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My informant Stan Winterburn has sent in these fine vintage postcards from his grandfather’s collection. It turns out his grandfather is the policeman featured in the Gardiner Street scene.
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16 Responses

  1. Gerald Buttigieg
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    I have been having a good look at Stan Winterburn’s delightful postcard dated about 1910. That particular area around Gardiner Street brings back to mind so many memories that I thought I would relate some and also comment on the area as I got to know it, 50 or so years later from the time as reflected in the postcard.

    Gardiner Street as I remember it in the mid 1960s.

    My earliest memories of this particular area date back to 1954 when I returned to Durban to live here permanently as an 11 year old. I recall my Uncle taking our small family for a drive to go and see the Beach front in the early evening. This was about mid 1954. The whole family were squashed into his, I think, Model A Ford which had a dickey seat at the back. My sister and I and my 7 year old cousin were allowed to sit in the dickey seat as we drove into town from the Greyville area via Soldier’s Way. At that time, the trams had long stopped running but the tram rails were still embedded in the tar. I remember the silver tracks as we followed them. Getting to the Station, going along Gardiner Street and then left to go down West Street to the Beach front. At the intersection of Brickhill Road and West Street, there were ornate metal arches erected from each corner, lit up with electric lamps. The reason? Well it was the centenary year of the proclamation of the township of Durban as a Borough,1854-1954. The tram rails remained in situ for many years thereafter and I think it was only in the mid 60s that the Durban Corporation decided to rip up all the tram rails. In the 60s there used to be constant comments in the papers asking why the DC could not leave the roads alone as they were continually digging them up. Durban was known as the Holey City. It was also in the mid/late 50s when the introduction of parking meters did away with all the diagonal parking and changed to parallel parking bays, each bay headed with a Fenner parking meter. I recall the opposition the DC got from the initial implementation of these horrible devices and the fact that parallel parking now became an added skill one had to sharpen up on as a driver.

    But getting back to the postcard. The railway station, as it is in the postcard, is virtually unchanged as I remember it in the 1960s. By 1910, the main station building you see had been extended by the addition of the two additional floors as shown in the postcard. Ian Morrison’s book, Durban, A Pictorial History has a picture of the station building as a two storey structure. On the left hand side of the station building in the postcard, one sees a “black space” which in the 60’s was the side entrance to the Station local train platforms leading from Soldier’s Way. This was the popular entrance used by local train commuters daily. You entered going up a ramp, crested and on your left were three platforms which had ornate ironwork entrances. With rails on either side of each platform, 6 lines were accommodated. These lines were all for local trains. It was from the last of these 3 platforms that on the evening of April 1st, 1962 some 200 or so Durban boys, me included, set off by train for Bloemfontein to start our 9 months military training. I won’t forget that evening, the very large crowd that had gathered, the crying of family members, sobbing girl friends, our own trepidation of what lay ahead. Wow! That will be 50 years ago next year! Immediately in front of you was the station’s train information board. This was a big wooden structure, painted mainly white and green which gave you all the details as to whatever destination, platform and departure time. This information was sign lettered on removable boards. In the vicinity as well, the first locomotive to run in South Africa, “Natal” was on display. To the right of the information board was an opening and this lead to the main line platforms beyond and it was from here that the trains to the Cape, Free State, Transvaal and beyond would depart from. To access some of the more distant platforms, one used the overhead bridge which had staircases leading to the individual platforms. Across from the big information board were two kiosks, one being a book / newspaper/ magazine stall and the other a fruit stall. This side entrance to Durban Station linked up with the main entrance to Durban Station which was located directly opposite the back of the Post Office in Pine Street. One had to climb stairs to gain access here which was via heavy wooden doors with small glass panes. This entrance opened up into a largish hall area, with a lot of wooden panelling and carved wood. Here were ticket booths, men’s and ladies waiting rooms, a tea lounge, benches to sit on and for me, as a small boy, my personal interest, the small scale replicas of the real steam engines. These were individually encased in glass display units and for a penny, which you dropped in a slot, you could get the engine running with fully operational drive mechanism, linkage and drive rods. One wonders whatever happened to those scale models. If I recall, the main arched entrance to the station building was crested with the letters NGR…Natal Government Railways.

    An SAR&H Pullman Bus.

