Durban Pot-Pourri Two

Pot Pourri Two

Aliwal Street 1930s.

In my previous post re Hollywood Court and the cinemas, the one photo shows the corner of Smith and Aliwal Streets.  The picture I post is a close up picture of that corner where eventually the 20th Century cinema was located.  Looking down Aliwal Street we have on the corner, Franks Garage,

  1. E. Tarr, then Butler ?Gates Auto Spares and Accessories, then Fuller Batteries, a vague sign reading AYSHIRE , Aliwal St Congregational Church, then not clear but I can read a DELCO sign, then a sign reading –VERY.

Needed a bit of investigation so the 1938 Directory came out and indicated Franks Garage no longer existed but replaced by British Motors,  EE Tarr was a car springsmith, Fullers under new management now trading as S.R. Smith  & Co., AYRSHIRE was Ayrshire House,  a boarding house, the church still there, there was a residence of H W Jackson , the Delco sign belonged to Hoppert (Pty) Ltd., Auto Electrical Engineers (Delco was the name of an American auto electrical parts maker) and the –Very was a chance guess at the name Avery which I recall was the brand name on weighing scales.  Bingo!  Avery Scales 22 Aliwal Street!

The photo is written on as 1930 just before the depression.  It is interesting to look at old photos closely.  There is a blur on the photo. Possibly someone riding past on a bicycle and the shutter speed could not freeze it.  Note the robot in the road.  Adverts readable are FISK (tyre manufacturer) and SIMINOZ (a car polish) Marmo is Marmon* and Packard (American makes of car) and Goodrich (tyres). Love the petrol pumps on the pavement. Indicative of different times.  Union was a petrol additive made from sugar cane and mixed with petrol.  Union spirits I recall was still available in the 1960s. Only certain petrol stations had Union pumps.

By the 1960s, the 20th Century was on the corner, the Cameo Cinema behind Frank’s Garage was no more, Butlers and Fullers were replaced by the Embassy Parking Garage. The Church remained but further down was Donellan Rich (later Grosvenor Motors (Ford Cars) and next door was the Piccadilly Cinema and Piccadilly House. Memories of Piccadilly Cinema were the two large paintings on the walls either side of the screen. One was Piccadilly Circus and the other Tower Bridge.  My memory was the pictures were painted with a type of efflorescent paint because as the lights dimmed the pictures sort of glowed and then darkened.  The other was going there when school had broken up for the holidays and everyone went to the movies. I seem to recall the movie was Summer Holiday with Cliff Richard.

The Aliwal Street Congregational Church suffered an interesting fate. The loss of congregations of most central parishes made the churches redundant. One by one they closed doors and sold off the property. The Aliwal St Church property suffered the same fate and was sold and taken over by Roger England Antiques.  It remained so for some years till it again was sold to the Muslim community.  It was converted into a mosque, the first such transformation of a Christian church in Durban.  I seem to remember this was in the mid 2000s.

Ps Just remembered that in the Army 1962, the SANDF used old Marmon Herrington troop carriers.

The late George Mason.

This picture illustrates the wide-ranging collection of pictures I have been given.  Here is one of the late George Mason, a bus driver on the Durban Corporation buses.  He is standing with an unnamed co-driver in front of the Mercedes Benz tour bus.  I remember George from the time when the buses changed to the red single deckers and conductors were dispensed with, leaving drivers to do both jobs.

Royal Natal Yacht Club

An interesting photo as it shows two venues frequently visited in the 60s but both buildings vastly changed to what I knew.

Esplanade Hotel circa 1953

RNYC circa 1904

RNYC and Esplande Hotel 1950

Esplanade Hotel with Al Fresco addition circa 1960s


RNYC with changed frontage circa 1958.


