I am a very lucky man; I grew up in a safe home in a safe place in Trafalgar Village by the Bay, Limekiln Bay. You know they say it takes a village to raise a child? Well that was my experience. Sometimes too much raising if you ask me, I had lots of surrogate ‘parents’ always looking over me, anytime I did something that boys do that parents don’t approve, the news would travel from mouth to mouth, someone would shout, ‘look Carter boy doing so and so, quick someone go tell Morm’, that’s what everyone called my mother. They didn’t need cell phones.
Trafalgar Village by the Bay, Limekiln Bay was not a big place, it was bounded by the sloping mountains to the north, green lush sugarcane fields to the West and ended by the sea shore. I made it sound so romantic. When I started to go to school, I can recall my boundaries quite clearly a couple hundred feet up and down Cardin Avenue, where everyone was my mom’s friend. I then graduated to going through the alleys mainly the one just above us, my uncle lived right on the corner, yeah he kept an eye on me. I remember one time I was running behind an open vehicle across the alley and hitched a ride, when I got home a couple minutes later, my mom was waiting for me with a belt. Yes way too much raising.
Eventually my horizons expanded, times takes care of most things. Just up the Village, the School at the top of Cardin Avenue where I attended as a tiny bopper, there was a water pipe. As you can well image it was a popular spot. We would gather around the pipe at recess time to replenish our body with water. We did not line up in a queue; we fought for position to be first. The girls also pushed, none of this gentleman stuff, it was dog eat dog. We would race to the pipe and use our body to block others from getting too close as we fought to be first or next for a drink of water. Sometimes an adult would get there at about the same time with a bucket to collect water and we would have to wait until they were satisfied and then the pushing would resume. You would think that lining up would have made more sense. I am thinking that maybe it was at one of those forays that I may have met my lifelong friend Junior. He lived just around the corner from the school in St Johnston Village and I lived down the road in Trafalgar Village.
In those days, there was up the Village and down the Village, we didn’t always get along. Today I proudly say that I am a Trafalgar Man but back then it was a social disadvantage. I don’t quite know why others saw the Trafalgar people that way because folks who lived in other parts of the village were just as poor. Also I am not sure when I made the decision that it did not matter, now I just love saying it. I was raised in Trafalgar Village by the Bay, Limekiln Bay, classy eh. If you don’t know me, I blog regularly (www.tonyliveshere.com). In one of my posts I wrote about always wanting to write stories. When I was a kid there was a ‘pen pal’ section in the local paper, I would write to most of the people on the list, both boys and girls. As you can well imagine I would write tall stories about me, like I was tall, muscular, and handsome. Hahaha, I am actually very short, back then I was only skin and bones, ok one out of three.
Most of the girls would write back and I had lots of ‘special friends’. Back then I would write my address as: Cardin Avenue, Trafalgar/Fort Lands/Basseterre/St Kitts. Of course it is not correct; Fort Lands is the affluent community to the east, but it looked good, of course the people I was writing to would have no idea, I guess it was all in my head. Today the postman might have a problem finding me with that address, but when I was a kid the postman Pemberton knew exactly who I was. I probably received the most mail in the Village. A side note, I actually did meet two of my pen pals in Antigua, a male, during the Cadets camping trip and a female, a year later when the St Kitts football team visited Antigua for a tournament. Pretty cool eh although I recalled the girl also told tall stories.
At the school up at the top of Cardin Avenue and inside the Methodist church grounds, Junior and I knew each other but we were not friends as yet. In fact it was the start of a long competitive relationship that lasted until we got to Grammar School several years later. I don’t remember much about him at that school but when we got to middle school things really heated up between us. We were both good athletes, I would tell him that he was better to distract him, but I am from Trafalgar always looking for an advantage. That last part is going to drive him crazy if he reads this. Ms Williams the Head Mistress at the middle school By the Pasture that we attended, loved sports and would randomly select teams for us to compete in different activities. I am sure she kept Junior and me apart because she knew we would perform better as competitors. Of course we would join forces when we played against other schools. In Cricket he was a really good batsman, I was a Great Bowler. In Football he was a pretty good striker, I was Great Everywhere. He kicked my butt in ping pong. Getting the picture? I was obviously better. Al l is fair in love and war.
In addition to the school sports there were ‘Inter Village’ sports. Yeah we clashed often; bruggadom. The older boys in the village took great pleasure seeing us going at each other. I don’t recall ever having a physical fight with him, we may have and despite the fact that he had a bigger body mass, 3 or 4 pounds, he would tell me, I probably would have embarrassed him. I have a great imagination, eh. If you know Junior you know he has great communication skills, I don’t have those skills, well actually I didn’t then, I went through the King Speech Process (google). Junior could debate any subject and would win most of the time. I avoided oratory conflict with him, but life is not perfect. Got my butt kicked a few times, you would think I would get it after the first time. I am Tony. As a recognized athlete we had responsibilities that came along with the role. People looked up to us and we were popular with the girls. Don’t hate, as my son would say. Anyway, Junior was great with the ladies. He just had a way with words. He would recite poems to the ladies without laughing, like he was serious. If I was struggling meeting a certain female, Junior would smooth out the bumps for me. Like I said, he was really good with words. If you know him, the next time you see him ask him to tell you his full name. Make sure he rhymes.
Things were going really well, life could not get any better and then we went to Grammar School. Add smart to the athlete thing, wow, we were superstars. We got placed on the same intramural team; the Red House, Junior and I were inseparable. Then entered Em. I am not sure how and when, he just slid into my world, now there were 3 of us. Em and I did not have the growing pains; by the time he came along we were already wearing long pants. Ok we were a team, great athletes (I said it), smart, good looking, we had lots in common. We called ourselves the JETs. I always hated being the last letter in the word JET. You see was first right? Tried to change it but nothing else made sense. Junior’s sister made us some shirts so we could look alike for the dances at Christmas. To make life even more interesting, Em also communicated well, poems and all, he was smooth. This all happened during the big Motown years. I think my buddies got their ‘poems’ from the songs of the day. Both Em and Junior could recite an entire Motown song to a young lady. For me, with a speech impediment, it was just not possible. I was sure they kept cue cards, although I had never seen any. Sometimes I would just listen to the two of them talk and dream of the day when I could be like them. A conversation might go like this.
Say Junior heard that Em’s chick is putting a ‘bite’ on him and decided to tell him. Then the opera would begin. You have to use your imagination a bit.
Jr: “ I Heard It Through The Grapevine – Marvin Gaye”
Em in shock: “My Girl – Temptations”.
Jr trying to console: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell”
Em still can’t believe it: “Just My Imagination Running Away With Me – Temptations”
Jr telling him to move on: “Shop Around – Miracles”
They would actually recite a few versus of the songs, I would be jealous of course. Girls like that kind of talk. I was not totally hopeless, being from Trafalgar I had my ways. One day I was with this girl I had been trying to get close to for some time. I ran into her by the local square downtown. I thought about Em and Junior and wondered what they would say to impress her. Could not think of anything, then I saw this vendor across the street selling ice treats and I blurted out:
Me: ‘babe you are like a ‘Fraco’ on a hot sunny day’.
She: ‘with what topping?’
That was not the response I was expecting. Now what, where are your friends when you need them?