LENNY BOISELLE AND THE MOVEMENTS OF (LA LA) JAH PEOPLE.
Francis Morean @ 6th November 2018.
(This is the eight in a series of articles being published here by Francis Morean with the focus upon the history of Arima.)
After a while
We came to know these roads
Like friends, like brothers, like lovers
To-ing and Fro-ing from our hillside ajoupas
In the heights of Arima
Windblow and La Laja.
We walked with heavy loads
Of cocoa, of plantain and of anthurium flowers
Aching and bending below bags of yamatoota
Dasheen, eddoes and all sizes of tannia
And roots of bitter cassava.
Yet despite our heavy loads
Unburdened oft’’ we were, by showers
of blessing, from heaven like manna.
The sweetness of rain water
Lightened the weights on our shoulder.
While the croaking of toads
And the frogs, punk-ah-nahs,
Would have led Lord Kitchener
With their piano-less forest sonata
To a new tune, for Nu Tones and Sforzata.
With their musical codes
Honey bees sip from flowering Lantana
And from Apis mellifera
An amazing orchestra
Bee’s symphony! A Minor!
I wrote this poem many moons ago based upon my experiences when I lived at La Laja. Almost everyone who has lived at La Laja has gone through some sort of experience like this if for any reason they did not have transportation of their own. In fact, it was through those experiences that I got to know most of the farmers and residents at La Laja during my periods of residence there. Among them was the late Lennard “Lenny” Boisselle. May God bless his soul.
Based upon the evident popularity of this gentleman to the old Holy Cross boys in these Arima Facebook groups, I have decided to tell a bit of the history of Arima and its connection to La Laja through the voice of Mr. Boiselle. They would also learn something new about the connection between Mr. Boiselle and the location of their old school. As I did with “Mr. Gubs”, I am sharing extracts from two interviews, which I did with Mr. Boiselle. Like most of the older farmers in the beautiful hermitage, he had an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of La Laja. In fact, many of his experiences and concerns about the decline of La Laja mirrored those of Mr. Beautaudier.
The first interview here was conducted at his residence on Sunday 22nd May 2005.
There is quite a bit of repetition of information in the both interviews, however I have decided to still share them in this way.
Arnold was a contractor on the La Laja side roads. Patsy was the last foreman on the main road. He lived Longden Road. He had a snackette by Chung on Mt. Pleasant. By Toree Chin, and “Paul Sanchez” all vehicles have to stop.
My son goes up there once a week to drop me. I was seventy-nine years old in January. Every Thursday half past six in the morning we leave to go up.
It discourages the youngsters from going on the land. I have three sons. If I close my eye you think they will go? Thursday a crew of four cutlasses and two water carriers were there. All the vines across the road are mashing up the anthuriums on top my van. I have to carry up boulders and cement to patch the roads.
Beautaudier had twenty-one acres (>>>). I have been in the La Laja for forty-five years now. But before that from the age of nine I used to leave here with my father. He used to watch the stars to tell the time. Our donkey carried the load and we walked and we would reach La Laja before dayclean. As we passing going up everybody stopping you to give you some coffee.
I am seventy eight. I will be seventy-nine next January. I was born on 19th January 1927.
The Blanchisseuse Road was gravel. That road was cut with pickaxe. The La Laja Road was dirt all the way inside. Sometimes the donkey foot would stick in the mud and you had to pull it out. On La Laja Road, the first estates on both sides were the Old Barnwell with his three sons. He had a tapia house up on the bamboo.
The next estate was my grandmother by mother. She later sold it to Sankar Maharaj – five to six acres with a lot of bearing cocoa, oranges, and avocados. Sankar then sold it to Toree Chin. He is still alive. He was a checker in the borough. He lives De Gannes street.
Then Look Yong – a kinda Spanish.
Then Paul Sanchez.
Then Ma Reece (She is dead). She lived where Amalgamated Security is behind the Girls School.
Ceyline bought Sankar’s land on the main road and he bought the land of Ma Reece.
Then “Simyung” took over the high woods land – that was later.
Then the Indians down the hill.
Then James Sashaw – he sold to Derrill Alexander (my uncle). He sold it to Naipaul. The landslide came down there recently.
Then Cooker Trace. Up there had no roads. Clarke was the first owner I knew in there. He sold it to a woman. The stone cliff is on his land.
