The Longest Ride – Part X: Revisiting Durban

What was meant to be a 2½-month journey, now entered its fourth month as the S. S. Carroll Victory pulled into Durban, South Africa, a second time on Saturday, February 8, 1947. Add the time spent in Newport News waiting out a maritime strike, and Charlie Lord had been away from his wife for nearly half a year and was itching to get home, as she was to have him home. Responding to six letters he received from her on arrival in Durban, he said, “The shipping business is apparently the most uncertain business in the world. When a freighter leaves on a trip they never know how long the trip will take. . . . Yes, it was rather unfair for BSC to estimate this trip at 2½ months, because they should have known it would be longer. Of course they didn’t know we would pick up cargo at Haifa and unload it at Beira (2 weeks) and Durban (2-3 days). . . .

“I’m not the only one that’s ‘fouled up by the fickle finger of fate’ as Sesser says. Half a dozen of our cowboys were planning to start college terms in the first days of February. They have one by one seen the opening days of their colleges come and go. It means missing a term of college for them.”

Lord took advantage of the unloading and reloading time in Durban to dig further into the mix of cultures there. When he learned there was to be a Zulu dance Sunday afternoon, he grabbed his cameras to photograph it. “It was interesting but not nearly as much as the dance at Beira,” he said.

Zulu dance, Durban, South Africa, February 9, 1947. © Charles Lord

The next night, four of the cowboys went to the International Club for a demonstration on portrait photography. Lord took his camera and flash gun along, wanting “to take a shot of Europeans, natives and Indians sitting side by side at a meeting – a tiny spot of democracy in the middle of South Africa.”

The wife of the editor of an Indian newspaper in Durban, South Africa, poses for a demonstration on portrait photography at Durban’s International Club, February 10, 1947. © Charles Lord

Lord spent another day immersed in Indian culture, guided by contacts made during his first stop in Durban. He and three other of the cowboy photographers toured Sastri College, a high school and teachers college for Indians, and were taken into homes to photograph families and the Hindu temple where they worshipped.

An Indian woman cooks for her family in Durban, South Africa, February 12, 1947. © Charles Lord

An Indian farmer in Durban, South Africa, sorting egg plants, February 10, 1947. © Charles Lord

“We came home feeling that this day we had accomplished something really worthwhile,” Lord said, “had got a pretty representative picture of an Indian family on film, instead of snaps shooting monument and tourist spots.”

A desire Lord had on his first stop in Durban came to fruition this time. Through his Quaker contacts, he and two others had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at Adams College about 20 miles outside Durban, a Christian mission school for natives, as well as the Adams Mission day school.

The boys’ dormitory at Adams College, Amanzimtoti, South Africa, February 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

An 8th grade boy and 9th grade girl students at Adams College, February 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

Children marching in to Adams Mission Day School, February 13, 1947. © Charles Lord

They visited natives in their huts, some where students of Adams Mission Day School lived. “It was a very interesting hut on the inside. The floor was hard and smooth made by mixing cow dung and black earth from ant hills. It is hygienic and durable. The ceiling was shiny black, almost dripping from the smoke from fires in the hearth in the center.”

The grandmother of one of the Adams Mission Day School students in their hut. © Charles Lord

Quite a contrast to the Adams College buildings.

When Lord arrived back at the ship the evening of February 15, he wrote his wife, “The news is heart-breaking. They are to pull the Carroll out into the stream tomorrow and bring us in Tuesday to be loaded. 4 more days delay! No one knows why.” His frustrations grew four days later. “The dad-blamed UNRRA officials are putting only 555 horses on our ship, and the Creighton Victory which is also here now. And the one of them will have to come back.”

Everyone was on pins and needles until the Carroll Victory pulled out for Greece with their cargo of mules and horses February 21 with the welcome news that the Creighton Victory would be making the return trip to Durban. “It sure feels good to be out at sea again,” Lord told his wife, “especially since every mile is one mile closer to you.”

to be continued

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.