BACK IN THE DAY (Part II)

(Part I ended with me telling my kids, John Paul, Carol Mark Anthony and Deja, about the day I was punished by my Prep 5 teacher, ‘Miss Jermiah’. Her belt was unusually stiff and the rumour in the school was that it was soaked in stale urine. Not being one for idle gossip, I decided to smell the belt to see if the rumour was true.)

 Well, much to my relief, ‘Miss Jermiah’s’ belt was not soaked in ‘stale pee’. Apparently, the belt was made from new leather and what my classmates smelt was simply the smell of freshly cured cowhide. On that note, story-time for my kids would end. Tucking them in and kissing them goodnight signalled the close of another perfect day. No matter what aggravation or adversity I might have faced in a given day, just seeing the smiles on their faces or the curiosity in their eyes or hearing their innocent, joyous laughter, made it all worthwhile.

But gone are those days, those idyllic days when we played tag and frolicked in the park. Gone are those days when I taught them how to ride a bike or shoot a basketball or play at chess. Indeed, nowadays, Mark Anthony runs circles around me on the basketball court and John Paul routinely dunks on me. The idea! They now claim that playing chess with me is much like taking candy from a baby. Nowadays, I don’t even attempt to play video games with them, for after all, the extent of my video game prowess is Pacman. Actually, Deja laughs at my total lack of computer skills because, for the most rudimentary computer operation, I am forced to consult her.

Interestingly, in much the same way that my parents would tell me stories of ‘the good ole days’ when they were growing up, so too, I now find myself waxing nostalgic and recounting, with obvious passion, the good old days of my youth.

Like my parents did, I use every opportunity to say, “Well, back in the day …“or “You know, when I was a boy …” One such moment was when I walked into a McDonald’s and spent nearly $50 on three kids’ meals and a Big Mac. And when we left, we were still hungry. It was ridiculous! Naturally, I launched into my tale of how, with a dollar, back in the day in Antigua, one could purchase a twenty-five cents bread, butter and cheese from Brownie’s Bakery, as well as a Bryson’s soda, a candy bar and a sugar cake … and still have change left over.

Another ‘back-in-the-day’ moment was when my boys and I went shopping for sneakers. The prices are outrageous! And, in my opinion, the shoes are ugly! The LeBrons, the Kobes, whatever. And not even worth a third of the exorbitant prices being charged. Needless to say, I went on a rant. I told them that when I was a boy, my brothers and I each had three pairs of shoes – one for church, another for school and a sneakers for sports. Of course, the sneakers that we wore were so cheap that they were called ‘hush-puppies’. They were sold at a store called BATA on Market Street. The wealthier kids, of course, wore Chuck Taylor Converses or ProKeds from Edris’ Clothing Store in the Fibrey. When a young man was decked out in a pair of Converse Chuck Taylors with a ‘funky’ jeans, a Hawaiian-print shirt and a ‘cool-cat’ afro, there was no stopping him. Folks would nod approvingly and say, “Bwoy, yuh pimp-up a-@#rse!”

Back then, folks would ‘skant’ to reggae and do the Travolta moves from Saturday Night Fever. ‘The bump’, the ‘funky chicken’ and ‘the hustle’ were also popular disco-dancing moves. At carnival time, men delighted in rubbing up on the biggest, ‘rolly-polliest’ ‘bum-bum’. Actually, the new dance called ‘the twerk’ that is so popular in America today was invented in the Caribbean years ago. It is as old as carnival. Heck, men and women were ‘twerking’ for J’Ouvert and Last Lap way back when. Moreover, for all intents and purposes, when we West Indians jammed in the band, it was the closest thing to having sex, never mind the flimsy articles of clothing that were supposed to cover the vitals. Why else do you think we enjoyed such songs like ‘Rolling Bum-Bum’ by Falcon, ‘Sugar Bum, Sugar Bum’ by Kitchener, ‘Ah Rudeness mek me’ by Burning Flames and ‘Poom Poom’ by Super Blue? But it was all good, clean fun — a healthy expression and celebration of our heritage and culture. A catharsis, if you will.

And speaking of calypsos, at carnival time, Antigua was divided into three main Calypso camps – Short Shirt, Swallow and King Obstinate. Because of the fact that I hailed from the Point/Villa area, I was a huge Short Shirt fan and, like every fan from the area, I could recite much of Short Shirt’s wonderful, grandiose lyrics. I mean, songs like When, Power and Authority, Lamentations, Illusion and My Pledge are masterpieces; classics. But for pure easy listening and dancing these days, I truly enjoy Swallow’s stuff. Subway Jam, Weekend Special, Don’t stop Dis Party and Soca up de Party can still cause folks my age to ‘shake our waists and move our feet’. It is a pleasure! Meanwhile, the battle between Harmonites, Supa Stars, Halcyon and Rising Sun steel orchestras was also quite exciting and divisive with die-hard fans in every camp.

Clearly, I am persuaded that the years of my childhood were some of the best years of my life. This was the golden era, if you will, of calypso, pan and mas’. It was also the golden era of cricket. I was fortunate to have seen our heroes, Sir Andy Roberts and Sir Vivian Richards, play alongside immortals like Greenidge, Fredericks, Lloyd, Kallicharan, Kanhai, Rowe, Marshall, Holding, Garner, Croft. From 1975 to about 1994, fans of cricket were in Cricket Heaven as this iconic West Indies squad battled the greatest teams ever assembled from Australia (The Chappell brothers and Thompson and Lillee), India (Bede, Gavaskar and Chandrasekhar) and Pakistan (Sadiq and Mushtaq Mohammed and Imran Khan). It was something extraordinarily special; “a thing of beauty; a joy forever”. And listening to any one of the calypsos from back then will tell you all you need to know about the heydey of West Indies cricket. Consider, “No bowler holds a terror for Vivian Richards …” and “Australia say dem go kill West Indies/Sobers say dem we go stop.”

Wonderful memories indeed! Those were the days!

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