June 28, 2008

Wanted: Info on Mount Road!

I am looking for people who lived on/off Mount Road.
People who studied at Christ Church, shopped at India Silk House, watched movies at Elphinstone Theatre and swooned at Jaffar's Ice-cream Parlour.
I am looking for the Mount Road generation of the 40s and 50s.
Because I am preparing for the Mount Road Heritage Walk.
A walk which will be one of the many events being lined up for the annual Madras Day celebrations ( Aug.17 to 24 ) this year.
I grew up on Mount Road with the offices and presses of 'The Mail' and 'The Hindu' for neighbours.
Narasinghapuram was our backyard and the small Anglo-Indian and Goan community gave us our friends.
Today, the quiet Ritchie Street ( by the way who was Ritchie?) is a flourishing market - once known for radio and electronics and now for computers and IT.
So how did India Silk House and Chellaram's grow to be the biggest fashion stores of their time?
I want to know a little more about this.
I have pictures of the construction of the first subway in our city - at the Mount Road Round Tana. But I have heard stories about the wartime chamber that existed here - below where the statue of Annadurai stands today.
I want to learn more about this chamber from those who may have been inside it!
There is so much to do to prepare for a Walk. And in this case, where ever other building or landmark on Mount Road oozes history and holds colourful stories, the task is daunting.
The small group which is igniting people with ideas for 'Madras Day' is keen to get many more community groups to start working on events that celebrate this city.
Walks can be simple, fun and fulfilling too.
You can discover your neighbourhood or a part of your city.
Kilpauk, Triplicane, Royapettah, Perambur, Egmore, Vepery, Chetput, Mambalam, Mint, Gopalapuram, Dr. Radhakrishnan Salai, Adyar, Vadapalani . . . .
All these places are rich in social history.
And a small group can easily set up a walk.
Explore the place, research a lot, draw a route, create the buzz and go!
And to read more about 'Madras Day' check out www.themadrasday.in


Denkali said...

I did not live very close to MOunt Road but some memories remain.

I vividly remember the Peach Melba at Jaffar's. It was a special treat for me when I was in school when I would, at times, accompany my grandfather to the Cosmopolitan club.

I also remember Anna lassi stall (?near the subway at the Walajah Road intersection) albeit a bit vaguely. The samosa and malai lassi were perennial favourites. Does that still exist?

Sethu Raman said...

I worked in Mount Road between 1946 and 1975 living in Triplicane, and then Gopalapuram - I have material but it may not fit the comment box - may i have your email id please -= sethuraman

Rada said...

Dear Vincent,

Came upon your blog for the first time. Loved it. Shall visit again.

Unfortunately, I started living in Chennai only from 1994. So cannot help you with info on Mount Road.

Would like to join the walk though. I'm sure you will publicise it through Adayar Times...

Vincent D' Souza said...

Thanks Denkali for your anecdotes.
They make social history!

The lassi store alongside the subway was a big hit. Another one existed behind Devi Theatre complex.
They have passed into history. . . .

Feel free to post a few anecdotes on the Cosmopolitan Club

Thanks also to Sethuraman who mailed twice - the second email is fantastic - since it is long I wonder if I can post it here. I hope to use these stories in the walk and also invite Sethuraman to be with us to share stories first-hand. . .

Thanks Rada for your post. Check out the web site - www.themadrasday.in The site will carry info on all the major events.
The Mount Road Walk shd be on Aug 24 Sunday.
From Simpsons to Connemara Hotel, we hope!

Anonymous said...

Hello Vincent:

Oh boy your post brought back memories of Mount Road and the stories my dad shared about Jaffer's, Bombay Sweet House and going to Chellarams. These shops ware in some ways a haven for people who spoke Hindi esp since many of these folks were still in the process of learning Tamil.

India Silk Houses was the place where many film producers and directors went to buy exotic textiles to fashion those elaborate suits and costumes. Then there was a shoe shop next to Odeon, whose name escapes me from where they bought the footwear.

I remember going to Jaffer's once as a kid. Bombay Sweet House and Chellarams were the place to go before Diwali to order sweets and buy clothes.

There was a narrow street behind India Silk House and Bombay Sweet House that was crammed with auto and electronics parts guys. Many of these stores were owned by Punjabis and Sindhis.

If you email me offline that will be great.

Best of luck with your Mount Road walk.

Kamla Bhatt

Vincent D' Souza said...

Thanks Kamla for the anecdotes.

We would love to have you ( and all those who had some thing to do with Mount Road ) to join us on the Mount Road Walk ( due on Aug 24, at abt 6.30 am from the gates of The Hindu ( pl check out www.themadrasday.in - the web site for exact info.

