Memories of growing up in Blades Hill.
Remember the days of sucking butts? These joints of cane were enjoyed when the plantation got ready to plant up the fields. Above two workers cutting butts for planting. Yvonne Quintyne of Blades Hill #2 ( not originally from Blades Hill) on the right.
Necessity The Mother of Invention. The quotation, “necessity is the mother of invention’, aptly applied to my childhood days. The toys we created gave credence to the saying. We, as children, were not as fortunate or unfortunate as today’s children who know no other than the ready-made toys from Cave Sheperd or Laurie Dash. We, on the other hand, made our own from whatever materials we could put our hands on.
Remember the roller, with the long stick and the cross piece at the top with which to steer? This roller was made with two wheels on an axle at the bottom. These two wheels were made from milk cans (tots), which were cut and one side forced into the other, making a perfect wheel with rims. A hole was bored in the middle in order to affix the wheel to the axle. The steering bar was connected to the axle by two pieces of cord- the left side of the bar was connected to the right side of the axle and the right side to the left. In this way we were able to control the direction of the roller. Almost every boy owned a roller.
There was also the top. The top was made from wood or part of a hard tree branch. It was carved into shape and a headless nail forced into the tip. These tops were extremely effective. Many of the boys were experts at spinning tops. Some could make them hum or sleep i.e spin so perfectly that it was impossible to tell that they were actually spinning.
The yoyo was another toy that was made by the boys, not bought from a store. The two halves were carefully carved and then attached by a nail cut to the required length. Many of the boys sought to rival or emulate “Dan the Yoyo Man” – a character who was an expert with the yoyo. Dan would throw the yoyo through his legs, behind his back, make it sleep and do all kinds of tricks with it. I was never able to spin a yoyo, never.
I wonder if anyone remembers those rifles we made. The rifles were made from board and strips of rubber tubing from the inner tube of a bicycle’s wheel. The trigger was pulled taut by these strips. A strip was attached to the end of the nozzle and stretched back to the area of the trigger. A seed or a stone would be placed in the rubber tubing and the taut band pulled firmly back and lodged in the slot by the trigger, which would keep it in place because of the force exerted on it by its own piece of tubing. Once the trigger was pulled the seed or stone would be released with tremendous force. This was a very cleverly thought-out contraption, which brought much pleasure to many of us. Needless to say, it was also very dangerous. We enjoyed shooting at bottles, birds, lizards and any thing that moved.
Another plaything was the popper. The popper was a simple toy and was easy to make. All that was needed was a piece of cassava stick. We would force out the soft inside of a length of stick, leaving it hollow. Next we would force an olive into the hollow and with the aid of a piece of stick that could fit into the popper, force the olive out. The olive would shoot out with a popping sound.
Come crop season the more technical boys would set about making trucks or tractors with trailers. The trucks and tractors resembled real ones. They were made from tin and board, and of course the wheels were made from milk cans. While the real vehicles were loaded with canes, the carbon copies were loaded with cane-peel, an abundance of which could be found on the pastures.
The ingenuity did not end with the masterful creation of the trucks and tractors. The entire role-play of the crop season was emulated. We would construct factories with a hoist to take the peel.
There was another toy which was made from a mango seed. I think it was called a Wolly Wog, Gig-a-bob or a Whirly Gig. I do not remember exactly how it worked. The inside of the mango seed was scraped out and a hole punched in one side. A stick with a cord attached, was placed in the seed with the cord leading out through the hole. One sharp tug on the wound up cord would cause the stick to spin. That is how much I remember of the Gig-a-bob.
Nobody in the early days bought a Kite. We all made our own kites. Forthe most part the bones (ribs)were made from the rib of the cane blade; the paper would either be bread paper (bread used to be wrapped in a light paper which was usually white in colour) or newspaper; the paper was usually pasted on with flour paste or clammy cherry. Occasionally, we got our hands on cord called coacha (white cord) or herringbone (brown cord) but for the most part we would unpick an onion bag and tie the pieces together. This cord was replete with knots at intervals of a foot or so. Onion bag twine was weak and so we lost many a kite, especially if the kite was fitted with a pulling loop. As quickly as one kite was lost another was made.