When that road cut, I had not yet bought my lands. Derril’s tapia house was close to the main road. He had three sons and one daughter – she died last year near to me. He had lands in Paria and when I was a lil boy a mapipire hit him in Paria.
Then the High Woods.
Then the Branch Trace was always there. Celestine, a Creole was down there. He sold there to Shirley. Shirley sold it to a Spanish man with latest honey bees. Shirley also bought piece “lately” from an Indian man from Curepe called Mr. Maraj.
Then Lawrence bought the same year with me from Papa Nelson – a well known and leading Arima druggist. Then he –Lawrence Sorzano- bought a five-acre block from Moolchan, previously owned by Pwes.
Then the bridge.
Then de Silva estate on the right hand side. Marquis was on that spot before. It was a sixty-six acres estate with about fifteen to twenty mules. Before La Laja Junction on the left hand side in Barnwell’s land had a big sweat farmers like a depot where the Baccra Johnnies who had trucks would collect the cocoa, logs, people, everything. Before the bridge on the left hand side in going in on Pwes estate was an old quarry for the government road.
Marquis estate had a savannah about two acres fenced around with tiger wire. He used it as a grazing ground and a cricket field part time. Lots of girls lived there. He had a big house up there apart from the barracks. They lived there. On the road on the right hand side after Marquis was a Spanish guy called Kiwi. He sold it to Marquis or de Silva.
Then there was a Spanish “Coffee agent” called Lell on the left hand side. Arnold was not there yet in the mud road days.
Those days the road had lot of snakes and manicou crabs. Now crabs get scarce. After Lell was the second bridge. Marquis later bought that spot – he amalgamated several small pieces
Cyprian Alexander was my uncle’s brother. He was on the left hand side by the next bridge. He sold it to a Scott. Scott’s son is there now. He had cocoa.
Then Beatudier Branch Trace.
Lowl Chin Affat (the father) of Torey on the left hand side had a really big cocoa house. Then Mr. Eta Mannette bounded with Chin Affat on the left hand side but they had lands that were on the right hand side as well. Then further down was Maingot . The Government divided this to three.
My father’s estate was on top of Vialva and bounding with Maingot.
Then Metico (dead long years) after Maingot.
Arouca sawmill bought out Metico. He died. He was from Arima.
Then from Metico to Providence was a few hours. Providence was the last estate. I did not know the people there. A Creole called Sook was on the hill above me. He was on his own estate.
After Cangrejal #1, was the estate of Hosein, F.E.M. (>>>>)
On the Paria Road I never went there. The Paria trail was a donkey trail. I am ¼ mile from the pool. I influenced Lionel Robinson to visit up there to cut a road. Robinson had bought lands in Tobago and he wanted help. Robinson organized for a free cutting to the four estates up there but the man before me wanted the government to pay him for his cocoa, which had to be destroyed to cut the road. Eventually, they came back one or two months later and cut the road out. The turn table is in front of me. I have to maintain the road at my expense.
They used to give me free cocoa plants. Now is a $1.00 for one. No subsidy for transport. To get the subsidy on a blower or power saw you have to have the capital to buy the tools first. My father was Lucien Boisselle from Maraval. My mother was Felicia (neé Alexander) Boisselle. All by the lawn tennis court and the cemetery was gravel.
Arima savannah was an animal pasture. Hosein lives in the joining of Hosein Street and Queen Street near to Henry Kong. He has the ten acres. He and his sister lives there. He is very old. They both have no children. Hosein and Betaudier are good friends. He (Hosein) is my real pal. It takes two hours to get from the lands at La Laja to the Blanchisseuse Road.
The road crew up there was only given one month for La Laja Road. Two years they have not been there. That crew has to work-
1. Dump Road
2. 15 Miles
3. La Laja
4. Santa Rosa
Up there have plenty butterfly orchid. My lands had a small clump of anthuriums. Lawrence lands had a lot. I have black pepper and clove on my land. Osuji bought piece from Ceyline. A Chinese woman also bought piece from Ceyline.
Shirley sold the piece from Maraj to his daughter. She was robbed lately. Seeboo deceased has a daughter down by Shirley. He (Seeboo) was an old Indian in my old days. All by Murphy Quarry had a barrack with “bong coolie”. Dalipsingh father came “bong”.
