On this page is some correspondence from Dodo. The Dodo pictured below may not the one who wrote in to Facts About Durban. Whoever she was, she did offer an intriguing clue to her real identity, which is that there is something within 500m of the Hotel California, in Florida Road, which was named after her. Allan Jackson.

Dodo didn't care much for the law.
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Dodo's Page

Dear Allan, Nothing earth-shattering – just to say I enjoyed Gerald Buttigieg’s reminiscences (I was looking on the Internet for a picture of the Cuban Hat, as one does at 3am). The following came to mind:

Gerald wasn’t sure about the name of the Troubadour coffee bar – it’s correct. It was popular in the early 1960s, when lone singers strummed guitars and sang Joan Baez ‘folk songs’, applauded by soulful girls inspired by Juliette Greco, in Max Factor pancake makeup, eyes dark with kohl.

He also tentatively names the ‘Polar Bar’ in Aliwal Street. Is my memory fading or was it in fact the Dairy Den?

One of my favourite cookie bars was at the Beach Hotel (I’d love to be reminded of the name) – where I believe June Dyer used to sing.

Gerald also mentions the Beach Hotel but may or may not remember that it used to be a lovely double storey building with gables, a long verandah and a lawn in front – my father ran it for the last couple of years of its life. It was demolished to make way for the existing Beach Hotel.

11 November 2007: Picture of Beach Hotel moved from here to here.

Unlike Gerald, I gather, I spent a lot of time at South Beach (I had a weakness for Jo’burg boys) and have fond – but I concede uncool – memories of the Milky Way, the shops at the Mermaid Lido, and Ken Noyle, master of ceremonies at the Little Top (‘Let’s go to Durban by the sea, And see how happy we can be, We’ll sing and dance there, And find romance there, In Durban by the sea. And there in Durban we’ll find fun, For mom and dad and everyone, And when you go you, Will find you know you, Have left your heart in Durban by the sea’ and at the end came 'The moonlight's so disturbin', In Durban by the sea').

From the fact that Gerald wasn’t sure of the wavelength or whatever it’s called of LM Radio, I assume he doesn’t know the Pumamouse website. If not, I’m sure he’ll enjoy it. It’s got excerpts from many of the radio serials we used to listen to. He might also like a book called Where Sixpence Lives by Norma Kitson, and perhaps one called The Mirror by Lynn Freed, set in Durban in the 1920s.

On the subject of LM Radio, Gerald replied:

"I found this inside a note book of mine which must go back many years now. On the back is printed A1 Radio Services (Pty) Ltd Durban, which is a radio components firm now in Umgeni Road, but which, for many years was in West Street diagonally on the opposite side of the SARS building. If I recall, Joe's Snooker Saloon was upstairs. Thanks for the Pumamouse website. I forgot about 'Vaya Con Dios' which was part of David Davies' nightly sign off."

Picture Courtesy Gerald Buttigieg
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Dickie Loader got a mention, but unless I’m mistaken The Bats didn’t – and they were Recording Artists too! Maybe I’m a couple of years younger than Gerald, but my childhood would have been far poorer without the ice rink, the figure 8 and the rotor (?) at the North Beach funfair, and Dickie Chipperfield’s circus. I also belonged to a class that wouldn’t have deigned to smoke dagga, but when our peers in the rest of the western world took to LSD, we had mock-hallucinogenic ‘happenings’. Remember?

Anyway – thanks for a lovely website and all best wishes. Dodo.

See more from Dodo on The way we were page

A nice view of West Street going towards the beach. Shows the Lonsdale and Federal Hotels.

Pictures courtesy Dodo
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The Lower Marine Parade when it was open to traffic. [I remember being driven along there in my youth and, on occasion, seeing the waves washing right over the road and into the restaurants on the right. Allan Jackson] The Old Wagon Wheels Hotel, now the Hotel California.

Added 11 November 2007

Dodo writes about the pictures above:

West Street view:
The picture, on the left, above, gives a clear view of West Street the Federal Hotel and the then very trendy Lonsdale. The Federal had several claims to fame. For one thing, it had excellent jazz musicians, who played in the cocktail lounge from 5 to 7pm and in the Granada night club from 8 to midnight. Among them were Tony de Lima and later Don Albert, with George Baretti on double bass and vocalist Louis Paris. The regulars included jazz fans as well as a number of women who attracted visiting seamen, most of whom sought further entertainment at the Smugglers Inn after the bar closed at midnight.

