Talking from Postcards

A friend from Cape Town sent me some postcards/ pictures of Durban which are not dated but which are interesting in my point of view if one looks at the background. The postcards sent to me are in the main sourced from Wade Kidwell’s collection that he posted here on FAD some years ago. Obviously these are copied and do the rounds in emails. I am going to show some of them here and comment where I can which perhaps will jolt some memories. If anyone can date them please do so.  Also any comments to add. Click on pictures to enlarge.

XL Tearoom.

The XL Tearoom though well known, was not too well documented by photographs but here is one which gives its locale and an over view of it. The XL has been mentioned in posts on FAD about the delicious Pie Chips and Gravy it served for the hungry young beachgoers . This picture shows the XL Tea Room with its parking area to the right. A motor bike group separate to that that used to congregate at the Nest / Cuban Hat used to gather here in the evenings. I cannot recall the Little Top operating in this area but there you have it. Looking further on is the Vetch’s Pier area and on the right would be the area were uShaka is now located.

DBN XL TeaRoomAddington Beach and Hospital.

One wonders why such a choice site was chosen to establish a hospital right on the beachfront. One must remember that these beachfronts in the old days were known as Back Beach because the Bay beaches before the wharves were built and the harbour developed were the beaches the public used.   Be that as it may, Addington was the public hospital at one time. The nurses’s home which was built before the main multi storey structure apparently was a 5 star establishment. The two pictures shown show the nurses home complete without the then main hospital complex and then the two both completed in the background.   The main complex is presently undergoing a complete facelift and renovation. The hospital apparently has been on a downward slide and its reputation has also been wanting from what I read.  The other postcard shows Addington Beach taken from the XL Tearoom vantage point. Note how the Beach skyline is being changed. I would say late 1980s / early 1990s.

DBn Addington 2

DBn Addington 3DBn Addington BeachDurban South Beach

An interesting comparison of the South Beach showing the Fairhaven Hotel with the iconic Coke neon sign. The first picture shows the Fairhaven Hotel on the left. It would appaer that there is a building next to it but this is an illusion as the Fairhaven was on the corner of Rutherford St. and Marine Parade. The building “appearing to be ” next to it is actually in Gillespie Street. Next to the Fairhaven is Grandborough Court then painted green on the corner of Sturdee Place, not a well known little road and Marine Parade. Then comes Pasadena Court and Marborough Flats with Blenheim Place separating them from the next building Sorrento Holiday Flats. Separating that building is Grenville Place with the next buildings, Arlington and the White House Hotel which was on the corner of Beatty Place. Sturdee, Grenville and Beatty Place are all named after British World War 1 admirals of the Fleet.

In the second and later picture the Fairhaven appears to have had its frontage revamped and the Grandborough is now painted white. On the left of the Fairhaven is Addington Primary School , the double storey building. In the background is a sizeable chimney which one presumes was attached to Addington Hospital’s boiler room. The South Beach change rooms have been altered and painted white and I think one can still make out the clock tower. The building on the right I can only presume to be the Mermaid Lido following a revamp and was it not turned into a cinema? I am guessing here but I cannot remember seeing it like that. The Little Top painted blue and white is also in a different locale as it used to be on the other side of the Lido building. Can anyone date this photo?

DBn South Beach


DBn Addington

West Street at Christmas time.

DBn West St. 1975A picture of West Street during the Christmas season. I can only guess by the Volkswagen and other cars that this is the early 1970’s. West Street is now one way towards the Beach. Christmas decorations are up and notice the trolley bus overheads are gone. The last trolley bus ran in 1968. A clue to the date of this picture is that Bon Marche is now called SPOT.