The first Murphy was the overseer for Connell. Connell was also owner of the Arima Ice Factory. The first Murphy was the father of Connell madam. (I think there may be an error here) She lived in the stone house on the main road fencing going into Texstyle mill. If she is alive she (!!!) would be very old. Connell was very old. I knew him. All here where I (Boiselle) live was part of Herde’s Estate. All here was a dirt road when I first built (my house) here.
I grew up in a timite and mud house on the spot where the circular church is now. We were renting from the church and they put us out. Up here was mainly cashews, mangoes, and other fruits growing in guava field. There was not as many fat pork here as there is in the present.
Ricardo Hernandez’s mother was my niece. She was the daughter of my oldest brother. I am the second of seven brothers. If he (my brother Leo) was alive he would have been ninety. Those days there was only straw houses and people used to set fires (in the night) when we were little boys. One day the straw on fire from one house floated across and caught another house afire.
Melsay was an old old man when I was a boy. He had children.
Toto was an old Carib.
Here was so stony that chaconia hardly grew. There was plenty manicou figs.
The roads are in a bad condition. All those roads up there badly need cutting.
It hurt me when I went Valencia last week to sell coffee and it hurt me to see men painting stone and cutting low grass.
“Moon” below Simyung is dead. His daughter is a nurse.
Gerard Cabralis (Plaits) father was by de Noreiga. He was in charge of an estate called Grand Caura. His father was a little older than me. Amigo died recently. I bought my piece in high woods from a woman called Mannin Manette.
I had hogs and about six cows but the vet could not go there.
My father worked on Dr. Mason’s cocoa estate. When cocoa decline Dr. Mason began to mind cows there. The river was the boundary. (>>>)
Dr. Pierre had a five acres just before Windblow that they sold to some Indians. Alan Peters (dead) from Maracas. He bought it from de Silva. It belongs now to his daughter in Canada.
The second interview was conducted in early 2011. I cannot vouch for all of the genealogical information he provided me and I have removed some from both interviews. There are inherent risks in publishing this sort of information from elders. Some people may be happy to learn more about their ancestors. Some may experience shock, disbelief and other related emotions. Those are always challenging judgment calls for persons conducting this sort of research. Whatever the case may be, my desire is to inform rather than offend.
“My estate is the last one on the La Laja – Paria Branch Road. The first time I went to La Laja I was nine years old. I went there with my father Lucien Boisselle. He was originally from Maraval but he had rented a lot of land in Calvary from the Roman Catholic Church, with a thrash house. It was on the spot where Holy Cross Church is now located. Then the Church wanted to put up the building so they gave us notice. My father was still alive. Then I began to rent here about forty years ago from Herde Estate. My father died before I came here.
I was born on the old spot. While we were living there he bought the lands on La Laja. I was born on January 19th, 1927. My father bought the lands in around 1936. We had a donkey that provided our transportation to La Laja. Two o’clock in the morning sometimes we would leave to go to La Laja. The old people had no clock so they had to look at the stars. Sometimes when we reached up it was still dark.
In going up they used to put me to sit down in the crook of the donkey. In coming down I had to walk because the donkey had to bring down load. My father had eight children. I was the fifth child.
La Laja was very bright in those days. Now it is dead, too dead. Every house we passed we had to stop and drink coffee. Other people quarrelling with you. As a little boy I used to be vex because I did not like to drink coffee and in every house had a pan of coffee already warm on the fire and when they called you they would just ‘chook’ a little wood under the fire to heat it up. There was a man from Venezuela called Sanchez who made a strong black coffee with no milk and barely any sugar. My father told me it used to taste bitter. The Venezuelan man had a son called Paul Sanchez. Claudie Sanchez in Valencia is the nephew of Paul Sanchez.
The big estates were owned by de Silva, de Ramos and Ma Nathan. De Silva had about seventy-something acres. De Ramos was about seventy acres. Ma Nathan had two pieces. She had bought one piece off Chin Affatt.
Derril was my mother’s brother. He was from Arima. His estate had cush-cush, peewah, cocoa, coffee, nutmeg. Derril died about ten years ago. Derril’s wife was the daughter of Ma Werges. He was black like you. She was a light-skinned woman. He had placed the property on her name, but later on she put him out and sold the property to Naipaul. He tried to get it back in the Court and he failed. I think his name was Derill London. Derill was my mother’s brother.
