ARIMA THROUGH THE EYES OF A RECENTLY DECEASED CENTENARIAN
Francis Morean @ 4th November 2018.
(This is the seventh in a series of articles being published here by Francis Morean with the focus upon the history of Arima.)
It being Sunday, I was contemplating posting a piece about the tradition of river bathing among Arimians. I was contemplating posting some historical details about this practice as well as about the significance of “The Intake” and the “Old Ice Factory” in that tradition.
Several people have however been asking me questions about their genealogy and about the connections of Arima families to La Laja. I have therefore decided to settle for a bit of a compromise. The Intake and the Ice Factory both get an introductory mention in this post and I would go into more details about them in a few days. The majority of the information here is however about La Laja and the residents of Arima who had estates up there.
The late Elma Reyes wrote a beautiful article about that over 30 years ago and I plan to share excerpts from it when I post about her sometime soon. It should be clearly noted however that in the late 19th century and early 20th century, La Laja was the life blood of Arima.
An editorial in the San Fernando Gazette of September 1888 had described Arima as being “the very heart of a large cocoa district and the entrepot as it were, of a large trade in the immediate concerns of that culture”. Much of that cocoa came from the prolific fairly new estates at La Laja.
I am sharing two interviews today, which I conducted with the Grand Old Man of La Laja. He passed away a few years ago. I have conducted a significant amount of interviews with other Arimian elders who had estates at La Laja. I may publish a few more of those interviews if there is sufficient interest in them.
This first interview with Mr Beautaudier was conducted on Monday May 16th 2005 at his home on Prince Street in Arima. I have excised the questions which I had presented to him, so in some parts it may seem disjointed. I also cannot vouch for the spellings of all of the names that are mentioned, so corrections are welcome.
“Since I was a lil boy I knew the Intake there supplying Arima.
I was born on 5th April 1905.
Dr Manhin on Sorzano Street knows 2 to 3 people who are older than me in Arima.
When I was a lil boy 9 years old I would go there by the intake to bathe and catch fish – teta, sardine, coscarob. Very rarely we would catch crayfish but they were there. The Borough had a building up there.
When I was a lil boy the Ice Factory was already there. It belonged to Maurice Quesnel. Max Herde was the manager of the estate. I think the Government took over after.
At the head of Queen Street was the Old Reservoir when I was a lil boy. It is still there. The lodge was and is still there. That is the Freemason’s Lodge.
I was born in Cumuto and came here as a little boy. Holly is my cousin. Ma David, his mother, was my aunt.
All my garden (in La Laja) is about twenty acres. Lenny has his estate up there and he takes care of it for me and brings it (the produce) down for me. The tapia house and cocoa house are still there.
Providence is at the boundary of La Laja and Guanapo. My daughter will take care of it. Four years ago I stopped going up back but last week I was there.
Mr No was an old hunter. He lived behind the cemetery on de Gannes Street. He died when I was a boy. He was a Spanish.
From here, when you go up Prince Street here to Church Street corner, the second house, a tall house, Mr No has a son called Mitchell. He lives on Church Street right after Pacheco on the right hand side. He should be retired.
My mother, Maria Netto was a Carib from Calvary. I did not know her. She died when I was very small. In those days Calvary was a high woods with kokerite, pois doux and gru gru boeuf.
There were not much people living there. All the streets were gravel in Arima. None were paved. Everybody had lamp. There was no electricity.
Old people in Arima at the time were the Wallen, Challeries, de Gannes, O’Briens, Madeiras.
The Blanchisseuse Road from Waller Field up to the 4 mile was opened up by the Americans during World War 2 to obtain ‘blue metal’ to build the Bypass Road and the Waller Field Roads on solid foundations.
The Americans removed plenty of the curves and straightened parts of it.
Before that, the road was just gravel all the way to Blanchisseuse. Arima had no cars until Paul Auyoung bought an “Overland” to Arima. Then Yanees, some Spanish people on Sorzano Street brought a Buick. Then Carmona, some Spanish people in King Street with bee hives brought a little 2 seater car running with chains like a bicycle.
