Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 24

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18 May 2007

Today I've got a contribution from reader Neil Gould. Neil left Durban in 1974, but not before experiencing a fair slice of the nightlife and performing in a number of venues around town as a hypnotist, ventriloquist, fire eater and comedian. Read the article here.

21 May 2007

Today's story is about the huge storm which struck Durban back in March. What prompted my interest was the fact that similar storm conditions were responsible for the innundation of New Orleans back in 2005.

Before giving you the link to the story, however, I would like to ask anyone with pictures of the storm in progress to send them in to me here. With that request out the way, you can read on here.

12 June 2007

Coming soon:

19 June 2007

It look as though the third edition of Facts will go to the printers this week. Hopefully it won't be too long after that that it will be available in bookshops.

In the meantime, I have put up a page containing bits and pieces sent by Alan Taylor from the SAAF Museum. On the page you'll find details about Kittyhawk fighters that crashed in Natal during WWII. There's also a list of aircraft registered in Natal, pre-1939, and Alan is hoping that visitors to the page will come up with information on these and other aircraft which may not be on the list. Finally, there is a link to the story of the trawler Vivania which was one of the little ships which helped to rescue the British army at Dunkirk, and later served as a convoy escort off the South Africa coast.

The page is here.

20 June 2007

Today, I have a couple of very evocative postcards sent in by Wade Kidwell. I don't have a date for them but they could be 1950s or, seeing as there are still tram tacks in West Street, maybe from a bit earlier. Click here to go to the main album page, Wade's page is linked from there.

26 June 2007

I have put up a story about a troopship revolt which happened in the city in 1942. Read it here.

I have also added a nice postcard of what was then the town hall and is now the city hall. Click here to go to the postcards page and scroll down.

26 June 2007

I have just learnt that there was been a major fire in a beachfront hotel yesterday. The Mercury reported, this morning, that the fire broke out on the ninth floor in the Seaboard Hotel on the corner of Point Road and West Street (that curved-fronted building that once held the Casbah Burger Box and the One Rander Restaurant) at about 7pm on June 25, 2007.

Ten fire engines, a full third of those available to the city as I recently found, were in attendance and five teams of six firemen each went into the 31-storey building to try and fight the fire.

Firemen advised people trapped by the fire to go to the roof where about 120 were rescued by a SA Police Services helicopter and the Port Authority's pilot helicopter. The two smaller machines were later joined by an Oryx of 15 Squadron SAAF. Those airlifted to safety included seven-month-old Louvain Oosthuizen.

Later today, the Daily News reported that more than 92 people had been flown to safety by the helicopters. The paper reported that fire fighters and rescuers at the scene were saying that the blaze was the biggest in the province for decades. Five firemen were apparently burnt in the fire, with one being serious enough to require intensive care. The fire apparently broke out on a floor given over to offices and two of the floors destroyed housed the SA Police Services Detective Unit. Many of those rescued were treated for smoke inhalation. A private ambulace firm had dispatched 12 ambulances to the scene.

The paper reported that Senior Superintendent Rene Coulon, of the SAPS Air Wing, had piloted the police helicopter while Inspector 'Wessie' van der Westhuizen had hauled the fire victims into the aicraft's cabin. The helicopters were unable to land on the hotel roof and had to hover close enough so that the victims could hop aboard. Gusty conditions made the process very difficult.

How's this for coincidence? Yesterday, I completed a story on Durban's fire brigade and submitted it to Metrobeat magazine early this morning. I guess I'll have to add to it now...

A 15 SQN Oryx similar to the one
which assisted on the rescue.

27 June 2007

By today, the Seaboard Hotel fire [see yesterday's diary entry] had been displaced from the front page of the Daily News by a story of other fires in the KZN interior which, had been fanned by gale-force winds, and had caused an estimated R1-billion in damage.

A story on an inside page reported that fire fighters had not managed to find the sprinkler booster connection at the Seaboard because it had recently been painted and the sign had not been replaced. Owen Singh, a fire brigade spokesman, said that he could not say whether this had led to more fire damage than would otherwise have occurred.

