Nightclubs anyone?

posted in: InfoRequests 14

My regular correspondent William Paterson has a query that he hopes other readers can help him out with. He wrote:

Can anyone provide info on The Firefly Club on the Bluff (near the old whaling station) and the Cosmo Club on the corner of Old Fort Road? The Firefly could only be reached by driving across Edwin Swales and then turning left at sea level, to follow the course of the bay towards the old whaling slipway.

The Cosmo was emblazoned with a “COSMO” neon sign which flashed on and off – like the “Jesus Red” sign atop a single storey building over the road, beyond a vacant patch of ground, as if heading towards the Berea.

In my youth we went to both places and thought we were being frightfully liberated. The (upstairs) Cosmo Club was not so very far from the Butterworth Hotel on Soldiers Way (there was a girl who stripped there with a python, I seem to recall).

The stripper with the python sounds like Glenda Kemp. Anyone who can throw some light on those two hang-outs, or the possibly even more notorious Smugglers’ Inn, is welcome to leave a comment below, or contact me here.

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14 Responses

  1. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Today I had the opportunity to kill an hour in Durban prior to a celebratory luncheon to commemorate the centenary of the Philatelic Society of Natal ( now known as The Philatelic Society of Kwa Zulu Natal). I have been a member since 1978. But I digress. I took a turn to see if the Cosmo Club building still exists and yes it is still there. It is on the corner of Old Fort Road and Soldiers Way. In the mid 50s immediately opposite the Cosmo Club site was a big square of empty land which was called Cartwright Flats. I have no clues as to where the name came from. This site was used by Boswell’s Circus as the site where the Big Tent was erected. It eventually became what it is today a bus taxi rank.
    The Cosmo Club in earlier years was tucked away against the railway line leading to Greyville and there was a wide frontage of rough ground. Today I notice that all that ground has now been taken up in road widening and the building stands on the kerb so to speak. The windows I recall are the originals as I well remember often passing the building when the trolley buses coming in from Puntan’s Hill and Sutton Park way would work their way into town via Soldiers Way. If I recall the roof was outlined with coloured flashing neon tubing. Today it looks like it has been refurbished into some sort of accommodation. In my time the Cosmo Club was regarded as a rather a “rough place” and was only frequented by regulars who were not the young adults of the time.

  2. William Paterson
    | Reply

    Thank you Gerald for the Cosmo input. Yes, both it and the Firefly were regarded as ‘rough’ (perhaps the Firefly was worse) and a small group of us – varsity youths and girls only went once to each place, although the only ‘rough’ thing we saw was a girl dancing at the Cosmo in bare feet!

    As you are philatelist of note I have sent you the copy of a rather curious stamp from my father’s stamp album via the kind offices of Allan. It’s a black and white of the swastika rising over North America. In the foreground is an eagle. Disturbing imagery.

    • Viktoria Langton

      Do you remember Molly Mortifee? Or that surname?My Mother was born in 1923.
      Her father had a sugarcane farm in Mtubatuba Zululand

  3. William Paterson
    | Reply

    OK! That’s the Cosmo out of the way. Anyone remember the ‘Jesus Red’ sign atop
    what I think was a meeting place for pentecostal gatherings on the other side of the road (beginning of Soldiers Way) on the Berea side of a vacant lot? Blourokkies?

    Another question: Anyone remember the – what appeared to be – devout Hindu who was seen during weekdays praying at the four corners of the Post Office building. He always had a flower (carnation?) in his crossed palms and mumbled away while staring up at the building. I seem to remember he was clad in a simple whitish (soiled from much wearing) Asian robe and had a brindled moustache. Was he doing penance?

    Lastly: does anyone remember the Anglo Alpha building (I think that was its name) in Smith Street, not so very far from Wesley Hall? The floors were ranged about a courtyard and access to the rooms / offices was by collonades protected by cast iron railings on the courtyard sides. The Star of David featured quite strongly in the cast iron.

    Walking along the collonades made the whole structure vibrate. The third floor had a grill with a view of the courtyard and it was rumoured that a deranged woman would pour water onto pedestrians through the grill.

  4. Allan Jackson
    | Reply

    See a follow-up to this topic here.

  5. Malcolm Wesson
    | Reply

    The vacant piece of land was known as ‘Cartwrights’ Flats’. It was the spot used by visiting circuses such as Pagels, Boswell’s and later Boswell Wilkie. I recall the sign on the roof of the Full Gospel Tabernacle flashing ‘Jesus Saves’ in red.

  6. Chris Charlesworth
    | Reply

    Hi Everyone

    Was the Firefly Nightclub at the Wests Hotel ?

    In about 1973/1974 our “garage” band had a gig at Wests Hotel. The only way to get there from the Esplanade was on the Ferry. Our kit & 4 of us got a lift to the jetty from Bellair, loaded everything on the ferry & off we went.
    All I remember of the gig was feeling quite afraid & watching my back.
    I can’t remember getting back, which may be a good or a bad thing !!

