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A couple of years ago I bought a few old South African DVDs that were shot in the late 1950s and early 1960s. They were for research for a story on ‘Ducktails’ (1950s Johannesburg gang culture and where a lot of our current slang comes from). I eventually watched one of them the other night. While the movie itself was tame (It ain’t no SNATCH or GOODFELLAS), trying to identify the various streets, suburbs and landmarks were enough of a distraction from the non-story.
The year is 1960/61. It’s the end of the 1950s building boom around town and Hillbrow. The trams have also recently been discontinued. The action starts in Birnam, moves down to Rosebank, Zoo Lake, Braamfontein and then finishes up around the streets of Joubert Park and the Lutheran Church on Twist Street (where the movie actually started – at a wedding).
One of sets included an underground rock ‘n roll club. On one wall was painted ‘I love Elvis’. On another was ‘Boone is ‘n square’ presumably referring to the more wholesome and uncool Pat Boone from the same era.
In the film, it looked like the bus route road was in the vicinity of the zoo or Zoo Lake.
This corner today is the building 160 Jan Smuts. It used to be open street parking bays with shops further back. On the corner was Thrupps as well as a jeweler called Prissel & Kessell (spelling may be incorrect)
The Rosebank commercial area has changed many times from it’s original development in the late 1940s. Shopping centres and mews replaced the street shops in the 70s and 80s and those have mostly been updated again recently with all the Gautrain developments.
Grosvenor Motors was a Ford dealership and possibly even a Rolls Royce/Bentley agent. I can’t work out where it was but it appears to have been on Oxford Road. It may have also been on Jan Smuts Avenue close to where the Mail & Guardian is today (although the car would be traveling in the wrong direction based on the film chase scene)
This old house may be the back of the parsonage connected to the church. It stood on the corner of Twist and Kapteijn Streets
Basie – directed by Gordon Vorster starring Ian Strauss, Vivki Vosloo and Piet Bezuidenhout Cat: MNETDVD261 purchased from http://www.takealot.com
The second part of the church piece is proving to be a massive undertaking and it now covers around 160 buildings. I’ve been working on it since January 2016 but getting information is proving difficult. As such, I’ll be posting what I have in the coming weeks and will update when I get new information.