Rose Enstrom's page

Memories of growing up in Durban

I was the eldest of eight children, and probably due to lack of finances, we made our own fun. My sister and I loved to climb the large mango trees in our back yard at Vauxhall Road, Malvern, each claiming one of the big branches as our "house". We would love to climb the tree, and invite each other to visit at our house. So called tea would be offered, which would be water and quite often the meal would consist of lemons from the lemon tree and salt.

Another of the activities which we enjoyed was riding our bicycles and even though we lived at Malvern for the first half of the 1950s, we would not hesitate, on a Sunday morning after Mass, to ride our bicycles to Marianhill near Pinetown. The Monks in charge would always serve us with a soft drink and a biscuit before our return trip; they often warned of the dangers which lurked in wait for us. We never gave our safety a second thought, as at the time, we were just so naïve.

My husband Aubrey had only one brother, Wally, and he always recalls going to the Metro or the Playhouse on a Saturday morning and swapping comics. Two cartoon or other comics were swapped for one Classic Comic. Of course, the trip to Durban never went without him and his brother going to the Model Dairy in Gardiner Street for a thick shake or a parfait. As young boys, this was the highlight of the weekend.

Aubrey lived in Fynnlands and frequently visited the whaling station. He often recalls how they would board the whaling vessels in dock, where the chef would feed them and his greatest delight was being given a tin of condensed milk to eat. He always had a sweet tooth. His father worked at the S.A.R. coaling appliances so the boys spent much of their free time at the docks fishing.

Pic courtesy
Rose Enstrom

Rose and Les, whom she charmingly calls a 'prior' friend. Regulars at the Balalaika.

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And oh yes, how could I forget the nights spent dancing away at the Balalaika with the Boereorkes thumping out their sounds of the concertina, banjo, heavy electric bass and drums as described by Gerald Buttigieg.

I met my husband in March 1956 and, during our courtship, we often frequented the "tea room bioscopes" as we called them; mainly the Roxy and the Oxford (Gerald Buttigieg does a superb job in his description of these). The Playhouse and other theatres too, were frequented mainly on Saturday nights when we would dress up and the girls would have their hair done.

Out at the Astra Hotel: Aubrey is 3rd from
right and Rose in on extreme right.
Pic courtesy Rose Enstrom
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The most momentous occasion was the night that the Elvis Presley movie "Jailhouse Rock" was premiered at midnight. The queues were miles long and, in fact we probably would have had no chance of getting in if Aubrey had not pushed and shoved along with all the others to secure tickets. When he eventually emerged from the crowd, his shirt had been torn and his tie was almost strangling him. Of course the effort was well worth it as we had a super time. Toilet rolls were thrown from the balcony as streamers; patrons went crazy.

I often think about Mick's Pie Cart, which was parked near Durban station, and which sold refreshments and food late at night for the cinema goers. It was a must for a lot of folk, especially those out and about after midnight.

We would also often get the train from Durban to Amanzimtoti where we would hire a little boat and Aubrey would row down the river to the little café and zoo a few hundred metres away. To us, this was just such a lovely outing, which we both thoroughly enjoyed.

During this era, one of the highlights of the year was going to the circus. We would get the Durban Corporation Bus down to Old Fort Road where either Boswell's or Pagels' circus would be camped out. We loved to watch the animals, especially the elephants swinging their trunks etc. Probably my favourite act was the trapeze artists, which at times seemed so scary.

As I lived in Malvern and my husband lived at Fynnlands, the distance we had to travel to see each other, or go on any outings, was long and very tiring. He would get the Durban Corporation bus to Jimmy Green's Furniture shop in West Street, then walk through the gardens to Warwick Avenue (gee I hope my memory is serving me well) and then wait for an Indian bus to Malvern.

At the time, the Apartheid system was in place and the first three seats on either side of the aisle in the Indian Bus was reserved for "Whites only", with others occupying the rest of the bus. The return trip to Fynnlands would then be in reverse. The Durban Corporation buses were fairly prompt, but the Indian buses at the time never seemed to run to a timetable.

This brings me to reminisce about the Indian markets. We just loved doing our vegetable and fruit shopping there on a Saturday morning. The hustling, bustling and bartering and the children, mainly African and Indian, who would carry the full baskets for one around the market and to the car for a mere pittance.

Berea Road and Grey Streets were also favourite places for us to browse and shop, the smell of the incense and the fabrics was the best ever, I am sure. We always remember that at an outfitting store in Berea Road, if a men's suit was bought, the vendor would throw in a shirt and a tie.