I was specialist in making trash bone kites. I particularly remember one that I hoisted and tied to the house before going to school. It was visible from my class room. I was extremely proud of that trash bone kite.
As boys we played with many types of rollers. There was the bicycle wheel roller. All that was needed for this type of roller was a discarded bicycle wheel. We used to remove all the spokes from the wheel to reduce the weight and to make it more manageable. This roller was controlled by a length of stick which fitted into the grove of the wheel as we ran as quickly as we could behind. We masterfully controlled the roller, sending it to the left or right as we desired.
Then there was the tin roller which we called a ‘tinnin blink’. This was made from the tin bands which were found around barrels. This was an extremely light roller. If we were lucky we would own a ‘big bommer’. This was an iron roller. These iron rollers usually came from the sugar factories and were discarded parts of machinery. These required a special ‘steerer’. The steerer was made by cutting a length of metal and bending it about 4 inches from the end in the shape of a U which would fit around the roller to give one control. The rubbing of the steerer on the iron roller as we propelled it at great speed, was music to the ears.
There was also the tire roller. All that was required in this case was a discarded car, bicycle or tractor tire. The tire was propelled by a flat piece of board that was used to slap it along. The sound made by the slapping was a dull thud which was quite the opposite of the high pitch squeal made by the iron rollers.
The scooter, not my favourite toy, was also made by my peers. The wheels of the scooter were made from steel ball bearings. The brakes were provided by a thick piece of car tire attached over the back wheel. The rider stepped on the tire causing the wheel to slow to a halt. The scooter, like the truck, required much know-how but when finished had all the attributes of today’s manufactured scooter.
Every boy was able to make a guttaperk (catapult). We would head to the gully in search of a strong Y shaped branch. Once the perfect Y shaped branch was found, a piece of bicycle inner tube was securely attached to the two ends of the Y. The more sophisticated guttaperk was fitted with a leather cradle for the stone. Our parents hated to see us with a guttaperk. They always feared that someone would get his eye knocked out. Thankfully this never happened. Most of the time was spent shooting birds or knocking down bottles which were used for target practice.
(to be continued)
On The ROAD to progress: I believe I was about 4 years old and not yet in school, when man, machines and mule-carts came to the alley where I lived ; their mission - to build a "tar road' , the road now known as Blades Hill #1.
I was very excited when work started on the road. I was overwhelmed by the number of men who descended on the area, the old rock-engine or steam roller, the mule carts used to bring the stones, grit and drums of tar, and the machine used to apply the tar to the compacted surface before grit was sprinkled on and rolled in.
I would spend my days staring out the window at the work in progress. The men first had to level the area. This meant cutting their way through stones with hand drills. They could be heard grunting rhythmically as the drills sought to dislodge or break up the stubborn stones. Each thud of the drill was accompanied by a "huhn" from the lips of the sweat- soaked worker. When the worker encountered resistance too much for the drill, reinforcement was called in, in the form of a stick or two of dynamite. A hole was drilled in the stubborn rock and the dynamite carefully set and the fuse lit. Prior to the lighting of the fuse , one of the workers would warn the neighbours that they were about to set off explosives, by shouting "holes burning, holes burning". This warning was soon followed by an earth-shattering explosion, muffled by a galvanized sheet, weighed down by bags of marl, which was placed over the hole. More often than not the explosion succeeded in breaking up the tough stone, which had been impeding progress. Occasionally the expected explosion did not materialize. When this happened the workers would wait for some time before returning to the spot to carry out a dangerous and life- threatening investigation as to why the dynamite had not gone off.
Every morning for several weeks the team arrived early, collected their tools from the watchman's hut and commenced work. Inch by inch the new road took shape. Layers of marl were spread and rolled over and over by the slow moving rock-engine.
Today I can still vividly see those men, sweat caked on their faces- some sporting broad-rimmed hats to protect them from the sun. The smell of dung from the mules still stings my nostrils when I reflect on those road-building days. Not to be forgotten was the water lady who provided a timely drink to cool the parched lips or clear the throats made husky by all the dust that filled the air.
