Retired, but still hard at work
By Carlos Atwell | Fri, October 19, 2012 - 10:10 AM
The elderly are the holders of much of the knowledge of a country; the ones who shape the future for the next generation.
This week, Street Beat travelled to Oxnard’s, St James, and spoke to a few retirees who, although no longer working, were far from retiring from life.
This was especially true of a woman who would only identify herself as Pauline. She still busies herself with numerous duties, calling herself a handywoman.
“It is a God-given talent, but everybody doesn’t have the same energy level,” she said.
Pauline said she learned carpentry, masonry and other work skills from watching others.
“I watched other people work and tried to help from a young age. You have to keep practising,” she said.
Unfortunately, Pauline was Press-shy and soon left. However, the person she was dropping off a mattress for, Leroy Sisnett, was more than happy to tell his tale.
Sisnett, 71, once known as Sweet Boy Leroy when he was on radio, admitted to leading a colourful life, also spending time as a merchant marine and a politician.
“I was born in Bush Hall. I spent a number of years with the merchant marines, which gave me a tolerance for humanity,” he said.
Sisnett, who was a captain’s steward, recounted instances of rough seas and crashing waves, which he said taught him respect for nature and an understanding that there was a higher force at work.
From there, Sisnett said he got into broadcasting after studying at the Career Academy in New York. He said he came back to Barbados with his broadcasting skills, which led him to politics and two terms in Parliament as a Barbados Labour Party representative. After all that, Sisnett said, he was happy to just take it easy, delving into spirituality.
“My hobby is studying spirituality; a lot of people who are out there preaching don’t know what they’re talking about,” he said.
Sisnett is married to Marvo Sisnett. The pair has spent more than 20 years together and he is still very much in love, calling her a “gem” and one of the best literacy teachers around.
Marvo also spoke to Street Beat about her years as an educator and her thoughts on the state of the education system today.
“I started at 18 years old in 1960 and retired in 1999, but I still hold reading lessons as reading is what I specialize in,” she said.
Marvo said she became a teacher for the love of it and because it was either that or nursing. She said she had taught people who have gone on to many different fields but lamented some pitfalls in the current system.
“There is a gap where more attention needs to be paid where slow learners are involved. I think teachers should be able to pick up on these pitfalls earlier,” she said.
Marvo recalled there being a remedial reading programme at West Terrace Primary School which she said fell through the cracks, adding such a programme needed to be reinstituted, not only at West Terrace, but in all primary schools.
These days Marvo said she was busy with church and, of course, the occasional reading programme.
Judy Niles spent her working life as both a teacher and a worker in the hotel industry before retiring medically unfit 20 years ago. Now 69 years old, she said that was an “experience” and gave her thoughts on Barbados today.
“Barbados has made a tremendous change; it is more advanced now although the youth are not as they used to be. Still, I think sometimes older folks don’t give them a chance. They may not be like yesterday but I think they could be given more of a chance,” she said.
Working with the Barbados Workers’ Union retiree group, as well as her church duties in both the Mothers’ Union and the choir, kept her busy, Niles said, adding that plants were her hobby.
“These plants are my babies,” she said.
Anthony Norris was lounging in his front porch with son Darren Norris, who competed in the recent Mr Caribbean International. The senior Norris said he spent time in both the London Transport and the Royal British Air Force before retiring back home.
“I was a sportsman, I played cricket, football and basketball, so I didn’t have to do much work,” he said.
In the air force, Norris said he did not actually fly any jets as his role was in air traffic control and as a radar technician. He said he came back to Barbados because he wanted his children to get a Barbadian education. He also gave his thoughts on how the island had changed.
“It’s changed a lot and sometimes not for the best, but I guess we are paying the price of progress. I’m happy; I look at the obituaries every week and I see people who have died who were younger than my children, so I can’t complain.
“I am a born Bajan and I will survive because if you can’t survive here then you can’t survive anywhere,” he said.
His son, who lives in Miami, praised his father for making him the man he is today. He said his father’s discipline, ethics and morals had seen him through challenges in his life and had allowed him to excel outside of Barbados.
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