I often find myself reflecting on what it was like to grow up in a supposed backwater resort town without so much as a traffic light, franchise takeaway outlet, retail shopping centre, or any of the other modern’ amenities that a self-respecting town would contain in this day and age. In my last Blog, I touched on some of these stories as well as on my excitement about the opening of the new Ballito Junction regional mall, but as much as it may sound like we were completely neglected by development and that we led a somewhat mundane existence, this could not be further from the truth. Although we undoubtedly appreciated the simple things a lot more back then, I remember the 80’s and 90’s not only for luminous sunglasses, Doc Martins and reversible jackets, but for the fun we had and the close community we were a part of.
At the risk of coming across like a history lesson, it might interest some readers to know that the town of Ballito actually has a very quirky past, and a very interesting story behind its name. The town was established in 1954 as a private township by the Glen Anil Development Corporation which was headed up by Dr Eddie Rubenstein. They received an option from local farmer Basil Townsend for 200 acres of his land and the idea was to promote the area as a resort destination. The advertising slogan was, “Buy, Build & Play at Ballito Bay, The Caribbean of the North Coast – Natal”. I’ve heard Ballito described as a lot of things, but never quite like this. To make things even stranger, the word “Ballito” was jokingly translated as the Italian word meaning “little ball”, which of course is not correct at all. The developers may have got away with the made-up explanation for the name if they were referring to the beach ball in their original adverts, was it not for the fact that is was actually borrowed from a glossy advert for â€˜Ballito Hosiery’ made by Ballito Hosiery Limited of St. Albans, England. With seemingly no rhyme or reason to the name, the town was born and the rest, as they say, is history. More on this interesting history can be found in the book, “The Birth of Ballito- Pearl of Natal North Coast,” by Jack Nash.
Whilst I find the older history of Ballito and the North Coast extremely interesting, for the purpose of this blog, I thought I would rather take you back to the not so distant past to reminisce about two popular Ballito attractions that were around long before people thought it was necessary to construct a national highway so far north. If you want to know if someone is truly a local, you only need to ask two questions. Did you watch a movie at the Ballito Drive-In, and were you a regular visitor to the Ballito Waterpark? These questions would more than likely confuse many, but for those with impeccable local credentials, this would quite possibly bring about a big grin and a montage-like flashback. Both of these destinations were around in my early existence and played a big part in the recreational offering our coastal holiday destination could boast.
To begin with, the Drive-In was a little less part of my childhood, but very much part of my parents’. It seems that its heyday was in the 70’s and I know that it was THE place to go for many a love sick local. It used to be located in and around the vicinity of the current Ballito Bay Mall and Ballito Junction. In fact, the current BP service station is actually referred to as Drive-In Motors if you look at your receipt next time you fill up, which is a reference to the old landmark. In my various discussions about the place, I was often told of an over-exuberant and quite possibly over-hydrated local film goer who stood up during the screening of a particular Western and proceeded to shout Yeehaa or something similar, and fire a number of random shots into the screen with a gun of his own. Meant in jest, this might have highlighted just how wild’ Ballito was back in the day.
The other attraction was the Waterpark’ which was situated on Ocean Drive just below Barrington. It was also in close proximity to the Lala Lapha (Sleep Here) caravan park further up Gazelle Road which has since also made way for development. There are currently a number of complexes on the old site, including The Manors, but back in the 80’s it was an absolute favourite on hot Summer’s days. I distinctly remember clambering up the stairs to the top of the main slide, showing my rubber band as proof of payment and careering down the blue half pipe. Admittedly this attraction was only really busy during the December holidays, but remains an awesome memory nonetheless. I fear that if my seven year old self was to go back to this facility I’d be somewhat underwhelmed in comparison to the present day Ushaka Marine World, but I suppose we were much easier to please back then.
*Do you have any stories or memories about the Dolphin Coast’s history? If so, we’d love to hear and share them! Please send them through to firstname.lastname@example.org