I was clearing out some old CDs and found one I had saved these pictures of Durban taken in early 1969. In 1968 I had just bought myself a new Minolta SRT 101 35mm Single Lens Reflex camera from a firm called Modisons, 239 Grey Street. At that time Modisons were General Dealers but on the side they had a photographic counter and were agents for Minolta. It was a small shop with general goods, some pharmaceuticals, and groceries. An unpretentious camea shop.
I had been told of them through a friend, Derek Brown. I still recall I was in three minds what camera to buy as my budget was limited. There were three choices an Asahi Pentax K1000, a Nikon Nikkormat and the Minolta SRT. The Pentax fell away because the lenses had a screw in mount and the trend was towards bayonet coupling. Between the other two I ended up going for the Minolta because I fancied its features, had a mirror lock, nice feel, CLC light metering and I was offered a good discount. The Saturday I went to buy the camera, the Minoltas in their dull gold and black boxes were piled up on the top shelf of a shop cabinet.
Too high to reach by hand, the assistant had a dowel stick which he used to tip the box towards him, let it fall and catch it on the way down. Well he tipped one but somehow managed to let it slip his grasp and it fell to the floor. “Thank you ” I said “I will have the next one”.
I still have the camera in perfect nick but now sadly ‘retired” because of the digital revolution. Over the years I used to go and see Roy Collyer at the Whysalls Beach Photographic shop and picked up many Minolta lenses and accessories from their second hand trade ins. There were some bargains to be had in those days. In later years Modisons branched out and if I recall ended up having a big store in Field St. where the Daily News Building was.
To the pictures. These are random pictures but I will explain. Some are historic as I doubt whether photos were ever taken of the occasion. They are old so pardon the colouring and my early attempts at composition.
Click on pictures to enlarge.
The Japanese Gardens in Durban North had just been opened and were a beautiful feature. Friends of ours bought a house in Old Mill Way adjoining the Gardens. In later years they used to complain of gangs that had taken over the park and recall the gardens fell into disrepair. I am not sure if they have ever been resuscitated.
The Catholic Cathedral and the Grey Street Mosque. Taken the Parkade building between Commercial Road and Pine Street.
Lower Marine Parade as it used to be lined with rocks. Cars could park diagonally facing the sea. A popular Sunday afternoon family outing.
Durban from the Innes Road view site with the Greyville Racecourse on the left and Durban beyond. The blue glass Sanlam Tower not built then.
The Yacht Mole with the Point Yacht Club Building.
Taken from the Bluff View Site. The harbour sheds.
Looking at the Esplanade from the deck of the Sarie Marais
The Holland America Line ocean cruise liner, Rotterdam being nudged into the Ocean Terminal berth. Taken one early Saturday morning whilst fishing with my late uncle at T Jetty.
The British strike aircraft carrier Bulwark moored at T Jetty. On deck are her Westmoreland Wessex helicopters. Naval Vessels visiting Durban were normally tied up at T Jetty and open to the public for inspection. Big crowds would go down to have a look.
Sailing boats heading home after a day on the Bay. Taken from the parking area at the yacht mole. Note the Marine Hotel still standing evident between the sails of the two boats. The tall building with the red side bricking Is Kingsford , the Durban Club a bit further on , tucked away the YWCA and then Devonshire Court.
The Vasco Da Gama Memorial presented to the City of Durban by the Portuguese Government in 1897 to mark the 400th anniversary of the sighting of Natal by Vasco da Gama en route to India in 1497. Originally the memorial was erected at the bottom end of Point Road. It was more or less neglected and forgotten there so the City Fathers decided in 1967 to move it to this site on the Esplanade. It remained here till quite recently where it suffered being vandalised. The City Fathers to prevent further damage have now moved it to the Royal Natal Yacht Club at the Yacht Mole.
The sailing ship icon placed on the modernistic façade of the Ocean Terminal building at T Jetty. The sailing ship recalls Durban’s long association with shipping.
West Street Christmas lighting. West Street still bi directional but now with a chained centre island. This was an attempt to stop the jaywalking which was rife in those days. Greenacres in the background, with Greenacre’s Passage and The Hub next door. Jaywalking probably ruled out by taxis these days !!
Tight Lines. Fishing off the beach probably during the Shad season. The one fisherman with the baited hook about to yell the customary “Coming Over” to warn the others. That is if you were an over head caster. Those that cast with a side sweep would yell “Rods down” and the other fishermen would lower rods and duck down.
The old South Beach fishing pier that jutted off the beach . The North Pier in the background. The original North Pier was completely demolished and removed to widen the harbour channel. If I recall there was a serious
altercation between a fisherman and a surfer on this pier which ended up with some one being hit with a basebal bat. It ended up in court.
The Aliwal Street Congregational Church with the Embassy Parking Garage next to it. The Church closed it doors and became an antique dealer’s premises. The Picadilly Cinema was further down towards the Esplanade.
One of the two lions guarding the gates that are at the entrance to the Cenotaph. Mounted on hgh plinths either side they represent the two Great Wars. Behind is the Trust Building which was demolished to make way for the Old Mutual Building and on the right the FNB Bank Building which replaced the old Natal Bank Building on the corner of Gardiner and West St.
The Bay seen from the view site on the Bluff. The view site was at one stage open to the public but was closed when security was raised in the 1980s. The old coaling appliance is shown which in later years was used less and less as oil fired boilers became more common. The reclaimed Fynnlands Beach and land can be seen on the left . This was used to increase the oil discharging berths and the additional storage tanks in the Fynnlands area.
An oil tanker moving towards the oil berths . Behind is the Ferry dock where the ferry that crossed the channel would lie. The pilot boats and the Harbour Water Police were also stationed here. One can also see the freighters lined up with the first one at A Shed. I would imagine that Durban’s first railway, actually South Africa’s first railway, terminated somewhere in this vicinity. On the right where the tug is berthed, is the SA Railways and Harbours workshop . The road led to the North Pier.
