the Rex in Durban
North (Broadway). A cinema was added to the Lido Complex on
the Beachfront in the early 70s.
for the younger and dating set, as well as the mobile family,
there was the Drive In. This American phenomena which took
off in this country and and Durban had three Drive Ins in
the 60s. Durban Drive In (Brickhill Road), Bluff Drive In
(Tara Road), Umbilo Drive In (Oliver Lea Drive). There was
also the Pinetown Drive In. The Drive Ins were very popular
and long queues of cars would gather for the Saturday late
show, waiting for the earlier show to exit. Once the early
show evacuated, there used to be a stampede as cars rushed
in for the best vantage points. Each Drive In had catering
facilities and hamburger and chips, etc., were big sellers.
There were a couple of problems with the Drive In. If it started
raining, the car interior would heat up with the windows closed
so the windscreen misted up. This was problematic if you were
actually watching the show. A raw potato cut in half and rubbed
on the windscreen used to help. Secondly, the speakers connected
via a heavy duty coiled cord, two to a pole, were badly maintained
and if you hit a non worker on a night the Drive In was full,
you could not move to another position, so you either watched
a silent movie or just left. Thirdly if you landed up close
to the front you ended up with severe cricks in the neck and
boggle eyed as the screen was so big in front of you. On more
than one occasion, I noticed "free loaders" getting
out of the boot once the car had parked! Drive In goers were
not particularly understanding people. If you came in a bit
late and forgot your lights were still on shining onto the
screen, you would be blasted with a cacophony of hooting from
everyone else. And on exit, woe betide the one that tried
to sneak in front of you as you headed for the exit lanes
which were badly maintained loose stone pathways.
movies at the main cinemas, generally everyone exited and
went home, but a trend was started when Ivor Kissen opened
a coffee shop in Albany Grove (the Troubador?) and it was
the in-thing after the show to go and have a late night cappuccino
and a slice of cheese cake / blintz. All liquor sales and
entertainment stopped promptly at midnight and, next Saturday,
the whole process would be repeated.
way of getting out and about on a Saturday (living in confined
flats was quite common then) was to take a slow stroll through
town. West Street in those days was the shopping hub of Durban.
It virtually was one big open air mall in a sense. From Gardiner
Street right up to Broad Street and even beyond to Russell
Street, with arcades and side lanes in between, there were
numerous shops all displaying their current wares. The bigger
department stores all had specialized window dressing staff
and the standard of presentation was extremely high. Window
dressing was done competitively between the various stores
and, dependent on the social calendar and the season, generally
reflected the time of the year. As a family, my mother, sister
and I and my aunt and her husband and their family would quite
often on a Saturday evening walk from one end of West Street
right up to the Bombay Bazaar and back. The children knew
where all the toy shops were; King's Sports, Playdays, (London
Arcade), Regwoods (Hooper Lane), Jix, OK Bazaars, the Hub,
so they would go on ahead and on reaching the shop point out
to each other the treasures in the showcases.
were covered in square cement blocks and my girl cousins would
hopscotch some of the way or play "Don't step on the
lines". Greenacres, Ansteys, Payne Brothers, Stuttafords,
Henwoods, all had multiple show windows. Woolworths, funnily
enough, was very small in those days with an old shop near
the corner of West and Gardiner. It had a wooden ramp off
the pavement to the entrance and had wooden floors throughout.
Greenacres used to have island showcases which you could wander
round. At Easter weekend, Payne Brothers would have just a
large draped Cross in one window to mark the season. Christmas
time was special for all the shops excelled themselves and
the City Electricity Department would put up their festive
street lighting. Cars could be parked anywhere along West
Street (it was two way then) and as car theft was non existent,
there never was any anxiety that it would not be there when
you got back. At the corner of West and Broad Street was an
ice cream outlet (Polar Bar?) and normally everyone got an
ice cream cone at this point, crossed the road and walked
back down the other side.
was still early enough and the children were not getting ratty,
then prior to returning home, we would all get into my uncle's
small car and go down West Street heading for the Beach front.