Lunchtime was another feature of the exercise. The workers would drift off to any shaded area to enjoy the 'cooked food' ,which they had brought with them in deep flasks. No doubt their spouses had risen early before the sun, to prepare their meals. The drink of the day was usually mauby or lemonade.
For days the alley was overtaken by hustling and bustling, raised voices, the clanging of metal on stone, the chug, chug, chug of the rock-engine, the loud unexpected braying of a donkey or mule as man and machine competed for space as the road slowly took shape.
From the safety of the house, I took in every inch of progress made, looking forward to the day of completion when the new road would be overtaken by the children in the area - for here was our new cricket pitch, our road tennis court, our roller and cart track,our play ground.
After what seemed like a lifetime, the road was completed and the alley returned to its normal atmosphere. Man, machines and mule-carts had made their exit, leaving in their wake our brand new road. The residents were proud of the development and even more proud because they had contributed by given up part of their land to make the road a reality. They had made this sacrifice willingly and without compensation. It was their road in every sense of the word.
The days that followed were filled with both joy and pain. Joy, as we enjoyed our new surface playing cricket, hopscotch, road tennis, riding our bikes, scooters or pushcarts, rolling our iron rollers or our bicycle-wheel rollers. Pain, as every fall resulted in serious 'graters' to the knees as the grit on the road tore into our knees like a grater through cheese. This did not deter us,however, for we learnt from early that there was no gain without pain
Hats off to those hard working men ,who without bobcat, excavators or power drills 'moved the earth to please'.
The Coolie Man: When the history of post emancipation Barbados is written, the part played by the coolie man in the development of working class Barbados should highlighted.
The term 'coolie man" referred to Indian salesmen who came to Barbados from India. These entrepreneurs started out with just a suitcase and before long were driving a car or van. They went through out every district, knocking on every door selling every conceivable item. They would allow the householders to buy these items on credit and pay for them on a weekly basis according to what they could afford on the day of collection. Records of payments and the reducing balance were kept on cards.
One can safely say that the Coolie man touched the lives of the majority of Barbadian households. They assisted in furnishing the house, providing school clothes and church clothes, kerosene oil stoves, floor covering, curtains, basins, you name it. The coolie man did a bustling trade at Xmas and was the saviour for many at that time of year.
Householders would usually put aside a few dollars to pay when the coolie man came knocking. However, there were occasions when the coolie man’s knock was met with the popular refrain “Nothing to day”. Undaunted he would move on to the next house where it was possible to hear the same refrain. Occasionally a housewife would try to be dishonest by avoiding the coolie man for weeks. In fact there is the joke that has made the rounds about the mother who told the child to tell the coolie man that she was not at home. The child opened the door and said, “My mummy tell me to tell you that she in home”.
A whole culture developed around the coolie man and the Barbadian relationship. Stories are told about the coolie man working obeah / witchcraft on persons who refused to pay him. It is said that the delinquent householder’s house would be pelted with rocks from an invisible source or that a steel donkey with its chains clanking would descend on the house. These superstitions created a protective armour for the coolie men as no one dared interfere with them.
Barbados owes these Indians a great debt, which can never be repaid. Among those I remember are Kara, Vadi and Okaidia.
Nick Names: Almost every male in the district was known by a nickname. More often than not the nickname given to a person was a vivid representation of the person’s features, attributes or physical characteristics.
