A century of Amanzimtoti history
IN the last 100 years, Amanzimtoti has completely transformed.
Most residents will remember about 50 years ago, when Prospecton was a swampy canefield, Beach Road was known as Admiralty Drive, there was a choice of three movie venues, as well as a drive-in, there were no parking metres, shops closed for lunch and Amanzimtoti telephone numbers consisted of four digits.
In 1902, K Swafton, a visitor to the seaside resort of Amanzimtoti, reported the area as having one hotel, four houses and 12 huts on the lagoon. A permanent establishment from 1915 was ‘Yankee Lodge’, the building where CoCoMo’s Restaurant at Doonside is now.
The pre-fabricated house was shipped from the USA. The owner of ‘Yankee Lodge’, an American citizen, was the first person to sell tinned products in South Africa.
Many people moved to Amanzimtoti in the 1930s because of the Great Depression. The cost of living was cheaper than in the cities.
Amanzimtoti then grew rapidly.
Toit was granted local administration in 1934, with a population of 774. The Amanzimtoti Health Board was the local administration authority at the time.
Entertainment for residents in the 1920s was provided mainly by the hotels.
At this time there was the World’s View Hotel, the old Karridene Hotel and a small hotel at Warner Beach. Holidaymakers used to stay at the campsites and caravan parks, situated near the beaches. There were no supermarkets and the holiday-makers used to bring all their supplies with them – including live chickens and sheep, as well as the kitchen sink.
The World’s View Hotel was famous for its dances. There was normally a live jazz band and people danced the Charleston well into the night. Transport was a problem though, as there were few cars, and people traveled mainly by steam train.
In the early 1920s, there was one train a day, the Port Shepstone Express, that passed through Toti on its way to and from Durban.
The 1930s saw the introduction of electricity (1938) and running water was introduced soon after (1949).
Before this, all houses had tanks on the roof filled with rain water. Everytime it rained, residents would do ‘tap runs’ to see how much more water there was in the tanks.
During droughts, the residents would collect drinking water from the pump at the Kynoch’s factory in Umbogintwini.
The water was ‘switched on’ by the first mayor of Amanzimtoti, Olaf Bjorseth. He prayed for a drought before this because residents were reluctant to pay for their water.
The Watkinses were one of the first families in the area. They built a house in the 1920s called ‘Pot Luck’, where Driftsands now stands.
The house had a bore-hole water pump drilled 30m down instead of rain water tanks. The water was pumped into water tanks underneath the verandah. In winter there was often no rain and people used to travel to ‘Pot Luck’ on donkey carts to collect water from the pump in 44 gallon drums. People did not want to have electricity, as they were recovering from the Great Depression and could not afford it. A vote was held in early 1938 and the introduction of electricity was passed by a small majority.
This was largely due to the efforts of Doonside’s Alan Allen, whose campaign on the benefits of electricity convinced those who voted for it. Overhead power lines were installed along Kingsway. The installers did not realise that the power lines could not be so close to the sea, due to the salt. These lines could be heard crackling all the time, resulting in frequent electricity interruptions. The lines were moved further inland soon after.
Freddy Woolridge, in his truck and gumboots, was employed to hose down the electricity lines. At this time, the Goodwill Hotel was a popular venue for local entertainment.