BODIES, MEMORIES, AND EMPIRE: LIFE STORIES ABOUT GROWING UP IN JAMAICA 1943 - 1965 by YVONNE SALOME BROWN Teacher Certificate, Mico College 1965 BEd The University of British Columbia 1980 MEd The University of British Columbia 1983 Dip Ed The University of British Columbia 1991 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF EDUCATION in THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES (Educational Policy and Leadership) THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA April 2005 © Yvonne Salome Brown 2005 ABSTRACT "What's a mother?" is the first and most significant question I remember asking as a child. It led to another: "Who is my mother?" Particular events, people, and landscapes of my past in Jamaica beckoned me to return to the land of my birth to search for the answers to these two questions. Once begun, the investigation raised more questions: Without a mother to give me a sense of self, then 'Who am I?' - 'Who have I become?' -'What forces have shaped my character and my outlook on life?'. I use my body as a living archive from which to retrieve fragmentary details from inestimable amounts of data, stored in the conscious and the unconscious. I construct life stories that blend fictional and non-fictional elements. Conversations with Caribbean friends and acquaintances both prompt my memory and elaborate details. Caribbean fiction writers provide models for representing the human condition of Caribbean peoples. Diaries of slavers and plantation owners, primary documents obtained from the National Archives of Jamaica, and the libraries of the University of the West Indies provide further data. I include observations and informed accounts of my travels along the colonial trails. These life stories are about my motherlust, my family, my church, my schooling and political moments in the history of the island we call Jamaica. History and politics explain the social phenomena that emerge. In composing these narratives, I speak in three embodied voices: the subject, researcher, and author. I bring in the voices of significant family members, teachers, preachers, friends and the folk in the Jamaican patois. These stories attest to the truth-value of genetic, autobiographical, topographical, and archival memory as matrices within which to conduct narrative inquiry into one's origin. Embedded within these stories are lessons about identity formation, curricular policy, schooling and the content of a colonial education, the subjugation of the history of African people in New World slavery, and critiques of multiculturalism and globalization. It is my aim that in reading these stories, students, teachers, educational and community leaders will appreciate the generative potential of repressed memories. 11 TABLE OF CONTENTS Abstract ii Table of Contents iii List of Figures vii Acknowledgements viii Preface xiii Chapter I INTRODUCTION 1 1.1 Finding Myself 1 1.2 Methodological Approaches 4 1.3 In Lieu of My Family Tree 12 Chapter II THE IMPERIAL CONTEXT 13 2.1 Colonial Jamaica: A Historical Perspective 16 2.2 Colonial Jamaica: A Political Perspective 21 2.3 Colonial Trails: A Personal Perspective 23 Chapter III EARLY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES 1947 - 1950 31 3.1 My Life with Aunt Joyce and Uncle Harold circa 1947 31 3.2 Public Works and My Father 41 3.3 Journey into Sugarcane 42 3.4 Life with Eutedra Williams 43 3.5 Parson Pickney 45 3.6 Recollections of My Infant School Years 46 3.7 The People of Hazard 50 3.8 Epilogue 54 Chapter IV LOUISIANA BLUES circa 1950 - 1954 57 4.1 Why We Moved to Louisiana 57 4.2 Louisiana Village 59 4.3 My Father's Birds , 62 4.4 My Father the House Inspector 64 4.5 My Father's Morning Routine 66 4.6 The Grey Tin Case 67 4.7 Louisiana Blues 68 4.8 Hop a Truck and Pull a Cane 72 4.9 Memories of Mango Walk School 74 4.10 Queen Elizabeth's Coronation 89 4.11 How I Found My Way Back to May Pen 92 Chapter V LIFE AND SCHOOLING IN MAY PEN circa 1955 - 1962 95 5.1 A Familiar Place 95 5.2 The Supermarket 95 5.3 Toyland 96 5.4 The Picture Shows 96 5.5 The May Pen Market 97 5.6 The Butchers 101 5.7 Remembering the Market People 102 5.8 The Grass Yard 104 5.9 How Life Started in May Pen 105 5.10 " I Move Back with Aunt Joyce 1957 - 1959 108 iv 5.11 School Layout of the All-Age School 112 5.12 The Comprehensive School Experiment 114 5.13 Curricula of the All-Age School 115 5.14 Curricula of the Comprehensive School 116 5.15 Child Welfare 126 Chapter VI CLARENDON COLLEGE, CHAPELTON 1960 - 1961 129 6.1 The First Morning 129 6.2 The December before Clarendon College 132 6.3 A Pause to Pay Tribute to Aunt Joyce 136 6.4 Auntie Black Rescues Me 140 6.5 Opening Ceremonies 147 6.6 Some Good Learning Times 151 6.7 What's a Mother? 160 6.8 Barclay's Bank Dominion, Colonial, and Overseas 161 Chapter VII BECOMING A TEACHER: MICO COLLEGE 1962 - 1965 168 7.1 Deciding to Go to Mico College 168 7.2 The Independence Batch 1962- 1965 170 7.3 Who is My Mother? 177 7.4 The College Curriculum 183 7.5 I Develop My Approach to Teaching 185 7.6 Academic Studies 187 7.7 Remembering My Tutors Warmly 188 7.8 Achieving Academic Excellence 190 V 7.9 Mico College: the Total Institution 192 7.10 Denominational Affiliation 193 7.11 Pastoral Care and the Tutorial System 196 7.12 Athletics and Games 196 7.13 Music and Culture 197 7.14 Extra-curricula Program 198 7.15 The House System 200 7.16 Sexuality in College 201 7.17 Student of the Year Contest 203 7.18 Graduation and Future Prospects 207 Chapter VIII REVELATIONS AND REFLECTIONS 210 8.1 Bodies, Memories, and Empire 210 8.2 Bodies : -. 211 8.3 Memories 213 8.4 Empire ....220 8.5 Preliminary Conclusions • 224 8.6 Implications for Education Practice 228 8.7 Postscript 230 Bibliography 231 Appendix I Glossary of Patois Speech 246 Appendix II Map of Jamaica 252 Appendix III Letter to Mrs Vinette Elliott 253 Appendix IV Review: The Making of New World Slavery 256 v i LIST OF FIGURES Figure 2.1 African Diaspora in the Americas 14 Figure 2.2 Slave colonies of the Americas & Caribbean, c. 1750 15 Figure 2.3 Significant events in Jamaica during the Imperial era 22 Figure 3.1 Aunt Joyce & Uncle Harold, c. 1950 36 Figure 4.1 Running a hoop to school 75 Figure 4.2 Exercise book bearing the new Queen's portrait 90 Figure 4.3 Yvonne's beloved brother Trevor 94 Figure 5.1 Yvonne visiting May Pen Clocktower 98 Figure 5.2 Caribbean Market Scene 100 Figure 5.3 Uncle Harry & Auntie Black, c. 1961 105 Figure 5.4 Yvonne, Education Week 1958 113 Figure 6.1 Aunt Joyce & Yvonne, c. 1961 137 Figure 6.2 Yvonne's 1961 report card from Clarendon1 College .:. 156 Figure 6.3 Sisters: Sonia and Yvonne, 1960 157 Figure 6.4 The Hon. Charles Archibald Reid OBE PC MLC 166 Figure 7.1 Yvonne in College, c. 1963 174 Figure 7.2 Teaching certificate of Lucy May Reid 179 Figure 7.3 General Assembly with the Hon Edward Seaga, 1965 195 Figure 7.4 Yvonne with Girl Guide Company at Mico College, 1965 199 Figure 7.5 Mrs Glen Owen, wife of the Principal of Mico College 204 Figure 7.6 Yvonne, Student of the Year 1965, meets the Governor-General 206 Unless otherwise noted, all photographic figures are from the collection of the author. v i i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS In the preparation of this dissertation, many writers, professors, colleagues and friends have helped me, directly and indirectly. It is impossible for me to single out each one. I humbly ask that my failing not be construed as ingratitude. To those I have not mentioned, I hope you will receive these stories as gifts. However, I must express my appreciation to a few individuals who have done something outstanding to enable my pursuit of doctoral studies and the research and writing of this dissertation. First, I want to acknowledge the tremendous influence of black women writers from the continent of Africa and the African Diaspora of the Americas and the Caribbean. I mention two among them whose influence permeates my work. First, I owe a huge debt to the Nobel Laureate, Toni Morrison, whose literary works and literary criticism build on the salience of the memory of the slave trade and slavery in the Americas on the psychology of women. She showed me the way. Her own explanation of how she has used memory in her work offered me imaginative possibilities in how I could create a text from excavating my memory. Her novel Beloved and her series of lectures Playing in the dark: Whiteness and the literary imagination kept speaking to me, reassuring me that I too might excavate my memory to produce something worthwhile. By her work and example, she made me believe that I had the responsibility to remember the mother ancestors, to re-member the limbs severed in slavery as well as to rememorize the deluges of the past. Her caution about the desire to disremember was useful at times when I found some memories too painful to recall. Several Caribbean women writers validated my desire to write about the English-speaking Caribbean reality. The dub poet Lillian Allen was the first to invite me to write in the 1980s. I hope these stories will please her. Erna Brodber, Olive Senior, Merle Hodge, Dionne Brand, M Nourbese Philip, Lucille Mathurin-Mair, and Jamaica Kincaid are just a few whose work inspired me. I single out Jamaica Kincaid as my Caribbean literary model. I tried to emulate how she wove the personal, with the historical and the contemporary to problematize her female identity formation in Antigua. Her strident critique of the legacy of colonial education and the corruption of the local elite is in the tradition of the rebel woman of slavery days. V I U There are a number of professors in the Faculty of Education and in the Faculty of Arts whose research and teaching have influenced me greatly. I will start with the members of my committee. They carried a heavy emotional load in guiding me through the dissertation process. Professor Jean Barman, the chair of my committee, taught graduate courses on race, nation, and memory in the history of education that allowed me to find a paradigm within which to conduct my study. Most significant, I could not have written this dissertation without her unconditional validation of my stories and the care that she took in offering me reassurance at times when I quaked under the weight of emotions. Professor Dawn Currie's 1991 course in advanced feminist theory provided me a space to theorize about the experience and the institution of motherhood. I acknowledge Professor Currie's sponsoring me to develop and offer Women's Studies 411, The Presence of African/Black Women in the Americas to the UBC Women's Studies Program, when she was chair of the Women's Studies Program. Professor Gloria Onyeoziri, the only African woman professor at UBC, through her grounding in African and Caribbean women's literature and literary criticism nourished me with a poetic understanding of my project. Without the support and encouragement of my supervising committee I would not have been able to get past the pain and shame to create this text. Professor Paul Krause, of the history department, taught a course on African American history, for the first time in UBC's history, in 1995, that brought together history, fiction, autobiography and music by and about African Americans. This was the very first time in all my forty-eight year association with the institution of education - in Jamaica and in British Columbia - that I had a course dealing with Black people and reading works by Black historians, sociologists, historians, novelists. I remain eternally grateful to Professor Krause for developing and offering that course. It stands as perhaps the only history course at UBC that deals solely with Black people in the Americas. Dr Nancy Sheehan, former Dean of the Faculty of Education, respected and valued my anti-racism work and curriculum development that contribute to the Education community on African and Diaspora Literature for children. She was most supportive of me during my term as school trustee. She never failed to acknowledge and compliment my work. I thank Professor Patricia Vertinsky, former head of the Department of Educational Studies, for giving me sound advice and pointing me to the doctor of ix education program at a crucial time in my career. Professor Peter Seixas in founding the Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness has fostered many dialogues on memory, history, and narrative. I have benefitted immensely from my participation in them. I thank Professor Marion Porath, former Associate Dean Teacher Education, for encouraging me to start this doctoral program and for advocating release time for me to start in the summer of 2000, which was at a very difficult time in the office. Professor Graeme Chalmers, former holder of the David Lam Chair of Multicultural Education, offered an inclusive vision of how a Faculty of Education could develop a teacher education program incorporating a critical multiculturalism. I learned much from the ways in which, on behalf of the Faculty, he was able to reach out to various communities to include multiple perspectives and to host diverse peoples from the community in the Faculty. I was gratified in participating in and observing his work. I appreciated the care with which Dr Jon Shapiro, Senior Associate Dean Administration in the Faculty of Education wrote the letter approving my undertaking studies while I worked fulltime. I hope that I have served the Faculty well through undertaking these studies. Professor Cecille DePass, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary, my Jamaican compatriot, has been a sister, mentor, and friend. She has worked valiantly to remind me of my scholarly abilities at times when I seriously doubted myself. Dr DePass pulled me from the Point Grey edge from time to time, to share panels with her at learned conferences and thus rekindled my love of travel and learning. I took a course from George Elliott Clarke, professor, poet and novelist on African-Canadian literature and learned form him a few tips of the writer's craft - details, details, details. There are a number of Jamaican and Caribbean friends and acquaintances who gave substantial cultural support during my research and writing. Vince D'Oyley, professor emeritus, and Stan Raymond, both Miconians, helped me remember some details of the college. Barbara Binns, my Jamaican contemporary, was my informant at times when I needed to check details of life and times in Jamaica during our childhood. We enjoyed childhood reminiscences of life in Jamaica. She always commended me for taking the time to write these stories. I tested the truth-value of some of my stories with her. Above all we had some hearty laughs at some of the absurdities of growing up in a colonial society. Regular Saturday morning conversations with Nadine Chambers pulled her into volunteering for some valuable archival searches when she went on trips to Jamaica. Through her contact, Jean King provided valuable research assistance in searching The Daily Gleaner archive and the National Library of Jamaica to find information on the Honorable Charles Reid. Adassa Brooks, Noga Gayle, Marlene John, Betty Lough, and Maxine Wishart, have loaned books, shared childhood stories, and helped me in various ways to remember details and to laugh. I thank Mrs Vinette Elliott, my infant school principal, for her willingness to correspond with me to answer the many questions I asked to check my memory of infant school. It was good to meet Mrs Elliott again after nearly fifty years. Lorna Coke, my teacher friend in Jamaica was ever willing to track down one more obscure item in the National Archive or the University of the West Indies Library for me. A number of daughter friends and scholars offered generously of their time and scholarly insights. Kara McDonald and Hartej Gill read my stories with great interest from the very beginning. If it were not for their substantive comments about alternative ways of doing theory, these stories may never have been written and presented. Kara's comments on the value of writing about traveling the colonial trails helped me to recompose parts of it for Chapter II. Euphrates Gobina persuaded me that my stories could have appeal to Africans. She was the first to convince me that I had produced a manuscript, after insisting that she compile my first draft of stories. I sincerely thank Professor Jim Gaskell, Associate Dean of External Programs and Learning Technologies, for his sensitivity to my need for some time to get the writing done. Without those Fridays off to write, the work may have been consigned to the bin of many half finished projects. Professors Stephen Petrina encouraged me and provided resources to validate my methodology when I almost lost my confidence. I take this opportunity to express my admiration for the founders, elders, and professors of the Native Indian Teacher Education Program (NITEP) and the Ts' 'kel Program for First Nations educational administrators. I have learned so much about striving for restorative justice and ways of asserting educational self-determination after the devastation of the residential schools. I am thankful that I could always find an x i empathetic ear when I needed to talk to someone whom I knew would understand the hurts of colonialism. I thank the University of British Columbia for its generous tuition waivers, which enabled me to undertake doctoral studies. This program is important for the access it provides employees who could not otherwise afford graduate studies. Garry Fletcher copy-edited and assisted with layout of the text and images. Garry's generosity of spirit and knowledge of the British Empire were a boon to producing the final text. We shared many resonances of the English curriculum. To my children - Andrea, Gail, and Winston -1 owe so much. Through their grace I was able to be the mother to them that I wished I had had. They taught me the meaning of unconditional love. As the folk would say "Tank Gad, me live fe see dem pass de worse." Winston was most obliging in helping me with my various computer troubles. Son, I appreciate your patience more than you will ever know. Finally, I acknowledge the tremendous legacy of strength and integrity bequeathed by the fine examples of resistance, creativity, and honour of my African and European ancestors who were consigned to live out the nightmare of enslavement, and plantation life in Jamaica. I hope these stories honour their memory. *** This work is dedicated to my late mother, Lucy May Reid. x i i PREFACE This narrative inquiry concerning bodies, memories, and empire reveals an abundance of contradictions and tensions, loveliness in ugliness, and above, all astonishing insights into the legacies of African enslavement in the New World, British colonization and empire building. These real life stories are about my motherlust, my family, my church, my schooling in the island we call Jamaica. They are about bodies and the breaking of flesh. They are about memory, history, and landscape. They are about migration of labour. They are about sugar production and rise of consumption. They are about the trade in enslaved African bodies. They are about racialized chattel slavery. They are about the emancipation of slavery and the degradation of free labour. They are about the psychological and socio-economic legacy of colonization on my life, and on the lives of other descendants of colony and empire. They are about the power of education to transform, harm, and heal, simultaneously. They are about the repression of knowledge about the exploitation of Africa. They are about miscegenation. They are about extreme brutality. They are about racism and human degradation. They are about struggle for dignity and wholeness. They are about making sense of my past in colony and empire. CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION 1.1 F ind ing Myself My body signifies many stories. My female body, which is to say my brain, my heart, my soul, my flesh, my physiognomy, and my spirit, all are marked by events of the past into which I was born. It is the past of the Colony of Jamaica, New World slavery, plantation economy, and English missionary education, set within the culture of the British Empire as it flourished and faded. A long past, yet my body remembers. This was the realization I came to when I was brought, at last, to question how I came to be born in Jamaica; and how in particular I came to have this body that, by no will nor permission of mine, caused so many moments of disruption and discomfort in what thought themselves to be multicultural classrooms and workplaces. Multicultural discourse - how calm, and irreproachable the expression - was for me an inviting door, one through which I believed I might easily pass in the search for understanding. And so my inquiry began, on my own behalf first, and then on behalf of African and Black students, as a simple quest for knowledge with which to make informed curricular and pedagogical interventions. During the course of my reading and reflection, I discovered the racial, economic, and sexual collision of Africa, Europe, and the Americas that - incredibly - had made me: one among millions of coloured, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon children, the fruit of black virgins, Ewe, Ashanti, Twi, Yoruba, Hausa and Ibo, deflowered by white men. The deflorescence I speak of was no ordinary sexual act of biological maturation. It was the deliberate racialized sexual assault whose purpose was domination (Beckles 1995; Bakare-Yusuf, 1999). Whites from Portugal, Holland, Spain, France, Denmark, and England ravished the African women as, simultaneously, they plundered the African landscape for its gold, diamonds, iron, salt, gums, cloves, coffee, copper, leopard skins, rhinoceros horns, and, especially, for its ivory - the white, and the black. The harvesting of black ivory (Walvin, 2001) depopulated the continent, destroying clans, tribes, kingdoms, and nation-states (Harris, 1987). The rape of the healthiest and most beautiful women was relentless. It started at the point of capture and sale; it continued in the barracoons spread along what became known as the Slave Coast of Africa, and within the officers' quarters in the slave castles. We can imagine the sexual l assaults, by white men and black, within the confines of the slave ships that plied the triangular trade, especially along the Middle Passage, and thereafter in the great houses of the plantations. Sexual assaults continued as an integral part of the violence which controlled and enforced labour in the tobacco fields of Virginia and Kentucky; in the cane fields of Barbados, Jamaica, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Haiti; and in the rice fields of the Carolinas (Beckles, 1995; Gerima, 1993; Moitt 1995). White rape of black took place over a period of more than 350 years. For 250 of those years it accompanied the unoutlawed trade in African bodies; and then continued through a further century of legal African chattel slavery, in what the Europeans conceived of as the New World. My physiognomy is the living record of this terrible lineage. My mother is the descendent line of Africa enslaved: taken from the Slave Coast, a place unknown in origin, but probably somewhere that would have been known to my paternal descent - English and Scottish colonizers - as the Guineas or Ghana. I cannot be sure because too much of that lineage is lost, or hidden. This at least I have direct knowledge of, because my father's family hid my maternal lineage from me. In the same way, the knowledge regimes of schooling have, for the most part, hidden the facts and truth of the brutal history of Africa from those who, like myself, have good reason to learn them. I struggle daily to heal the scars of willful ignorance and epistemic violence that silence the history of enslavement in this, the so-called New World (Trouillot, 1995). I was born as a byproduct of those in the service of Empire in the colony of Jamaica. I grew up hearing that Africa has no history; Africa has no culture; black people were made to serve the white man. I continue to hear derogatory assertions about Africa. Africa is the Dark Continent. Africa is the basket case of the world. Africa is the land of savages and backwardness. But what did that mean to me? Jamaicans were and fundamentally still are categorized as black, white, and - my own kind - coloured. If I was not 'white', I was certainly not 'black'. I did not believe that assertions of black Africa described me, even half-wise. Only when I moved to Canada did I 'become' black, that is, I had 'blackness', in the North American sense, bestowed upon me; only through living and working in British Columbia, and observing and experiencing indigenous social phenomena, have I been compelled to acknowledge, explicitly, the obvious African part of my genetic heritage. 2 In the present study, I seek out this repressed physical and cultural heritage. I confront some haunting memories of my life iri Jamaica, and come to an understanding of how dynamics of colonization, race, skin colour, commodity production, and empire played out in my family, schooling, and in the very landscape of the places in which I lived. The basic tool of this research, then, is my autobiographical memory, from which I construct real life stories. But I have found myself obligated to go beyond the examination of a single (that is, my own), life history. For it remains a major aim to forward the understanding I have already mentioned, and contribute to the body of texts supporting critical dialogue which, through necessary curricular and pedagogical interventions, can give greater credence to critical multiculturalism and anti-racist education. This dissertation is motivated by my sense of how important is the need to interrogate and inform educators about what it means to be a colonized 'other', teaching and learning in the multicultural and multiracial education system in British Columbia, Canada. As an educator, born and educated in Jamaica between 1943 and 1965, and having lived and worked in Canada for thirty-five years, I have become aware of, and affected and disturbed by, phenomena I have observed: the complex ways in which bodies in classrooms carry the memories of Empire (especially of the English, French, and Spanish), in their physiognomy, speech, schooling, and social standing. I have remarked how these bodies and memories are treated. Multiculturalist discourse notwithstanding, some bodies seem welcomed and invited to enjoy right of place; other bodies, conversely, seem out of place and the source of great discomfort. Let us compare the high social-standing accorded to white students speaking with the accents of England, Australia, New Zealand, or the United States, with the relatively low standing accorded to or adopted by black and brown students from the Caribbean, India, and Africa. Culturally, linguistically, and directly through the curricula of their schooling, people from these nations share a common colonial and British imperial heritage. But white is the colour of the colonizer; black, brown, yellow and red the colours of the colonized. This is the embodiment of the status differential, which, even without further reinforcement, represents an unspoken rebuff, one that leads some students to resist and act out the rejection they feel, while others become alienated from the education system. Many leave school or universities altogether, and thereby decrease their life-chances. 3 As both student and teacher, I have experienced and observed how destructive tensions arise when the hegemonic knowledge of the colonizer clashes with the repressed knowledge of the colonized, especially if articulated by those who, like myself, live within embodied memories. I have been especially struck by the ways in which knowledge about the colonized other is subjugated or erased in academic disciplines. Curricular choices leave teachers unprepared to deal with traumatic stories of slavery, colonization, and political domination, whether historical or contemporary. The omission and erasure of topics dealing with the presence of Africa and Africans in Western historical study are particularly pervasive. It has become fashionable as a pedagogical strategy for teachers and instructors to ask children and adult students to tell their own stories. But, of what use is it to the student to bring forward these stories and experiences, when there is no epistemic base upon which to validate and honour them within a critical and ethical framework? Worse yet, what does it mean for some students to be perennial strangers in their classrooms, where they will learn next to nothing of their ancestral histories and heritage? 1.2 Methodological Approaches 1.2.1 Narrative Form The chapters of the dissertation are structured chronologically, representing the years between 1943 and 1965. This is the period when the events and places in which I lived, attended school and college, and worked, formed the landscape I have chosen to chronicle. Drawing on an understanding of narrative inquiry, I write real life stories about growing up in Jamaica, in which I rediscover my family (especially my mother's side), my education, and the panoramas of my early years. I explore how this environment with its special life and history formed my own identity and world-view. As its starting point, the study makes use of stories about my early life in Jamaica. I follow Jill Ker Conway (1998) and her memoir of growing up in Australia, in wishing to convey my sense of the importance of my education, of my liberation through access to education, and the variety of steps I took to take control of my life (p. 163). To imbue these stories with significance beyond myself, I offer interpretations within a historical context in relation to relevant specific child-rearing 4 practices, educational policies, and economic conditions. Bullough & Pinnegar (2001) count these steps as necessary to turn self-study into rigorous qualitative research. In aspiring to meet this test of quality, the study draws upon several research traditions. In an effort to give texture and depth to my description of selected events in these years, I draw on the written histories of the founding of the societies in the Caribbean and the Americas. The narrative I construct begins, however, with my recollection of coming into consciousness. The first and most profound question I have ever asked as an infant characterizes what I call my 'motherlust': What's a mother? I endeavour therefore to look back at the braided histories, into which and with which I was born; and among and through which I lived the first twenty-three years of my life. With these means I have aimed to develop the tools necessary to answer the emerging questions: Who is my mother? How did I come to have the family I had? Who educated whom, for what purpose, under what circumstances, in what places? What meanings can I now ascribe to the events I experienced? How did these histories determine the kind of schooling and education I had, and the type of person I have become? And will answers to these questions provide a valid historical understanding of my place in the world? The study is empirical, in that I excavate my memory to name the sensory experiences of growing, up in Jamaica. I use these sensations to distinguish a selection of critical incidents in my family, and schooling and education. The study is also hermeneutic, in that it seeks to elucidate the meaning of these experiences and events. An essential aspect of the method is the dialogue and tension that develop between the observed or experienced, and the imagined. On one hand this narrative is 'non-fiction', in that it describes actual incidents in my life, complemented by primary and secondary sources on educational policies and historical writings, especially African and Caribbean theorists. These data are supported by historians of different periods relevant to the study. On the other hand the narrative is 'fiction', in that I apply creative techniques to imagine a version of my life, and thereby to construct a particular kind of truth (Zinsser, 1995). I originate this truth by use of connotative and denotative language, and of metaphoric language, through which I am empowered to verbalize and interpret the truth within me, that is, my embodied knowledge (Richardson, 2000). I draw heavily on the elements of fiction; and as such, I concern myself with issues of voice and voices, plot, 5 themes, narration, analysis, and setting. Points of view, perspectives, preoccupation, and tropes and pathos are applied where it seems important to do so. Literary devices such as parable, allusions, monologues, imagery, metaphors, and dialogues are instrumental in establishing pathos, atmosphere, and resolution of ethical dilemmas of truth-telling and confidentiality. Foreshadowing, flash-backs, flash-forwards, and associated contextual analysis drive dominant and subsidiary narrative themes, the Active 'plot' and 'subplots'. 1.2.2 Narrative Voices Essential to my method is the plurality of voice in which the inquiry is narrated. I use three embodied voices in one: the voices of protagonist, narrator, and researcher/scholar. Most evidently, I am protagonist, the central voice in this dramatized life-story. Yet, second, I have also to speak as disinterested narrator, objective but omnipresent. As I write, I respond to the feel and the flow of this narrative voice. Third, I interject the voice of researcher, the essential commentator of scholarly analysis and meaning. This is the voice that, to a degree, regulates the whole, and calls for validation of its inspirational content. My voices move between narration, stream of conscious thought, and scholarly analysis, and it seems important to me that these voices should not be artificially isolated, but should be heard to move easily between registers. Moreover,' my individualized voices join intermittently with other essential utterances: folk speech in the Jamaican patios; theoretical constructs; historical facts; and the words of other writers, all of whom join their voices with mine to tell the story, to theorize, and to comprehend the experiences of our multi-layered histories. A word about the voice of the folk: alongside the formal hegemonic English voice of school, church, and government, is the patois voice of the displaced and dispossessed of the streets, cane pieces (fields), and the market places. In my time, domestic servants, yard-boys, shop-helpers spoke patois. It is a dialect of English, having some West African-derived syntax, vocabulary and performative features, adaptations, and inventions. I include a glossary of this speech in Appendix I. The patois is largely unwritten, since the schooled and literate regarded it as the speech of low-class black people. But all Jamaicans born and raised in the island understand the patois, even if some do not speak it. When I grew up we were discouraged from speaking patois because it was said to be a mark of illiteracy and low class. During the period of which I write, the majority of the 6 population spoke only patois. People judged quality of schooling by the ability to utilize the words and grammar of Standard English.. Hardly anything in Jamaica provides such an endless source of ridicule and comedy as does the inability to maintain Standard English with consequent lapse into patois. We would often describe someone whose normal speech is patois trying to sustain Standard English as doing 'speaky-spokey'. Yet it is not unusual to find Standard English mixed with patois in the same sentence, by schooled and unschooled alike. The ability to mix both speeches or to switch from one to the other is both psychological and functional. In the psychological dimension, patois speakers are self-conscious, aware of being looked down upon and judged by their inability to command the English Language. Functionally, fluent speakers of both languages act like chameleons in conversations and arguments. They code switch to be impressive or to gain advantage in an argument, or to ridicule and put down. Equally, only the patois can produce the biting retorts which superbly skewer the antics of middle- and upper-class pretension. I love the patois as much as I love being among the market people. I draw upon it throughout my writing because, in my opinion, the wisdom required to survive displacement and dispossession is encoded in the oratory of patois as forcefully as it might otherwise be presented in English language literature. I wish that I could have written the whole dissertation in the patois. This would not, however, be a form suitable for passive study, but would call for performance and recitation, in the style of Louise Bennett, Jamaican poet, who speaks her work in the patois. The patois cannot remain inert on the page, but lives in the speech of Jamaica. (For the linguistic and sociolinguistic debates concerning standard English, dialect, Creole, patois, African influences, Nation languages, and Jamaica talk, see Alleyne, 1988; Morris, 1999; Roberts, 1998.) 1.2.3 Research Sources This exploration involved seven research activities. 1) I excavated my memory to construct portraits of myself at different stages of my development, embedded within my family, in primary and secondary schools, in teachers' college, and in the political economy of the island. Along the way I recreated specific features of the landscape that have left indelible memories. To recall the landscape was to uncover how the lives of Jamaican people were embedded in the history of 7 commodity production, especially sugar, molasses, rum, and banana, supplying the socio-economic demands of the British Empire. 2) I consulted primary sources on educational policies and programs from the National Library of Jamaica, and from the University of the West Indies archives in Jamaica. 3) I read a number of Caribbean fiction writers and historians, for both information and as models of language and Caribbean sensibilities. 4) I made two trips to Jamaica. My quest to find my mother's people seriously began in 1998 when I insisted that my brother and I go to the city of Christiana, in Northern Manchester, our grandfather's constituency from 1935 - 1944, to find relatives and people who knew him. This visit made my mother's people real, and resulted in further searches in the National Library of Jamaica, the archives of The Daily Gleaner, and yearbooks. During the 1998 trip, I also revisited Chapelton and Clarendon College for the first time since I left in 1961. I took the opportunity to visit my Auntie Black, who is now in her nineties. During our visits, I had several confrontations with her on the subject of why I was kept from knowing any of my mother's people. The second visit took place in 2001, when I made a follow-up trip to Jamaica to revisit the city of May Pen and Spanish Town, original capital of the island. A map of Jamaica is provided in Appendix II. 5) I relied on key Jamaican informants with full knowledge of why I was either writing to or reminiscing with them. In this vein, I have corresponded with my infant school principal and visited her to engage in informal conversations about Carron Hall and Windsor Castle schools. Auntie Black was and is a reluctant but vital link to the story of my lineage. I was also particular to solicit casual, that is, unrecorded, conversation with Jamaicans of roughly my age, both to reminisce, and to check the accuracy of some experiences in schooling and the popular history of the island. 6) I analyzed my personal memorabilia, such as report cards, certificates, photo albums of life in Jamaica, college ceremonial programmes, and Girl Guide paraphernalia. 7) Internet searches provided virtual archival materials, which proved of significant value. 1.2.4 Ethical Issues I faced ethical issues throughout the project. These emerged continually in at least four constituent areas: personal, familial, collegial, and institutional. 