BULAWAYO DAYS ??!!
- 7/10/2009 <--Prev : Next-->
I wrote this article for Morning Mirror about four years ago and I see it is doing the "circuit" so I claim authorship except for a couple of sentences that have been added along the way.
Reminiscing last week about the good old days, we brought to mind a plethora of exciting memories of Bulawayo . For instance, do you remember the Palm Grove which then became the Mayfair opposite the City Hall in Fife Street ? And of course those Grey Street Cowboys will recall with fond memories the Trocadero which is where Hopleys is now, those irrepressible Harley freaks used to race from the Bon Journee to the Trocadero via the High Court I believe.
Bulawayo produced a variety of rather famous personages out of the Grey Street Cowboys - remember Gary Hocking, John Love, John Muldoon and Graham Bishop, some still alive and kicking ( with quite as much gusto I believe) still right here in dear old Bullies. One of the most endearing landmarks of Bulawayo used to be the wretched humps over the storm water drains in the roads. They were wonderful ramps for those same Grey Street cowboys.
Now the name The Casbah will conjure up all sorts of memories I am sure and do you remember the original Granada with old Senor Louis Corbi in constant attendance, which was next to Bakers Inn on Grey and 8th Avenue . And of course do you remember the Calabash Steak House opposite the Bulawayo Centre run by the Dawson family and the Hub which was the first self service restaurant in the basement below the Carlton Hotel in Abercorn Street where Edgars is now.
Of course there was the favourite coffee shop The Coffee Pot in Kirrie Building which is now known as Bambanani Centre I believe! And there was another tea shop - The Kingfisher which was where Textbook Sales is now in 8th Avenue between Abercorn and Main Streets.
In those days the trains used to chug virtually right though the city streets with the old railway line still visible. It went through the town, down behind Coghlan School , past Wrights Nurseries and BAC, along Park Road and then out on the Salisbury Road . Of course The Grand Hotel was the centre of nocturnal activities with that magnificent sprung dance floor in the MacMurray Hall, but there was another sprung dance floor in the Empire Theatre which is where Bulawayo Health Centre is now in Fort Street and Ninth Avenue and of course there is still a fabulous sprung dance floor at the Rio Hotel which used to, if my memory serves me correctly, be called the Round House!!
The Glass Castle was on the Falls road and that was a favourite venue for dancing and dining. Still in that area, (and here I am relying on the memory of a well known Bulawayo stalwart Clive the mayor of Matsheumhlope) was Lakeside , a favourite Sunday haunt of us all. One could hire rowing boats, or even a power boat from the Kabot family, row to the little island and have a picnic or enjoy the little tea room which served tea and cream scones.
The Hillside Dams also boasted rowing boats and in the olden days the tea room was at the upper dam near the pier. Of course a favourite Sunday recreation spot was Windermere out on the Falls road where one could picnic on the banks of the Umgusa River . One's mind also goes back to landmarks of the "good old days", landmarks like Rhodes Statue which frowned down at one from the centre of the junction at 8th Avenue and Main Street , I believe poor old Cecil is presently lying face down rusting at the back of the museum. Charles Coghlan also graced one of the intersections but none of us (shame on us) could remember which one! Whilst we could all remember where the Gatling Gun stood, proud and fierce outside Asbestos House (now the Art Gallery ) in Main Street , aiming straight down Selborne Avenue from which direction the marauding hordes were expected to attack!
Now I am sure anyone who is old and wrinkly will remember the world famous Matopos Hotel. Legendary because during the Second World War (so my mother told me I hasten to add) the RAF and all service men and women used to congregate here in their droves. One can still see their names written on one of the old crumbling walls. The course of the road was changed to eliminate the famously dangerous hill which overlooked the Matopos Dam, where you used to "lose your tummy " as you went over the brow of the hill!
Most of our cinemas and theatres sadly or happily, depending upon one's bent, are now churches, but we had a wonderful evening, Marie, Clive and I, suitably doused with fine wines, remembering our magnificent past. The Princess Theatre used to be a Roller Skating Rink, The Palace Theatre in Abercorn and Tenth avenue was where Cliff Richard and the Shadows appeared live in Bulawayo and where Elvis Presley's first film was shown - Love Me Tender.
Where the Pizzaghetti is now in Eleventh Avenue and Wilson Street was a boarding house called City Chambers and right opposite that was Gifford Technical School , and do you remember Dorothy and Leo Silver who used to do wonderful photographic portraits. I mean we used to pay a tickey to go to the Bioscope as it was called. My best was on Saturday morning at the Palace Cinema in Abercorn Street where we used to slide up and down the carpeted aisles and swop comics - Beano, dandy, Ritchie Rich and Little Dot!
The girls would also swop "scraps " or what modern children call "swops" which were delightful tiny colourful pictures, some with glitter, I liked those little angels who used to sit on clouds with their chins in their hands !!
Of course I write this epistle with my heart in my mouth that someone might take me to task for errata, but I am safe in the sad certainty that my dearest teacher from Form One at Eveline High School - Paddy Vickery - has now sadly left custodianship of our history and gone to stay with her son somewhere far away.
Remember the Snake Park ? Well you might, Marie did and she is a spring chicken compared with the rest of us, that was where the Academy of Music stands today! And do you remember that we used to have two Dairy Dens with that magnificent soft serve ice cream. One is now called the Eskimo Hut but it is in the same location near the Trade Fair, the other used to be down near Verity Amm, Coronation Cottages, in that general area.