Abby ,Ackee, Aggee, Ali-Barber, Apple
Bashai, Big-Ap, Big-Griff, Big-Jim, Blackie, Blood, Bob-king, Bogan, Bommers,
Bones, Bony-rudge, Boo, Bornee, Botty Burke, Bowfoot, Boy-girly, Brek-foot, Buck, Burbant, Butter-foot
Carpie, Cat, Chokey, Chow, Cooksie, Cycle
Dee, Dickie-bird, Dislike, Doctor, Doobad, Dope-boy, Dumb-boy, E-E, Ernie-bob
Fab, Fisher, Flairmout, Foot, Frog
G, Gas-bag, Goofy, Gout, Guhzack
Harper, Hogs-it, Hopper
Jack-poo, Joe-board, Joe-munk
Leeshot, Lightee, Low-man
Maddie, Monkey, Mossa, Mullard
Omers, One-ee, Oye-Oye
Paw, Pawyak, Pepper, Pikee, Pip, Pleet, P-U, Pug
R, Rapper, Red-legs
Sab-rice, Skinner, Skipper-hog, Slims- Spa-goots, Spiker, Springs, Spronkie, Sugar, Swampee
Teets,Tent, Tomorrow, Turk, Turtle,
(For further reading on nick names see " Nick Names of Barbados" by Addinton Forde.)
De Cane Crop : That sugarcane was the bane of the lives of black Barbadians had very little influence on my generation. In fact, as far as we were concerned, it provided parents with work and money at the end of the week, all year round. Weeding, ploughing, planting and harvesting were a way of life for most adults who lived in the country.
The workers left home early in the morning. The women carried their hoes on their shoulder or perched on top of their head. They wore long-sleeved blouses and long dresses to protect them from the prickles of the cane blades. They also wore hats to protect them from the sharp rays of the sun. The men for the most part each carried a large fork.
During the crop season (cane harvest) sharp bills, which glistened in the sun, replaced the forks. The women no longer took their hoes to the fields since their role was now to load the carts with the canes after the men had cut them and laid them out in rows, which stretched the full length of the field.
The entire village came alive in the crop. Throughout the day there was the ching, chang, ching, chang of the bills as they felled the canes. The cane cutters were extremely skillful. They would first fell an entire hole or bunch of canes (the canes were planted in bunches), Next they would take up two or three canes and with one deft slash chop the tops or blades off. Sometimes they would drag as many as they could, under one arm and with a few smart chops send the tops sailing.
The cane-cutters worked briskly, concentrating on getting the job done. There was no room for fooling around for it was hard work and they were paid according to how much they cut any way. The cutters were also driven by the fact that they worked side by side and inevitably it was a race for the finish.
By the time we left for school in the morning, the men would have made steady progress – the speed of each cutter clearly defined by the emerging patterns in the field with the faster ones pulling away from the slower ones. Where, only a few hours before, the long slender canes had stood waving their silky arrows in the gentle breeze as a sign of their maturity, now lay rows and rows of naked canes, devoid of excess trash and green tops.
The ching, chang of the bills was later drowned out by the loud clanging that signaled the arrival of the tractors, which were used to haul the canes to the factory where they were ground to make sugar. The tractor-drivers would skillfully manoeuvre the carts between the rows of fallen canes and the two packers atop the carts would take the canes from the women on each side, and deftly deposit them, using a foot to ram them firmly in place. When the packing started the men would be standing on the cart itself but as more and more canes were added the packers rose correspondingly until they stood towering above the six post, three on each side, which held the canes in place. After each cart was fully loaded the packers would climb down and set about trimming the carts of the excess trash and any canes that were jutting out, as though preparing them for an exhibition. Like the cutters, the packers took pride in their work. The tractor-driver would then hitch two or three carts to the tractor and off to the factory he went, puffs of black smoke rising from the muffler, which stood vertically in front of him.
By the time we returned from school in the evening, the fields would be transformed into a sea of trash and rows and rows of fallen canes. Like moths to a flame we were drawn to the fields, eager to watch the work in progress and eager to sink our teeth into joints of the freshly cut canes. As if inspired by the audience, the workers seemed to gather strength from our presence and continued their tasks as if they had now begun. However, the salt of their daylong perspiration caked on their faces and the soaked backs and armpits gave lie to this appearance.
As boys, we were warned repeatedly not to pull canes from a moving vehicle. This warning fell on deaf ears, however. For as the carts passed by laden with fresh canes, some of the boys would run behind them, grab hold of a cane or two and pull and pull until the heavy load yielded up one or both pieces of its treasure. In no time the cane, spared the sharp teeth of the factory mill would soon be subjected to the sharp, gleaming, white teeth of the disobedient boy who quickly stripped it of its protective peel and then proceeded to crush it joint by joint with strong molars in order to squeeze out the sugary juice, the most of which slid down his throat while some escaped at the corner of his mouth. This was known as sucking cane.