8 1) The personal issues derive from formulating a dissertation in which my subjectivity is so central. How truthful can I be to myself in a document written under the academic supervision and critical scrutiny of my colleagues and peers? To offer oneself as the target of scholarly critique is to make oneself especially vulnerable. How legitimate, how wise indeed, could it be to expose myself in this way? I have continually had to question the ambivalence of my feelings in this respect -1 agonized whether I could tell some tales, while excluding others by reason of personal shame. Yet as the writing proceeded, I came to an important point of realization that the heaviest burden of shame attached to my family history was not mine to carry. To accept the legitimate rigours of academic inquiry was therefore (at least in part) to unshoulder another, and wrongful, obligation. 2) The biggest ethical problem for me has been how to write about my family. I adopted the position that a correct approach would be to write about members of my family with an attitude of compassionate understanding. Although this was largely possible, I have found it very difficult to come to sympathetic terms with the figure of my father, and have concluded that this is a process that must continue beyond the present project. If some of my stories seem incredible to the reader, as they seem to me now, then it may, in part, be explained by childhood perception. The effects of what adults do to children often appear more cruel than adults intend. Notwithstanding this perspective, I made the conscious decision to give pseudonyms to Mango Walk School and the head teacher, in order to remove what otherwise would have been a preoccupation, the inclination to self-censor my account of the brutalities and conditions at that school. Another ethical concern was how to describe people, especially my family members, in terms of their skin colour and their class. This was an essential question, necessary to convey how, during colonization and slavery, a racist order of social stratification according to skin colour legitimized the enslavement and disenfranchisement of people with black skin. Although the period in which my stories are set was more than a hundred years after the official abolition of slavery, its social and economic consequences and its conventions persisted. Most evident was privilege according to skin colour. Miscegenation among Africans and Europeans resulted in offspring who bore diverse combinations of skin colour, hair texture, and facial features. Social status was available on a sliding scale, dependent on the shades of black skin - a tint closer to white skin conferring, unsurprisingly, greater 9 prestige. In due course, three legal classes were established in Jamaica to encode a broad differential: white, coloured (brown), and black. Although the legal division had disappeared by the time I was born, the social practice of prejudice according to colour endured, as it does to this day within families and in the society at large. Colour and class played a central role in my family dynamics. My mother's side of the family (whilst including persons of standing), was black. My father's side was coloured, and indeed some of its members possessed skin tones and hair textures whereby they sought to pass for white. 3) The collegial ethical issues that I wrestled with have to do with scholarly interaction with my peers in the workplace. Some of them will, I am sure, read this dissertation and recognize some of their pedagogical practices of deliberate and unethical erasure and omission of knowledge about Africa and of Africans in the African Diaspora. Others, I predict, will be defensive and even patronizing in reading this dissertation, as they have been towards my public critiques of epistemological and pedagogical practices that deliver half-truths in an arena where the pursuit of truth is the primary mission. Still others will welcome this dissertation as vindication for their own ethical position on including Africa and Africans in their pedagogical practices. In choosing to write this personal narrative, I write for my colleagues who, over the years, have often invited me, cordially, to their classes to tell my story and talk about my experiences. Most have been disappointed that my story is embedded in a sordid history of slavery and empire, and does not fit into the redemptive narrative of becoming Canadian. On those occasions I have felt diminished. I hope to put to rest, and for posterity, the painful and sometimes hypocritical collegial relationships that I have encountered, because of who I am and for what I stand. 4) The institutional ethical issues were foretold in 2000, when I wrote my term paper entitled, Does Africa have a place in the University of British Columbia's conception of the World? A case for prospective action for the Practical Ethics course. The course was a part of my program in Leadership and Policy, of which this dissertation is itself partial fulfillment, for the Doctor of Education degree. The course was primarily concerned with probing the question of how leaders, as individuals, develop first-, second-, and third-order ethical principles to guide their actions. The assignment called for us to choose a dilemma in our workplace, one for which we had to take action. The object was to determine how we 10 might apply personal and abstract moral principles so as to take fitting action. In analyzing the University of British Columbia's Trek 2000 educational policy, I had discovered its (to me) startling omission of Africa. My dilemma was how I, of part African descent, as an employee, student, alumnus, and beneficiary of the privileges of the institution, might confront a powerful institution possessed of great coercive power, regarding this omission. In the assignment, I came face to face with my personal history in Jamaica. I grasped how this was fundamental to my sensitivity towards the specific issues I had noted, and in general to the use and abuse of Africa and its peoples. My upbringing was grounded in Christian ethics with a strong injunction to respect the equality of persons, abhor racial injustice, and to take responsibility to act to right wrongs. Mine was the tormented voice of the repressed in my classes. In that paper I critiqued the omission of Africa from UBC's institutional language. How could ours be a world-class research university, if it made no substantive mention of Africa? This dissertation is written in part to rebut the institutional defence of the exclusion of Africa from the geopolitics of its Trek 2000 educational policy. This defence can be briefly summarized. We have chosen to focus on three geographical regions because: 1) we have historical ties with Europe; 2) we are part of the Americas; and 3) we have important trade ties with Asia. When I heard this 'commonsense' answer to my question of why the omission of Africa, my haunting memories of growing up in Jamaica and knowledge of the service of Africa and Africans to the New World empires of Western Europe, and the conquest of North and South America, and of Africa's relationship to Asia, begged to be shouted out. Do we not also have important historical and economic ties to Africa? I assert a principle of educational policy: educational policies mediate and set directions for the distribution of symbolic values within an institution. It follows then, to be included in policy is to count for something; to be excluded is to count for nothing. Within the institution I ride the horns of a dilemma. I work, sometimes teach, and study at the University of British Columbia. I acknowledge that loyalty to the university is expected of me; however, it cannot be unconditional, it is a critical loyalty. Uncritical loyalty would prevent me from acting in the cause of institutional truth and justice, and would run counter to the principles of scholarship. Yet in addition to all the prestige and privileges that I enjoy, lam the beneficiary of a generous professional development package, which has paid the tuition fees for my doctoral program. During my research and writing, I have n repeatedly asked myself the question: am I biting the hands that feed? In this comfortable place, can I speak uncomfortable truths? 1.3 In Lieu of My Family Tree Unfortunately, I do not have enough information to construct a useful family tree. Instead, I introduce only members of my family whose photographs, interspersed throughout the narrative, help make the relationships clear. On my mother's side are my maternal grandfather, the Honorable Charles Archibald Reid, and his two daughters Muriel Reid and her half-sister Lucy May. Lucy May Reid is my mother. On my father's side are the Shorters: Cyril John, my father, and his two sisters, Emily Elaine and Joyce Beatrice. Cyril John married my mother Lucy May Reid; Emily Elaine married Harold Black; and Joyce Beatrice married Harold Hylton. My father is the eldest of three boys and three girls. My uncles did not feature in my life, while my father and two of my three aunts did. I write only of two aunts and their husbands because only they figured significantly in my life. I write of Aunt Joyce Hylton (Aunt Joyce, or My Aunt Joyce) and her husband Harold Hylton (Uncle Harold) and of Aunt Emily Black (Auntie, or Auntie Black) and her husband Harold Black (Uncle Harry, or Mr Black). Throughout the narrative, I switch from familial titles of endearment to formal titles, depending on how I view each at different times in my growth and development. *** In the next Chapter, I set the imperial context for my stories. I present the context of colonial Jamaica from three vantage points: the historical, the political, and the personal. 12 CHAPTER II THE IMPERIAL CONTEXT No African trade, no Negroes, no Negroes, no sugar, no sugar, no islands, no islands no continent, no continent no trade: that is to say farewell to your American Trade, your West Indian trade. Daniel Defoe 1713 in Pagden, A. (2001) Peoples and Empires. New York: The Modern Library. In this Chapter, I seek to provide a historical and social context for the stories that follow. First, I briefly sketch the contours of Jamaican political and social history, giving the broadest outline of how Jamaica became a British colony and a slave society. I highlight significant dates and events which occurred from conquest up to the time of independence, the period immediately preceding which provides the setting for my stories. The timeline locates Jamaica in a pivotal position in the networks of the European conquest and trade, carried out by the mercantile activities among Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Figures 2.1 & 2.2 give a schematic illustration of Jamaica's location in this enterprise. Other relevant historical aspects will be incorporated into the stories at appropriate points. For further reading on the economic, social, and political history of Jamaica, several references are included in the bibliographical resources attached. For the economic history of the plantation in Jamaica, see Curtin (1955), Higman (1988, 1995, 1998), and Sheridan (1974, 1994). Brown (1979), Sherlock and Bennett (1998), and Bryan (1991 and 2000) Nettleford (1972), Henriques (1953) and Braithwaite 1971) offer different accounts of the social and cultural history of the island. Munroe (1972) has written a political history covering the period 1944 - 1962. Olive Senior's Encyclopedia of Jamaican Culture (2003), and Cassidy and Lepage's Dictionary of Jamaican English (1985, 2nd ed.) are most helpful sources of accessibly-organised information. Second, I describe a developing awareness of social context that propelled me to this study. After the period of the chronicle that forms its central thesis, I left Jamaica for Canada. This proved far more than a geographic journey. I travelled the colonial trails of Great Britain to sites of memory, and discovered social connections that eventually served to locate my stories and myself in the larger framework of mercantile capitalism. In this section, I explain the significant experiences in Canada and elsewhere which initiated the exploration of my earlier life, and led to a profound shift in my understanding of who and what I was. This in turn generated the need for a comprehensive examination, presented in this dissertation. 13 Figure 2.1 African Diaspora in the Americas (Feelings, 1995) ;ure 2.2 Slave colonies of the Americas & Caribbean c.1750 (Blackburn, 1997) The Americas c. 1770 2.1 Colonial Jamaica: A Historical Perspective In the recorded beginning, the Taino and Arawaks had been the inhabitants of the place we call Jamaica for at least hundreds of years before the Spanish conquest of the island. If anything of these people lives on in the mixed bloods of today's population, it is all but certain that their indigenous culture does not. While sufficient to doom the native presence, Spanish rule was itself relatively brief, succumbing to the expansion of British power in the region. It was in 1655, that the British captured Jamaica from the Spanish, the first colony that Britain acquired by conquest. It should be pointed out that it was not only the territory that they inherited; at that time, there were 6,000 people on the island - Spanish and African - 1,500 of whom were Africans, slave and free (Sherlock and Bennett 1998, p.77). Jamaica became one of the richest jewels in the British imperial crown. According to Curtin (1955), the prestige of the governorship of Jamaica was third only to those of India and Canada (p. 7). In time, Jamaica became Britain's richest colony, richer indeed than the thirteen North American colonies combined (Hall 1959). In 1661, Charles II made Jamaica a Royal colony. In trying to establish the island as a British dominion secured by settlement, the Crown made certain concessions, including a number of privileges and incentives to attract white settlers. English law would henceforth govern the colony. Land titles were bestowed on soldiers and civilians, and a 'head right' system (that is, rule by the proprietors of the land), instituted. The local representative assembly so formed, known as the 'old legislative system', prevailed until 1865 when the privilege was revoked. This was precipitated by the Morant Bay rebellion of that year, following excesses of brutality of the settlers towards the emancipated Africans. (It seems that by this point, the conduct of the dominant society of the island was sufficiently intolerable to sensibilities in Britain.) To consolidate the imperial presence, governors, colonists, and Crown encouraged British settlement, even after Jamaica became a flourishing plantation economy employing slave labour. Governors were instructed to facilitate access of new planters. For example in 1717, Governor Lawes interceded with the British Board of Trade in order to attract a million white families to settle in the island. The Governor also urged the Board of Trade to extend credit to new settlers and to increase the supply of African labour. The possibility of owning slaves was a principal attraction for white settlers. Privileged employment for whites was 16 legislated, with black people not allowed to hold those occupations (Bumard 2002 in Monteith et al, p. 73). Yet in spite of the very considerable efforts that were made between 1690 and 1740 to attract large numbers of whites, Jamaica became a black country; a land in which Europeans were heavily outnumbered, and where they retained their position only through the application of force, comprehensively exercised through social and legal institutions, and through the continuing presence of large numbers of British troops (Burnard 2002 in Monteith and Richards, p. 82). Most rapid growth in black population occurred between 1690 and 1740 - it nearly quadrupled from 32,000 to 117,900. Cattle too, were on the increase, their pens expanding with sugar plantation. In 1684, there were 73 cattle pens recorded, and numbers had increased to over 300 by 1782 (Burnard 2002 in Monteith and Richards, p.76). There was a symbiotic relationship between cattle pens and plantations. The cattle pens naturally provided the sugar estates with draught animals, manure, milk, and beef Just as important was their strength: cattle powered cane-juice extraction mills. To run the mills continuously during crop time required at least four teams of eight livestock, each changing every two hours (Satchel 2002 in Monteith and Richards, p.246). Owners of sugar mills therefore invested in a large number of livestock, in order both to grind the cane, and to transport the hogs-heads of sugar and rum to the coast for shipment. The wealth in sugar in Jamaica during the 18th century made it an attractive place for Barbadian and Carolinian colonists. Wages for the freemen were high, and white services were in demand. The wealth of white Jamaicans was estimated to be ten times greater than that of the average person in the southern plantation colonies (Burnard 2002 in Monteith and Richards). During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the cultivation of sugar surpassed all other cash crops. Jamaica sugar production tripled between 1730s and the 1770s. The number of sugar mills in the island increased from 419 in 1739 to 1,061 in 1786. In St James, the number increased from 20 to 115, between 1745 and 1774 (Higman 1998, p. 14). It seems as if there was every reason for a veritable 'Jamaica Rush', yet white settlement did not take hold. In his article, Burnard gives a number of reasons why not. First of all, Jamaica was in close proximity to Spanish and French possessions and thus in constant danger of attack by privateers, or even invasion. Second, the European war of Spanish 17 Succession, between 1689 and 1713, brought large numbers of troops to the island, and with them came disruption of commerce and devastating epidemics. Meanwhile the subject population was not obediently quiescent. Burnard reports that within 30 years of the formation of the colony, there were no less than three slave revolts; with that in 1760 nearly bringing the colony down. The Maroons were a special group of freedom fighters who waged guerilla warfare from the mountains of the interior. Some were Spanish runaways who were later joined by English runaways. The Maroons waged guerilla warfare for nearly 70 years against the British, eventually forcing a peace treaty giving them rights to freedom and land, in exchange for British safety - an essential condition if more Britons were to be encouraged to settle on the island. (During my own research, I came across an interesting footnote to this episode, mentioned later in this Chapter.) In addition to guerilla warfare, there was a series of natural disasters by hurricanes and earthquakes. The 1692 earthquake was so strong that Port Royal, widely viewed as 'the wickedest city in the world', disappeared under the sea. Colonists also experienced frustrations with shipping losses, unreliable supplies, rats and fires in their canes. If these were commonplaces throughout North America, to them have to be added not only the especially hot climate, but what was for 'decent' British society an especially unattractive phenomenon: unregulated social relationships. The piratical and savage history of the island had given rise to a society quite different from the order that prevailed on the North American mainland. Some of the documented ills were grasping materialism, conspicuous consumption, inattention to religion and family, and general debauchery. Thomas Thistlewood, an overseer and planter, kept a diary showing his activities between 1750 and 1786, in which one has a glimpse of the degree of white brutality against black enslaved. The diary of Lady Nugent, wife of the Governor, also describes the excesses that she witnessed as she accompanied her husband on his tour of duty. For a 'decent' society, there lay an apparent psychological fear of African customs and dread of cultural Africanization. Naturally, what made Jamaica unattractive to some, made it alluring to others who saw a number of points in its favour. The climate was equable and pleasant, provided the settler avoided an excess of the sun and liquor. Men had social freedoms unfettered by the constraints of family and religion they would have found oppressive in Britain. White men could have black mistresses with whom they were able to reproduce an unlimited supply of 18 their own slaves and servants, especially after the abolition of the slave trade. They could eat well, and, with brutal exploitation of slave labour, amass fortunes that allowed every manner of conspicuous indulgence. Each plantation dominated its own extensive territory, representing a kind of isolated state, within which developed a clear perception of a defined place and its community under absolutist rule. The slave plantation has often been characterized as a total institution in which slaves' lives were completely controlled by the planter. A slave's very body was defined by the state as a piece of property. So long as they existed, the slave plantations were a symbol of the planters' overwhelming might, a power which could only be physically escaped from or destroyed. Slaves could resist the master's dominion through rebellion, marronage, suicide, or sabotage, but in circumstances of subjection, slaves had nothing, being stripped even of their culture (Higman 1998, p.l). Higman remarks that "(p)lanters conceived property rights in absolute terms, seen through the prism of the family." Property, plantations, and chattel slaves descended through free families according to rules which gave precedence to the male line. Slave status, on the other hand, descended through the female line. If plantations belonged to a world in which wealth was concentrated in the hands of families rather than corporations, the potential existed for a variety of paternalism in which planters' wives, children, and slaves could all be seen as the co-dependents of their fathers or masters (Higman 1998, p.2). The African women were the most valuable resource to the plantation economy. The white proprietor exploited them in every way possible. From the point of capture, sale, and bondage, they were the object of carnal desires. In the mansion, they served as house slaves and concubines. In the cane fields, they were treated like mules, worked hard in field gangs to plant, weed, cut, and carry canes. When the abolition of the slave trade to British territories occurred in 1807 and the slave force could no longer be purchased, the white planters made every effort to turn the black women into breeders to replenish the stock. The women did not take this exploitation lightly. They reportedly (Bush 1990, pp. 137-142) kept their fertility levels low through abortions and infanticide or just plain refusal to conceive. The exhausting labour regime took its toll on the fertility rate too. Existing slaves were emancipated in 1834, with the proviso that there should be a six-year period of apprenticeship, during which the newly 'liberated' slaves were 19 conjecturally to be taught how to become free wage earners. Planters were outraged by the loss of their slave labour, and an arrangement was incorporated whereby 'apprentices' were obliged to give estates to which they were attached about forty hours of unpaid labour a week. Wages were payable only for work in excess of these hours. This was manifestly slavery by a different name, and 'slaves-in-transition' were not fooled. Their reaction was to abandon the plantations as fast as possible, thereby forcing a premature end to the apprenticeship system. Although they did not legally own their children, the women exercised whatever love and protection that they could and resisted total surrender of their maternal right. During the period of apprenticeship, children under six years of age were free, but could work with their mothers' permission. Of special significance was the women's ability to withhold their labour and that of their children. As mothers, their role as protector was very important. Planters would generally have considered young blacks as potential estate workers, had women not frustrated them. A contemporary observer described the mothers' belligerence in 1835, "A greater insult could not be offered to a mother than by asking her free child to work." (Quoted by Mathurin-Mair in Jain and Reddock 1998, p. 26.) The British House of Commons select committee on the workings of the apprenticeship system reported the evidence of one witness, that Negro mothers had been known to say, pressing their child to their bosoms, 'we would rather see them die than become apprentices'. The determination and, within the limits open to them, the capacity to resist during this period is amply recorded. Many fiercely tormented the overseers and head slaves; indeed, Jamaica's fractious females became the subject of extensive official dispatches. They were singled out for their lack of cooperation, their ingratitude, and their insulting conduct. They were on all occasions, the most clamorous, the most troublesome, and insubordinate, the least respectful to all authority. None of their freed children have been in any recorded instance apprenticed to their former masters. Women unequivocally stood firm on this issue, and of the 39,013 slave children who were less than six years of age on August 1, 1834, only nine were released by their mothers for estate work during the four years of apprenticeship (Mathurin-Mair in Jain and Reddock (1998, pp 25-26). The apprenticeship period of six years was reduced to four because it proved unsatisfactory to both the apprentices and the planters. 20 2.2 Colonial Jamaica: A Political Perspective The established political history of Jamaica began in 1670 when the island territory officially became a colony, with proprietary rule through the old legislative assembly. As has been noted, the colonists' rule continued until rescinded in 1865. Jamaica returned to Crown colony status and remained a Crown colony from 1865 to 1944 when Jamaica had its first general election based on limited adult suffrage. Suffrage was based originally on property ownership and basic literacy, and only later extended to universal adult suffrage. Many Africans saw the apprenticeship period as a mere extension of enslavement and therefore clamoured for full freedom, sufficient to achieve complete abolition in 1838. But while the absentee planters in England received millions of pounds sterling as compensation for their lost human property, the formerly enslaved received no such recompense. A petition to Queen Victoria for land grants which might enable subsistence farming was met with the message that the newly freed were at liberty to work for wages on the plantations. The post-emancipation period was marked by confusion and economic hardships, as the former slaves struggled to establish themselves under new conditions. Various missionaries, Moravians, American Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, and Pentecostal sects, attempted to fill the vocational and educational void. They bought large tracts of land and subdivided and sold to ex-slaves, or established free villages. But after a further century of economic and social oppression, widespread labour unrest led to a general strike in 1938, not only in the island but throughout the British West Indies. The Royal Commission established to inquire into the social and economic conditions of the British West Indies made recommendations for partial self-government through limited adult suffrage; with literacy and proper ownership requirements. Other reforms in social welfare and education were proposed whose implementation had significance for compulsory primary education and the transformation to mass secondary education. The stories of my schooling will give the reader some sense of how the education system evolved in Jamaica. The 1944 election provided an administration for this partial self-government, the Crown continuing to hold powers of nomination and veto, exercised by the Governor. In 1953, however, as a result of agitation by the local elite, a new constitution was instituted for fully-representative and responsible government, under ministers and a chief minister. The — 1955 election was contested with full adult suffrage free of qualification. Between 1958 and 1961, an attempt was made to federate all of the British West Indian islands into a political entity, having the equivalent status of a British Dominion. In the result, however, Jamaica seceded from the Federation and called its own general elections to move towards independence. The new government elected in 1962 was formed with a series of ministers and a prime minister, responsible to a bicameral legislature. Figure 2.3 summarizes key dates in Jamaica's colonial history. Figure 2.3 Significant events in Jamaica during the Imperial era 1655 British Capture of Jamaica from Spain 1661 Made a Royal Colony 1670 Officially a colony with proprietary rule under representative assembly 1 7th and 1&h Centuries - Sugar and Slavery 1807 Abolition of slave trading from Africa to British colonies 1 8 3 4 - 1 8 3 8 Apprenticeship (Provisional emancipation) 1838 Emancipation 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion. Territory reverted to Crown colony rule 1935 Charles Archibald Reid elected to Legislative Council 1938 General Strike. West India Royal Commission Warranted 1944 General Election for Partial Self-Government Franchise given to those with property and literacy 1953 New Constitution - a system of representative and Responsible self-government with ministries 1 9 5 8 - 1 9 6 1 West Indies Federation 1959 Full internal self-government constitution. Full adult suffrage without property and literacy 1962 Independence 22 2.3 Colonial Trails: A Personal Perspective At the beginning of the 1940s when I was born, Jamaica had 1.2 million inhabitants. Of these, 78.1% were black descendants of 3 million African slaves who had been transported to the colony over the preceding centuries to service the sugar economy (Munroe 1972, p.l). The population of Jamaica was essentially the leftover surplus labour from the defunct sugar plantations. Unemployment in the island was high. For many generations there have been short-term and long-term migrations away from Jamaica, which included fruit-pickers to Canada and the United States, cane-cutters to Florida, and domestic servants to white households in Great Britain, Canada, and the United States of America. These migrations, which began in the forties, continue to the present day, although less so to Great Britain. Those receiving a colonial education in Jamaica were fitted to seek economic opportunities in one of Great Britain, the United States of America, or Canada. Prior to 1969, the only way a person in my position would in fact have been able to immigrate to Canada was as a domestic servant or as a dependent female, attached to a male who qualified for immigration. Many young nurses and teachers migrated under the domestic servant schemes, served their time and very quickly moved into their professions, taking advantage of higher learning. In 1967, Canada had instituted a point system for immigration that rated formal skills and professions highly, so that by 1969, when I was ready to migrate, I was able to do so proudly as a teacher. I hoped this was to be a new life free of racialized distinctions. In many ways, the transition was not problematic, given my familiarity with Anglo-cultural concepts, through my schooling. The reality of Canada, however, was a continuing awareness of 'race', but as distinguished by white, and non-white (yellow, red, brown, and black). Whereas in Jamaica I had had a certain position as a coloured person, as I moved through the cultural experiences of Canadian society I became aware that I was in a new position: I was non-white, and I was black. The discovery that black people held such very low status in the Canadian multi-cultural mosaic was what I was least prepared for. The benign image I had of Canada as an open society was tarnished by the shock of falsehoods revealed. I understood that now I was associated with the black underclass, people deemed unsuitable to be Canadians 23 (Daenzer, 1993; Foster, 1997; Shepard, 1997; Prince 2001). In fact, I had had blackness bestowed upon me. I felt this as a growing burden. Following a period of years in the academy during which I experienced gathering alienation from the lack of knowledge about the Caribbean and about Africa, in 1997 I began to consider, through a program of self-study, writing journals, reading history and fiction, who I really was. At a certain point in this analysis, I came to an epiphany: I am a descendant of enslaved African people and their British colonists. The course I took in African American history in 1995 provided a good foundation for this personal exploration. A conference sponsored by the Centre for the Study of Historical Consciousness held at The University of British Columbia on the theme of "Memory, Landscape, and Narrative," brought together white scholars from what seemed to be the former British Empire, and the United States of America. Among the participants were several First Nations people. I was the only Black person. I realized that yet again there were no speakers or sessions remembering Africa, the slave trade, or plantation slavery. I hastily developed and circulated a short statement with bibliography on what significant reasons there were for remembering Africa. But the uppermost sense I had was that, in the company of learned international historians and educators, there was no place for me to fit in the conversation. My body alone remembered a long and bloody history, but as yet my voice was small and insignificant: I was without narrative. This dissertation is my first comprehensive utterance in that narrative voice. One session of the Vancouver conference sharpened the sense of alienation most acutely. We participants were invited to make personal introductions, and a visiting Maori graduate student from New Zealand began them. She explained that Maori introduce themselves by naming their river, their mountain, their clan, their family and then themselves. In listening to her, I was aghast to realize that I had no river, no mountain, no clan, no family. I had an alienated self. I resolved at that moment to find my river, my mountain, my clan, my family and myself. Thus I began a physical journey along the colonial trails in search of my landscape. Along the way, I found fragments; but even such remnants spoke powerfully to me of my hidden past. The first leg of the trail began in June of 1997 when I attended the Canadian Society for Studies in Education (CSSE) Conference in St John's, Newfoundland. This was 24 a remarkable site of empire remembered. It was the year of the celebration of five hundred years since Britain established her first outpost on the continent. There was much excitement about the reenactment of John Cabot's landing, and the preparation for the quincentennial celebration later in the summer at which Queen Elizabeth II would preside. Meanwhile, I was busy reliving some of my imperial geography lessons about cod fisheries off the Grand Banks, the icebergs and the Labrador Current, that I remembered from the May Pen All-Age School in the early 1950s. A lesson on the wind systems of the world came into focus. I learned that, for the merchant ships that sailed the Atlantic Ocean between the United Kingdom, Africa, the West Indian Islands, and North America, it was important to catch the northeast and southeast trade winds at the right times of year. Slavers were careful to load their human cargo along the West Coast of Africa to be in time to sail on the windward side through the Middle Passage. If their ships were caught in the Doldrums, a trip that with a fair wind would take five to six weeks, must take up to ten weeks. Being caught in the Doldrums gave captives more reason to rise up and mutiny, or commit suicide by jumping overboard. Worse yet, ship masters might run out of food and water and be obliged to dispose of some of their live cargo in order to save the rest for sale in the slave auctions of the West Indian Islands and the American Colonies. In my youth, I learned to describe my depressions as being in the doldrums; I did not then know the origins of the metaphor. In St John's, I made the codfish connection with Jamaica. While there I heard stories of the exploitation of the Irish fishers, mingled with stories of how inferior molasses from Jamaica was exchanged for inferior dried salted codfish. For centuries, this poor quality codfish kept my enslaved African ancestors alive as they laboured on the indigo, cotton, sugarcane, coffee, and banana plantations and in the sugar factories. For Newfoundland, the molasses had particular significance. Newfoundlanders told me of 'lassy bread' that nourished their forebears in hard times. It was named for the molasses from Jamaica. The invention of Newfoundland 'screech' was equally fascinating. Tour guides informed us that Newfoundlanders originally brewed a special rum from poor-quality molasses dumped on them in exchange for equally poor-quality dried salted codfish. Jamaica still imports poor-quality codfish from Newfoundland, while Newfoundland Screech is now, in a striking reversal, manufactured in Jamaica at the Appleton Estate. On my return from St John's, I stopped in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Here was another site of memory. I learned of the presence of black people who came from two sources. 