He, Carmona had an estate in Agua Santa. Is not today I am talking about. They lived at the head of King Street and Longden Street.
King Street and Longden Streets were the last cross streets in Arima. His was a wooden house.
The Carib Queen in those days when I was about 15-16 years was Ma Werges. She was the first that I knew. There were two Ma Werges who were queens that I knew.
Torrecilla belonged to Strickland when I knew it. I never saw the owner but his son was a big young man who came to Arima with a buggy drawn by horse. I knew Dr Mason. He was the last ‘person’ there.
I do not know of any old road that went from Arima to Cumuto in those days.
The Caribs lived in tapia houses covered in timite that they collected from Valencia Long Stretch, or with kokerite.
Wallen in Church Street was the last timite house that I knew in Arima proper. I was already a big man 20 years old.
He donated the Dial. They had money.
Carnival was nice. They had the Millionaire Bands. They stuck real money on their chests.
They had clowns, tamboo bamboo, jab jab.
The Aleongs lived on Quesnel Street on Cocorite Road when I was a lil boy. They are still there.
Cocorital estate was on the Bypass Road. As a boy I understand that they had some Indians on Verdant Vale estate.
In the old days a short Indian guy brought mails from Arima to Blanchisseuse. I knew his name. It was a bridle road to walk to Blanchisseuse. A donkey or mule could pass. No wheel traffic could have gone there.
When the first car came I was a boy.
I never visited the Guacharo Cave.
The first time I went to La Laja I was about 30 years old. Everything was just mud. There was not even gravel. Only donkey could have gone there. They used drills, crowbars (these were bigger than the drills) and pick axe and shovel and tattoo men and women who carried dirt on tray on their head.
The donkey trail went at least as far as the 5 mp. We played cricket and rounders in those days.
There were 2 grounds. The first was on Marquis Estate on exactly the 3 and three quarter mile mark.
Simyung was almost exactly one mile.
Leaving half mile on the La Laja Road was called Cabesterre. Then when you reach Windblow and you leaving Cabesterre you say you going down to La Laja.
The Heights of Arima was more from Windblow to Guanapo.
I do not know why it is called La Laja.
Marquis Savannah was on the right hand side in going in. There was a long barracks next to the savannah.
The second playground belonged to Johnson. That was between the Paria Trail and the La Laja trail on top the bank there. It was near to Louis Sorzano’s house.
Marquis spot was later sold to Da Silva.
In my young days everybody killing pigs.
La Laja was a nice village when I was 30 years old. You had the Mannettes living up there on the estate and with their home in Sorzano Street. They sold sugar cakes every Sunday. Once there was no rains in the dry season every Sunday had rounders and cricket. Johnson Savannah was the better spot. It was opened after Marquis Savannah was closed.
Everybody up there had estates or contracts. De Ramos had estate.Madeira! Chin – Affat!
La Laja Branch Road was better than today. All the branch traces had “contineers” (cantoniers) who had men working for them to keep the roads in proper condition. And they said Trinidad had no money in those days?! Now they have money and the whole La Laja Road in bad condition. The whole main road in La Laja is in a bad condition. They not doing anything. No repairs!
Everybody had their own cocoa houses.
As the old ones died out the young ones moved up.
All the Scotts died out.
Some Indian people called “Moon” came late to live down the hill by Simyung. They have 2 daughters. One is a nurse. (…)
Derrill was there before Robbie Naipaul on the spot on the corner. He was a dark guy.
Noor was on that spot before Derril. He was a great Spanish hunter.
In the early 1950s people began planting anthuriums up there.
I knew Charlie Meyer very well. He had a son called Karl Meyer who has a business on Chacon Street in POS. They had no business in Arima. Karl is an architect or something or a building contractor.
Those days were full of mapipire but the area does not have as much today.
In the old days there was a big quarry on the 3 and 3 quarter mile on the La Laja Road that was used to provide “blue metal” to build the La Laja Road itself.
