Memories of the Sixties

What happened in 1965?

In the words of Buffalo Springfield,

“There’s something happening here, What it is ain’t exactly clear!”

The song only came out about a year after we left school, but those few words, captured the confusing and epoch changing events that were taking place in our world, as we sat with our noses buried in our books.

In 1965 many of the markers of the future world were laid out.

In South Africa:-

• Adam Faith and Dusty Springfield cancelled their South African tours, when they were refused permission to play before mixed race audiences; fore-shadowing the cultural and sporting boycotts which were to come.

• Fredrick Harris was hanged after being found guilty of planting a bomb in Johannesburg station (killing one person and injuring about 20 others), in a foretaste of the escalating violence which marked the following three decades.

• Rhodes became the first South African University to install a computer!

• Ian Smith declared UDI in Rhodesia and the bush war began, it also united the “front line states” in supporting the movement to overthrow the white governments in Rhodesia, South Africa and South West Africa.

• The International Court in the Hague began deliberations over South Africa’s mandate in respect of South West Africa.

• A call in the UN general assembly to impose diplomatic sanctions against SA.

• Hendrik Verwoerd stated in parliament that Maoris would not be permitted to take part in future All Black tours.

• Nelson Mandela and the others convicted at the Rivonia trial started their second year in jail.

• Dimitri Tsafendas applied for reclassification from ‘white’ to ‘coloured’ (he had a coloured girlfriend); the application was denied. The next year he got a job as a messenger in parliament.

• Hendrik Verwoerd was still Prime Minister and Jolly John Vorster the minister of Justice.

In the wider world, the cold war was escalating, with

• The US, the USSR, China, the UK and France all testing nuclear weapons during the year (and SA commissioning its first nuclear plant Safari 1).

• The war was also spreading geographically, with the USSR, China and North Korea providing increasing support to the North Vietnamese.

• The USSR was becoming involved is the post-independence turmoil in many African states (notably the Congo).

• The Space race (the high tech arm of the cold war), was also escalating. At the beginning of the year, the USSR was still in the lead, with Alexey Leonov doing the first space-walk. But as the year progressed, the US, with its ambitions on a moon landing, and the accelerated Gemini programme, was probably nosing ahead (the first space rendezvous between two Gemini space craft and Ranger 8 photographing, and then crashing into, the surface of the moon, Mariner 4 flies past Mars). Who would have guessed, at that stage that the space race would lead to America’s ultimate unassailable technological advantage over the Soviet Union, or the part it would play in the disintegration of the USSR, thirty years later.

The US, as the engine of the West, was at the cusp of the huge social changes which would shape the modern world. Many of the triggers of that change happened in 1965:-

• Lyndon Johnson was inaugurated in January, proclaiming his vision of a ‘Great Society’ in his inaugural address.

• Malcolm X was killed.

• The first 3,000 US combat troops went to Vietnam (in March).

• Martin Luther King Jnr led a 25,000 strong group of civil rights protesters in Selma Alabama.

• First anti draft card protests start in the US.

• US bombers bomb Vietnam and for the first time North Vietnamese troops use (soviet supplied) ground to air missiles to bring down US bombers.

• In July, Johnson increases ground forces in Vietnam to 125,000.

• Alan Laporte sets himself alight in front of the UN building in protest against the war.

• Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters picket the Whitehouse then march to the Washington Monument. • The Pentagon calls for a force of 400,000 in Vietnam.

• Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act into law. ?


At DHS, most of us paid little heed to these things and I certainly don’t remember any history master saying “Guys, history is being made all around you, look around!” or reflecting much on the state of the modern world. All I remember is Napoleon’s march on Moscow.

We did however have many other things to distract us.

In Sport:-

• The Springbok cricketers beat England 1-0 in a four test series in England, where the core of South Africa’s new breed of cricketers (Barlow, Bland, the Pollock brothers, Tiger Lance and Ali Bacher) began to show the potential which would see them trouncing Australia over the next five years.

• Jim Clark won the SA Grand Prix (held in East London) in a Lotus (Surtees second in a Ferrari and Graham Hill third in a BRM).

• The Springbok rugby players, under Dawie De Villiers, had a disastrous tour of Australasia, winning only one of six test matches against Australia and New Zealand.

• There was no Currie Cup rugby competition that year (because of the Springbok tour). But in the Cricket Currie Cup, Natal tied with Transvaal as joint winners of the league.

• Roy Emmerson and Margaret Court were the Wimbledon champions. Cliff Drysdale lost to Santana in the finals of the US championship, after winning the SA open.

• Karin Muir, at the age of twelve became the youngest person to break a world record; when, swimming at Blackpool in England, she won the 110 yards backstroke.

• Highlands Park won the NFL, with Durban City third.

• Gary Player won the US Open and World match-play championships, but lost in the Natal Open to Papwa Sewgolum, who shamefully had to receive his trophy in the rain. Because a thunderstorm forced the prize-giving indoors and as an Indian he was not allowed to enter the Durban Country Club. Incidentally in the same year, Papwa was runner up in the SA Open, by one shot.

• Muhammed Ali won his rematch with Liston, in a first round knock-down.

• After breaking the world record in the 800 meters and mile, and at the height of his career, New Zealand athlete, Peter Snell retired from the sport.

• In the Comrades marathon, Jackie Mekler beat Mannie Khun in the (up run. ?


In the area of science and technology, most of the focus was on the space race, but in the shadow of all the hype about the space program, a number of very significant things were happening, which were to have a significant impact on our lives today:-

• The optical disc (CD) was invented,

• Sony released the Betamax recorder (not of much use to us, were didn’t even have TV).

• Kevlar was developed by Du Pont

• Moore’s law, predicting the exponential growth of computing power was proposed.

• Ted Nelson coined the term ‘Hypertext’ and postulated the development of Hypertext, which is a fundamental building block of the internet.

• Earlybird, the first commercial communications satellite was launched.

• Connected to the space program, things like lasers, digital cameras, wireless communications and computers were all being funded and advanced.


A few of the smarter guys may have had their eyes on these developments. For the rest of us life was about the beach and parties and music and girls (or was it ‘Rugby, Braaivleis, Sunny Skies and Chevrolet’?).

We listened to Long John Berks or David Davies (“Grrreetings, to you and to you and especially to you, a hundred thousand welcomes!”) and the LM hit parade, playing the hits of the year;

Woolly Bully, Satisfaction, Down Town, Help, King of the Road, Mrs Brown You’ve got a lovely daughter, Help me Rhonda, Under the boardwalk, Mr Tambourine man, The eve of destruction.

Or we tuned into Springbok radio to listen to Mark Saxon in No Place to hide; or Inspector Carr investigates, or Taxi (with Red Kawolski, Chuck and Moitle), or the three wise men in Test the Team, or Pick a box, or Erik Eagan’s corny cracks in the morning. Remember when he said “How do you catch a Polar bear? – Cut a hole in the ice, place peas around the hole, when the bear comes up for a pea, kick him in the ice hole!” He was suspended for two weeks for the unseemly content of his show.

Or we went to movies (in Uniform of course). On offer in 1965 were Dr Zhivago, James Bond (Sean Connery) in Thunderball, What’s new Pussycat, The Spy who came in from the cold, The sound of music (which won the Oscar the next year), My Fair Lady, and Zorba the Greek.

On Saturday nights, we went to socials (or sessions) at Journey’s end in Durban North or the Sherwood hall, or The Norwegian hall or the Assumption Convent, to listen to ‘A group called Blue’ and ‘find a goosie!”

The more adventurous of us may have broken school rules and gone to the Macabre at the Butterworth Hotel, to listen to The Bats or Abstract Truth; or to the Al Fresco at the Esplanade Hotel to listen to Dicky Loader or Gene Vincent.

Other watering holes that spring to mind are the Cookie Look, The Beach Hotel, The Astra (with Gary Bryden and Spider Murch – although I think they only started a year or two later) or the Troubadour room Edward Hotel with Mel, Mel and Julian.

Some of the other notable events of 1965 were

• The arrest of Myra Hindley and Ian Brady for the moors murders,

• The deaths during the year of:- Winston Churchill, Nat King Cole, T.S. Elliot, Wally Hammond, Albert Schweitzer, and Somerset Maugham.

• The founding of El Fatah,

• The Beatles playing to an audience of 56,000 in the first stadium concert at Shea Stadium.

• The tragic death of 150 commuters in a rail accident at Effingham station outside Durban.

• The report, by two SAP officers, of a UFO landing on a road outside Pretoria.

• We could buy 4 ‘Nutties’ or ‘Chappies’ for a cent, a Banana bumper for 4 cents or a Coke for 5 at the Tuck Shop (today, four Chappies cost a Rand).

• The South African population was just under 20 Million, (it had quadrupled since the start of the First World War and was 38% of what it is today).

Why not add your memories to the list!

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