25 Picking up the account of Jamaican Maroons from earlier in this Chapter, it emerges that a contingent was in fact expelled from Jamaica in 1796 by Governor Balcarres, as part of the treaty that ended the guerrilla warfare against the British. Not even the British Militia, nor the bloodhounds imported from Cuba, had rid the Jamaican planters of their human pests, who undermined the security of their crops and their slaves. Some were therefore shipped off to Halifax, under the pretext that the British were returning them to Africa. Against their will and under protest at their betrayal, they were employed at very low wages to build the Citadel, the military fort in Halifax. I further learned that within four years, most of the Maroons left Halifax for Sierra Leone, in a sort of reverse middle passage (Campbell, 1993). The second group of black people arrived as free blacks having fought on the side of the British during the war of independence and the War of 1812 in order to earn their freedom on Canadian soil. They arrived in Canada as the Black Loyalists with the expectation of receiving free land that all who fought on the British side were promised. This promise was kept for only a few who were allegedly given scrub land. Their economic status became indistinguishable from those black people who came as chattels of white loyalists (Walker, 1992). This last group, who arrived as part of the property and personal effects of the white loyalists, remained enslaved under the legal status of 'servants for life'. Their descendants now live in poverty-stricken areas of Preston, Cherry Hill and in Dartmouth. Also in Halifax, I was taken to the small monument that marks the site of Africville, a black community that was appropriated and demolished without proper reparation in the 1970s to make way for urban renewal (Clairmont and McGill, 1974). With a gathering sense of the widespread scale of the slave trade and its consequences, I resolved to undertake a formal study that would explore some of these questions. The opportunity came during the summer of 1998 when I travelled to the Robert E Lee Plantation in Virginia, to a two-week residential seminar in the company of Euro- and African-Americans, focusing on the study of slavery in America. The Commonwealth University of Virginia gave the seminar to social studies teachers, in cooperation with the Friends of the Robert E Lee Plantation. It was an effort to teach the dark side of American history, in the hope of remembering and changing attitudes. As part of the seminar I had the opportunity to hear lectures by historians, archeologists, folklorists, and the African-American curator of the Williamsburg Colonial Museum. The seminar was enriched by field trips to Fredericksburg, South Hampton Documentation Centre, the James River, the city of Richmond, and to the unmarked spot where Nat Turner, the slave rebel, was captured and beheaded. A folk historian, Mr McGhee, and his family had been keeping the site marked, and had taken visitors there to recount the tale of the Nat Turner rebellion which occurred in 1831. In his retirement years, Mr McGhee took a degree in history and learned to do historical research so he could keep Nat Turner's history alive. His was a counter-tour to that of the South Hampton Documentation Centre, which was situated amid formidable marble monuments to white confederates. While we were at the documentation centre listening to the delivery of excerpts from a PhD thesis, Mr McGee himself entered the room, only to be humiliated and chased away - persona non grata to the official history of Nat Turner. I witnessed how the African Americans shared Mr McGee's humiliation in silence. They afterwards explained to me the subordinate position the circumstances led them to play. A visit to the James River and a sort of remembrance ceremony conducted by two African American folklorists was both heart- and gut-wrenching. With drumming and poetry we heard how slave ships were brought in to unload their human cargo at night. The screaming and torture brought tears of rage from the African Americans in the class. Some heads hung in shame. When the African American folklorists who conducted this tour asked us what role each of us would play, had we lived at that time and in that place, all the Euro-Americans kept their silence. The African-Americans spoke. I too spoke up to say that I would have been a rebellious female. The African-Americans and I openly wept. We saw an auction block. To stand in the complex of sixteen auction blocks and the nearby holding cells undid me as powerfully as did a visit I had made to Cape Coast Castle in Ghana in 1992. I was visiting and experiencing these landscapes as sites of remembrance of the enormous maritime trade between the United Kingdom and Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. The trade was in African human cargo, cotton, tobacco, lumber, and trade goods from Europe. The Robert E Lee Plantation was located in close proximity to Chesapeake Bay, where it meets the Potomac River. One evening, at sunset, I sat on the bank of the Potomac River at the Bay and pondered its present pristine appearance - not a ship in sight, not even a seagull. I was transported in imagination to the heyday of the slave trade, when hogsheads of tobacco and cotton were exported from the very piers that dotted the Bay. I also thought about the ancestral memories that this topography evoked for the African-Americans, who had indeed spent most of their class hours in tears. It was a summer 27 of painful remembrance for all. Teachers prepared lesson plans and unit plans, in a spirit of resolve that they and others were called to dispel ignorance about the slave trade and plantation slavery, and the legacy for the American nation. When I left the seminar I went directly to Jamaica, there to join my brother in the search for my mother's people. On this trip, I began to use my newfound knowledge to view Jamaica as a former slave society in a way that I had not done before. I also began to appreciate the strategic importance that Jamaica had for Great Britain in slavery days. The connections that I made that summer between my personal history and the global trade linking Africa, Canada, the New England colonies, and England astounded me. I began to locate myself firmly within this history of enslavement, commodity exchange, and the massive movement of peoples in the service of a privileged dominion. In 1999,1 continued my exploration along the colonial trails, on this occasion back to the white mother country. I was on a study holiday in England with my elder daughter and her Japanese mother-and-daughter friends. Noriko insisted that we must visit Haworth, and the heather fields so vividly described in Jane Eyre, which she had read some forty years ago in high school in Japan. While driving through Yorkshire on our way to Leeds and Haworth, I noted familiar place names such as Halifax and Richmond, and a remarkable resemblance to some of the countryside in Jamaica: with stone fences, Leghorn and Rhode Island fowls and the chicken coops to boot. I told stories of the British in Jamaica on the way. Sensing that my daughter and her friends were by now fully satisfied with the quantity of my colonial references, I strolled the High Street on my own. Walking along I recognized more artifacts of empire in the window displays: Fry's Cocoa, Guinness Stout, washtubs, scrubbing boards, and Pears soap. I came upon a bakery, in the window of which was a most familiar sight. I saw a cake labelled "Yorkshire Parkin" about four inches in diameter and about one inch thick. I stood at the window, convinced that I was looking at a 'bullah' cake. I bought two, sneaked around the corner of the bakery, broke a piece, and bit in heartily. Make no mistake, I was eating the bullah cake of my youth, and found it tasted just as good as those of Philip Young Bakery in Jamaica, which I describe in one of my stories. I do not know which came first - Jamaica Bullah or Yorkshire Parkin. I do know that the molasses, sugar, and ginger must have come from Jamaica, just as the flour must have come from Great Britain, in the heyday of the triangular trade in sugar, molasses, rum, and slaves. 28 Returning to London, we met up with my Japanese friend's former Oxford professor at a pub close to Trafalgar Square. He was 'a regular guy,' as we would say in Jamaica - a man who did not wear the affectations of his class and who exuded a genuine interest in people. He told us that he was raised a Quaker in Yorkshire. At the mention of Yorkshire I asked if he knew the cake called Yorkshire Parkin. "Of cus, of cus," he replied crisply. I quizzed him about the ingredients, and heard they were exactly those of the Jamaican variety. I enjoyed a private thought about the rivalry between Great Britain and her former New England colonies over the molasses trade from the Caribbean. So important was this waste product of the sugar manufacturing process that in 1733, Britain passed the Molasses Act to protect its trade from competition with the North American Colonies and from French colonies in the Caribbean (Sheridan 1974, p. 31; 339 -359). I found it amusing that the Royal Navy was brought out into the stormy Atlantic to give safe passage into the ports of the British Isles for the humble molasses. Apart from rum distillery in Jamaica, only poor people and cattle ate the lowly molasses. If it was humorous that the mother country would make such a fuss over molasses, it was equally so that the mother country endeavoured to outdo its prize colony in rum distillery. Our conversation over the British Empire continued. We started exchanging common knowledge about Empire and about growing up in Empire. It turned out that we are the same age. I shared with the professor that I had just begun a personal study of slavery and the slave trade to Jamaica. He described the wonderful archive on the subject that Oxford University holds. During the course of the conversation about the growth of the various financial and insurance institutions, I mentioned that my first job was with Barclay's Bank, Dominion, and Colonial and Overseas, at which he informed me that Barclay's started as a Quaker bank founded to promote self-reliance. He was not sure how and when it became a colonial bank. After tea we strolled in Trafalgar Square. At the moment we were expressing our appreciations and saying goodbye I noticed the overarching presence of a certain statue. My eyes followed the phallic erection up several hundred feet to the top of which stood a man dressed in military regalia. His head was covered with a crown of cooing pigeons and cascading pigeon excrement. The absurdity of this image prompted me to ask with a bit of mischief in my tone, "Who is the guy up there with the pigeons on his head? "Don't you 29 know?" asked the Oxford professor in that learned British accent of polite reprimand tempered with a chuckle. His look of incredulity nudged me into trying a quick face-saving move. I quickly drew on the British history that I was taught in school and said, "One of the celebrated English Sea Dogs?" He replied, "We are in Trafalgar Square! Why, that's Nelson's statue!" He proceeded to tell us that Trafalgar Square and Nelson's statue were so important to the British people that the Exchequer provides a large sum of money annually to clean off the pigeon shit. Why did the Oxford professor expect me to remember the history of the British Empire from the victor's point of view, after empire's end? Why was my own quest along the colonial trails to sites of memory of my African ancestors eclipsed by the expectation that I should know who Admiral Nelson was? Empire still lives in all its imperial expectations of the formerly colonized. Is the knowledge structure of Empire ever decolonized? After this unsettling encounter with the Oxford professor, I spent three.days in the Maritime Museum going through twenty galleries of British Maritime history. Admiral Nelson had a whole gallery dedicated to him. I had to agree that the man was a genius, but his celebrated acts of bravery had evil consequences for my ancestors. While going through his gallery, I learned of the centrality of Jamaica to the British Empire for production of sugar, rum, and molasses; and for its strategic significance in the British rivalry with Spain, France, and later the Americas. Admiral Nelson's institutionalization of the rum ration for the British Navy kept many Jamaicans labouring under slave-like conditions on plantations in Westmoreland, St Mary, St Catherine, and Clarendon until the 1970s. The imperial context is laced and larded through my life stories. *** I begin my stories with my clearest recollection of a significant event that pushed me into consciousness, and perhaps marked the death of my childhood. The plot is driven by personal and family crises. 30 CHAPTER III EARLY CHILDHOOD MEMORIES 1947-1950 3.1 My Life with Aunt Joyce and Uncle Harold circa 1947 One day, a fateful day, sometime in the fourth year of my troubled infancy, as I was just recovering from the asthma that nearly took my life, something particularly terrible happened to My Aunt Joyce and me. The morning started out like any other. As usual, Harold's dutiful wife arose at the crack of dawn, usually after the second cocks' crow, went to the outside kitchen and lit the coal pot to make the hearty breakfast and lunch of boiled bananas, sweet potatoes, salt fish, and callaloo. The night before, she would have remembered to put the dried salted codfish to soak in a bowl of water, ridding it of the excess salt which had enabled its journey from far-off Newfoundland. Then she would come to my room, rip the cover off me, and shake my shoulders to rouse me from my deep sleep. "Yvonne! Yvonne! Get up, up!" I would groan and say: "Me wa' fe sleep, me tyad." "You too young fe tyad. Put on yuh clothes and go outside to tek in de fresh morning air." She repeated this ritual for as long as it took to get me fully awake and out of bed. I would dress and stumble through the door, frowning and grumbling, leaving her and Harold behind in the bedroom. The morning air was cold and damp. I got goose bumps, shivered till my teeth clattered, whimpering like a puppy dog. When she determined that I'd had enough morning air, she would order me to wash my face, clean my teeth with fine salt, and gargle my throat. A cup of hot bitter cerasee tea waited for me at the table. "Drink yuh cerasee tea. It good fe clean out yu blood.", I had to drink this bitter concoction - sweetened with 'D sugar', the poorest quality but most nutritious grade - before I got my breakfast of slimy oats porridge. "Oats porridge good fe you. It mek you bones strong." All this was part of a health regime to help.me shake the debilitating asthma that threatened to stunt my growth and take my life. But it was a breakfast of bitterness that made me vomit, and slime that would make me salivate volumes which I could not swallow to please her. It was a battle of wills to keep me alive. She tried beating me for not eating, to no avail. "Yu going to sit dere til yu drink dat tea and dat porridge." So I would sit there till I fell asleep with my face on the tabletop. 31 Later when the sun was hot enough to take the chill out of the bath pan of water that she'd set out, My Aunt Joyce gave me my daily bath, and talked to me about learning to read and count. She had taught me to count to five using five fingers, two eyes, one nose, ten fingers, and ten toes. Later she bought me an ABC book and marbles for counting. "One day I will have to send you to Sunday-School. I going to make you a nice frilly frock." I loved the baths because she talked lovingly to me about growing healthy and strong. There was a small tree growing close by, and she would coo about my growing out of the asthma just as the tree grew. Neighbours gave her many compliments on how well she was raising me. She loved it; I was a gift, the child she could not bear herself. *** I would come to understand that this ritual of waking early to cook and feed her husband and send him off to work was the pattern that I was expected to follow when I too became a good Christian wife. She would dish out hefty portions of cooked food in three stacking bowls of an enamel carrier in the following order: in the largest bottom bowl she would place four fingers of boiled bananas and cover with the cooking water to keep them from hardening. In the second bowl, she would artistically arrange slices of boiled 'modder edward' sweet potatoes; and in the third, the cook-up of saltfish, coconut oil, onions, pepper, and callaloo. She would then slide each bowl carefully in the slender metal frame that strung the two-sided handles one on top of the other, put the lid on the topmost bowl and lock the metal frame. She would also pour coffee in the thermos flask that would keep it hot until lunchtime. *#* While Aunt Joyce was cooking, her husband performed his ablutions. I was taught that this big, tall, handsome, black man was my Uncle Harold. He would play with me sometimes. He was the first man I saw use a pen and ink. I remember hiding and using the pen and ink to write a whole page full of zig-zag marks to Fadda Christmus. Uncle Harold laughed snorting hiccups when My Aunt Joyce showed him what I had done. I kind of liked Uncle Harold. That morning I watched Uncle Harold dress through the half-open bedroom door. He put on his clean white merino (undershirt) and long underpants. Over the top, he donned a crisply starched and ironed white, long-sleeve cotton shirt that his industrious wife had 32 made for the husband she did not and could not love. He was himself a reputable tailor. He had made the grey woollen trousers which completed his work ensemble. He stuffed the long shirt-tail inside his pants, then strung a leather belt through the loops, buckled the belt and patted the buckle with his super long skinny fingers. He stood with legs astride in front of the bureau mirror, bending slightly forward to see his face. He reached for the jar of coconut oil, unscrewed the cap, stuck his right index finger in and scoop a little of the congealed oil in the palm of his left hand. He rubbed both palms together to liquefy the oil, and then rubbed the grease furiously through the mop of unruly kinks. First, he combed out the tangles with the coarse-toothed end of the comb, and then with the fine-toothed end, he raked it into place. He would finish off by brushing back along the lines of his widow's peak to reveal his flat forehead. His wife said that that a peaked hairline was a sure sign of a wicked man. She should know whereof she spoke; she had intimate knowledge of his cruelties. I saw many beatings in my short time with them as a child. As a consequence I was afraid of Uncle Harold. Harold had to be turned out just right to meet his white and brown customers who expected him to be dressed respectably, and (at least to their faces), speak with enough deference to obtain and keep their patronage. Uncle Harold stood up straight and turned his back to the mirror while he twisted his neck to see that he looked just as good behind as in front. He stepped off the veranda to where his Raleigh bicycle leaned against the trunk of the breadfruit tree. He pointed the bicycle toward the gate and kicked the stand upright, then pinched each tyre between his thumb and index finger to see how soft it was. He removed the pump from the upright bar, pulled out the connection tube and attached the pump to the tyre, then pumped up each until he could no longer squeeze the rubber. He would carefully replace the pump and wash his hands in the wash basin set out for his ablutions. Then he would fold his trouser-legs to taper them for riding his bicycle. These were held in place with metal clips, so that Uncle Harold would not get the chain grease on them when he pedalled to work. He hiked up his shirt-sleeves above his wrist and clipped each just above his biceps. "Harold yuh breakfast ready." Harold would answer: "Hm hm," and move to the table. He sat at the table by himself while Joyce busied herself washing up in the kitchen. First, he cautiously sipped the hot bush tea to test its heat. If it was too hot, he alternately 33 blew furiously to get rid of the steam, and slurped it noisily. After a few big gulps he was bound to belch loudly, as he rubbed his belly and adjusted his bottom on the chair. Then he took the fork and crushed up everything on his plate to a messy mush. He shovelled the mush into his mouth, chewing with his mouth open and lips smacking. This lusty way of eating caused many altercations between Harold and Joyce. It would start when Joyce would holler: "Harold, chew with your mout shut. You sound like a striking hog. Yuh mek me stomach sick." To which Harold would reply, "You red kin bitch! You tink yuh betta ah me." When really furious he would throw a few plates out on the concrete veranda, shout some sexist and racist obscenities, and storm out. He would mount his bicycle and pedal furiously fast, as though he had wound-up springs in his knees. On calmer mornings, after the usual busy rituals of making the fire and cooking a workingman's breakfast, Aunt Joyce dutifully saw her burly husband off to his tailor shop, in May Pen city centre. When Harold was ready to leave, she would hand him his carrier of food and thermos flask of coffee at the door. He would grab them and mumble "See you laata." She swiftly gave him a 'cut eye', to show her scorn, and walked into the kitchen to dish out her own working woman's breakfast. She would join me sitting at the table, praying to the bitter cerasee tea and slimy oats porridge. I had been soundly whipped once for dumping the porridge in my lap and throwing the tea through the window. We would sit in silence, she absorbed in her own thoughts as I watched her timidly from the side of my eyes. I knew when she was really in a foul mood because one of her eyes jumped and danced, and she packed the food into her mouth without chewing. Her cheeks would bulge and when she was forced to chew to get rid of some of the food, one of her cheeks puffed up like a balloon and squeezed the dancing eye to a squint. Occasionally she would come out of her reverie and shout and threaten me. "Eat up. If yuh don't eat now yuh nat getting anyting to eat for the rest of de day." She often kept her promise. When I refused to put the mug or spoon to my mouth she said, "Yuh stubborn like a mule, yuh are de bebil pickney." It was the custom that after Harold had mounted his bicycle and pushed off to work and she had bathed me and combed my hair, Joyce would start her day's routine. Tidying up the house was a matter of pride. This she would do herself because no maid could do it to her satisfaction. She would open all the windows and make the Simmons bed that she and Harold had fought on the night before. Then she would dust the bureau and 34 night table. Afterwards, she would move into the dining room where my own makeshift bed was. She made that up before moving to fold the table cloth, walk out to the veranda, and shake it clean of crumbs. The next big task was to dust the waggonette, with careful attention to the glasses and cups-and-saucers. The floor followed. First, she would sweep it with the fine bamboo floor-broom, before she wiped, waxed, and shined it with a coconut brush. After this it was time to buff the floor with an old felt hat. I watched her many mornings as she did the floors. The routines followed the same pattern. She assembled the damp cloth, the chunk of beeswax and the coconut floor brush and got down on her knees, cushioned by soft rags. First, she wiped sections of the hardwood floor clean. Then she rubbed wax over the face of the brush. Cupping the brush in the clasp of both palms and outstretched fingers, she knelt down and pushed the brush back and forth, back and forth, pausing occasionally to wipe the sweat from her forehead, and sing or hum one of her favorite hymns. Guide me, O Thou great Jehovah Pilgrim through this barren land I am weak but Thou art mighty Hold me with Thy powerful hands Bread of heaven, bread of heaven Feed me now and evermore Feed me now and evermore. She would simply hum the words for the stanzas she did not know. I was to see and hear her drown her sorrows in the words and melody of this hymn many times, when later I lived with her again. When the floors were as shiny as glass, she went once over with an old felt hat and giving the floor its final buff. She was now ready to bathe and get dressed, and to start her day's work. Even though she ran her dressmaking business from home, she, like her husband, had to dress appropriately to meet and greet her customers (Figure 3.1). This day in particular, she dressed in a beautiful pink linen dress with the same colour cutwork embroidery all over the bodice. She was famous among the high-class women for this work. She would style her "good hair" to look like her favorite film star. She dipped the fine end of the comb in a little water, and twisted while she combed to get beautiful curls to form a ' V in the front. Just like Greta Garbo, I imagine now. I watched her carefully as she used a special black cloth tube to roll the hair, and make an oval-shaped rope drape to the nape of 35 her neck. She held the roll in place with several hairpins. I thought my Aunt Joyce was so pretty. Her ivory skin contrasted with Harold's ebony, and my honey-coloured skin. When she had dressed herself to her standard of elegance, she would get the washerwoman, who arrived at work when the sun was halfway to the top of the sky, to help her move her Singer treadle machine and her cutting-table out to the verandah. When it didn't rain, she liked to work on the cooler verandah. I liked to lay spread-eagle on the cold smooth concrete floor, and roll around enjoying the cool on my skin. On this sad day when the awful thing happened, I had been sitting contentedly at My Aunt Joyce's feet dressing my dolls with the scraps that fell from her cutting table. I became aware that something had alarmed My Aunt Joyce. She looked toward the gate, where a grey lorry with a bright red stripe drawn across the cab pulled up to a sudden screeching halt. My aunt jumped up panic-stricken and exclaimed: "What have you come for, Cyril?" I looked around and saw a very brown figure walking toward the veranda. He was a brown-skinned man wearing cocoa-brown oxfords, cocoa-brown pants, cocoa-brown shirt, topped off with cocoa-brown felt hat. When he stepped upon the veranda and greeted my aunt in a not-so-friendly manner, I looked from him to my aunt and saw a striking resemblance that I wasn't to understand until much later. He looked around and saw me under the sewing machine flap, walked over, bent down while he made kissing sounds and beckoned me to come to him, much as if he was calling his puppy dog. I played strange because I did not know this man. He grabbed me, took me up, and said: "I am your father. Call me daddy." I did as I was told. I did not know what father or daddy meant. I was scared of the brown man. My Aunt Joyce and the 36 brown man started arguing, and I heard my Aunt Joyce say: "Leave de chile alone wid me. Yu cyant look after har." She pulled him into the bedroom and closed the door, behind which they had a big row. I stood outside listening, worried for my poor Aunt Joyce. When at last the door opened, her skin was flushed as pink as her dress. Beads of tears ran down her cheeks. Her dancing eye began to dance really fast. In a frenzy, she reached for a grip and packed all the beautiful frilly frocks she had made for me to wear to the May Pen Methodist Sunday School. The brand-new kid-leather white shoes that I was also to wear to the Sunday School were packed. I loved the smell of the new leather. .. The brown man took me up in his arms, kissed me all over, and emptied his pockets of sweeties. The cigarette box in his pocket poked me in my ribs as he heaved me up and down above his head, and held me against his chest. His breath smelled of rum and tobacco. I did not like the brown man. He said: "Yu comin wid daddy." My Aunt Joyce bathed and dressed me in a pink organdy cotton dress with white polka dots. The dress had a tiny white collar and a big bow, tied at the back. I was delighted to have my hair plaited in an upsweep and tied with my big pink ribbons. When I was dressed, Aunt Joyce took me to the brown man, handed me and my grip to him, and suddenly turned away with her head hung low, before turning back and kissing me goodbye on both my cheeks. Her tears left my cheeks wet. At that moment of innocent parting, I felt half-happy that I was going for a ride with the brown man who had given me sweeties. Aunt Joyce stood alone in the doorway, dejected and forlorn, as the brown man revved up the loud engine of the lorry. She did not wave. I was torn between this brown stranger whom I did not like, and My Aunt Joyce whom I was learning to love. I do not remember any parting interchange between My Aunt Joyce and Cyril. The brown man held me in one arm and my grip in the other and walked me to the grey lorry. He settled me on the passenger seat and put my grip on the floor in front of me. Then he drove off, kicking up dust and roaring the engine as loud as possible. He was taking me from May Pen in the parish of Clarendon, to Windsor Castle in the parish of St. Mary. I was happy to go for the drive but little did I know the wretched life that awaited me. It was not until some time in 1955 before I was reunited with My Aunt Joyce. Many difficult years would pass before then. *** 37 I often wondered what account My Aunt Joyce gave her husband of my disappearance and why I was not even allowed to say goodbye to him. I cannot imagine her getting any sympathy. This is how I imagine the scenario. After wolfing down his dinner and belching shamelessly, Harold takes a bath in the bathhouse, in the bath pan of water that Joyce had the washerwoman put out for his morning ablutions. He gets dressed in his American-style drape-pants and long dinner jacket, puts his round silver timepiece, suspended from a heavy silver chain attached to his right pant-loop, into his left fob pocket. Making concealed fobs was his specialty. He often boasted about how well he could make a fob. While he dresses, Aunt Joyce hurls obscenities at him to let him know in no uncertain terms that she thinks he is nothing but a dog. Harold laughs his fiendish hiccup laugh, mocking her impotence and underscoring his power. He returns to the business of enhancing his sartorial splendor, donning a bow-tie, and dabbing some 'Evening in Paris' perfume behind his ears. He struts out the door, snorting and grinning hiccups. Joyce is meanwhile left alone to stew in her misery. Harold will later return home, predictably drunk, and will return Joyce's verbal assaults with a lashing. Years later, on one of my obligatory visits during summer holidays from Teachers' College, and in a rare moment of woman-to-woman intimacy, Aunt Joyce told me what had happened that day when my father took me away. By now she was no longer My Aunt Joyce; she was simply Aunt Joyce, for reasons that will become clear as the story unfolds. She related that when she protested at my father for wanting to take me from her, he replied: "People don't have dem pickney and give dem whey like chickens." As if that were not insult enough, he further told her: "If yuh want pickney, yuh have yuh big pussy, go have yuh own pickney." Almost as though she found her recollection unbelievable, she raised her right hand and called on God as her witness. She flushed and sobbed probably as much as on the day it happened. She did not have to call on God as a witness for me to believe her. What she did not know, and what I could not tell her, is that I had despised the man my father so much for his lack of human decency and integrity that I had disowned him when I was fourteen years old. I had vowed never to see or speak to him from the day he gave Harry Black licence to work me like a slave in his grocery shop and in his household. It would have been futile to tell Aunt Joyce all this, because to my complete puzzlement, she had an everlasting love and loyalty to her brother, despite his ways. Her revelation to me only confirmed that I had done 38 the right thing, the admonishment of the Old Testament Commandment notwithstanding. Yet if I had told Aunt Joyce of my resolve, she would abruptly have changed her emotions and given me chapter and verse from the Bible why I would be damned in hell for doing such a thing, doubtless from the very same section that I would use equally, to justify my own position. Children obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on earth. 4 And, ye fathers provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. (Ephesians 6:1-4 AV) How might I be well? In relation to a father who truly provoked me to anger, I was the one who had to decide what this promise meant. The Bible is silent on the matter, as were all the adults who stressed unquestioned obedience to parents. It was as if parents could abuse their children with impunity, for there were no scriptural consequences for them. I am not certain for what Aunt Joyce cried. Was she crying for what we had both lost between us, or for her inability to have children? I dared not ask. I was overwhelmed by her recollection of this part of what happened behind the closed bedroom door that day. The separation was traumatic for both of us. From the way she flushed as she sobbed, I can only imagine that she was reliving the ultimate humiliation of a childless wife in a society that lay so much store on the fertile woman and the virile man. Her husband very much played the virile man. Folk would say he was married to a mule, as he would often call her. His scorn for her childlessness was supported by Old Testament stories of God cursing women by making their womb infertile. I have no doubt now that she wept for the loss of the daughter she almost raised. And in spite of some terrible episodes involving Aunt Joyce and me later in our lives, I have wept many times during my life for the surrogate mother I almost had. Her loving care was the closest I came to knowing the loving care of a mother. There was not another social mother in my life. I do not know how long I stayed with her but these early years of my life were deeply significant. I was a motherless child when she rescued me, nursed me to health, and showered her young maternal love on me. I remember my first Christmas. She dressed me up and carried me in her arms to Grand Market on the night before Christmas. In the market, a Horse Head mask scared me, and she cajoled me into going up and touching his long face. But when the person talked from behind the mask I remember screaming so loudly that people gathered round to see what happened to "de likkle 39 girl." To appease me, she carried me again in her arms to Mr Black's shop and bought me red, pink, and green sweeties. When she took me home, she told me of a man called "Faader Chrismus," who would come through the ceiling to put gifts in the big red flannel stockings which she placed at the foot of my bed. She insisted that I had to go to sleep like a good little girl before he would come down. I tried to stay awake to see this Faader Chrismus, but could not; and next morning woke up, excited to find a doll in my stocking, but very disappointed that I never saw Faader Chrismus. My Aunt Joyce had dreams and ambitions for me. She was my first teacher. She began to educate me in good manners, for which she received much praise from friends and customers. She introduced me to reading, counting and writing early. God bless her soul. The incidents in my life that followed this fateful day attest to the sometimes-tragic consequences of my father's deeds. He was an arrogant brown man whose brain was pickled in alcohol and tobacco smoke. He was also one of the thousands of sons born to mulatto wives and white fathers of the British planter class, reared in the attitudes and techniques for intimidation and abuse of black men, women of all shades, and their children. Sadly, from the day when my father took me away from My Aunt Joyce, I became only her niece, Cyril's daughter by the black wench. Yes, "the black wench" was the way both Aunt Joyce and her favourite brother referred to my mother. I have never heard that word from anyone else in Jamaica. I met the word again when I began to read fiction written about slavery in the Southern United States of America. By my father's actions, I had no contact with My Aunt Joyce for about eight years. During this time, all bonds of affection were severed, and she became plain Aunt Joyce. Years later when Aunt Joyce and I were re-united (I was about twelve, just before my first period at thirteen years old), the estrangement was obvious and irreparable. She now had a surrogate son whom her philandering husband Harold had sired by an Indian woman. In the Jamaican classification of color and physiognomy, this child could pass as hers. She led me to believe the same, until one of her maids told me the story. The truth was also to emerge several times over during Harold's and Joyce's disgraceful 'tracing' matches that I heard when I lived with them again between 1954 and 1959. The object of these loud and nasty public quarrels was to exchange dirty references to their racial, class, and gender attributes. With arithmetic precision each tried to cancel the other out with the nastiest put down. The 40 tracing match usually became physical when one of them delivered a blow to fix the insult. When first I tried to part them, Uncle Harold could put me between them and push us both against the wall. Soon enough I learned to scream for help from the neighbours rather than intervene. Our relationship was tainted in ways that I am only now, as I write, beginning to understand. For one thing, I now think I held a grudge against My Aunt Joyce for not coming to find and rescue me from my father's brutality. For another, I was confused by her repeated negative references to my mother. Her bad temper and propensity to hit and curse terrified me. At the same time I loved her, and even sometimes liked her. I have come to see her as a proud 'white' woman who had married out of her race and class. She and her husband were locked in the deadly embrace of race, class, and gender inequalities. They lived out the curse of racialized superiority-inferiority binary. Aunt Joyce resisted the sexist subjugation that was her lot. She was a football, kicked by the blackguard and cad, in a game whose rules she did not really know. History had dealt with her cruelly — she was paying for the sins of the fathers. 3.2 Public Works and My Father As my father and I walked towards the truck, I noticed the red stripe and 'PWD' written in big letters on both sides. I later learned that PWD stood for Public Works Department. Cyril John Shorter (as he called himself, as if to assure himself of his importance), supervised road building in the parishes of St. Catherine and St. Mary. From what I came to know, I guess that it must have been on one of the road-building projects in St. Mary that he met Eutedra Williams, the woman to whose home he was to take me. One of the many jobs that she did was to break stones at a spot on the roadside, in front of her property. With a big iron stone hammer, she broke up big rocks that stone carriers had brought to the roadside for stonebreakers to work. She would have been seated on rags, wearing culottes that her cousin Miss Boris sent her from America, and a man's shirt. She wore her broad trash-hat to shield her face from the broiling sun. When the stone heap reached a certain height, Cyril John Shorter would drive up with two sidemen, and they'd unload the wooden cubic-yard boxes that had no bottom and no lid. With one man on each of the opposite side they would sling the box by the protruding handles upon the heap and shake it down to fill to the open top. This done they shoveled up stone to fill out 41 and level off the box. They repeated this measuring manoeuvre at another spot on the stone heap, until all the stone was parcelled out into discrete piles of cubic yards. Cyril John Shorter then counted the number of piles, and wrote-up the bill to have Eutedra paid. After the sidemen had shovelled the stones onto the lorry, Cyril John Shorter would drive the truck to the next road-repair or road-building site where the stones would be dumped, then spread along the road or heaped into potholes. Marl would be trucked in from a nearby quarry and spread over the stones. Men would pour big ladles of hot asphalt they had boiled in big drums right there at the roadside. Another man driving a big two-wheel roller spread the tar over the top. When the asphalt dried, the road was smooth and very black. Children enjoyed running to school on the new road, the sound of their bare feet a pitter-patter accompaniment to the choral recitation of their times-tables. Another pleasure of the road was to sink wiggling toes into its surface, when the asphalt was softened by the hot sun. 3 . 3 Journey into Sugarcane The journey from May Pen to Windsor Castle took all day. I fell asleep and awoke several times, while the smell of motor oil, gasoline, and the heat in the cabin made me nauseous. The brown man stopped at a house, and put me to sleep while he made soup. He woke me and fed me; I began to cry and he told me very sternly to stop the crying, all the while his eyes swivelling very rapidly from side to side which frightened me. This was my first experience of the monster called my father. I was to see those eyes of his move from side to side in rapid fire when he was about to give me one of the many senseless floggings that have permanently scarred my body and my psyche. The place where we stopped must have been the Rio Magno Public Works Office, located in St Catherine, and out of which Cyril John Shorter worked for many years. He must have parked the lorry there because we boarded the Sunshine Bus at sundown and travelled till nightfall. When the bus stopped to let us off, we walked along a trail cutting through high whistling canes. A full moon seemed to follow us as we walked along. Sometimes the brown man would hoist me up on his shoulders and I could see the shimmering leaves and blossoms of the cane rippling like waves in the wind. Judging by the cool wind that caused their leaves to whistle, I think it must have been November or 42 December. That is when the canes, which are harvested in the new year, are already high, and when the northeast trade winds blow. The trail led down into a gully, and then up to a knoll from which we could hear voices, and see a flickering light. We entered the yard and a boy and a girl ran to greet me. "Sister Yvonne! Sister Yvonne!" They were playing under a tree with the light from the 'kitchen- bitch' (a home-made kerosene torch made from condensed-milk tin cans, fitted with a handle and stuffed with a cloth wick). The brown man introduced me to his eldest child and my brother Trevor, and Sonia, my sister and his eldest daughter. They knew me, but I had no knowledge or memory of them. He then took me into the thatched hut and introduced me to Miss Eutedra Williams whom I should call Aunt Eu. 