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Remembering characters from old San Fernando

Thursday, July 20, 2017
The Chairman of the San Fernando Heritage Trust, Terrence Honore, right, speaks to Hazel Manning, wife of former prime minister Patrick Manning, during the launch of the San Fernando Heritage Trust’s logo on July 5. PHOTO: TONY HOWELL

San Fernando Mayor Junia Regrello and San Fernando City Corporation acting CEO Yvette Rousseau took guests in a lively trip down memory lane as they reminisced about old San Fernando during the launch of the San Fernando Heritage Trust’s logo on July 5.

South residents talked animatedly to their mayor at City Hall Auditorium as they identified with different aspects of San Fernando’s heritage, and offered their own comments and suggestions.

The audience included historian Dr Michael Anthony, former Education Minister Hazel Manning, other historians, educators, politicians, business people, and area residents.

Historian Dr Michael Anthony challenged Regrello’s version of the song Last Train to San Fernando, saying the calypso had nothing to do with the train, but was really about a man at a party who was trying to get a lady to engage in a last fling with him before getting married the following day.

The unplanned exchanges enlivened the event, which aimed to promote ways to preserve San Fernando’s heritage.

Rousseau asked Regrello if he remembered the Borough Bus. And it was this question which triggered some lively banter, as Regrello said he would like to be a historian or a teacher in his next life in order to better remember and share the route the Borough Bus took, and the route of the other bus that used to come from Princes Town—the bus was owned by the Moonan Brothers, long before the advent of maxi taxis.

Rousseau and Regrello recalled how although some things had changed dramatically—such as the era of just one TV station which stopped at midnight—other things seemed to have come full circle, such as fashion, with tight pants and pointed-tip shoes still trending today. Rousseau talked about King’s Wharf, the place which had given birth to San Fernando, she said: “Everything with San Fernando began on tha​Wharf.” She recalled spending evenings there after school with her father, watching the sun set on the blue waters, the hustle and bustle of the fishermen and those seeking transport by bus. Anthony also spoke of his fascination with the Wharf which he saw for the first time when he was 11.

The reminiscences soon progressed to High Street. Rousseau and Regrello, who both grew up in Vistabella, recalled the High Street ice cream shop where the boys would hang out to check out the girls from St Joseph’s Convent, including Mrs Manning, after school. It was on High Street that folks assembled to see the big bands pass on Carnival days.

“And you remember when television came in 1962, where we used to watch TV?” Rousseau asked. “On the Promenade (Harris Promenade),” was Regrello’s reply.

“And where else?” she probed. His quick response: “By Huggins (a furniture store now acquired by Courts), on the bottom of High Street. And you know what was our favourite show? Hop Along Cassidy and Lassie.”

He went on to explain: “Lassie was a dog and we were excited to look at Lassie. We were similar to vagrants, we did not have cardboard boxes, but we had a little bench and we would sit down there (on the road/pavement) with our little jackets, cold. We would watch the show until the end, and then we would pray and go home.”

“Now there is television 24 hours a day,” Regrello said, making the comparison with local television shows back then such as Uncle Tavi, Teen Dance Party, Time to Talk, Mainly for Women with Sylvia Hunt,and Scouting for Talent with the late Holly B.

“Those were the shows that moulded our character, the people we are today as opposed to what comes direct from the USA,” he said.

Not to be left out of the oral history lessons were some characters who also shaped the South city, such as the saxophonist called Chancellor who would play his instrument around Library Corner; Kin Nanny Goat Head; and the legendary Mahal who would drive an imaginary car, park it on Pointe-a-Pierre Road, and achieve a respectful response from bystanders who would not dare to stand in the space where the “car” was parked.

Regrello told the story of the musician who went to England to pursue his craft and who sent all his money to a particular lady in TT.

“When he returned home, the lady was gone with all the money, so he stayed at Library Corner for the next 20 or 30 years, with his suit and bow tie, which went from a three-piece, to a two-piece, to a one piece, to a tattered piece of jacket, until he died.” Regrello mused: “If we have to have a homeless centre in San Fernando, it must be named after Chancellor.”

Chairman of the Trust, Terrence Honore, spoke of the rich heritage of the City and appealed for support from the community, property owners and others.

“Heritage preservation is not just about saving buildings and landmarks, but about saving the layers of information about our lives and those of our ancestors. Without that, we would erase the stories of our past as if the people who came before us never existed,” Honore said.

“We owe it to future generations to continue to build bridges, to link the past with the present and secure the future.”

The Trust, which was registered in November 2016, is governed by a Board of Directors, Standing Committees and Project Teams. Dr Anthony is its advisor.


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