    It was outside the main entrance in Pine Street, that the South African Railways Motor Transport Pullman bus would leave from for its trip to Pietermaritzburg and back. All I recall is that the buses were highly decorated with chrome fittings on their rounded fronts and the exteriors were a bright red. I do not know if the Pullman bus went beyond Pietermaritzburg but have an idea there was a service as well down to the South Coast. When St. Henry’s played its counterpart in Pietermaritzburg, St Charles at rugby or cricket, the St Henry’s boys would be bussed there by two Pullmans. If I recall it cost 15 shillings for the return trip. Those were fun trips with a lot of singing of songs like “We’re off to see the Wild West Show”. The Brothers would accompany us to keep control. In the evenings, the Pullmans parking place was taken over by the legendary Nick’s Pie Cart… haute cuisine on wheels!

    Now dependant on the actual date of the postcard, the building on the right could actually have been, the then City Hall. The present City Hall was apparently only completed in 1910 just before Union took place. Up until then, the now Post Office was the City Hall. It was in this building that the National Convention on unifying the four provinces into the Union of South Africa was held. By the 1960s however, as the Post Office then, it had been added to. Although not clear in the postcard, the odd buildings that used to exist at the back including the Empire Bioscope, were demolished and the rear of the Post Office was extended up to Pine Street. I do not know when this extension took place but having been inside the area, the extension included offices on the Church Street and Gardiner street sides and the back had a high wall which had a gated entrance opening onto a large courtyard where the post was received or dispatched from.

    I actually worked for a while in this Post Office building round about 1963. At that time the Post Office building housed what was then called the Telex Exchange. One must recall that at that time directly dialled telephone calls to distant locations were still placed through an operator. However a very quick method of cross-country communication which was very popular then, was the telegram. That is were the Telex Exchange came in. The Durban Post Office was the hub of Durban’s telegram service. Within this building, a large room was filled with telex machine operators. Telexes or telegrams were short notes sent directly from one main area to another. From these main hubs, telegrams were sent or received by the telex operators. If the telegram was intended for the Durban Central area it would immediately be pasted up on the special telegram form, enveloped and then handed to a Post Office “messenger” who delivered the telegram by hand against a signature. If the telex was intended for a distant suburb in Durban, then the message would be relayed by telex to the nearest Post Office in that area where it would be “down loaded” and stuck up into a telegram and delivered by the post man there. The Telegram Service was quite an expensive service to use and the cost was per word and distance involved, so brevity was the art of telegram writing. Telegrams received had to be delivered the same working day. In a sense telegrams were the fore runners of emails! Also within the post office was a special room which housed the facsimile equipment. This room was out of bounds to everyone bar the technical personnel who manned this special machine. It was the only one in Durban. With it, pictures could be received or transmitted via landlines. In those days this was considered quite a technical feat in that a photo, taken say, in Cape Town could be transmitted to Durban, received here, printed out and delivered to the local newspapers for publishing in the evening newspapers. Newspapers would add a foot note to such pictures stating “Picture by Landline” because the quality at times was wanting. I have an idea the whole process was more photographic than electronic but apparently was a very involved process. Logically, the word “facsimile” was later shortened to “fax” as we know it today. Reverting to telegrams though, in Church Street, it was a through road then, there was a side door entrance to the Post Office building. At this entrance was a door bell where at any hour you could go there, ring the bell and a telex operator would come down and accept your telegram for transmission. The telex operators worked round the clock so this service was available at any hour. Telegrams in a way were a faster communicating service then especially if urgent messages such as deaths, births, congratulations, etc. were wanted to be sent ASAP. As I said being stationed at the Telex Exchange for a while, the telex workshop windows was a popular view point before work in the mornings. The workshop occupied a hall which ran along the very side you see in the postcard but was beyond the pillars. From this heightened vantage point, we had full view of all the girls below coming from the station on their way to work in the morning, the high school girls sitting in the buses on the other side, the traffic as it built up in Gardiner Street as well as a good view into a gym which was at our level in the building directly opposite! Whilst the guy in the gym was pumping iron, many derogatory remarks would be signalled across by hand gestures as to the small size of his biceps, much to his indignation!

    In the 60s, what had changed though was that the pavement reached to just about the line where the rickshaw stands in the postcard. The centre island had been removed along with the light poles, whilst I would say the other side pavement remained as shown. However what was still there were the two young trees, particularly the one shown in front. That was the well known Dead Man’s Tree which by 1960 had grown into a very large tree. My late father in law informed me that in his time, funeral notices were nailed to the trunk of that tree. It was Durban’s funeral notice board. I do not know when the practice was stopped but as you can see in the postcard, notices can be seen on the trunk. Most Durbanites of my time however would have a clear recall of the myriads of Indian mynahs that had taken over the trees as their roost. Late afternoon, they would start gathering in them and there would be a cacophony of squawking noise emanating from them. The pavement area as well, was well littered with droppings.