'Eu' was short for Eutedra. I now wonder if she was expecting my father to bring home yet another of his motherless children. It would be just like him to bring me home unannounced, and to assume no questions would be necessary. 3.4 Life with Eutedra Williams Miss Eu's thatch hut and its furnishings were extraordinary. The hut was of the best construction. It housed her four-poster bed over which the white mosquito net was twisted, wrapped, and hung from the rafter. Opposite the foot of the bed stood the mahogany bureau with the big round mirror, and a nice washstand with the marble top. Her pretty enamelled face-basin with a painted bunch of pink roses and green stems rested in the centre. A tablet of green Palmolive or Pears bathing soap, imported straight from England, the Mother Country, poised majestically on the matching soap dish. To the right of the basin, a matching big-belly enamelled 'water goblet' stood at attention with handle akimbo. Its wide lip bearing a permanently broad smile stood ready to stick its water tongue forth with just a tip of the hand. There was a matching chamber pot and slop pail. Eutedra must have bought the toilet set from a Syrian trader on one of her trips to Kingston or Port Maria, the capital of the parish. Such a washstand and toilet set were normally only to be seen in rich white people's houses, accompanied by housemaids to wash and maintain them, and to keep the water goblet filled at all times. The housemaid would empty the wastewater from the basin, empty the slop pail and chamber pot, wash, disinfect, and replace them, ready for the missus. In Eutedra's house, there were no housemaids so these chores - hardly a surprise - were bestowed upon Sonia and me. 43 The hut had no windows but it had a front and back door made of bamboo wattle and daub and hung on a bamboo frame. The frame lasted only as long as the duck ants and other termites would allow. Miss Eu had need of a new house, because when it rained hard, as it often does in the parish of St Mary, the thatch roof leaked like a sieve. There were not enough buckets, wash pans, pots, and kerosene tins or pudding pans to catch the water. There were times when the trenches around the hut deposited streams of water into rather than away from the hut. After heavy rainfalls, the smell and sight of mildewed thatch and clothes were sometimes suffocating. * * * Miss Eu earned income from a variety of sources. Her medium-sized farm was the most diversified in the area. In fact, I think it was unique. First, she had acres of sugar cane. For this crop, she hired cane cutters to harvest the cane and carry them to her own mill, strategically located on the farm. Hired women and men continuously fed stalks of cane into the mill, operated by a yoked steer which took turns with a skittish mule and a stubborn jackass to move giant rollers round and round, squeezing out every drop of cane juice. The cane trash was dried on a heap in the broiling sun and used to stoke the greedy fire. The cane juice flowed into a big trough, from where it was siphoned into enormous copper cauldrons permanently mounted on an equally enormous concrete fireplace. During crop time, between January and April, men worked round the clock stoking the fire which boiled down the cane juice into sugar crystals and molasses. The expert boiler and quasi-chemist would use lime, heat, and the dexterity of king-sized paddles to determine when the crystals were ripe enough to be poured into bamboo joints to make 'head sugar', or into large kerosene tins to make 'wet sugar'. Quailed banana leaves were spread over each container of wet sugar, and tied around with strips of banana bark, so that the leaf covers looked like green hats trimmed with brown ribbons. Eutedra did her own distribution of the sugar products to higglers who retailed them in quart measures, ounces, or bamboo joints in the markets of Port Maria and Oracabessa. They collected farthings, three-farthing, gill-and-quatty, penny ha'penny, and three pence. Moneyed people paid in crowns, half-crowns and in five and ten-shillings. The rich paid in pounds and guineas. 44 Eutedra Williams was (and still is) the most remarkable 'super-woman' I have known. Even fifty years later I have not met her equal. At first I was her shadow as she did her daily tour of duty on her farm. She even played with me and talked baby talk to me. She made me a few multi-coloured dresses because she was a casual dressmaker as well. My father made us call her Miss Eu - she was one of his many paramours. I do not know how long she tolerated him and his three children in her two-room hut. My father, really only came 'home' to sleep with her. His other reason for coming 'home' was to mete out punishment to my brother, sister, and myself when Miss Eu complained that we did not labour to her satisfaction. This she did often when she wanted to break up with Cee (as she called him when things were sweet between them). You see, Cyril had a habit of not bringing 'home' any house money on payday. Being the businesswoman that she was, she exacted our labour in direct proportion to how much my father owed her for our keep. We had to wake at daybreak in order to make several trips down a slippery hill to the spring, from which we would fetch buckets and kerosene tins of water, enough to fill two twenty-gallon oil drums. My brother then would have to milk two cows and carry the milk cans to the gate for collection on their way to Bybrook Condensery in Bog Walk. Meanwhile, my sister made up the wood fire to cook a heavy breakfast of yams, potatoes and codfish or sardines. As time passed, I adapted to the harsh life on Eutedra's farm, grew, and became strong. We ate well. We drank the extra cows' milk from Eutedra's heifers. My father sometimes brought home cans of Libby's Bully Beef to supplement the chicken and pork from Eutedra's farm. There was also salted codfish, herring, shad, and mackerel bought from Miss Mary Lyon's shop. This assortment of dried and pickled salt fish was imported from Newfoundland, Canada, and came to the shop by truck from Kingston in great big wooden barrels. There was an abundance of ground provisions: dasheen, coco, yams, sweet potatoes, breadfruit, green bananas, plantains, tomatoes, limes, oranges, and callalo. 3.5 Parson Pickney For a while, I was Miss Eu's pet. I followed her around as she did her daily work routine, and she usually took me with her when she went visiting her friends. One day Miss Eu was going to visit her dear friend Miss Edna. I followed much like a pup follows its owner. Miss Edna had just had a baby. As we entered the gate we startled chickens scratching for food along the pathway leading from the road to the little well kept hut. These 45 chickens spread their wings as if they were about to fly but were held back by their own weight. They squawked in protest at us for breaking their concentrated scratching. Miss Edna did not have a husband, and lived alone. She came to greet her friend by herself. Her head was wrapped in a lily-white cloth, and she was wearing a printed indigo blue smock with red and yellow flowers. Miss Edna greeted her friend Eutedra and welcomed her in. She said, "Praise de lawd Jesus me deliva de byaby ahright. Me hab a bunununus byaby bwoy." Just then, I pushed myself from behind Miss Eu's frock tail and darted forward to see the new baby laying sound asleep in the middle of the big Simmons bed. I believe it was the first time I had seen a young baby. I exclaimed out loud, "Him look like parson." Both women broke out in gales of uncontrolled laughter. Miss Eu gave me a maternalistic pat on the shoulder, hissed through her teeth, and said, "De pickney too ripe." Miss Edna, recovering from her astonishment, added to Miss Eu's comment by saying, "Out of the mouth of babes!" The women proceeded with their womanly conversation while I sat subdued in a corner like an obedient puppy dog. Did I make it obvious that the paternity of this child could not be concealed, even from a child as young as I was? In time I came to hear rumors about the fornication of upright ministers of religion of all denominations. Usually, the physiognomy of the illegitimate offspring carried the genetic traces that revealed sexual transgressions. The clues might have been in the skin colour, the eyes, the nose, and especially the hair. It might also have been in the twitch of the nose, the gait, the sound of the voice. The illegitimate offspring had an uncomfortable habit of being living-walking evidence of sexual immorality, against which these same ministers railed from the pulpit. In one district in which I lived later, several children in school bore the surnames of their mothers, with no father that they could declare. Yet they were mirror images of a certain parson who was known for his total ministry to his largely female congregation. A child discovers much about the realities of life by observing adult deceit and hypocrisy. 3.6 Recollections of My Infant School Years I must have arrived at Windsor Castle in late 1947. I began school some time in 1948 at five years old. For days before the opening of school there was much talk between my father, Miss Eu and the casual farm hands about the threat of school that went something like this: 46 "School soon open." This was a warning that the carefree days would be over soon. "Oonu free papa soon bun" (Your free paper will soon burn). This expression was a carry over from slavery days. Official papers were issued to black or brown persons who bought their freedom certifying their free status. A white person could simply burn the 'free paper' as the folk called these certificates, and the person would revert to the status of slave. "Yuh gwan wid you mishavin, teacha a go fix yuh." (You can carry on your misbehaving now because the teacher will punish you when school starts.) This was a reminder to children of the beatings that the teachers would mete out for misbehaving. I overheard my father and Miss Eu discussing my age paper (birth certificate). My father insisted that she should send me to school without the age paper because the teacher would accept me because of who he was. In preparation, my father purchased some fabric and had my brother and sister suited out. I remember my brother's embarrassment that my father had short pants made with braces that crossed in the back. These were not the khakis that most children wore. I still remember how odd my brother looked among his friends. I remember less about what I or my sister wore, although I do remember her getting into fist-fights defending herself when the big boys pulled her long thick plaits of hair, or when they mocked our name, Shorter. One of her eyes was noticeably smaller and she was said to have 'cast eye'. The boys would tease her and call her "cock-eye Sonia." Invariably, she would pounce on one of the offenders, grab his ears and scratch with her fingernails until he surrendered, screaming. In the tussles her bodice would rip from the skirt of her tunic, or frock, as girls' dresses were called. Going to school was an escape from the all-day drudgery of farm work into misery of another kind, although this was not so at first. On the morning that I was to start school, I was awakened some time after the second cock's-crow and sent with my brother and sister to fetch water to fill up the two large oil drums, before leaving to walk some three-miles to school. I had to run walk to keep up with the older children. By the time I got to school the shortness of breath of the asthma returned. It was usual for me to arrive at school out of breath, hot, sweaty, and tired. Miss Montcrieffe, my first teacher at the Carron Hall Infant School would put me to sleep for the morning. I remember Miss Montcrieffe as a dark-skinned, tall, and gentle woman. She did not instill fear in us. She was a gifted artist. The scenes from the storybooks from which she would read us stories covered the blackboard. She would tell us a selection of stories 47 repeatedly until we knew them by heart; so much so, that we would recite along or come in on the refrains with the actions. We loved these recitations. I huffed and puffed and blew the house of the three little pigs down so many times. My favourite Bible story was "Jonah in the Belly of the Whale." I felt happy, triumphant even, at the part of the story when Jonah escaped from the belly of the monster, of which I knew not. My favourite fairy tale was "Hansel and Gretel and the Wicked Stepmother." We learned to count with our fingers and action songs such as "Three crows sat upon a wall / And one crow accidentally fall / Two crows sat upon the wall," and so on. The nature walks were enchanting. By Jamaican standards, Carron Hall was cold and rainy, so sometimes we could not go out on nature walks. When we did, the landscape was so green and lush with wild flowers, dandelions, broom weeds, daisies, chirping birds, crawling ants' nests, and lizards. Miss Montcrieffe showed us different kinds of leaves, branches, and roots of trees, shrubs, and grasses. I can still remember her telling us about tap and main root and adventitious roots among the vegetation. We watched some of the young boys who lived at the dairy take some cows to pasture, while others milked the cows and fed the calves. On our way back from the nature walks we would dig up clumps of clay and take them back to our classroom. After lunch and our naps, we would create clay animals and scenes both from the fairy tales and from our nature walks. I loved this activity for the kneading and shaping, but I just could not get my cow to look like a cow. I remembered the Nature Walks and the infant school programme with such vividness that I sought out and found my infant school principal, who is in her late eighties, to ask her about the philosophy behind the infant school programme, and in particular the Nature Walks. I quote from her letter: The Nature Walks and conversations triggered by observing the wonders of plant and animal world opened a child's curiosity to take in knowledge and added to perception of his surroundings, adding pleasure to his reading about things in books. That child, mastering reading at an early age was way above the mind bogged down with the mechanics of putting thoughts into writing and intelligent speech. I may not be putting this into the language of a University graduate but I am sure you will agree that your Nature Walks enriched your vocabulary. Shy children opened up to talk about things they collected. They knew that the grass family had roots that differed from the roots of a pea or bean, which they saw growing roots in a glass jar at the school window. They watched its growth and watched the leaves unfold each day. Letter sounds were taught at 4 years. "B " -bark of a tree; "R " - root; "P" - peas; "F" - fly; etc., rough, smooth etc. It was actually learning made easy, reading skills acquired without conscious effort, and, 48 fun, not drudgery. If children with disabilities missed learning skills in infant school, they lost out at 'Big School'. (Personal correspondence, January 2003) Miss Rose was another infant school teacher whom I remember fondly. She must have been a middle-aged woman. I recall thinking that when we surrounded her, she looked like mother hen in the "Mother Hen and Percy the Chick" stories she read to us. She was a Christian and holy lady who taught us to pray by kneeling and bowing our heads; taught us to sing hymns; and to learn Bible stories. Joseph's multi-coloured coat that she drew on the blackboard was so pretty, I wished that I had one like it. My best memory of Miss Rose was her teaching us the hymn "All things.bright and beautiful." She taught us infant school kids all the stanzas with the aid of beautiful scenes for each stanza, which she drew on the black board. I carry the memory of the scene on the board of the purple-headed mountains with the rivers running by and the sunset in the garden that brightens up the sky. This has been my favourite hymn since, so much so, that I chose it as one of the hymns to be sung at my son's wedding, some fifty years later. As I sang with the congregation, I remembered Miss Rose and Carron Hall. In remembering Carron Hall, I go beyond the immediate school environs to include scenes from the cane fields that spread over several hundred acres, together growing millions of sugar canes on either side of the main and parochial roads. On our way to and from school we watched and participated in the life-cycle and work regime of sugar cane. During the planting season large numbers of bare-chested black men, with beads of sweat rolling down their backs, dug cane-holes with pitchforks and machetes. Women with baskets of cane-tops on their heads, walked along the rows, dropping cane-tops beside the holes as they went. Another team of men would come along, sink the tops in the holes, and cover them up with earth. Rainwater would collect in the furrows along the cane rows. When they grew to a height of several feet, the acres of sugar-cane were weeded by women with their hoes, dressed in long skirts and straw hats. By Christmas time, the canes were very tall and in bloom. The leafy cane-tops, bearing silky white and light purple arrows, swayed in the gentle Northeast trade winds to make a soothing whistling sound. Mrs Elliott described the fields as dancing. On moonlit nights, this atmosphere was a great backdrop for children to listen to duppy (ghost) stories. When the sugar canes were ripe, men with sharp machetes and bills cut the canes to the music and rhythm of machetes zinging in the air, the men whistling or singing work 49 songs. During harvesting, children delighted in volunteering to help men and women cane carriers transport bundles of sugarcanes to the roadside. They were loaded in carts and trucks, and. taken to Gray's Inn, the large sugar factory close to the coast in St Mary. After carrying six bundles of sugarcane we got to choose the biggest and juiciest candy stripe cane to eat on our way home. Little girls' cotton dresses dried stiff with cane juice and dirt. Legs and arms sustained small snips from the sharp edges of the cane leaves. 3.7 The People of Hazard I cannot leave the landscape of Carron Hall and its environs without writing about the people of Hazard. The memory of the people of this place has haunted me all my life. I have returned so many times in my imagination and my nightmares to scenes of abject poverty etched in my mind. Who were those people? Where did they come from? In my readings of Jamaican history I have tried to find the answer to the condition of the people of Hazard. Now I find I write about the people and this place in order to understand their hold on me. My encounter with Hazard begins with what happened when my sister Sonia brought our father's King James' Version of the Bible to her school. The Bible was a very expensive edition, bound with leather, and pages as thin as rice paper. The lettering was ornate, especially the red and gold calligraphy at the beginning of each book. Placed throughout were portraits of Saul, David, Jesus, and other notable characters. Finger grooves helped the reader locate passages. At the back of the volume, family births and deaths were recorded. I can only imagine now that such a Bible brought her much attention and envy. As I grew older and felt the need to show off in school, I was to do similar things. On our way home from school that day, Sonia stopped suddenly and exclaimed that the Bible was missing from her bag. We all ran back breathlessly to search. We had to recover it, for as sure as the sun sets, our father would miss the Bible and give us a "murderation." She and Trevor speculated who might have stolen it - this person must surely live in Hazard. The three of us had to get to this place beyond the school, in the opposite direction from home, before nightfall. We also had to give ourselves enough time to go from house to house to ask if they had seen the Bible. My sister had hoped that someone would confess and give it up, or at least a hint of who had stolen it. For my part I began to get the nervous 50 stomach-ache that came when I anticipated my father's wrath and his floggings. As I ran to keep up with Trevor and Sonia I could feel my heart thumping against my chest and heard it pounding in my throat. The wheezing of my asthma started up again. I began to cry like a little puppy in distress. As we got into Hazard, the sights of the people both scared and transfixed me. It was the first and last time that I beheld such a scene in Jamaica, and it has stayed and haunted me until now. I remember clusters of thatched-roof huts with bamboo wattle and mud-daubed sides, in various degrees of decay. Small pre-school children ran round naked in front of the yards. As they ran about rather lazily, the little boys' penises and distended testicles flopped about like little tails and nuts. These jet-black skinny children had big heads covered with red hair, and protruding navels which looked very strange. From a string around their necks hung a pendant cashew nut, and a dot of indigo-blue was stamped on each of their foreheads. A few mothers sat under a shade tree nursing naked babies, while old women fanned fires under big iron pots set on three rocks. They must have been cooking their dinner. One father who sat in the doorway of a hut smoking a pipe got up to find out what we wanted. His eyes were blood-shot and his teeth yellow. My brother told him that we were looking for our father's Bible, which had been stolen from school that day. He mumbled an answer that I could not understand, and glared at.us and angrily so that we knew we had insulted him. We knew also that we must leave Hazard, or risk a beating. We never recovered the Bible and our tyrannical father, devoid of Christian charity, beat us within an inch of our lives for having lost his precious Book. This was one among my sister's various adventures - episodes that my brother and I usually paid for with a hiding. We saw her as our common enemy, an inveterate liar who dragged us into situations that were bound to antagonize the tyrant. My father himself called her the "stiff-necked wench." , I later had a chance to visit Hazard again under different circumstances. Eutedra's brother owned a cane piece there, and I went with her to visit him. Her brother lived at the foot of a mountain, from which cascaded a waterfall. As the volumes of water rolled off the mountaintop, they sprayed big clouds of mist which came to settle into a big, beautiful, blue lagoon. Water ran off the lagoon into an awesome deep blue hole, from which people dipped up their drinking water with calabashes. The blue shimmering lagoon pulled me forward like 51 a magnet. The place was spooky. My head began to spin. I must have been about to fall in because someone pulled me roughly by the scruff of my neck asked "You wah fe drowned pickney?" Over fifty years later, when I visited Mrs Elliott, my infant school principal, I asked her about these people. Our conversation went as follows. "Mrs Elliott, who were the people of Hazard?" "Oh! Those people were beyond the reach of the church. They cut themselves off, smoked pangola grass, and beat their drums all night." She elaborated, "They kept us awake with their drums. We knew when it was daybreak because the drums were quiet. Very few of their children came to the infant school. When they came they spoke a language that we could not understand." She told a story of holding a little girl in her arms all day, until her older brother came to get her. He had to translate that she was saying she was alone and lonely for her brother and parents. I asked: "What is pangola grass?" "Pangola grass was a grass imported from the United States to feed dairy cattle and horses because it made the cows give good milk. Pangola likes the clay soils of Carron Hall and parts of Manchester." "So what did it have to do with the people of Hazard?" I probed. "They smoked the dry grass and hallucinated. When those people got high it took them days to come down." I was aware that some poor black people shun the church and smoked ganja, but I had never heard of pangola grass before. I knew of Guinea grass, grown in special pastures to feed the plantation cattle in pens attached to the big plantations. When Mrs Elliott explained about the pangola grass I suddenly recalled that there was a verdant green pasture directly opposite the clusters of huts. Big fat brown cows roamed and grazed in the pastures in satiated bliss. Ticks sucked their blood while black birds perched on the broad backs of the cows and, in their turn, fed on the fat ticks. The monetary worth of these people was no longer calculable in the plantation ledgers of old, alongside the steers, mules, ploughs, and wheelbarrows. Speculating that Carron Hall and Hazard must have been plantations, I referred to the survey of plantations in Jamaica during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by Barry Higman (1988). Its maps and plans suggested evidence of cattle pens and pasture, with many sugarcane pieces around, 52 and the waterfall offering a source of energy for a waterwheel, and a supply of fresh water to people and cattle. Small farmers ran places for ground provisions in yams, potatoes, and taro and other vegetables. The African workforce lived in kraals called Negro houses, located on the edge of the plantation. Confirmation that Hazard was indeed a plantation was found in the 1941-42 West Indies Year Book including also the Bermudas, The Bahamas, British Guiana, and British Honduras. There I found that Alfred and William Champagne owned the Hazard Estate, which was listed each year until 1946-47, when it was no longer listed as such. In a conversation with Evadne Sherrief, a schoolmate of my brother and sister in Carron Hall, I confirmed that the Champagne brothers still owned the cattle pasture at the time I had been at school in the area. According to Higman, it was common for pastures to continue after estate owners ceased to produce sugar. The cattle were then raised for beef and milk. The dismantling of the sugarcane crop of the plantation explains, at least in part, the poverty. Other factors were declining sugar prices, natural disasters and the need to mechanize sugar-growing operations. In the same parish, there was a move from sugar to bananas for the big banana export companies. Who were these people who were beyond the reach of the big Presbyterian Church which dominated the area? I speculate that that they were direct descendants of the Ibo people brought from the Guinea coast to work on the sugar plantations. They had become part of the human refuse of the dismantling of the sugar estates that dominated the large tract of land encompassing Carron Hall, Donnington, Hazard and Montreal - throwaway people, left in Negro huts to rot, their children malnourished and infected with yaws and chigga, their minds numbed by pangola grass, but their souls eased at least by the frantic beat of their ancestral drums. The drums must have preserved their spiritual language, spoken their joys, their sorrows, and rage. The drumbeat must have spoken to them, and for them, calling out to their deities and their kin in the faraway Iboland, the motherland, home. The people of Hazard were struggling against all odds to preserve their African identity and pride in an alien land. Their way of life had resisted the call of church bells, pipe organs, and triumphal hymns that hailed the greatness of European civilization. While missionaries of the Presbyterian Church rang bells, played pipes and sang hymns with their African converts, the Biblical sons of Ham beat drums to remind them of Africa, 53 and of forced exile. These were the holdouts, who refused communion with those who had enslaved them. 3.8 Epilogue I look to find out more about Carron Hall and in particular, the role of the Presbyterian mission after 'emancipation', when the plantations and estates were abandoned. I am trying to understand the whole area with respect to the cane pieces and the sugar estates to which they supplied cane. The sugar-cane pieces and cattle stand out. John Stewart, writing in 1823, advised prospective planters that the four great desiderata in setting up a sugar plantation are: (1) goodness of soil; (2) easiness of access; (3) convenience of distance to the shipping place; and (4) a stream of water running through the premises. He advised that if there was not a naturally occurring stream running through the property, one should be created from a nearby source, to send down a supply. If such cannot be obtained, a well or a pond should be sunk to draw or be collected from. This passage helps me to sketch out more clearly my memory of a reservoir in Carron Hall as well as the Hazard falls and the lagoon below. I wonder if that deep blue hole into which the water of the lagoon ran, was man-made, or if it resulted from the natural erosion of the limestone of the area. Certainly there were many concealed sinkholes into which cattle sometimes fell. What do the details of the ruins of the landscape of Hazard and Carron Hall invite me to remember? The works by Higman on plantation and slave economy in Jamaica, as well as his extensive study on the Mount Pellier Plantation in Jamaica, are particularly instructive in trying to piece together the memories imprinted on this landscape when I attended Carron Hall Infant School. Several things come to mind. For one, the number of cane pieces that were being worked and through which I passed to school is indicative of small cane farmers who had to grow their cane to sell to the Grays Inn Factory to earn their livelihood. After emancipation and the wholesale desertion of unprofitable sugar estates, small farmers took up the job of raising the sugarcane to sell to the factories that continued to process the sugarcane into unrefined sugar, molasses, and rum. 54 Second, judging from the number of cattle that I remember roaming close to the area, after the abandonment of the large sugar estates, the motive power of cattle was no longer needed. Some estate owners abandoned the planting of sugarcane and either sold the land or let it lie fallow. Other owners converted cattle pens from raising draught-animals to raising dairy and beef cattle, for local consumption by those who could afford to buy the milk and beef. It was obvious that the people of Hazard could not afford to buy, so they seemed to have been in a state of malnutrition. Some of the cane pieces were converted into pasture of guinea and pangola grass to support a larger herd of cattle. As Higman points out, in the heyday of sugar production cattle pens and sugar cane plantations had a symbiotic relationship. The cattle pens reared the steers and oxen for the motive power that ran the mills, and the drays and carts that transported the cane. When the plantation no longer needed the motive power of cattle, and cattle-rearing needing relatively less labour, the cane labourers were rendered redundant. The dairy where young boys were being trained, that I saw during my nature walks with the infant school, seems to have been established by the Presbyterian Church, to train some young black boys to work with cattle. In our correspondence, Mrs Elliot mentions that milk cans were collected to take to the Bybrook Condensery for the manufacture of sweetened condensed milk. Like a curse, poor mothers fed this sweetened condensed milk to their children, not.knowing that they were under-nourishing their children. Another feature that Higman points to in his Jamaica Surveyed is an area on the layout of the plantation called the Negro houses or the Negro village or the Negro kraal. I surmise that the people of Hazard were perhaps the remnants of people who lived in the Negro village adjoining the sugar plantation. Another memory of slavery and emancipation evident in Carron Hall was the growing of a large variety of ground provisions: yams, sweet potatoes, cocoas, dasheens, coconuts, plantains, and bananas. It seems that these provision grounds were the only sphere of control for slaves, and which continued to flourish after emancipation as a way of providing sustenance and income. Those ex-slaves who could acquire land became peasant farmers. The Presbyterian Church capitalized on this abundance and hard work though the services conducted at harvest time. As a little child attending the Carron Hall Infant School, I can remember going to the harvest services in the middle of the day. We little children had to huddle and sit quietly, 55 while the minister and his choir walked triumphantly into the church, and approached the church altar. The altar would be filled with the display of the best food grown by each farmer. I remember singing these words of a hymn, "Bringing in the sheaves, we shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves." As they sang this hymn, I as a little infant school child, heard "bringing in the sheep." I looked expectantly to see sheep following the ministers, for there were no sheep that I ever saw in the neighbourhood. They did not bring in the sheep, and no sheep came. I understood that not everything said in church could be meant literally. Another memory from the history of post emancipation Jamaica, which becomes evident in the Carron Hall, is of the mission schools and free village development, which came after emancipation. The purpose of the missions was to 'rescue' souls from sin and damnation and to 'civilize' the illiterate poor. In fulfillment of these goals, the missionaries taught their flock to read the Bible, to sign their names, to manage basic arithmetic, and to learn to farm. Obedience to authority was encouraged, and courtesy and personal deportment stressed. Cleanliness was next to Godliness. It is beyond the scope of this study to examine the role of the missionaries, for credit or debit. It is sufficient to note that, in post-emancipation Jamaica making a rapid, and even dangerous, transition from slave labour to farm and domestic labour, and requiring significant improvement in hygienic conditions, missionaries were among the few influences in a position to effect change. In this first real-life story, I have pieced together vivid memories of my early childhood years. I have taken the reader with me to engage with my family, the landscape of sugarcane, and a marginalized community of black people. I have woven memory, history of slavery, and plantation economy in a fabric where each thread, if it ever could be unravelled, is a twisted yarn of many episodes. In the epilogue I have gone to the literature, and tried to find explanations for features of the landscape in Carron Hall and Windsor Castle. *** The stories, which follow, open other dimensions of these themes. 56 CHAPTER IV LOUISIANA BLUES circa 1950 - 1954 4.1 Why We Moved to Louisiana Eutedra must have grown tired of Cee's lying and bullying. She must have resented the way in which Cee brought his three children into her dwelling as if he had brought three gifts. For her purposes, the only way they could be gifts is if she could have worked them like the pickney gang of slavery days. This proved difficult because Trevor and Sonia rebelled in all ways they could. Trevor exacted pay for milking the cows and transporting the milk pans to the roadside before the crack of dawn. He did so by pointing the cow's nipple to his mouth while he squeezed each of the four teats in turn. Only when he had his belly full of raw cow's milk did he point the teats into the bucket. It was so early in the morning that I would say that we sleep walked in the cold and dew to untie and head up at least three cows to the cowshed to milk them. The first cock would crow at approximately three and the second cock would crow at about five in the morning. As a reward for keeping his company on those early mornings, when we were awakened between the first and second cock's crow, Trevor fed me my share of milk. But he also fed me to keep his secret. Since the cowshed was located close to the drinking water spring, he just dipped up some water with the gourd that he was supposed to use to transfer the milk from the bucket to the milk pan, and poured it into the milk to replace what we had drunken. I, of course, had to swear secrecy. This was difficult to do since I had been sent to watch him. The Bybrook Milk Condensery had been paying Eutedra Williams less than she expected. The reason given was the high percentage of water in the milk. She understood this because, after all, she had been watering the milk before Cee's children arrived and she continued to water her milk after Trevor started doing the milking. She must have gotten wise to the fact that Trevor was following her example, because she began to test the milk for water by looking at how blue the milk was. Trevor and Miss Eu sometimes had loud arguments about the weak blue milk that he was bringing home in the milk pans. Trevor too had to make adjustments to accommodate Eutedra's need to water the milk, so he drank less and put less water in the milk. In a situation such as this the folk would say, "Tief from tief God laff." (A thief steals from a thief and God laughs.) 57 Eutedra was clearly not gaining from this pickney labour. Sonia was too sickly to carry the load of dirty clothes to the river to scrub and bleach on the river rocks. She did not even have the strength to carry the produce on her head from the provision grounds. With any exertion she would have an attack of heart palpitation. When this happened she would shake all over until she was exhausted, and turn white as if her heart had pumped all her blood out of her body. My brother and I were always afraid that her heart would stop beating and she would die. Because she was so frail, she could beat up my brother and me and get away with it most of the time. My father said she was born with a weak heart. All the bush medicine that my father had the obeah man concoct did not help her condition. Years later, with the benefit of education, I often wondered how much poison was being fed into the poor child's body. In those days, doctors were few, and folk medicines were real cures for some illnesses. Often that was all there was. Besides being sickly, Sonia was full of 'back chat' (to answer back daringly) and 'lie and story' (tell a barefaced lie and tell a story that is untrue). There were times when Miss Eu swore at Sonia saying, "One day, de obeah man ah go tun yu mout back a yu." I was too young to be of much use beyond sweeping the yard and carrying small pans of water. As small as those pans were, they were helpful because Eutedra would not let us go off to school until we had filled three big tar drums of water for her cows and for her domestic use, while we were at school. The tar drums were perhaps the only thing she had to show from Cee. On top of that I was prone to asthma attacks and fretfulness from the heat, hard work and long walk to school. I caught 'fresh cold' from the dust and no doubt sleep deprivation. I was further debilitated by the rounds of laxatives and purgatives I had to take to get rid of intestinal worms caused by drinking stagnant rainwater or pond water when the spring had dried. After all, Eutedra had a farm to run to make money for the independence she so loved. She did not need Cyril. Eutedra had no children of her own, and had never married up to that point in her life. Why should she put up with a violent unreliable drunkard and his three children? Although his children were of some use, two were sickly, and the third was given to acts of sabotage. Raiding the best sugar canes and eating them was a favourite prank. Trevor would cut the fattest and sweetest purple-stripe cane and leave the leaf tops propped up to appear as if the cane is still there. Until the leaves began to wilt and turn 58 brown, it would take days to discover that the canes were missing. Another trick of his was to make fires in the field and roast the choicest sweet potatoes and yams before he took home the basket full of ground provisions. When I came to meet him at Eutedra's, Trevor, by age twelve, had already learned the art of loading donkeys and of carrying loads on his head. Life was hard and lacked affection and care. We lived and breathed sadness and distress. We ate far too much to earn our keep. We were about to eat this lady out of house and land. Where was our mother to protect us from a wicked father and his exploitive paramour? Cee would not change his wicked ways. As far as Cyril John Shorter was concerned, his manhood and his brown skin were enough for any woman to whom he took a fancy. But his brown manhood was no competition for the ebony-skinned butcher who began to call on Miss Eu, bringing the choicest cuts of rump roasts. The folk called the butcher Maas Manny, for he was indeed a fine specimen of a man, who probably made Cyril John see himself for the midget that he truly was. Cyril John could no longer impress Eutedra with his empty promises and drunken railings, aimed at intimidating his children to work enough to appease her. The children had a troublesome habit of being children. Children consume more than they produce and Eutedra had no use for 'parasites'. 