A tribute to San Fernando , Trinidad

I was born in the year World War II ended , 1945 , and my first home was in the city of San Fernando in Trinidad.
My early memories are of Broadway , now Independence Avenue , and we lived in the shadow of Naparima College.
I remember we lived in a small apartment on Broadway , but we had electricity and running water , and we were in a town!
My earliest memories are of playing under the large samaan trees on the Naparima College campus , which was virtually our back yard.
Back then there were two roads to the college ; a winding road for vehicular traffic , and a steep hill for pedestrians leading to the main campus.
Both roads have been replaced by Lute Drive.

sando hill
SAN FERNANDO HILL

To us as kids back then, San Fernando was a safe , happy place (even though there were occasional scares like the Green Face man and the Shaver Man ), and we fearlessly roamed about town after school and during vacation, as much as we could get away with from our parents 😊.

My first vivid early carnival memory was seeing a steelband chased by police on J’ouvert morning.

I’m pretty sure it was 1951, because I remember some large men carrying steel drums hung around their necks, singing obscene lyrics to the song “l’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts “ about someone called Thelma , and that song had been a top ten hit in the US by Merv Griffin the year before.

For some reason I’ve always thought this happened at Cross Crossing, but I was never sure.

Even though I was very young , I was influenced by the culture of Broadway.
At the time there were well known young men in the area like Frankie “Grease” Ramjohn and Frankie “Lips” , who was a popular and talented portrayer of Indian mas at the time , George “Biggers” Braithwaite was one of the leaders of Hatters and the Ifill boys who lived at the base of Naparima College hill, with Mrs. Ifill being a friend of my grandmother, and of course there was Broadway Hatters Steelband , my first steelband love.

I should also mention “Jap” Beharry who was a teenager then , and who was to become a future leader of Hatters.

I remember him playing a”Ju Ju Warrior with Hatters back then and I also remember seeing him with a”duddup ” !

He did look somewhat Japanese, and I guess that’s how he got his nickname. This was following WWII , after all 😊.

Years later, I saw a photo of myself, probably about seven, watching Broadway Hatters as they gathered in front of the Ifill’s home at the bottom of Naparima College hill for their Carnival presentation featuring The German Army.

Wish I still had that photo 😊!

The house we occupied on Broadway was owned by the Baisdens, and our neighbors were San Fernando notables like the football player Ian Seales and Ria Chong Asing, who was to become an accomplished tennis player.

Directly across the street lived the Jogie family.

It was definitely culture shock for us when the family moved to the country village of New Grant in 1953 , when I was about eight.
The move was made to facilitate my father’s work in the oil fields , but my mother hated it since we had no indoor plumbing or electricity in the country, and she was more of a city person.
Although we couldn’t afford a radio , in San Fernando my father had the Rediffusion company install one of their speakers in our house .
Reddifusion was a hard wired radio network , and the company rented their speakers to be mounted in homes for a small fee.
The speaker box mounted on the wall had a two way selector switch and featured two radio stations , identified as the Golden and Silver networks.
The Golden network was actually Radio Trinidad , the Silver Network was the Voice of Rediffusion.
I loved the Rediffusion ; it was greatly responsible for my early love and appreciation of music , and an awareness of current events.
We left that all behind , when we moved to the country.

In spite of all that , my mother did the best she could , even insisting to travel all the way to San Fernando to do her grocery shopping , much to the resentment of the nearby local shopkeeper .
He would see her emerging from a taxi filled with groceries right in front of his shop , since we lived just across the street opposite his shop at the Hindustan road junction , in Mrs. Dookie’s old house, which we rented.
I’ve always maintained that in the old days , there was no need to go to Port of Spain for Carnival.
San Fernando’s carnival was great.
So even though we lived in New Grant , my mother made a point of bringing us to San Fernando for Carnival every year, sometimes finding accommodations with friends – a base for the day.
That was no easy trip back then , especially with five little kids, especially having to arrange transportation back home after the Carnival..
My mother was a seamstress , and she would make new clothes for the occasion. She would make fancy shirts for the three boys (we called them “bad” shirts back then) , and we would be wearing “blue duck” {denim ) pants , which had newly become fashionable.
( Sorry , can’t remember what my two sisters wore , but I know my mother sewed them new clothes , too )
. As poor as we were , my mother did her best , and I could never forget those days. And , carnival was so much fun , I was sad when it was over.
I must admit that as children we took the hardships of country living in stride , even enjoying the adventure of playing in the country woods , the abundance of fruits , the relative freedom and carefree nature of country living etc. , but my mother hated it.
Obviously , we had no indoor plumbing or electricity, and at times in the hottest months even the street standpipe would go dry , and we would have to await water deliveries from trucks.
We got pretty good at balancing pails of water on our heads !
And sometimes , I do wonder how I managed to see to do my schoolwork using kerosene lamps and candles !
After a few years we moved to Princes Town which was less rural and more to my mother’s liking , and we lived there until , after a sequence of events , we finally ended up in Marabella , now a part of San Fernando , where we lived and established roots , until I migrated to the US Virgin Islands in 1968.

2 thoughts on “A tribute to San Fernando , Trinidad

  1. Your brought back wonderful memories of Broadway – Hatters steelband, the Ifills (Dove was a shoemaker), the Yearwoods who lived across the road, the Ramjohns on Sutton Street, who lived next to Ms. Harper and who had as tenants, the Crawfords (Hasely’s family) and the Wiggins (Shirley of tennis fame). There was a Chinese shop obliquely opposite to you and I have been trying to remember its name (now replaced by a beauty shop). Mrs. Hutchinson had her music school on Broadway. You also had the Montoutes, the Hillaires, the Brambles, the Greens(?) all on Broadway. I can see the faces but many names I have forgotten. Your essay is forcing me to recall growing up on the corner of Sutton and Gordon Streets. Thank you.

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