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Saturday, August 13, 2022

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A landmark from when Hillcrest was still a holiday resort

Christians Supermarket in Hillcrest in the 1970s.

Christians Supermarket in Hillcrest in the 1970s.

Published Aug 6, 2022

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The old picture this week is from a Facebook post by Terence Michael Louw on the group Durban Down Memory Lane and features what was an institution in Hillcrest: Christians Supermarket and department store.

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Situated at the main intersection in Hillcrest on the corner of Old Main Road and Inanda Road, it was one of only two shopping centres in the rural village where, in the 70s, people still rode horses through the village and there were no traffic lights. Today the village boasts kilometres of strip malls along Old Main Road, with many of its original trees felled to cater for the volumes of traffic.

Christians Village at the corner of Old Main Road and Inanda Road Hillcrest today. | Shelley Kjonstad African News Agency (ANA)

The picture, probably taken in the 70s, shows the supermarket section of Christians off Inanda Road, with steps up to the ladies, gents and children’s clothing sections, and a drapers department selling fabric in a building which wrapped around the corner and faced the Old Main Road. Underneath the store was a Wimpy Bar.

The Independent on Saturday will feature three corners of this Intersection over the next few weeks.

According to a pamphlet outlining the history of Hillcrest, the store was founded in 1908 by Willie Christian’s uncle as SG Wood’s Main Road Supply Store. Across the street there was a small brick post office. Hillcrest was at that time outgrowing its reputation as a holiday resort and was becoming a place of permanent residence for many.

There is also a record of an Ada Christian from the same family opening a trading store in Waterfall in 1900.

On the Facebook post, Philip Bragg tells how his grandfather Ted Bush and Ken Page owned Christians in the late 50s and early 60s. “Ken Page’s house was behind the store roughly where Mugg and Bean is now. A little known fact is that the doors of Mugg and Bean are the original doors of Christians,” he writes.

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Many readers remember being greeted by Ken or Alice Page as they entered the shop.

Veronika Wylie remembers the shop’s first owner, a Mrs Christian, presumably Ada. “The bread and papers were left in a cubbyhole for the people travelling through from Durban after 5pm, what trust. My sister used to work there when she was 17. Mr Grant was the butcher. (Grant’s butchery would later open on the opposite corner, behind which was the Hillcrest Hotel.)”

Another memory for many was being fitted out for school uniforms at the shop. Growing up in Hillcrest I remember the annual trip to try on a new blazer and school shoes, after which mom would treat us to a banana split at the Wimpy which was run by our neighbour Aubrey Stone.

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In 2004 the centre was completely overhauled to become Christians Village with Pick n Pay as the anchor tenant, as Shelley Kjonstad’s pictures show today.

The Independent on Saturday

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