The Jubilee Float Parade 1950

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Slomans Jubilee Float 1950

Que Que Hospital Float for the Jubilee Parade 1950

Que Que Hospital Float for the Jubilee Parade 1950

Southern Rhodesia was a slow starter by anyone’s standards. Since its founding by Cecil John Rhodes in 1890 its development had been stalled for a host of reasons.  Ever present were the host of pestilences which thwarted even the sturdiest of souls.  Rindepest, rebellions, Boer War, WWI, and the Great Depression foiled progress in one way or another. Following WWII Great Britain was in ruin.  Were the wide-open spaces of Rhodesian a Shangri-La in the making?  The nucleus of die-hards and swelling numbers of newcomers alike approached the jubilee celebration with great anticipation.

The Jubilee Float Parade 1950

Que Que celebrated The Jubilee in grand style.  Floats were followed by a bicycle parade.  Everyone got involved in one way or another from the largest business in town: Slomans, to the smallest, the new hospital, churches and charities.  The Globe and Phoenix Mine as well as small workers dotted about the bush, strutted their stuff.  Cattle ranchers, maize and tobacco growers generously lent their lorries and then decided to enter the parade themselves.

Slomans Hardware had been around, it seemed, forever.  You could count on it for absolutely anything and everything if you only knew your way around.  Shoelaces were sold at the sweet counter along with the freshest licorice you ever tasted, gob stoppers and the very finest boxes of Black Magic chocolates.  Fifty pound bags of concrete were sold along side 50 lb sacks of mielie meal, chicken feed and fertilizer.  Royal Doulton figurines stood on shelves side by side with enamel plates and mugs for the servants.  The haberdashery department sported bolts of fabric for dresses and davenports. If you weren’t into sewing and upholstery work then the ladies dress department sold everything from school uniforms to evening gowns.  Menswear, of course, sported suits of all sorts: safari to tuxedo, Oxfords to gum boots and mine uniforms, rugby jerseys and cricket and tennis whites.  There was a counter for groceries and a wall stacked with liquor.

Slomans was so big that the railway line had a shunting spur right to their lumberyard where they sold steel sleepers to coal and river sand by the ton.  If they didn’t have what you wanted on hand they promised to find it for you somewhere in the store.  Just give them time.  They were stalwarts of the community.  You could count on them for support way beyond the store’s demands.  Their Stairway to Progress was a sure winner as it carried one of the four Jubilee Queens.

For weeks, the Hospital Sunshine Girls spent much time over tea at ten and two discussing the merits of various themes for their float before making a decision and acting on it. They came in a close second with their float Witchcraft with the boast of Caesars by Cleopatra in their new theatre supported by the first blood transfusion service.  Placards warned against the dangers of two of our most endemic diseases: malaria and bilharzias.   Most of all they celebrated the discovery of medicine’s marvelous potion of the century: Penicillin (which didn’t address either of these issues but none the less was a cure all for much else that ailed our world).

Anyone who wasn’t floating down the street was cheering from the side lines.  Everyone had been involved in some way: donating materials, welding, painting, sewing and so on.  A well earned cup of tea, of course, would be served at the end of the parade, along with homemade queen cakes and biscuits of every variety.

Sixty years after the Pioneer Column trekked north, Slomans pointed the way to progress as it floated straight down Main Street (turns were awkward).  Their can-do example and generosity were a first class example to the enthusiastic newcomers searching for a new start in life.

6 Comments

  • Peter E Ward

    Reply Reply May 28, 2010

    Morning Diana,
    I notice Slomans is still there. If you go to the Kwekwe yellow pages (2004) http://www.cd3wd.com/ZimDir/INDEX.HTM so many of those old names are still there, including Tajudin, Bahadoor, Naran’s outfitters, where one bought most of one’s clothes. Unless I’m mistaken, Slomans was a split level store. Because I still have a childhood memory of it, it seemed cavernous, enormous and replete with all sorts of interesting smells. It really was an Aladin’s lantern sort of place. There was a Sloman’s branch near Risco, on the left hand side of the road (with your back to Redcliff) on your way down to Risco Steelworks: this was a very much smaller affair. Did you mean to mention the name Que Que in your extract?

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 28, 2010

      Peter,
      Its amazing to think that the Indian store keepers have endured all these years. I think all the Slomans left, but I could be wrong. The throngs of shoppers stirred up the years of accumulated dust, the sweat and press of unwashed clothes being picked up by those high ceiling fans and lifted in the heat along with the scent of perfumed ladies in light summer frocks and dress hats. The smell of new fabric and cheap sweets, nitrogen. Its hard to describe. I’ll have to explore this some more. I can almost taste the smells but its hard to sort them out. Yes, the ladies dresses and furniture, I think ,were upstairs, along with the accounts department. I didn’t know they had a Risco branch. Yes, this is a memoir from our Que Que early days including the photographs.

      Diana

  • Peter E Ward

    Reply Reply May 29, 2010

    After a call to Bunbury, I found out that it wasn’t a Sloman’s store on the road to Risco, but a Shattles. The kindly old bloke that used to give children lollies (much to their mothers’ dismay- “It will spoil little Jannie’s dinner”!) was Isaac Sloman.

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 29, 2010

      Peter,

      Yes, Mr. Shattle did have a native store at Risco. In the early days the Jewish community was small. Ten men are necessay to make a minyan in order to have a religous service, so every man really counted. Mr. Shattle used to come in for the High Holy Days and so on…
      Yes, the Sloman brothers were generous in really big ways as well as really small. I believe that they even donated to the local churches! Reuben was made a Freeman of Que Que in 1968.

      Diana

  • Linda 'Twiggy Campbell' Ihle

    Reply Reply December 18, 2010

    I worked at Sloman’s during one of the school or university vacs – loved that place and still dream about it. Didn’t we have to cross the sanitary lane to get from one part to the next? My grandmother also worked there, in accounting – her name was Isobel Campbell – before she went on to work at Tepperson’s Bakery. I remember Mr Sloman well and his extraordinary kindnesses. And, yes, I can still smell the interior part of the store where all the toys were, and the haberdashery where Kay Whittaker worked. Great memories!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply December 19, 2010

      Linda,

      Everyone seems to have good memories of Slomans Hardware and the Slomans themselves. I think they were the most memorable part of QQ. Yes, there was a sanitary lane between the two sections…haberdashery and ladies fashions and groceries on one side and wholesale equipment and stores beyond the lane along with fine china (they sold Royal Doulton as I recall) and accounting! Several readers have mentioned the particular memorable meld of smells there that are a part of Africa.)

      Diana

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