This Walk is free for Madras Day 2008 and we want racounteurs aplenty. The Walk will ned at Spencers Roundabout.

Another Walk is at Fort St George on Aug 17, Sunday at abt 7.30 am. Gather at the park lot opp the Fort.

There are more walks that others are planning.

Tell others about Madras Day 2008.

Denkali said...

My pleasure, Vincent.

My memories of Cosmopolitan club are very hazy. I remember that I would play table tennis with a couple of friends and, occasionally, jump into the pool. For some strange reason, I also remember a friend of mine who dove in to the shallow end of the pool and cracked his head on its floor. But that has nothing to do with Mount Road, really. :-)

Casino theatre would screen the big Hollywood films those days (in addition to the Veecumsee group and Pilot). I have watched several great films there. Over time, though, it became difficult to purchase tickets at face value at the counter at Casino: the touts would sell it at a premium within five minutes of the counter opening.

The shoe store that Sethuraman mentions is probably Vasson's (?Wasson's) around the corner from Bata. Shoes were great but pricey and one would just window shop.

Stereovision, just before P.Orr & sons., has also been around for a while. I happened to visit the store a few months ago and was appalled at its condition.

There was a sports (?Lightway) shop on the road adjacent to the petrol pump before P.Orr and Sons. "Match" balls were Rs.9/- those days and we would cycle 5 KM. to purchase it from there before a big "ball" match. Continuing down the road from Stereovision towards the heart of Ritchie street, there is a shop that sells fresh fruit juice. They served a mean lemon-salt-soda which tasted heavenly, especially after a long cycle ride.

There was another sports shop near P.Orr and sons too - ?Pioneer sports - which was a fallback when the other one had no stock.

Sorry, I am guessing too much. My memory used to be better.

Unknown said...

Hello Vincent,

I became a resident of Chennai only recently but has been visiting the city on and off from 1949. Listed below are a couple of points, which may or may not be relevant to the Mount Road celebrations you planning to hold.

1. London Times dated January 14, 1922 reported about rioting at Madras during the visit of the Prince of Wales. Can’t recall the name of the theatre involved. Perhaps it was either Wellington or Odeon. It was on the left hand of Mount Road between Round Tana and Gemini. The report can be accessed at the following link:

My father (Appan.) was a witness to the rioting; he had come to Madras as a member of a delegation from Kerala to facilitate the Prince. I plan to write about it in
Song og the waves - Parayil A. Tharakan Blog

2. The soda fountain attached to Elphinstone Theatre used to serve a Peach Melba, which was very popular during the early 1950s.

Vincent D' Souza said...

Thanks Tharakan for that post.

Its time we had a book or booklet on the Stories of Mount Road!

I mean listing the buildings and some milestones is fine but we should also document the stories on and off this Road.

And these stories are plentiful - from people who are now in their 70s and 80s.

We welcome more! Keep posting . . .

Anonymous said...

Hi Vincent

I know this is a little late, but I do have fond memories of the New ELiphinstone Ice Cream Parlour (Later known as Jaffars). Actually more than the peach melba it was the Chocolate Malt, Sundae's and the speciality "Eliphinstone Special". The parlour was typically done on the lines of a soda fountain with a grand marble table top counter with revolving bar stools. The place was sparkling clean and had an exit into the Eliphinstone Cinema.

Anonymous said...

Vincent you are not going to believe this - my two sisters, my brother, and I not only know all about Mount Road Round Thana Jafar's and guess what we actually lived in the upstairs attached home of the Elphinstone theater, ran and played hide and seek among the seats, practically took over the theater while my uncle and grandfather managed the theater - if i count all the ice creams we ate at Jafar's and served by Jafar himself with special flavors he used to try out on us kids - but thats not why i am writing this - i have been trying for a while now to find out if anyone could tell me what happened to the theater itself - after i left india, i lost touch and then everyone in the family passed away one by one and now i dont even know if the theater still stands there - another thing i miss - the smell of the idlis and dosas and bondas the Hindu restaurant on the corner around the theater used to make every morning - our house had windows that overlooked into the cooking area of the restaurant and we could smell and hear everything they did there. Gosh i miss Madras. it's been over 40 years now. i wonder if i will recognize anything if i go back - ???

Anonymous said...

Continuing - across the circle from Elphinstone theater archway, we used to go into the park and play - grandpa used to play billiards while we played outside - then when he won - he would take us to Bata's and get us new shoes - i remember the first pair of Keds he bought me - or sometimes we would take the trams and go all the way to Gemini and then walk over to the Annapurna for a quick snack - what happened to that beautiful Madras?