    Looking at the buildings on the opposite side none of these survived. In the early 50s I recall that on the corner of West and Gardiner Street (not in the postcard) was a tall brick building which was the Natal Bank Building. It had an ornate tower on the corner. This was later demolished and replaced with the present glass fronted building which was a First National Bank branch. The entrance to this new bank building would be were the gentleman is stepping onto the pavement. Before the rest of the buildings on this side of Gardiner Street were redeveloped, I think there was a small shop which I am very vague about which was next to the Natal Bank Building. Next to this was the Model Dairy, then came Tennison Burrows, and on the corner of Gardiner and Pine Street was a bar with its entrance at the corner. Opposite the bar in Pine Street was a central island area where the Indian flower sellers had established themselves. Then in my time, the buildings in Gardiner Street were redeveloped with the Model Dairy and Tennison Burrows remaining more or less in their positions and the corner pub replaced by a musical instrument store which extended round the corner into Pine Street. The building erected here, still existing, was several storeys high and on the façade facing Pine Street a memorial to the Indian Flower Sellers was placed on the side of the building in the form of a stylized Indian man and woman. It still exists today though probably many would not know its significance. This “memorial” was placed there because in remodelling Pine Street, the flower sellers were moved from there to the corner of Church and West Streets, close to the City Baths.

    The Model Dairy in Gardiner Street was a Durban landmark for many years. In the early 50s it operated as a dignified tea lounge and I recall that as you entered the tea lounge area at the back was filled with tables and chairs with bright white table linen. At the entrance was a refrigerated glass fronted serving counter. The outlet sold dairy products produced by the Baynesfield Dairy which was situated at Baynesfield near Thornville. It also sold sweets, cigarettes and bread if I recall. There were two Model Dairies in Durban at the time, this one in Gardiner Street and the other on the lower Marine Parade which is now no longer. Then next door was Tennison Burrows, another well known Durban shop and it was a newsagent. It probably was the magazine shop in Durban. It distributed most “British” comics if I can call them that as opposed to the American comic. British comics such as Roy of the Rovers, Beano, Girl, Girl’s Crystal and School Friend, were very popular with the younger children of the day. The comics which I think were published once a week, would arrive with the mail boats and Tennison Burrows was probably the main distributor in Durban. As soon as the overseas order arrived, the shop was a hive of people picking up their copies. Also from the UK one could buy the Daily Express/ Mirror issues which had been stapled together to form a week or so’s output of the daily English paper. The cover was a distinctive yellow. For the ladies the imported Women and Women’s Weekly magazines were very popular especially the latter which I am told always had knitting patterns included. In those days the Mercury and the Natal Daily News as it was known then were bought daily especially the Daily News, being the evening newspaper. Every household had the evening newspaper and we bought a copy every night. Newspapers in those days were far weightier and the recycling of old newspapers was commonly practised. The older Indian men would go about Durban suburbs carrying on their shoulder, a section of heavy bamboo cane that had been split. At each end attached by four ropes, a wooden board would be strung and the bought paper loaded on either end of the bamboo. The paper was bought at one penny a pound. It was quite a sight to see the Indian men, staggering along with heavy piles of paper at each end of the bamboo. The bamboo actually creaked as it took up the oscillating motion of the load. In those days the “paper men” would go about in Indian sandals, dressed in white robes tucked in at the waist and with a type of turban on the heads. One never sees them these days.

    The name of the music shop which occupied the corner site I cannot recall save to say, that there were always drum kits on display, guitars, piano accordions and harmonicas.

    And the final memory. Looking at the postcard, where the 3 storey building stands, was in the late 50s/60s, the terminus for the trolley buses which headed out Sutton Park way and beyond. The route numbers 18,20,22, and routes Puntan’s Hill, Sutton Park and Springfield Road come to mind. In the early 60s, we had moved to the Sutton Park area and it was from outside the Model Dairy that the trolley buses departed. The buses were pointed in the direction of the station and when leaving would turn left into Pine Street, turn right at Albert Street (at the back of Payne Brothers’ Building now Game) and follow this road which led eventually to First Avenue, Greyville. The return journey was back into town via Field Street, turning left into West Street so that at Gardiner Street they turned left again and were pointing in the right direction.