Most country people were adept at sucking cane. We would use the teeth at the corner of the mouth for stripping away the hard peel and the jaw teeth or molars for crushing out the juice. We always had a laugh at persons from town who tried to suck canes. First of all they would break the youngest and scrappiest cane. Then they would use the front teeth to nibble away the peel. While we were tearing off peel two feet in length, they were only able to nibble away about an inch at a time. Even before the crop started we would go to the cane-piece (cane ground) and break canes or more correctly, steal canes. However, we did not consider this stealing because the few we took never made any impression on the fields and fields of swaying canes owned by the plantations in the area. There were four large plantations, the fields of which abounded and abutted. They were Fortesque, Three Houses, Thickets and Palmers. Many a boy was nearly caught by the watchman who was paid to keep an eye on the fields. Dick Watson, a short, red man, was a watchman, who was notorious for trying to catch the boys. Another was Aubrey Quintyne. The watchmen were notorious too, for catching animals, which had strayed to the fields. The animals were taken to the plantation yard where the owners would have to go to secure their return.
The crop went on for weeks and brought much activity to the village. There were visible signs of the harvest everywhere, for the trailers spilled canes along the road to the factory. These canes were soon flattened by passing traffic and ended up at the sides of the road. More significant evidence of the crop was the fact that the men had money to spend. The rum shops did a brisk trade. Every Friday night someone got drunk and got out of hand. Dances were held at St. Catherine's Club and Sealy Hall Casino to cash in on the flow of crop dollars. This drinking and feting went on for as long as the crop lasted.
Weeks after the crop ended we always seemed to develop a craving for cane to suck. We would head to the empty fields in search of any canes that had escaped the sharp bills. We would trample the trash with our bare feet in the hope finding any cane that lay hidden beneath it. This was called "mash trashing". Any canes unearthed in this fashion were savoured by the finder. A similar activity to "mash trashing" was "sprouting". This involved searching between the rows of canes for yams or potatoes, which had sprouted back some time after the field was harvested.
"The Sea In Got Nuh Back door": This was the passionate plea of all parents, especially mothers, in the village and fell on our ears several times in the summer vacation. It simply meant that the sea was fraught with danger, that one could easily drown and that one should not venture too far out to sea.
The summer vacation always unleashed a drove of children and young people who descended on Consett Bay, around midday, with gay abandon. Miami Beach was unheard of in those days.
The bigger boys, who did not need permission, would go to the beach almost every day. Some of us were less fortunate. Of course many received a beating for stealing away from home to enjoy a couple of hours of frolic at Consett. The thrill of the day somehow seemed to make up for the punishment. On some occasions a child, who had left home without permission,would look up to see his mother standing on the brow of the beach, stick or belt in hand and fury coming out the eyes, ears and nose. This anger we all knew was as a result of care and concern for us, and fear. Very often the beating started at the beach in full view of all the sea bathers and ended at home - licks like peas.
Those of us who were, shall I say less fortunate, had to wait until our mothers decided to take us to the beach. If we were lucky this meant twice for the nine weeks vacation.
A day at the beach meant enduring several ducks ( being submerged in the water against your will and without warning). The bigger boys would creep up on you, hold you from behind and fling you under the water. Terrified boys would emerge gasping for breath and spluttering as seawater stung their eyes and filled ears, mouth and bellies.
A day at the beach also meant roasting breadfruit, eating coconut and golden apples dipped in sea waster and playing beach cricket among other things. For the older boys it meant bathing a girl. Bathing a girl was when a girl allowed a boy to support her in the water by putting his arms around her. The girl would put one arm around the boy's neck and stretch her feet out in the water. This was the crowning glory for any young male. The boys who were good swimmers would take the girls out beyond where they could stand up.
The stripe for the boys in the village was the ability to swim out to where the fishing boats were anchored.You were only recognized as a swimmer if you could achieve this feat. (Ever remembered, Clinton Alleyne who drowned trying to achieve this feat).
