What happened in Durban 50 / 40 years ago? 1963/1973.

As I have done in the past two years I am listing what happened in Durban 50 years ago as recorded by my late father in law, Archie Black in his newspaper scrap books. It dawned on me some months ago that perhaps I should also record what happened in Durban 40 years ago in 1973. To be realistic, I may not be around in 10 years time and one never knows perhaps, FAD may also be history.  So this year I also record both 1963 and 1973 and will later add 1971 and 1972 to the notes of 1961 and 1962.

Later edit : 1971 and 1972 have now been added to 1961 and 1962 respectively.

So here’s what happened in Durban in 1963:

The Natal Mounted Rifles celebrate their 109th anniversary at their headquarters in Walter Gilbert Road.  The parent unit for the NMR was the Royal Durban Rangers formed in 1854.

Durban is hit early in the year by a severe storm which interrupts power and telephone services. Power was disrupted from Warner Beach to Botha’s Hill with major damage in Botha’s Hill, Kloof, Westville, Berea, Durban Central and Durban North.

The Old House Museum in St. Andrew’s Street was fumigated against borer infestation.

New bathing beacons are trialled at North Beach for the first time. These are arrowed beacons atop poles demarcating where bathers may bathe.

The Durban City Council’s General Purposes Committee was to hold a special meeting to discuss the blackballing of Mr Cyril Milne, Mayor of Durban from membership of the Durban Club.

Eva van der Water (later Eva Madison) a 15 year old Durban teenager wins the annual talent contest sponsored by the Durban Publicity Association. She wins a R50 gift voucher and a R50 scholarship. She will represent Natal at the national talent contest in Johannesburg.

Gordon “Tinkles” Ledingham of the Leviathan Angling Club lands a 295 pound hammerhead shark at the South Pier setting a new Natal record.

Barry Richards, Durban High School Cricket captain,  leads the South African School Nuffield team on its first tour of England. Three other Natal schoolboys make the team, Michael Proctor, Bruce Heath and Michael Smithyman.

Most Rev. Denis E. Hurley Archbishop of Durban, celebrates a Requiem Mass in a packed out Durban Cathedral in honour of the late Pope John XXIII who died and was buried in Rome.

A scouting tragedy occurred when a Scoutmaster and 9 scouts attempt to hike up the hill leading to the V.H.F. mast at Inchanga. One of the scouts, Rory Williams aged 15, falls in a rockfall and was critically injured. The Scoutmaster and his companion Deryck Armour remains at his side awaiting medical help but when the doctor arrives two hours later,  it is too late.

The lease and assets of the Durban Icedrome which cost R500 000 to build in 1955,  was sold by the liquidators for R25000. The premises are sub-leased to Miss Marjorie Chase who will continue to run the Icedrome as a skating rink.

A record of more than 200 runners set off from Pietermaritzburg for the annual Comrades Marathon. The winner was Jackie Mekler in  a record 5 hours 51 minutes 20 seconds. Second was a novice, Pretoria policeman Pieter de Villiers who came in, in 5 hours 58 minutes 45 seconds only the third man then to break 6 hours on the down run. Fritz Madel was third.  The race ends at the Durban Light Infantry grounds.

Mr Desmond Charles FitzSimons, noted herpetologist, of FitzSimons Snake Park dies.

The new George Campbell Technical High School in Brickhill Road is opened by Dr. George Campbell. The school caters for 800 boys from Std 6 to Matriculation. The school previously operated from the old Technical College at the top end of West Street.

Statistics reveal that Durban now has more Indians than Whites and Blacks. The figures are Indians 236 000, Blacks 221 000 and Whites 196 000.

Tottenham Hotspur on their South African tour beat a National Football League side 2-1 at the New Kingsmead Stadium.

Natal beat the Wallabies 14-13 at King’s Park Stadium.   The Natal Side is Backs:                 P Quested, O Taylor, R Savage, W Cooper, J Truter,  K Oxlee,  D de Klerk                    Forwards : W Labuschagne, D Walton, G Ackerman, M Suter, B Irvine (C),                            A Labuschagne , D Watson, T Bedford.

The Durban July Handicap is won by the favourite Colorado King followed by Speciality, Jerez and Dr. John.

The Water Chute, a concrete slide into the deep end, at the Rachel Finlayson Baths is demolished following two accidents which occurred.

The 16 year old, Convent High School pupil, Margaret Barbieri performs at a farewell concert at the City Hall prior to leaving Durban to join the Royal School of Ballet in London.