There were quite a few permanent residents at the hotel, which was not unusual in those days. It was also a favourite with famers from the Free State who came for the July holidays. Many of them were very wealthy but liked the Federal because they could come to dinner barefoot, or at worst in Indian sandals - the forerunners of flipflops. The rooms in the front section of the building had completely open balconies where you could go to sleep watching the stars.

I don't remember what the adjacent double-storey building was. Do you? [Added 21 February 2010: Reader Dave Flanagan, whose grandfather W.W. Flanagan (Bill ) owned and ran the Federal Hotel for many years, says his mother married Bill's son. He says his mother remembers that the adjacent building was called the Langham, although the memory may be wrong.]

Lower Marine Parade view:
This picture shows what I think is the side of the Kenilworth arcade.In any event, I'm fairly certain that the large wall in the right foreground is the wall of the Rachel Finlayson swimming pool. [Dodo was quite right in her belief that the building was the Kenilworth as has been shown by the quite similar postcards, below. Allan Jackson]

Postcard courtesy Barbara Maud-Stone.

This postcard is marked "The Kenilworth - Durban Beach" and is postmarked 13 October 1920.

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Found on Internet.

This postcard of the Kenilworth Tearooms is unused but there appears to be a date in 1924 pencilled-in on the back.

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The Beach Hotel

Picture courtesy Dodo

The old Beach Hotel.

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Dodo's father ran the old Beach Hotel from 1956 and she wrote:

We were at the old Beach Hotel from 1956 until it was demolished - I know for a fact that we had left by 1962. As far as I can recollect, I got my first camera in 1958, and probably took the picture that year. Anyway, this is what the Beach Hotel looked like in that period.

Cookie Look (how on earth did they think that one up) was at the Claridges, with live music in the lounge from 5-7pm. June Dyer was the resident singer. There may have been music after dinner as well, but as Sam Cooke used to sing at the time (when 'paedophilia' was still just an ancient Greek word) "I was too young to know".

I say after dinner, because hotels didn't have restaurants. They had dining rooms where guests were served three meals a day, heralded by what was generally called a gong. It was actually a kind of small hand-held metal xylophone played with a soft-headed hammer. It was used on the SAR/S as well. Before breakfast you'd retrieve your shoes from outside the hotel bedroom door, having left them out overnight to be collected, polished and shiny, in the morning. A time of unseen hands and unheard voices.

Restaurants started sprouting around that time - the ones I knew of, but unfortunately never went to, offered dinner-dances: the 67 and the Roma somewhere in town, and the Green Dolphin, famous for its jazz, on South Beach. I wonder whether anyone remembers them? And of course there was, and still is, the wonderful Oyster Box.

If I recall correctly, the Claridges was the first modern hotel to be built on the beachfront, followed shortly afterwards by the 'towering' Beach Hotel. Next, I think, was the EdenRoc at North Beach, on the corner of Marine Parade and Somtseu Road. I believe that the new Beach Hotel had Durban's first discotheque. The NGK (Nationale Gereformeerde Kerk)-inspired liquor licensing laws of those days perhaps reflected apartheid at its most truly absurd. Are you familiar with them?

Picture courtesy Dodo

The ubiquitous Dodo demonstrates how those photo boards worked at photo stands on the beach. This one was at Ralph Fisher's Foto Fish kiosk on North Beach. The South Beach variants were Baretti's and Happy Days Studio. I took the picture myself - the professional photographer would have got the angle right.

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The Little Top

I took these pictures of the Little Top in 1964. This is the canvas tent, possibly its original incarnation, but in any event predecessor to the solid structure. It probably got its name by analogy with the Big Top circuses - Boswell & Wilkie's and subsequently Chipperfields, both of which were very popular around that time. They were erected on a large empty plot of land to one side of the ice rink, near the drive-in cinema and the adjacent land where stock car races were held. I think the later versions of the Little Top were built on the same site as this one, which was roughly at the bottom of a grass embankment leading to the XL Café. The second picture also shows the Mermaid Lido and one of the old wooden piers.

Pictures courtesy Dodo

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The Cuban Hat

Picture courtesy Dodo


Showing the car window at regulation height to receive the clip-on tray at the Cuban Hat.

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See the Cuban Hat page here.

A business card from Aussies Taxis.

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