The names of Chemists came to mind - Penhales, Smart and Copley, Stobart and Wixley and Bowden's Pharmacy and on another tack completely (no pun intended), there were the famous bars, the Exchange Bar, The Skittle Inn, the Warnborough Night Club, the Carlton Hotel where Truworths is today, the dreaded Stork Club in tenth Avenue Fort Street, the BESL Club in Sixth Avenue and Main Street and the Steering Wheel in the Grand Hotel. Do you remember the famous Bernstein brothers who had a band there and even that stripper with the red hair Rusty someone? And do you remember the Zambesi Cocktail bar?
The Coca Cola Factory was at one time believe it or not, right in the centre of town on Grey Street and 8th Avenue and the Arenel Sweet factory was also right in the centre of town where you could walk past and smell the toffee and the liquorice balls (?) cooking.
Other famous landmarks were the City Hall toilets which are underground on the corner of Fife Street and 8th Avenue , these were spotlessly clean and one was allowed in to spend a whole "Penny". Queens Court was a well known Boarding House for genteel folk and it was on the wall of the Queens Court that the first limpet mine heralding dissent and unrest, was attached and exploded in the seventies.
But we are really going back now when we remember the Pie Carts - Fritz Pickard was the owner of one, they used to be like little caravans with sides that flapped down and one would sit on high stools and eat a delicious variety of goodies like steak rolls and egg and bacon sandwiches. They would be parked right where Jairos Jiri is now in Grey Street and Selborne Avenue . The Sky View Drive In Cinema was of course very dear to us oldies.
All of our babies were born in the Lady Rodwell Maternity home or if you lived in Gwelo, as Heather The Mayoress of Ilanda did, there was the Birchenough Nursing Home. Remember Sister Cuthbertson, Sister Walker and Sister Hickey from the Rodwell? And once those babies were born we would congregate at the Princess Margaret Rose Clinic in Borrow Street where the babes were inoculated and weighed weekly.
Boarders at Townsend and Eveline High schools will remember on Fridays there were weekly deliveries of the much longed for Tuck Boxes from the Railway Coop or Meikles or Haddons filled with items that were tasty delicious and good to eat! And once the boarders left school they went to Fenella Redrup Hostel in Rhodes Street and Sixth Avenue where they were supposed to be back in hostel at the disgustingly late hour of 10 pm!
Sanders was one of the leading department stores with formidable shops assistants who would make sure that they measured every inch of you before allowing you to purchase one of their Maidenform Bras (I dreamed I sailed down the Nile in My Maidenform) and Sanders had the very first Elevator in Bulawayo with the liveried BellHop who would announce in his dismal voice - First Floor Ladies lingerie, schoolwear, undergarments, sportswear!!
And then of course there were those fascinating tubes in Sanders where the shop assistant would put your money and your invoice in and they would shoot up to the accounts department and the change would shoot down the chute and be back in a flash with a receipt! Remember McCullogh and Bothwell, Zippers, Penny's Market where you could actually purchase goods for a penny (and there was a penny embedded in the doorway) and Morrisons exclusive dresses imported from Britain . My Mum bought me the most exquisite dress from Morrisons for our school leavers' dance and it cost a whole ten pounds.
Another of my favourite shops was novelties where you could buy stink bombs and those delightful comics "School Friend" and Girls Own" as well as tiny little real porcelain Walt Disney characters.. I had a whole collection of little china dogs from The Lady and The Tramp series which I collected carefully and slowly with my two and six pence weekly pocket money.
All the kids loved Sweetland in Abercorn Street where you could buy fine slices of real coconut dipped in caramel! Still with the shops there was The Economy Bazaar in Camperdown House next to Bancroft Neil which is still there today. Bancrofts kept all Economy Bazaars fireworks in their basement and that same shop burnt down in a glorious blaze in 1961 thanks to those very fireworks.
Still with the old shops there was Alick Stuart on Abercorn and Tenth which was everybody's favourite sports store, Terblanche with that enormous painting on the wall done by Mr May. Goldwasser sold TVs opposite Woolworths. Meikles used to be where their car park is now until some wag burnt it down in 1961. Old man Nimr from Nimr and Chapman dug the first well in Bulawayo where the worm sellers sit outside the City Hall and there were shops like E.W. Tarry, Hollanders, Knight Brothers, the Pioneer Bottle Store and Bowden and Strever.
Bulawayo 's best dressed men went to Stanley 's opposite Haddons where they bought Van Heusen Shirts. They had the word " Stanley 's" etched in brass in the pavement and there were Eric Davis and Jimmy White to make sure one was always fashionably attired. There was a caravan park where Ilanda Gardens are now and Marie tells me in confidence that the Townsend girls would bunk out and hide in the bush there !!
We had lots to do in those days, Speedway was held on Friday nights (or was it Stock Car racing) at the Trade Fair Arena.. The Trade Fair itself was a not to be missed occasion where one bought a hat especially for Trade Fair week to be worn at the Official Opening where Tony Ellman Brown, Clifford Dupont, Senator 'Sam Whaley , Zoe Shearer and Ian Smith were to be hob nobbed with and the event of the year was the Trade Fair Ball !! And for those less inclined to hob nob, there was the battle of The Bands held at the Trade Fair Amphitheatre.
Ah Yes......... ...those were the Good Old Days !!!