The presence of girls at the beach brought out all the boyish antics among many- running, diving, splashing, building human pyramids by climbing onto the shoulders of one another. This usually ended with the boys at the top crashing into the sea before the feat was achieved.
The girls were more concerned with how they looked in their swimsuits, which were sometimes borrowed. The boys usually wore cut off pants or old short khaki pants.
By the time we were ready to go home we were exhausted and hungry and had to summon the last drop of energy in our bodies to make the long trek home, undaunted by the challenge posed by the bay hill and Savannah hill. A bathe-off at the stan'-pipe and up the road we went.
Oh what memories what memories.
Eggs For Lunch... Eggsactly: Today if you ask a child where an egg comes from, he or she will probably tell you, 'from the supermarket'.
Not so with my generation. As kids we knew eggsactly where an egg came from. We had no choice. In those days families were stretched to feed themselves and depended heavily on home-grown provision - eggs were no exception.
Many days mothers had to preplan lunch. This meant knowing in advance if the fowls were going to lay that day. We were therefore, asked to "Go and feel the fowls" to see if they were with egg. This meant chasing the fowls, catching them and inserting a finger into each hen to see if an egg was in the "dispenser". If the finger touched an egg our reply was, "Yes the fowl wid egg".
Of course we knew where the nests were and just had to wait for the cackling, which signalled the arrival of each egg.
Keeping Stocks (animals): "Get up and cah out the stocks". In my case it was "the sheep'. Every household kept some type of animal to supplement the household income and to put food on the table.
As boys, we were given the responsibility for the stocks. "To cah out the stocks" meant to take the animals from their pen and to "stake them out" on the pasture. Each animal was tied to a stake, a bush or a rock hole ( a hole in a rock). Every morning before going to school, we were expected to take the stocks to the pasture. Of course, around midday, we had to give them water and move them to another spot.In the evening, around 5.30 p.m we would untie them and take them back home.
Added to the above we were expected to cut grass to feed them at night. We would head to the "grass piece" (usually plantation land) to fill our crocus bags.
Grazing the sheep, cows or goats was a relaxing past time for us. In the cool of the evening we would take the animals to a green, grassy area for some extra grazing. We would watch with delight as the animals wrapped their tongues around the lush grass as if eager to make up for a day of little grazing.Once satisfied that their bellies were "popping", we would head them in the direction of home.
The sale of a ram brought in much needed funds to purchase school clothes. While the slaughter of an animal not only brought in funds but also put meat on the table.
Slaughtering was another experience. Prior to butchering the chosen animal (sheep, pig,cow),the adults would go around the neighbourhood "ordering out" the meat - two pounds for Ms Browne, three pounds for Ms Brathwaite etc.
The butcher(Yank) would come early in the morning - around 4.00 a.m. He would bring along his helper(Banks) whose job it was to hold down (restrain) the animal while he slit its throat. Sometimes we got a chance to hold a leg of a rebellious ram or a wild ewe. The animal always succumbed to our strength in numbers, and it wasn't long before the intestines lay in a washtub. If it was a sheep the butcher would set about removing the skin from the carcass but if it was a pig he would submerge the animal in boiling water in a 50 gallon drum cut lengthways. The heat from the water made it easy for him and his helper to scrape off all the hair.
Soon the cutting up, weighing and parcelling out of the meat would begin. The weighing would be done in a scale borrowed from a shopkeeper. The meat would be wrapped and labelled and given to the children to take to the neighbours or given to those who had turned up on the spot. If a pig was butchered, one of the black pudding makers would order the head and belly and would soon be on hand to collect.
One can only imagine what an experience this was for us as kids.
Xmas: Xmas was the icing on the cake, the jewel in the crown, the most important time of the year. Xmas today is nothing like Xmas of yester year. So much happened at this time.
First ,we eagerly looked forward to the end of the school term. The children would put on a concert depicting some aspect of the Xmas story - Mary and Joseph. Just before school was dismissed our class teacher would give us sweets. We were also given milk powder. We would head home feeling special, knowing what lay ahead.
