Before we kick off with today’s contribution, Maurice Warren wanted to know if anyone had a picture of Smuggler’s Inn. Click the Contact button above and drop me a line.
And now, my informant Rodney Coyne, who has been busy in the comments section of the diary, has sent in these memories which are mainly of Morningside in the early 1950s. He wrote:
Mainly about North Ridge Road 1950 – 1953
Perhaps I should start with a brief background regarding my connection with Durban. My mother’s surname was Bellengere. She was born in northern Natal at Dundee, I think (her parents were moving around a lot at that time). She was baptised at the Anglican church in Weenen and then again at St Thomas’s Church, Musgrave Road, Durban – remember, the Anglican Church at the time was still in turmoil after the split with Bishop Colenso. They lived somewhere near the Botanic Gardens when they arrived in Durban.
Her father was a qualified jeweller and he worked for a firm in the centre of Durban with a name something like Bartholemew or Bartholomai – I can’t recall it for sure right now, but the firm was still in existence a few years back in one of the lanes – it may have been Mercury Lane. Her father died when she was aged 12, and her mother, brother and sister moved to a new house in the developing suburb of Glenwood – I think the address of the house was 301 Cato Road. Her mother became blind after an eye operation in about 1950 and after that lived in various places, including with us at Durban North for a number of years. My mother’s brother inherited the Cato Road house and lived there until his death about 30 years ago.
My father was born in Pietermaritzburg where his father had a photographic studio. At some stage the family moved to Durban and lived near my maternal grandparents, so my mother had known my father for most of her life. I know that at one stage they lived in Cohen Avenue, lower Glenwood, and I gather that it was a family joke to be known as the Coynes of Cohen Avenue. After that, they moved to a substantial double storey house in Currie Road. My grandfather had his photographic studio in West Street. I think the building was called Marilling Mansions, near Dick King Street. He retired when World War II started and they moved to Graaff Reniet where he died in 1943, just before I was born. My paternal grandmother returned to Durban and lived in a private hotel in Florida Road, The Glamis Hotel.
I was born in Port Shepstone in 1943 where my father had Grosvenor Pharmacy. For some reason he decided to study optometry so we moved to England for 2 years returning to Port Shepstone in 1950. I don’t know the full story, but he somehow worked a swap of his pharmacy with that of a Mr Doyle which was in Point Road, Durban. The pharmacy was straight opposite the end of Winder Street. When we first arrived in Durban, we lived in a private hotel in lower Florida Road – I think it was called the Florida Hotel. It later became the headquarters for the teachers union. At that time, I remember that trams still ran up Florida Road as far as the terminus just below Jameson Park. We often took the ride up to the top because I had an aunt and uncle and two cousins who lived in the upper part of Montpelier Road, and my (then blind) maternal grandmother lived in Gleneagles on the corner of Musgrave and Springfield Roads. My recollection about the trams may be partly wrong, because on checking I see that they ceased operations in 1949. But I definitely remember riding up in trams to the terminus at the top of Florida Road – perhaps the tram rides happened when I was younger and we were still living in Port Shepstone but just visiting Durban.
My parents bought a house called Jesmondene (I remember the name was in brass letters on the gate) at 93 North Ridge Road. It was a spacious single storey Victorian house on the inland side of North Ridge Road, on the corner of Rosebank Avenue. From the rear of the house we had a clear view of Table Mountain in the Valley of 1000 Hills. I remember it still had a chip geyser in the bathroom and it had to be lit about an hour before bath time. At some stage, an electric geyser was installed. I remember that a Mr Lello did the plumbing and an Indian gentleman who I only knew as Peter was responsible for painting and other odd jobs. The house had two palm trees in the front and a tall hedge of Brazil Cherries. The single garage was right on the road and looked straight down Ferndale Road. The land on one side of the house was undeveloped bush – a paradise for young boys. Some years after we left, The Church of the Nazarene built a church there.
