Facts About Durban Diary - Page # 26

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23 September 2008

I have been trying to date the postcards on Wade Kidwell's album page and I have now posted the page with a couple of suggestions made by Bev Nelson.

I have also added stories by Gavin Foster on Drummond and Inchanga. They orginally appeared elsewhere but he was kind enough to allow them to be republished here.

2 October 2008

Two years ago, I wrote an article about the state of the ship building in Durban. I recently decided to go back and see how things had turned out and did an article on that as well. Click here to view it.

18 October 2008

Reader Veonna Burne sent in this old picture and wondered if anyone knows anything about it. Contact me here if you do.

The picture is marked on the back:
"Scotty" Sole Proprietor, RA Osborne, Royal Flying Corps.
Picture courtesy Veonna Burne

Click image to view enlargement.

I recently did a short write-up for our local Kwana newspaper which may be of interest here:

There are interesting stories about Durban's past just about everywhere you look, and I was reminded about that on my last visit to Oscar's restaurant in Hillcrest.

I was chatting to owner Selwyn Sklarchik about the days when he ran the Press Club in Salisbury Arcade and we used to take a break from our labours at the Daily News in Field Street and pop in for a coffee or for lunch. I was surprised to hear that, prior to opening the Press Club, he had run the Three Monkeys coffee bar which was in African Life Arcade at 362 West Street.

I remember the Three Monkeys quite well because we would often stop off there, or at Gabriella's, whenever the family went in to town to do the shopping on Saturday mornings. Selwyn was at the Three Monkeys from about 1970 to about 1979 and I was delighted to find that he still has a 1968 menu which, I suppose, was still current when took over a couple of years later.

The menu kicks off with the modest claim that the Three Monkeys is the most picturesque coffee bar in the Southern Hemisphere and it gives the opening hours as being from 7,30am to 5,20pm, Monday to Friday, and from 7,30am to 1pm on Saturdays.

The prices are enough to make you cry, with cappuccinos available at 10c, double espressos at 15c, and, if you were really pushing out the boat, iced chocolate Viennois, with cream, which would have cost you a princely 25c. Buttered toast cost 6c a slice, with jam 4c extra, and a wide selection of toasted sandwiches cost between 15 and 25 cents, depending on the filling you chose.

If you were hungrier, you could have cold meats and salads for 70c, frankfurters and salad for 50c or salmon mayonnaise for 50c. Cakes and sundries included pigs ears for 7c, cream scones for 16c and, for pudding, you could have fruit salad with cream and ice cream for 33c or ice cream in a cone for 5c.

Apart from the prices, I was interested to see how tastes have changed over the years with one of the noticeable omissions from the menu being fizzy drinks. Instead, you had iced fruit juice of many types and a variety of fruit squashes and water and, among the hot drinks, were Bovril and Maggi soup.

There were no curries or hamburgers on the menu but there was a Three Monkeys speciality, hotdogs in buttered rolls, made on those machines with hot prongs for warming the rolls. Selwyn still has such a machine and, if you phone Oscars Hillcrest ahead of time, they'll make you a 'dog or two but be warned, however, that they'll cost a bit more than the 1968 price of 15c.

Selwyn mentioned that he took over the Three Monkeys after a stint at the Burger Ranch in Davenport Center, which brought back many memories. Although I didn't discover it until the mid-1970s, it became a home from home during my early work years and varsity days.

It was being run by a cheerful Portuguese called Manny and, although many swore by his peri-peri or Texan mushroom burgers, I remained more less faithful to the barbeque variety, with an occasional Bermuda Onion every now and then. It must be 20 years since I had paid my last visit to Burger Ranch but I still dream about those burgers.

I have also been busy on my Dateline Durban blog which I use use to record some current happenings in and around the city. Be warned, however, that it sometimes does make pretty depressing reading. - 30/4/2013: It did get too depressing and I stopped adding to it but the entries are still
available on my other website here. Allan.

22 October 2008

Today I've got news of a lavish new book Salt on the Sails by Sally Frost. It's on the 150-year history of the Royal Natal Yacht Club, which is apparently the oldest sports club in Africa. I have put up a page with pricing and where to get the book, but there is also quite a lot of interest in the synopsis and a selection of interesting snippets from it. See the page here.

2 November 2008

Today I've made a start on what will hopefully become a monster page documenting the project to widen the harbour entrance. There were already a couple of stories related to that and I have put links to them on the page. I have now also added a press release sent out by the concrete suppliers to the project. It contains some interesting fats about the project and some great pictures of the work in pregress. The page is here.

