When it cost R263 to sail on honeymoon to London and back

Remember the lavender-hulled mailships which called into East London twice weekly on their way to and from their home base in Southampton?

Do you remember the days when droves of young South Africans clambered aboard those old Union Castle ships for a never-to-be-forgotten adventure to Europe and the continent?

Many a ship-board romance blossomed into marriage or simply remained a wonderful memory on those long ago sea trips.

It was a local tradition in those days for East Londoners to gather on the small pier off Orient Beach on a Sunday afternoon to watch these magnificent liners as they sailed majestically out of the harbour.

The slipway was so narrow it seemed you could reach out and touch the ship as it passed by.

Everyone on the pier waved farewell to the passengers at the deck rails high above and they waved back, and as the ship reached open water, it would emit three loud blasts on its fog-horn in a farewell gesture which could be heard all over the city.

What brought this to mind in this time of enforced and necessary lockdown was a sentimental chat I had with an old friend recently who had also experienced one of these carefree experiences – pre-marital, pre-kids, pre-responsibility and pretty much pre everything modern youngsters have going for them today.

We sighed deeply and wept wistfully into our libations as we recalled the swinging London of yesteryear and the vibrant but now defunct Overseas Visitors Club in Earl’s Court where young people of our age made a bee-line for from all over the world.

It was certainly cheap and cheerful!

And speaking of value for money, several years ago a friend who lives in one of the retirement complexes where I am, showed me an old Sabena Airlines sea/air travel ticket from way back in 1962.

It was one of a souvenir pair which took her and her husband to England on honeymoon on the Pendennis Castle and back by air from London to East London for the princely sum of – wait for it – R263.70 each!

A knowledgeable travel consultant tells me that to do roughly the same trip today would cost upwards of R50,000.

And how about this: in front of me as I write is the evening menu for the Letaba Lodge in the Kruger Park, dated June 6 1973.

Don’t peek now, but prepare to be gob-smacked when you see the cost of this lap-up meal at the foot of this week’s column:

  • Minestrone soup
  • Grilled fish and tomato
  • Cottage pie
  • Beef a la Mode and vegetables in season
  • Queen’s Pudding
  • Cheese and biscuits
  • Tea and coffee served in the lounge

Staying with today’s theme, I recently came across a 1968 Daily Dispatch containing adverts with prices which would make older East Londoners wallow in nostalgia and register utter disbelief in younger folk.

In that particular Saturday issue, Katz and Rabinowitz, a bottle store in Commissioner Street, was offering Oude Meester brandy at R1.70 a bottle and Johnnie Walker whisky at R3.03!

The Carlton Hotel on the Quigney requested the pleasure of your company for a full-on Sunday luncheon for R1 per person, while the Bamboo Room (remember that popular nightspot?) at the Marine Hotel that evening featured Barry Snow on the Yamaha organ, and down at the Buffalo Pass Resort (perfectly safe in those days), you could swing with the “Starliners” for R1 a double ticket – collar and tie required, though!

But the posh place to be in those days was the Windsor Bowl at the Windsor Hotel, reputed to have the finest dance floor in town.

And on that Saturday evening 52 years ago, elegantly dressed couples dined and danced the night away to the music of “The Syndicate”. Another well-known local band waiting to entertain, provided you booked early enough, were the “Geraldo Trio” at the Restaurant Mount Nelson.

And over in King William’s Town, had you felt like popping over, you could have caught the “King’s Men” at the Hotel Central.

For the not-so-energetic, a pleasant couple of hours could be had at the Weavers Hotel, which featured the vivacious Carolyn Batte on the organ.

And “Mr Will” at Vogue Hairstylists, master hairdresser from Cologne (booking essential) was on hand to make sure you looked “a million bucks” for your special evening.

And for the men, you could take your suit or tux to the Dry Cleaning Centre at 9.30am and get it back by midday!

No shortage then for entertainment in and around East London at the weekend in those long-gone pre-television (and cellphone) days.

And finally, Bradlows Stores in Oxford Street were inviting young women to invest in an imbuia linen kist complete with two pairs of seven-year guaranteed double sheets, six pillow cases, two double pastel shade blankets, two foam pillows, one double floral quilted bedspread, a set of a table cloth with six serviettes together with a set of attractive towels.

All for R95 up front or R6 a month!

Now, about that meal at Letaba Lodge.

Could you guess the price?

It was an astonishing R1.50!

Oh the memories . . .

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