  7. Okavonga Jack
    | Reply

    Hi guys + dolls ,

    Great site which brings back fantastic memories…have many myself of places that are mentioned throughout your website…

    One of which is an amusing tale of a lady who was a true soccer groupie – name witheld for obvious reasons…anyhow I fancied her strong as she was a stunner but was reliably informed that one had to be a footballer to have any chance of some fun with her..fortunately it was reported that Mickey Rose ( goalkeeper ) was to be transferred to Dbn United from East London and I was duly introduced to this honey as Mickey himself !!! She showed immediate interest and obviously wanted to have first helpings of the new Dbn United star !!! After several plus drinks at Fathers Moustache we ended up at the Cosmo, where I was fairly well known, and accordingly welcomed !!! This duly confirmed my status as a celeb…things went swimmingly and we bought a bottle of Mainstay, had pictures taken and danced the night away ….with Madam X becoming increasingly frisky though somewhat perturbed as to my being fit for Sundays game ….kick off as I recall being 3 0’clockish… I reminded her that my transfer wasnt ratified yet and we duly went back to my apartment and consumated our relationship well into the early hours of Sunday morning …she cooked a fantstic breakfast ( given the minimal ingredients available in a batchelors pad ) …headed off to New Kingsmead where she soon discovered that I wasnt actually Micky Rose !!!!

    It was a brutal but sad ending to a brief but unforgetable 18 plus hours !!! Needless to say she didnt accompany me to the German Club in Westville that night although we did nod greetings to each other for many years to come…

    What a pleasure perusing through this site which makes me grateful that I experienced and enjoyed many, if not all, of the places mentioned throughout…and no doubt stood alongside some of the readers quaffing Lion Ale and Spook and Diesels !!!!

    Couple of places which havent been mentioned but spring to mind…Snappy Snacks…Plaza Hotel with dirt cheap and great value Pub grub…Minute Steaks R1.50 or less if my memory serves me right…The Nest/Cuban Hat…Polar Bar ( got my taste for Root Beer )..Harcourt Hotel …shebeens on Umgeni Rd …most of which were run by an Indian called ”fats”’…Oxford /Capri/Roxy all day movies…Rag Day…Steak House on Aliwal Street…Grey St tailors and the Indian Market ( Pe yong tung/ Spanish Fly that infamous aphrodisiac !!! )…fishing off West St Groyne …the wreck off South Beach… Putt Putt ….late night burgers and shakes at Blue Lagoon…and so on..

    Typical weekend :

    Friday night – Cocktail hours at the Bull Ring / Cookie Look ….amble across to Father’s…head for Mayfair ( 1st Floor ) then perhaps Smuggies/Cosmo/one that the name escapes me in alley way leading to John Ross House..

    Sat – depending on season perm any one from Cricket at Old Kingsmead/rugger at King’s Park/racing at Greyville/Clairwood or Scottsville…then early doors any of the hotels prob end up at Los Angeles – Robert E Lee – maybe afterwards Mayfair / Elangeni ladies bar..maybe ‘open’ house party at a mess in Dbn North…burgers at Blue Lagoon then buy Sunday Papers from lights at Umgeni./Goble (?) Rd. …head home with no fear off being breathalized…

    Sunday – Body surfing off North Beach …either swimming out in the rip or diving off the end of the pier ( if offshore wind of course …if not couple of lenghts in the Beach Baths)…if winter lunch at New Kingsmead followed by watching Dbn United/City/Addington….if summer poss picnic at Thomson’s Bay/Toti…followed by matinee session with bird which one had met at any of the aforementioned having perhaps watched/partaken in the amateur boxing opp Old Kingsmead (local matchmakeer v good at match ups )…and then if not cracked it last chance saloon being off to the German Club ( needed to be Quasi Modo to miss there ) late night meal at a dive up near the beach front end of West Street (never knew its name)- mixed grill for about R4.50 incl. beer…home jerome for nuptials with latest ”hang” found at any of aforementioned, listening to Wings/T Rex/Rodrigues poss stopping off at Snake Park to initiate foreplay…

    Monday stagger into toil for r+r and counting down to forthcoming weekend,,,

    Oh yes I remeber them well…no doubt you do as well !!!!

    Best wishes to all and as they say in the classics…thanx for the memories !!!

  8. Tony de Wijn
    | Reply

    Wasn’t there a Firefly restaurant/club on the main road south near ‘Toti about 60 years ago? I remember it being frequented by the bikers.

  9. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hey Tony ! If it is the one and only , “Gnat”, sheesh nice to have you aboard. I recall that restaurant down Toti way. Why do I think it had wagon wheels built into the boundary wall ? It had a rustic pole pergola over the outside tables. By the way are you still in South Africa?

    • Tony de Wijn

      Yes. That is the place I remember as a child.

      Gerald I am still here living in Durbs writing and selling tax software. I have been doing that for 30 years. I had a kidney transplant eleven years ago and the kidney is still working perfectly.

  10. Ricky
    | Reply

    Does anyone have info on broadway hotel
    In durban and who provided entertainment
    In the 1960s

  11. Chip Mogensen
    | Reply

    I was the Shipping Reporter for the Daily News Sept 1971-Aug 1973 before joining Rennies Coasters as 2nd Officer, and later Unicorn. Smugglers was always a good haunt for news and making new feminin aquaintences. Another club I have not heard anyone talk about was The Pink Pussy Cat about halfway up Point Road from Smuggies on the left. It was quite a wild place for meeting “ladies.” The Cosmo was also an interesting place for a late night drink and meeting a late night squeeze. I must admit as bachelor back then Durban was a blast.

  12. Alan Hutty
    | Reply

    Was wondering when someone would get round to mentioning the Pink Pussy Cat. Used to spend a fair amount of time there when doing Navy camps in the 70’s. Got regularly raided by the cops who first made sure that there were no Recce’s from Bluff inside. The ‘ladies’ were an ‘interesting’ bunch. Made Smugglers look like a vicars teaparty at times. Happy days!

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