Remember When

      13/3/2024       Next-->

Here are a few additional Remember When "oddments" pertaining to yesteryear's Bulawayo which may be recalled, especially by the more mature Morning Mirror readers:

The Harare/Bulawayo railway line was routed behind Eveline High School's Langdon House and across 4th Avenue extension. The track then passed between the National Museum and the Centenary Park and after crossing Selborne Avenue, made its way behind Johnson House (which is now part of the Technical College complex ). It then crossed the 12th Avenue extension and curved towards Bulawayo's main railway station across a fourth road close to the present intersection of the Burnside and Matopos roads. A railway bridge also spanned the Matsheumshlope River. This bridge can still be seen together with, in some places, the path of the original railway line. It may be relevant to mention that at one time Bulawayo boasted the longest platforms in Africa.
As can be expected in spite of flashing red warning lights (and in later years - protection booms) the four road crossings were a serious hazard especially during peak traffic hours.

Still on the railway - we cherish the days when school and club sporting teams (business folk) were able to rely on the railways to convey their teams overnight to Harare (Salisbury) in good time for the following days activities - and back again in time for work . Punctuality was part of the service. Many of us preferred to travel by train to holiday destinations in South Africa such as Durban and Cape Town - an opportunity for real relaxation.

Before the advent of television the Rhodesia Broadcasting Corporation kept families huddled around their radios at night listening to after dinner serials of the likes 'Journey into Space' and other thrillers.

RBC announcer Lesley Sullivan will always be remembered for his light hearted banter - it was common place for drivers to be seen happily grinning and waving at each other on their way to work in the morning after being enticed to do exactly that by Lesley over their car radios. He would then he would present his famous weather report - 'High winds, followed by high skirts followed by me'.

Initially RTV aired their programs in black and white, from 5.30 pm until about 10.30 pm. each evening's. Among the host of personalities names like Reg Salisbury, Martin Lee, Sonia Hattin, Wooty and James Thrush come to mind.

An unforgettable incident which astonished Bulawayo viewers was when a compere (who will remain nameless) reported for duty at the Montrose studios in a somewhat inebriated state. As the quiz program progressed things became more embarrassing until eventually the producer terminated the show. The following morning RTV published an apology in the Bulawayo Chronicle explaining that the presenter was 'in need of oxygen'. In response a well supported Main Street pub placed a small oxygen cylinder for all to see on the counter complete with a sign 'In case of need' placed underneath.

During the mid 1940's Bulawayans were able to enjoy two magnificent recreation attractions. 'Lakeside', situated on the outskirts of the city opposite the present day Hotel Rio included a tearoom, playground for children complete with swings and a large merry-go-round. Visitors could also participate in oboating - canoes and rowing boats were on hand for hire.

The second attraction was in the municipal park. Every Sunday afternoon a band (possibly from the BSAP or Army) performed on a band- stand which was situated not very far from the present day fountain. The fountain was based on a sizeable fish
pond complete with water lilies and well stocked with gold fish. Visitors were able to enjoy the music and relax on the lawns among the amazingly attractive floral displays

How many Morning Mirror readers can recall the Fire Station being housed exactly where the where the current charge office operates from in the main ZRP Police station building The premises originally consisted of a pair of garages In which were parked a pair of gleaming appliances at the ready for call out. Later while the present Famona Fire Station was being built, the fire engines and ambulances were relocated as a temporary measure to sheds in the City Hall Car park.

Gifford High School (the then Technical School) had classrooms at three different centres. Often was the case that morning lessons for a particular level were conducted at the Rhodes Street branch, followed by a session at Russell House opposite the Show grounds. A final move was made to the workshops shared with the Technical College in the suburbs 12th Avenue extension where the last lessons of the day were conducted.

Danny Kaye (a famous and well loved comedian) was invited to appear in Bulawayo during the mid 1950's. A small crowd of fans assembled to welcome him at Kumalo Airport. As the flight disembarked (from a SAA Skymaster DC4) there was an obvious difficulty in recognizing Danny when on atleast three occasions unsuspecting 'look alike' visitors were greeted with a rousing cheer as they climbed down the stairs. Each time, the cheers quickly died down - a cause for great embarrassment for all concerned. When he finally exited as one of the last passengers the unfortunate comedian's arrival was without any form of greeting as most of the disgruntled fans had left having given up their hopes of seeing the famous star.

Very few cities could boast an " international" airport ten minutes drive from the centre of town. Kumalo offered a searchlight, the beam of which could often be seen sweeping the Bulawayo night sky. This provided an accurate fix for night arrivals at the airfield. Bulawayo was never left out of aviation developments. Visits of our faster than sound Spitfires and Vampire jet aircraft were events. (A thunderstorm delayed the departure of one of the Vampires after water found its way into the cockpit.

Cloud Seeding took place almost every wet season in later years in order to enhance rainfall especially in catchment areas. Rain rockets were even sold to farmers who were able to seed clouds over their own properties although often was the case that neighbouring farmers won the day!

The Bulawayo Chronicle was delivered at 5.00 am to householders who were keen to keep up with hatches, matches and despatches. Also the finest platform was provvded for trading in real estate, motor vehicles, furniture and the likes. Milk was also delivered on a door to door basis. An important Christmas Day tradition was the handing out of well deserved 'Christmas boxes' to the workers responsible for maintaining these unique services over the year.

A book could easily be written on the many wonderful and interesting memories held by the older generations of our city. I will be most grateful for any material pertaining to Kumalo aerodrome in its later years - post 1939-1945 war. Kumalo Aerodrome is, on its own, the source of material on for such a book. To conclude my collection of stories - I remember an article which appeared in The Chronicle. The amusing headline (which related to an incident which could have easily resulted in a more serious outcome) was under the heading "Dove collides with dove". On this occasion a twin engined de Havilland Dove aircraft collided with a bird of the feathered kind which was also called a Dove!

Tony Bancroft (Whatsapp/cell: 263 777809158)



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