PETRIA PONDERINGS          - 23/2/2009      <--Prev : Next-->

It always amazes me just how resilient we Zimbos are and I still have high hopes that our beautiful Centenary Park will be restored to its former glory again one day.

I have driven past the Centenary Park in Bulawayo virtually every day of my life. The Park was once the hub of the City.

Here bands played in days of Yore, in that little gazebo by the fountain. The Army Band, the Police Band, the Salvation Army Band, on Sundays, High Days and Holidays.

Genteel Folk spread out their check table clothes and drank lemonade and ate cucumber sandwiches while they listened to the jaunty strains of the trumpets and bassoons.

When the Queen Mum and her two princesses came to visit in the fifties to open the park officially, I clearly remember lining up on Selborne Avenue in my Coghlan Junior School uniform, (the pretty blue one patterned with the blue plumbago flower, which was C.J.R's favourite flower I gather ).

We were all issued with tiny Union Jacks which we waved in (tut tut) true colonial style, as the Royal Party , waving in that most regal of all manners, drove up the magnificent Avenue.

Wide enough to turn an ox wagon in full span, the avenue was lined with a blaze of purple jacarandas, a golden riot of honeysuckle from the Silver Oak trees, it is now of course called Leopold Takawira Avenue.

I would be too ashamed to show you pictures of the Park now, but do yourself a favour and visit FallonBills Youtube presentation at YouTube - Centenary Park, Bulawayo, Rhodesia, Oct. 1973 to remind yourself of what it used to look like !

I clearly remember feeding the black and white swans in the river that ran through the park, I think it was a part of the Matsheumhlope although I am open to correction !!

There were fountains and lakes and ponds, there were giant formal gardens, with beautiful banks of cannas, agapanthus, dalias and all sorts of exotic blooms. There were literal avenues of wisteria, petras, and the sweet scented "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow"

There were mazes and pruned privets and low hedges of immaculately trimmed plumbago that one could jump over.

The Round Table Railway was started at a much later stage, and this exciting trip on miniature steam engines Queen Guinevere and King Arthur, as the trains were named, sped you past the duck pond, through an enchanted tunnel, over the bridge across the stream and then back to the tea garden for an ice cream or a "brown cow".

There was a giant aviary there too at one stage,a putt putt course, a small game park and of course the illuminated fountain which were all erected at a much later date.

This was the chosen venue for countless weddings, the beautiful park was the perfect backdrop for the all important wedding photographs.

Christmas was sheer magic, the lights, the piped carols, the fairy-tale atmosphere, mothers, fathers, children, grannies, grandpas, took to strolling around the exquisite tableaux, culminating in a walk up the poignant path to where the beautifully decorated Nativity Scene was under the giant Christmas tree.

Here at the fountain, on New Years Eve, celebratory crowds would gather to see the New Year in and more than one wag would find himself drenched from head to toe in an obligatory fountain ducking.

This was also a favourite place to find a bevy of "Ice Cream Boys" remember them? Their ungainly, extraordinarily heavy bicycles, without any sort of 3 speed mechanism, dragging behind them giant carts paced with smoking dry ice and full to the brim with tangerine mivvis and ice lollies, oh how I wish I could remember some of the famous names !!They would ring their bike bells furiously to attract attention, the red Lyons Maid Merry Men and the blue and white outfits of the Dairibord crew.

Of course one had to visit the playground with the seesaw, the jungle gyms the roundabouts and the swings on long long ropes that could propel you way up and excitingly high. Then there were the tanks and train engines that the kids could climb on to their hearts' content.

The gardens were the domain of one Mr Bob Hardman for many years, his heart would break if he could see his masterpiece now. Those beautiful purple petria bushes that lined up beside the fountain are all but totally dead now, although I thought I might have seen an hint of purple the other day with all the rain we have had this year.

My heart leapt with hope, and I knew then that nothing, nobody, ever, ever, ever will put out the flame that still burns in the hearts of many people, who will be willing to come back home at the drop of a hat, when peace and justice prevail once again in Zimbabwe.