We would turn left at the Beach Hotel and drive along Marine
Parade. Just beyond the Rachel Finlayson Baths the road dipped
towards the sea and one drove along the Lower Marine Parade
which skirted the sea front. Here you joined a queue of cars
driving at funereal speed, past Model Dairy, Kenilworth Amusement
Park, Newtons, the old paddling ponds, the new (now demolished
Aquarium) and then turn right into West Street again and then
off home. I have digressed here a bit so let me return to
what the younger people did to have fun.
be remembered that in the 50s and early 60s, the youth were
being influenced to quite an extent by the radio. Portable
radios had just come onto the market but they were bulky by
today's miniaturised standards and driven off a 22 volt batter,y
which was quite heavy and expensive. The early portables had
valves as transistors were yet to change the landscape, although
they had existed since about 1948. The Rock and Roll era had
begun in the early 50s and the SABC was not very partial to
this type of music. Occasionally some rock and roll music
and new record releases were played on a SABC programme in
the evening, "Mr Walker wants to Play"; John Walker
was the host. But the station to tune into was LM Radio based
in Lourenco Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique. LM Radio was
heard on short wave only so if you wanted to listen to it
you had to have a radio capable of tuning in to shortwave.
( I often wonder if that was the origin of the slang "to
tune someone" i.e. to inform someone with respect to
putting him right). There was no FM in those days only AM
I think was on the 41 metre band, and was quite crackly and
the signal wandered at times, so now and then you had to retune
to the station. The station used to open with a statement
in Portuguese which I never did get to know, but included
was something like "presintine de un descultos"
and the Portuguese announcer in "English" stating
"Dis is de Radio Club of Mozambique". One of the
most popular announcers on LM Radio was David Davies who was
taken with Rock and Roll music. The LM Hit Parade was compulsory
listening and he used to end his show at midnight saying "To
you and to you and especially to you Good Night." The
influence of Beat and Rock and Roll music was spread by the
visit to Durban of Tommy Steele, then Cliff Richard and the
Shadows in the early 60s. And then came Beatlemania.
resulted in a rash of four-man bands erupting in Durban. A
live band, consisting of a lead, rhythm, and bass guitarist
plus a drummer and one in the group who could double up on
vocals became the in thing. I am not sure who started the
idea, but in the late 50s, "sessions" became the
in place to go to for the younger set. "Sessions"
were basically a live band playing at a venue where the younger
crowd could "hit out" (rock and roll) ostensibly
as a fund raising event. Funnily enough the M.O.T.H. (Memorable
Order of Tin Hats) Shellholes, some of which had suitable
halls, became popular venues for these sessions and I would
imagine substantial funds were raised. Sessions caught on
and, by the grapevine, one would learn who was playing where
and when. Sessions happened on Friday or Saturday nights.
They were supervised to an extent by the owners of the hall
and, strictly speaking, no liquor was allowed on the premises.
Off the premises was another matter. Sessions were loads of
exuberant fun where the youth could let off steam and express
themselves in the music of the day, and there was many a "raut"
(loosely a fist fight) amongst those attending.
time, boys danced with girls. That was it. There were no "rings"
or single dancers or groups, as at today's raves. You either
brought your own partner, a "chick" or you picked
one up there. If "the talent was min" (no suitable
partners available and looks were a serious factor) you "lost
out" and spent the evening as a spectator. Girls would
arrive in groups (moral support) hopefully looking to be asked
to dance or "scheming" to get to know someone they
had see but, if they weren't asked, that was the sad part
of it; they sat out as wall flowers. That was the harsh reality
of the time. Conflicts arose and tempers flared sometimes
over crossed lovers or when slightly inebriated louts started
spoiling things and, once ignited, the session could erupt
into a terrible all out fist fight.
was consumed off premises by some under age individuals and
inevitably that was the start of the trouble. Sometimes matters
really got out of hand with chairs being thrown about, damage
to property etc. The Police would be called out and they would
arrive in their Dodge van with the long "Scorpion"
aerials whipping about. However the popularity of these functions
and the crowds they drew resulted in all sorts of organisations
holding them to raise funds. I know of a couple of today's
churches who raised funds for their building programmes in
such a way. Dress standards going to these sessions were strictly
of the time. White T Shirts and denim jeans (ala James Dean)
were "in" as were white socks and your "skats"
(shoes) were either highly polished Jarman toe caps or brown
suede buccaneers. The Chukka boot was also popular. Also popular
were silver grey (linen) stovepipe trousers, with a thin black
leather belt or silver chain belt with white long sleeve shirts,
the sleeves folded three quarter up your arms. In the back
pocket was the compulsory long thin barber's comb to comb
the big wave of hair on your forehead, which was also held
in place with a good dollop of Potter and Moore's Brilliantine
(SAE 120!). For the girls, beehive hairstyles were in, wide
circular skirts and blouse tops, low heeled pumps. Denim jeans
were still a predominantly male thing.
bands that played at these sessions became more and more popular,
it was a natural progression that their talent and pulling
power were noticed. It was not long thereafter that the local
bands started playing at dedicated venues and this brought
in the Cookie Look era. Not sure why it was called Cookie
Look, perhaps it was a place to come to see the "cookies"!