Pritheben Pillay, divisional manager of Brightstone Properties, the building's owner which bought it only a few weeks ago, said that the fire had broken out on the tenth floor and burnt down to the ninth floor, before wind carried the flames back up to the 12th floor. There had been only been about 150 residents in the hotel after the balance of 160, who were students, had gone home for the holiday. Good news was that none of the fire fighters injured in the fire were in danger. Police said arson had not been ruled out.

After the fire
By Peter Bendheim
(Click to view enlargement)

The picture was taken by Durban photographer Peter Bendheim on June 26, 2007. More of Peter's photography can be seen on his blogsite here. Talking of Peter and helicopters, he also took the two dramatic pictures below.

Pictures courtesy Peter Bendheim
(Click to view enlargement)

The aircraft is an Oryx helicopter from 15 Squadron SAAF and was apparently involved in some sort of counter-terrorism exercise. It was dropping troops on the roof of Florence Mkhize (formerly Martin West) Building in Smith Street. He took the pictures on April 7, 2007, from the patio outside his office in the Old Station in Pine Street.

20 July 2007

OK, so I was wrong last month when I said

was coming soon. Now it is at the printer and it's just about ready to go to the binder. Barring anything unforseen, it now really is coming soon.

Wade Kidwell has sent in some vintage postcards of Isipingo Beach which I have put up on his page. You can access it from the main album page here.

I'm continually amazed at the people who find this site. This time it was Hans Hallen who designed the beachball-shaped structure near the Mermad Lido, which I always knew as the Little Top. Hans sent two pictures of it and some comments which I've put up and which you can access from the Beach / Sports / Entertainment page here.

23 August 2007

OK, so I was wrong last month when I said that the new edition of Facts would be delivered soon. The cover has flaps and these had to be folded by hand, but now, and at looooooong last,

It's here !!!

It looks really great, even if I say so myself, and so far, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. It is now available in a number of fine stores around Durban at the bargain price of around R100 per copy and at R130 (incl. P&P) on this website.

29 August 2007

Having recovered from the excitement of getting Facts back from the printer, I can now give more attention to the site. The first thing I did was to check how many visitors there have been while I've been away. It seems that the site is now averaging between 9 and 10 thousand visitors per month. In July, for example, there were 8749 visitors who viewed 15488 pages between them.

<== Click to view the traffic to the site since 2005.

I have also put up an article I did recently on the geology of the Durban region. Click here to view it.

30 August 2007

Today we have a story contributed by my informant Neil Gould about his uncle who was one of the pioneer divers in Durban. The story is linked from Neil's page here.

31 August 2007

Some time ago, I did a story on the eThekwini Fire Brigade for our ratepayers' magazine Metrobeat. It has a lot on how the brigade operates currently but there is quite a bit on its history as well. Click here to view it.

21 September 2007

This week saw some International cricket records being set in Durban during the inaugural ICC Twenty20 World Cup, which is currently on the go here in South Africa. On 19 September 2007, in a match between England and India at Kingsmead, Yuvraj Singh hit six sixes in one over off the bowling of Stuart Broad. He is the fourth person to achieve the feat in senior cricket with Garfield Sobers and Ravi Shastri having done in it first class matches and Herschelle Gibbs in a one day International in the West Indies during the World Cup in 2007.

In the same innings, Yuvraj Singh broke the record for the fastest fifty in Twenty20 cricket, taking just 12 balls to reach that score. According to the wonderful Cricinfo website (www.cricinfo.com), it seems that it is also the fastest 50 in any form of international cricket. JH Kallis has the record for the fastest 50 in tests (24 balls) and S Jayasuria has the record in one day internationals (17 balls).

Some time ago, my informant Mike Hutchons sent me a copy of a picture, taken when he was a schoolboy in 1936 or 1937, arriving at Stamford Hill Aerodrome. He had just flown down from Johannesburg aboard an SAA Junkers Ju52 to join his parent on holiday here in Durban.

Pic courtesy Mike Hutchons

Arriving at Stamford Hill Aerodome. That's Mike Hutchons in the blazer on the left. The aircraft is SAA Junkers JU52 ZS-AJI.