I had a very interesting e-mail from Wim Mutsaerts which is basically an appeal to the authorities to get moving on the restoration of our city hall organ. The message contains many interesting facts about the history of the organ and efforts that have so far been made to restore it. The page is here.

My regular correspondent William Paterson has been in touch to suggest some possible topics to spark the memories of site visitors. The items he mentions include:

  • The Durban Bay Mangrove Swamps - before SA Railways shoved concrete all over them and turned them into marshaling yards? Some fundi must know all about them.
  • The extent of any mangroves left and where. Heritage site? Contacts?
  • Castle Arcade and the model in the arcade of a Union Castle liner.
  • Other Arcades nearby. (I seem to remember that the Three Monkeys coffee shop was in one of them) [Read your piece about the Three monkeys and menu prices - but noted that they were already in in Rands and cents!]
  • The threat of invasion onto the beaches during the blackout wartime years. Barbed wire entanglements through which one had to thread one's way to go for a swim.
  • The Glacial Pavement on Corinthia Road.

An interesting list of topics. The only one I can add any information to is on the mangroves which, as far as I know, now occur in only two major reserves in Durban, the one at Beachwood and the other at Bayhead.

18 November 2008

In the last diary entry, I had a request for reminiscences on various subjects from William Paterson. Gerald Buttigied had the following to say about Castle Arcade:

Hi William
I was looking at the topics you raise in the FAD website and can remember the Castle Arcade in Durban as a 12 year old in 1955. I vaguely recall it was close to where 330 West Street is now, that is just about opposite the Old Mutual high rise building. I think Randles Hudson, the jewellers, was the shop next to it and on the corner of West and Gardner was the Natal Bank Building which was pulled down not long after 1955 if I recall.

But coming back to the arcade I seem to recall that it had a lot of glass in the roofing and there was like a mezzanine floor which overlooked the arcade itself. There were shops lined downstairs and upstairs but cannot remember what they were. I used to go to a shop there called Gardiner's or Gardynes which was a radio component store.

Where I lived off Moore Road, there was a gentleman Mr Eddie Silva who was a radio ham and he was helping me build a "transistor amplified crystal set". Transistors were brand brand new then. I recall having to go to that radio shop in Caste Arcade looking for a transformer. Now in the middle of the arcade was a big glass case and inside was the beautiful large model of a Union Castle ship but cannot remember the name. All I remember it was large.

Then, when the Castle Arcade was pulled down, that ship model was moved to the entrance of the Durban Museum and it stood in the entrance foyer between the two staircases that go up stairs to the museum and the art gallery. It then disappeared and no idea what ever happened to it. The ship model could have been of the Armadale Castle which was the first Union Castle ship to cross the bar.

Gerald Buttigieg

Also new today is a short biography by Alan Taylor, of early Durban aviation instructor Roy Coull, who is mentioned elsewhere in these pages. The biography is in PDF format and can be viewed here.

20 November 2008

Today, I have some stuff about the Time Ball Tower which has been built down at the Point Precinct and has won an award for the innovative use of stainless steel. The page is here.

Also, I have another contribution from journalist Gavin Foster which is about Paradise Valley. It is linked from his main page here.

15 December 2008

I recently received an email from Jenny Pache who raised the question of the location of cinemas in the Smith Street / Aliwal Street area. She wrote

"Gee, how you've brought back times - and memories!

My mom and I were arguing tonight about what was on the corner of Aliwal and Smith Street, before Shell House. She said there wasn't a cinema, and I said I knew there was one, so did a little research. Now, thanks to you, I know it was the METRO. She also said the Embassy was on the corner across Aliwal Street, heading towards the beach, which I knew wasn't the case.

This is thanks to a little stunt which happened in 1967 or 68 - I was a bridesmaid to a wedding, at the time the "GRADUATE" (Dustin Hoffman) was playing at the Embassy, and we (the wedding party) happened to pass the Embassy (walking), in all our wedding finery, to the reception - at a coffee bar whose name I cannot any longer remember, but should do, because that is where my co-bridesmaid and best friend worked!!

It was underneath a famous Nightclub (Maybe you could help me out there too?) But it was just past the Embassy going towards the beachfront. The name might have been something like the "Cockatoo". And the nightclub actually had it's entrance in the little road between just a few shops past Embassy and the coffee bar.

