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.
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.
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.
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?
West Street at Christmas time.
A 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.
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?
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!
An 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.