    Town, after schools were out, was a bustle of kids bussing in from all over and then going home by the appropriate bus. One must remember that there were not that many high schools then and there was no area restrictions as today. So town centre in the mornings to an extent became a junction point where scholars coming in from one area would then head to school in another area. In the afternoons after school, it was the same but now with no time deadlines, there was an added pleasure in that you could meet up with your girl / boy friend in town. At the time, I was dating a girl from the same area who went to Convent School. It was the done thing then to meet your “steady” in town after school, have a milk shake at a milk bar, the South Sea Island Milk Bar round the corner in West Street comes to mind, take an ever so slow walk back together to the bus stop, board the bus and get driven home courtesy of the excellent Durban Corporation bus service. Those were halcyon days back then. I must say, very, very different times.

    There you have it. When I saw Stan’s old postcard, a myriad of memories came flooding back and I thought it would be good to share. I hope you enjoyed the read and perhaps it jogged some memories of your own.

    20th November 2011.
    I came across a picture of Durban Central in a book on Durban by Janie Malherbe which was published in 1965. Janie Malherbe was the wife of Dr. E.G. Malherbe, one time principal of The University of Natal. The picture is posted above. The picture shows the building that replaced the Natal Bank Building on the corner of West and Gardiner Streets as I mentioned. In this photo it is still unfinished as the hoarding boards are still in place. Then next to it is the development that took place over the Model Dairy and Tennison Burrows. The book reminded me that this building is called Poynton Chambers. In this building the set of windows above the parapet was the gym we used to look in on from across the road. The Trust Building is another that is no longer. At floor level in the mid 1950s, Woolworths was based here with one entry in West Street and another in Gardiner Street, the shop being in a L shape. The West Street entrance was via a wooden ramp.

    • Peter

      If I can recall correcly, the music shop at the corner of Pine street was called Natal Radio, or Natal radio & Music. I bought my first trumpet from there in
      1972, a brass Yamaha, for …… R150 ! and on terms too. I think that the name changed later on, but it still reamined there for many years.

  2. Tobias Viljoen
    | Reply

    In the 60’s i was a teen growing up in Durban which I left in 1969 the year I turned 21.
    What I have been looking for mainly but cannot find is old photos of the Old Durban Station, especially interior photos which i am more than sure exist in some sort of archieve at the old SAR & H or even maybe Durban City has some interior pics somewhere.
    I have memories of entering which was the main entrance, coming to the ticket office and then walk along a passageway between offices, shops and the famous restuarant/tea room in the station where i drank many a cup of SAR & H tea and remember the starched white tabel clothes, heavy silver cutlery etc. Then from this passageway you walked into the main hall which was light thanks to the partially glassed roof and where the timetable for the trains was nearly as high as the roof and in front of that, a beautiful little garden.
    I would be amazinlge happy if you could somehow find some interior photos of the Old Station becasue i am sure there must be either photos or broschures somewhere.



  3. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Tobias
    Finding pictures of the Durban Station interior is going to be difficult I reckon. If you have the time a possible source is the Killie Campbell Museum in what was Mariott Road. They have photo albums on file. I wrote up some of my memories of Durban Station in the November 2011 Archive on this site under the heading Postcards. Your memory of the flower garden in front of the Train Departure Board in the main concourse is quite correct. If I recall it was a rockery type garden and the SAR & H had a fully ledged nursery going at Inchanga. All the Durban suburban stations used to vie for the Best Station Garden Award/ Competition and I have a feeling all the plants were sourced from there. The light in the main concourse was natural light in that the corrugated iron roofing over the platforms was louvered. There is a story that goes that the corrugated iron roofing for Durban Station was incorrectly sent to Durban instead of going to some place in Canada. The iron sheets were extra thick to withstand the weight of snow. The Durban roofing was sent to Canada where apparently it did not last too long. Remember reading about this somewhere.

  4. Ronelle
    | Reply

    Hoping someone out there can help me!
    My grandparents celebrate their 50th Wedding Anniversary in a month’s time. When they were dating back in 1963, they used to go have a Rootbeer Float at the Model Dairy in Gardiner Street. Does anyone maybe have a photo of the Model Dairy? Planning a trip down memory lane for them. Please help!

    Thanks so much!!!

  5. Peggy Brown
    | Reply

    Do you by any chance have information about the old aquarium? Who designed it, when etc. photographs would be a very welcome bonus!

  6. Mike Kamionka
    | Reply

    Hi Peggy,

    Not much info but thought you may like the short video on you tube from 1963!
    Link is attached……….
    ( if you cant access it, Google YouTube Durban aquarium 1963 for the video).