That piece of land bounds with de Ramos Lands. All there was reserve forest. The Government had a sign there. All the “metal” was removed from the forest reserve.
In those days I walked from here all the way to the 5 mile. We leave here at 5 am. When we reach the junction of the Arima – Blanchisseuse Road and the La Laja Road there was a little kerb wall where we would put our load and then drink a lil coffee. I and my uncle used to go alone on those walks.
Below La Laja Junction had an estate.
Boiselle living near Holy Cross College has a parlour at the top of Marie Street. He still goes up there to La Laja. He is also probably the oldest person there. He is cross 70 years. (He was actually 78 years old when I visited him on Sunday 22nd May, 2005).
Mr Shirley is still alive. He lives on Mausica Street at the end of Broadway.)))
The following notes are from the second interview with Mr Beautaudier. This was conducted in 2011.
((((When I first know La Laja, I was still a boy. My father had estates up there.
Ma Nathan was a Marcano before she became a Nathan.
We had cricket, rounders. On Marquis Estate had a savannah where they played cricket almost every Sunday when it was during the rainy season and it had no rain. When you hit the ball it go down in the cocoa.
Those days you had to walk. All they had was donkey and mule. Paul Sanchez had a horse. Ma Nathan had a horse.
I had plenty anthuriums and we used to take orders. We had plenty, plenty. I can’t remember where we got the plants.
Chin-a-Fatt had a shop.
They had a big school in La Laja. It was close to the road. I can’t remember the name of the headmaster or how long the school lasted.
Up there had plenty mapipire. Everybody was afraid of mapipire up there. Mapipire was not a snake to play with.
My estate was on Chin Affat Trace. Only donkey and mules could have gone down on that road in those days.
Paul Sanchez and Ma Nathan both owned one horse however everybody else had just donkeys and mules. I never had any. I used to rent a donkey whenever I had load. Some of the estate owners used to rent out their donkeys. Paul Sanchez did not have any horse cart. In those days had no road for horse cart or wheel traffic in La Laja. Nobody had any great amount of donkeys up there. Almost everybody had one, one donkey.
My estate had oranges, cocoa, coffee and big plantains and fig. My estate had a cocoa house. I met it there. The old man Mannette was a carpenter. He built almost all the cocoa houses in La Laja. Almost all the houses were tapia. People built the tapia houses and then Mannette would come and build the drying houses on top. He was a builder and would build anything that you gave him to do. Sometimes he built the rails for the cocoa house to run upon out of wood. All the drying houses did not have wheels and metal rails.
De Silva was a Portuguese.
Mayzeera was an old family in La Laja. They had house in La Laja and house in Arima. When they come from the country they come to their home in Arima. Almost all the people living in La Laja also had their houses in Arima. When they bring down their cocoa and coffee is to Marlay, Pereira and other shops in Arima that they used to sell it. Chin Affat in La Laja also had a cocoa store on Woodford Street in Arima.
Whenever people in La Laja were drying their cocoa they had to stay in La Laja all the time. You can’t come down! How you will come down? You had to depend upon the weather. When the cocoa done dry, then you coming down.
When you have plenty cocoa to dry what you coming down for? Is the cocoa you want, you know. You stay up and dry your cocoa. When the cocoa dry then you coming down. Everybody coming down. Cause when you working with me I have to pay you with the cocoa money. You depending upon nothing else but that cocoa that you drying. Is the cocoa that have to pay you, you know. I coming down with the cocoa. You are not coming down and leaving the cocoa behind. When that coming down, everybody coming down. Who have to get pay coming.
Doris Chambers was my wife. She used to be up there with me. Sometimes she is up there. Sometimes she is down there.
Most of the people in the country (La Laja) does be dealing in a shop because not every day you have money in your hand. The shops used to give credit. La Laja had a shop that was owned by an estate owner. That was the same De Silva. It was a small shop. You can’t expect big shop up in the country. I never bought in the shop in La Laja. I never had cause to. I only knew that De Silva had a shop there and that is all. I would not leave goods in Arima to go and buy goods in La Laja.