The Amusement Park is in town. The traditional location of the Amusement Park on a triangle of land which was at the entrance of the Lower Marine Parade. One can see the Roller Coaster, the Dive Bomber, the Octopus . Not shown are the High Flying Swings where the fun was , was to catch the swing in front of you and with your feet push it out on another trajectory. Centrifugal force would bring it back into line. I recall at the time several stone piers were being constructed to save the beaches as there was an ongoing battle to retain the sand on the beaches. I remember the PUTT PUTT course but not the Dolphin Show.
A historic photo showing Bay Passage. I knew this little side road well running from Smith Street through to the Esplanade where it emerged through an arched opening of the old St Andrew’s Building. It was not a thoroughfare though as the exit onto the Esplanade was blocked by pylons. However the area behind was a car park for Quadrant House which is on the corner of the Esplanade and Field Street. In the background is Murchies Passage with the new Eagle Building above it. The building on the right at the end of the Passage was Poynton Chambers with the upstairs rooms used by the Berea Rovers Sports Club as a clubhouse at one stage. I recall at the St Andrew’s Building end there was a very old double storey brick wall with an exterior wooden staircase leading to a door. On the wall one could just see the words “Boat Builder and Boat Yard”. Next door was the BP Head Office with frontage on the Esplanade. The caretaker of St Andrew’s Building was a Mr Hass, an elderly Maltese gentleman slightly eccentric. He was a friend of my father’s and we used to visit him. Rooms in St Andrew’s Building were let out and on the first floor was a wide open verandah looking onto the Bay. A very old building as it can be seen in many old postcards. Sadly another fine looking building demolished and is now a car park.
Two classic photographs; I am sure I had more. They show the demolition of the Central Methodist Church in West Street to make way for the Sanlam Building if I remember correctly. The Church stood roughly opposite 320 West St. It was a dominant part of West Street in the early years and is seen on many postcards. The original church in West St.
The demolition I recall was done by Atomic Demolishers using a wrecking ball. Its replacement is the big block church on the corner of Aliwal and Smith Street . The Broadway Hotel with its open verandah on the first floor facing the cinemas used to stand on this site . When the old church was demolished boarding was put up with peep holes so as to allow passers-by to look into the deep home being dug for the foundations.
African Stick Fighting.
Along Umgeni Road just below the Argyle Road intersection there were open grassed areas alongside the road. On Sunday afternoons, young African men would gather informally and perform their Zulu dancing. Cars would stop alongside and Black and White spectators would gather to look on. Individuals would take centre stage and go through their routines ending with falling on the ground. Another would then carry on and show his prowess. Later the dancing would break out into stick fighting with the young Black men gathering in a circle whilst two opponents would try to thrash one another with their sticks. White hankies would be tied to one of the calves for some reason. No major injuries but obviously you would not tackle someone else unless you knew how to protect yourself. Notice how the ice cream van pulled in to make a few sales.
The Athlone Bridge.
The Athlone Bridge was a steel girder bridge that spanned the Umgeni River. In the early days it was the only direct link between Durban and Durban North until the other bridges were built. It connected Athlone Drive and Northway. The bridge was built between 1923 and 1924 and was named in honour of the Earl of Athlone, Governor General of the Union from 1923 to 1930. In November 1955 the Ellis Brown Viaduct was opened which connected the Snell Parade to Leo Boyd Highway . This was lower down towards the Umgeni River mouth. The Ellis Brown Viaduct was at the time the longest bridge of its kind in South Africa with 15 arched spans.
The old Athlone Bridge was closed to traffic in 1968 as inspection of the bridge had shown serious corrosion and deterioration. Being a two lane bridge only, the Durban City Council had already pre-empted its replacement and in July 1966 the construction of the new Athlone Bridge to replace it was started. The new four lane bridge was opened in 1968. I recall my late father in law telling me that soon after the new bridge was opened, an inspection had revealed that gaps had appeared where the spans overlapped. Scaffolding had to be erected to support the bridge and the repair was carried out by injecting epoxy into the gaps.
I remember taking this picture lying on my back. The bridge had been closed so no traffic was coming through.
The new Athlone Bridge alongside the old. When the old bridge was cut away the pylons in the river could not be removed. They were left in situ and even the Demoina Floods could not eradicate them.
The Union Whaling Factory, Bluff .
Not pleasant pictures but part of Durban’s history. Between 1967 and 1971, I was one of three Dept. of Posts and Telecommunications technicians that made up the PABX (Private Automatic Branch Exchanges) Section. The three of us in our Mini Panel Vans would cover the entire Durban area from Oszizweni Hospital in the north down to the Illovo Sugar Mill in the south and from Ridge Road west to Westville/Pinetown /Kloof and Hillcrest. The Durban Corporation looked after its own network area until 1969 when the whole network was bought and taken over by the Government. One of the PABX installations was the Union Whaling Company on the other side of the Bluff. I recall one had to go up Lighthouse Road to the Army Camp site and there one had to get permission to access the road leading down to the whaling factory. The whales were brought in by the whalers on the channel side and left floating tied to the berth which had a slipway. The whales were hauled onto flatbed carriages and taken round to the factory via the train line that rounded the Bluff . I used to carry my camera with me and this particular day I was dispatched to attend to the unit at the Whaling Station. When I got there the factory staff were busy processing sperm whales that had been brought in. The smell was breath taking and there was a lot of blood and gore. Here are the pictures. Note the harpoon still embedded in the body. At the factory office there was a harpoon mounted as an exhibit that was actually bent over. I understand the factory is still there but now abandoned and derelict.Share this: