I was in the kitchen unpacking a cupboard when I noticed an old flask at the back and wondered how many people still have flasks and actually use them. I still do for early morning trips and even have a separate flask that I use for cold water. This then got me thinking back to the days when we travelled with our parents; there were no freeways, toll roads and chain restaurants. Food had to be packed and was always dispensed by Mom, if we were making good time we sat at a concrete bench and table on the side of the road and ate there, if we were behind then we ate whilst Dad drove. There was sweet coffee in a flask for all as well as a bottle of water. Tea was not really an option although as he got older Dad drank black tea carried in a separate tartan flask.
The menu rarely varied, and as most of our trips were to the Natal Coast consisted of breakfast and lunch made the night before we left. We had an early supper and bathed then went to bed as Dad would generally leave at around 03h00, when younger we were simply carried to the car and put in the back (station wagon) on a makeshift bed. Those trips were glorious; we would sleep for a few hours then wake up to watch the sunrise. We stopped at the same garages for Petrol and drove through all the towns, as that was the only route. When we got overly boisterous Dad would simply remind us that ”From laughing comes crying” and we would calm down. Mom always bought a selection of comics to keep us entertained but they never lasted longer than an hour or so, then we played car cricket and“I spy with my little eye”. Later we would take out pencils and paper and play general knowledge.
The menu never varied, breakfast consisted of cheese and tomato sandwiches and Rissoles (Fricadels) – large flavoured flattened meatballs not unlike a hamburger patty. Then the eggs, no matter if they had been peeled and put into a container or if they were peeled at breakfast we all wanted to open our windows as the dreaded odour filled the car! Dad never allowed open windows so we suffered in silence-once salt and pepper was added they were delicious! There was always enough and we looked forward to those meals. Lunch was round two of eggs and sandwiches with roast chicken and pork sausages, strange though that in those days we were not big on things like crisps and fizzy drinks! The trip to Durban took anything between 8-9 hours and there was always enough to snack on as those late hunger pangs set in. We knew every stretch of the road and always stopped at the lookout point on the berg as well as the “Little Church” on Van Reenens pass,some sections of the old road are still visible if you are not racing along today at breakneck speed .If we were making good time we would stop outside of Estcourt at the Boer War memorial marking the spot where Winston Churchill had been captured. Then we would carry on to the coast and the competition between siblings to see who would spot the sea first as well as smell the salt air.
Before we arrived Dad would pull over and we would have to tidy the car and ourselves, Mom would wipe our faces and wet our hair so that it could be neatly combed – then off to the family where the remainders of the “Padkos” was consumed for a late afternoon tea-only once the car had been unpacked could we go into the garden and down to the beach
Things were different and perhaps a lot simpler, cars used to overheat going up “Griffins Hill”, they simply pulled over and cooled off before the final stretch into Durban.
One drew up lists of things to do; you had to go to the beach and the nearby pools,”Noddy Café” and the Amusement Park. On a Sunday we would have tea at the Blue Lagoon or picnic there and afterwards we would race Go-Carts and play Putt Putt nearby, if we were there for a while we would travel up and down the North and South Coasts and visit the Old Fort, the Harbour and various Museums- such memories, such fun in days of old that seemed a good deal simpler!