4.2 Louisiana Village My father moved us to a place called Louisiana, to a very nice three-room house constructed of board, with three concrete steps leading to a wooden veranda. In every room, the house had sash windows, which opened and closed by cords sliding on a pulley. We delighted in pushing the windows up and down to open and close. We were glad to leave the thatch hut behind. The floors were maroon red from the logwood dye that stained them. (Women chipped the bark of the logwood trees that grew all around and boiled it in a special dye pot to extract this dye.) The shingle roof was a haven for the croaking-lizards, which took on the colour of the shingles and crawled across the ceiling to catch moths arid other night insects. I did not like them because they walked upside down across the roof. I was always afraid of them falling on my bed. Surprisingly, they never did. To one side of the house was a big oblong concrete barbecue, sectioned off into about eight sections. It was the kind of barbecue that had been used to dry either cocoa or coffee beans and pimento. There were very few blighted coffee and cocoa plants in the area 59 by the time we got there. In fact the only cocoa trees I saw were on Miss Eu's property. All around Lousiana, for acres on end, there were dwarfed, stunted sugarcane, which no one either planted or reaped. They simply grew new shoots, 'ratooned', each growing season until the roots died off and the leaves turned brown dried and rotted. Only the children and the stray cows ate the remnants of these canes. The logwood trees were planted in abundance in the area, so that logwood bark could be chipped and exported to England, converted into dye crystals, and sold back in the island for dying floors, straw, and sisal for crafts. I was seeing, and not knowing, a patchwork of failed cash crops. Two gourd trees grew in the front yard. One stood to the left as you entered the gate and the other stood just to the right, a few feet away from the steps. My sister was always looking towards these gourd trees on moonshine nights and telling me that she just saw our mother walk by. It was a great mystery to me because I never saw anyone, and if it were a ghost of our mother, I would not know how to recognize her. I still did not know "what's a mother." An abandoned kitchen garden lay beside the barbecue. My father chose a spot close to a stream to plant his own kitchen garden. We were grateful for this because it shortened our trips to fetch water to water the plants when there was no rain. He planted black-eyed peas, red beans, cabbage, sweet potato, callaloo, tomatoes, and corn. Trevor, Sonia and I used to raid our father's garden and pretend it was other people. We liked especially to raid the corn because he grew the corn to feed his pigs and various varieties of birds that he began to bring home. We could count on our sister Sonia to lie convincingly to allay our almighty father's suspicion. At the back of the house was the outside kitchen with a fire hearth fitted with an iron grid set over sturdy rocks. My brother liked this fire hearth, because he could cook with more than one pot at a time. There was a wooden table and a wooden window, which was great for letting out the smoke. At some distance below the kitchen was the pit latrine, which the sanitary inspector came from time to time to inspect for cleanliness, and to determine when a new pit was to be dug. The house was located on the top of a knoll between the main road and the parochial road. The main road was downhill at the back of the house. The part of the main road that was of importance was the stretch that leads from Windsor Castle, via Louisiana, Old Post Road, and Rio Magno, where my father's head office was. On his way to work at 60 Windsor Castle or Carron Hall, my father would sometimes drop off bunches of bananas at the foot of the hill on the side of the track leading up to the house. Every morning, Trevor, Sonia and I had to walk along the track leading down hill from the back of the house, passed the sour sop tree, through the scrawny little sugarcanes to get down to the main road. We crossed the road with our kerosene tins to fetch water from whichever spring had water still in it. There was a little stream in the vicinity and we would strip off our clothes and bathe, before returning with the pans of water to fill the tar drums of water. We were spared the water-fetching chore when the rains fell heavily for days. The house had eaves troughs made of zinc mounted along the front and backs slopes of the roof and slightly tilted to one end, so that the rainwater could collect in the drums. It was fun when the rain clouds gathered and started to move in like a beaded curtain of raindrops. Sometimes thunder and lightening came too. The thunder and lightening would scare the little kids who would run and hide under the beds. Adults, mostly women would shout helter skelter from all the households in the neighbourhood, to the older children: "Rain a come." "Set out de drum dem." "Put out de wash pan." "Lawd! Tek up de close dem ahfa de line. Quick! Quick! Befo rain wet dem up." "Shet de winda dem, ar else de rain a go blow een." Opposite our house was a flourishing banana walk. The folk always talked about the good quality of the Lacatan and Robusta bananas. They bore six and seven hands of up to twelve fingers. I would overhear talk about the high prices that the United Fruit Company of New Jersey paid for the bananas, if they passed the quality test when they reached Port Antonio. It was important for them to reach the port in perfect condition, or they would be rejected. Rejected bananas were sold off cheaply in the market place and the banana producer would lose profit. The bananas were therefore carefully reaped and transported. When the bananas were fit, the banana men cut the bunches and piled them carefully by the roadside. They also cut a lot of dried banana leaves before they cut down the soft trunk of the tree from which they had cut the banana bunches. Cutting the tree at this point permitted new banana plants to shoot from the roots. The dried banana leaves were laid out on the truck bed to form a soft pad. The bunches of banana were then carefully placed on the leaves, in preparation for transport to Port Antonio for sale to the big banana boats. _ We children always curried favour with the banana men to see if they would give us a bunch of ripe bananas. They knew enough to be kind to us or else the big boys would simply raid the bananas at night. I remember vividly how hurricane Charlie blew the whole banana walk flat, and how the children raided the ripe bananas and the adults the green bunches. The overseers threatened prosecution for theft. There was a cow pasture that stretched from Windsor Castle to Louisiana and reminded me of those big fat brown cows at Hazard. There were always little boys driving the cows to water and to other grazing pastures. These boys were armed with slingshots. Birds followed the cattle to pick the ticks off their back so they had a steady target of birds at which to shoot. 4.3 My Father's Birds My father collected birds for food and sport. For food, he had a collection of Leghorn fowls and Rhode Island Reds. He claimed that they were the best laying fowls. In the mornings before he left for work, he would call up the fowls and throw out handfuls of corn or chopped up coconut. The fowl's beaks would all converge on the grains in one mass of clucking feathers. My father would swoop down and catch a laying hen. Then he held the hen in the left hand and inserted the middle finger of his right hand up the hen's anus. The chicken struggled and squawked out loud and then my father would let her go. He repeated this feed, catch, feel-up-and-let-go routine with every laying hen. He then announced to my brother and sister that he expected them to collect a set number of eggs, say ten eggs. This meant that they had to follow the fowls stealthily when they ran around looking for a place to drop their eggs, or they would have to go around after school looking in all the likely places that the fowls would scratch out a nest to lay. Sometimes the dogs found the eggs first, leaving the empty shells to show that a fowl had laid her eggs. When my father built a fowl coop it was easier, because most of the hens would lay in the nests in the coop. I remember helping to collect the soft eggs warm from the chicken's body. We would watch the shells harden in our hands. We had to outsmart the dogs, which had the same idea as we did about eating the eggs. When my father got home, one of the things he would check in military fashion was the number of eggs we had collected. We paid with our hides if we collected noticeably fewer that our father expected. 62 Like the dogs, we liked eating the eggs too. Invariably the chickens laid more than their quota and my brother had a system of hiding the surplus until he had enough for a feast of eggs. It was my brother's job to cook the pigs' feed after dinner. He would boil the eggs at night with the pigs' feed. The feed consisted of corn and other leftover peelings cooked in salted water in a kerosene pan over a big wood fire. Trevor would put the eggs on the top of the pig feed, submerged enough to boil evenly. When they were boiled, he would fish them out with a large spoon. One night my sister discovered my brother's ploy. They made a deal to share the spoils and Sonia would not tell on my brother. But Trevor had no intention of sharing equally, and the two fought over dishing out their fair share. Two of the eggs got shoved to the bottom of the pigs' feed. When my father went to feed the pigs in the morning, he upended the kerosene tin of food into the pigs' trough. Out rolled the hardboiled eggs. Sonia and Trevor swore to my father that they did not know how the eggs got into the pan. My father asked, "Are you telling me that the fowls laid the eggs in the hot boiling tin at night after they had gone to roost?" At these times my father spoke perfect lawyer English. They of course had no answer, and my father then descended on them with his belt, speedily pulled out of his pant loops. Sonia pushed my brother in front to take the licks and took off to a neighbour's house for the night, leaving my father to curse and swear till he literally fell asleep. When he cursed her he called her the little wench. When really vexed with her, he would call her the "little black wench." It was difficult to cheat after this, because my father would brook no error in count, even when the chickens did not lay. This chicken and egg game was expanded to include ducks, game hens, and pigeons. For sport, my father brought home barbie-doves and baldpates. Once, he even brought home an ostrich egg and buried it in sand to wait for it to hatch. It never did and he was so disappointed and embarrassed that his bright idea had failed. The gamecocks had to suffer my father clipping their wings, beaks, and spurs. When he took his cocks to fight he would come home drunk and bloodied just like his cocks. Behind his back we would laugh hard at his misfortune. We knew full well if he caught us mocking him he would have no difficulty clipping our wings as he did his birds. Between the maintenance of the pigs and the ducks we had to carry a lot of water before we went school in the mornings. When the sun was hot and water was scarce, the ducks would wander away to find streams of water. 63 There was a Mr Peart who lived in the neighbourhood, and who owned seven of the fiercest pit bulls. He could not afford to feed these dogs properly. He had them tied up most of the time, and they would bark and hound from hunger. They were so ferocious that children dared not tease them. We came home from school one day when we did not have a maid and found that Mr Peart's dogs had eaten all the ducks and drakes. There were duck feathers and blood everywhere. My father blamed us for this, refusing to believe that all his ducks had been eaten. He speculated that they had followed the stream that they sometimes escaped to. It was about this time my brother ran away from home, leaving my sister and me to cope with my father's wrath. Sonia and I searched for days and could not find the eaten ducks. Shortly after that incident my sister ran away too. I was left alone in the house for I do not know how long. It seemed that my father had not shown up for some days. I walked back to find Miss Eu who took me in as essentially her pickney field hand to help drop the cane tops for planting. I was about eleven years old by then. I did not go back to school for what must have been months. 4.4 My Father the House Inspector In my father's room was a double Simmons spring bed with a coir mattress, that is, a mattress stuffed with coconut fibre. I liked the nice mahogany vanity with the big round mirror and a stool. I was fascinated by the mirror and would play with my image appearing and disappearing until I got ferocious headaches and then I would fall asleep. In the big drawers of the vanity were some elegant woman's blouses and skirts and a very special black vest. This ladies' vest had beautiful cloth loops and buttons spaced close together. My sister and I would dress up and play in the clothes and put them back neatly before our father staggered home to do military inspection of our housekeeping. The inspections were terrifying occasions because he was bound to find dust in some remote place, or declare that the mats were laid at some angle that mattered only to him. Then he would proceed to examine the table, which we had set for his food. We had to be up to serve him when and at whatever time of night he chose to come home. The maids had usually gone home by the time he arrived. Again, some implement or dish would be found to be out of place. He would then start to question us about why this and why that. I would remain quiet trembling from fear, ready to relieve my bladder or bowels. My sister 64 Sonia would talk back to daddy. She was "a bare face pickney." He would take her backchat as an affront and an outrage, and some scene like this invariably followed. Daddy: Why is the fork placed like that? Sonia: Because you moved it daddy. Daddy: Are you calling me a liar? Sonia: But daddy I saw you when you moved the fork. Daddy: Girl, don't but me. I said, are you calling me a liar? Sonia: No daddy, but... Daddy starts flushing red like a tomato. His eyes begin to swivel from side to side in rapid fire as he grabs Sonia by the arm with his left hand while his right hand begins to remove the heavy leather belt from his waist. All the while, daddy is unable to stand up straight and Sonia takes advantage of his drunken state with impunity. Sonia will try to get away by dragging daddy along as he staggers to stay on his feet. His breathing speeds up, exhaling strong fumes of Captain Morgan rum, his favorite. He manages to drop a few licks over Sonia's back. They are too light to appease his rage. Besides, Sonia always dresses every night for bed in several layers of clothing to protect her skin from the blows. Daddy, knowing this, comes down as hard as his drunken aim allows. He grits his teeth as he looks at her with the fire of hatred in his eye. Sonia and daddy struggle for the upper hand. His intention is to beat the daylights out of her, while hers is to get free and humiliate him. It is a battle between sober and drunken wills. On cue, I cry out, "Daddy, daddy, don't lick her." My sensitive brother Trevor stands by, calculating his own escape when Sonia has cornered daddy strategically, giving Trevor time to grab me and run. Sonia breaks loose and runs, hollering to me "Come Yvonne!" Thus defeated and humiliated, daddy hurls obscenities at my sister and warns my brother of the "murderation" (severe beating) that awaits him when he's caught. "You little black wench. You are "facety" (feisty) just like you black mumma." "You Mister Trevor, wait until I catch you; I am going to bus' your ass." Even when we are safely at a distance, we can hear him cursing and swearing. Meanwhile we three have to plan which neighbour we will have to ask to let us sleep for the night. The neigbours were usually accommodating because they were powerless to interfere directly in my father's abuse. Somehow they expected better of this red skin man. Some of the mothers would cup their palms to their 65 chin and mutter, "Missa Shaata gaan mad." Others would say, "Him a tek disadvantage a de poor dead ooman pickney dem." In saying this, the folk were acknowledging a profound truth about Jamaican mothers. They would not stand by and tolerate anyone abusing their children - not even their father. Another truth is that the worst fate that could befall children in Jamaica is for their mothers to die before they 'pass the worst', meaning the point when children were old enough to take care of themselves. Taking care of themselves meant having not only economic independence but also the ability to take care of their integrity enough not to let anyone violate it. Our mother died before we had passed the worst. 4.5 My Father's Morning Routine Daddy had his morning routine. He would rise just after the second cockcrow, dress himself, then wash his face in the face basin that the maid set up for him the night before. He made lather from a special tablet of shaving soap, spread it all over his chin and then scraped off the foam with a Gillette razor blade. Then he would shake some salt from the salt jar in his palm, dip his index finger in the salt and rub his teeth and gums. He gulped a mouthful of water from the full glass sitting beside the water goblet, and held his head up to gargle his throat, swished the water around in his mouth, and spat in the basin. He would repeat this several times. Then it was time to comb his hair. He used Palmolive Brilliantine, which was a green paste in a squat jar. He scooped some out with his index finger of his right hand, placed it into the palm of his left hand and rubbed the palms together before spreading evenly over his mop of curly hair. By the time he finished combing with the fine-tooth end of the comb his hair was one flat shiny skin drawn over his scalp. At one time I loved my father's hair. That was when he thought I was cute and harmless and he used to tickle me and throw me up above his head and look at me with love in his eye. Then he allowed me to play in his hair and to even twist it into what I thought were plaits. They were not anything but great knots that he had to get out before he went to work next morning. As soon as I could talk back and ask questions that showed that I was becoming 'too ripe', everything changed. I had become "the stiff-necked child," which was to say I started to ask questions and demonstrate my ability to think logically and truthfully. This meant he had to either beat things into or out of me, as was the same for my brother and sister too. For a short while, when we lived with Miss Eu my father became my daddy. 66 This relationship of daddy versus the brown man was never fixed or stable. It was like a seesaw. At roughly age fourteen years I disowned him, so that I could take charge of my life and destiny. On another night of terror it would be Trevor's turn to be picked on to explain some silly detail about the care of the stinking pigs in the pig sty and whether their feed had been boiled and set aside. It was always his turn after Sonia's sassing, struggle, and escape. Sonia was always there to attack and defend her brother against the tyrant. When he got up, my father usually woke up my brother, so that he could make the fire and set the water to boil, and help feed the pigs. By the time daddy finished his ablutions, his coffee was boiled and ready to be filtered and strained through a cone-shaped coffee bag made of flannelette. When the coffee had boiled to the proper strength, daddy would select a fire stick burned to charcoal and stick it into the pan of coffee to settle the coffee grounds, he said. Then he would pour through the coffee bag to get a clear brew. This strong black coffee is all he would have before he fed the pigs and left for work. As soon as daddy boarded the bus for work, shortly after the second cockcrow, we started to do our chores of feeding the pigs, if daddy had not done so, fetching water, and cooking our breakfast and lunch for school. The maid, when we had one, would come in after we left for school to wash and iron our clothes and to cook the evening meal. For a time we still attended Carron Hall School while we lived in Louisiana. When we moved to Louisiana the distance to walk to Carron Hall School was much farther. To be there in time, we had to watch the position of the sun as it moved east across the sky like a clock. When we trotted to school in the hot morning sun we were constantly watching our shadow to see its length. As the shadow shortened the time got closer to midday. If Trevor and Sonia were late for the big school, the head teacher would be waiting to drop licks for being late. 4.6 The Grey Tin Case The most intriguing thing in my father's room was a grey tin case, stored under his Simmons bed. Every day I would pull it out and spend time exploring its contents. In this tin case were my favorite things. There were exercise books with double and single lines, children's storybooks, yellow lead pencils with rubbers on one end, purple indelible pencils, ABC books and other papers. I would play for hours with the magic of the pencils and the rubber. I discovered the meaning of indelible by trying to erase my scrawling done with the 67 indelible pencil. When I could not rub it out with the rubber I applied my finger with my spit and discovered the pencil marks produced a purple inky mark. In time, the dye on my finger and tongue would let my father know that I was playing in the tin case. I cannot remember that it was ever cause for his anger. My brother read me a story called Dick Whittington and his Cat, and he also showed me how to write my ABC in the single-lined exercise books. As I learned to read, I read some of what was written in the exercise books. When I was studying to become a teacher, I had a flashback in which I recalled reading in one of the books lesson plans, with sections underlined, and headings such as 'aims and apparatus', 'introduction', 'development', 'drill'. I longed to return to the contents of this grey tin case to learn more, most of all to learn to whom this case belonged. *** Living at Louisiana were times of great terror from my father. The event that marked the date of our arrival at Louisiana was Hurricane Charlie, which blew through in August 1951. I remember the hurricane very well. The sky turned black and red, the thunder rolled and clapped, the lightning flashed in rapid succession and the rain clouds burst. The howling winds were, it seems, travelling some fifty to a hundred miles an hour. Branches of trees broke off and sailed into windows and smashing them. We were both excited and afraid. My father came home in a rush and covered the bureau mirrors and boarded up the windows. The sheets of zinc flew off the roof of our neighbours' houses and travelled like spinning plates through space. As the storm became fiercer, my father knelt down and prayed hard and begged God to save his house. I cannot remember him praying for us kids. He may very well have. On this occasion, he promised God solemnly that if He spared his life he would surrender his soul to Jesus. His life was indeed spared, but he never kept his promise to God. In fact, we never saw him pray again. For years afterward, however, we three had a wonderful time acting out our father's dramatic show of reverence, and laughing at him cowering in the storm. 4.7 Louisiana Blues When we were at Louisiana, my brother, sister and I got the blues often and big. At those times my brother and sister would talk about Mamma, a person who still had no meaning for me. Trevor and Sonia then would break out singing popular songs. One of my 68 brother's favorites was Nat King Cole's melody whose lyrics went, "Show me the river, take me across, wash all my troubles away, For the lucky old sun has nothing to do but roll around heaven all day." This must have been for him the lament of lost childhood whose life revolved around work, not play. Another of my brother's favourite was "Those far away places I have been reading about in a book that I took from my shelf." The three of us loved to sing Patty Page's "Cross Over the Bridge" and "How Much is that Doggie in the Window." We knew nearly all of Nat King Cole's and Patty Page's songs. In his good mood my father would sing to himself, "South of the border, down Mexico way" and "We were waltzing together in a dreamy melody." He too must have had his longings and his sorrows. My father, my brother, and my sister knew my mother and could be conscious of that loss. I felt the loss too, but I did not know who or what I had lost. Now, when I recall these times I have to ask where did we hear these songs when we had no radio, no concerts, and no choirs? The messenger was none other than Bernice, the smooth-ebony-skinned good-looking, young woman who used to live with and work for Mr Stewart. Mr Stewart was a very proud upright black man, who owned a house and property. He was what Jamaicans call a 'respectable black man'. He had a provision ground with lots of fruit trees: avocado pears, ackees, mangoes, soursop, yellow-heart breadfruit tree, limes, oranges, and pimento. He planted an equally wide variety of ground provisions: yams, cocoa and dasheens and greens, and had enough to sell to his neighbours. There was no market place close by, so he must have set up his own way of generating an income from his provision ground. I remember that my father would buy breadfruit and avocado pears from him. Bernice was neither Mr Stewart's wife nor his servant, nor was she any relative of his. It seemed a unique relationship, wherein Bernice came and went as she pleased. I loved Bernice. I would cuddle up to her at every opportunity and stroke her skin and admire her thick eyebrows and solid white teeth. Bernice was an adventurer. She met Babsy and Clara, two "boasy" (boastful) young black women who visited the yellow-skinned man named Eric in his little two-room house from time to time. Every one called him Eerie. Bobsy and Clara boasted to Bernice about life in Kingston working at the Myrtle Bank Hotel. Because I loved Bernice, so much I would follow her like a puppy dog and listen to all the conversations that were not whispered or communicated in gestures I did not yet understand. Babsy and Clara regaled Bernice and all who would listen to their tales of bright lights, rich white sailors, lots of 69 money, and fun with the sailors who just loved black girls. Poor yellow Eerie had a big sore foot and a heavy bandage that smelled high as the folk would say. He seemed to have resented their boastful talk and when they got on his nerves, he would call them harlots, whores, and Jezebels. In turn, they would tell him to go and mind his syphilis. There was a time, during slavery days and for some time after, when these women would be called wenches and would be expected to kowtow to the likes of Eerie, or risk a flogging with a cowhide or a tamarind whip. At least they would get a swift box in the mouth or on the jaw. Now, they could insult him with impunity and he could do nothing about it. Bernice must have seen great prospects for herself in these stories that Clara and Babsy told her, because one day we found out that Bernice had packed her grip and left for Kingston. When she returned months later, she made a grand entrance as she disembarked from the Sunshine bus that plied the route from Carron Hall to Kingston. She was dressed in a lime green taffeta circular skirt with a see-through white nylon blouse revealing her bra and her slip. This outfit raised eyebrows and set tongues wagging among the older Christian moral women. I am uncertain of the effect on the young teenage boys like my brother and his friends Barry and Eucal. The taffeta skirt tail swung with Bernice's gyrating hips and went swish, swish, swish, as she strutted on her high heel shoes and the skirt went left right, left right, to the rhythm of her walk. She wore bangles and necklaces and her hair was straightened and styled in an upsweep. Bernice had returned to the village as a glamour gal, as the folks would say. My brother Trevor, my sister Sonia and I loved the good times we had when Bernice came back from Kingston because she brought back the latest songs and the latest dances. This one time I remember she brought back an exercise book in which she pasted all the lyrics to the songs, which she had cut out from the Star newspaper. She must have rehearsed them thoroughly, because by the time she arrived back in Louisiana, she knew both the words and the tunes by heart. My brother especially loved this song, "Up in the morning, out on the job, work like the devil for my pay but the lucky old sun has nothing to do but roll around heaven all day." Bernice also taught us dances such as 'the yank'. She would bring fancy cigarettes such as Du Maurier, Winston, or Royal Blend, for Eerie. She would also bring him fancy liquors such as Johnny Walker whisky, or Captain Morgan rum. These gifts gave Eerie something to boast about after Babsy and Clara left again for Kingston. Eerie would boast that he is the only man in the district who could afford 70 to smoke "dem kinda cigarette" and drink Johnny Walker whisky. I remember looking at the bottle and at the man on the label in the red pants, white shirt and top hat, and thought that that must be Johnny Walker. While the girls stayed with Eerie, he would try to be fresh with them, and they would take turns to 'trace' him. In slavery days when some people had uncertain lineage, especially on the father's side, given the prevalence of rape and concubinage on the estates, some people delighted in telling others that they were So and So's bastard pickneys. As such they were nobody and came from nowhere. In retort, the persons so traced would attempt to describe their lineage to show that they had better pedigree than their aggressors; the argument would thus go back and forth, in an attempt to reduce each other to nonentities. This kind of quarrel could last for hours, or even days. I remember some of the things they said to Eerie: "Go wash yuh stinking sore foot." "Clear aafwid yu syphilis." "Yu too stink feh anybady feh want yu." These insults were sure to make Eerie hopping mad. He would flail his arms up and down, right and left, as he chopped them into pieces with special Jamaica expletives and sexist put-downs such as harlot, whore, Jezebels, Delilah. He would spit in the dust, or spit at them, catch his breath, and start the insults all over again, reminding them of parts of their body which he said stank more than his sore foot. How do I make sense of the relationship that Eerie, Babsy, Clara, and Bernice had? My guess is that Eerie was perhaps a pimp for Babsy and Clara at the Myrtle Bank Hotel before he contracted syphilis. Since there was no prospect of a good life for Bernice in the district of Louisiana, she must have joined Babsy and Clara in Kingston to become a prostitute herself. The Myrtle Bank Hotel up to the '60s was a big hotel on the wharf in Kingston. It was the hotel for the rich and famous who landed in the island by boat. Kingston and Port Royal, since the heyday of the buccaneers and the slave and sugar trades, were entrepots for trade with Britain and the mainland North and South America. During the First and Second World Wars, Jamaica was of strategic military importance to America. The hotel must have been one of the places where the American sailors and European businessmen came to stay. Besides my adoration for Bernice, I will always remember her for the gift of three plastic bowls, as I recall in yellow, green, and blue, that she brought for us on one of her visits. They were so beautiful, and she told us that she bought them especially for us to drink 71 our porridge from. We made a big pot of cornmeal porridge, nicely spiced with brown sugar and nutmeg. When we dished out the porridge in the bowls, right before our very eyes, the bowls flattened out like pancakes. We were at first horrified because our good porridge by this time could not be drunk. It was mixed with plastic, which smelled strange. After we got over the shock, we howled with laughter. I have told this story over and over about how the hot porridge melted the beautiful plastic bowls. I was never to see plastic again until the 1960s when melmac and melamine plastic plates, bowls, cups, and saucers appeared on the scene. These were hard, could withstand heat and only melted if they were placed in open fire. Bernice and Eerie live on in my memory. It was not only people in Louisiana who stood out in my memory but also the antics of what the folk call "country pickney" - children who would perhaps have never seen a city or whose life was circumscribed by the cycle of the cash crops - pimento, coffee, cocoa, and especially sugar canes. 4.8 Hop a Truck and Pull a Cane Country children went to school in gangs, much like the pickney gangs of slavery days went to the cane fields. Then, the pickney gang was comprised of children ages six to fourteen who worked in the cane fields to weed and carry canes on their heads. Aggery Brown (1979) speaks of these children as going from the cane fields to the classrooms. It is interesting that the schools they went to were for only that age-group. The pickney gang on their way to Mango Walk School would listen for the groaning engine of overloaded cane trucks and wait in ambush at the foot of the hill, ready to hop a truck and pull a cane. On approaching a hill, the driver of the British Leyland or Fargo engine would gear up and accelerate to take the hill with a force to overcome the gravity of the load as it ascended the hill. The sugarcanes were laid horizontally on the truck bed and tightly packed some eight feet high and perhaps as wide. I estimate that the truck bed was some ten to twelve feet long. As soon as the truck began to labour on the hill, one boy would shout, "Hap aan." Another would command, "Pull a cane." Then dozens of little 'wooligans', as the folk would say, would descend on the ascending truck whizzing and sputtering and firing to clear the hill with its sugary load intact. The first one to pull would aim for a cane or two in the dead centre and pull and run out of the way. In pulling the cane, it would loosen the tight pack and before long, the sugarcanes on the ascending truck would 72 come cascading down the hill. The rest of the wooligans would descend like vultures onto dead meat, grab the fattest sugarcanes and skitter away faster than the mongoose. Thus relieved of his load of sugarcane, the driver would glide up hill fast, park the truck, get out, hands flailing and mouth uttering a trail of Jamaican expletives. Along with those would come insults about "dem wutliss mumma" and the worst put down of all to be called "no-good black naygas." Without knowing it, the school picknies had taken their revenge on sugarcane. It was for that sweet crop that their foremothers and fathers tasted the bitterness of exile and slavery on the sugar plantations. In the bush their incisors peeled the canes and their molars did just as good a job as the sugar mills in grinding out the juice. By the time these boys got to school, their teeth were shining and their thirst was quenched. They had enough sugar in their blood to keep them energetic for hours. Any driver who had the 'wooligans' hop his truck and pull his canes was in deep trouble. The sugar factory to which he was carrying the canes had an insatiable appetite for grinding the canes round the clock. The sugar factories depended on the small farmers to grow the canes and provide a constant supply of canes to meet their manufacturing quota. Both the farmer and the driver had the responsibility to deliver several hundredweight of sugarcanes. Arriving at the sugar factory with a load lighter than intended would be sure to raise the wrath of the 'busha', the white man in charge of productivity at the sugar factory. At the top of the hill, many drivers would draw their brakes, get out of the trucks, and curse "de lickle thief dem." They would surely "pap dem neck if dem couda catch dem. But dem gaan like de bloody rat dem." Sometimes there were disastrous consequences for the little 'wooligans' when the cane fell too fast and pinned some of them under the weight. There were other times when the driver expecting the ambush would accelerate as soon as he saw them through his rearview mirror. This sudden speed would sometimes shake the little boys off and their heads would hit the asphalt as they fell. There were a few times when little boys fell to their death. Such was the life of 'poor country pickney'. This is a scene from crop time. County children walked through cane pieces to school. Their lives were dominated by the cycles of sugarcane planting, weeding, manuring, cutting, loading, and transportation to the sugar mills. 