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JEFF BROOMES: Speightstown then and now – still mine!


JEFF BROOMES

JEFF BROOMES: Speightstown then and now – still mine!

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AS THE SUN sets on 2015 and the light of dawn beckons the promise of 2016, I find myself drifting into a most reflective mood. My focus takes me back to my early days in Speightstown. Any study of how our country has developed should make that town its focus!

I reminisce on the two-bedroom board house on the banks of the Heywood’s pond that was the temple for my de facto nuclear family. I now wonder how we were able to be accommodated there. My grandmother as matriarch, my mum, two aunts, two uncles, my brother and five cousins were occupants, and I can’t recall ever being uncomfortable then.

Ours was a water village, and I can remember no one that could not swim. There was the pond by the bridge in the centre of the town near the fish market where fish shared sway with warri. Then there was the bigger Heywood’s pond, which was my pond.  We, the youngsters, often joined the adults to drag it for fish that provided many meals for our families.

There was the Heywood’s rock where we picked wilts and off which we fished and had diving competitions. That beach was filled with sea grape which provided many lunches for us. There was the jetty to the south of its present location, from which we had many swim races. It also served as a dock for the fishing boats and some smaller ones that took sugar out to larger ships.

There was a plethora of activities to be found. We attended Boy Scout meetings that built character and strength in all of us. The exploits of Queen Scout Randy Hall, my cousin, and those of Mr McClean and Austin Husbands, our Scout leaders, made us very proud. There were also the treks to Hayman’s factory for the liquid sweets at crop time! Those were happy nights.

The picture Speightstown now presents is so different from my young days.

There were houses on both sides of the road from Heywoods through Sand Street to Orange Street. In one fell swoop they were removed and a new village, Church Street Gardens, was created. This is where the fish scaling sessions under the lights at night flourished.  The real manifestation of a village!

The recent closing of La Bouche reignited memories of our business establishments. I recall Elise Pinder shop that attracted almost every person that came through my northern town; Jackman’s shop, where my grandmother would send me for saltfish; Payne’s baker shop that provided the most delicious turnovers ever; Atherly’s bakery and our two cinemas. All gone.

The Boys’ Club was where we learned to play table tennis and other indoor games. Gone! The Esplanade, where I saw my first television, is now a mere shadow of itself.

There was Elmer’s Snackette that provided the absolute best cheeseburgers. Gone!

There were Sheriff’s coconut trees among which we played many cricket matches and set even more fly sticks. Gone! 

There was the alms house and the adjacent coconut patch where my dad made brooms, never letting the fact that he was blind inhibit his independence. Gone! 

There was Buck White’s shop with the unforgettable cheese cutters. Gone!

There was the Health Centre, our virtual hospital in the north Gone!

The nuns’ convent, Gone!

Rollock’s store and the Bridge Store, Gone!

Although the building still stands, Speightstown Boys’ School, where I was often distracted by Roland Edwards’ music, is also gone.

St Peter’s Girls’, where I spent many evenings in the yard watching the mobile cinema. Now gone! 

Thankfully, the iconic Noel Roach shop, Fisherman’s Pub, the love of cricket and our many churches remain.

Speightstown then and now – still mine!

Jeff Broomes is an experienced educator, principal and community organiser who also served as vice-president of the BCA and director of the WICB. Email: [email protected]

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