Gladstone Street Merchants

After Victoria Street, probably the most important business street in Dundee was Gladstone Street, between Beaconsfield Street and McKenzie Street. The first business in that section, right on the corner of Beaconsfield Street, was F. William’s “Dundee Model Bakery” – a bakery and tea room – owned by the Williams family’ who lived next door (their daughter, whose name I cannot now recall – was it Margaret?, was one of my Sunday School teachers). On Sundays, when the bakery was officially closed, the residents of the town were nevertheless able to obtain their bread supplies by picking up fresh baked loaves at the employee’s entrance round the back of the bakery – and how good that crisp, hot bread tasted! On the opposite corner of Beaconsfield Street was Boswell’s grocery store and general dealer, in a two storey building which once (before World War 2) housed Atwell’s Theatre. The principals of Boswells were Senator H. B. “Robbie” Robertson, “Scotty” Auld, and David Bogle. One of the stalwarts of the grocery department was Mrs. Lombard, who had a very attractive daughter, Elna.

Any comment about the intersection of Gladstone and Beaconsfield streets (and Boundary Road) would be incomplete without mention of the traffic island in that intersection – the so called “Jasco’s Island”. The island was erected in the 60’s to relieve traffic confusion in the intersection, and the finishing touch in the construction of the island was the installation of a street light in the middle of the island. It fell to Jonathan “Jasco” Dinkelman – a town electrician – to erect the light, which he successfully accomplished. However on his way back from the Royal Hotel bar on his motorcycle, on the evening of the day he had erected the light, and having no doubt imbibed one too many of his beloved rum and cokes, Jasco rode right over the island, taking out the light he had so painstakingly erected earlier in the day! From then on, our generation knew the island as “Jasco’s Island!”

Returning to the businesses on the street, next to Boswells was a single storey, face brick warehouse style building which for a time was occupied by the Provincial Library Services, under the direction of Mr. Du Toit. That building ultimately became the offices of Flooring and Decorating Contractors and – next door – Dundee Home Builders – both subsidiaries of Johnstone and Keith. Next after that building was the double storied offices of Johnstone and Keith, with its vehicle parking and builder’s yard behind, and with its paint and glass and plumbing and carpentry “shops” extending through to both Beaconsfield Street (between the Presbyterian Church and the Masonic Hall) and King Edward Street (again next to the Presbyterian Church). When my father joined the firm in the early 50’s its principals were Jimmy Keith (nephew of the founder), “Father” Baxter, and Jimmy Douglas. In the late 50’s and 60’s the principals became Hylton Smith, George Clark, and Bert Clarke, with Joyce Smith as the company secretary. Later on Lukas DeWaal became General Manager of the retail business, and Heinz Wierman become the General Manager of Flooring and Decorating Contractors. Jimmy Keith was the father of Hedley Keith, who played cricket for South Africa in the 50’s, on teams that included such greats as Hugh Tayfield, Jackie McGlew, and Roy MacLean. “Father” Baxter was the father of Elvira Coffey and Margaret Wood, a long time director, and ran the paint shop. Phillip Pugin ran the plumbing shop before leaving to start his own plumbing business, and Jock DeWaal ended up in charge of the carpentry shop. Others who worked at the firm were Vernon Whysall (husband of Esme’, and father of Robert, Paul and Neil), Kurt Rossman, who started work at “J&K” as a painter, then moved into retail sales, and Louis Steenkamp, who also worked for many years in retail sales and was the proud owner of two MG TCs! One of the characters of the firm was office messenger and tea maker Gideon, a Zulu man in his late 80’s who refused to stop work, and claimed his right to continued employment on the grounds that he was hired by founder Johnstone himself! His only duties in his latter years were to make and deliver tea, which he did very, very slowly! Another character was the always impeccably dressed Zacariah Moloi, who served multiple roles as PR man, interpreter, and salesman.