Cookie Look, if I remember, was started at the Claridges Hotel
on the Beachfront. What the Hotel had done was set aside an
area on the ground floor near the foyer which became the Cookie
Look venue. A local rock band was hired to play for the period
5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on a Friday and Saturday night. Being licensed
premises you were supposed to be over 18 to gain entry. The
band played all the current popular rock tunes and a dance
area was provided. As drinks were served, the Hotel was set
to make a profit. The concept became a hit and soon packed
houses were the norm.
well remember the anticipation as one approached one of these
venues, the 60s rock tunes being mimicked note for note from
the originals by the local bands, volume coming out of VOX
amplifiers / speakers at the extreme. It kind of wound you
up. Being in licensed premises and one up from a session,
male dress started to follow the overseas trends. The fashion
for the young male became a Beatle look-alike "Time to
Shine" suit, made of Trevira material, a type of linen
which gave off a sheen. Pants were straight cut stovepipes,
suit jackets body fitting, narrow collar and lapel with three
button fastening. Coloured shirts had started coming in as
well, displacing the basic white, and collar bars threaded
through holes in the shirt collar were popular. Ties were
either square bottom, string or the new innovation the Twister
Tie, square bottom, narrow with oval sides. Chelsea boots
ala Beatles were non-negotiable and the best Chelseas could
be bought from the Indian shoe merchants in Grey Street. As
for that so were the suits at such shops as Dominions, Lords
the four most popular "Cookie Look" venues in Durban
were the Claridges, the Londsdale Hotel's Bull Ring, the Al
Fresco (Esplanade Hotel on the Victoria Embankment) and the
Macabre at the Butterworth Hotel (Soldiers Way). The Esplanade
Hotel no longer exists but used to be adjacent to the Royal
Natal Yacht Club (also demolished). The Al Fresco was very
popular on a Friday night, being central in town and as an
after work venue, also operating 5 to 7pm, after which it
converted to a restaurant. The bands I remember playing there
were Dickie Loader and the Blue Jeans, Dunny and the Showmen
and The Diamonds. You would often go on to a house party (popular
in those days) or even the late movie show, afterwards, and
the session gave you 2 hours to find a date if you didn't
you eyed someone, asked her to dance and if you "hit
a luck", she agreed to a "date". If you had
your own "cab" (car), things were "sweet"
(on the upside) as the transport improved your chances of
a date at such short notice, because invariably young girls
in those days lived at home or in hostels and curfews had
to be obeyed. Inevitably she had a friend with her so "home"
had to be phoned first to say where they were going and how
they were getting home. Hence, if you could not get her home
in time you lost out. I was quite familiar with this routine.
If you had "no luck" you then diverted to Plan B
which was to go first to NAWRA House in St Andrew's Street,
not far from the Al Fresco. This was the Natal Anglican's
Women's' Residence Association, a hostel for young single
here was to have a contact in the hostel. You would arrive
there, (you could not get beyond the entrance) and ask to
speak to so and so, your contact. She would be paged and,
if she was in she would come down and you would explain you
are looking for a blind date or two/three depending how many
mates you had in the car outside waiting. Your contact would
leave you at the reception whilst she went and asked around
and sometimes you were lucky, sometimes not. If Nawra House,
failed you could do the same routine at Walsingham, off Berea
Road (another Women's' Hostel) and try again. With no cell
phones in those days, getting a date at the last minute was
"hard graft" (hard work) so one inevitably had one's
little black book which you used to organise your weekend
entertainment. in advance.
the male group I went around with just got together on a Friday
or even a Saturday night and would bond, as the modern day
term is. We would leave girl friends at home and meet at the
Empire Snooker Saloon, which was on the second floor of an
old building in Field Street near the Esplanade. You got to
the Saloon via a narrow staircase which carried on up to a
third floor where there was a dance club of sorts. I have
an idea it was called the Balalaika. More of this later. Entering
the Snooker Saloon, you were hit by a wall of old cigarette
smoke, a deep haze, lighting at belt level coming from the
tables' shaded lights only. The snooker saloon smelt of old
cigarettes, nicotine and stale air. You saw "Joe"
the saloon minder, an old man, in the corner and waved hello.
He knew us as regulars. If all the tables were full you sat
on wooden benches lined up along the walls until one became
vacant. In the meantime you selected a cue from the motley
range they had in the stands around the walls and waited.