    A small snippet from the SAAMBR website:
    Sixty years ago in January 1951 – thanks to the foresight of marine biologists and conservationists of the day – the South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) was established, followed by its operational divisions: The Oceanographic Research Institute (ORI) research wing in 1958, and in June 1959 the Durban Centenary Aquarium, later to be renamed Sea World.

    In January 2004, after 45 years of operation, the old Durban Sea World aquarium relocated to its new home at uShaka Marine World.

    While the early founders of SAAMBR may have been scorned for their ideas in the 1950s, history and the current environmental situation has shown them to be exceptional visionaries. The founders of SAAMBR deserve recognition for their vision and dedication to the conservation of marine and coastal biodiversity and resources.
    The South African Association for Marine Biological Research (SAAMBR) was therefore established in 1951. In 1959 the complex housing the Durban Centenary Aquarium, research laboratories and a fine library was officially opened, followed by the Dolphinarium complex in 1976.

    At SAAMBR we sustain this noble heritage by generating and disseminating scientific information and inspiring people to care for our oceans. There are very few private marine research, education and aquarium establishments in the world that can claim to have had such a continual, positive impact on marine conservation and the environment.

  7. Mike Kamionka
    | Reply

    Wow…….another 2 videos 1:
    {Durban And Hibiscus Coast (1962) } and the second one: {Durban (1962) }…..

    Hope it brings back pleasant memories for some of you!.

  8. Peggy Brown
    | Reply

    Hi Mike
    Thank you so much for your time in replying and the inclusion of the link.
    Best regards

  9. David Harborth
    | Reply

    This is very interesting; Can anybody rember what was on the site in the late50 early 60
    where Mini Town is now.

  10. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi David,
    One tends to forget the places one passed so often and never really paid attention to. If you recall there was Marine Parade and then there was the Lower Marine Parade which branched off Marine Parade roughly where Old Fort Road met up with Marine Parade. Lower Marine Parade if I recall was one way heading towards West Street which extended down to the beach and ahead of it was the West Street Groyne. The Lower Marine Parade gave access to the North Beach facilities, the Beach Baths, Newtons, Kenilworth etc. I checked in my 1968 Directory and see that in that year it is stated, referring to the plot in Lower Marine Parade, ” Durban’s Unique Miniature City now building”. So that gives a date as to when the Mini City was started. Next to it was the 19th Hole Cafe and miniature golf course, and further on Newton’s, Holt’s Arcadia and further on the Cuban Hat and the Nest.
    Going back further in time, the Lower Marine Parade was called the Beach Promenade according to the 1938 Directory. From the Model Dairy building (now demolished) onward came the Children’s Bathing Pools, “Happy Snaps”, Kenilworth Tea Room, Durban Aquarium (which must have been a forerunner to the one built later and now demolished) , Swimming Baths ( again probably a forerunner to the Rachel Finlayson Beach Baths ), Fairbanks and Avery Scales (which were probably booths with weighing scales), Bathing Booths, Beach Dept, Offices, “Bosco ” (photographer), A.W. Upton (tobacconist and confectioner), African Caterers Service Hut, Motor Parking, Shelter (?), Beach Show Grounds , London Novelty Co., Sam. M. Newton (?), Rayner’s Tea Room , Darney’s Tearoom and lastly the Miniature Railway. This would indicate that the lower Marine Parade extended further along the beach front than it did in 1968. I say this as I have photos taken of the miniature railway in 1949 and it was quite some way from North Beach.
    Not sure if this helps but one would need a library of annual Durban Directories to keep up with the changes.

    • Rodney

      I remember the model train as being adjacent to the Fitzsimmons Snake Park, on the North Beach side of the snake park. This was in the early 50’s.

  11. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Senior moment. Corrected twice! Quite right the miniature train was close to Fitzsimmons. Fitzsimmons is not listed in the 1938 Directory.

  12. claudette irvine
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald ,I wonder if you can help with this question,I saw a postcard of central Durban and one can see the City Hall but in the middle one can see a bright red roof ,

  13. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Claudette
    To tell you the truth I have never seen an aerial photo of the City Hall. However if you consider it, it could be possible. As I remember it, you walked up the staircase outside under the portico and entered the City Hall via big wooden doors. Then you walked through the foyer with staircases going up stairs left and right of the foyer. You crossed the foyer and entered the hall proper through another set of doors. In the hall the stage was at the distant end with the pipe organ behind the stage. So you had a big room which needed to have a roof and this most probably is the roof you see in the postcard. Seeing you do not see it from ground level any colour would do. It could be tiled and it could be corrugated iron. That’s my theory.

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