ROCKING CHAIR STORIES: A part of the Army
THOSE WHO KNOW?HIM?WELL regard him as the patriarch of the local dental fraternity.
Dr James Aubrey Smith (most people call him Jimmy), who celebrated 89 years on his last birthday (he was born July 1, 1921), recalled the days when he earned $5 for an extraction. I invited him to share his early experiences in The Rocking Chair.
For instance, a classic example came when, with reference to his early education, he responded: “I was the first co-ed in Barbados; I attended St Matthias Girls’ School.”
He explained: “We lived at Browne’s Gap, off Hastings where I was born. My father had a friend, Mrs Edith Morrison who lived at Coconut Walk, Hastings. She was the headmistress of St Matthias Girls’. They talked and she agreed to give me some training.
“Every morning we would meet her at the bottom of Browne’s Gap and she would walk me to St Matthias Church where the school was held.”
Fortunately or unfortunately, Jimmy wasn’t allowed to settle for too long among the girls of St Matthias.
His next stop in search of academic achievement was Foundation Boys’ on a vestry scholarship where his abilities in cricket and football began to flourish.
He next came under the influence of headmaster Haskell when he went over to Harrison College. There his cricketing skills improved.
“Harrison College made trips to Trinidad to oppose Queen’s Royal College [QRC]. I was on the team as an opening batsman,” he recalled.
On leaving college, Jimmy avoided joining the army of the idle young by becoming a trainee pharmacist at his uncle Aubrey Smith’s drugstore, the Empire Pharmacy on Baxter’s Road.
“I left there and went to Collins on Broad Street as a pharmacist.
“Then Bookers came to Barbados and they hired me as the pharmacist to open the drugstore.”
Meanwhile, with World War II in progress, Jimmy thought it important that he make his contribution to the war effort. “I joined the Royal Air Force and went overseas.
“After two years I got demobbed due to eye problems,” he said.
Jimmy wasn’t one to give up. He went to Montreal and sought an interview with McGill University. When that didn’t work out, he returned home but later was admitted to Howard University in 1946.
Now prepared for the new challenge, Jimmy didn’t waste any time socializing with friends at home. “I went up and entered right away and in 1954 returned with the BSc degree in dentistry.”
Not fully satisfied with his achievements, soon afterwards he took off for Staten Island, New York, where he successfully completed an internship and received a degree in public health administration.
Next week: Helping to clean up the mess.