When it comes to romance, there’s something about travel that quickens the pulse. Sun-kissed skin, swoon-worthy scenery, the thrill of adventure, the feeling of freedom… it’s little surprise that there have been thousands of Contiki love stories over the years.
But this Valentine’s, we want to talk about the love story that started it all. It’s the story of the TTC founder and chairman, Stanley S Tollman, his wife Beatrice, and the dreams they shared together all the way back in 1952. These dreams, and their story, are a timely reminder of how travel and love are, and always will be, inextricably intertwined.
In July 1952, the 21 year old Stanley was in Durban, South Africa, for the country’s premier horse race. He was happy to learn that a girl he had met a few times before, Beatrice Lurie, was also in the city – not to watch a race, but to compete herself, in the Natal Tennis Championship. Stanley was less pleased to discover how rigorous Bea’s training schedule was. Needless to say, it included absolutely no socialising.
But then, with what Stanley mused may have been ‘divine intervention,’ Bea pulled a muscle, forcing her to withdraw from the tournament and miraculously freeing up her schedule.
The happy couple in 1952
And so to Stanley & Bea’s first date, at an iconic restaurant named The Oyster Box, set directly on Durban’s sweeping coast. Eager to impress, Stanley had chosen this particular establishment because he knew, as the name suggested, it served the best oysters anywhere in the world.
But, as is often the case with new romance, things didn’t exactly go to plan. Far from being impressed by the fresh oysters on offer, Bea admitted she had never actually tried them before. With her first tentative taste, she couldn’t help but spit the oyster on the floor, drawing reproachful looks from other diners.
Then came Stanley’s turn to feel the heat of first-date humiliation. As they strolled along the coast, he delivered one of his more theatrical jokes, gestured wildly, lost his balance and toppled down a sandy bank – all to the sounds of Bea’s hysterical laughter.
Of this moment, Stanley writes “This is where it all began. When people talk of “falling in love,” they are generally speaking metaphorically. For me, the tumble was quite literal.”
The more time they spent together, the more Stanley and Bea shared their dreams – dreams of travel and adventure, of opening some of the finest restaurants and hotels in the world.
Stanley and Bea were married in 1954, and set about making those dreams they had shared a reality. The Travel Corporation as we know it, the family of brands of which Contiki is a proud member, is the product of those dreams.
It was fifty four years after that meal, in 2006, that Stanley & Bea were presented with the opportunity to purchase the Oyster Box itself, and in 2009 they welcomed nine hundred guests to the grand re-opening of the Oyster Box Hotel, now recognised as one of the finest in South Africa.
So all of those TTC love stories- the Contiki engagements, the whirlwind Trafalgar romances, the employees who found their life partners while working for our family of brands – all started with a single love story. How’s that for a legacy?
Stanley & Bea in their beloved South Africa, 2015