Durban Paddling Pond

An interesting picture of the first revamp of Durban’s Paddling Ponds circa 1955/56. If I remember correctly this was a major change of the old paddling ponds which I recall when arriving in Durban in 1948. The paddling ponds are divided into three, the first is the Babies’s pond which was very shallow and mothers could sit on the edge, then the main paddling pond which was not deep and uniform depth throughout. Then came the boat rides in their separate pond with the semi circle tunnel at the end . The two fountains in the paddling pond were made of blue and green marble chips. The two slides were very popular and in high season there was much jostling and pushing getting to use them. I recall there used to be people who taught children how to swim in the paddling pond; you could identify them as they wore T shirts advertising this. The two covered seats in the front were an updated version of the old wooden ones which were scattered around the beach front. The old ones were made of stone and wood and had similar cladded roof styles. In the early days there was a tiered descent down to the paddling ponds but this was flattened and the embankment pushed back to Marine Parade. This pictures shows the unfinished area as behind the long shelter appears to be the layout for the Durban Miniature Railway as well the old car replicas that ran there.

The Noddy’s Milk Bar is also under construction under the flyover walkway. Also in the initial stages is the overhead cable car structure as one can see the pylons in the background going up. To date the picture a clue perhaps in that it appears that the roof of the Kenilworth Amusement Park ( formerly the Kenilworth Tearoom) is being demolished if you look closely at the background.

Also interesting is the row of the old hotels on Marine Parade many of which have now been demolished. On the extreme left sided by SeaView Street is the old stalwart The Edward, probably in its heyday then as the top hotel on the Beachfront. Then Hotel Majestic, Marine Plaza Flats, High Wycombe Flats bordered by Serridge Square. Then in the distance, Parade Hotel, Yarningdale and the Empress Hotel.

On the right of the Paddling Ponds is the Lower Marine Parade which was one way towards West Street. Diagonal parking was allowed facing the rocks which lined the parade. This beach area was never utilised by beachgoers. The two sided benches can be seen and on Sundays these were packed with many older folk from the area sitting there taking in the sea air and watching the cars, nose to tail slowly in procession as they drove past.

DBn Paddling Pond

Durban Miniature Railway

This photo is also undated but again looking at the Volkswagen is post 1959/early 1960s. I can say this because if I remember correctly this Beetle model had the now enlarged windscreen and back window. In front of the cream Beetle looks like a Ford Zephyr and behind a Morris Minor. Parked at the back is a VW Variant which also came out in the early 60s. I do not know when the DMR moved to this site but the old steam train that ran down at the Snake Park was transferred here for a while. Wade Kidwell has a postcard showing this. Then the steam loco “disappeared” and this battery driven diesel loco took its place.

The Beach Hotel could be another clue as to date as the hotel has been rebuilt . The brown building in the background is the Belmont Flats. In later years there was a Belmont Arcade and in the basement of the same building, Eagle Taxis used to have their main dispatch centre. The Claridges Hotel with its distinctive roof can be seen.  To the left behind the DMR was the area where the old Centenary Aquarium stood which would date to 1954/1955. That was demolished. The metal pylon was one of the old original pylons that used to line the beachfront and I seem to recall that they had a “basket like” structure at the top which had neon stripes fitted. This picture predates the time when Nic Steyn leased the area and then changed the whole Kiddies’s Amusement Park with new rides including battery driven tricycles, other rides and large nursery rhyme figures modelled in glass fibre. There was I recall the Old Woman in the Shoe, Jack and the Beanstalk, long Dachshunds as benches. Later the area under was excavated and a small dodgem car track was built into the lower area. Anyone remember this?


Later Durban Paddling Pond

This postcard shows the Beach front area around the Paddling Ponds round about the mid 1970s. The clue for me is the building behind the Balmoral Hotel. The Balmoral stayed unchanged for many years, slowly getting more decrepit but remained a good marker. The building behind the Balmoral with the thin vertical windows is the then new Beach Exchange Complex Building in SeaView Street.   This was built on the site of the old Connaught Hotel . in 1974 I was posted to the then nearly completed building to act as Handing Over Officer on behalf of the Dept of Posts and Telecommunications. When I arrived there the building crane hoist was still in position and occupied the back corner of every floor through the building and protruded out the top. The reason for this was that the huge air-conditioning plant which was to be installed on the roof had yet to arrive from Daikin, Japan. You can just make out the square room on top of the building which housed the aircon plant. The lifts had been installed and were operational.   Although incomplete, the German firm, Siemens had been given access to the second floor and were busy installing the first of the three exchanges that were to be installed in the building. This was the Beach 37 Exchange which would replace the old Level 6 Exchange in Pine Street which had reached the end of its practical life. The Beach 37 Exchange would serve the whole of the Beachfront area as far as Natal Command and as far as Aliwal Street replacing every central CBD number that started with a “6”. My job was to learn all about the building from the Site Foreman, liaise with Chubb with respect to the building fire alarm system installation and commissioning and also to work with the Siemens Chief Installer as to the final testing and commissioning of the exchange. 10 000 lines would be transferred from the Central Exchange in Pine Street and diverted down to the Beach and this was a real mission as each line had to be fed down to the new exchange and then “tromboned” back to Central so they all stayed in operation. In April 1975 the Beach 37 Exchange was “switched on” and the very hectic day it was, went off without a glitch.