This 1904 picture of the RNYC shows the club as originally built circa 1900s.   By the 60s the whole frontage was remodelled.  The RNYC was to an extent an exclusive club with strict rules.  I do recall one rule though was that if you were a University student you had access to the club.  A friend of mine had that privilege and we used to make use of the excellent snooker tables they had.  I have no idea what the elaborate flag pole shown in the picture was used for.  It appears to have a platform at the top.  The one way road coming down from Smith Street is Fenton Road. The 1938 directory indicates that the RNYC was separated from the Esplanade Hotel by Orange Grove.   I had not heard of this before so checked on it. From the book Origin of Durban Street Names : “ Salmon Grove runs from Smith St to Victoria Embankment –known for generations as Orange Grove the name of the little thoroughfare was changed in 1949 to avoid confusion with Orange Grove at Greenwood Park.  There were City Councillors, MJ Salmon in 1860 and AG Salmon in 1944”.


The picture does not show much of a gap between the two buildings unless it was widened and renamed as Salmon Grove later.  Be that as it may, the Esplanade Hotel next door was vastly changed.  In the 60s it bore little resemblance to what the picture depicts. The main building remained but the front was added to with a two storey addition.  Entering at ground level one went through a door way and up a very narrow staircase to a large open air semi-circular fronted verandah overlooking the Bay.   This was the Al Fresco.  It had a small bandstand and dance area and became one of Durban’s most popular Cookie Look venues.  Friday evenings it became the gathering place for after work get togethers   of office workers and young adults.  From 5pm to 7pm local rock bands provided live entertainment and being of the time, the place, to use the then term, “was rocking”.   At 7pm everyone had to leave as the Al Fresco was transformed into a more sedate restaurant.  The group I went around with met there frequently on Fridays, meeting blind dates and then going elsewhere after 7 pm.  Those were real fun times.  I have added a picture of the Al Fresco as I knew it.


Smith Street Police Station.

Smith Street Central Police Station 1950s

This rather plain looking building is of significant importance to Durban’s history. It is still standing today in Smith Street so I assume it is a listed building. I saw it not that long ago all boarded up but apparently intact.

The original building dates back to 1878 and at one time in 1883, housed, the Durban Boys’ Model School, the pre cursor of Durban High School, founded 1866. The building is much changed from what I have seen in a picture of the original building.

It later was taken over by the South African Police and was known as the Central Police Station.

In 1938 it is listed as S.A. Police Headquarters.

For me it was the Police Station that I reported to in 1959 when as a 16 year old I had to register for Active Citizen Force military training.  Still a schoolboy at the time, it was with trepidation that I, along with thousands of others my age, enlisted at police stations for military training that was to start in 1962.

For those not familiar with it, it stands next to Escoval House.  Anybody remember the name of the building partly shown?

The Crow’s Nest

To be inserted

The last picture is a mystery to me.  I cannot relate to it apart from I know where the Lonsdale Hotel stands in West Street today?  What was the purpose of this rather isolated building?

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Durban Pot-Pourri One

I have been given a massive amount of photo copies of newspaper cuttings, pictures copied from books etc. etc. all related to Durban. Unfortunately there was no order to this accumulation and I have to sift through it which is going to take some time.  A considerable amount of time and trouble went into getting this mixed collection all together. What the original intention was I am not sure. The collector who I know indirectly was obviously keen on Durban and copied whatever came his way.  My intention is to post pictures which mean and remind me of  something and hopefully to the reader. Rather than make one enormous posting I am choosing random pictures and will post them in a series called Durban Pot-Pourri starting with this one as Number 1.      Click on pictures to enlarge.

Albert Park before the overhead Southern Freeway was constructed. Read More

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Clifton Preparatory School in the 1950s.

Dr Ian Roberston, a past pupil of Clifton Preparatory School, has written up a comprehensive memoire of the years he spent at the school during the 1950s.

He has also supplied some school photographs as well as a photo of the original school building being a house at 102 Lambert Road.   

CLICK on pictures to enlarge.


Clifton Preparatory School in the 1950s.