Next to J&K was Harvey and Retallack, millers and general dealers, operated by Bill Thomas – a prominent local “ham” radio enthusiast, and father of well known motoring journalist Harvey Thomas (known to us kids who were younger than him as “boogamena”). After than came Charlie Mackay’s insurance brokerage and estate agent business, in which he was assisted by a Miss Hastie. Next door to that was the law firm office of Wynne & Wynne, the principal of which was Aubrey Wynne, father of Yvonne Durham. After Aubrey Wynne’s retirement the practice was taken over by Wulf Hellberg, and it became Hellberg & van Rensburg. After that was B.J. Motors, a Ford dealership owned by – among others – Donald McHardy and Denis Smith. This business was managed, successively, by Eric Haines (mayor of the town from 1958 to 1961, and father of Natal rugby player Glyn “Thug” Haines), Roelf Verster, and Sid Stuart. Next was a two storey building (“Ackworth Building”) which had a number of offices, the primary one being Tom Worthington’s law firm, Acutt & Worthington. Other attorneys who were at some or other time partners of that firm were “Bunny” Mallet, Jack McAlister, and Gert Hanekom.

Opposite all of the businesses described above was the Methodist Church and church hall, which was rebuilt during the time that Rev. Jackson-Smith was the minister.

On the other side of the lane through to King Edward Street that ran alongside Ackworth Building was a building made up of two or three stores. For a time one of those was occupied by Tommy Wood’s electrical contracting business, Durwood Electrical. I also seem to recall that former NPA traffic cop Adams at one time had a fish and chip shop in that vicinity. Later the part of the building closest to the lane was modified to become Denis Smith’s law office of Smith, Lyon & Thorrold – later to become Smith and Rohrs, after Rupert Rohrs became a partner of the firm. With those alterations the premises at the Victoria Street end of the building became Corner Service Station’s service bay. On the corner of Gladstone and Victoria Street was Denham Building including the Corner Service Station – discussed in the feature on Victoria Street businesses.

Opposite the businesses described in the preceding paragraph were a number of small premises. Closest to the Methodist Church was Mr. Dinkelman’s office, from which I believe that he provided insurance services (Mr. Dinkelman was the father of Jasco, and an enthusiastic member of the bowling club). Next came the United Party office – which was run by stalwarts such as Bess Botha and then “Pikkie” Stanbury, assisted by organizers Vause Raw, Frank Martin, Bertie Maritz, and Major DeVilliers, and supported by loyalists such as Babs Brink, my mother Daphne Clark, Sheila Henderson, and a bunch of other people who were, quite simply, the salt of the earth. While I seem to be missing out at least one business in between (maybe Ben Zan Florist, for a time), the next business that I can recall was Home Industries – a retail store where people with talents from baking to sewing and all sorts of other home industries could sell their wares. This was the centre of wonderful treats, especially fudge, koeksusters, and other decadent delights. Naomi Martin of Malonjeni farm (on the Nqutu road) – wife of Jack and mother of Michael – was one of the stalwarts of this business. After that was the National Party office – definitely the “enemy” from the perspective of the occupants of the United Party office down the street. Prominent activists operating from that office were Senator H. B. Klopper, Willie Maree, M.P., Theo Gerdener, M.P.C. and later Administrator of Natal, and Gert Hanekom. Then on the corner of Victoria Street was the Standard Bank building.

Crossing over Victoria Street, past the Standard and Barclay’s Bank buildings discussed in the section on Victoria Street merchants, the first business was Scannel’s fish and chip and shoe repair shop (yes, he had two businesses with rather different target markets, in neighbouring shops!). Then followed another store or two which I cannot now recall. Next was the face brick office building shared by land surveyors H.S.K Simpson and Partners (to the left of the entrance) and accountants Greenhough and McHardy (where I worked my early university holidays as an audit clerk) to the right of the entrance.  Ken Simpson and James Teversham were the partners in H.S.K. Simpson and Partners.  Donald McHardy (mayor of the town in 1950-1951, and prominent in the town’s Roman Catholic Community) and Colin Jones were the partners in Greenough & McHardy, which later changed its name to Greenhough, McHardy & Jones.  After that came the Dundee Club, prominent members of which were “Jock” Catterall, Bert Clarke, and Charles Shaw. Next was what was then a vacant lot, but is now a supermarket. And extending through to the corner of McKenzie Street was Swanee’s Garage, agents for Chrysler, Plymouth, DeSoto and Austin cars. Later this business became Dumain Motors- a Peugeot dealer and filling station – and was managed by Hugh Cameron.