But back to the picture, the exchange building looks complete so I would say this picture dates to 1975/1976. The three floors one sees next to the exchange building are the upper floors of The Edward. Seaview Street runs between the Balmoral and The Edward.

The boat pond here has been made more interesting with turns and corners to negotiate. Originally it was just an oval but I suppose this layout prevented overtaking and racing and it made it safer for young children. The Nic Steyn touches are still about as can be seen. Note that the Belmont building has disappeared and been remodelled and the skyscraper in the background. Anyone name that building?

DBn Padding Pond 2

Holiday Time : Down to the Beach

Two postcards. One shows the Mermaid Lido as it used to be with a fair crowd about. The Lido of course no longer exists. I do not know much about the building when it was built and its original use. I have heard it was a roller skating rink before the War but cannot confirm this. It did change uses in its time. The level part which bordered the beach I recall had a large gift shop for the tourists. I recall you could buy Rock Candy Bars with Durban inscribed inside. There were also those masonite boards with outlandish figures with heads cut out so you could pose for your picture and prove you had been to Durbs. Also in the basement portion of the Lido was the Blue Grotto, a type of pub / restaurant.

The other pic (repeated)  shows a good crowd at South and Addington Beaches. I have no idea what the “stockade” in the corner of the picture was. As a youngster then I was always interested in the car’s number plates as you could identify where they came from in those days.  Here are a few teazers : TR , TAK, TDK and TAA from die ou Transvaal and from the Vrystaat:  ORE, OG, OK, ODD and OMG!

DBn Mermaid LidoDBn Addington 3An interesting look back at years gone by.  This was not totally all from memory but I did rely on the 1968 Lawrie’s Directory for verification and  my book on the Origin of Durban Street Names. I hope you enjoyed it.


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19 Responses

  1. Stacie
    | Reply

    XL Tearoom photo: As far as I remember the Cuban Hat and the Nest were at North beach near the Beach Baths and the Durban Lifesaving Club.

    • Rodney Coyne

      As far as I can recall, there were three drive-in tearooms next to the beach baths – I think that the third one was called Uptons. Can anyone confirm this recollection?

    • Lynn Schube

      I’ve been looking for photos and info for a long time. My great grandfather owned the XL Tea Room from the late 1940’s into the 1950’s. All this info and pictures were fun to take a trip down memory lane with my mom. They also lived in Pasadena Court.

    • Gerald Buttigieg

      Hi Lynn
      XL Tearoom. I do remember it on the “outer limits” of South Beach so to say as the next Beach was Addington. The XL had its own aficionados as did the Cuban Hat and The Nest. Where as similar in nature as I recall, the XL was sort of tucked into a banked area and was unlike the the other two which you drove in and drove out. The XL you drove in, found a parking and then backed out. What it did have though was the verandah out front overlooking the beach. I recall one July school holiday where our group met at Addington everyday for the whole holiday. Lunch was pie chips and gravy at The XL. You can well imagine how tanned we got. This was about 1960. Still recall there were two “plywood” surfboards owned by some one and parked against a small beach hut. They were more like surfaced submarines than surfboards as the surfboard craze was yet to come in. Back to XL,the parking adjoining was rather small and contained and you hardly had a view of the beach. However you still got served with a tray that hooked onto your window. Another aspect I recall was a motor bike gang made the XL their domain and I wonder if this did not put people off. As a matter of interest I looked up XL Tearoom in the 1938 Durban Directory I have and it is listed with address given merely as “Beach”. What was your great grandfather’s surname? Regarding photos the XL is rather thin but hopefully some one may respond with more. The one I post shows the XL from a distance. X L Tearoom
      Another picture showing the XL in the distance.