73 4.9 Memories of Mango Walk School In 1951, after Hurricane Charlie, my father registered Trevor, Sonia and me at the Mango Walk All-Age School. Virgil Bullock was the headmaster of Mango Walk All-Age School He had a reputation that preceded him. The people said he was a good disciplinarian. Many respectable parents felt good in handing over their children to his discipline. My father had full confidence in him. They were friends of sort. Mango Walk School was situated on a hill on the bank of a major river, right in the fork where a tributary joined the mainstream of the river on the other side. The landscape in the area was terraced, and at this spot there were three terraces rising from the riverbank to arrest soil erosion during the heavy rains. The playground was on the terrace closest to the river, along with the school garden plots. The schoolhouse was located on the second terrace, and on the topmost terrace was the teacher's cottage, where the head teacher and his wife lived. Each of these locations has special memories, which both delight and haunt me. The playground was like a brown plateau of clay and sand. Dancing and skipping feet of boys and girls ground the earth into dust. The wind blew this dust into our eyes, on our books and into the classrooms. The dust turned to mud when it rained. The big boys and girls played complicated quadrille clapping games with up to sixteen squares. I remember watching through clapping, singing, and changing places, how a couple could end up at the opposite end of where they started and back. I loved to watch the grace and precision of the dancers. I especially loved the ring game "Jane and Louisa will soon come into this beautiful garden." This singing and clapping ring game was like a mating ritual. Troublesome little boys and girls would watch the dance to figure out which big boy liked which big girl. We would giggle with delight that we had figured out their secrets. The big boys and big girls played this game at morning and evening recess as long as the dry season lasted. The little boys would stake out a corner to play "marble and ta" or "marble and cashew." They would have loud arguments about who "tief de game," or who could play "real bad", meaning skillfully. The pockets in their khaki short pants were always weighted down with lots of glass marbles and a few of the coveted expensive steel marbles, called steelies. Winning steelies in the game of marbles was prestige personified. "Me win de mos steelies mon" was the victory cry at the end of the game, when the cussed bell rang. 74 Little boys lived to play marbles, and to run their wheels to school (Figure 3.2). The wheels were either tubeless old bicycle wheels or barrel hoops pushed from behind with a long-handled wire hoop shaped somewhat like a tennis racket and bent back to cradle the arc of the wheel. The barrel hoops were more common, because the boys could get them from the shopkeepers after they had sold all the pickled mackerel, shad, and red herrings that were shipped in from Newfoundland and New Brunswick. Old bicycle wheels were really hard to come by. The bicycle had not yet replaced the humble shanks pony or the donkey as transportation. The idea was to push this wheel continuously while increasing the running speed. It was a pleasure to push the wheel over "nylon road", the smooth road of new asphalt. Gravel roads such as the short cuts were a nuisance. To get around bumps and potholes slowed the speed and interrupted concentration. While little boys played their marbles, the little girls would occupy another corner to jump rope, commonly called skipping. They cut large withies from the big overhanging branches of some big flowering trees growing nearby. The trees could have been the beloved Poinciana. These withies were nature's rope. They grew in many widths and lengths. I loved the old man's beard and the love-bushes, which also hung alongside the withes. These hung like tinsels on a giant Christmas tree. At Infant School I learned that these were adventitious roots. I delighted in the way this big word used up all my mouth to pronounce. We skipped alone or in twos or in groups. The group skipping was the most fun. We skipped over large withies swung by two strong girls. It was fun to have a group of twenty girls running and jostling to skip in and out of the swinging rope. We played such games as "Room for rent apply within, When I Figure 4.1 Running a hoop to school (photo: Bob Krist, International Magazine 1989) 75 run out you run in." This was a great game of turn-taking requiring agile strength and skills in high jump to "jump over the moon" on the upward swing of the withie without being caught in the rope. If the rope caught you, besides getting a bruise from its blow, you annoyed those whose rhythm you broke and those waiting with concentrated aim to jump in before the bell rang. Those waiting their turn would shout "Pepper!" With this command, the rope swingers would swing so fast that the unwary would be tripped and pushed out. A fresh lot would crowd in quickly before the rope started swinging again. All the little bodies would tune into each other in order to establish and keep the rhythm unbroken for as long as they could. The really aggressive girls would not take their leave without a fight. The fight would start like this. One girl, usually older than most, would put on an ugly scowl, stand astride the rope with her arms folded tightly, and declare, "Me nah go no whey. If anybody "tink dem bad, dem cyaan come tek me out." This would spoil the game for everyone and invariably she would meet her match by another virago, who would haul her out by her frock waist. One day this ritual took an embarrassing turn when one of the bullies insisted on jumping in out of turn. She waited until the rope was about to clear its maximum height on the upward swing and she jumped with all her might, cleared the rope and landed in time. Everyone gasped, and shouted in unison, "Lawd gad, Hartense baggie drop offa har!" While we all howled with laughter, Hortense stepped out of her baggies (underwear), picked them up and ran to the toilet with them in hand. A bunch of us ran behind Hortense to the toilet. We had to see if she was wearing elastic or string baggies. No self-respecting girl of a certain age wanted to wear open-leg calico baggies tied at the waist with a string. Every girl boasted that she wore the new style, jersey, elastic-waist panties, whether she was wearing them or not. It became a game to creep up stealthily behind a boastful girl, and quickly lift up her dress to show everyone what kind of ba'ggies she was wearing. The boys would join in this embarrassing game too. At the next round of skipping we would be fighting, jostling and quarrelling about who should go first this time and whose turn to swing the rope. I was too puny and short to be a swinger. This was the only yard game that I was welcome to play. I was no good at soft-ball or at catch-ball. On the same level as the playground, some way upriver, were the garden plots assigned to each class. Each class in this school had to cultivate a garden plot. Instead of 76 going for nature walks as I did at Infant School, I was taught to be a farm labourer in the school gardens. When I was in 'A' Class, I learned to dig holes, plant red beans at the correct distances apart, fetch water from the river to water them, watch the beans grow and harvest them at the right time. All this was done under the teacher's supervision. On the next terrace going further up the hill from the playground was the schoolhouse. Somewhere between the back of the schoolhouse and the garden plot were the boys' and girls' pit latrines and a zinc lean-to urinal for the boys. After one of Virgil Bulloch's "murderations" (a very violent beating, within an inch of one's life) of the big boys, they would go behind the lean-to and peel off the bloodied shirts which stuck to their backs and compare weals, black and blue blotches, and lacerations. My brother Trevor was among the big boys who showed the contusions and lacerations. I would only go to the latrines when my bladder was about to burst or if I had to empty my bowels without delay. The stench of urine and faeces made me feel nauseous, but I could hold my nose for this or hold my breath long enough to get my business done. It was the smiling lizards with the multi-coloured bulbous jowls crawling stealthily on the toilet seat and walls that kept me holding my belly and doing a dance outside the door, until they were out of sight. When the lizards were out of the way, I had to face the brown cockroaches seen running around when I looked into the pit. On top of this I was scared of falling into the pit in trying to crouch on the seats. One never sat on those seats. When flush toilets came to my home in the fifties I thought they were the best invention. I am still scared of pit latrines, even in campsites. In the front of the schoolyard was a gravel playground that skinned many knees of baseball runners and catch-ball players. On the concrete steps leading into each division, girls played jacks. These were not the commercial jacks sets. We made our own, composed of ten pebbles and a lime scalded in hot water to make it bounce like the rubber jacks ball. In the front yard facing the main-road boys and girls played baseball with coconut-frond bats and hard rubber balls. There were a few shade trees under which some classes were kept during the dry hot weather. Reading and singing lessons for the junior grades were often conducted under the shade of a tree. When classes were held under the trees, some boys had to transport the blackboard and easel, and the teacher's chair. The girls would take along the box of chalk and the duster. The teacher would take along her book and her tamarind or guava switch or 77 leather strap. Children in lower division would carry their slates and pencils and reading books. The middle-division classes would take their Caribbean Readers, Book One, Two, or Three, along with their double-lined exercise books and lead pencils. The Nesfield's Grammar book was the standard grammar text for all teachers' reference. At the very top of the hill was the teacher's cottage, where the head teacher and his . wife lived. On the surrounding hillside spread lots of Guinea grass, which was grown in abundance for feeding cattle. When the Guinea grass grew to maturity, it hid the cottage from sight of the school. Part of our learning to labour was to pull up these grasses when they dried. On the selected afternoons, the whole school was let out like the "pickney gang" of slavery to root up and bundle the grass. I never knew whose horse or cow they were reaped for. I do remember rooting up these grasses, which were much taller than I was. They were so deeply rooted that it took two or three little ones pulling together down hill with the full weight of our little bodies. Usually we would be sent rolling down the hill with the clump of grass when we managed to uproot it. At those times we were indecently exposed because we had no hands free to keep our skirts down. When our sweat mixed with the grass on our skin we itched, and scratched so hard that the skin on our arms and legs bled. Just past the front of the school was a ford over which motor vehicles could cross the river during the dry season. A wooden footbridge built some distance from the ford allowed pedestrian crossing at all times unless the there was a flood that washed out the bridge. When the heavy rains came and the river was in spate, the water would rise like sea tides up the terrace. We would be dismissed early at the sign of the river rising. During the rainy season we sometimes stayed away for days until the river subsided. Virgil Bullock would issue a stern warning to stay away from the river when it rained. One day he had to haul a boy who had disobeyed his orders out of the swift turbulent flood. Virgil Bullock did not let the boy free until he flogged him over his back in his wet shirt. I daresay the boy may have wished that he had been left to drown. As I come to enter the schoolhouse to recall some of the teaching that went on there, I hesitate. The memory of it brings back some of the fear that we children were subjected to. Just picture the physical layout of the school. It was one big open room divided into three equal spaces each separated by a step. At the lower end was the lower division where children in A, B and C class were. The next step up was the middle division where first, second and third class sat. From there the next step up took you to the upper 78 division where the fourth, fifth and sixth class were. Virgil Bullock's desk was placed on a dais in the centre of the upper division from where he could overlook everything. He was in charge of standard six and his sweet wife was in charge of standard five. The founders probably named the school for the abundance and variety of mangoes grown in the surrounding villages. Children loved the mango season. The higglers brought hampers full loaded on donkeys to sell at recess and lunch-time. There were many varieties of mangoes: number eleven, milly, black mango, hairy mango, kidney mango, and Julie mango to name just a few. I now wonder if this place was an experimental station for mangoes brought from Mauritius to Jamaica in 1782, when Lord Rodney stole them from a French ship taking seedlings to the French West Indies. The children played tricks with the vendors. We would eat half of a really good mango, then take the black node of the stem and sink it in the flesh and return the mango half-eaten claiming that it had worms. The vendors were glad to give us fresh mangoes to replace the 'wormy ones' until they got .wise to our tricks. When they caught us, they would punish us by limiting our choice to the puniest fruit. Those children who were given lunch money bought their lunch at the gates or went out to Post Road village centre to buy from the shops. The 'flaa-flaa' (codfish fritters) sellers came with their glass case full of annatto-coloured salt-fish fritters and fried dumplings. For sweets, they sold grater cake and drops. These were not as good as Mrs Phipps's Jackass Corn (hard coconut biscuits). The Jackass Corn which Mrs Phipps made were so hard they were a challenge to chew and could dislocate jaws or shake teeth loose. Virgil Bullock and my father shared many beliefs about child-rearing. In this respect I had two fathers. They believed that they could get children to learn by beating things into and out of them. Children should be made to fear them. Like the patriarchs of the Old Testament, they did not believe in sparing the rod and spoiling the child. I was beaten a lot and I learned to fear both Virgil Bullock and my father equally. The good book admonished parents in these words, "Train the child in the way he should grow and when he is old he will not depart from it." When I was old enough, I departed from much of this brutal upbringing. They also believed that children were twigs to be bent because as the adage says, "As the twig is bent so the tree inclines." They must have been unmindful of trees, such as the guava tree, that would not incline as their twigs were bent. I was as obstinate and resilient to bend as the guava tree limbs that I tried to bend to get the sweetest 79 guavas at the top of the tree. "Children must be seen and not heard." "Children must only speak when they are spoken to." "Children must be kept occupied and useful; the devil finds work for idle hands." I learned to be useful in whatever way garnered praise and spared me the wrath of the adults who raised me. Under this child-rearing regime, I learned to fear male adults and stern females in authority. I looked and listened hard because I should be seen and not heard. As a consequence, I believe I became an acute observer of human behaviour. With my father, this keen observation sometimes saved me from a licking because I was able to observe the subtle changes in his mood and facial muscles and predict his behavour. With this sixth sense, I could anticipate what was coming, and was sometimes able to disarm his hostility. I often wondered how the female teachers could be so docile. I could not tell what these teachers thought about Virgil Bullock. He seemed to have bullied them into silence and submission. Only his wife's face gave her feeling away. She always had a merciful look for any child being victimized and a 'cut-eye' for her husband when he was not looking, to show her disdain. I came to learn that adults did not betray each other by criticizing people in authority in front of children. They closed ranks to uphold blind obedience to authority figures like head teachers, parents, elders, and parsons. They would even uphold and imitate cruel and unfair treatment of their children by the Virgil Bullocks of the community. The folk held Virgil Bullock in such high esteem. So much so, that when he died they gave him a hero's funeral and eulogized him as a man of upstanding character and an outstanding teacher. In their words, "The community has lost a strong disciplinarian." I must have been in teachers' college when he died. For my part, God had answered my prayers and taken the tormentor of children away. As a child, I understood a disciplinarian to be like my father, someone who instilled fear. A disciplinarian was someone who could make your heart beat in your throat in his presence; someone who made you want to empty your bladder and bowel when you hear his voice, coming; someone who made your knees knock as you trembled with fear; someone who caused your palm to sweat, and your skin to go cold and clammy. This is how I remember Virgil Bullock. At school, he was the lone raging-bull in a pasture of calves and heifers. Instead of horns, this two-legged bull charged with canes, straps, and switches. The silver-tipped cane and leather straps were part of the educational equipment that the Department of Education supplied to all headmasters, together with 80 regulations on how to strap and cane. The folk alleged that some power-crazed head teachers augmented the regulation width of the strap with their own made-to-order lengths and widths. These were designed to meet the challenges of any big boy who they believed needed to be shown who was the boss man. Certain big boys were designated to maintain the supply of tamarind switches, which teachers and head teachers used or kept on their desks to deter the chatterboxes and the sky larkers. There were no plantation pen keepers to tame the bull or to put a ring in his nose and lead him to a bullpen. As if his arsenal were not enough, Virgil Bullock never hesitated to box someone from cheek to cheek with either the back of his hand or his open palm. His sole reason for being in that school seemed to be to bully the female teachers and pupils, and to bust the flesh and 'wale' the children's backs. The big boys most feared the silver-tipped grey cane. They would go to great lengths to destroy it. The most well known sabotage was to break into Virgil Bullock's desk and use a sharp knife to score invisible rings at regular intervals. When he dropped licks, as the boys would say, the cane would break in many places and lose its tensile strength to deliver a painful blow. One day, I witnessed an episode that is etched in my memory, even fifty years later, for its abominable cruelty. Virgil Bullock called a boy from the middle division up to his desk one afternoon because he saw this boy talking, or more likely moving his lips, after he had commanded silence from the whole school. This speech act was a very big challenge to his authority. For when Virgil Bullock banged the cane on his desk to get everyone's attention, and bellowed "Silence!", no one talked until called upon to answer one of his general knowledge questions, or worse yet, to give the answer to one of his mental arithmetic sums. Sometimes after ordering silence, he would cast a roving eye throughout the school to see that no one was speaking. Woe unto the child he saw even moving his lips. It was on one such occasion that he caught the boy either talking or just moving his lips. Children coped with the threat of a beating for errors by whispering the answers to each other. In so doing they reduced the incidents of terror and anguish. They saved their skins, literally. The boy-victim was wearing short pants, as was the custom for boys under twelve, I believe. As soon as the boy came up to him trembling, Virgil Bullock grabbed him by his pant waist and heaved him up off the ground. So tight were his pants drawn up that the seam sharply divided and exposed his two buttocks just the way Virgil Bullock liked to prepare them for the blows. 81 I can only imagine the pain that this "draping up" caused to the boy's seed (genitals) and what damage may have been done. As Virgil Bullock took the cane in hand the boy struggled to get away begging, "Doe teacha no lick me. Me na do it again." Virgil Bullock was deaf to the child's plea and apparently unsympathetic to the pain he was already inflicting with the draped up pants. He must have known he was causing great pain; after all, they both shared a similar anatomy. As he raised his arm to strike the child, the boy let out a blood-curdling scream in anticipation of the sting on his bottom. Virgil Bullock snorted and struck down hard. The cane crackled to pieces as it hit the boy's buttocks. We held our breath, torn between horror and comedy. Without missing a beat, and still gripping the boy in the pant waist, Virgil Bullock pulled the boy along as he reached into his desk drawer for the skinniest strap. He pelted the boy harder with every scream. The big boys alleged that the skinny strap was soaked in urine to increase its weight to deliver the worst sting. Virgil Bullock let go of the boy when his face turned red like a big tomato and he began to pant like a tired bull. His sweat gathered in beads of water on his forehead. He grabbed his handkerchief out of his trousers pocket and mopped up the sweat. By this time, his big fat bull neck, with veins bulging and throbbing, ballooned over his white shirt collar and necktie. The amazing thing is that the whole school sat in an uneasy silence and watched the spectacle of this raging bull "murdering" a child. After such episodes of "murderation," the big boys and big girls would hold a verbal post mortem, a palaver, out of Virgil Bullock's earshot. It would be time "fe tek bad tings mek laff." They would improvise a drama, which I now see would follow three acts. The First Act would recreate "How Big Boy late de teacha man." In this act the big boys would enact how they believed big boy broke into the school, picked the lock on teacher's desk, took out the cane and screwed it. The careful way in which the cane would be laid down, just as it was found, would be done with great finesse. At which the audience would laugh and clap while exclaiming, "Yes mon, de bwoy dem late teacha, good good." Act Two would begin when the role-play turned to the draping up and beating. There were no shortages of volunteer actors willing to play the bull and the bull-bucking scenes with frightening accuracy but with a difference. No one would actually drape up any boy only pretend to do so. To the mock screams and pleas for mercy, there would begin hissing of teeth, and shaking of heads and looks of recognition when someone said, "Teacha tek disadvantage of de likkle bway." Someone would shout, "Teacher so bex im beat de 82 bwoy til im neckstring naly bus." Another would follow with, "Ah how come de teacha man so wicked?" This comment would herald a change of mood from humour to outrage. The need for retribution and revenge could only be expressed in words. The powerless children could only imagine what they would have done to address this brutality. Act Three would follow when different child-actors began to shout: "If ah coulda, ah would ah jump up an grab teacha by im seed and drag im aafa de platfaam." Another child would pipe up, "Me woulda jump back ah im an lick im in ah im neck back." Then another, "Ah woulda give 'im a tump ina 'him sola plexus." Still another, "Ah would ah trow a rock stone in ah im winda." After this palaver, the children would scatter in all directions to return home to their humble abodes to ponder in silent loneliness all the brutality that they had experienced. If some of them dared to tell parents who had blind obedience to authority, their parents would turn on them and beat them, saying that the head teacher was right. Sometimes though, a fiercely protective mother had been known to go to the school to confront the head teacher. She would go to the door closest to the head teacher's desk and call him out. He and the whole school would rather try to ignore her presence than go out to address her. The head teacher certainly knew better. If he did, he ran the risk of being pulled out the door and draped up by the virago. She would trace him loudly and ignominiously until she was tired. To top it off, before she departed, she would stick her head in the door mouth and make two promises. She would either set obeah on him, or ambush him and return the beating if he set foot in her village. *** In reenacting this episode the children had come to realize the trauma of gratuitous violence. Although they were powerless to do anything at the time, in their imagination they had verbalized what they would have done if they could. I cannot help but recall victimized powerless folk in the village calculating opportunities for revenge and wishing for divine retribution on the mighty. I wonder now what that little boy and others like him grew up to be. Have they drowned their repressed anger and pain in rum? Do they live in a state of displaced rage? Have they become abusive husbands and fathers? Have they become disciplinarians like Virgil Bullock who taught them so well by example? Judging by the men in my family I can answer yes to all those questions. 83 Sadly, my brother whom I expected not to repeat the sins of his father grew up to physically abuse his children. I too am guilty of repeating the pattern. When I became a mom and started to beat my children, I flashed back to the agony of my childhood and relived the pain in my body and saw the horror in my children's faces. It devastated me to realize that I was beginning to do the very thing I vowed not to do my children. I locked myself in the bathroom and cried my heart out at the horrible spectre. I obtained counseling with the help of my family doctor. I broke the cycle. *** Virgil Bullock did not spare the girls. I was one of the victims of one of his mass beatings. It was not unusual for Virgil Bullock to line up a whole class, or even the whole school and beat every single child. Indeed I had a doomsday of my own, one that I shall describe shortly. Sanitary conditions^ Mango Walk School were deplorable. It must surely have been one of the condemned school buildings described in the West India Royal Commission Report (1945). The report was a result of an inquiry into the social conditions in the British West Indies - also called the Moyne Report. The sanitary conditions were very bad. I caught head lice, worms, chigger, and yaws, while I attended that school. My father had to de-lice my sister, brother and me with dirty black engine oil. When he combed the engine oil through our hair, the lice would fall out by the dozens. The white nits or eggs stood out and were destroyed by squeezing them between the two thumbnails. Picking head lice was a ritual shared between women and children. In school I remember watching lice crawl along the collar of girls sitting in front of me. When the lice bit me on my scalp I would sometimes scratch and catch some lice between my Fingers and place them between the pages of my reading book. I would wait for them to crawl out from between the pages. One day as I was watching the lice crawl out and not paying attention, the teacher came over and whacked me across my back several times with a tamarind switch. I both feared and hated that teacher. I think her name was Miss Lewis. She is the one who put me in front of her, with my left side toward her lap and looking away from her, and got me to read aloud from my Caribbean Reader. I remember that I was reading fluently until I came across the word "imagine." I sounded it out as "imagain." The word was barely out of my mouth when I felt the pelting on my calves. She shouted "Imagine!" while she beat it in my calves. 84 Worms of all sorts were common, picked up from contaminated water and mud. Intestinal worms came from drinking impure water. Of these, the Guinea worm or 'negro worm', was serious. It manifested itself on the scalp in rings the size of a six-pence. It was also the hardest to get rid of. Medicine to get rid of intestinal worms was regularly given both at home and by public health nurses at special clinics in the districts. Hookworms would enter the soles and between the toes when we walked in the mud after the rains and caused ground itch. Hoofed animals also got the ground itch from the mud during the rainy season. The surface of the toes and between the toes would itch so badly we would scratch until the toes bled. Hot poultices were used to treat the feet in the hope that the worms would fall out. I remember how badly my toes would itch and how I would scream when the hot poultice was applied. With this home remedy, it was believed the hotter the better. Chigger or jigger was transported to Jamaica with the enslaved Africans. It was an insect infestation of people who walked barefooted. The shoes that I brought with me from my Aunt Joyce were well worn. Everything was done to extend their life. The shoe toes were cut with a razor blade so that my toes could hang out. The backs were also cut to accommodate the protruding heels. The rock stones of the gravel roads bored holes in the soles. When there was no way of extending the life of the shoes I went to school barefooted just like all the other children. Our soles developed thick calluses that had the appearance of the inside of a grater from walking on gravel. Most poor children went to school without shoes and therefore caught chigger. Chigger flies lay their eggs in the soles, between the toes and especially around the nails. It is said to have caused the most general of Negro infirmities during slavery days. Infestations could cause deformity of toes and foot. Children who were badly infected walked on their heels or hopped on the side of their feet. My father was good at picking chigga from my toes with needles that he sterilized with a burning match. The chiggers appeared to me like a tiny head of garlic encased in a thin transparent sack that took on the colour of the soles and white skin between and the bottom of the toes. Only the tiny black head helped to identify where the chigger was located. My father said he had to dig out the sack whole. According to him if the sack burst the chigger would grow again. To be sure he got it all he would squeeze the infected areas until bleeding occurred. Then he would disinfect the areas with Jeyes' fluid. The pain was inflicted relentlessly. When I squirmed and whimpered he told me if I did not stop my crying he would give me something to cry about. By this he meant he would either box my face or 85 remove his belt and strap me. At times like these my father may just as well have cut my vocal cords. He would not have to hear my screams and he could inflict as much pain as he liked. , When my father was not de-Hcing our hair, or picking chiggers, he was breaking the blisters and washing the sores caused by yaws. All I can say about my father's treatment of the yaws sores was that he used the methods of a plantation veterinarian, until he had no choice but to arrange for me to go to the drugstore some ten miles away to get injections in my hip. It took five such painful injections to cure. Although the sores dried up, traces are still in my blood. I cannot donate blood to the blood bank, even after a second set of antibiotics, which I took when I was in college. During routine medical tests I had to take before entering college, the nurse got my blood test back and thought I had something more terrible than yaws. According to Richard Dunn in his book, Sugar and Slaves, (1997) "Yaws, clinically similar to syphilis, was a common affliction among the slaves on the English islands. The repulsive skin ulcers characteristic of yaws could develop into bone lesions and destroy or deform the nose, lips, hands, and feet" No wonder the college nurse was so alarmed and concerned about my blood test results. Luckily my doctor had studied tropical medicine and ascertained that I had yaws when I was a child. Besides the trace of yaws that still exists in my blood, I have a three-inch square scar below my left ankle. This lesion caused me to walk on my toes until the five injections cured the yaws. Thankfully, the blisters on my face and body left no scars. In addition to these maladies, there was pink eye and the perennial fresh cold, which we contracted from the heat and dust. When the cold ripened and we had to blow our nose the girls used their dress tails for handkerchiefs in which to blow the awful green goop that tickled our throats and tied up our chests. Rat bats lived in the roof of the school. When the children arrived in the mornings, the rat bats flew away to come back when the children left in the afternoons. Hurricane Charlie must have done damage to the building too. Some time around 1953 or 1954, construction for a new school began some distance away from the old school. The children who lived close to the construction came to school one morning to describe in fantastic terms how a caterpillar was just knocking trees down and uprooting them with just a touch. Now there was only one caterpillar that I knew. That was the one we put in the bottle 86 at Infant School and watched turn into a butterfly. So you see, I had to go and see how a caterpillar could do this great magical thing. My head was filled with the magic of fairytales. At Carron Hall Infant School I learned and loved such tales as The Wicked Step Mother, Hansel and Gretel, Billy Goat Gruff The Three little Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood. I loved the world of fantasy. With such a miserable childhood I could imagine families that I wished to live in. In my fantasies I could love, hate, laugh, grieve, and control the forces of oppression, which were incomprehensible to me. To our amazement this was not the caterpillar we were expecting. It turned out to be a bulldozer that felled the trees and with its great big jaws picked them up and moved them to the side. A large number of us forgot time; we were so intrigued. When someone looked around and saw his shadow lengthen in the afternoon sun he hollered, "Lawd Gad we late." With that realization,we picked up our feet and ran as fast as we could to get back to school. We wished we could erase our shadow. When we arrived, Virgil Bullock had all the doors locked, except the front door before which he had all the latecomers lined up to beat. The line was long; Virgil Bullock was shouting and dropping licks while he watched our every move lest any one of us tried to escape. If we escaped that day we would have got the licking the next day because the attendance was taken mornings and afternoons. Those missing in the afternoon would surely be called up in the morning to get their dose of punishment. I thought that I could use my smallness to outsmart Virgil Bullock, by crawling swiftly on my hands and knees past him while he was busy dropping licks. I managed to get under the long desk, which ten to twelve children shared. I wormed my way to my space on the overcrowded long bench. My seatmates shifted their little bottoms to keep me out. If they let me into my seat then one person who came early would not have a seat for the rest of the afternoon. In the pushing and shoving to secure a space to shuffle into, my seatmates laughed out loud. This drew Virgil Bullock's attention and he paused to look at what was happening. Just as I raised my head to see if it was all clear to slip into my seat our eyes met. His response was like a bull running at a red flag. "Come here Shorter girl: You think you are smart. I am going to show you who is smart." With that said, he grabbed me by the hand and dragged me out over top of the bodies of my seatmates, landed me to the ground at the same time that he struck me several times in quick succession across my back. I can still feel the stings on my back and the sensation of warm water running between legs. 87 When I looked down, I was standing in a pool of my own urine rising between my toes. By this time I went to school barefooted, since I had worn out the shoes that I brought with me from My Aunt Joyce. My flesh stung all over. My cotton baggies were cold and uncomfortable to sit on the bench for the afternoon. When I got up a wet mark showed on the wooden bench. The wet baggie chafed my skin by the time I walked the three miles home. On the walk home the children jeered and called me "the pissing tail gal." The teasing and name-calling stuck for as long as I attended that school, much to my lifelong humiliation. The new wales across my back just added to the old ones, which my father had delivered perhaps the night before to vent his drunken rage. I stayed away from school for days. Instead of going to school when I left home in the mornings, I took unsupervised nature walks by myself along the secondary road leading to the school. I hung out in the mango and rose apple trees watching the big tree lizards blow up their bright orange and yellow balloons to attract the smaller lizards which they pounced on, grabbed and wrapped themselves around. Later in life I learned that this was the mating ritual of lizards. I always felt sorry for the little lizards because I thought they were being beaten up. I most feared the green lizards with the saws on their backs. They were as green as the leaves among which they lived and caught their prey. I was so fascinated with lizards that I would spend a day following their movement in the trees and on the ground. I was so excited when I found out that lizards laid eggs. They did not build nests like the chickens but burrowed into the sandy soil and laid their eggs there. As I did with chicken eggs, I broke some of the eggs to let out baby lizards. Bird's nests were another fascination. I would watch the mother bird feed her young and raid the nests and take the baby birds home. The mother bird never failed to find her babies and demand them back. Some birds were so fierce that they would pick at me with their beaks. When my shadow told me it was afternoon I walked home as if I had come from school. I had no mother to check on me. School life at Mango Walk School was hell. It was in direct contrast to Carron Hall. After lunch was the most terrifying time in the school. This was the time when Virgil Bullock either led the whole school in Singing or in General Knowledge, important subjects in the curriculum. I cannot recall any musical instrument, not even the piano, which seemed to be in all schools. We practised a lot of "doh-ray- me-fah-soh-lah-tee-doh" before we were taught a 88 song. Of course I saw no relation between these endless scales and the lyrics to be sung. Having us sing rounds was interesting to me. A regular one was: Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree. Merry, merry King of the woods is he. Laugh Kookaburra, laugh Kookaburra laugh King of the woods is he. Virgil Bullock would count to three, after which the lower division would start. At the end of the first line, he would bring in the middle division with a wave of the hand and finally the upper division would come in with the first line. When the whole school had sung this round in perfect harmony, Virgil Bullock would bring the singing to a sudden halt. 4.10 Queen Elizabeth's Coronation The year was 1952. The telegram man had arrived at the school and rang his bicycle bell at the gate. The telegram man always brought news of death, from afar. Teacher Bullock went out and came back with an envelope. He brought the whole school to a solemn quiet. He told us that he just had very sad news. We were told that King George VI had died. He pointed to the picture of this white man that hung on the wall of the upper division looking down on all of us. Virgil Bullock told us that we had been the King's subjects, and now that he was dead we were henceforth his daughter's subjects. His daughter's name was Elizabeth and since there was a Queen Elizabeth the first, this queen would be Elizabeth the second. He then introduced the whole school to the Latin word Regnum. It meant reign and that the Queen's title will be EUR. This then turned into one of his famous General Knowledge sessions. Virgil Bullock asked the whole school to tell what EIIR meant. There was a long pause - no one put a hand up. He went strutting from division to division piercing our brains with clues to get the right answers. In a rare moment of generosity Virgil Bullock parsed the E, then the II, and then the R, imagining that we would be able to put it together. This parsing and cajoling for the recognition of this royal title must have gone on forever. He finally had to capitulate and tell us what EIIR meant. It meant, he said, Elizabeth the Second reigns. Thereafter the whole school plunged into the preparation for the Queen's coronation the following year. I remember the whole school practising "I vow to thee my country" and "Rule Britannia" for Queen Elizabeth the Second's coronation in 1953. 89 Some children, including my sister, went on an outing to the coronation to join in the mass choir of school children from all over the island that sang these anthems at Sabina Park, in Kingston. The rest of us got to go to Carron Hall for a local ceremony where we lined up in military fashion and sang both these songs and joined in the "Hip hip hoorah" to the Queen. "God save our gracious Queen" replaced "God save our King." After this ceremony in the hot noon day sun, we drank lemonade, and all the people and children were given a little aluminum cup, in pink or green, with the Queen's face on one side and EIIR on the other, her insignia we were told. From that day forth, the symbols of the King began to be replaced by the Queen's. The new free issue exercise books, Figure 4.2 Exercise book bearing the which children in the All-Age schools got, new Queen's portrait bore the Queen's portrait on the front cover (Figure 4.2) and the tables of imperial F R E E I S S U E measures on the back cover. The official EDUCATIi . DEPARTMENT. JAMAICA government stationery said "On Her Majesty's Service" instead of "On His Majesty's Service." Some time soon after the Queen and Prince Philip replaced the King's portrait. % That portrait was to stare at me in every school IJ.M. r j s . i ^ N El -.V.AV.i. ill ll. I attended, until independence in 1962 when . E X E R C I S K BOOK these symbols of Empire were replaced by the • 1 Naa:c -• > -local governor general and prime ministers. Suitwiard *>r (.LILST* J—— -- " , ~ ' ' S i l j r i ' l V * " r ; . - . At ten years old, this whole fuss . , - S t h u y l . - _<f • -:>:.r.- .; fK about the Queen left me puzzled and worried N O T ; TO B'i . SOI 0 about my sister who had gone off to the coronation on the school outing without my father's permission. I had to carry the horrible burden of knowing about the scheme to deceive my father. My sister plotted every step with precision. She asked permission to go to the coronation. My father flatly refused, and so my sister ignored him and resolved to go without his permission. She knew that she needed a new dress and shoes and socks to go. She also needed a packed lunch and pocket money to buy aerated water and snowball. That shaved ice and syrup was a must in the heat of Sabina Park, Kingston. She waited until my father's payday when he would come home drunk and 90 with his pocket empty of money or he would not know how much money he had. When he was sound asleep she took down his pants hanging on a nail on the door and took out most of the money. She performed this routine several times during the year of preparation so that she could acquire all she needed including the truck fare. She bought some light blue rayon fabric and red rickrack braid to make her dress herself. She was then thirteen years old, had passed her first Jamaica Local Examination and had the reputation of being "bright." She was also, in my opinion, very talented. She learnt to sew at the Friday classes at the Practical Training Centre when she attended Carron Hall All-Age School. She learned all the techniques of hand sewing because there were no sewing machines and girls were being taught to be useful with the hands. I saw my sister lay out the fabric on the floor and cut out the dress with my father's razor blades. She backstitched the whole dress together, and trimmed the frock tail and sleeves with the red rickrack braid. She also bought herself a pair of shoes. On the morning of the coronation my sister got up at the first cock's crow and quietly sneaked out of the house before my father knew what happened. He thought she had diligently gone to fetch water as we were supposed to be doing so early in the morning. By the second cock's crow he would be getting up to ready himself for work. My father only realised when he came home from work and could not find her. I think either my brother or I confessed the secret we had known for months. I remember distinctly asking my sister what she would do when Daddy found out. Her answer was, "I will just take the licking." That I could not comprehend because Daddy's beating for being outsmarted was a "murderation." In her indomitable style she would reply, "What no cost life, no cost nuttin." (What does not cost life does not cost anything.) I remember these lines to this day at times when I am feeling cowardly. This attitude of courage in the face of danger is one of the many gifts from my sister, even though this is the very attitude that eventually cost her life. After the Coronation was over we began the preparation for the opening of the new school, which would be ready in some months. We had to practice "Bless this house oh lord we pray/ make it safe by night and day/ bless the roof and benches all/ let thy peace lie overall..." for the opening. I was not around when this finally happened. 91 4.11 How I Found My Way Back to May Pen There were turbulent times at home and my schooling was interrupted for I do not know how long. As I mentioned earlier, both my brother and sister ran away from Louisiana leaving me alone to face complete abandonment. I knew the way to Miss Eu so I went to her. She really had no space or time for me in her life. She had scaled down her farming and was getting ready to marry a Mr Ellis who had just bought a big house on Spanish Town Road. This place was so big that I think it was a tavern and lodging. It had a sign, which read "Western Sports Park Tavern and Lodging." A Chinese family with about six grown daughters lived upstairs, and an older Chinese man kept a grocery store down stairs. When she moved from Windsor Castle to her new residence on Spanish Town Road Miss Eu carried me along. She suited me out with some new clothes. I attended her wedding, which was held in the tavern. I was so unhappy and lonesome there. The scenes in front of the tavern kept my senses alive. I would stand by the windows facing the busy Spanish Town Road. On one side, I watched the motor vehicle examination depot where learner drivers knocked over the drums during their test drive. On the other side of the examination depot was a grass yard and open-air market. This market sold mostly charcoal and ground provisions. The market trucks, which came in on Thursday nights loaded down with produce, heralded three days of hustle and bustle among mostly black people who were loud in their hawking and selling. The fisher woman with her pushcart filled with fresh fish on ice would push along crying with a nasal pitch, "Feesh, fresh feesh. Dacta fish. Buy yuh dacta feesh, parat feesh an goat feesh. Buy yuh feesh, me wih scale it feh yuh." She had a hand scale and knife ready. The sea was nearby this spot. Handcart drivers snaked around speeding trucks and cars, while the drays loaded down with the grass plodded along oblivious to the dangers around. The drivers of the city and country busses sped by, depending on their horns to avoid knocking jaywalkers down. School children dressed in a rainbow of colours of uniforms milled around in the morning to wait for buses to take them to school. Donkey milk carts and bread trucks were part of this pedestrian, quadruped and motor traffic spewing exhaust and smoke. Huge flatbed trucks carrying stainless cylinders roared by with such power that all vehicular traffic gave them right of way. On the sides of the cylinders were lettered, "J.Wray & Nephew Ltd, Distillers and Blenders since 1825, Monymusk Limited." Only many years later I learn that these cylinders were filled with rum from the Monymusk, Clarendon and 92 Frome, Westmoreland distilleries. They were bound for the ships at the Kingston wharf. From there they would be shipped to England to supply the British Navy. This rum trade between Britain and Jamaica was to last for some three hundred years. The trade came to an end only in the 1970s with the decline of the British Navy, and the ending of the sailors' rum ration. Other scenes at this busy intersection of Spanish Town Road and Waltham Park Road remind me that there must have been a significant Chinese presence in this area. I have already mentioned that the tavern, when Miss Eu and her husband bought it, had Chinese people living in it. Behind the tavern on the Waltham Park Road side was a shop and dwelling in which a Chinese family of three lived. The son who was about my age went to a private school. Every morning he joined the long line of little uniformed Chinese children lined up waiting for the "chi-chi" buses to go to school somewhere in Kingston. On Saturday mornings this same group lined up to catch the bus to Chinese school. A few times my curiosity drew me to follow the elaborate Chinese funeral motorcades to the Chinese Cemetery located some distance up on Waltham Park. White, gold, and red colours on the ornate and grand tombstones stand out in my memory. Nailed to the wall of every house and business in this area was a redifusion box that was never turned off while Radio Jamaica and Redifusion (RJR) network went on and off the air. I spent a lot of time close to this box trying to figure out the mystery of the voices in it. At first when I heard the voices I tried to talk back and was quite puzzled that voices could be so near and not talk back to me. I was so fascinated that I tried to pry the box off the wall to find the people in the box. I was caught before I could accomplish the task. RJR played the latest American tunes; broadcast British radio dramas such as Doctor Paul, and Life can be Beautiful. A voice would say, "It is twelve o'clock and it is time for Doctor Paul." There would be an endless stream of jingles advertising detergents, washing soaps, toilet soaps, alcoholic beverages, aerated water, and travel dates of passenger boats leaving for Southampton England. These jingles were brought to listeners courtesy of such names as Unilever Limited, Proctor and Gamble, and Canada Dry. Miss Eu enrolled me at Greenwich Town Elementary School, which was located just behind the examination depot. I missed my brother and sister so much that I think I almost went mad. At school I discovered a girl around my age having the same last name who lived at 2A East Avenue, the address to which my brother Trevor had run away and left 93 my sister, and me. He used to write to my sister from this address. In time, I discovered that indeed my brother lived with her family. Her father Uncle Tom was my father's first cousin. This would make this girl and me second cousins. I do not remember her name now. I followed my second cousin to her home to visit my brother. Trevor (Figure 4.3) and I were both so surprised to see each other again. He was living with Uncle Tom and learning the carpenter and cabinet-making trade as a kind of apprentice. I wanted to stay with my brother. There was not room enough at Uncle Tom's and he telephoned my Aunt Emily to come and take me back to May Pen. Yes, Uncle Tom actually 'phoned. It was the first time I had seen anyone talking through a mouthpiece and a wire. Uncle Tom was a contractor and carpenter, a real businessman. Mr Black, Aunt Emily's husband, my uncle-in-law picked me up from Uncle Tom's. He was quite friendly to me. I sort of liked him because he dressed well, drove a car, and spoke to me politely. I grew to like him some as he praised me for being such useful child. Yes, by the time I was twelve I had learned to labour. The year was early 1955. 94 CHAPTER V LIFE AND SCHOOLING IN MAY PEN circa 1955 - 1962 5.1 A Familiar Place I came back to May Pen in 1955, some eight years after that unhappy day when my father snatched me away. Some of the old places remained, some were new, and others were gone. I recognized several buildings instantly. These were places that my Aunt Joyce would have taken me to or were subjects of overheard conversations. I recognized the May Pen Market, Shagoury's Haberdashery and Hardware Store and Mr Black's grocery store. Mr Levine's Dry Goods Store, which had been next to Mr Black's, was gone. I missed seeing Mr. Levine again; he used to give me sweeties and talked to me when I was little and accompanied my Aunt on her outings to buy cloth, trimmings and notions for her dressmaking. 5.2 The Supermarket Philip Young's Supermarket was new. This Chinese merchant family also had a cloth shop on Main Street. On his premises he made the finest bullah cakes. At lunchtime, those of us who did not spend our lunch money in the soup kitchen went to the supermarket to buy bullah and cheese. My friends and I used to sneak behind and watched the bare-chested black men, skin glistening with sweat, mix and knead together the big bags of flour, baking soda, ginger, sugar, and molasses. We would gasp and exclaim that we would never eat Philip Young's bullah cakes, when we saw the men wipe the sweat from their forehead with their index finger and shake it in the dough. Of course during the avocado pear season we forgot about this and bought the bullahs because they were the best tasting to eat with the avocado pear for lunch. When pear was out of season bullah cake and New Zealand cheddar cheese stood in. This lowly bullah cake was sold for about a penny. It was about the diameter of old-style singles record, about one inch thick and looked and tasted more like ginger bread. I watched Mr Black quarrel about how Philip Young was squeezing him out of business. His Supermarket was glamorous and the prices were cheaper than Mr Black's. Shoppers could help themselves and not wait to be served as they had to when shopping in Mr Black's shop. At the supermarket, some shoppers thought they could literally help themselves and not pay. Mr Black, who allowed his customers credit, was left with unpaid 95 debts as many of his customers switched to buying with cash from Philip Young's Supermarket that did not carry credit. There was a section of the Supermarket that carried such items as foreign dolls, cameras, fancy hairbrush and comb sets and small mirrors. Although Mr Black struggled to stay in the grocery business until the mid sixties, he was among the last of the small grocers. His heyday was in the late forties and early fifties when the market people could buy their salt provision, sugar, condensed milk, and milo after they had sold their ground provision in the market. In those days people bought groceries on credit. 5 . 3 Toyland Storks De Roux's Hardware seemed to have catered to the wealthy few. At Christmas time, he created a Toyland in his store. The wind-up trucks and cars intrigued the boys while the girls loved the blonde and auburn-haired dolls with their pretty clothes. Toyland brought toys from a white world far away in England and or America. I always wondered who bought those toys because none of my friends' parents could afford to buy them. They were simply unaffordable. We assumed that Mr DeRoux, a white man, must have sold the toys to the other rich white families who lived and worked on the nearby sugar estates of Sevens, Yarmouth, and Monymusk and those who worked for the Sharp Citrus Company. At lunchtifne we children would literally swarm the Toyland to play with all the toys. Mr DeRoux would get mad and call us little thieves and chase us out disgracefully. We took to going in fewer at a time and made less noise as we wound up fewer toys. In terms of hardware sales, the Shagoury Hardware store that was almost next-door drew more customers. I think these Syrian owners were better sales people who mixed with the folk and bargained with them. I believe they even sold on credit to trustworthy folk. The DeRoux's were aloof and hoity toity; and never seen mingling with the folk. Lubsey's Drug Store on Main Street was new and trendy, carrying a wider assortment of drugs and toiletries than the old drugstore on Baugh Street. This drug store carried cosmetics and all sorts of feminine products. Lubsey's Drug Store was where the moneyed people shopped. Poor people stood outside and looked in at the attractive displays. 5.4 The Picture Shows Places that would have been there when I first lived there as a babe were the two banks - Barclay's Bank, Dominion, Colonial and Overseas and the Bank of Nova Scotia -96 the Police Station and jailhouse, the May Pen Theatre, and the Texaco and Esso gas stations. I remembered things about the May Pen Theatre. My Aunt Joyce used to go to "picchas" and talk about the film stars. The most troubling memory I have of the May Pen Theatre is of a neighbour named Allan who loved to go to see the moving pictures of'Cowboys & Indians', but who would invariably get an epileptic fit while watching. Someone would bring him home, frothing at the mouth with his tongue all mangled. The next day everyone would be down on him to stop going to "de piccha show." I ask myself now why there should have been a movie house in this city during the forties. My best guess is that there was a movie-going population drawn from an American army base in Vernam Field located about twenty miles to the south, not far from the West Indies Sugar Company. May Pen was and is the capital of the parish of Clarendon, where all the institutions that serve the many sugar estates were located. The May Pen Theatre became a place of enchantment for my sister. She dragged me along to see such epics as The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, The Robe, South Pacific, Samson and Delilah and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Boys would watch the Westerns and re-enact scenes of gun battles between cowboys and Indians. They also collected cards with pictures of their favourite film stars. I would overhear the boys discuss the acting abilities of actors such as Howard Keel, Richard Niven, Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner. Some time around 1960, the new Capri Theatre opened and the old theatre was demolished. When I worked in the bank, on paydays I would go to see movies at the Capri Theatre with friends. We would sit and neck in the open-air balcony. 5.5 The May Pen Market Of all the old places, the May Pen Market and the associated grass yard held particular fascination for me. When I was a babe in May Pen, I was not taken to the market. I lived cloistered behind the grass yard commons. I returned to find the market was still there as the centre of petty trading from Thursday evening until Saturday night. It was situated on a triangular plot of land bounded by three roads. The market was huge. On one side of the triangle was Main Street, which runs east to Kingston and west to Montego Bay. May Pen is situated on the banks of the Rio Minho, the middle point of the route from Kingston to 97 Montego Bay. It is said to have been a resting place for horse and buggy traffic in the early days of settlement. According to Olive Senior in her Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage (2003), May Pen was once a sugar estate named for its owner the Reverend William May who was rector of Kingston Parish church for some thirty-two years. The 'Pen' part of the name indicates a cattle pen was attached to the estate. Because cattle were a necessary part of the sugar production, cattle pens were as important as the cane fields and the sugar mill. Cattle were used for transportation, to turn the sugar mills, to provide manure and meat. May Pen became the capital of Clarendon, the largest parish in the island, where a large number of sugar estates are located. Here are a few of the names I remember: The West Indies Sugar Company, Monymusk Limited (WISCO); Yarmouth; Halse Hall; Sevens Sugar Estate; Longville; Suttons and Danks, It was the commercial centre for all of these sugar companies as well as the Sharp Citrus Company. In front of the main gate Figure 5.1 Yvonne visiting May Pen Clocktower of the market, was a wide parking lot where the buses and trucks stopped on their way to and from Kingston and other places. On the other side of the triangle, traveling north to south, Sevens Road forked from Main Street leading to the Sevens Sugar Estate. Muir Park Road joined Sevens Road due east at the corner that divided the Elementary School from the market along Sevens Road. Muir Park Road ran like an arc around the north east side of the market rather than a straight line of the triangle. The clock tower (Figure 5.1), one of the many symbols of Empire, built from the finest stone masonry, rose above every other structure and stood like a sentinel watching over all, from four faces. Each of the four round white faces was etched with the Roman 98 numerals, one to twelve, in black. The clock struck on the hour, the exact number of strikes to indicate the hour of the day or night. It struck only once on the half hour. A little park surrounded the clock tower in the fork of Main Street and Sevens Road. The folk from up country cared not a bit about clock time. They could not read the Roman numerals anyway, and even if they could count the number of strikes it did not matter to them. Their day began with the first cock-crow at about 3:00 am followed by the second cock-crow at about 5:00 am followed by dawn and sunrise. They have been telling the time of day for as long as the sun has risen in the east and moved across the sky to set in the west. They have worked in "backra" (white man's) cane fields and in their provision grounds from sun up to sun down. They can tell the time in the morning and in the afternoon by the length of their shadows. In the morning, the shadows shorten as noon approaches and lengthen again in the afternoons. The lengthening and shortening of shadows before noon and after noon determined when children went to school and returned home. Country folk lit their lamps or went to bed when the chickens came home to roost. On Miss Eu's farm in St Mary, I often heard talk about planting certain crops in relation to the phases of the moon. Full moon and dark night were two phases that I enjoyed. The full moon was for playing out at night with my shadows and the shadows of trees and leaves. The dark nights were enchanting for the ghost stories that some elderly people told us kids and for the light of the "peeny wallies" (fireflies) among the leaves and the night sounds of frogs and crickets. Some old women predicted imminent deaths, with spooky accuracy from listening to dogs howling during dark nights. On moonshine nights, the barks and fights of mongrel bulldogs over the bitches in heat kept many mortals awake. Tomcats moaned like babies, before a spat. I loved the market place. The market people were different from the people I met at school and at church. Emasculated men and masculinized women, made equals in labour in the field gangs on the sugar plantation, continued to be equals in the market place. Higglers hired handcart men to transport their goods from the trucks to their stalls. If the men tried to put one over them they were capable of pushing them aside and heaving the loads onto their heads and transporting their loads themselves. I saw women in various states of emotions, hardships, and friendships. They spoke the patois unabashedly. The Jamaican labrish (gossip) abounded with pithy repartees about sex, religion, politics, cunning, bakra (white man's) business, lie and story, misery, tragedy, and divine retribution. Satire, irony, 99 and pathos abounded and still abound in the market places where the elements of drama were performed in the theatre of the absurd with the best acts of improvisation (Figure 5.2). I saw men and women making a living from nothing. Figure 5.2 Caribbean Market Scene (photo: Bob Krist, International Magazine 1989) The market was so interesting that I would run away from school on Friday afternoons to walk through the hustle, bustle, and hawking of the ground provisions and haberdasheries. Among the haberdashery that customers could find were cloth by the pound or by the yard, rubber tyre sandals, ready-made dresses, men's shirts, blouses, and underwear. There were also enamel and aluminum kitchenware, and iron pots. The ground provision depended on what was in season; such as breadfruit, yam, cassava, bananas, dasheen, calalloo, oranges, mangoes and much more. I remember gleefully how I would abscond from school frequently on Friday afternoons with friends to buy our favourite collection of fruits, and repair to the logwood walk to sit under a logwood tree. We gorged ourselves, told lie and story, and laughed uproariously. We would then collect five sixpence pieces so that we could punch five tunes in the jukebox at Mr Morant's Restaurant and Dance Hall. I can still hear the tunes of Fats Dominoe's "Blueberry Hill," Elvis Presley's "Blue Suede Shoes", "I'm All Shook Up", and Chubby Checker's "Hey, Let's 100 Twist." We twisted for hours until we were sweaty and exhausted, then we dispersed and ran home to make up for the illicit time we had spent in the market and dance hall. 5.6 The Butchers Toward the back of the market near Muir Park gate were the butcher stalls. The butchers wore long white aprons. Here carcasses of cows, goats and pigs hung, both for display to customers and for the food inspector. The butchers had to set aside the liver and light from the freshly-butchered animal for the food inspector to test before any of the meat was sold. The inspectors stamped the carcasses with purple or red ink after inspection. The inspectors of course had their first and prime cuts of meats before even the Custos Rotulorum of the parish. As Her Majesty's head of the local government, the Custos had the power to order all of the butchers' stock if he wished to. I had even overheard butchers tell painful stories about how "bakra tek de meat an doh pay far it." When I was old enough and the maids were unavailable, or my Aunt did not want to be seen in the market rubbing shoulders with the higglers, she would send me with a list to a special butcher to get so many pounds of round and sirloin cuts. As I stood in the crowd waiting and watching, I saw poor people haggling with the butcher to put a piece of meat onto the bones and cartilage that they could afford to buy, to stretch and make soup or stew. They were buying such cheap cuts as gooseneck to make pumpkin soup, and the brisket for stew. The middle class housewives who dared to come to the butcher themselves would point to the choicest cuts of meats hanging on hooks. Whereupon, the butcher would walk up to the hindquarter of the cow, give it a bear hug and heave off the hook onto the counter. He would cut off a piece of flesh, saw some bones, slice a piece of suet, and put it on the scale to make the weight. If the woman dared protest, the butcher would look to the next in line and say, "De meat married to de bone. With that said, they understood that they could either take it or leave it. Very often they took it grumbling because there were always more customers than meat to sell, and even if they went to another stall the principle of sale was the same, "de meat married to de bone." The poor people would buy the cow-foot, cow-tail and cow-head to "make up" with dry broad or lima beans or green Congo peas for their Sunday dinner. The rich only ate these dishes as an economy measure, not out of necessity. Also available to poor people was the washed and scalded tripe, which in my cookery class was called offal. 101 All sorts and conditions of humanity mixed and mingled in the market on market days. In 1992 I was able to visit the Macola Market in Accra, Ghana, and the Onisha Market in Nigeria, and found remarkable similarities to the May Pen Market of my childhood. 5.7 R e m e m b e r i n g the M a r k e t P e o p l e In the market place, the smells of life and decay rose and diffused in the hot air that blanketed the spaces between the market and the grass-yard. The broiling heat of the sun released odours, fragrances, and smells that both attracted and repelled. The fragrance of mangoes, jackfruit, oranges, and ripe bananas drew my friends and me like flies. After leaving the butcher, the women methodically followed the aroma of the thyme, onions, hot peppers, and garlic, obeying the unwritten law of Jamaican cooking that meats must have seasonings. The human odours ranged from the agreeable smell of the clean and healthy to the foul smell of the dirty unwashed. I could distinguish between the beads of fresh sweat that rolled off the backs and brows of men pushing loaded carts and the putrid smell of menstruating women sweating out their time sitting or walking around to hawk their wares. Those who were verbally offensive to their fellow peddlers or customers would sometimes be told with great vitriol that "yuh smellin high" or, worst, "yuh smell like seven day cabbage wata." Nursing mothers who had to leave their babies for two or three days to come to the market to sell their produce to earn the money they needed to buy condensed milk, milo or ovaltine, salt fish, sugar and bar soap, would groan in pain as the milk hardened in their engorged breasts. I would hover around certain women between customers to eavesdrop on their woman talk. I learned that they often had no alternative; there were likely other children and aging parents at home depending on their labour and income. They carried the yoke so that their family could be fed, clothed, sheltered and that their children should have a better future life. There were no conveniences to take care of their needs for washing or bathing over the three market days. On Sunday the women would rise early to make breakfast and usher their children and men-folk to their churches: Moravian, Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist - but certainly not the Anglican Churches - dressed in their Sunday best to offer thanks to their Lord and personal Saviour. The folk clapped and sang to unburden their cares onto Jesus, the only person whom their Christian missionaries told them cared about their lot of misery and 102 suffering. He alone (their pastors and elders preached to their fold), could soothe their pain if they carried their burdens and laid them down unto Jesus. Jesus, they were told, was nailed on the cross to atone for their suffering and shame. He died for their redemption. When the folk sang, "Nobody knows the trouble I bear, nobody knows but Jesus," they believed this from the bottom of their hearts. When the reading from the New Testament was taken from Matthew 6: 25-34 telling them how important their faith in the Lord as provider should be, they renewed their faith in a just God and a place of heavenly rest. The parson in his care to comfort his weary ones would emphasize these verses in a confident soothing well-intonated baritone or bass voice: Therefore I say unto you, take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? As if to exhort his flock to believe the incredible he would remind with words from Hebrews 11:1, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Invariably the parson would end by exhorting his weary souls to believe in miracles. And so they did. In the expression of strong faith in their Redeemer, the folks poured out their sorrows in their tears. Their hot salty tears mingled with their sweat from the heat of the broiling sun on zinc roofs without ceilings. Some let their tears flow freely, others concealed them by looking up to Jesus while others just wiped their tears away unashamedly with their white cotton handkerchiefs. Some released the inward pressure of pain and suffering of the hard life into spontaneous shivers and groans that echoed among the believers. This was called getting the spirit or getting into the spirit. People of the Established Churches mocked these ways of worshipping God. But Established Churches had no relevance to the lives of these folk. Believing in Him as their redeemer from suffering and pain helped them carry on under the weight of slavery and its aftermath, of making a life after emancipation without reparations. 103 5.8 The Grass Yard The grass yard was a place of intrigue and curiosity for me, when I first lived with Aunt Joyce as a little girl before my father apprehended me. It was located on Sevens Road opposite the Sevens Road side of the marketplace. I could only have observed the activities from a protected perch on Aunt Joyce's verandah. The grass yard was gone by 1955 when I returned to live with Uncle Harry and Auntie. I saw many sights in the grass yard then that I would like to bring back to life, both as a chronicle of a way of life long gone, and as a tribute the capacity of my archival memory to yield so much information about a past I had lived unselfconsciously. In 1947, the year I remember as the year which adults around me talked about at the time, the grass yard was an open commons that provided the place to park the drays and carts and for the horses, mules, and donkeys to be tied out and fed. On Thursday nights, dozens of horse-drawn drays and carts rolled into town with produce and grass from near and far. Traders from as far away as Sevens, Kellits, Mocho, Porus, and Four Paths brought their produce in market trucks. In the backs of these trucks men, women, children, live pigs, and chickens mingled together with ground provisions on their way to market. Some women higglers also brought their produce in hampers (basket paniers) loaded onto a harness saddled on the backs of donkeys or mules. Most often the women took turns riding the loaded donkey or walked beside it, beating it with a tamarind or guava switch to speed up its canter. The beating was part cruelty to the beast of burden and part expediency to get to market before their produce ripened and spoiled, losing its saleable value. I saw donkeys' legs buckle under the heavy loads and shed tears from the pain of the beatings. At different times in my childhood I felt deep pity for the donkeys and the mules. People called them beasts of burden and seemed to think that they had no feelings. This open commons had several Poinciana trees whose bloom of bright red flowers provided beauty to the festive Christmas season. The wide leafy crowns shaded animals and people alike from the hot broiling sun, and from the heavy rains during the rainy season. The draught animals were either tied to the tree trunks or to stakes driven into the ground. I would be kept awake by the braying donkeys and ninnying horses. Looking back now it seemed as if the animals were talking to each other out of utter boredom and hunger, which their captive state permitted. Sometimes two animals would pine after each other and finally get away to mate and play. I was particularly fascinated with the tube of dark purple 104 flesh, which seemed to distend from the belly of the male horses and donkeys. When I stared at it and asked what it was I would be shooed away with the words, "You are getting too ripe for your age." With age I did figure it all out. On one corner of the commons along the roadside was a busy blacksmith shop, with a furnace of red-hot coals fanned by manually pumped bellows. The blacksmith and his apprentices made horseshoes, cart wheels, spokes and repaired all of these items too. One day I remember a big noisy crowd gathered swiftly under one of the trees. Aunt Joyce went to investigate and told the neighbours that a man was found dead under the tree. He would be taken to the almshouse morgue to be buried, because no one claimed to know him. I did not know then what dead meant. Later in life I learned about the significance of the almshouse and what it meant to be buried by the almshouse or to end up in the poorhouse. The May Pen Almshouse was located off the main road at the high point of Railway Hill. When I had to walk from Palmers Cross to May Pen School I would observe the dirty water from the Almshouse running down the roadside gutters. On part of the open commons where the grass yard was located a big new post office building was located. Right across from the post office was May Pen School. 5.9 How Life Started in May Pen I was enrolled in May Pen All-Age school in 1955 shortly upon arrival in May Pen, after Uncle Harry had picked me up at Uncle Tom's. I was happy that my prayers for deliverance from my wicked father had been answered and that I was now with Auntie Black (Figure 5.3). Auntie Black was very special to me then and has remained so all my life. In the family, she followed my father, Figure 5.3 Uncle Harry & Auntie Black c. 1961 105 who was the oldest of six siblings, three boys and three girls. At the time of my writing this story she is ninety-three. She reluctantly helps me make sense of what seems the mystery of my mother's life and death I have fragments of recollection of Auntie being very kind to me as a baby. My first vague recollection of her is of her bathing me and talking to me. She combed my nappy hair with the gentlest tug of the comb while she talked to me. She then fed me my "din din' (dinner) which must have been served in an enamel plate because I remember banging the spoon on the plate to hear the sound and she kept on saying, "Eat your din din." From the stories I heard from the family gossip, this must have been at a time when my mother was very ill and in the asylum, or she may already have died. The story is told that when she died, I was a babe in arms and was terribly neglected because there was no one to take care of us children. My Aunt May said she was told to come and get me because I was crawling around and eating dirt. It was during the War, when petrol was scarce and travel difficult. She tells the story of coming to rescue me on a bicycle. I have heard about my mother's situation with regards to my father's brutality; and the illness of her own dearly-beloved father's shortly after my birth. Mr Lampart, the head teacher of May Pen All-Age School, played such a pivotal role in determining my future. A memorable episode occurred in Mr Harry Black's shop where I had to work for my keep after school and on weekends. Mr Lampart would come on some Saturday nights for conversation with Harry and Millie, my aunt. I gathered that he and Millie knew each other in their youth. Only Mr Lampart and Mr Black called my aunt 'Millie', short for Emily. Properly, my aunt goes by Elaine. Sometimes Mr Lampart would pick up typing that Auntie had done for him, or sheet music that she had purchased for the church choir, to which both of them belonged. At the end of their conversation, Mr Lampart would invariably purchase a small tin of Nestle's or Betty condensed milk for Muffet, his baby daughter. She was so beloved she had a pet name - one of the special ways that parents demonstrated their special love. Oh, how I envied his children for the mother and father they had and the cultured life they led. One Saturday night, on one of these visits to Mr Black's shop, Mr Lampart asked a defining question, within my earshot: "Harry and Millie, what are you doing about Yvonne's education?" I can only imagine that a very intense discussion followed. I knew to obey the commandment to be seen and not heard when adults were talking. 106 But to hear this question was to my mind the beginning of my liberation through education. Mr Black had always said that the best thing for me in life was to be a helper in his grocery shop. He no doubt believed that he could make me a servant for life, as white people could do during slavery days with a motherless black or brown child. I was totally vulnerable to abuse, and Mr Black felt able to take this kind of liberty with my future because my mother was dead, and my father refused to support me. I heard my father tell Mr Black, in that same shop: "Why are you asking me for support for her? You have her working in the shop!" My father regarded me as his slave child. He was giving Mr Black license to turn me into domestic labour. That was the day on which I disowned my father. Auntie always supported bright young people of all walks of life in their aspirations to higher education, her nieces and nephews among them. She had already fought the battle for Sonia, my older sister, but she seemed to be losing the fight for me. As a motherless child in this situation I walked the invisible tight rope between Mr Black's expectations for me as a laborer and my Aunt's desire for me to have secondary education and a better station in life. I have always known that Auntie respected my mother. She told me so many times, when I was a very sad child, to lift my spirits and to encourage me. I learned recently from her of the profound debt of gratitude she owes my mother's father, the Honorable Charles Archibald Reid, for the chances he gave to her in the civil service, from which she retired. I only learned of this in 1996 when I began to investigate the truth of generous things that people had said to me as a child about a Maas Charlie Reid, who was supposed to be my grandfather but about whom no one in my father's family talked. I was never allowed to meet any one from my mother's side of the family. I still have not been able to find out why. To get me started on secondary education, Auntie seemed to need a hook, a lifeline to save me from servitude. In asking that question of both of them, Mr Lampart had given Auntie and me the lifeline we needed. I worked in Mr Black's shop, and I also worked with the servants at home to compensate for my upkeep, to make peace at home, and to be allowed to go to secondary school. Mr Black had quite a different attitude towards my ten cousins who had their mother and father to protect them and support them. Mr Black must have wanted to avoid the expense of sending another child to secondary school. He therefore decided that I could not live in his house any longer; it was too much for him to have both 107 my sister and me, so I was sent back to Aunt Joyce. This seemed fair enough, since I started out with her and had had a relationship with her eight years before. 