Durban - Past and present residents of Clairwood will come together on Saturday for a family fun day/reunion at Clairwood High School.
The suburb has spawned many people who left because of the stagnation of the area and went on to become successful professionals, politicians, intellectuals, businessmen, entrepreneurs, musicians and playwrights.
Formed in 1880, Clairwood was once home to more than 40 000 people.
The suburb, however, has changed over the years from residential to industrial.
At first glance, Clairwood can easily pass as an industrial suburb, filled with trucks and workers. However, there are still well-developed homes with family lineage that goes back decades.
The land was initially agricultural. Many indentured labourers settled in the suburb, among other areas, when their tenure ended.
Clairwood also boasts a number of spiritual and recreational facilities where locals still meet to engage with each other.
While most have sold their homes to seek greener pastures, others are still holding on to their properties despite pressure by truck companies to buy their land.
In what was known as the battle of the bands, 31 groups from the area competed in the competition. Among the bands that performed at the shows at Andhra Hall in Bacus Road were the Blue Jewels, and Sam and the Latin Kings.
A reason to celebrate
Aptly themed “A trip down memory lane”, former resident Siva Naidoo wrote in a pamphlet to advertise the event that on match days throngs of football fans traversed every road leading to the South Coast grounds.
He writes: “Let us reminisce, the burn in your nostrils from the masala being roasted at Osman’s Spice works, the delicious cakes in trays waiting to be loaded on to the back of vans for delivery from Ali’s Bakery, young girls and boys with a pint of sterilised milk and loaf of bread from the tea rooms every afternoon, the cobbler hard at work repairing shoes at the shoe maker’s shop, Ghiddiahs, the ringing of the church bell every Sunday morning from the St Louis Parish, waking up to the sound of the azaan from the Flower Road mosque, our annual Muharram festival with drums and pagodas, people following from one road to another, the annual Thai Poosam Kavadies of the Clairwood Shree Soobramoniar and Jacobs Road temples, the black marketing of the tickets to Rani Theatre, where scores of people were left disappointed as tickets were snapped up by ticket mongers, a tipple after work at the Moon Hotel, and the ballroom dance floor filled to capacity on Saturday evenings.
“The blaring horns of the buses to attract the passengers, the latest eastern and western music from Kazula’s Record Bar, not forgetting our trendy outfits from the clothing stores.
“These are but a small reminder of days gone by. What a rich heritage and culture we grew up with. To celebrate this reunion on an annual basis just keeps us in touch with our past.”
Naidoo, 62, a committee member, grew up in Sirdar Road in a communal house with his parents and seven brothers and sisters. The house was also shared with his uncles, their wives and six of his cousins. He then moved to Houghton Road with his family. The reunion is close to his heart.
“The residents made this a beautiful suburb. For decades the city council had been aiming to drive people out of their homes. We walked through every road. Each road took us to a friend’s home. There was never a dull moment in the area.
“We played all codes of sports on the roads. I recall using a bucket as a substitute for wickets. Bricks and rocks marked the goal posts for soccer,” he said.
“The numbers have grown over the years from 1500 to 5000 people on our guest list. Many parents forked out money to build some of the infrastructure, schools, halls and religious sites in the area.
“They can tear us apart and move people out, but they won’t destroy our memories. We did not want to lose contact with people, but we lost the battle because people gave in. I think they broke Clairwood’s back when the city council sold the South Coast sports grounds, which is now occupied by Unitrans and previously Makro,” Naidoo adds.
The construction of the M4 freeway cut the area into two.
Naidoo and former resident Jackson Wolaganandan, 78, took the Daily News on a tour of some of the roads.
Wolaganandan was excited to share some of his stories of growing up in the area.
He knew which family lived in which home, pointing out the properties as we drove past, and with particularly fond memories of Ali’s and Golden Crust bakeries.
“The road was tree-lined, with many hedgerows and cherry trees acting as fencing. Some roads were not tarred. One important note is the colony of schools we had available to us; there were over a dozen catering for boys, girls and mixed racial groups. The little shelter for mourners at Clairwood cemetery also acted as a make-shift school,” he said.
Wolaganandan said they used the cemetery to conduct classes from 8am to noon. The principal he recalled was VS Pillay.
Wolaganandan attended Clairwood Infant School, Clairwood Junior School, Clairwood Secondary School and HS Dunn School.
“I saw the rise and fall of Clairwood. It is sad to see the houses being left in a neglected state while the majority of them have been destroyed,” he said.
Wolaganandan was stunned when he stopped at the home he once rented in Cherry Road.
The wood-and-iron home was in the process of being demolished. Only a few bricks remained.
Among the ruins he found an old record and the handle of a telephone.
“In terms of gangsters, there was much confusion because we had the youth hanging around store fronts and corners playing games or socialising. Then we had the soccer teams on each road that were very competitive. In the late 70s and 80s, names like the Young Blades and Sickles were associated with gang activities, but overall it was a peaceful area,” he said.
Wolaganandan’s face lit up when he met an old neighbour at the Govender family home two plots away.
A picture of Prathima Pretty Govender, 70, and her sister-in-law Nimmi Govender, 61, appeared in the Daily News in 1983 when the future of Clairwood seemed uncertain.
Residents were squaring up to the Durban City Council after the area was earmarked for industrial development.
The Govenders were one of the 8000 residents facing being uprooted.
Prathima Govender told the Daily News that time flew by and she was not sure how their homes were spared from being bulldozed or bought off by industry.
“We had faith and continued living here without fear. My memories and children’s memories are entrenched here. This was a vibrant community. We are looking forward to meeting some of our old friends,” she said of the reunion.
Jay Govender, 73, became emotional on meeting his old friend Wolaganandan.
Today, business plays a vital role in a new Clairwood.
Many of the properties have been cleared and trucking companies have moved in. Squatters have taken over some vacant land and abandoned homes.
All of this will be forgotten for a few hours during the celebrations at the reunion, for which an exciting array of entertainment is planned for young and old. The highlight of the evening will be a spectacular fireworks display.
* All past and present residents of Clairwood are invited to attend. Call Siva Naidoo at 084 566 7135.