The Xmas preparations were extensive. We would weed all around the house - removing every blade of grass. Paint was applied to the house where necessary; the mahogany chairs were scraped and varnished; the windows cleaned until they were spotless;new appliances and furniture purchased.
In the days leading up to Xmas, everyone was busy working around the house, going to the stores etc. The day before Xmas the finishing touches were carried out - the linoleum spread down, the curtains put up; white marl was sprinkled all around the house to give the appearance of snow having fallen.
Of course much attention was given to the foodstuff. Soft drinks (red ju-c's especially) were purchased, as well as some beers and some rum. Everyone had to have a ham. It was the one time in the year that ham was made available and everyone looked forward to having a few slices. By nightfall the entire village was cloaked in an aroma of baking pudding and sweet bread and boiling ham. We, children, were everywhere, helping with this and helping with that. We all looked forward to raking out the bowl with our fingers after the pudding was placed into round or rectangular pans to be placed into the oven.
Even the postmen got into the act, working on Sundays, making deliveries twice a day and even at the eleventh hour. The postman's job was tripled because of the heavy load of postcards that he had to deliver. In those days we did not have enough money to buy gifts for our friends but it was the in-thing to send post cards to relatives and friends.
By Xmas morning every house had a smell of newness from the linoleum, the paint and the varnish,and the smell from the new furniture, the new bed, the new curtains. Every inch of the house was clean and fresh in and out, and to be sure there was a lot of food in the larder and in the bread tin.
In all of this God was not forgotten as many flocked to midnight mass, packing the St. Mark's church to capacity. Those who did not make midnight mass were there first thing on Xmas morning. The lusty singing of O Come all ye faithful and other Xmas hymns set the tone for Xmas day ; Not to mention the fresh Xmas breeze that enveloped the island.
Everyone was up at the crack of dawn, eagerly looking forward to the tastiest and heaviest breakfast of the year - a slice of pudding , a slice or two of ham, a cup of tea or a glass of sorrel. As the day wore on friends would begin to gather and in little groups,according to your friends, the visits to different houses began. At every house visited one was sure to be fed- a slice of ham, some pudding and something to wash it down. Looking back, it was truly amazing how so little fed so many as no visitor went away without being fed.
As kids we did not receive more than one toy for our parents could not afford any more. (to be continued)
Book Worms: When inside, there was precious little for kids to do. As a result, reading became a past time for many. Initially most of the reading was done by lamplight. My brother and I read extensively. My mother used to beg us to turn of the light and go to bed. My favourites were Biggles, Billy Bunter, the Hardy Boys, Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, among others.
The summer vacation would see comics in all forms and fashion come out of the wood works. We read Billy the Kid, the Two Gun Kid, Rawhide Kid,Archie, Batman, Superman, the Hulk, war comics , the whole works. One thing I never figured out was who bought the comics. The comic addicts were Ossie, Dee, Slims, R, G and I. In my opinion, reading was more rewarding than watching television. The reader was usually transported on a magic carpet ride as the author painted a vivid picture of the action.
Early Television Watching: Watching television from the comfort the comfort of a couch 24/7 was unheard of in the early days. The first person to own a television in Blades Hill, was Clottie. This brought joy to our young hearts. Boys and girls would assemble on Clottie's front step to watch the popular shows such as Bonanza, The A Team, Gilligan's Island, Scooby Doo etc through her window. Sometimes the gathering was so large that a little shoving ensured that we all ended up in the flower garden. Needless to say, little grew in the garden as a result of our frequent trips there. Many nights the window would be closed on us as a result of the shoving. Other residences which later afforded us the opportunity to watch TV were Carter's and Grant Weekes.
