Frankly, I never knew what hit me! I met Sue one Saturday night at a dance in the Horticultural Club (yes, I was getting desperate to spend Saturday night at a 'flower' place!) and that was that! We seemed to hit it off immediately and just wanted to be together from that time onward. Less than a year later, we were married in a simple ceremony in Luanshya attended by just a few members of Sue's immediate family and close friends. The husbands and wives involved with the Luanshya softball team I was playing on organized a fantastic reception for us and we had a wonderful time celebrating the great event. The next day we were off to Victoria Falls for our honeymoon, and now we are coming up on our 35th anniversary - still having the time of our lives!
The second photo shows Sue's parents with us after the wedding ceremony had been completed. Her Dad had been a medic with the British 8th Army in North Africa during World War II and had a difficult time finding suitable work in England after hostilities ended. Zambia was an up and coming colony at the time, so he managed to land a job at the Luanshya copper mine concentrator in the early 1950s and brought the whole family out to start a new life there. Since his retirement many years ago, Sue's parents are now back in England, living in Truro, Cornwall.
It was great having these volunteers pouring into Luanshya from all over the world! Not long after I arrived, big Torben Peterson arrived from Denmark - a guy who did not say much (just my type!). I happened to be going on a driving expedition through the Congo to northern Zambia so asked him to come along, since he was new on the scene and did not really know anyone. Away we went and we became best buddies from that trip onward (this shot was taken at spectacular Wonder Gorge, not far from Kapiri Mposhi, on one of those trips)! Another couple of great guys were Walter and Lothar from Germany, both of whom had elected to spend their compulsory military time as volunteers rather than in the armed forces. The second photo shows the two of them in their flat above mine one evening as they prepared a pizza meal for our enjoyment. It turned out to be delicious, but at that time none of us was very good at differentiating HOT peppers from the sweeter types. We were all in stitches of laughter as the tears rolled down our cheeks from the peppers, and drinking fizzy beers did not seem to help any! These guys all came to my wedding reception when I finally tied the knot!
No question that Luanshya was the prettiest little town that I have ever lived in. As a former British colony, everything was done up properly! The numerical Streets ran one way and the Avenues the other, with all the Avenues being named after foliage of one kind or another with names such as Oleander ('O' Avenue as it was known), Wisteria, Poinsettia, Jacaranda and so on. This town had been around since the 1930s, so the trees lining these streets were very impressive and colourful specimens. It made me sit up and take notice after having only seen mostly blossomless trees to that point in my life!
Swedish diplomat Dag Hammarskjold was Secretary General of the United Nations between 1953-61, during the very peak of the Cold War years. Events taking place just a few miles from Luanshya were to have far-reaching consequences for him when the Congo (Zaire in my time) became independent from its Belgian colonial masters in a very messy 1960 separation. Like the Copperbelt, this part of the Congo contains almost all of the rich mineral resources of the country, including deposits of hugely strategic (from a Cold War standpoint) cobalt minerals. The upshot of the country becoming independent without proper preparation by the Belgians combined with the intelligence services of the Soviet Union, USA, Britain and France pulling political strings behind the scenes was a civil war in Katanga province, where the minerals were located. My wife still remembers, as a school girl, the expatriate Belgians and Congolese alike flooding into Zambia as the killings took place just a few miles away over the border.
Eventually, a United Nations peacekeeping force was dispatched to the area but many problems still persisted. Mr. Hammarskjold was on a diplomatic mission to the area to try to resolve these issues when his aircraft crashed while trying to land in Ndola, Zambia on September 18, 1961 - killing all 16 people on board.
Due to the number of behind the scenes activities going on, there have always been questions as to why the airplane crashed. Theories range from an intelligence agency bomb in the wheel-well set to activate upon its opening, an incorrect altitude setting for the landing (confusing Ndolo, Congo with Ndola, Zambia) to simply clipping the treetops. Whatever the reason, this very nice memorial site to Dag Hammarskjold has been established just off the Ndola-Luanshya highway.
I liked the layout of Luanshya's wide and treed streets, they shaded you from the hot sun and there were lots of free parking spaces. On the corner where the two main banks were located (Standard Bank and Barclays Bank), beautifully-blossomed Jacaranda trees grew as shown here. The second photo is a 'winter' view of one of the main streets, taken looking down toward the Banks. Also along here was Sam's Cafe (a great little snack spot), Johnson's Pharmacy (where I had my films developed) and the travel agency.
The third photo was taken a block or two away and shows Solanki's, one of the long-standing East Indian-operated general stores. Another favourite was Amin's supermarket and there was also the local market across from the bus terminal. Luanshya had quite a decent Post Office too (just to the right of Amin's supermarket in the 4th photo), but it was a bit disconcerting at times to have a machinegun pointed at you as you walked up the steps to mail a letter! Due to the ongoing liberation movements in neighbouring countries, there were occasional 'alerts' to all government facilities (including post offices) and it was absolutely forbidden to take photographs of highway bridges, which were permanently guarded by soldiers.
One of the main weekend attractions in Luanshya was Makoma Dam, a great little man-made resort just a few miles out of town. A side benefit of one of the 'tailings dams' required as part of the copper mine refining process, the resulting small lake was one of the main social scenes in Luanshya for decades. The second photo was taken by Sue a few years earlier (1965) and shows a view from the main dock area. The presence of Makoma enabled power boat races to take place or you could have a more leisurely sail if you desired. People flocked here on the weekends to enjoy swimming, a BBQ (a 'braii' in the Afrikaans lingo), dancing and socializing. It was a great place for the children too, with a nice swimming pool suitable for all ages. The trouble with a mining town is that almost everything is somehow tied to the mine. I see that in 2005 this facility, along with the Golf Club and almost everything else in town, was put up for sale by the Zambian government as they decided to place this important industry back into private hands. I am not sure what the status is of Makoma Dam at the present time.
We have to get one thing straight here - when you build a copper mine in the middle of Africa in the 1930s, you had better have some very nice amenities to attract the required skilled labour to run the place! The British were very good at making things comfortable for the expatriate workers who streamed out to their colonies all over the world, and Luanshya was no exception.
I had never before seen a public swimming pool of a standard that this one had! The pool is located at the heart of the social scene in Luanshya - across the street from the Mine Club, the Cinema, RADOS live Theatre, the Tennis Club and the Rugby Club, so you pretty well had to be able to enjoy something here!
The grounds of the pool were immaculately kept by its long-time keeper, Wattie Watson, with grass fringes available to lounge on in the sunshine after a refreshing swim. When other volunteer workers came to stay with me from the more remote parts of Zambia, they always enjoyed a relaxing afternoon here! In addition to the Olympic-sized main pool and beautiful changing & shower rooms, it also had a separate large wading pool for the tots! As far as I know, the pool is still in quite good shape since being restored after a long period of neglect.