I attended Clifton Preparatory School from 1952 to 1957.  When I arrived Clifton was a small but respected institution with about 150 white boys in eight grades, starting with classes 1 & 2 and  proceeding through standards 1 through 6.  The full-time teaching staff consisted of five female and three male teachers and the headmaster, Anthony “Tim” Sutcliffe.  He was a determined and visionary leader who shaped the character and development of the school from his appointment in 1945, when he was only 27 years of age, until he retired 35 years later.  It was evident to all of us even then that our school was essentially Sutcliffe’s creation. Read More

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The Flying Boats of Durban.

This past month I was sent a photographic essay comprising of a series of photographs of Imperial Airways flying boats taken at the flying boat base in Durban Harbour.   The sender was Dennis Hewer and I thank him for allowing me to add this to the Facts about Durban archive.  Dennis’s grandfather H. W. Anderson (sic) appears in one of the photos, the photos being in possession of Dennis’s mother. I would venture to say all the photos were taken on the same day.

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Baumann…. the Durban Bakers.

Recently I happened to read a post on the internet submitted by Judy Banks concerning a Baumann family record / family tree that she has. Judy is a direct descendant of the Baumann family.

I contacted Judy and asked permission to post the contents of the book on Facts about Durban.  She agreed to this and I acknowledge her as the source.  I thought as an addendum I would add a bit more to the history with notes and pictures that I have managed to source.

Here are the pages of Judy Banks’ book.  The personal notes are here and the family tree notes are at the end of this posting.

Click on pictures to enlarge.

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Durban Hotels

Sheldene Crawford, whom I acknowledge here, forwarded me extracts from a book she has concerning some of Durban’s better hotels at the time. The book dates to 1958 and was published by Victor de la Hurst. Sadly some of the hotels do not exist today and have passed into history. I have added my own comments below the pictures. where applicable.  Click on Pictures  to Enlarge. Read More

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Allan Jackson Rest In Peace.

It is with the deepest sadness that I have just learnt that Allan Jackson passed away in Australia. This was posted on the FaceBook Facts about Durban site by Andrew Shemmeld .


“It is with great sadness that I have to announce that the founder of this group, Allan Jackson , passed away peacefully last night after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. Allan was not only the founder of this group but also of the FAD website and author of the book “Facts About Durban”, which was published in 3 editions. He was a “Durbanite” through and through and was passionate about the history of Durban and surrounds as is evident in his books and websites. Other than his books, Allan was also worked for, and wrote many articles for Natal Newspapers and various other magazines. His computer column in the Sunday Tribune was very popular and ran for many years. His true passion though was in his photography. I was privileged to have him often photograph my family occasions. His artistic flair for photography shines through in his photos of landscape and city scenes. To me he was a good friend and confidant of 30plus years and one time business partner. Rest in harmony Allan . Your legacy will live on.”


Though we never met in person you became a personal friend and we shared many a topic on this site.

Rest in eternal Peace Allan. Your friend Gerald Buttigieg

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School Dances.

There seems to be an interest on social media regarding school dances held at various schools in the distant past. These were the days when the hype around school dances was not what it has become today. But as many things have,  even school dances have been commercialized and today’s school dance is no comparison to what took place in the past. Read More

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The Macks of Isipingo: A personal journey of discovery.

The History of the Macks of Isipingo is rather interesting and goes back to the time when Durban was just beginning to prosper round about 1850 when the Byrne Settlers started arriving.

To curtail repetitive entries I am abbreviating Gazley to G, Gazley is the maiden surname of Robert G Mack’s mother, Hannah Gazley and carried as the middle name of most of the boys in the Mack Family. Click on pictures to enlarge!

BES Byrne Emigration Scheme. It would be beneficial to first read the article on the BES scheme I wrote on Facts about Durban to give you an idea of what it was all about. Here is the link:

Commemorating the Arrival of the Byrne Settlers 1849.

When I started researching the Mack history I had come to realise that very little if any of the Mack history was preserved or recorded so I set out at least to document something. I am going to relate what I did unearth and I will come into the picture at the appropriate time. So here goes. Read More

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