ADDED 9 October 2007: My informant Alan Taylor wrote: ZS-AJI was registered to South African Airways on 28 September 1937 and is known to have carried the names "Major Warden" and later "President Burgers" during service.

Following the decleration of war in September 1939 it continued to fly on SAA routes until 25 May 1940 when all civil flying was suspended.
It was officially transferred to the SAAF as 664 "D" on 17 June 1940 and served with 50 (Transport) Squadron, 1 Bomber Transport Brigade and 51 Flight of 5 Wing.

The Junkers Ju 52s were used on the shuttle service between South Africa and Egypt and were withdrawn in 1943 following the delivery of the first Douglas C-47 Dakotas.

It survived the war only to be disposed of on 26 October 1946 at 15 Air Depot; being sold as scrap to Metal Sales (Pty) Ltd. The registration was cancelled on 27 June 1947.

<<= Click to view enlargement.

Mike was based in Durban after WWII and was a keen motor racer, taking part in races on Snell Parade on much the same route as the A1 races of the last few years. He raced at Westmead in Durban, Roy Hesketh in Pietermaritzburg, all round South Africa, and as far afield as Rhodesia.

Mike Hutchons in Rhodesia.


<<= Click to view enlargement.

Courtesy Mike Hutchons

Racing on Snell Parade after WWII.


<<= Click to view enlargement.

Pic courtesy Mike Hutchons
Mike in his 136 Jaguar SS 100 roaring past the front on Natal Command while competing in the Fairfield Handicap on 19/2/1949. The pic is taken from a photocopy, so apologies for the quality.

<<= Click to view enlargement.

Pic courtesy Mike Hutchons

A contemporary advert based on a race won by Mike and Geoff Mortimer.

<<= Click to view enlargement.

He was also a keen pilot and took part in the Governor General's Air Race in 1959 in his Piper Clipper. He was kind enough to lend me a page from the Daily News which had article on the Durban pilots who were going to be competing in the race. The page is dated Tuesday, 7 July 1959, and there is also an article on Virginia Airport which was to be opened on Friday, 10 July.

Courtesy Mike Hutchons

Clipping concerning the Governor General's Air Race of 1959 and the opening of Virginia Airport.


<<= Click to view enlargement.

Pic courtesy Mike Hutchons
Mike's Hutchon's Piper Clipper.

<<= Click to view enlargement.

The old news page was of special interest to me because I was born on 9 July 1959. You know you're getting on when there are airports younger than you are! So, apart from the build-up to the air race, the opening of the airport and me, of course, what else was happening during that momentous week?

Princess Margaret had expressed her shock when she arrived at the airport to catch a plane to Belfast, and found that it had been painted red; the Ministry of Civil Aviation was apparently experimenting with making planes more visible to reduce the risk of mid-air collisions.

A Viscount airliner on the way to Nairobi had had to turn back to Gatwick airport because of engine trouble. It was believed that BOAC Comet airliners were picking up 'death dust' (Strontium 90) particles during flight. The particles had entered the atmosphere as a result of H-bomb tests but the BOAC said there was no danger to passengers or crews. The queen visited a Chicago dentist, Dr Norman Olson, after a filling fell out of a back tooth during her visit to the city.

£10 was offered as a reward for the return of a pink Beryl ring lost at Greyville Race Course, Miss Wallace Bradley offered a better duplicating service from her premises at 20-22 Gardiner Street, and John Corrigan's funeral procession was to leave Wilson Davey & C Dunham's (air conditioned) funeral parlour at 4pm on Thursday. Pinkterton's Detective agency offered free consultations at their Essex House premises in Smith Street, while Buster Whitely and his Hi-Fi Hammond Organ were available for parties and weddings.

Courtesy Mike Hutchons

According to a Greenacres advert on the page, fur was the ultimate in glamour and just the thing, apparently, for a trip to the opera.


<<= Click to view enlargement.