5.10 I Move Back with Aunt Joyce 1957 - 1959 The decision to send me to Aunt Joyce occurred at precisely the time I was admitted to the May Pen Comprehensive School. Aunt Joyce and her husband were reluctant to have me move in with them. Only this time it was she who wanted to make a servant out of me. It was her husband who intervened to give me the twenty-six shillings needed to purchase the textbooks I needed for the first year at the Comprehensive School. I had to lie and steal money from her shop till to get the money for the books for the other years. I could not read a book in her sight. I had to resort to using a flashlight under my covers to study when all had gone to bed. She would have ironing, and cooking for me to do after school and she would have me scrub the floors to three rooms before I got out to walk three miles to the May Pen Comprehensive school. I was often late for school. I was so very tired by the time I arrived in school and embarrassed that I had not been able to do my homework. I would often steal time right after school to do my homework before I took the three-mile trek back home. Often she said in a fit of rage, "You getting to be just like you black mumma (the derogatory form of mother) who thought she was better than me." When I first came back to live with Aunt Joyce and Uncle Harold, in Palmers Cross, where they now had their own property, she was still doing her dressmaking trade at home. Uncle Harold would ride his bicycle to his tailor shop in May Pen city, some three miles away. A couple of years later, they built a variety shop, with an adjoining tailor's shop for Uncle Harold. Being out of the city centre, Aunt Joyce had fewer customers and turned increasingly to being a shopkeeper. However, she still kept her sewing going, and insisted that I be her sewing apprentice during the summer holidays. When I grumbled about other children having the summer to visit friends and family in the country or to go to the seaside, and that all I did was work, she would give me a few swift boxes across my face as she said, "Every woman should have a trade, and one day you will thank me for this." I later appreciated the wisdom in her words but to this day I resent her method and motivation for trying to teach me her trade. I was to be a dressmaker and not a scholar. Now I have become both. 108 "You always have you head in a bloody book," she would say. It seems that Aunt Joyce must have resented the fact that my mother had had a higher level of education than she had. One of the conditions of slavery was to deny the enslaved any access to literacy and schooling. As soon as the missionaries brought formal schooling to the island, black people took to education just as the thirsty takes to water. After emancipation, as many black people as could afford to, sought and obtained an English education, through missionary schools or by going to England. By means of education, black people addressed and refuted the subhuman qualities attributed to their intellect and personhood during slavery. With the power of knowledge that they acquired from the knowledge regimes of the oppressors, black people asserted their intelligence. They could stand shoulder to shoulder with any white or brown person in argument, speech, writing, political action, and in the acquisition of the trades and professions formerly denied them. Some black people acquired much higher levels of education than many white people in the island. The tables turned once educated proud black people could return the scorn of illiteracy on those who had denied them during slavery. The moment of the truth of equality came when educated and wealthy black people sought and achieved legal equality of status. In time, the less educated white and brown sectors of the population resented the power, pride, dignity, and distinction of the growing sector of educated and relatively wealthy black people. This segment of the population was termed respectable. My mother's family was among the respectable blacks. This change in socio-economic status after the emancipation of slavery, I have come to call the ascendancy of black over white in the island. The turbulent situation at home made studying a challenge. Aunt Joyce did not value my education. Other children's parents valued secondary educational opportunities and provided them with unencumbered time from chores for them to study for the various exams that we had to pass. At school, to save face and pretend that I was among the loved and cherished, I smiled a lot to cover up my misery and then sobbed in my private moments. Mr Lampart said, one morning, when I flashed my grief-covering smile at him: "Yvonne, you have such a sunny disposition. Your smile is like sunshine, lighting up my day." Little did he or anyone know of the oppressive home life I was experiencing. By contrast, my cousins's parents saw to their proper schooling and preparation for the common entrance examination that determined one's future prestige. Most parents tried everything within their means to give their children the best schooling that they could. Only 109 the really poor people's children were left in the All-Age Schools to leave at age fifteen to take their place among the literate labourers. Auntie got my sister into Clarendon College after she passed her third Jamaica Local Examination while she was attending the May Pen All-Age School. I was languishing around the All-Age School rudderless until one day some of my friends said, "Come mek we go tek de tes" (Let's go and take the test). I did not know what the test was for but I went in and wrote the papers. When the test results came out, I placed first. I learned from reading Ruby King (1979) during this research that this was the test that was given to children who were too old for the Common Entrance Examination but who would be given an overage scholarship. I had missed the opportunity for the Eleven-plus scholarship, as my father did not care about my secondary education. Again, my mother was not around to champion her child. I remember Mr Lampart going to the Ministry of Education to get permission for me to attend the May Pen Comprehensive School Experiment, which was about to take in its last cohort. I was too acutely aware of the difference in my family between my cousins and me. They had responsible and caring parents; I had none. I was also very disturbed by the inexplicable absence of my mother and the shame and resentment I felt towards my father, the inveterate drunkard and abuser that he was. I truly felt the pain of parental neglect and lack of care in my life. To this day I feel the effects of my disturbed childhood. To say that I was neglected, is in no way to be ungrateful to my aunts. Auntie especially did her best. I recognize that each aunt tried within the constraints of her own life imperatives in taking on the unexpected responsibilities of raising my father's lawful children. Yes, my father had many illegitimate children whom he did not maintain either. This was a very bad time of my life because I was old enough to reason things out. I contemplated suicide many times. When the Rio Minho River was in spate, after a heavy downpour, I thought of jumping over the bridge into the river, on my way to school. This was a common means of suicide. It was Mr L S C Lampart and the teachers at May Pen who gave me reasons to live. I can still hear the voices of my teachers, especially that of Mr Lampart, principal of the All-Age School and the Comprehensive School Experiment which I attended until I was age sixteen. He had studied in England, whence he returned to give back to his country. Each morning at the school assembly he expounded on a "Thought for the Day." He selected from no the Biblical text as well as from the best of western literature. As an exemplary educator, he showed many hundreds of poor children of illiterate parents their way to a worthwhile life through education. Mr Lampart and his teaching staff encouraged and inspired us children to believe in ourselves and strive for a pride of place in our society.. He often reminded us that we were to be the leaders of tomorrow. His inspiring words and ways comforted and fired my ambitions. His exhortations continue to speak to me when I need to renew my belief in my self-worth and my abilities. These thoughts have carried me through trials and tribulations. I excavate my memory to bring to the reader some of the aphorisms and thoughts that have sustained me through life. Man! Study to know thyself. Knowledge is power. Education is to cultivate a sound mind in a sound body. Silver and gold may vanish away but a good education can never decay. You are privileged to be given the gift of literacy; read to discover the world's great literatures. In being given an education, you will be the leaders of tomorrow. To whom much is given, from them much is expected. You are expected to use your education for the betterment of society and mankind. Love truth and justice To thine ownselfbe true, and it must follow as the night follows the day, thou can 'st not then be false to any man. Education is an antidote to poverty of the mind, spirit and material existence. Do not hide your talent under a bushel. To be an educated person is to be well mannered, having a sense of decorum, deportment and respectability and being able to walk with prince and paupers and not lose your grace. The pen is mightier than the sword. He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8j Lives of great men all remind us that we can live our lives sublime and departing leave behind us footprints on the sands of time. i l l The heights of great men reached and kept/Were not attained by sudden flight/But, they while their companion slept/Were toiling upward through the night. God could not be everywhere at the same time, so he made mothers. I spent five years at school in May Pen: two years at the May Pen All-Age School and three years at the May Pen Comprehensive School Experiment. This time was highly important for me. I matured in my consciousness, and was old enough to begin to assert my independence and to try out different ways of being. Here I take time to paint a picture of schooling for me, in that significant time and place; and look back at how I navigated my way to independence. 5.11 School Layout of the All-Age School The school compound was located on Sevens Road opposite the market. The All-Age school was housed in three buildings, plus buildings for the housecraft centre, the soup kitchen and the manual training center. In a far corner of the school compound were the pit latrines with boy's and girl's stalls on opposite sides back to back. Close to the rundown school garden was a concrete water fountain, with four or five taps along two rows. A girl had to wrap her skirt tail and tuck it between her thighs while she bent her head to drink at the fountain or else the boys or the wind would carry it over her head. One day I witnessed a horrible fight at the fountain, when some boys attacked Enid Johnson, the prized girl warrior, and tried to pull her skirt over her head. They succeeded but in swift fashion Enid landed a blow to the head of one unsuspecting 'wooligan' with the sharp edge of her wooden pencil box. He let out a scream and held his head forward from which blood flowed. A crowd gathered around. A teacher took him to the doctor nearby and he received several stitches. Revenge was brought to Enid on the last day of school, when in a "last day fight" some children brought bottles, sticks and stones to erupt in a big fight if a vendetta were owed, or at the least provocation. Enid was prepared, and put up a memorable defence with her teeth, fists, and trusty pencil box. Lower division comprised A, B, and C classes. The zinc-roofed oblong building had classrooms that were open on the two long sides. The teachers' desks and a movable blackboard on easels divided the classes. The solid wall on either end of the long oblong building had a blackboard permanently mounted on each wall. Middle Division comprised Standards 1,2, and 3. The building and layout were similar to the lower division. 112 Upper Division comprised Standards 4, 5, and 6, a classroom for students taking the 3rd Jamaica local examination, appointed with cupboards for storing school supplies, and the principal's office. The building was enclosed with doors and windows having locks and keys. Break-ins were a problem. The classroom spaces within the building were for the most part open, and divided by teachers' desks and black board and easels similar to the lower and middle divisions. The housecraft building and the manual training center had lock and keys on the door. Nonetheless, these rooms were frequently broken into. Private lessons for the Jamaica Local Examinations were held in the upper division building, and given outside the regular school program. There were syllabuses for 1st, 2nd and 3rd years. Students who passed the 3rd Jamaica local could start teaching with the title of 'pupil teacher'. The school rated highly for the number of passes in these exams. However good this level of education was, it was not seen as a lever of social mobility for the working class children who attended, but only intended as a means of increasing the efficiency of prospective farm and domestic labour. It was not unusual for parents of children who passed the Jamaica locals, to sacrifice to send them to grammar school for at least two years to prepare for the Cambridge 'O' and 'A' levels. Attendance at a grammar school and obtaining the requisite Cambridge 'O' and 'A' levels offered some measure of economic advancement by providing entrance to civil service jobs and entry to higher Education. Auntie sacrificed to send my sister Sonia to Clarendon College after she had passed the third Jamaica local examinations at the May Pen All-Age School. There was no provision made in the family for my secondary education. I was passed the age for common entrance, and so I was Figure 5.4 Yvonne, Education Week 1958 113 to remain in the All-Age School until I graduated. It was explicit policy that those schools prepared literate labourers: the girls would normally become servants, and the boys would become the yard-boys. My fate would have been to become a domestic servant, had not Mr Lampart intervened, and help to place me among the last cohort of the Comprehensive School Experiment. I felt ready (Figure 5.4). 5.12 The Comprehensive School Experiment In 1954, the newly formed Ministry of Education, in its attempt to increase the availability of secondary education, cheaply, amended the code of regulations to permit the experimentation of teaching secondary subjects in All-Age Schools. Three sites were selected - Kingston Senior School, and Central Branch School in Kingston, and May Pen School in Clarendon. The May Pen experiment took in three cohorts - 1955, '56, and '57. Here children took the first three years of a five-year grammar school program. The headmaster of the All-Age school was also responsible for the Comprehensive School. Selected teachers, usually those pursuing higher education, from the All-Age school taught the subjects using the same textbooks that were used in the grammar schools. Children from both schools shared in the same morning devotions, cultural, social, and athletic events. The Comprehensive School Experiment became the model for the Junior Secondary Schools, which proliferated in the island during the 1960s. The May Pen Comprehensive School Experiment was housed in a two-room prefabricated structure made of heavy-gauge zinc mounted on a concrete base. I remember the heat in the all-zinc structure was like the heat in a convection oven. We sometimes had to go outside to have classes under a tree to be relieved of the searing temperature. The school was located in the eastern corner of the All-Age School compound, close to the Methodist Church and close to Sevens Road. We could hear the traffic of the sugarcane trucks carrying canes along Sevens Road to the Sevens Sugar Estate mills, during crop time. The majority of children who attended May Pen All-Age School lived in the Sevens Sugar Estate settlement. This meant that their parents either worked on the sugar estate or in the cane pieces adjoining the sugar mills. The children at the Comprehensive School sometimes reaped the benefits of canes, which the 'wooligans' from the All-Age School pulled from the passing trucks. The Comprehensive School children would not be seen pulling canes from a passing truck - we were expected to behave respectably. 114 This experiment offered the first three years of grammar school, the equivalent to 1 st, 2nd and 3rd forms in the grammar school. The May Pen Comprehensive School was the feeder to Clarendon College. Students who attended did not have to pay school fees, as did their counterparts in the grammar school. My recollection of the curricula of both the All-Age and Comprehensive Schools will show the difference in knowledge imparted in each school. Of further note is the relatively small number of children being given opportunity for advancement through education. 5.13 Curricula of the All-Age School The curricula for the All-Age-Schools were designed to make literate labourers and domestic servants. The following subjects were taught: English grammar and composition; Reading; Writing; Spelling; Recitation and choral speaking; Scripture; Arithmetic or sums, mental arithmetic; General Knowledge; Manual Training (Drawing and Carpentry); School Garden; Arts and Craft (potato printing, drawing, sisal weaving); Needlecraft (embroidery and sewing). There were three subjects that have left vivid memories: Singing, Geography, and History. Singing of rounds, solos, quartets, choir with base, tenor, alto and soprano to music of the piano or from the "doh rah me fah so lah teh doh" of the teacher's voice. In Geography, we drew maps showing the wind systems of the world, the physical geography of the world, waterways, lakes, rivers, and mountain ranges. Our maps also showed the cash crops of Empire such as rubber, tea, coffee, cattle, wheat, sugar, cotton, and lumber. We made beautiful papier-mache relief maps of the world, and Jamaica and painted in the mountains, valley, lakes, and waterways. We were also taught some civics, hygiene, and of course, the history of the Empire. I was always curious about the history that the students in the Third Jamaica Local private classes learned. I would hang around the big boys and big girls while they were studying, to learn what they were learning, in the hope that one day I too would take the third Jamaica Local examination. I did overhear my sister and her peers studying lots of history and literature of Empire. In history they studied aloud the Magna Carta; the Middle Passage and the wind systems of the world; the trade winds and the doldrums; the British seadogs: Nelson, Raleigh, Hawkins, Morgan; the Spanish Armada; the abolitionists: Clarkson, Wilberforce, and Buxton. Important among the calculations they learned of were longitude, latitude and Greenwich Mean Time, and how ships travelled around the globe. 115 In literature, they talked a lot about imagery in poetry, Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice, Thomas Hardy's novel Far From The Madding Crowd, Shakespeare's Measure For Measure, the Taming of the Shrew, and As You Like It. 5.14 Curricula of the Comprehensive School The curricula of the Comprehensive School were based on the first three years of the grammar school. A grammar school education prepared us for civil service and clerical jobs after 'O' levels. After 'A' levels we could enter university to study for degrees in arts, science, or the professions such as in law and medicine. When we entered high school we were expected to pick up at form four and be ready to take our Cambridge examinations at the end of form five. Those who could afford it would stay for two additional years for sixth form, at the end of which we would write the Cambridge Advance level in various subjects. The curriculum was comprised of the following subjects: Bible Knowledge was taught by Mrs McLean who was herself studying this subject at an advanced level through some form of extra mural studies or external university such as Cambridge or London. I remember learning about the role of the prophets Amos, Micah, Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah in a way that was different from learning about them in church and Sunday school. The study of the prophets in school had a resonant familiarity. Some children heard their folk reading the words of the prophets, and discussing the meaning of the prophesies in their life. The folk drew on the books of the prophets and the Psalms to inspire them and guide their way, especially in times of great distress. The twenty third Psalms, which begins, "The lord is my shepherd I shall not want...", is a favourite among the folk and gentry alike. In this curriculum, we learned about the Maccabees and the books of the Apocrypha. We were introduced to the Hellenistic influences on the Bible. We had to study the Acts of the Apostles in great detail. Through the study of St Paul's various letters to the apostles we were taught about the Church as the Body of Christ, and the right behaviour of men and women in that church. Without it being said directly, we understood that we were being given ethical principles by which to live. Mathematics was mostly algebra and geometry with Mrs Harrison. This lady ran herself ragged drumming in theorems and proofs (QED), parallelograms, rhomboids and triangles, cylinders, squares, angles. Our pencils were never sharp enough to draw the angles 116 and arcs that our protractors had to measure with scientific precision. Solving simple equations and quadratic equations really set apart those who were and were not arithmetically acute. I was definitely among the less favoured here. It is interesting now to realize that I was using geometrical knowledge in dressmaking, but did not know it then. In those days a dressmaker drew her own patterns. All of the shapes we studied in geometry were embedded in the drawings. The properties of the circle were inherent in the drawings of necklines, armholes and in circular skirts. Angles, perpendicular and parallel lines were all part of designing a garment. In geometry the examples we used were about bridges, steeples, and cardinal points - all to do with the masculine world of conquest and expansion. Latin was with Mr Lampart and then Mr Griffiths, the only other male teacher I remember at May Pen, apart from Mr Brown, the woodwork teacher who was there for a short time. Oh, Latin! This was the dead language that we had to learn. We were made to believe that all learned and erudite people know Latin because it was the root of the Romance languages such as Spanish and French. Declensions of nouns, which were said to have many cases such as ablative, dative, nominative, numerative, accusative and genitive all going with certain prepositions, affixes, and suffixes. We learned to conjugate regular and irregular verbs. The construction of the proper Latin sentences with all the appropriate parts of speech was of mathematical precision. And there was some attribute called the subjunctive mood, which I do not remember what now. It was vital to know the masculine, feminine, and neutral forms of nouns and pronouns. The test of mastery of all this linguistic knowledge of Latin came when we had to translate the unseen passages from the Odyssey or the Aeneid, or from the famous accounts of the Trojan or Gallic wars. There were chariots and horses decorated with magnificent regalia, celebrated heroes, and brave soldiers. The names, invariably of men, ended in '-us'; Flaccus, Brutus, Augustus, Aurelius. Spanish with Mrs Lampart was easy compared with Latin. We loved Spanish because the grammar seemed straightforward. In contrast to Latin it was a living language spoken by our neighbours just ninety miles south. Furthermore, basic Spanish lessons were published daily in one of the newspapers. I believe it was the Star because the pages were smaller than the broad sheet of The Daily Gleaner. We made a scrapbook of these lessons to complement our red and green covered textbook and class drills. We even tuned in to Radio Havana and listened to the trilling 'Rs' which we imitated for each other's amusement. 117 Jamaica is only ninety miles south of Cuba and their radio waves came in very easily. We listened for the perfect Spanish phraseology of speech. We had our Spanish orals to prepare for, in which this and the use of appropriate idiomatic expressions were key. Now I think of it, we must have been hearing important news about the political life in Cuba, but Jamaica being anti-communist, we must have learned not to try to make sense of what was going on in Cuba in the 1950s. English grammar and literature was with Miss Reid, Miss Broomfield, and Miss Miller at different times throughout the three years. All these teachers also taught in the All-Age School. Miss Reid spoke Queen's English perfectly, but without the English accent or pretensions. She drilled us in every grammatical rule in sentence structures, punctuation, vocabulary - especially antonyms and synonyms - spelling, and figures of speech. We practiced summarizing passages of varying complexities to one quarter or one-third their original length. Dictation of poetry and prose tested our spelling and comprehension. Miss Reid made known to us that she was already preparing us for the Cambridge examinations, which were some years away. Practice makes perfect was her adage when she sensed that we were tired of the drills. Miss Reid abhorred verbosity and sloppy expression. We were introduced to English drama. Shakespeare, the greatest playwright was the model of all plays. Shakespeare's language was so difficult for us; we hated the great effort that we had to put out to understand that far-off world. Our deliverance came when we found a book, in the May Pen Public Library, which was called Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare. The author had written the plays in plain prose language. We were able to construct the story line as we studied the plays. The tests were based on being given certain passages that we had to memorize from the plays and asked to say which character spoke those lines and under what circumstances. Further, we had to expound on the meaning. I remember studying The Merchant of Venice. We had to memorize "The quality of mercy" speech from this play, and Lady Macbeth's speech from Macbeth. We had to learn certain of Shakespeare's sonnets by heart and parsed for all the conventions of the form. We studied The Rivals by Brindsley Sheridan. In this play we revelled in the idea of Malapropisms, the closest thing to 'speeky-spokey' in which our unschooled folk tried to speak Standard English. We could identify with the ridicule that Mrs Malaprop received in the play, the same kind of ridicule that folk who could not master the standard English language nor cared to, received from the literate. In addition to the study of English drama we studied poems by 118 Keats, Byron, and Milton. A group of us sat for days under the Bourganvillea bush and memorized all sixteen stanzas of the Destruction of Senacharib by Lord Byron, just for the fun of poetry and choral speaking. As far as prose went, I can only remember George Eliot's novel, Silas Marner. Around this time, in the mid 50s, a new public library was built to serve the city of May Pen. It was located close to the school in the direction where I walked to get home to Palmers Cross. I often stopped to borrow a book, and stole a secluded read at a special spot by the railroad tracks, before I got home to the work that awaited me. Most of us signed up for membership in the library, and took great pride in being frequent borrowers. Through the library we discovered Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew young adult fiction. We enjoyed books by Enid Blyton and many more authors whom I now forget. The boys read many books about the explorers and talked with great excitement about the adventures of such men as Amerigo Vespucci, Pizzaro, John Hawkins, and Admiral Nelson. We girls read biographies of Florence Nightingale and Joan of Arc. Stories about swashbucklers and buccaneers and their adventures in Port Royal, Jamaica, the world's wickedest city in the seventeenth century fascinated us, for reasons we did not understand then. After reading entries on Panama, Port Royal, and Piracy in the Encyclopedia of Jamaican Heritage by Olive Senior, I now understand that Port Royal was the strategic location from which the British plundered and disposed of the booty robbed from Spanish fleets and from settlements in the Americas and Caribbean Sea. From here the booty was shipped to England. Henry Morgan was the most famous buccaneer of the time, notorious for sacking Panama City in 1671. When the English state ceased licensing privateers such as Henry Morgan to carry out their piracy, Morgan was knighted and given the Lieutenant Governor position in Jamaica. In 1766 Jamaica was made a free port and the centre for trade with the Spanish American Colonies. Kingston replaced Port Royal after the 1692 earthquake, which sent ninety percent of the city under the ocean. The folk used to say that God sent the earthquake and massive tidal waves of that year to destroy the city and to vanquish sinners. Nine tenths of Port Royal was lost forever. In recent times, in fact since the fifties, marine archeologists have been excavating the area and retrieving artifacts. I was to borrow and read four books from the public library that influenced me profoundly. The first one was called Freedom From Fear, the author of which I do not remember. Through reading that book I came to understand how much my life was governed 119 by fear and what I could do to relieve myself of fear to release my potential. Part of the book dealt with fear and dreams. The kind of fear I experienced manifested itself in dreams in which I found myself naked in public places such as schools, churches and on the street. Another nightmare I had was that all my teeth would fall out mysteriously just before I was to speak, or that I had taken flight so high that I was afraid of being lost in the sky or breaking into pieces when I landed. A recurring dream about crossing muddy waters and being caught in quicksand was particularly terrifying. So was a dream about bulls chasing me up hill, or being entwined by giant lizards. Reading Freedom From Fear helped me understand how I could interpret my dreams to figure out what was causing the fears. Afterwards I experienced a distinct shift of consciousness, in which I began to experiment with my autonomy, and acting as my own person. The other three books were by Dale Carnegie: Public Speaking, Debating, and How to Win Friends and Influence People. Then was born my love of reading to brood about myself and expand my world. Through reading, I created a rich imaginative world to carry me through the hardships. Even while I did the chores I could imagine a better life. The life of the mind has always been important to me ever since I could read. I spent so much time alone that I would have gone quite mad if I could not escape through reading and thinking. I wish only that I had understood the value of writing; I would have kept a diary. Biology with Mrs Murray introduced us to the perfect order of living things. Botany was not nearly as interesting as topics of zoology. We learned about vertebrates and invertebrates, skeletal systems, systems of locomotion in vertebrates and invertebrates. The various adaptations of feathers and fins to aid locomotion of birds and fish through air and water respectively fascinate me to this day. We marvelled at the anatomy and physiology of the human body and various systems such as the circulatory and reproductive systems. It was at this time I discovered in Auntie's home medical encyclopedia and saw the baby coiled up in its mother's body. I manipulated the colourful transparent overlays so often that they began to fall out of the book. We found a green book in the May Pen public library that we called Wyeth's Biology for short and I practically devoured its contents. This book and our own initiative sparked by our interest in biology increased our knowledge of our bodies far beyond what was taught in class. We learned biology solely from texts, drawings, and pictures. We had no laboratories, not even a hand lens. Mrs Murray copied the diagrams from the books to the blackboard and labelled them as she taught us the anatomy and 120 physiology of each plant or animal. We took notes, or copied Mrs Murray's own copy of the text on the board. Cookery with Mrs Murray was interesting because she was taking an in-service education course in Kingston to upgrade her teaching certificate, and she taught us many English dishes such as white sauces, cream soups and casseroles, and one-pot dishes she was learning in her course. We never cooked these things at home. We only cooked them for exams just as Mrs Murray had to do. I did make cakes at home with Auntie Black, so the information on cake-making reinforced what Auntie Black taught me. Most of the children with whom I went to the All-Age and Comprehensive School Experiment did not have the type of range to bake, in the ways that we were taught. In 4-H club we were taught how to bake a cake in a Dutch pot with coals at the bottom and on a zinc sheet on top - the cake tin was set in the pot sandwiched between the two sources of heat. Later, we learned to construct a homemade oven from a discarded coconut oil tin and wires. This oven had a door and a shelf on which to place the cake tins. The oven itself was placed on a coal pot of heated coals. I made one of these ovens and baked cakes for Aunt Joyce who did not have a range as Auntie did. Needlework and Sewing with Miss Kentish was a bore for me. Beside the fact that Miss Kentish could not sew, she had a vitriolic tongue and the most acid disposition. She must have thoroughly disliked children. I was already able to construct garments by the time I was thirteen years old, and could teach sewing better than Miss Kentish could. I was not at all interested in learning to patch and darn and to make samples. The lady could not even make a decent hand-sewn buttonhole. I had no respect whatsoever for her teaching skills. She detested me as much as I detested her. Her class was on Friday afternoons and I always did my work quickly and helped my friends so that we could abscond at recess time to go to the market, a much more interesting place than Miss Kentish's class. Manual Training was for boys only. The manual training centre had board and tools such as planes, saws, and mitre boxes. Mr Linton Brown left shortly, and the boys had the time free when we girls had to go to sewing classes on Fridays. They did not miss much in terms of the curriculum at Clarendon College because woodwork was not one of the subjects there. The boys had to catch up on Agricultural Science when they went to Clarendon College. 121 I do not remember learning much general history at the Comprehensive School. I just remember Miss Broomfield engaging us with General Knowledge about what was happening in the island and beyond. I remember us studying the progress of the West Indies Federation through daily reading of The Daily Gleaner. She read the published speeches about the West Indies Federation. Miss Broomfield was passionate about good speech and excited about the prospect of a West Indies Federation. Athletic and Sports Programs: Both schools came together in athletics and sports. We belonged to the same houses. The big boys played Cricket. Volleyball was played by co-ed teams or by the big boys alone. Mr Lampart took an active part here after school. I can still see him in his white shorts and tennis shoes. An official coach named Mr Anderson (affectionately called Mr Andy), taught Track and Field, including such sports as pole vault, discus, relays, the mile race, 400, and 800 yards. I was mainly a spectator in the athletics and sports program. I remember a lone Indian boy, named Herman Williams, who attended May Pen All-Age School, and was the best runner. He seemed to sail around the track as if he had no body weight. He won all the races one year. He got a lot of respect for his athletic ability. Besides the colourful parade onto the sports ground under our house banner, part of the fun of sports day was for girls to dress up in short shorts and go parading around the sports field to be seen. Boys whistled at the girls and flirted and teased them. At the end of the sports day after all the prizes were awarded, the houses lined up again in winning order and marched out of the sports grounds. Children's Free Play: Girl children skipped individually and in groups. When we skipped in groups we took turns to the chant of "room for rent; inquire within; when you run out I run in." We played segregated and co-ed ring games and square danced. Boys played marbles and 'tah' (cashew nuts). Girls entertained with colorful hoola-hoops. Boys rode the seesaw. Girls bounced rubber balls through a hoop made by holding up their 'skirt tails' with their left, and bouncing the ball continuously while passing it in and out intricately and creatively through the hoop. Onlookers cheered and sang the tune of "1, 2, 3, 4, O'Leary, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, post man pass." The single ball changed to another player when the ball failed to go through the hoop and stopped bouncing. Girls invented games such as "Mother Hen and her Chicks" to ward off the hawks. I remember that girls played in multi-aged groups. Young girls looked up to older girls who would sometimes be like sisters. I had the affection and care of several older girls who protected me from those who picked on short people. Cultural events provided fun and joy where the formal curriculum did not. Cultural Events: There were many cultural events, in which our teachers tried to engage us. We were consciously being groomed to appreciate culture beyond the mundane daily grind. The influence of the missionaries and agriculture were foundational to our cultural activities. School choirs: Mr Lampart and several female teachers coached choirs. Just about every class had a choir. I especially remember Mr Lampart teaching us a Latin song entitled "Gaudeamus igitur" which translates as "Let us now in youth rejoice, none can wrongly blame us." I loved this song and wish that I could now recall the words. Christmas time came alive with various carols and nativity plays. The words to "Good King Wenceslas" required some imagination to make meaning of the words such as, "There the snow laid round about, deep and crisp and even." There was no equivalent scene in tropical Jamaica where we had the rainy season and the dry, and where the temperature was ninety-nine degrees Fahrenheit most of the year. The northeast trade wind blows over the island from November to February when Jamaicans swear that it is cool, with just a few degrees drop in the temperature. Equally strange was singing, "The holly and the ivy when they are both full grown, of all the trees in the woods the holly bears the crown." Even stranger was the song, "I dream of Jeannie with the light brown hair borne like a zephyr on a summer's air." The teachers were doing their job of teaching us English culture to the best of their abilities, if much, even most, of it did not make sense. We children learned everything eagerly because we were told that we were being cultured. Of course we wanted to be cultured. We were striving for the British polish. After all, at that time we were citizens of Great Britain and Colonies. Daily religious observances: Throughout the school d
UBC Theses and Dissertations
Bodies, memories, and empire : life stories about growing up in Jamaica 1943-1965 Brown, Yvonne Salome 2005
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