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Memories of a Berea watering hole

The Berea Inn in 1985.

The Berea Inn in 1985.

Published May 21, 2022

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Durban - The old photo this week features what was once the Berea Inn, in Durban’s Berea Road (today King Dinizulu Road).

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The picture was published twice and carries a sticker of the company Skyline Studio, along with a six-digit telephone number. It was published on August 2, 1985, in the tonight section of the Daily news with the caption: “The Berea Inn ... the well-known Tudor style hotel in Berea Road has been sold to an investment company for close to R1 000 000”.

It was published again on January 29, 1987, saying that the new owners have taken over the complex and plan to pull in the customers with a more sophisticated operation. They are named as Thelma Goldberg and her son Colin, and also owned the St Georges Hotel and the Imperial Hotel, in Pietermaritzburg.

In “Facts About Durban”, local historian Gerald Buttigieg remembers the “Tudor-like building, which stood on the corner of Berea Road and Bulwer Road.

“Included in the hotel grounds was the iconic Inspan Garage, which was accessed through Berea Road. I still recall that the roof timbers of the forecourt were exposed and attached to these were boards, which indicated Cato Ridge xx miles, Camperdown xx miles, Pietermaritzburg xx miles, Howick xx miles, Mooi River xx miles, and so on – listing all the stops to Johannesburg,” states Buttigieg.

The site of the old Berea Inn, on the corner of Berea and Bulwer roads. Picture: Shelley Kjonstad African News Agency (ANA)

David Baird remembers a number of hotels going up Berea Road, including the Savoy Hotel and the Osborne Hotel.

“Further up Berea Road was the Berea Hotel. There were two men's bars (actually it was one bar with a dividing wall, for some obscure reason), and in the top bar, there was a little Irish barman called Steve. Steve had been a jockey (you couldn't make this up) and was a good source for racing tips. There was also a large ladies bar and a huge verandah, all of which I frequented because it was, in effect, my local,” said Baird.

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Alan Jackson remembers Sunday evening film shows at the Berea Hotel.

“The Berea Hotel had been a family favourite ever since early childhood, when I had been horrified to discover the existence of monkeygland sauce on the menu. The hotel was cheap and cheerful and, because it was located in the suburbs, seemed a good bet to our crew when we discovered beer and had to grapple with drinking and driving,” said Jackson.

On the Facebook page Durban Down Memory Lane, many reminisced about the hotel's entertainment offerings.

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Joanna Ferreira remembers it as “home six days a week … Playing pool, listening to music, dancing and, of course, drinking ... I was so sad when it closed its doors.”

Mark Robinson writes that he was selected to represent Natal at pool after a month long knockout tournament held at the hotel in the ‘80s.

“Skills learnt at the side bar against many skillful players,” he says. While Bridgette Woodiwiss writes: “Thought I was gonna have my first born on the dance floor, in the disco called Apples.”

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Today’s picture by Shelley Kjonstad shows another urban strip mall and car park.

The Independent on Saturday

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