Views of Johannesburg from 1961 from the film Basie

A couple of years ago I bough 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 was 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.

Corlett Drive looking up toward Wanderers

Corlett Drive looking up toward Wanderers

Corlett looking west

Corlett looking west. Those shops behind him are all gone

Old Sunningdales Hotel in Corlett Drive looking very different

Old Sunningdales Hotel in Corlett Drive looking very different

Looking down Corlett Drive toward Birnam

Looking down Corlett Drive toward Birnam

Corlett looking east

Corlett Drive looking east

Old bus

Old bus

In the film, it looked like the bus route road was in the vicinity of the zoo or Zoo Lake.

The Craighall bus

The Craighall bus

Jan Smuts Avenue looking toward Tyrwhitt Ave toward the parking lot where Thrums used to be

Jan Smuts Avenue looking toward Tyrwhitt Ave toward the parking lot where Thrupps used to be.

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)

Looking toward Jan Smuts Ave. Standard Bank HQ is on the left and M&G on the right today

Looking toward Jan Smuts Ave.

Jan Smuts and Tyrwhitt today

Jan Smuts and Tyrwhitt today

Corner of Jan Smuts and 7th showing the house where M&G now stands

Corner of Jan Smuts and 7th showing the house where Mail & Guardian building now stands

Looking down Tyrwhitt Avenue from close to the old Rosebank Hotel

Looking down Tyrwhitt Avenue near the old Rosebank Hotel

Oxford Corner - possibly the corner of Oxford and Tyrwhitt

Oxford Corner – possibly the corner of Oxford and Tyrwhitt

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.

Oxford Road looking north close to Bolton Road

Oxford Road looking north close to Bolton Road

Grovenor Motors in Rosebank

Grosvenor Motors in Rosebank

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)

Little dam wall at Zoo Lake

Little dam wall at Zoo Lake

Zoo Lake road leading up to the swimming pool

Zoo Lake road leading up to the swimming pool

Top of Jan Smuts at WITS looking north

Top of Jan Smuts at WITS looking north

Top of Jan Smuts looking toward Braamfontein

Top of Jan Smuts looking toward Braamfontein

Braamfontein from the top of Jan Smuts

Braamfontein from the top of Jan Smuts

Some building form the old LION Brewery on the top of Jan Smuts across from WITS

Some buildings and houses from the old LION Brewery on the top of Jan Smuts across from WITS

Another shot from the top of Jan smuts showing more buildings on the left in Braamfontein

Another shot from the top of Jan smuts showing more buildings on the left in Braamfontein

Wolmarans Street at Joubert Park looking toward King George Street

Wolmarans Street at Joubert Park looking west toward King George Street

Wolmarans Street today. Note the same white bricks on the building on the right

Wolmarans Street today. Note the same white bricks on the building on the right

Looking south down Twist Street on the corner of Wolmarans Street

Looking south down Twist Street on the corner of Wolmarans Street

Johannesburg Art Gallery Twist Street entrance

Johannesburg Art Gallery Twist Street entrance

St. George's church seen from the Twist Street entrance of the gallery where Cinema/Thunderdome building is today

St. George’s church seen from the Twist Street entrance of the gallery where Cinema/Thunderdome building is today

View across the tracks today

View across the tracks today

King George Street next to Joubert Park

King George Street next to Joubert Park

Twist Street near Lutheran Church showing old tram tracks

Twist Street near Lutheran Church showing old tram tracks

Looking north toward Hillbrow from close to Joubert Park. Street unknown

Looking north toward Hillbrow from close to Joubert Park. Street unknown

Old house near the Lutheran Church Twist Street

Old house near the Lutheran Church Twist Street

This old house may be the back of the parsonage connected to the church. It stood on the corner of Twist and Kapteijn Streets

Claim Street looking north near the 7th Day Adventist church

Claim Street looking north near the 7th Day Adventist church

Claim street looking north

Claim street looking north

Lutheran church Twist Street

Lutheran church Twist Street

Lutheran church

Lutheran church

 

Reference:

Basie – directed by Gordon Vorster starring Ian Strauss, Vivki Vosloo and Piet Bezuidenhout Cat: MNETDVD261 purchased from http://www.takealot.com

Update:

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.