  2. Mike
    | Reply

    Hi Rodney,

    Cant recall any thing called “Uptons” but in my research found this site relating to
    Kenilworth tea rooms that some may find of interest.
    Regards. Mike.

  3. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Rodney and Mike,
    Uptons rings a bell but cannot put my finger on it. I looked in the 1968 directory but no Upton’s on the Beach front. However in 1938 there was a tobacconist and confectioner, A. W. Upton on the Beach Promenade. There are no other details and what is meant by Beach Promenade is uncertain. I looked at the link and there are clear photos of Kenilworth’s Building. Kenilworth’s originally was a tea room in the proper sense of the word. Possibly during the war years or just thereafter it was changed into an amusement park owned by the Newtons as indicated. If one recalls Newton’s amusement park was at the back as a separate “annex” so to speak. The photos of Kenilworth’s look a bit older than 1954 in my opinion. Possibly 1930/1940s perhaps? I see my father’s 1949 photos of the miniature train (with yours truly and his sister on board) and the paddling pond are posted there. I cannot recall there being three drive in tearooms on the beach front only the Nest and Cuban Hat. Further up was another tearoom but not a drive in and I think associated with a putt putt golf course.

    • Steve Wakeling

      Hi guys,Yes,that is correct,also,I remember the tearoom owned by George Thompson’s family,positioned on the road side at North Beach,adjacent to the Lifesavers Clubhouse,and in line with the old Northbeach groyne,this was around 1960.
      Albie Upton,I think before this,owned Uptons,and this later became the Nest.
      Regards Steve

  4. Richard Holmes
    | Reply

    The only other drive in tea room along the whole beachfront stretch was the one at Blue Lagoon if my memory is correct

    • Rodney Coyne

      The Sunkist (?) at Country Club Beach also had drive-in service.

    • Richard Holmes

      Yup – I’d forgotten about that

    • Yvette Rosenberg

      Sunkist is right!
      And many thanks for the pictures.

  5. George Askew
    | Reply

    ToRod Coyne.
    Any relationship to Paddy the best refrigeration mechanic in SA and my journeyman?

  6. Rodney Coyne
    | Reply

    Sorry, don’t know of any related refrigeration mechanics.
    My turn now, are you any relation to Mervyn Askew who used to be an English teacher at Northlands High?

  7. Chris Nel
    | Reply

    Brings back some awsome memories!!

    Stayed at Addington Beach………..Hospital rd……went to Addington school in the 60’s

    thanks for the photo’s

  8. Annelies van Iterson
    | Reply

    Hi all Durban fans

    What wonderful memories this all brings back to me ! We lived in the Tvl and went down to Durbs in July, and I loved it. Reading the comments and seeing the pics, is such a blast from the past. I had quite forgotten about the little train, and the boats. I can confirm that there were dodgems, I guess in the late 60s. How sad that so much has disappeared forever.

    The white “skyscraper” in the background of the paddling pools photo, is the Malibu Hotel, now called Garden Court. I worked there as Children’s Hostess during my varsity hols, back in 75 and 76. Nowadays it would be impossible for an untrained youngster to take charge of kiddies, taking them to the beach, bird world etc. I had a wonderful time.

    Could the “stockade” mentioned somewhere, possibly be the trampolines?

    And last but not least, I too, loved looking at car registration numbers, and I have the answers to your little test:
    TAA = Barberton
    TR Schweizer-Reneke
    TDK Alberton
    TAK Wolmaranstad
    but I admit “cheating”, and looking them up on a website !

  9. Yvette Rosenberg
    | Reply

    Yes, the trampolines were in the stockade.