Inevitably the wait called for a smoke, so you added to the
haze. Eventually a table became available and the group would
"dubs in" to pay for the table, about 25 cents a
game. There were rules displayed on the shades of the table
lights and on the walls which included, Do not smoke over
the table, Do not rest your cigarette butts on table's edges,
Do not climb on the table, Use a rest, No drinking allowed
amateurs, games (mainly snooker) were relaxed and the fluke
sinking of a red brought with it a tirade of "yeahs"
and "come off it" and "calling all pockets".
Missing the ball, miscuing, sinking the white ball or, heaven
forbid, scraping the green baize with your cue released a
torrent of expletives. On reflection, those were happy hours,
one never gave a thought to your car downstairs, getting hijacked
or held up in the street. During games a variety of subjects
would be discussed, latest dates, studies, work situation,
what to do next Saturday or weekend, car problems, whatever.
We would play games up to closing time which was about 11
.30 pm. Getting back to the dance club upstairs. On Saturday
nights a boereorkes would take over the club and the upstairs
party goers would belt it out thumping on the floor to the
sounds of a trekklavier (concertina), banjo, heavy electric
bass and drums. Some of the music was quite catchy especially
the "seties". The snooker players occasionally would
all shout out "balke" when the crowd upstairs were
really going hammer and tongs!
as one started serious dating, the tendency to wanting to
be alone became more prevalent. This was the "going steady"
period or in Afrikaans "ge-kysed". Once you had
reached this stage and word got round, both of you were virtually
out of circulation! Saturday nights then started becoming
"private sort of affairs" and it seemed you just
not could get enough time together. From being wanting to
be with the crowd, you slowly drifted away and did much more
sedate things, like going to play Putt Putt, either at the
course near the Blue Lagoon or the one which was also on lower
Marine Parade, ten pin bowling in Brickhill Road (they also
had an indoor putt putt course), spending time at the Kenilworth
or Newtons Amusement Park on the beachfront, walking along
the lower Marine Parade beachfront, going for a Saturday night
drive and ending up at the Tropicale at Albert Park, the Cuban
Hat or the Nest (lower Marine Parade) drive in cafes.
Hat and Nest were located side by side directly in front of
the entrance to the Rachel Finlayson (Beach Baths). These
two locales were where you showcased your "cab"
(motor car) or your "iron" (motor bike). At the
time there were distinct sets of "groupies" car
wise. You had the Mini , the Cortina , the VW Beetle and,
to a lesser extent, the Renault Dauphin. If you had a Mini,
Cortina, Dauphin, it had to be modified, whereas the Beetle
was preferably standard but with all chrome accessories such
as chrome eyelids on the lights, chrome wheel trim rings,
chrome anti scratch plates behind the door handles, chrome
strip on the rear air intake, chrome stone guards on the rear
wheel arches. These went along with the heavy double chrome
bumpers which were fitted as standard. Some Beetles had modified
single exhausts. The scene was to show yourself off as being
a standard Beetle yet being able to keep up with a modified
Mini over a distance robot to robot! An early form of street
at the Nest or Cuban Hat, your car used to come under scrutiny
of all those parked in the respective bays. Having had a Beetle
at that time, it was the done thing to enter slowly and show
off your gleaming paintwork and chrome. This you had done
on Saturday afternoon so that your "steady" would
be just as proud of the car as you were. Minis could not compete
on this as they had little chrome trim, and they used to come
roaring along announcing "I have been modified".
Likewise the Cortina, this car was the modifier's dream and
I remember one individual who had a Cortina, and who would,
for the entertainment of those there, roar out and exit with
a "screeching wheelie" burning rubber as his rear
wheels "made smoke". A slipped gear change and he
would get a derisory hoot from all watching!
kitchen area of the café, the bikers would congregate
with their "irons". These were the days before the
Hondas and Suzukis had taken over so you saw BMW R60s, AJS,
Norton and the Triumphs. Harleys were virtually unheard of,
and the only ones I remember at the time being World War 2
vintage still with Vee Motor and a gear change on the side
of the tank! There appeared to be two/ three biker groups
then. There was one that gathered at the Nest/ Cuban Hat,
and the other at the XL tearoom, which was some distance away
near the bottom end of West Street opposite the then Claridges
Hotel. These were the "other bikers" or "brekers"
(Afrikaans for Breakers) . This seemed to be the tougher element.
Another group used to gather at the Blue Grotto, a café
then at the Lido on the beach front.
Nest / Cuban Hat, once you were parked, an Indian waiter would
come and take your order. Staff used to be loyal in those
days and, being regulars you, got to know most of them. "Eh
Lahnee what you all order?" Double thick milkshake. When
the waiter returned you gave your window a half a turn wind
up and he would hook the tray on your window and place an
extending arm under the tray against your door. All hell would
let loose if that extending arm did not have its black rubber
washer to protect your paintwork from getting scratched! Most
of the waiters knew better. Sometimes the Durban Surf Lifesaving
Club, which had a clubhouse above the Beach Bath entrance,
would be having a session but, if you were not a beach bum,
you basically were not welcome.
of beaches, of course, that was a daytime fun thing for young
people but, again, certain beaches were for certain people.
The "in" crowd, who wanted to be noticed, were at
North Beach opposite the Beach Baths. You virtually had to
have the body to show here and, when the Durban City Council
unbanned the bikini, this is where the guys came to ogle.
South Beach other side of West Street was for the general
public and holiday makers. Addington Beach was for the loners,
those that wanted to get away from the madding crowd, whilst
Sunkist, which was virtually opposite the Durban Country Club,
was where a fair amount of racial mixing took place between
white and Indian communities.
Durban beaches being quite strange in those days (changed
any?) because the sand seemed to have a kind of black (metallic)
powder in it and after walking in the sand your feet were
left blackish. Surfing had become popular in the early 60s
with the advent of the glass fibre boards, although the early
versions were longboards and still relatively heavy. I remember
at Addington someone had a masonite wood surfboard which was
left parked against a pumphouse on the beach. We tried to
lift it once and it took two at least to carry. Perhaps it
was an early WW2 "X" craft! We never took it to
the water fearing it would sink with all hands. Body surfing
was the done thing or else you had a small wooden plywood
bodyboard with turn up nose with which you surfed.
Baths were popular at the time as well. What was nice at the
Baths was that you could pay your entrance fee, which I think
was about 10 cents and you went into the change room and picked
up a galvanised clothes hanger basket in which you put your
clothing. This basket you handed in to an Indian who supervised
the locker room and he in turn gave you a black rubber band
with DC and a number imprinted on it. This you put round your
ankle and your clothing was safely stored away for the day.
You had free access to the pool area and could go to the beach
and return as often as you liked. Also helpful was that you
had access to a toilet (there were not many around the beach
at the time) and at the end of the day you could have a lovely
shower, get rid of the black sand, and go home minus the "sticky".
carry on with numerous other activities that the young people
were involved in, which today seem to be waning or low key.
Sunday Hockey was very popular with about 6 to 7 men's leagues
running. Women's leagues were on Saturday. Queensmead was
the focal point but club grounds were scattered around Durban
and Amanzimtoti. Amateur Soccer was also keenly contested,
and started attracting big crowds when the NFL had professional
teams like Addington, Durban United and Durban City. Occasionally
British First Division sides used to visit and I remember
seeing Wolverhampton Wanderers play Natal 1957 (WW 5 NTL l
), Preston North End play South Africa in 1958 (SA 5 PNE 3)
and Bolton Wanderers play South Africa in 1959 (BW 1 SA 0).
played at the Kingsmead Cricket Ground, which doubled up as
the soccer venue in winter. A lively Sunday Soccer League
of amateur clubs was also run. Rugby, then totally amateur
as well, was keenly followed although (if I remember correctly
Natal never won the Currie Cup till many years later). I think
up until then Natal's 6-6 draw (1960) with the mighty All
Blacks, including Wilson Whineray, Don Clarke and a young
Colin Meads, was their finest hour. Cricket, tennis, baseball,
water polo all ran leagues and were well supported. On the
less physical side, fishing from the North Pier was popular,
and the whole Bay could be fished from any of the berths dotted
around. A sport which used to attract attention was open air
boxing. There was a site along Umgeni Road, near the Indian
Temple where young black hopefuls would take on each other,
long pants rolled up, shirtless, and without mouth guards.
The ring was a demarcated area on the ground. Passing traffic
would pull up and watch a few rounds and it seemed anyone
could take on anyone. Also in the same area but not as common,
young Black youths would take each other on at stick fighting.
I seem to remember the combatants would tie a white handkerchief
to a leg, arm or round the head.
I have covered the majority of activities the young folk used
to indulge in to make up free time and weekends. Writing these
reminiscences has brought back many memories, thoughts of
crazy things one used to do in one's youth and characters
one met along the way.