Reminiscences from Joan de Jager

17th of February 2009

Thank you for publishing the details I sent you -- good publicity for me at the Centre for the Aged [I had used excerpts from a letter Joan wrote for an article I wrote on Durban's cinemas. See here. Ed.]. Other bioscopes I recall were one on the lower Marine parade in the Kenilworth tearooms -- I don't think it lasted very long -- There was one almost on the corner of Broad and West streets called Broadway 1 & 2 and of course the Tearoom bioscopes, where for the price of a cup of coffee or an ice cream, you could sit all day, as it was non-stop. Most ladies shopping in town who did not meet friends at Greenacres or John Orr's slipped into the tearoom cinema is to rest their weary legs. I also know of another bioscope -- it was in lower Smith Street, near the old Dutch reformed Church, and when I was 10 years old my friends and I went to cowboy movies -- Red Indians and Cowboys. Hoot Gibson and Jack Hoxie.

We also used to see silent films of the Seaman's Institute in Point Road -- and boxing and wrestling matches. My girlfriends and I were perfectly safe out at night. Who will remember the Maritime Mansions near the the Seaman's Institute? Then there were Marilling Mansions in West Street and Raymond Mansions in Smith Street. I lived at the Ambassadors, corner Pine and Prince Alfred Street, and just across the railway line was the goal. The railway ran from town across West Street to the Point Terminus -- West Street had booms that alerted one with a loud clang -- the gates came down and motorists and pedestrians alike would wait to cross. Every Friday morning it was swimming lessons at the beach baths -- we would walk past Bauman's Bakery, with our noses in the air (like the Bisto kids) we were always ravenous on our way to school and the hot bread smelt so good.

My gran and I would walk sedately to the swimming pool -- she, with her knitting, a flask and sandwiches. We spent many a pleasant day there, as all along the lower parade, with little huts to sit and rest and watch the sea. Once, it was spring tide and sea came right over the rocks and into the pool. It was quite funny to see my sedate old gran lift her skirts and show her long-legged underwear. There was even an Indian snake charmer, and we would give him a coin -- then he would play the flute and up would come the cobra -- out of the basket, swaying to the music.

I also spent a lot of time in the Bay when the tide was out, and we could walk right up to the channel. There was a rusty old wreck lying almost against the beautiful old railings on the Victoria Embankment. If we lay still long enough, beautiful coloured crabs would come out of all their nooks and crannies. We built ourselves canoe from sheet iron and when the tide started to come back in, we would go into Cato Creek, quite swift flowing (under Winder Street) up to nearly Smith Street. Robertson's Spices were there -- sometimes I would see a large water rat swimming with us -- this never bothered us.

The old RNVR was near Cato Creek and on Friday nights we would watch the sea cadets drilling. I know my elder sister used to dress up in put on lipstick -- they were such wonderful carefree day. We played in Albert Park, ate wild figs and goola goolas, a hard fruit shaped like a guava. One had to smash the shell to get to the slimy pips inside . They were as large as bean pips and really delicious. We never took ill with our wild food!!!

Today is my 90th birthday and I still love life -- but I can remember better these old times -- if you ask me what I did yesterday, I can't remember!!!

Does anyone still remember Mick's Pie Cart outside the station? After the bioscope, a fat pie and coffee was always a treat. Hope you enjoyed what I write and I have many more anecdotes to tell.

Yours sincerely Joan de Jager

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