Crossing Gladstone Street, and heading back towards Victoria Street (past the electricity substation on the corner of McKenzie Street), the first business on the right was Dundee Motors, the Chevrolet and Opel dealer. Harry Page – a pilot in World War 1, and father of “Toby” Page – was the manager of that business for many years. He sold my father his first ever new car – a 1955 Chevrolet Two Twenty, costing £1,080! Next came the elegant Moslem Mosque, followed by the local cinema – rejoicing in the name of “Dundee Theatre,” on the corner of Norenius Lane. Down the lane was Albert Norenius’ H. Albert & Co., printers and stationers, and the publishers of the Northern Natal Courier (which had previously operated from premises on Victoria Street). Schoolteacher Joan Evens was a frequent contributor to that newspaper, writing (anonymously) the “Town Topics and General” for thirty three years. And, during my time in the town, Albert Roffey was the well known editor of the paper. The next business on Gladstone Street after crossing Norenius Lane was the original location of Norman Henderson’s barber shop (later Mr. Gregerson’s auto parts store). And on the corner was what was A. L. Williams & Co. outfitters - which became Woolfsons men's outfitters in the early 1950's, and was managed by Ernie Richards.

Returning to where we started, i.e. Williams Bakery, but traveling in the opposite direction, and now in Boundary Road, the rest of the street was residential. After the Williams family home were the homes of the Shilton and Goodes families – the latter being the owners of the Central Tea Room on Victoria Street. Next was the home of widow Mrs. Castle and her sister – both stalwart supporters of the St. James Anglican Church, which occupied the entire block on the opposite side of the street. British general Penn Symons – commander of the British Army at the Battle of Talana Hill, where he was killed in action – is buried in the churchyard. In the 50’s the vicarage stood where the new hall now stands, and the original church building on the Gray Street corner served as the church hall. Vicar Tomes was for many years the minister of that church, and when he retired his successor – Father Arthur Matthews – ruffled a few feathers by making some necessary improvements in the fabric and organization of the church. One of these improvements was to paint the portions of the exterior that up to then consisted of unpainted cement plaster in a rippled style. Father Hughes decided that those portions of the church should be painted light green – rather radical for the conservative parishioners, but the effect was actually quite pleasing. Not to Mrs. Castle, however, as she proclaimed in her strong regional English accent that after the painting the church “looked like the bloody Taj Mahal!” Another minister who served at the church in the 50’s and 60’s was Colin Peattie, who eventually retired after being the priest at the Anglican Church in Umhlali.

Beyond Mrs. Castle’s home were a few more residences whose occupants I can no longer recall (one may have been Johnny Fulton’s home). On the corner of Gray Street was the house occupied as the Presbyterian Church manse. One of its occupants was Rev. Johan Kromberg, an Afrikaner whose father was formerly a minister of the Dutch Reformed Church, and who left the church in protest against its conduct in relation to South Africa’s participation in World War 2 on the side of the Allies (for example, by refusing to solemnize the marriages of church members who wore military uniforms). Later a subsequent Presbyterian minister, Rev. Mallinson, occupied the home.

Continuing along Boundary Road, to the opposite side of Gray Street, the corner house was Miss Marshall’s boarding house. Miss. Marshall accommodated a number of children who attended the junior school, mainly children of farmers in the district. The next house in the street that I can remember was about halfway down the block, which was the home of Charles Shaw, Mayor of Dundee in 1967. The large house on the corner of Union Street – which extended back to Willson Street – was the home of Frank Ivins and family (including my contemporary, Everard, Frank’s son). Opposite where Boundary Road ends at Union Street was the Dundee Tennis Club, and beyond that the Scout Huts from which Dundee’s boy scout and cub troops operated.

On the opposite corner of Union Street was the large, double storied home of the Lloyd family. Mervyn Lloyd was a local doctor and mayor (from 1961 to 1965), and he lived with his wife Peggy and children David, Elwyn, and Mervyn junior. Dr. Lloyd’s father Alden was also a doctor and former mayor of the town (in 1927). Dr. Mervyn Lloyd was also a Cambridge man, and his two eldest sons also attended that university – the youngest son went to Sandhurst Military Academy, I believe, and was a professional soldier. Unfortunately I cannot now remember the names of any of the other residents in the block on that side of the street.

**     See the tribute to Joan Evans in the Dundee High School Centenary newspaper (1884-1984), at page 2.  In addition to being a lengendary English teacher at the high school, Joan was also a talented painter - her watercolour of 'nDumeni and little 'nDumeni, which was a wedding gift, still hangs proudly in our home!  The painting is reproduced in the Photo Gallery.