Anyway, the press caught us, thought we were doing an advertsing stunt for the movie, (the wedding and all!!) and we were in the Daily News Newspaper the next morning. (What a fiasco!!) But I can say I had my moment of fame ! Although I still can't be sure it was actually the Embassy or the 20th Century where the movie was playing."

Can anyone confirm this and shed some light on the names of the coffee bar and nightclub mentioned by Jenny? Also, what was the name of the cinema that was about halfway down Aliwal Street on the way to the bay? Was the cinema in the Lido called the Cinerama? See the entry of 7 January 2009, below, for more info.

16 December 2008

Today being the Day of Reconciliation, formerly Dingane's Day or the Day of the Vow, I have been cleaning out my correspondence files and have found a lot of stuff that I've overlooked during the year. One interesting item was from Dotty Hardberger from Napa Valley in Calfornia. She wrote:

Good Morning, Allan,

Recently, while searching for props for food photography, I purchased an assortment of old silverware. Included is a dinner knife with the inscription "The Empress Durban."

I immediately assumed that it was from a ship and found your site in my search for information.

Was there a ship with this name? I have found ships with the word Empress in the name and others with the word Durban, but not the two words together.

She sent the following picture:

From the look of the knife, it looked to me very much like something that a hotel would have had. This supposition was confirmed by Arthur Gammage who wrote:

The Empress Hotel was located on the central beachfront (Durban's "Golden Mile") at 211 Marine Parade. The 1925 plan by noted architects Ing and Jackson shows a 3-storey building on the corner with Foster Place, with two double storey wings, architecturally well detailed. Assuming this represents the original hotel "as built", then subsequent additions were less sympathetic. The attached photograph taken in 1988 just prior to its demolition shows a somewhat bland facade to the five story building, and the hotel was not considered for heritage listing in the 1984 building survey. It was replaced by the high rise timeshare block The Palace, designed by Seitter Boyd Architects in a style reminiscent of the Art Deco period. The new name may have been chosen in reference to the old Empress Hotel.

Views of the Empress Hotel, above, with the Baron of Beef Steak House sign visible. Far left, a drawing of the original building and, left, the Palace, which replaced it.
Images courtesy Arthur Gammage - click to view enlargements.

I'm always amazed at just how far away bits and pieces of Durban memorabilia manage to get themselves.

16 December 2008

More from the bottom of my inbox:

Reader Graham Moss wrote:

"Your site brings back many memories, most of which I had long forgotten. I don't have a lot to contribute, but do have a book "Windjammer Yarns" written by Capt. Alexander Anderson, whose father was the first Port Captain in Durban and my mother's great uncle. The book is really the diary of a Durban boy who first went to sea as a galley boy, rose to captain and sailed the world in the days of sail. The book has many references and pictures of early Durban. My parents told me that in his later years, Captain Anderson built a 1/4 scale version Nelson's flagship, The Victory, which he sailed on Durban Bay. I believe this ship was eventually donated to the maritime Museum in Simonstown and was eventually destroyed due to dry rot."

I have heard of the model of HMS Victory, having been told about it by a former neighbour of mine. I don't suppose anyone has any information on it?

Reader Dave Puttick wrote:

Hi Allan.
I've spent hours on your site and think its brilliant.Well done.
(Oh yes and ive also bought your book.) I wonder if you could shed some light on 2 things that interest me.

1) If one drives through Clairwood just near the Blamey road/ South Coast road intersection there is a stone church visible just a few meters back from the road.

Do you know anything about this church.? From a distance it looks similar to the one in PMB that was built by the Italian POW's during WW2. It seems a bit strange that a Christian church would be built in the middle of Clairwood considering Clairwood is/was almost 100 % Indian. Ive searched the net but cannot come up with anything.(Perhaps you could do a article on Clairwood's history.Im sure you could get some really interesting facts).

[Added 21/10/2010: My informant Tim Gallwey wrote and said:

If my memory of the roads is correct, that is a Catholic church built by Father Weiss or Wiess.  I visited it with my mother one day when he was nearing completion, dressed in work clothes with paint splats etc and scaffolding still in place.  He was a German who moved to SA before WWII and was previously parish priest in Pinetown (behind Wareings Bakery), where my mother did the flowers and looked after the vestments.  He rode a motor bike and spoke amusing English such as his story to as as kids that he "was tearing the road up on his motor bike at 70 miles per hour".  He was worried about possible internment during the war but was left alone as far as I know.  However for good measure he handed my mother his Luger pistol for safe keeping.

I hope this will be of interest to others. ]

2) How did Addington Hospital get its name? See the entry of 7 January 2009, below, for the answer.

