This blog entry is second in the Origin series and chronicles my story from Trinidad & Tobago the Victory street years, and is best understood in chronological sequence. If you haven’t already done so, read the first entry Origins: Early Life to get caught up. After moving from Mayaro, I spent several years at 6 Victory Street, Arima. A narrow unpaved street branching off the Eastern Main Road, with middle-class homes leading to the Trinidad Textile Manufacturing Co Ltd (TTMC) to the top of the street, affectionately known as just textile.
Victory Street, Arima
The house we occupied on Victory street belong to my paternal grandparents, and we frequently had family visiting from “de States” smelling really clean and wholesome.
Victory street had a cacophony about its demeanour, with cars lingering up and down to enter textile at the top of the road and obstructing our football – soccer – pick up games with every transient vehicle.
Victory street was like a hamlet with trusting next-door-neighbours and their copious fruit trees.
Mr and Mrs Taylor lived cornerwise from us, and they had a lush cashew tree in their backyard. Cashew wasn’t my ideal fruit, but I would regularly go by Mrs Taylor for fry bakes!
Mr and Mrs Peters had several children, and the youngest was Kester! Kester was a liberal character and continuously took time out his day to engage with the youthful kids on the street. No fruit trees here; Mr Peters was a welder, and the bulk of their yard was occupied by his welding shop.
Selwyn -aka Fruits- lived right opposite from us and I remember his house was the only house on the block with governor plums – Flacourtia Indica. Needless to say, his fruit trees got assaulted often. Governor plums, in my opinion, is the best fruit of them all. I think everybody called him Fruits because his family maintained a fruit stall lower down on the Eastern Main Road from Victory street.
Mrs Dylan, Gail and her son David lived to the right of us and had a Zaboca -avocado- and fig -banana- trees in their backyard. We usually swapped our Julie mangoes – a grafted variety of cultivated mangoes- and coconuts with Gail and David. Since our homes were adjacent in proximity, David and I used to “whistle” out of our windows to get each other’s attention. Since we couldn’t yet quite whistle correctly, we use to shout PEE-WEE instead, and my nickname PEE-WEE was produced!
In the picture above, David and I are dressed for school. He attended Arima Boy’s Government, and I attended Arima Boy’s Roman Catholic (ABRC) school in Arima.
Arima Boy’s R.C.
Arima Boys’ R.C. School was established in 1886 on the present site, with the entrance being on Woodford Street, by Monsignor de Martini, Parish Priest. At the time, the structure was a wooden one complete with ‘demerara’ windows, lattice-work, jalousies and the very ‘modern’ architectural spires.
ABRC, sister school was the Arima Girl’s R.C. (AGRC) school which is positioned less than one block away next to the Santa Rosa de Lima Catholic church. Even though ABRC was all boys, we got to see girls during combine mass at the Santa Rosa church. Often the highlight of our day! Fellas used to prepare their “love notes” in advance to pass to girls you liked during church service! No texting here, just handwritten notes in your best penmanship with tons of emojis; hearts mainly.
I credit the majority of my good character to the discipline and honesty I learnt while attending Arima Boys RC. The school’s motto “Deeds, Not Words” still resonate with me today.
The entire purpose of the elementary school education in Trinidad is to equip students for the Common Entrance Exam. The exam is conducted nationwide your last year in Standard 5 to ascertain which secondary school you are eligible to attend. Standard 5 is comparable to fifth grade in the USA.
The rigour and intensity of the preparation for this exam would provoke an excellent nun to drink! Learning was by the whip, and all man jack used to get licks every day! Some of the most notorious teachers were:
- Mr Howard (Standard 4A): Sully, hunched over seething older gentleman with a Kangol type cap, know for drinking and smoking and sharing licks for trivial infringements in class.
- Another teacher Mr Gay (Standard 5A): Don’t be deceived by his name. Mr Gay wore thick-rimmed spectacles with coke-bottle lenses and was a zealot for good penmanship. I could hear his licks victims weeping over the class barrier during a whipping session.
- Mr Trevajo (spelling) (Standard 5B) was my homeroom instructor and also my lessons teacher after school. He was more even-keeled and less likely to whip your ass if you made a blunder. Even so, many of us came to school with two sets of trousers in the event it was your turn to get a whipping!
Standard 5 B
Standard 5B Mr Trevajo: Pee Wee last row 4th from left (open shirt)
Two of my best friends from Arima Boy’s RC not pictured above because they were in Mr Gay’s class are Francis Guerra and Marc Marquez. I once walked the majority of the distance of the Arima river with these two players and ate a whole birthday cake in one sitting! Go figure.
After spending seven years @ ABRC, I passed my common entrance exam, and it was off to Arima Government Secondary School aka Central! Co-ed school baby! Around this period, the family relocated from Victory Street Arima to Alenore Gardens in Arima. Check back for Origins part three and the meeting of the Garden Boyzs and the Wyns!