‘Sweet fuh days’
By Chris Williams | Sat, November 03, 2012 - 12:05 AM
Dorothy Forde’s story is not one of glitz and fame, but it is surely one of consistency and conviction. Born in St John more than 70 years ago, she became the face at the gate of the St Stephen’s Primary School, Black Rock, St Michael.
For more than 60 years, Forde, or “Betty” as she is affectionately called by her young customers, has been the sweetie woman at the school. It was her mother’s entrepreneurial endeavours of selling ground provisions that captured her young eyes and heart at an early age, while she herself was a student of St Stephen’s.
Forde helped her mother ply her trade, and not too long after leaving school, she was following in her mum’s vocational footsteps – selling goodies to the children at St Stephen’s.
At that time, the school was situated next to St Stephen’s Church on Black Rock Main Road.
It is also at this church that Forde has worshipped since her confirmation in 1970. Her life is rooted firmly in the St Stephen’s community. She remembers the “good old days” at that school, but as times changed and the new school in Goddard’s Road was opened, she moved with it and has remained a fixture of the school since then.
Teachers, principals and students have come and gone, but Betty remains a constant. There are children at the school whose parents and grandparents would have been Betty’s customers many years ago.
As Betty moves around in her daily life, she encounters persons in all walks of life who excitedly greet her, “Betty! Betty!” and because their faces have changed, she cannot remember most of them, but they remind her that they had once attended the school.
Betty’s smile and friendly voice is comforting to the children. She likes her job very much and enjoys the simple pleasures of chatting with a sad-faced little child to discover what is the matter and then being able to address the problem. Putting a happy smile on that face is what she likes best about her job.
There is a good relationship between her, the teachers, parents and students. This fact is clearly evident from the interaction that is seen around her every morning. She is the hub: teachers greet her as they enter; scores of children are securing their snacks and parents greet her as they drop their children off. And without missing a beat, Betty skillfully manages the hive of activity with calmness.
Nowadays, the products/merchandise she sells are mass-produced by major confectionery businesses, but years ago she would have sold sugar cakes made by her own hands.
Betty, herself a mother of three, says that, generally speaking, the children at St Stephen’s are well mannered. They tend to follow any guidance she gives to them and show her full respect. In return, she is motherly and protective of them. She is to them not only a source of sweeties but also the school’s granny, someone whom they came and encountered and who, when they leave to go on to secondary level, will remain to touch the next generation.
Gender differences are just one of the things that she notes: young girls are more assertive and materialistic than the boys; they are more able to decide, select and calculate what they want more quickly than the boys. The girls are also inclined to help Betty with sales if there is a mad rush.
Long before Hurricane Janet visited Barbados in 1955, an enterprising, self-driven young woman named Dorothy “Betty” Forde set up shop at St Stephen’s Primary School to sell sweeties to the students. To this day she remains an established and vital member of the community.
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