A Tribute to Joey’s Landmark

Illustrator: Trevor Romain

In a week, heavy with sad news, I hear from my international informants that The Doll House Roadhouse on Louis Botha Avenue in Johannesburg will close on 31st August 2017.

It opened in 1935.

At last! A cause we can get behind that isn’t political. Save a Johannesburg Heritage Landmark. Rhodes must fall, but the Dollhouse must stand!

On a Facebook page, the fans of the Doll House implore you to email the Gauteng Province large fromages to halt the imminent demolition of the road house on Louis Botha Avenue next to the Reform Shul.

I suspect that it is the memories rather than the menu that people recall. 

The Doll House has – had – a menu that was guaranteed to make a Banting blanch.

You could have fried chicken and chips, curry and rice and chips, hamburgers and chips, milkshakes, freezes, double-thick malts – why you could even have a brown cow – a Coca cola with a scoop of ice-cream floating in it!

The Doll House was the place your boyfriend took you to when he said ‘Man, I am so hungry I could eat a horse between two bread vans!’

Your boyfriend drove a souped up Ford Falcon with white-walled tires.

The waiters in their grubby white jackets, scurrying about like beetles on the hot tarmac, were there, not only to carry trays, but to torment.

They all looked defeated. Despite the signage which warned  “Moenie Toet Nie! Don’t Hoot! Flick lights for service”, brassed off (there’s an expression I haven’t heard for a while) patrons would beep beep. Sometimes – although I only saw this once – an annoyed patron, detached his tray and flung it away before driving off at high-speed. I remember Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” was blaring out of his speakers.

Just as you were asking the waiter if you should have the waffles and cream or fruit salad and ice-cream, boyfriend’s  tjommies screeched to a halt about three foot away.

They would then proceed to josh around, good-naturedly calling each other names. Chorls, (Charles) Jawtch (George) and Rich-chit (Richard) would charff each other about whether they should drive to Durbs for some DP – Durban poison – right now, ek se.

The girls sipped double-chocolate malts or Sparletta cream soda floats while the guys drank tins of beer and wolfed down plates of chips. From time to time they would bang the horn to ask the sweating waiter for more timartyr saws – tomato sauce.

But times change.

Whereas you used to think that a jorl to the Doll House was – well it was almost as much fun as going to a session at the Lemon Squeeze in Victory Park – perhaps you grew up a little, became a little selective.

By the time you were nineteen, when a man asked you to ‘Dinner and a Show” and you ended up going to the Doll House and Drive-in, you crossed him off your Valentine card list. You also stopped practicing writing your name with his surname.

What are you memories of the iconic road house? Share them with Jani: janiallan911@hotmail.com

Copyright Jani Allan 2017