Bits ‘n’ Pieces II

I have a few more things for you today including the following from Derek Levy:

Claridges Hotel July 1964.

I have strong memories of attending Cookie Look hour (5.00pm-7.00pm) at Claridges Hotel over the July holidays. The reason for my being in Durban was for my late father to attend the Durban July. The winner that year was Numeral ridden by jockey Raymond Rhodes.

As for the music, it was crazy. The Beatles had just started to invade the planet and the album “Please Please Me” had just been released. The resident band playing every night was Ricky Pelling’s band and Mercia Love*** was doing most of the singing. Not sure who the pianist was but he nailed singing “all my loving ” on a nightly basis. Ricky Pelling was very special and you had to arrive at least an hour early to get a decent table as the the room on the first floor was packed every night.

As an 11 year old this was an amazing experience. I recollect drinking cola tonics and receiving hot free peanuts from the kitchen and then then going on to a place called Kenilworth [an amusement arcade] with 50c to try and get the popular pinball machine. The challenge was to win free games so as to lay claim to the machine for a period of time.

Then came December 1967 with The Flames and Alfresco at the Esplanade Hotel. What a life-changing experience. Ricky Fatah, I guess, was only 14 at the time and the Flames made life worth living. Burning Soul was the album and the rest is history.

We were all very fortunate being teenagers at a special time.

Derek Levy

*** I was fortunate to be able to interview Mercia Love in 2011 and will make every effort to get that written up and posted on the site as soon as possible. I also have some recordings of her performing at the Los Angeles Hotel and will try to post a sample if the copyright can be untangled.

Reader Emmie had the following to ask:

In the late 50S and beginning of the 60s, Sol Kerzner’s family had a hotel in Gillespie Street which had the first DISCO in Durban. It was called THE Back Room. Sol ran this for his parents. He always some fun things to do and some great prizes.

Does anyone remember the Back Room?


Reader Stephen Hall, in reply to earlier posts on Mansfield School, had this to say:

I attended Mansfield Boys High and recall many happy days participating in the Cadet Band and in Drama under Dave Matheson. I am an executive with a large Australian Bank based in Sydney, and owe a lot to the school that taught me so much about life.

Stephen Hall

Michael Unterhalter remembers a variety show on the beachfront. I have an idea that the venue might have been the original Little Top (a blue and white tent) but would welcome additional information:

No mention on the site as yet of the variety show that took place at South Beach area. It was open air and the “main man” was Bill Brewer. It took place in the evenings once or twice a week. The approximate location was on the beach front in line with the Fairhaven hotel. This memory goes back to +- 1948 and into the 1950’s.

Michael Unterhalter, Houston, Texas.

And finally, for today at any rate, I have a question from Alan Fairleigh about a picture that had been on the site for a while. I apparently didn’t have a very close look at it because I didn’t realise that it was taken in Gardiner Street.

It was taken more or less on the corner of West Street and Gardiner Street looking towards Smith Street. But then, what is the large large white building and the one under construction next to it? Isn’t that where the Royal Hotel should be?

Click to view enlargement.

I’m afraid the picture quality isn’t great and would appreciate it if anyone had a larger version. Alan thinks that one of the cars pictured may be ND11, which was his when he had offices in Prudential Building.

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25 Responses

  1. Allan Hannah
    | Reply

    Hi Emmie
    I remember the “Back Room” very well!
    It was situated in the Palace Hotel in Gillespie Street but I suspect that “Back” was the pronunciation of the name “Baq”!
    As I recall, and could be wrong, the name was The Baq Room, Baq being pronounced as “Back”!
    The hotel itself had a thin façade onto Gillespie Street but extended far back (excuse the pun) into the property. To the left of the hotel front was an alley which led to the side entrance of the “public bar” in the hotel. A rather unsavoury alley, if I remember correctly.
    The first I visited the Baq Room I tried to gain entrance to the nightclub via the alley, quickly reversed and went up the steps to the main entrance and asked enquiries how to get to the Baq Room! I then walked down the long passage to the entrance to the Baq Room situated to the rear of the building, passing a much more respectable entrance to the bar as I went! That was the first of many enjoyable visits to this club! Quite a few memorable evenings!
    Seems like just the two of us were aware of the club!! See my previous input under Happy Happy in the diary!
    Best Wishes
    Allan Hannah


      Correct me if I’m wrong but when I was there in + – 1970 it was called the SPRINGBOK HOTEL

  2. Graeme
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    I don’t think that pic was taken near Gardner street bru. I think that was taken outside the town garden’s swimming pool.
    The South Beach buss used to leave from outside the pool to take us to the beach, remember……
    What would it be doing parked in Gardner street….. unless the Corpi driver was having a millshake at the Model Dairy and took a chance to use his company transport……

    • claudette

      Yes the pic was taken in front of the city baths,as that is where the Marine parade and South beach bus stops were,the first was South beach and then behind it would be Marine Parade,the Royal Hotel is not where the white construction is ,the construction is the U.B.S.building

  3. Warren
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    Re: The photo in Gardner street. I agree with Graeme – it was taken either in front of the city baths or a bit further up. The building on the left under construction was the Allied or United building society (can’t remember which one – the age thing).

