The old town of Visakhapatnam, also known as One Town, near the old post office, was once the hub of a miniscule town.
Its neighbourhood used to be very colourful with a combination of Anglo-Indian community, Bengali and fishermen community and, the fiery Kabuliwalas who made the old town area their home.
Pranab, a Bengali who lived there in the 1960s, recalled that life at that time revolved around the St. Aloysius Anglo Indian Boys High School established in the year 1847 by the missionaries of St.Francis De Sales from France. The demand for the school was such that parents took great pains every day to drop their children from places far off. Another school for girls well known those days was the Fort Catholic Girls School which was located beside the boys school.
The old town was an educational hub with a few other schools also making their presence felt. The Queen Mary School was a government school for girls popular among the general population. The St. John’s School also had a reputation among the people of the locality. The St. John’s Church has an ancient history and was built by Sir Author Cotton, the architect of Godavari barrage. V.T.College in Sivalayam was also a noted school among the Telugu medium students. Many who failed in St. Aloysius School used to seek admission in the college. The oldest railway station was in the old town, and the oldest film theatres Sri Krishna Picture Palace and Lakshmi Talkies were located in the area.
The beach near the St. Aloysius School once bustled with life and many came to the beach for evening sit-ins. Children enjoyed the beach view from the school.
Mani Kumar, a student of St. Aloysius School and resident of Soldierpet those days, going down the memory lane, reminisced about life which was most enjoyable those days with studies in the school being very exciting and the character of the school being cosmopolitan, with students from different parts of India enriching friendship and life.
Soldierpet, those days was like the backyard of Great Britain. Their houses looked fashionable and music used to emanate from every home in the mornings and evenings. Anybody passing through their lanes or by-lanes would be tempted to stop for a while to listen to the music. Besides their meat and beef curries carried a different and enticing aroma that an Anglo friend’s invitation to dine with them was simply irresistible. The very looks of St. Andrews Church building in Soldierpet carries sweet memories of fond associations with Anglo-Indian community members and the life style of those days. It was one time the home of Royal British Regiments and later occupied by the Anglo-Indians.
New Costis Bakery of those days was well known for its supply of fresh bread and bakery products and the Aarif Khan’s Optical shop too is age old.
Naaz Restaurant at the old post office circle was a lively one with the restaurant kept open 24 hours .It was known for playing Qawwalis and Afghan songs as most of the time the hotel was filled with colourful Kabuliwalas who enjoyed Irani type tea and long conversations. The Kabuliwalas were the most sought after ones by many people as they used to lend money at any part of the day. They were of course known as Shylocks of the city.
The ‘majjiga’ shop which was started in the 1960’s and known for the wonderful taste of buttermilk, still sells the product, though its original quality declined.
Every visitor to the shop drinks a couple of glasses of buttermilk and consumes a special variety of Kerala bananas.
The old town was known for gold business and hundreds from the North Andhra districts at one time used to shop in the old town especially for weddings.
Another oldest vestige of a bygone era was the King Edward market or otherwise known as Kurupam Market.
The Karachiwala Shop and the Boolchand & Sons,a silk showroom once located beside the one town police station were very famous shops comparable with the present day shopping marts. Old town started declining from 1980 and by 2000 it was complete.
A family member of the Boolchands, summing up on the decline of the old town, muttered, “The glory of old town is gone. Today no dog barks here”.