Before Derill’s wife sold the property, a road was cut to go down the hill by Moon. Moon and Zita were very close. Moon was from Arouca. Her daughter is a nurse who is still there in Arouca. De Ramos estate was sold to the old Moolchan. He was a Warden Officer from the Sangre Grande office. He was a kinda Indian dougla. He died and his two sons took over the property.
The sister of Lawrence son-in-law is Baby. She is part of Ma Nathan Estate. Ma Nathan lived on that spot first and then bought a piece of about fifty to sixty acreas from Chin Afatt. Chin Afatt was the uncle of Dr. Manhin and the father of Toree Chin. Toree Chin estate is just after Paul Sanchez estate. When you pass Paul Sanchez cocoa house – you have to go down a good distance of about three hundred feet from the road to see the house – then you meet Toree Chin estate.
After Toree Chin is the piece of land that Ceyline sold to the African Doctor and to a Chinese woman. That was the estate of Maharaj. Ceyline had got it from her. Ma. Reece had a sister who was a Post Mistress in Arima. Celine was the one who planted the pine trees. Gowtam’s uncle was bounding with Ma Reece. Ceyline claimed that he buried the uncle. The matter went to Court and Ceyline got piece and the Gowtam’s uncle son got. That land also bounded with Simyung.
The cocoa house that burnt down where Ceyline lived was part of Gowtam’s uncle’s land. The piece above Derrill and between Windblow belonged to a man called Clarke. That bordered with State Lands. The five acres between Simyung and Derril was sold to a doctor who is planting timber now. Derill had two pieces of about eight acres each.
There was a quarry between Moolchan lands and the Government lands.
Before Moolchan estate there is a point on the left hand side where water comes through the rock (before the one with the bamboo spout). After you pass the piece that Lawrence sold to Asa Wright there is a pommerac tree on the left hand side. The quarry was there. Same quarry. There is an old board house on the hill above the pommerac tree. There is a whole hillside there with anthuriums. All there is Moolchan land.
But when I was a boy all there had signs saying “Government Reserve”. Cyril was the caretaker of Moolchan Estate and he sold a lot of wood from that hillside. My lands are before Plaits. I have ten acres.
My father’s five acres was on the left hand side after we passed Baby. Up the hill after you passed Jersey. Jersey was a Williams. Shirley was down by Duchess. He and Duchess were family. Shirley bought his lands from a fella from Curepe called Maharaj. My father’s was on the hill above Dolly’s Bridge. Lawrence Sorzano or had a contract to maintain the Dolly bridge.
A man from Arima called Lenny who worked WASA had applied for that land (ten or fifteen acres) around the same time that I bought lands up in La Laja. I purchased my lands from the Mannette. The big landslide on the right hand side was on the Moolchan Estate. There were two Mannette brothers. One was David Manette and one was Etta Mannette. David Manette is bounding with Scott down the hill. (>>>>>).
When I was a lil boy everybody had their own cocoa house. Only Paul Sanchez and Betaudier and maybe Simyung still have cocoa house.
No No is the grandson of de Silva.
By the big balata on the right hand side after Moolchan and also after the bridge has a big cocoa house that is still hidden in the bush.
I believe that Allan Peters purchased that piece of land from de Silva’s daughter, which was the daughter of No No. No No normally parks his car by Simyung.
Allan Peters was from a brown-skinned tall big whitish man from St. Joseph. He had a furniture shop that provided furniture to schools. He also had a grocery on St. Joseph. He left all those lands for his daughter in Canada. She is married to a Chinese. I believe that No No and Allan Peters are related.
Simyung came recently. Zita was his wife up there and she made a set of children from Simyung. Zita is a Quintero. She is about my age. I believe that she was born on the four mile. Percy Quintero was her brother. John Quintero was her brother. They are pumpkin vine family to my mother. Carli is her son.
Simyung has a son called Boyd who drove a jeep. He is a solidly built man. When I was a lil boy it was just a bridle all the way to Paria and Guanapo. That used to be the main route to Paria until they opened up the Blanchisseuse Road and then the Paria Road. When they began cutting the road to La Laja I was about nine or ten years old. They cut it with drill and pick axe. It was only about a quarter mile and it reached approximately by the quarter mile where there is a cylinder but the water runs across the road and comes down as a waterfall on Arima Blanchisseuse Road by Ceyline. During the dry season it dries out.