When I going up to La Laja I buy all that I want and I carry up. You had to walk from Arima to La Laja with the goods on your head or on your back. If you going La Laja or Paria, is walk you had to walk.
You had to leave early to go up ‘cause if you going up in the day time is plenty hot sun you had to take. If you want to walk in the hot sun is up to you. Everything in those days was walking. Is you had to walk. If you wanted to walk in the cool, you had to leave early. Some people walk fast, some people walk slow, so you cannot average how long it will take to reach La Laja. It all depends on you, you had to know how fast you could walk and you have to average what time that you could leave to walk. When you going up you might sit down for a while, when you walk a distance of four to five miles and you stop and you take out your Icy-Hot and you drink a little coffee and then you continue. In those days almost everybody had an Icy-Hot. I won’t say everybody, but the majority of people had an Icy-Hot because depending upon the distance you going, you must have your Icy-Hot.
When you going up you stop a little by Paul Sanchez. You stop by Simyung a lil while. Paul Sanchez and them had a line of portugal and orange trees on the side of the road on their estate.
I had a few clove trees and spice trees well. I used to sell nutmegs. I had a few nutmeg trees all right. I had a big, big mammee apple tree. I also had two smaller bearing trees. They had really big fruits. People used to come and pick up that for they self. I did not used to sell that. I met the trees there. The really big tree like it was there even before I was born. I never had shapot. I only had one clove tree and one spice tree.
Up there on my estate had plenty of the pawi. It is a bird. It tasted alright depending upon how you cook it. I was never a big hunter, but I use to go and sentry sometimes for gouti, lappe and deer. There used to be plenty animals in those days. Oh yes, not like now. Now don’t have animals. Now people shooting animals in their holes. In those days that I am speaking about is not yesterday you know. The pawi used to feed upon all kinds of seeds. Up there had plenty rammier as well. I used to shoot them for meat. They just like a pigeon. They had plenty meat. They used to fly in bands. They also fed upon different seeds. Up there had plenty grempo as well. But that is a lil bird. Nobody really hunted that.
Cigal doh have no special time they does sing.
Nathan Paul was an old man. He was the husband of Ma Nathan.
Barnwell had lands at the junction of La Laja Road.
There was an Indian woman called Dolly living there in La Laja with her husband but I did not know her. They were up on the hill on the road to Paria.
I never met Dr. Beebe.
Arnold dead long time now. He had a big estate in La Laja Road. It was in La Laja self you know, but on the road.
De Nobriga was way down inside. I forget what they call there. I do not call there La Laja.
In the old days people could have walked from Arima to Paria through La Laja. From Paria you could have walked straight to Blanchisseuse.
Derril was a creole fella who had a small estate on the La Laja Road that was bounding with Simyung.
I am one hundred and six years now. My sight is not good and my memory is not good, however other than that I am as fit as a fiddle. I have no pains. But with the grace of God I hope to make another six years.
A few years ago, I was cutting anthuriums on a hillside and I slipped and fell and hit my head. After that my sight began to deteriorate. I lost my memory and my sight has not been as good as before. I fell backwards and when I slid down the hill I held on to a lil coffee tree. But the tree was dead and dry and it broke and I fell and hurt my head.
Sometimes my daughter would complain, “You alone up there!” but I never move alone. It was me and God. If you study snake and those things you would not go La Laja. Up there had a tigre that used to come out from under the cocoa and come under my house and feed on all the rats that were under my house. From the time that that snake came there, not a rat could be seen. Before that I would see rats fighting all over the place in my kitchen. I could not kill that snake! It became my friend!
I liked everything in La Laja. La Laja is a nice place. The place was nice. All the old heads have died out and new people have taken their place.
La Laja is not the same as before, but it is still a very nice place. There were old people like Lil and Lel, two brothers who lived close to each other. You could not leave by them until you drank some coffee.))))