Our savings were put into the Post Office. We would be handed a book which had to be stamped each time an entry was made. When we decided to get engaged, my husband had to "apply" to withdraw funds from the Post Office. This application took about a week before he could collect the money. The Post Office was very popular with the youth at the time.

Pic courtesy
Rose Enstrom

Aubrey and Rose's first car which was a ???.

Added 13-3-2008: Hand-Dieter Winkens has provided the info that the vehicle was a Standard Vanguard Phase 1 of the late ‘40s to early ‘50s. Here's a picture he provided of one:
Pic courtesy Hans-Dieter Winkens

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Once we were married, I recall that strip tease acts had just come into vogue. I think it was at the Butterworth Hotel where we had our first taste of "strip tease". As it was a first at the time, I recall the shutters on all the windows were drawn, the Indian waiters all had to leave the room, the doors were locked and, eventually, the strip act would take place to the beat of the drums and music. Depending on the strippers, sometimes the show was quite a let down.

One of our favourite venues for eating was Saltoris on the corner of West and Gardiner Streets. The food (my favourite was Langoustines) was served by immaculately dressed waiters with all the trimmings including silver cutlery.

As previously mentioned by Gerald Buttigieg, we also would walk down West Street right to the Marine Parade and back again. Vendors would be at every corner along the Marine Parade selling jewellery and whatever.

Aubrey & Rose - 23 March 1957.
Pic courtesy Rose Enstrom

I recall that on New Year's Eve, the atmosphere in front of the beach front hotels was electric. We would always attend as the "Coon Carnival" troupes were singing and dancing all along the beachfront in front of the Hotels. Absolutely nothing could compare.

Of course, we frequently visited the Tropicale in Albert Park and the Cuban Hat on the beachfront .

The drive-in theatre, situated near Old Fort Road, was a must as was the footlong boerewors rolls served there. We would always go early and would park in line waiting to be admitted as the first in got the best position. We would have to take the speaker from a post and place it in the car so that we could hear what the movie was about. The number of times we would witness drivers eager to get out in a hurry to avoid the rush forgetting to replace the speaker. Result? one wrecked speaker.

We also visited the Ice Rink, which I think was in Somtseu Road (memory does not always serve well). My sister, Maureen, and I could hardly wait for the rink to officially open. Of course we had to hire skating boots although Maureen did eventually buy her own boots and a fancy frilly little skating skirt as she had become quite proficient at skating. My attempt at skating was rather short lived as I was too cautious and would never let go and get off the rails. This was rather boring whilst everyone else seemed to master the skill and were skating around and having a good time.

We did, however, enjoy going to the Ice Rink as spectators from time to time when we would book seats in the gallery as they would host very good ice shows.

Aubrey and I were also part of the Scooter brigade. Our first form of transport was a Vespa Scooter and with it, came membership of the Vespa Club. All riders would meet (I think it was once a month) and would ride in convoy to places like Mount Edgecombe where we would all enjoy a picnic lunch.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the accounts by Gerald Buttigieg andDodo. These years will forever be etched in my memory. I am sure that they were the best years ever. We just had so much fun without the alcohol, drugs etc.

We migrated to Australia in 1970 and returned to South Africa for five years in the mid 1990's, when I commenced writing a book "My Memoirs of our Fifty Golden Years" which I gave to my husband for our 50th Anniversary on the 23rd March, 2007.

I often sit and reminisce about the time we spent in South Africa. The 50's and 60's being the most memorable.

The last few paragraphs in my book in the chapter on Migration tells it all.

"For now, however, we have returned to South Africa, where the music of the Drakensberg Boys' Choir remind us of the film "The Sound of Music", where "the hills are alive with the sound of music", the pulsating and beating of the African drums are like music to the ears, and the rythym of boere musiek is once again in our repertoire.

My heart, however, is divided. Half lies with my four children and nine grandchildren in Australia, the other half is here in "God's own Country" and only He knows how the tears rolled every Christmas for twenty five years while I cooked the turkey and how I longed to be back here with family and friends.

Only He knows the mental torment which has been experienced in trying to rationalize whether the move which was originally made "for the sake of the children" was the right thing to do. Twenty five years later I cannot help but wonder why I deprived my children of the love and comfort of their grandparents and extended family, and most of all, why I deprived them of their South African Heritage.

Pic courtesy
Rose Enstrom

Rose in the 1950s.

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Pic courtesy
Rose Enstrom

Aubrey in the 1950s.

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