Rediffusion(now Star Com): The main source of entertainment was the rediffusion - wired or cable radio network. The programming was varied and of high quality. Every house had a rediffusion box which either hung from a wall or rested on a table. One of the main features of the programming was the serial stories. Every Saturday morning at 8.30 our ears were glued to the set to hear Kid Grayson Rides the Range. Then there was the Clitheroe Kid on Sundays at 12.30 p.m. Other stories were Doctor Paul, Portia Faces Life and Sherlock Holmes. Special local programmes included Children's Party with Joe Tudor as Dennis the Menace, on Saturday mornings;Gospel - Billy Graham, the Quiet Time. Music to Remember was a daily during week days. There was an abundance of English programmes such as Just A Minute, Steptoe and Son and Around the Horn With Kenneth Horn.
Listening to test cricket from Australia was one of the joys the rediffusion gave to many. The commentary started around 11.00 p.m and continued way into early morning but we never missed a ball. There were, also, big boxing matches - Muhammed Ali versus Liston. And who can forget cricket commentary from England. John Arlott at 5.00 in the morning was so vivid that one felt as though one was actually in England. He would give a detail description of the ground, the surroundings, the weather etc. The entire neighbourhood followed sporting events especially cricket and whenever anything dramatic happened we would jump and shout in unison. The shouts would be heard across the district. Sometimes we would run out into the street to celebrate.
The audio presentations taxed our imaginations and allowed us maximum enjoyment according to our individual capacities and expectations.
Mobile Cinema(mobite cinema): The large van would roll into to Blades Hill and park on the pasture of the St. Mark's Senior School where people would already be gathering. The cinema was in town. It was a thrill to be part of the crowd assembled to watch a movie in the open air. The show started with documentaries before the main show which was usually a western or a comedy - Bud and Lou. For many of us the mobile cinema was the only opportunity we got to attend a movie.
Guy Fawkes Night - 5th November. This was a night on which we were given starlights and other fireworks to enjoy. The fellows in the district would take a large old tire and set it alight. This provided the lighting as we paraded our starlights and detonated our bombs and fire-crackers. Much fun was had by all the kids and young people in the village. The bombs were usually detonated around some unsuspecting person's feet. Looking back, the thrill that we got from the fire works was amazing. It must be said that we carved out several niches of contentment and happiness from our poor circumstances. Another feature of Guy Fawkes night was the making of conkies or stew dumplings. This delicacy was made from meal-corn . The meal-corn, mixed with essence, raisins and other ingredients was kneaded, placed in banana leaves and put to stew in a large pot. Even if ones mother did not make any conkies one would still be sure to savour some of the delicacy because some neighbour was sure to send over a few - such was the sharing nature of the community back then.
Cricket, cricket and more cricket:
The past time of almost every boy was cricket. We played cricket from morning till night. We played big cricket or marble cricket. This sport kept us busy and kept us out of trouble. This sport gave us the capacity to organize. We formed teams and played matches against neighbouring districts. Our fields were every nook and cranny where a flat area could be found. The fellows were very creative and used everything at their disposal to prepare pitches or make bats and balls. Bottles were used to beat the pitches into a level surface; strands of rubber tubing were used to make balls and the limbs from the coconut tree or the clammy cherry tree to make bats. I was lucky, for the guys often played on a little patch outside my home. As kids we knew not the word "bored".
Pretty soon we had established two rivalling teams- Wessex and The Alleynes. The Alleynes was centred around the Alleyne Shop and attracted players from Supers and friends of the Alleyne boys; Wessex attracted players from Blades Hill mainly. We were very imaginative and equally creative. Not having access to the real tools of the game, we created our own - pads from card box etc. Many a game was played on the Gully Hill. It was there that we honed our skills which were later utilised at a higher level when we formed the St. Mark's Old Scholars Cricket team and took part in the Barbados Cricket League Cricket competition.
The crowning glory for us came when one of our players, Milton Small, went on to play for the West Indies.
Dominoes: When we were not playing cricket we were playing dominoes. The guys were extremely good at this game. We played under Deary tree in Blades Hill no. 2 or in Elbert Burke's school. We played partners or cut-throat. Much of our summer vacations was spent in this manner. Such was the love for this game that we played from morning till night, only breaking to go home for lunch or dinner. On many occasions mothers would appear around the bend to call a son who had neglected to do his chores. Reluctantly that boy would drag himself away from the game, always to return after carrying out the wishes of his mother.
more to come