Thanks for your time and keep up the good work.

Reader Colin Garvie wrote in with some new information:

I read with much interest and amusement your Facts About Durban! Two snippets of information I could fill you in on are:

* Chief Alexander MacLean of Coll who arrived in Durban in and was buried here. He arrived in Durban 1849 and died, July 11, 1875, aged forty-seven. He was never married. In him the family of Coll, in the direct line, is believed to have become extinct.
* Garvies Beach on The Bluff, so-called after the hotel run by a great aunt of mine situated on the beach there.

Colin later sent in more details on Alexander MacLean, which I shamefully neglected to put up on the site. I have belatedly rectified that ommision and have put the story up here.

16 December 2008

A really productive day today, it seems. Hope I don't go to a decline as a result! Anyway, I was lucky enough, this year, to get a short trip to Ireland and found a drinking fountain which is very similar to our Da Gama Clock which, although called a clock by us, is actually a drinking fountain. You can view the page on Durban's Scottish Ironwork and, at the bottom, you will see some pictures of the fountain at Dun Laoghaire in Ireland.

And that reminds me that I recently received a picture of a similar fountain in Bugersdorp in the Orange Free State, from Arthur Gammage. You'll see the picture of that in the same place.

17 December 2008

I was convinced that I had put up the story I did last year on the long battle to defeat the sandbar which once blocked the entrance to Durban's harbour, but it seems I was wrong. So here, at last, it is.

17 December 2008

Reader Ken Cutherbert wrote in on the subject of TBF Davis, who was a prominent businessman in Durban in the early 20th century. It seems that Ken's second cousin Alexander Simpson-Smith married Davis' daughter Marguerite. We'd be very interested to hear from anyone who has any information on Davis or on the picture below. It is of Alexander Simpson-Smith and Marguerite, possibly on their wedding day, and possibly aboard Davis' famous racing yacht Westward.

Picture courtesy Ken Cuthbert
Click to view enlargement.

17 December 2008

I've just managed to reduce my in-box to only 15 items needing attention. One of the most pressing items I hadn't dealt with was a contribution sent in way earlier this year by Derek Austin. It concerns his memories of growing up in Woodlands and now, shamefully late, its finally up. It's interesting, not only for the memories, but for the selection of clippings and pictures that accompany it. There are clippings of South Africa troops boarding troopships in Durban during WWII, documentation to do with his father's service as a fire guard in Durban, also during the war, and a selection of newspaper adverts from that time as well. View the page here.

18 December 2008

Here's a story concerning Major Allister Miller's recruiting flight for the RFC in 1917. His trip took him around the major centres in South Africa, including Durban, but this story is about his visit to Port Elizabeth. It gives a good flavour of how excited the locals were about the trip.

I've added a couple of pictures to my major harbour widening page. The new picture are here. Anyone who has any info on, or pictures of, the project is welcome to get in touch here.

I have also put an album of great photos belonging to Robert Page, who served with 35 SQN in Durban during WWII. The pictures are not all that well captioned and we'd be grateful for any contributions. Contact us here.

26 December 2008

A fair bit of Durban's architectural heritage has been lost and so it is encouraging to hear of buildings being renovated and restored. Here's the story of the old Police and Fire Stations in Point Road.

27 December 2008

Today, I've got an interesting page on the Story of Port Natal, which was taken from the Natal and Zululand Annual of December 25, 1926. There's a lot of interesting stuff on the harbour, as it was then, and the language is wonderful.

7 January 2009

I've had some contributions from my regular informant Gerald Buttigieg and the first is in reply to a query posed by Dave Puttick about how Addington Hospital got its name. Gerald had this to say:

Here is a reference from Where on Earth? Place-Names of Natal and Zululand by Don Stayt. Published 1971.

Addington Hospital Durban takes its name from an early township laid out in the vicinity by the Natal Government and presumably called Addington after the British statesman, Addington later Viscount Sidmouth.

Its quite appropriate that we mention Addington Hospital at this point because I understand that it is to be closed. I must try and confirm the truth of the matter.

In reply to Jenny Pache's query about the cinemas around the Smith Street / Aliwal Street corner, Gerald sent in his recollections and a picture. I thought that the topic deserved its own page so I put one up here, with Jenny's query repeated, and Gerald's reply. We desperately need some good pictures of those old buildings and, if you have any such, please contact me here.

Finally, there is news of a local history site dealing with the history of Ladysmith and, particularly, the siege during the Anglo-Boer War.

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