I had an e-mail recently from Paula Santa-Rita who had a few questions and some memories.
I lived in Durban between January 1966 to 1969 at Walsingham’s Catholic Girl’s Hostel in Berea just off Berea Road, if I remember it right?
I used to go to school in either West Street or Grey Street but I think it was West Street. The school prepared students for Matric. It was a small private school owned by an Irish man who was also the headmaster, called Mr. O’ Madigan. A Mrs. Smith was our French teacher. The school was called “Progressive School” and it occupied one or two floors in an office building on the right side of the street if you were facing the sea. Where can I find information about this school?
Walsingham was run by Dominican nuns most of them German, I think this is no longer the case? Somewhere near Walsingham perhaps in the street parallel to it there used to be the LA (Los Angeles) Hotel where sometimes we’d go to listen to jazz I think they had lunch time jazz on weekends? The LA Hotel no longer exists I suppose? Anyone has photos of it?
Also not far from Walsingham there used to be a cafe in the style of the Troubadour Cafe in London were two young male folk singers used to sing American folk songs. They were very much like an imitation of Peter and Gordon. Does anyone remember the name of this duo of folksingers and the name of the cafe? I think we used to go there sometimes on Friday or Saturday nights.
At the time a singer called Mercia Love was a great success. I used to know Mercia personally and have photos of her on holidays in LM Mozambique. Does anyone know what became of her? Another singer of those days was Des Lindberg. If I’m not mistaken Peter, Paul and Mary went to South Africa and performed in Durban does anyone remember this?
Also there used to be a Gay Club called The MATELOT does anyone remember this at all? There were drag shows on some evenings, some evenings were mixed men and women and I think other evenings were women only or men only? I have googled “Matelot in Durban in the sixties” over a hundred times in all sorts of variations including simply The Matelot, Durban, and cannot find one single reference to it. As if it never existed. Can anyone help? I’d be really thankful.
There were natural parks up the coast i think towards the north with lots of trees and maybe waterfalls or small rivers where we sometimes went for picnics on weekends – where could that have been?
And out of town along the south coast there were hotels or at least one or two very popular hotels that served cocktails, along the coast by the sea where could that have been? I looked older than I was and my friends were all two or three years older than me so I was never asked my age whenever I ordered a cocktail drink in one of those hotels!
I’d be thankful for any information on any of the above.
I mailed Paula back to explain that I had met Mercia Love shortly before I left Durban and she replied with:
Thanks so much for your kind and quick reply. What an exciting coincidence that you know Merica Love! Every now and then during the last 45 years (!) I have wondered about what could have happened to her!
I am trying to scan some photos I took of Mercia and some friends when she was in LM for holidays in 1970 I think, though it might have been early 71?. She and her friends stayed at the downtown Hotel Tivoli and I drove them around to Costa do Sol one day by ferry across the bay to Catembe another day, we spent quite a lot of time together in LM. In these pictures you can also see my friend from Mozambique Sonia Lavinas who after spending many years in Brazil is now living in Lisbon Portugal and I saw her recently after many years. I have two of Mercia’s LPs as I have somehow managed to keep many of my vinyl records along the years.
You know it is strange how little information is available online regarding so many aspects of South African life in those years between WWII and the end of Apartheid. That is why sites like yours are so important. For example I do not understand why there is nothing online about the Dominican nuns who managed Walsingham in the late sixties? Whatever become of them? Who took over? Even Catholic sites offer no information on this!
And as I mentioned in my previous email it seems to me incredible that given South Africa’s high profile gay life that there’s nothing online about historical gay places from the sixites. The Matelot for a while was, if not the only gay club in Durba,n certainly the best known. I think it was near the harbour somewhere? Then a second more “sophisticated” club opened but I don’t remember its name nor its location.
I stayed for a few weeks in the Plaza Hotel downtown in early 1966 while I waited for a room at Walsingham’s. Now I look at photos of the Plaza on the Internet and cannot recognize it at all. It seems to be in the same place but has the façade changed so much or is my memory of it totally wrong? I cannot find pictures of the Plaza from 1966.
I also stayed for a few days with my father in January 1966 in a hotel near the beach front I think it was behind north beach on a street parallel to the beach marine drive. Behind it somewhere there was a biscuit factory and so there were times in the hotel and the street that the smell from the factory was so strong it felt we were inside a cake bakery! I have looked on Google satellite images but it seems to me that the whole area is now car sales warehouses???
I also used to go to a gigantic Indian market in the then Hindu area of Durban and there used to be a small restaurant there where whites could go to in spite of Apartheid rules. I remember being told at the time that it was the only restaurant in the whole of Durban where Apartheid rules did not apply: again I’ve tried to find information about this online but found nothing!
And how can one find a list of bookshops from the sixties in West Street and /or Smith Street ? Are there no records of any of this? It is surprisingly much easier to find photos, memoirs, blogs, public records of building or deeds, etc about LM/Maputo-Mozambique than about Durban!
Anyway let me not go on and on! In short: your site is a must go on!
Added: 05/08/2019 This is pretty belated but here’s the picture that Paula sent in all those years ago. You can get see more about Mercia on our page celebrating the singers of that era.Share this: