MONDAY MAN: Bougainvillea’s man of steel
PLENTY OF PEOPLE report to their jobs daily and work for what some deem as the longest eight hours.
At the end of a 40-hour work week, they are usually the happiest people. As a matter of fact, to many of them, retirement rather than a mere two days off would be a dream come true.
But not for Collingwood Steede.
Even as he approaches his 85th birthday, Colin, as he is affectionately known, cannot see himself lazing at home with nothing else to do but read a book or watch television.
“If I had garden or anything so to work, I would go home but I feel bored going home and sit down to watch television; that ain’t me,” the father of two said, laughing.
In an interview with the DAILY NATION on the job at Bougainvillea Beach Resort in Maxwell, Christ Church, Colin joked that he never had time to just sit still as a boy growing up in Belle Gully back in the 1930s and ’40s. His life was pretty much encompassed by a passion to be active.
After leaving St Giles’ Boys’ School at age 14, his first job was for a man named A. S. Bryden as a gardener in Reservoir Road. At that time he was taking home $3.50 per week. Subsequently, the octogenarian worked for an English woman in Gulf Road and then at the former Manning’s rock crusher plant that was located in Clapham until Hurricane Janet of 1955 destroyed the plant.
After the destruction caused by Janet, it wasn’t long before more work quickly came his way. This time, through a friend, the young father acquired a job working on a truck for a plantation.
“We used to draw sugar from Foursquare to the old sugar bond and only used to get 50 cents a trip. I had to put on 50 bags on that truck and offload it for 50 cents,” he said with a chuckle.
“I mean, that was a lot of money in them days. They used to give you $4 every week whether the truck work or not. Oh boy, that was rough. I do that for two years. After the Deep Water Harbour come in, they didn’t want any sugar in bags, they used to go in bulk.
“By that time I had my second daughter, Janet. I went then to Mr [John B] Simpson, who was the manager of Shell Oils at Plantation Limited and he told the truck men there would be no more work so who have a licence to drive or who ain’t licensed, go and get a permit. I went right away to the police station and get the permit and I learn to drive – self-taught in at the sugar bond – and I got my licence December 6, 1961.”
Simpson Food Fair
Colin and Simpson’s relationship would blossom so much that Simpson would set him up with another job when he opened Simpson Food Fair, previously located in Worthing on the spot of the former Club Extreme.
For five years, Colin remained at the supermarket until Simpson sold the business to the Goddards and in 1968 built what was then Sand Acres, which opened November 15, the same year.
So devoted was he to his work that Colin was among the labourers who laid the foundation of Sand Acres. And when construction was over, he was the person entrusted to add the trimmings and furnishings.
For almost 30 years, he remained the only maintenance worker of the 37-room property.
“When the airport didn’t have any taxis like now, I would drive a coach up there to go meet our guests and bring them in and take them back to the airport. Sometimes after working maintenance during the day, at night – if we expecting guests – me and another man, Tony Belgrave, we would change into decent clothes and meet them,” Colin said.
Once the guests arrived “anything wrong in them rooms, they didn’t call the office,” he added. “They called me – bathroom clogged, stove ain’t working, they gave me the nickname ‘Mr Fix-It’. I know it was a lot of responsibility but I didn’t fret.”
Colin said he understood half the things he did were beyond his job description. So why did he do it?
“It helps the industry, people like it and I like to see the people happy. I always used to tell myself that good service is not servitude.”
In 1995/1996, after Sand Acres was bought over by former general manager Gordon Seale and he added Bougainvillea Beach Resort to the property, Colin officially entered retirement. But not even this would prove to be enough impetus for him to pull back as two decades onward, he still remains a fixture at Bougainvillea.
Even having to manage “a little sugar”, he holds his own working with people half his age and younger. Now working as a messenger, his working hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday.
In a very strong voice, Colin insisted that his body feels as fresh as ever.
“No, Ma’m, I ain’t tired. I had always liked working as a boy. I was raised by my grandmother and she married this gentleman and he was a man used to dig wells, work in quarries. When I carry his lunch pun a day I would go and take up the sledge and break rock stone. And if he running a hole to blast dynamite, I would go and drill the hole. I used to love working and it still in me today,” he declared.
“The thing is, none of my children like me; them cut from a different cloth. They does quarrel they want me to come home, but come home for what?
“People used to always ask me why I smiling but that is me. I enjoy what I do, I take pride in what I am doing. That is the only way you will succeed in life.”
Bottom line is, Colin loves to work and he says he is in no hurry to stay home for good.
“They [management] told me as long as I feel good in body I can come to work. I ain’t sick or nothing. I having problems with the sugar and I have to use tablets for the diabetes, but I have that under control and I in good health. I don’t know what it is but when you love to work, you go to work.” (SDB Media)