Remember when …? Ex-Maritzburgers go online to look back

2014-01-09 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG people can be a sentimental bunch.

Social networks on Facebook and on the Internet allow Pietermaritzburg residents and those who once lived here to reminisce about the old days and keep in touch with old friends they have lost contact with.

For some, the old days were tuning in to Springbok Radio on a Sunday night; when people went to the drive-in; or went “window shopping” in Church Street in the evenings.

While some websites connect old class-mates and organise school reunions, one website goes further than just school roots.

Started by former Pietermaritzburg resident Lesley Milne, the group “People I knew in Pietermaritzburg”, has spawned a huge following — over 4 600 members — and provides a platform where many people reminisce about the old buildings and favourite places they used to visit.

Those who were educated in Pietermaritzburg recall with great fondness their drinking haunts and the spots they used to go partying.

Members post quaint old photographs online, of times when the streets were less crowded and there were few cars on the roads.

Milne stayed in Pietermaritzburg until her early 20s and then travelled all over the country and abroad.

Now in Cape Town, Milne has a desire to hang on to her early recollections of the city that she still calls home.

Milne created the group to help friends and family who no longer live in Pietermaritzburg and have lost contact, to reconnect with each other.

“It has grown from a simple reunion group to a walk down memory lane, where I try to keep the spirit light and friendly.

“The main topics of conversation start with ‘Do you remember when …’ and fond reminiscing ensues and quite often friends who have not heard from each other in years will realise that they have just found each other again.”

Milne said what makes her group different to others is that she is “very, very strict” about the content and does not allow political, racial and religious posts or any other posts that can degenerate into arguments and spoil the tone of the group.

“Neither do I allow any advertising or promotion of causes. So the focus stays firmly on the ‘good old days’ and reconnecting with old friends — and sometimes making new ones.

“Pietermaritzburgers do have a tendency to be friendly and to get to know each other — well, they used to when I lived there — and most of the 4 600 plus members on my group seem to know someone or the other.”

Milne said members are made up of both expats and people still living in Piet­ermaritzburg.

“It’s very mixed; I’m not sure of the ratio but I would say about 50/50 if I had to guess.

“One thing that stands out in my group is that all of the members have very fond memories and loyalty to Pietermaritzburg and although some might be disgruntled at the current disrepair in some parts of the city, on the whole they all loved living there.”

She started the group in 2008 and it grew slowly at first, but over the last year it has grown fast.

Members of the group live as close as Howick and as far as New Zealand, but all were born in Pietermaritzburg.

Milne advises those joining that it is not a forum for whining about change or badmouthing the new government, but rather a place to share sweet memories and to find others with like-minded recollections.

Quoted in a recent article, Milne said, no matter where she has lived, she has always thought of herself as a “‘Maritzburg girl”.

People reminisce about the schools, the sports grounds, the sunny weather and the beautiful gardens. Others rave about the samoosas, the Royal Show, or recall the relaxed, laid back environment that has given Maritzburg the nickname Sleepy Hollow.

To take a walk down memory lane, go to:

Help is literally just a click away

ZELDA Francis, a user of the site, posted recently, “Wow! I am truly touched. This is a remarkable page. What amazing people! All the suggestions & assistance I received within minutes of posting a request for info on a church. Everyone was so kind and concerned. Thank you very much. But then I shouldn’t be surprised because all PMBurger & ex PMBurgers are great people. Thanks again and a special thanks to Lesley who is doing a great job keeping this page going.”

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