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This entry was published on August 14, 2016 at 8:44 pm. It’s filed under Johannesburg and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

28 thoughts on “Views of Johannesburg from 1961 from the film Basie

  1. Marcia Rykov on said:

    Dear Marc, The Johannesburg views of the 50’s and 1960’s are incredible! Thanks so very much for all your hard work of bringing back many wonderful years and unforgettable memories of Hillbrow and surrounding suburbs. Does anyone have pictures of Kotze street in the early 1960’s before that huge shopping center was built? Thanks again Marc, looking forward to your next post.

  2. This is brilliant. Thank you

  3. Awesome pics most of them taken before I was born in 1967 but very little changed in the years until I remember visiting Rosebank as a young child in the early 70s the theatre where the new Standard Bank building is now cnr Oxford and Bolton also the Thrupps area close to 160 Jan Smuts also had a movie theatre (as did Parkview and Greenside)

  4. Ruth Eickhoff, Hamburg, Northern Germany on said:

    Many thanks and a big virtual ((hug)) for all these treasures….dear Mark!! Lived in Joeys with my family from 1975 – 1986 ( Edenvale, Randburg, Sandton )

  5. Lois Harley on said:

    Photos certainly brought back lots of memories of being a youngster in Jhb. And the cars! Thank you so much Marc for your wonderful work.

  6. Lorna du Preez on said:

    Your effort to give us these memories is greatly appreciated. I am a real oldie born in 1935 – I cannot tell you how many memories these pictures revived. Heartfelt thanks.

  7. Jack Wade on said:

    Great stuff, Marc. You are performing an invaluable service both to nostalgics and serious historians.

  8. Jack Wade on said:

    A small hare.

  9. Fred Craandyk on said:

    Always nice to see views of old Johannesburg, taken in those days when I was a youngster in that once great city.

  10. Grosvenor Motors Rosebank, Ford show rooms on Oxford Rd and work shops and petrol station were on the back side of the show rooms on Baker Square?, facing the parking lot. Bought a Ford Ranchero V8 there in 1969.

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Thanks Dean! It makes sense. What is throwing me is that I think they shot the car going in a different direction. In the film, they should be travelling south towards town down Oxford, but this shot was done in the other direction (I think…) Anyway, I think you’ve provided the basic area!

      • Fred Craandyk on said:

        *Thanks ever so much for those old scenes of our beloved city. Apparently much of it it has now gone to ruins. Fred*

    • I worked at the Belfast in Rosebank as a student on Saturday mornings and School holidays in 1968/9/70. I remember getting R2.20 for Saturday 8.00- !.00. There was a tea room in Twyrette ave at the staff entrance that sold Toasted cheese samies fo 7and a half cents. A packet of Texan and matches was 20cents. Petrol 9cents a litre and a beer in the Oxford hotel was 18cents. Ian

    • Greg vermaak on said:

      The rolls Royce garage was pretty much where the Goodman gallery is now. It was initially at I elide street I understand

  11. Good afternoon, Thank you for your reply! Let me go into a little more detail re, the Ford dealership showrooms on Oxford rd. The car is not on Oxford Rd hence it is travelling south it is on the service road behind the shops / showroom, the camera man has his back to Baker Str, Craddock ave is the next road down Baker street below the car park, the netball court you can see in the picture was used by the local schools, look across the court and you will see a solid wall which is the back or the old cinema on Oxford Rd. Look above the cinama back wall and you can just see the to of one of the Phoenix palms in Oxford Rd. To the left of the camera was the open car park under Jacaranda trees. The Mobil sign Pegasus is in front of the Ford work shops in the service road. The RR show room was down Tyrwhitt corner of Jan smuts ave on the lower right hand corner. Kind Regards, Dean Eaton

  12. Fred Craandyk on said:

    Good to see views of Johannesburg taken in previous times.

  13. Pingback: Johannesburg in 1961 on JHBLive | Marc Latilla

  14. Thanks For this Marc, I grew up in Hillbrow in the 1960/1970’s – living in Burlington Court on Edith Cavell Street opposite the Lutheran Church. My first move out of home to stay on my own was to Cresthill Mansions on the corner of Pietersen and Twist at the back of the church. Used to walk through Joubert Park everyday to work in the city. Great memories.

    • Marc Latilla on said:

      Thanks Gail! I was an 80s kid in Hillbrow and also walked through the park when I worked at the Pizza Hut in Smal Street. I was a over the hilll on Clarendon Circle

  15. Barry Hosford on said:

    Thanks for the great pics/memories. I lived in Parkwood in the 60’s.
    I think the Movie-house in Rosebank (Oxford Road) was the Odean.
    In Lower Rosebank next to Thrupps there was also one – I think it was the Parisienne – but not sure. Can anyone confirm??

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