On the other side of the house was a property with a small wood and iron house. A pleasant old lady, a Mrs Crouch or Cross I think her name was, lived there. I think that she was widowed. The next house belonged to a Mr and Mrs Perry. The Perry’s house was attached to the service station which Mr Perry owned. I remember that this was before the days of single- brand filling stations so one could choose which of several different brands of petrol you wanted to fill up with. Mrs Perry was a quite high ranking officer in the Red Cross. Between the garage and the next building was a steep lane. The next building was a double storey. I was told that it was owned by butchers who obviously had a sense of humour because the building was called ‘Chopleigh’. There were flats upstairs. I think the butchery on the ground floor was called Ralph, Pritchard and Swatton, and they had a small chain of butcheries in Durban. Opposite the Perry’s garage was Cambridge House. This was a girls’ home for orphans and girls from broken homes. Many of them attended Morningside Primary School further along the road, but I never paid them much attention because at that time I already had a girlfriend in the same road – the younger sister of my older brother’s closest friend, but nothing came of that youthful romance. Round about 1970, Cambridge House became an old age home.
I remember driving along North Ridge Road (ca. 1970) and seeing my former headmaster, Mr Percy Hardaker, standing at the bus stop opposite Cambridge House where he was then a resident. I gave him a lift to where he was going but I don’t think he really remembered me – I was not for any reason one of his more unforgettable pupils. At the crest of North Ridge Road was a very large double storey mansion. I do not ever remember seeing anyone there and to me it was a bit of a mystery house. Opposite this house on a roughly semicircular piece of land was the Durban headquarters of the radio police – their cars were known as scorpion cars because of the large aerial at the rear of the vehicle. The building was initially erected as the first radio station in Durban. One of my uncles (the same one who lived at 301 Cato Road) was an electrical engineer and he was supposed to have played an important part in setting up the station. The last time I went past it, the building had become the local headquarters for the Girl Guides.
Beyond that was North Ridge Road Primary School where I and my younger brother went to school. For some reason my older brother went to DPHS in Gordon Road. The headmaster at our school was a Mr Budde and his wife also taught there. While we were there the school changed its name to Morningside Primary School. Another noteworthy event while we were at this school was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. We each received a commemorative mug which I still have. My class teacher was a Miss Charlesty – I can’t remember her first name, but there were two Miss Charlestys, spinster sisters, both teachers at the same school. My mother, being a teacher herself, knew them both. They lived in Innes Road and their names were Valmay and Daisia. One of my other class teachers was a Mrs Nourse, wife of the (at that time) well-known Springbok cricketer Dudley Nourse. I remember that they lived in Cadogan Drive, Durban North, just opposite the newly built Northlands High School (That was before it split into separate schools for girls and boys). I had yet another aunt and uncle who lived a little further on in Cadogan Drive.
On a traffic island across the road from Morningside School was a sort of terminus for the trolley buses. Right across North Ridge Road from the school was the Valley View Store which was our local grocer shop and general dealer. Carrying straight on brought one to Burman Drive which was completely undeveloped except for the Boy Scout Camp about halfway down. Burman Drive was used occasionally for motor races as some older readers may recall. The main road veered to the right into Trematon Drive which led into Windermere Road and on to the central area. If one turned left at the Valley View Store one arrived at Puntan’s Hill. For some reason some, but not all, trolley buses went along the circular route round Puntan’s Hill and back to the main route. I remember that there used to be a Swale’s Dairy on Puntan’s Hill where we got our milk supply from. The owner was related to the war hero Edwin Swales V.C. We must have lived just about mid-way between their opposition in Rosebank Avenue. At the time I think it was called DCD – Durban Combined Dairies – and it was renamed Clover Dairies which is still in existence. The Rosebank Avenue dairy was taken over by the education department for the construction of Mitchell High – the school was originally situated near the Greyville racecourse. The school has since closed and the building is used for some other purpose now.
Getting back to 93 North Ridge Road, the house just about opposite on the corner of Ferndale Road (it may have been the second one from the corner) belonged to the Beares of Beares Furnishers. We never saw much of them, but I do remember that they had a chauffeur-driven Packard – one of the elderly boxy types which to me looked pretty much the same as a Rolls Royce.
Going along North Ridge Road towards the stairs leading up to Ridge Road there was a house called, I think, ‘Portcullis’ which overlooked the top end of Jameson Park. The house itself was nothing much to look at, but in any case it couldn’t be seen from the road. What was noticeable about the property was that the large steep bank in the front had been completely covered with rounded brown boulders cemented into place.
93 North Ridge Road was demolished many years ago, along with the little wood and iron house and the Perry’s house and Service Station and the whole site was redeveloped as a big up-to-date service station (I think it is now Engen).