Hannes Smith was regular visitor to Durban both before after WWII. He wrote:
Although I was born and grew up in Krugersdorp in the old Transvaal, I have recollections of many happy times spent in Durban.
My late parents must have been very fond of Durban because it feels as though we were more in Durban than at home, plus the fact that my mother`s one brother lived there with his family, all their children having been born there, made it easy to just pack the car and off to Durbs.
One of my earliest recollections was of Mrs Fishers boarding house in, what my mother afterwards pointed out to me, was in Palmerston street behind Bakers bakery in West street.
I also recall staying in a Jewish hotel on the beachfront south of West street, and which probably belonged to Sol Kerzner`s family. Many others come to mind, White house, also in that area, Echoes in West Street, Coogee in, was it Tyzack?
I have been trying to remember the name of a small hotel in West Street near the corner of Gillespie, a few doors up from the small hotel Cecil, it had a Spanish sounding name, it just won`t come to me.
My uncle`s family lived in a largish double storied, semi-detached house at 83 Pine street, more or less across the road from the old railway workshops. That area was mainly residential, until about 1948 when the houses were demolished for businesses. Today it is the centre of the CBD.
My cousin Johnny, who was a few years older than I was, took me on many excursions with his cronies, some quite risky if not outright dangerous. The harbour area was their favourite playground, particularly the area where the Yacht basin is today. We took chances on a rickety, leaking tub-like canoe, rowing to the sandbanks to catch small fish and other sea creatures, probably shrimps, which we cooked or fried on an old shovel.
Sanitary lanes between streets were still existent then and were ideal for our different forays of adventure, some not entirely innocent. a Few doors down from their house was a small chocolate factory, I seem to think that it was Rowntrees, it was easy to get into the back yard from the lane and there was always a few chocolates to be scrounged from the cardboard boxes full of straw that were stacked outside.
In the winter of 1936 my parents were advised by our doctor to take my younger sister who had a chronic chest ailment to sea level and possibly out to sea. My dad could not get away from work and my mom took us to Durban by train. We stayed with the family in Pine street.
I remember it as being a very pleasant holiday, we went to the beach every day, went everywhere by ricksha, and with my uncle`s contacts, managed to go on a working dredger boat a few times for my sister’s whooping cough. There wasn’t the luxury of pleasure boats or even deep-sea fishing boats in those days. It was actually a very traumatic period, so soon after the depression.
And with Hitler`s Germany making threats of war, the whole world was in a troubled state. After being in Durban for about ten days we again went out to sea one day and upon our return to the house found a policeman waiting to give us the news of my father’s sudden death the previous night. We returned home the same evening. He was only 34 years old, my mother was a 32 year old widow with 4 small children, I was 9 and the oldest child.
During the war years it was almost impossible to get to Durban, but from 1946 we resumed our Durban holidays. We hardly ever booked for short stays, simply driving down to the XL or Cuban hat, having something to drink and an Indian spotter would approach with his query, “Hey man you want accommodation, where you want to stay, just say where, I get accommodation for you very cheap, very clean” Malibu, Four seasons, Coogee even the old Parade court tea rooms in West street, where Mykonos restaurant later was, had a reasonable and affordable annexe in the back in Palmer street.
We especially enjoyed train journeys from the Highveld to Durban, the trains leaving Johannesburg at about seven o`clock in the evenings, reaching Durban the following morning at about eight. Those semi-formal dinners in the dining saloon still haunt me to this day, lying awake listening to the click-clack sounds of the train wheels, and the loud good-byes of the people on stations along the way.
In February 1949 my mother, two sisters and I went for a 3 week holiday in the new Rydal Mount hotel. We were on a bed and dinner basis, breakfast was made in the small kitchenette. My chore was to buy fresh bread or rolls from Bakers around the corner every morning.
It was a lovely time, we enjoyed every minute, the old Indian market with its lovely smells of spices was a special favourite, the docks with the Castle ships, Blue lagoon for cream scones, Umhlanga rocks was just a sandy little village with houses dotted along the shore, taking fresh oysters from the rocks next to the lighthouse. What bliss!!!
One of my old post cards show South beach with a structure on the beach where shows were regularly held, I`m not sure if this was the Little top. During this holiday there was a group of entertainers performing there and they were very good, to this day I still have their autographs.
For interest sake I give their names;
The chief honcho was a character named Bill Brewer, he signed himself as the thief of badgays. Sergius the Russian, Val Mareski the fiddler, Ann Archer sang beautifully, Schalk Burger pianist, Elza Ray vocalist, Beniamino Giusseppi, Ian Kempton, I forget what they did.
They held 3 shows a day, morning, afternoon and evening shows, people sat on beach chairs on the pavement and on the sand around the stage. The acts were top class, and can you believe it absolutely free, even the deck chairs were free. Durban corporation certainly looked after their tourists in those days.
When I married in 1950, I decided to take my bride to ( you guessed it) Durban. She had never seen the sea before, being a plaasjapie from Groot Marico. Since we enjoyed our stay at Rydal Mount previously, that was the obvious choice.
Malibu, 4 Seasons, Maharani, Elangeni, Holiday Inn, Tropicana were still in the distant future, there was the Royal and Edward of course, but I was only a workman after all. It was pure joy to SHOW her Durban and it`s many attractions and we had a fabulous honeymoon.
We regularly visited Durban later and our children grew to love Durban as much as we do, so much so that when I got a teaching post in Port Shepstone in 1975, and two years later to the Natal Technikon in Durban, they all followed us to Durban.
We are lovers of the sea and first lived in Connemara on the North beach, and soon afterwards bought a flat in the newly completed Belmont, corner of West street and Marine Parade. We lived there until 1992 when we moved to Hermanus in the Cape for a new adventure.
I can honestly say that the fifteen years that we actually lived in Durban, experiencing Durban as Durbanites, going to Kings park as true banana boys, being part of the fan club, Where cousin Renee was one of the organisers, knowing all the best restaurants, seeing all those lovely shows in the Alhambra and Playhouse. Having wonderful colleagues and friends, both for me at Technikon as well as for my wife Babsie at the old United Building Society in Smith street, those years must rank as some of the happiest years of our lives.
And yes to this day we are staunch Shark rugby fans.