Residents of the 1950s in Ansell May Hall, the oldest men’s residence on the Howard College campus, held a reunion lunch at the Blue Zoo restaurant in Mitchell Park on 21 July. Some of the 26 ex-residents made special trips from as far afield as Johannesburg and Stellenbosch, while messages of good wishes were received from North America, Britain and Australasia. A number of spouses accompanied their husbands, and their presence contributed to the bonhomie of the occasion.

Ansell May Hall opened in 1952, replacing the first residence in North Ridge Road which had been built as military barracks during World War Two. After the war it was used by the university until sufficient funds had been raised for a modern residence on campus. Senior students from the barracks moved across to Ansell May and were known as the “Butcher Boys” since the barracks had been built on land owned by the Butcher family. Three Butcher Boys – Bob Rogers, Basil Hagemann and Jimmy Fitzsimons (later a Springbok hockey player) – were at the reunion. Bob sported his old striped Athletic Union blazer with the NUC badge (slightly different to the badge of UN which was worn by some others at the lunch).

Many of the chaps had not met since graduating, and anecdotes capturing the light-hearted student days of the first post-war decade abounded … tales of “donga parties” (held in the dongas on the then undeveloped land behind the Berea ridge), and of reciprocal raids between the Durban and Pmb residences which were heavily stacked in favour of Pmb since their residence at Oribi was a former wartime military barracks with perimeter fencing and a single entrance in contrast to the open nature of the Durban campus. These inter-campus raids which occurred at Ragtime or before inter-college were frowned upon by the authorities. On one occasion, the almost deserted Ansell May Hall was raided by Oribi, and anyone there had his hair shaved off. Now, the sub-warden was a youthful looking lecturer in architecture who was captured in one of the corridors; he vehemently protested that his position should be respected, but this drew the following response from the leader of the raiders: “If you’re the sub-warden, I’m Jesus Christ. Off with his hair, boys!”

Donga parties were something of an institution among senior students. The story was told of four 1959 final-year Mech Eng students who managed to produce liquor similar to vodka from medical alcohol, a gallon of which had been provided by the department for the routine testing of aviation fuel with an octane rating in excess of 100. Through their frugal use of the alcohol in the tests, some four litres remained. By diluting this to 33% strength, each student scored three bottles for use at donga parties!

The success of the reunion has led the informal organising group to plan another in 2019, possibly including the two other neighbouring residences of the 1950s

Article by the “organising committee” consisting of Stan Sharratt, Barry Isherwood, Colin Armstrong, Jacques van Popering and Gavin Maasdorp.
Photographs taken by Tommy Ballantyne

  1. L - R: Dan Macartan, Malcolm Mitchell and Barry Isherwood.
  2. L-R: Gavin Maasdorp, Tommy Ballantyne (Natal soccer player wearing his Full Blue blazer) and Keith Alcock
  3. L - R: Jimmy Fitzsimons (later a Springbok hockey player), Basil Hagemann and Bob Rogers (wearing his old NUC Athletic Union blazer)
  4. L-R: Barry Isherwood, Hermann Wenhold
  5. L-R: Bruno van der Riet, Duncan Poynton, Colin Armstrong, Stan Sharratt
  6. L-R: Wray Steele, Neville Alcock

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