A ground floor maisonette in Currie Road was offered at £20 and 10/- per month while a three bedroom house in Durban North could be had for £30-35 per month. J.H. Isaacs Geshen were offering a serviced two-room flat in Bulwer Road for £18 while a luxury flat in Chelmsford Road would have cost you £40.

According to the Stop Press column, five bathers had been rescued earlier that morning at South Beach, after getting into 'minor difficulties' in the surf. The beach manager, Mr Norman Lawrence, had said that an enormous crowd of holiday makers had thronged onto the beach and the fact that only five bathers got into trouble was an "indication of how safe conditions are".

8 October 2007

Today I've got a couple of contributions from readers. Expatriate Martin Versfeld had this to say in a recent e-mail:

I was wondering whether you have in your archives, anything relating to the old "Durban Railway Station"? I have read bits and pieces about it on "FAD". I would think that there would be a wealth of history and subject matter for your site in that small area of Durban.

I used to catch the train each day from Pinetown to Durban and back again after school. I was at George Campbell Tech., in Brickhill Road in the mid/late sixties, and, after school I would go and see a mate who worked as a checker on the platforms, loading trains.

I would spend all my "waiting for the train time" hanging around the station and even used to go into the workshops to watch the machinists making parts for the trains, etc. I was eventually on first name terms with almost everyone who worked there from the railway police to the station cleaners.

I remember there used to be a working model of a steam train in a glass cabinet, and I think a tickey or even a penny would make it work for around 15 seconds. There was always entertainment at the entrance to the station, when, there would be a drunk being chucked of the bar, completely drunk and convinced he had only had one or two drinks. (pissed!... I think we used to call it!)

I even left from that station to go and do national service. I remember it to this day..... January 1969. I noticed on "Google Earth" that it has mostly gone now. Hard to believe!

And he went on to say:

The railway was the most popular way of commuting. (apart from the old "Pullman" bus that used to go to Bothas Hill, etc. I used to use both the Pullman and train, and I even had a favourite Pullman driver called Eddie. He was always chatty and always used to tolerate us school kids asking him to open the bus door as we went along, to keep cool on very hot days......! He was nuts!

I also remember bunking off school and spending time in the Roxy or Capri cinemas, watching the same old movies over and over. (there was another bug house, as we called them, but I can't remember it's name) Anyway! Keep up the good diary. I always log on to see whats going down in good old Durban. I might even reveal the secrets of how we used to get a ride on the train without paying for a ticket. Shhhh....!

Reader Donald Davies wrote in to ask:

A colleague of mine told me that her Father used to take them to ‘The Doll’s House’. Do you know of a Hotel that might have attracted such a name?

My informant William Paterson answered:

"It was not an hotel. It was a glorified Milk Bar.

The Doll's House was built to resemble a little girl's doll's house in a style popular at that time* - except that the Doll's House at the Blue Lagoon, towards the mouth of the Umgeni (on the town side) sold exotic milkshakes, waffles and syrup with cream and other mouthwatering exotica like CocaCola.

It stayed open late. Service orders, taken by Indian waiters, were at the car window, so there were plenty of opportunities to attempt to canoodle with the girl of your dreams while waiting for the order to be fulfilled.

As far as I can recall, there was also a parking area further towards the sea... It was not so very far from the Windsor Park Mashie golf course.

[*Steep roofed, double storey with "cute" fake dormer windows. When I wasn't focusing on more important matters inside the car, I seem to recall that the outline of the roof eaves was marked by purply blue and reddish neon strip] The external walls were white and there were plenty of dark brown concrete mock Tudor beams sprinkled about.

Don't know where the Northcoast Road Hotel was / is, but The Roadhouse was a place to go to for a general night out. Green coloured outside concrete dance floor, coloured lights and a band. Maybe it was the same place.

The Umgeni Iron Works was just around the corner off a smallish branching road to the left. My father took me there as a child to watch them mould-making and pouring metal to make cast iron garden furniture and stoves."

William grew up in Umgeni Heights and is looking for information on the flora and fauna of the area in the years 1939-1945.

9 October 2007

An article by Alan Taylor of the SAAF Museum on Early Rotorcraft flight in Durban has been added to the site and is linked from his page here.

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