    If you look closely you can see the war memorial. The white building(s) were demolished to make way for the new Old Mutual Building about 15 years ago.

    The Royal Hotel is out of picture to the left as is the City Hall. If the photographer had turned about 40 degrees both would have come into picture.

  4. Trevor Friend
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    I agree with Graeme & Warren as there is further evidence in the picture. In front of the single decker bus on the left of the picture is one of the big wheels of the gun carriages that were situated at the front of City Hall. So City Hall must be out of the picture on the left. Also another single decker bus is in front of the war memorial in what must be Church Street with Gardiner Street and the “old” Old Mutual building on the other side of the war memorial. Finally, if you look in front of and through the drivers window of the trolly bus on the right of the picture, you can see the bus shelter awning that was located on West Street alongside Farewell Square. Also, note the trolly bus cables above West Street and the angled parking bays that were prevalent in West/Smith/Church/Gardener and many other streets. The Pickup vehicle looks like it might have an NDC (Natal Durban Corporation) number plate.

  5. Craig Lancaster
    | Reply

    I was talking to my Mother today (Mothers’ Day, 13 May 2012) and she was reminiscing about her childhood in Durban (born 1920). She spoke of a jockey / trainer Kitch Watson and his home at Mount Argus. I have traced Mount Argus Road on Google maps. Mr and Mrs Watson took my Mother and her sister into their home in the mid 1920’s and it would be interesting to establish more information about the Watson family and where they lived. Does anyone have any information ?

  6. claudette
    | Reply

    Can anyone remember a hotel that was in West Street,just before Chix furniture shop but across the road was Beare Bros furniture shop
    No one seems to remember it ,I know there was one as I was robbed just outside of it,
    Hope someone can remember

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Claudette,
      The name of the hotel was the Masonic Hotel. I have verified this with a friend of mine who has an old Durban Braby’s Directory. If I recall the hotel closed down in the 1970’s/ 80’s and was converted into a Natal Building Society Branch Office. If I recall the hotel facade was very non descript and the entrance was directly off the pavement. It was no high rise building.

  7. Bianca Lawrence
    | Reply

    I just wondered if anyone knows what used to be on the site where the Durban ICC is on and also what the Marine Parade Garden Court Hotel used to be.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Bianca
      On the Durban ICC site were various South African Railways Departments. From the 1968 Durban Directory here is the listing of what existed between Walnut Road and Gardiner Street: – SAR Motor Bus Stop, Forwarding and Receiving Depot for goods to be transported by rail, SAR Motor Pullman Express Parcel and Parcel Delivery Office, Station Restaurant and Tea Room, Railway and Harbour Police Charge Office, Durban Central Station, Station Book Stall and Station Fruiterers. Whereas the Stati0n Building was preserved everything adjoining it was flattened. These if I remember correctly were grey painted corrugated iron buildings stretching down Pine Street. I remember the Porters who took care of your luggage and took over to the train you were catching were based in one of these corrugated buildings. They looked out onto Pine Street and could see taxis or private vehicles drawing up. I seem to recall at the back was the Pullman Bus Depot and Service Centre. On the right of Walnut Road on the corner stood the old Central Jail. It had a high wall right round it and one wall has been preserved now as a monument. At the back there was also a lot of vacant ground towards Ordnance Road and one could park there when cricket or soccer was on at Old Kingsmead.
      Regarding the Marine Parade Garden Court Hotel. The Majestic Hotel stood on this site. Next door is the Marine Plaza Flats and then another block of flats called High Wycombe. I do not have photos of the Majestic but am sure there are postcards of it on the internet.

  8. Rodney
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    I also remember the white building in the picture. After matriculating, I worked for a while for the SAR at their then head office in Smith Street. My connection with the white building is that I used to go to a dentist there – a Dr.Schmaman – his wife (Bella Schmaman) was politically active and if I recall correctly became a Town Councillor as a member of the then radical Progressive Party.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Rodney,
      The white building in Gardiner Street was the S. A. Mutual Building and was the main offices for the Old Mutual for many years. I used to go to Marist Old Boys Association Committee Meetings there as the Chairman at the time, the late Roger Chandler was a senior manager there. It was a dark building I recall with narrow passages. It has since been demolished and Old Mutual built a new high rise building adjacent. A car park for this building has replaced the old SA Mutual building. Dr Sidney Schmahmann was in Suite 805 in the SA Mutual Building. Welcome to FAD.

  9. Rodney
    | Reply

    Regarding the Fairhaven Hotel, I remember it well as my mother was a teacher at Addington Primary just across the road. When the revolving Coke sign was first erected we could see it from our house in Fairway, Durban North and at the time we thought it to be an amazing example of modern technology (That would have been in the late 1950’s)

  10. Rodney Coyne
    | Reply

    I find the livery of the trolley bus in the above photo interesting. In the late 1940s and early 1950s I remember that most of the trolley buses and buses were painted a battleship grey. I was told that they were painted grey during WW2 supposedly to make them less conspicuous. I cannot recall the colour of trams, but I suppose that they had received the same treatment.

  11. Rodney Coyne
    | Reply

    Talking of WW2 reminds me of another bit of Durban trivia. My brother had friends who lived in Musgrave Road in the early 1950s. I think that their surname was Grieve or Grierson (maybe Gerald can check on that). Using Google maps I see that the house is still there pretty much as I remember it at 712 Musgrave Road. The connection with WW2 is that the house had an underground air raid shelter in its garden. I was told that it was one of two domestic air raid shelters that were built in Durban during the war. I never went into it, but I do remember a steep flight of stairs led to a door in the depths of the earth.

  12. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Rodney
    In 1938, 712 Musgrave Road was occupied by I Geshen (maybe Isaac Geshen of J H Isaacs, Geshen and Co. Real Estate) . Then in 1968 Mrs D Gray McChesney. There are
    Grieves and Grierson in both directories so will need initials to try and pin point. One of the people who I spoke to at Evelyn House here in Richmond was Reginald Cavel Howard. He is a “Durban Old Boy” and he gave me a small sheet of paper with some very short notes which need to be expanded. One of them reads as follows: “Addington School had an air raid shelter under the school for the children”. That’s all there is and I need to go and see him and get more detail about all he wrote down though there is not much. Reg is 85 by the way. Kevin Mardon is the trolley bus guru in Durban.

  13. Barry Hogarth
    | Reply

    Does anyone remember the hotel that was on the site of the beachfront Holiday Inn? I remember that it had a very popular pub.

    • Steve

      The Majestic Hotel was where the Holiday inn is now. The pub was know as the Mug & Jug. Would love to see photo’s of both

  14. chris lee
    | Reply

    I live in Australia I have memories of Durbs I lived in Burlington Court opposite the XL tearoom I used to surf with ant van heuvell ,my first board was built by ken honeysets brother,favourite hang out was cookie look I went to Mansfield high used to surf the pants off when the the surf was good opp the dairy,had the best curry pies at the XL tea room.If possible I would like a photo of Burlington Court,love the old photo of the trolley bus,my era ENJOY Chris LEE

  15. chris lee
    | Reply

    I now live in australia what memories i surfed durban beaches most of my young life lived in burlington court opposite the xl tearoom had unreal times at kookie look,worked for maxwell campbell,used to buy grog from the shebeens for peanuts or sitting on the gutter eating a bunny chow or the piecart after a big night,surfed most of the big time surfers like ant van heuvel.i am talking about the years early sixties when u could surf opposite the model dairy & live on a curry pie & a pint of milk all well cheers chris

  16. Lynn Raw
    | Reply

    The Gardiner Street photo was probably taken in the late 1950s. That black car looks just like the 1955 Plymouth Belvedere that my father once had. The red pick up (bakkie) certainly looks like it has NDC plate and, if I am not mistaken, looks like a Fire Department vehicle.

    • Richard Holmes

      Lyn your dating is spot on – the building under construction is the UBS building and was built and fully occupied in 1962

  17. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    HI Richard,
    My memory tells me that that was the Allied Building on the corner which housed the Allied Building Society offices. It may have become the United later but I am sure it was Allied. I say this because I used to catch the Manor Gardens/ Nursing Homes bus to get to school in my senior years and their terminus in town was opposite the City Gardens in Gardiner Street outside the building. I am talking 1961 so your dating is correct. I may be wrong but Allied I think was taken over by the Johannesburg Building Society eventually.

  18. Mike
    | Reply

    The Allied Building Society was formed in 1955 by the merger of two
    societies founded in the early days of gold mining in South Africa,the Rand
    Provident Building Society and the Alliance Building Society. Fifteen years
    later the Allied absorbed the Johannesburg Building Society and overnight
    became the third largests savings institution in South Africa. At a later stage the Allied became part of Absa (1991). The original address of Johannesburg Building Society was Smith Street (the only piece of info I could find).

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