Back to Tatler’s beginnings

A newspaper clipping of the article Charlotte Cohen wrote for the Tatlers 25th anniversary edition.

As the Tatler celebrates its 40th birthday, I find myself embarking on a memory adventure, paging through old issues published virtually from its birth in March 1979, when Thomson Publishing brought out the very first Southern Suburbs Tatler.

That same year, in November 1979, the late Roger Hulley, (then Progressive MP for Constantia) had purchased the Bergvliet Bulletin from Jack Friedman — who had retired some 30 years after having founded it. Renamed “The Constantiaberg Bulletin”, the two sole employees were Simone Williams as the editor and myself as sales representative.

A few months later, in March 1980, my position also included that of the Tatler when Mr Hulley bought it from Thomson Publishing (for, according to his son Nicolas, “the princely sum of R2 000”).

In its 20th Birthday Souvenir Edition in 1999, Nicolas also recorded: “The Tatler was born on the lounge floor of Roger and Vera Hulley’s home where the first editions were written and produced using — amongst other essentials – a pair of scissors and a pot of glue.”

And I can attest to that.

I’ve lived and worked in Claremont for over 50 years, and the shopping scene from 40 years ago — strolling leisurely down the Main Road, looking at shop windows, greeting people — bears no resemblance to what it is today.

Before Cavendish Square, shopping in Claremont primarily took place on the Main Road or roads leading off it.

Station Road, Grove Avenue, Warwick Street, Vineyard and Protea roads all formed part of the core of the Claremont shopping area.

Lanes running off the Main Road (i.e. Toffie Lane, Niekerks Lane, Draper Lane) which also supported shops and businesses, are no longer in existence.

A “printer’s devil”, always there to bug newspapers, raised its head when an advert placed in the Tatler — “We are in the lane opposite Grand Bazaars” — came out as “We are in the lake opposite Grand Bazaars”.

The original Scala Bioscope on the corner of Main and Bowwood roads, was for many years, “a landmark”.

Later rebuilt, with outer walls tiled in white, its name was changed to “The Protea Cinema”.

Seeing movies in a shopping mall was introduced to Claremont in 1992, when Cavendish Square was again refurbished and cinemas were built in the lower mall (where Pick * Pay now stands.)

The Claremont Club, a “men’s club” (although women were welcome as guests), owned by the Burke family, was originally in a house off Stanhope Road.

Some years later, the club moved into Stanhope Buildings across from the Protea cinema. The SA Snooker Championships were often held there. It finally closed its doors, after the passing of Terry Burke and shortly after the Tatler was born.

Although the Arderne Gardens, the Congregational Church, St Saviours Church and the Claremont Mosque on the Main Road still remain landmarks, Claremont’s once-familiar business landmarks have changed radically.

For many years, Ackermans stood at the corner of the Main Road and Brooke Street. The Health & Racquet Club later took over the premises — now where StoreAge is situated.

Going towards town, were Standard Bank, Braam’s Butchery, Triggs Jewellers (another well-known family business) with Foschini and Truworths on either corner of Grove Avenue, if I remember correctly. On the Main road, opposite Ackermans and also a landmark for many years, was the Claremont post office with the library upstairs.

The post office eventually did the rounds of Claremont’s shopping centres — The Atrium, Werdmuller Centre, Cavendish Square in 1992 and later to Stadium on Main.

However, the post office closed its doors there a while ago. Stadium on Main is currently undergoing renovation.

Nu-Pharmacy, owned by the late Benno Daniels (renowned for giving a sucker to every child and mom) stood at the corner of Main and Station roads.

But the heart of Claremont in 1979 centred around Henshilwoods, a third-generation departmental store opened in 1894 by Bryan Henshilwood’s grandfather.

As it stocked most of the local schools’ uniforms, everyone with school-going children would crowd into Henshilwoods at the start of the new school year.

A convenient parking area at the back of the store housed a small shed from where plants were sold.

People would also meet on the first floor, for tea (as was the custom in those days — not coffee).

Alongside Henshilwoods, was Mr Tuch’s Goedkoop Winkel; then came Clicks and Edgars. John Orrs was situated on the corner across Warwick Street (previously occupied by Pearces, which closed in 1969).

Boardmans, further up Warwick Street, formed a significant part of Claremont’s commercial centre for years. Vineyard Pharmacy, Atkins Shoes, Permanent Bank and the CNA (later the premises for Kentucky Fried Chicken) were across the Main Road from Henshilwoods. Further down, across the street from “the lanes”, was Grand Bazaars.

From the area surrounding the lower end of Vineyard Road, were some of the very first Tatler advertisers: Melody Inn, Treasure Island, Musica and the E.P. Building Society. Facing the car-park behind OK Bazaars, was furniture restorer Gerry Sweyd. Boytique, before moving to Cavendish Square, was in Werdmuller Centre (which, when built, was heralded as an “architectural marvel”).

Cavendish Square came into existence in September 1972, with Stuttafords its only department store.

The following year, Greatermans also opened a department store in Cavendish Square which, in the early 80s, made way for Garlicks.

When Woollies first came to Claremont, it occupied the premises where John Orr’s had previously been. After later moving to the other side of Henshilwoods, it finally moved into Cavendish Square — thereby forging Cavendish Square and The Link as being the shopping hub of Claremont. The Tatler published a five-page feature article after Cavendish Square was refurbished in 1984. One wonders how many of the numerous shops and businesses which were in it, are still remembered? Worth noting is that 35 years later, Audiolens, Trigg Jewellers, Truworths, Monson’s Shoes, Biggie Best Shop, Total Sports, Spilhaus Silverware, and Cavendish Instant Services are still part of Cavendish Square.

Many other centres were also featured in the Tatler. During 1982 and 1983, they included The Dean Street Arcade, Niekerks Lane and Grove-on-the-Square.

Restaurant advertising, reviews and overviews were also a regular feature of what appeared in The Tatler. One wonders how many of these eating places are still serving patrons – or if not, still remembered with relish?

Some of these names might stimulate our memory — as well as our appetite: Brads Grill, Ticino, Mikes Kitchen, Marigolds, Bourbon Street Grill, Bruegels, Penny Farthing, Neros, La Perla, Kaffeehaus, Hardrock Cafe, The Pizza Den, The Golden Spur, Farthings, Beefy’s Grill, Dolce Roma, 2nd Avenue Sea Food, Off Beat Grill, Once Upon a Stove, The Meating Place, Speakeasy Restaurant, Pinky’s Place, Wimpy Wynberg, The Gun & Spitroast Restaurant, Chelsea Arms, Chelsea Horse, Constantia Nek Restaurant and Alphen Constantia.

Aware of inflation, it is nonetheless unbelievable to think of the prices charged then: T-Bone, fried egg, salad and French fries – R4.95; three-course lunch – R7.85; and Spitroast Sunday lunch – R8.50.

Nothing stops progress, yet memory persists. Forty years ago, Claremont had not yet become a mini-metropolis or a hub for mini-bus-taxis. There were no pavement stalls and vendors. Even looking back over the past 15 years since the Tatler’s 25th Birthday, enormous changes have taken place. High-rise buildings and office blocks have replaced so many of the shops, departmental stores and supermarkets with which we were so familiar and which were part of our lives.

Where will we be on the Tatler’s 50th birthday? Who can even conjecture the changes that will take place? What will be new? What will be gone? But, undoubtedly, time and the Tatler – always an integral part of the southern suburbs community — will tell.