The Durban Club celebrates its Centenary.  At the time, membership was still restricted to Men Only.

Rachel Finlayson known as “Ma Finn” to thousands of swimmers died at Addington Hospital aged 76.  She was a foundation member of the Cygnus Swimming Club in 1910 and official chaperone to South African women swimmers for 27 years.  The Beach Baths are named in her honour.

Convent High School stage a special school version of Verdi’s opera, “Il Travatore”. The ambitious production is undertaken by Mrs. G Bruton and  Mrs A Gritten (Ann Scott).  Principals taking part were students Rosemary Ford, Celine Hanway, Marian Sneddon, Maureen Hogan, Susan Pohl and Leonora Collarossi.

Durban’s new Port Captain is appointed. He is Captain E.B. Sharrat who succeeded the late Captain Jim Ellis.

A machine used to apply cement by means of pneumatic means is made available in Durban by the Consolidated Pneumatic Tool Co.  In later years this process became to be known as guniting and is extensively used during the swimming pool boom of the early 70s.

The South African Police celebrate their Golden Jubilee. Celebrations are held at the King’s Park Stadium.

The Japanese Gardens at Bridgevale Park have a Japanese style gate erected at the entrance.

Durban’s Inner Circle bus route buses have brightly coloured whirling discs attached to the outsides as an experiment to identify the Inner Circle buses.

Durban’s new nurses’ home at Addington Hospital opens this year. It accommodates 295 nurses in single rooms and has flats for senior staff.  It also features lounges, dining rooms, gymnasium, games room and a squash court.

The City Hall building emerges clean and bright after a 10 year continuous repair and maintenance renovation.

Some of the scenes for the film “Sanders of the River” starring Richard Todd are shot in the grounds of the historic Old Fort.

Durban’s new oil refinery at Reunion is ready to produce its first barrel of petroleum. Built at a cost of R30 million it will require a medium size tanker to supply crude every 5 days.

The headquarters of the Durban Light Infantry in Epsom Road were extensively damaged in a fire which swept through the 53 year old buildings.

Seven paintings in the Durban Art Gallery are mutilated by “three European hooligans” .

The perspective of the new building to be built on the corner of West and Field Streets is revealed. The building costing R1 million replaces the demolished Cuthbert’s (West Street)  and Standard Bank (corner West and Field Streets) buildings.

A Durban Corporation tour bus plunges from a bridge into the Umsinduzi River in the Valley of 1000 Hills killing 9 sightseers on board.

November 22nd 1963 President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas Texas.  Where were you when the news broke in Durban roughly at 10 pm that night?

What happened in Durban in 1973, forty years ago.

My late father in law proudly pasted in the following short birth notice taken from the day’s Daily News: To Gerald and Barrie (nee Black) a daughter Lisa on the 27.2.73 at Parklands.        His first grandchild.

Capt. Terence Donald McKinnon, born in Durban 1910,  Durban Port Captain from 1963 to 1970 retires after a life time associated with nautical matters. He retired as Nautical Adviser to the South African Railways and Harbours.

Eric Clarke and Graham Pope-Ellis win the Dusi Canoe Marathon for the second year running.

At Durban’s North Pier, the Mayor, Mr. Ron Williams unveils a memorial plaque in honour of Perla Siedle Gibson , the Lady in White, who used to sing to thousands of servicemen as they left the harbour in troop ships during World War II.  The plaque was made in the British Admiralty Dockyards and presented by the Officers and Men of the Royal Navy.

Mr Izak van Heerden well known as a Natal Rugby Coach and DHS master dies in Durban.

Durban’s historic Victoria Street Indian Market is completely gutted in an all night blaze. The market dates back to 1910.  Ironically the market was due to be vacated by June 30th to make way for freeway and railway development.

The 1973 Comrades Marathon is started by Mr Max Trimborn with his signature cock crow. The race is won in record time by Dave Levick of the University of Cape Town. 1621 runners take part in the down run. Two Black runners run the Comrades unofficially. They were Zwelitsha Gono  and Simon Mkhize .  As a gesture against the organisers “closed” race policy, previous medal winners donate a Gold and Silver medal which are handed to Gono and Mkhize respectively.

The 1973 Durban July is won Yataghan with Storm Signal second, Elevation third and  Wave Crest fourth.  The race was attended by the then State President, Mr Fouche and his wife.

John McIntyre a former Town Clerk, city councillor and an authority on early Durban History dies in Durban. He was Town Clerk from 1943 to 1952.  He was the author of the book, The Origin of Durban Street names published in 1956.

