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Strolling down remembering lane

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday’s T&T Guardian special edition, Remembering World Wars 1 & 2 was a delight. All day I had was to listen to a set of old fogies calling and saying, “yuh see de Guardian today?” My children wondered what the fuss was about. Indeed!

The war news was strangely positive, “34 German planes shot down” and 100 tanks captured, claimed the Poles. As all nations at war, they exaggerated. “Chamberlain to produce a “Dove’ today,” said one correspondent, a Mr Argus. In retrospect, he had no idea what he was talking about. Perhaps he was a local. Fascinatedly one headline said “Mussolini seeks peaceful solution.” That is lie! Within eight months he had invaded France as she was about to surrender to the Germans. “Ah want ah food” was alive and kicking in 1940.

The best reading however came from between the lines and from local news and ads. My friend Major Pain pointed out to me, one rainy morning on top of Chancellor, that someone was selling 75 acres of land in the East for TT$3,500! The Colonial Secretary’s Office on August 31, 1939 was inviting applicants for the post of part-time medical officer in Toco with a salary of $1,920 per annum and free quarters.

Duties included attendance at health offices; attendance at the homes of something called “pauper patients.” The “usual fees” would be paid for vaccinations, probably smallpox because that was all that was available at that time, views (deaths?), port health work (in Toco? They must have had plenty relations with Tobago), coroner’s work and attendance at court.

Apart from the salary, little has changed. Imagine, Murine, “for tired eyes,” was around and you could buy an eight horse power Morris Fordor (not four door but Fordor), “very good condition, bargain” for $525 from Chas. McEnearney & Co.

On September 5, Page 5 is a small notice, “German aliens in England detained.” This led to one of the most shameful events in local history that is never taught in schools nor commented upon. Germans, mainly people of the Jewish faith, who had fled Germany and settled in T&T, peacefully contributing to society and the economy, were locked up in small concentration camps right here in Trinidad, for the duration of the war.

There are hidden stories that one hears at social gatherings today, of deaths from beatings in those camps and of car agencies handed over to the local English gentry.

The same local gentry no doubt appreciated Colgate Talcum powder. Powdering your face in the heat apparently was a necessity but notice how the ad says that it also makes your skin “clear.” I wonder if the competitions for Miss Clear Complexion began around that time?

In the “Letters” column a Mr “Sufferer” complained about the hardship experienced by the residents of Diamond Village in getting to and from San Fernando, “especially on Saturdays and Mondays,” because the Paradise Bus Company bus, from Barrackpore to San Fernando through Diamond Village, never had room. “Would the authorities please make the necessary investigations and oblige, as it would be a great relief.” Yuh want to make a bet the bus still full and people still waiting?

It was interesting to see that in 1939 the Guardian was asking letter writers to give their “full name and address,” even if they used a nom de plume. It still is. Class is class. 

By the next year, 1940, the headlines on September 4, spoke to the US trading 50 destroyers with Britain for Caribbean bases. This then allowed innumerable Trinidadian women to marry Americans and get away from Trinidad and for Eric Williams to “walk in the rain,” our equivalent of holy martyrdom, and claim back Chaguaramas for long suffering Trinidadians to use for J’Ouvert fetes in July.

“Talk of Trinidad,” that perfectly upbeat society column by the Humming Bird was in full swing and warbled on wonderfully about “The crowded ballroom at the Country Club” complete with a picture of the wife of the then governor, Lady Young. Now there’s a road I would rename.

The winds of change must have been in the air or as cynics would appreciate, the smell of money, because Madame Humming Bird even mentioned the Portuguese Club on Queen’s Park West and a Chinese dinner to be held at Prince’s Building for Les Amantes Society. Not to be outdone the owners of the Hotel De Paris, at the corner of Marine Square and Abercromby St, advertised its ice-cold beer and invited the hard working businessman to step in on the way home and fire one.

For those who had one too many and developed what was cutely called a “sour stomach,” you could take a DeWitt’s powder and in a “few moments pain and discomfort will go.” This stomach powder thing seemed to be popular because there was another ad, “Maclean brand stomach powder” for the same problem. This advertisement is probably one of the earliest ones purporting to have been written by someone who had been “suffering very badly with “stomach disorders” and “gastric trouble”, a double whammy of the same thing. 

Examples of this sort of advertising are today being seen with increasing frequency, with companies sending out sophisticated “press releases” that are then used as articles by lazy young reporters. Yes indeed, Trinis always knew how to have a good time.


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