  10. Pat Sligo
    | Reply

    Hi Gerald – Your research material and answers leave me quite breathless! Thank you.
    As an old banana boy, I would be pleased if you could possibly help me as follows –
    1 Was the old Hotel Connaught pulled down to make way for the Marine Parade Post Office in Sea View Street? That was our first “home” on arrival from NZ in 1939!
    2 Could you post me a copy of the International Harvester staff pic of 1947/8 you mentioned your uncle had? I first worked there in 1948/9 and still remember a few staff
    3 Are there any personnel records of the RDLI available and who should I contact? .
    I am trying to put names to a pic I took in 1951 at Tempe camp in Bloemfontein. Thanks

  11. Gerald Buttigieg
    | Reply

    Hi Pat,
    Thanks for the compliment.
    Yes the Connaught Hotel was demolished to make way for the Marine Parade Post Office and Telephone Exchange Complex built on the site. I was posted to the building as the single Telkom employee on site to acquaint myself with the building which was in its final stages of completeness. You could say I was a liaison officer with the contractor Silvermine Construction to learn key features of the building such as the water reticulation, the air conditioning plenums and plant which was built on the roof, the fire alarm system, saw the lifts being tested, the emergency power plant room installed etc. Quite an interesting experience. One completed floor at the back was made available to Siemens who were installing the Beach 37 telephone exchange on contract. I recall the crane tower was installed in one corner of the exchange building and passed through all the floors down to the basement. Eventually it was dismantled bit by bit from the top down and the holes in the corners closed and made good. The installers were mainly German staff from Siemens Germany and interspersed with Austrians, Czechs, a few Bosnians, Rhodesians and local South Africans. I also had to act as Installation Liaison Officer with the Siemens installers as I was to see to the exchange start up and change over over of all telephone numbers beginning with “6” ( mainly CBD subscribers) as that exchange in Pine Street had reached the end of its life having been installed in the 1930s. Interesting and hectic days as I recall. The Beach 37 Exchange with 10 000 lines opened in 1975.
    Back to the Connaught now. At the time the Marine Parade building was going up a fairly modern block of flats called Willsborough Mansions already existed and bordered the right hand side of the building. On the left was a service lane between the exchange building and the back of the Balmoral Hotel, then very run down when one looked at the back of that hotel. The service lane was unnamed in my time and I would guess existed already when the Connaught Hotel was there. It connected to Palmer Street which ran down at the back of the exchange complex. I never knew what existed on the Willsborough Mansions site but got the answer from my 1938 Durban Directory. It was the Hotel Victoria so I would say it existed when you arrived in 1939. I do not have a picture of the Victoria. The Park View existed in 1938 and lower down heading for Brickhill Road was the Beach Mount Private Hotel. I have a feeling that the private hotel was absorbed into the Park View Hotel. It may have been demolished or reconstructed as part of the Park View. Next door to this was the Bakers Ltd. Property with the garages for the Bakers delivery vans leading directly onto Brickhill Road. This area now houses a small shopping centre / mall.

    re International Harvester I have posted a picture of the exterior in one of my posts. I will post the link here when I find it. Here it is:
    I will find the staff photo and add it to this post later. My late Uncle Alfred Chiassaro was employed as a mechanic there circa 1948. He and his wife arrived as immigrants in Durban in 1947. Also my aunt’s brother, Charles Borg was employed at IH at the same time as an apprentice mechanic. He is still alive, now in his 80s and lives in Brisbane Australia.

    The RDLI ( now the DLI the Royal was dropped) would be your best bet. The Regiment HQ is still near the Greyville Racecourse and I am sure they would have accessible records. Their history goes way back. Your problem is that 1951 was a long long time ago and contemporaries will be few and far between. Hope this all helps

    Here is the IH Staff photo.
    International Harvester Staff circa 1948
    On the LHS standing at the back sixth from the left with the prominent IH badge on his overall is my late uncle Alfred Chiassaro. Immediately to his left with the thick mop of hair, his brother in law Charles Borg. No names are written on the back so if anyone can identify anybody that would be appreciated. The picture has the photographer’s name stamped on the back : O A Hansen
    7 Roseneath Avenue Umbilo Durban.

  12. Naz J
    | Reply

    Great photos and history but also a stark reminder of a ‘whitewashed’ Durban.
    I remember being manhandled and physically thrown off south beach for merely walking on the sand. I was 9 years old.

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