John Ross House,  a 33 storey building on the Esplanade nears completion. A revolving restaurant is included in the plan and is later known as the Roma.

The 1973 Gold Cup is won by Jacobite followed by Free Style, third Hazy Moon and Imperial Prince fourth in an extremely tight finish.

The corner of Smith and Field Streets is flooded when a heavily laden truck breaks a water main under its weight.

The Galloping Gran,  48 year old Mavis Hutchinson runs a 600 kilometre marathon from Germiston to Durban. She completes the course in 6 days 14 hours, 13 hours outside John Ball’s record.

The iconic Colombo Tea and Coffee Shop posts “We will  NOT be demolished!”  signs in their West Street shop windows in defiance of the Trust Bank’s R4 million redevelopment of the site between West and Smith Streets. The owner , Mr Norman Richardson refuses to have the building demolished so development takes place around it.  The demolishers of the site are Stanilands.   Sadly today the Colombo Tea and Coffee shop business in West Street no longer exists although the building still stands and is now a Nando’s food outlet. The proposed multi-storey development is revised and ends up as a single storey complex which today looks rather tardy.

A charted  Dakota aircraft, ZS – DAK ditches into the sea near Isipingo when one of the engines failed. The Dakota was flying from Maseru to Durban. One of the women passengers leapt into the sea when the plane came down 50 metres from the beach and drowned. Mr Dudley Basel of Durban suffers severe shock and is admitted to the ICU at Addington where he makes a complete recovery.

The third Sugar Terminal is brought on line at Maydon Wharf. Slightly smaller and altered in design to the two originals.

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26 Responses

  1. Ian Jackson
    | Reply

    I remember watching the fire of the Indian Market,it was a Friday night and the next day we went to hear Billy Graham at Kings Park.

    • sally

      I remember that Indian Market fire too – I was living in John Ross House at the time – it was amazing and frightening!

  2. Allan Hannah
    | Reply

    This comment has been moved to start a new post here.

  3. Graham Read
    | Reply

    Incidentally, I think Colorado King won the 1963 Durban July in the fastest time in five years.

  4. John Taylor
    | Reply

    The 1963 SA Schools team that toured England had a Natalian as their manager / coach – LCW Theobald of DHS.

  5. Bianca Lawrence
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    Can anyone remember the old SABC building in Old Fort Road in the seventies (I know it’s still there but it looked different somehow). I mention it because we used to go and listen to and watch recordings of “Men from the Ministry”, “Navy Lark” and “Father Dear Father”. It was a large oak panelled studio with a stage up front. The actors (John Simpson, Maureen Adair, Tom Reed, Roger service among others), would stand on the stage in front of microphones and read from their scripts. The sound effects would come from all sorts of things – tin buckets, coconuts etc. The studio audience would watch this and laugh on cue (no canned laughter for these shows). They would record three sessions at a time. It was a wonderful (free!) way to spend a Thursday night!

  6. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Bianca,
    I remember the SABC being newly opened on the corner of Old Fort Road and Stanger Street. Have not been there for some time now so it may be changed but I do remember the facade of the building facing Stanger Street had sea shells and starfish and a wavy line depicting waves something akin to a tropical beach. I never attended any recordings but did used to go there to liaise with the SABC outside broadcast team when it was Comrades Marathon time. Telkom had to provide the landline telephone links for the SABC broadcasters along the route so it all had to be co-ordinated. Talking of Men from the Ministry, I dug into my mementos paraphernalia and in the 1971 Springbok Radio 21st birthday commemorative booklet I came across this picture which should revive some memories for you. I seem to recall that Tom Meehan used to man the microphone at the Bluff Drive In in the mid 1970s and broadcast messages from those attending the show over the speaker system.

  7. Andrew McDonald
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    I can remember the Dakota crash as I had a friend of mine staying as his parents where away for the weekend. We lived in Athlone Park and had gone to the beach for the day. When the plane crashed it was right near us and, you guessed it, Neils parents where on that plane!! Anyway we saw them come up the beach. It was surreal

    • Mem Seaman

      Did you know Dudley Basel? I’ve been trying to gather information on him for many years. Our families were close friends but left for the USA in early 1963 and lost touch. Would really appreciate any photos or information you might have. Thanks.

  8. Bryan
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    Columbo tea and coffee main factory is still in Gale street, was the last time I passed, the West street shop which was directly opposite the Roxy bioscope had a neon sign of an elephant trodding on a monkeys tail.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Good recall there Bryan. Yes Colombo Tea and Coffee did have a neon sign of an elephant seemingly catching the monkey by his tail. The neon sign used to flick from one action to the other. I wonder what the “tail” behind that one is. Yes I have seen main factory in Gale Street. I can well recall that I used to be sent to get the month’s coffee from the West Street Shop. The order my Mother gave me was always the same : 1/4 pound Kenya “A” Turkish. This was pre decimalisation days. The beans would be taken out the bins which lined the front counter and weighed out on a scale. Then they were tossed into a red tall grinding machine which had two aluminium canisters with fancy lids. The idea of the two cannisters was I think for people who wanted mixed coffee blends. After a few minutes grinding, the beans would end up as powder as per your taste. The turkish was more of a rough grind suited to the way Greeks liked their coffee black and thick. The coffee grinds warmed by the grinder were dished into a double paper package the outer one orange having the Colombo advertising on it. I can still recall the strong aroma of the packet.

    • Ariel Rudolph

      I remember the brouhaha that Colombo Tea & Coffee caused when Norman Richardson refused to sell and forced the development to build around their building.
      The most heartache for me was when the old Polar Bar on the corner of West and Broad Streets closed down. I remember “window shopping” on a Saturday evening with my parents and stopping at the Polar Bar for a “Flake Curly Cone” that were served out of their huge ice-cream machines. The old jukeboxes at the end of the tables were classic….

  9. Clive Goodwill
    | Reply

    I knew a Family near the Virginia Airport in 1966 = Holland seems to ring a bell = The Mother was Very Well Spoken and I believe was in Radio Shows. Her Husband was Tall Dignified. Any ideas?

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Clive
      Complete shot in the dark. From 1968 Durban Directory only one Holland resident in Virginia, namely E.A. Holland 9 Mathias Place Virginia. Phone number was 837049 but this was changed when digital exchanges replaced the analogue ones. All I could find.Good Luck in your search.

    • Clive Goodwill

      Hi again, No they stayed at 5 James Place, off Mackeurtan in the 60’s. He was very Tall and She was a short & Blonde. Both the Kids were Blonde as well. Regards, Clive

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Clive
      “O Bergh” lived at 5 James Place in 1968 according to the Directory. Keep plugging away!

    • Clive

      Thanks again, I was about 13 making it 1964. She read the News if I remember.She had an excellent speaking voice with perfect pronounciation. Children were Susan and John. Sorry to bug you so
      I thank you for your attempts,


  10. Leanne lazarus
    | Reply

    I was 9 years old and one of the passengers with my parents Sam and reina ephron and two brothers on the that landed in the ocean on the 28 December 1973 have always want to get a copy of the newspapers that featured the story of the plane crash and was hoping that someone is able to help me get this information

  11. Dave
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    I recall the Dakota crash. I was 8 years old and I heard it fly over with engine troubles. Later on my father told me about the Dak and it all made sense. We went down to the beach to view the crash site.

    My father took photos at the time but he has long since left us so the pics are lost.

  12. Bob White
    | Reply

    Having been born in 1935 I can remember nearly all these things and a lot more of good old Durban and had just left the N M R before that parade, I took part in the Queens Coronation day parade.Our Troop Officer Lt.Nigel Hawthorn said he would buy us all a beer if we put on a good show, and he did

  13. Ariel Rudolph
    | Reply

    I remember the two original sugar “silos” that were completed in the mid-’60s. In 1967 we used to live in St. Andrews street across from Albert park and we, as kids, used to often take a bare-footed trip to the sugar terminal along Maydon road to go and play on the mounds of raw sugar. We used to climb up the mountain of sugar and I can clearly remember dodging the sugar thrower whenever it threw sugar our way. More than once we were chased out of the silo!!

  14. Frank Graham
    | Reply

    I think it would better to use the word “shabby”, not “tardy”, when describing the building in West Street. Tardy means late.
    Clive, the word is “pronunciation”.

  15. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Frank,
    Thanks for the correction. Perhaps I wanted to say “tatty” but words get written without giving thought. The model trains still chugging around the flats? Long time ago that I used to see you in Track and Trestle. Time moves on.

  16. bobby
    | Reply

    visited the addington hospital on the 25/ 03/2018.Must have been a beautiful hospital an reception hall.what a waste.

    | Reply

    Hi do you remember the Mikonas RESTAURANT IN WEST STREET—–eat as much as you can.

    not far from the Lonsdale Hotel.

  18. Dave Strydom
    | Reply

    Anybody knows where I can get the names of West street hotels, top end.

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