Then years after they brought a tractor when I was about twenty five to thirty years and they cut as far as Derrill spot. Derrill had not bought it as yet. When Derrill bought it he had one donkey and we used to rent it at two dollars per day to bring out load from the five acres. We had to lash that donkey a lot to get it to work. I believe that the donkey did not get enough work so it got lazy. Later on they cut from by Derril to further inside.
The road to Windblow was called Clarke Road. A Creole man called Clarke had a big estate inside there with cocoa and coffee. I used to take out load for him from there with my four-wheel drive. Clarke died and his son sold out the estate.
The road to Windblow was cut during Eric Williams’ time. The road to Paria was cut when Lionel Robinson was the Minister of Agriculture. He knew about land. I have to thank him a lot for opening up those lands. We had to give a lot of produce to the men who cut that road. I had to sacrifice a piece of that land where I had a pasture in order for that road to be cut.
In coming up there you meet Zita on the left hand side before me, but her land is not bounding on the road. She has about eight or ten acres.
Jersey’s wife is dead. She planted lands down inside with Indian Baby.
My lands are bounding with the Government.
The road down by Duchess was cut by the Government. The wheel track was the drain on both sides and they came and they grade the middle of the road to go down the hill.
They had a big road opening but I told people that the road had been built without any foundation. It is a nice place and the road is near to Arima.
In the old days they had contineers. They had contracts to maintain the roads. The roads were much better maintained in those days. In those days Tripp Trace and Santa Isabella Estates had very well-maintained roads. One thing though, was that there were very big mapipire and other snakes which would come and lie down in the middle of the road to take sun.
As – dash a bag of corn on the snake.
As a young boy I squatted up there for a while on that estate.
A fella called Paul de Ramos said that he was in charge. I was fifteen going on twenty and he gave a set of us permission to squat up there. I cut out two acres and planted patchoi, mustard, cush cush and corn. One ear of corn there was over a foot long and we did not even put any fertilizer. We used to look for the balisier land and cut out the balisier. As they shoot out we pull out they heart and they could not survive. Eventually they rotten and formed more fertilizer. The cocoa house up there had already rotted and fallen down.
The contineers maintained that road for the Government. It went about two miles up and was as wide as my gallery. It was wide enough for mule carts.
Zita was up inside Tripp Trace. Zita’s brother had about forty acres up there. Bravo who died last year was left the lands by Percy. (>>>>) Percy left it for his nephew, Bravo.
Tripp Trace had big estate. Ramjit had bought some lands up there at one time. He then sold it and bought lands on the Arima-Blanchisseuse Road from somebody. He and I were great friends. He was working watching in the Americans Scott Quarry and he saved his money and bought the lands in Arima-Blanchisseuse Road after he had already been married. He had no money in the beginning. He was with Chunkat’s sister. Nobody wanted to marry her because she had a health problem. He married her right there on the five mile. I was in the wedding.
Sorzano and I knew each other in Calvary as young fellas, but were not friends. Sorzano used to trim a Chinese banker who became a close friend and arranged a loan for him. He and I bought lands in La Laja around the same time and we became friends that way. When I told him that I had bought piece of land up there he told me, “I bought piece of land from up there last week.”
When he sold the piece to Asa Wright and they did not work it, he was disappointed. Asa Wright Nature Centre only buying lands to grow up in high woods and forest. They don’t’ care. They are not easy.
Arnold (WD) was a Spanish fella from Paria. He was a rummy. He drank poison by accident thinking that it was rum. He got it from de Silva Estate. He started to vomit and Lawrence had to bring him down a Carnival time. Lawrence did not like Carnival so he was up there.
Patsy was the step-son of Arnold. Patsy was also from Paria. His brother, Leorie was working on the road with County.
Old Barnwell son had three sons. One lived near All Aces on Broadway. They owned both sides of the bottom of La Laja Road. They were bounding with Toree Chin.
Toree Chin lives on de Gannes Street near Henry Kong Chinese Shop.
Hamid and I were really partners. He wired this house for me. Barnwell’s tapia house was on top the hill by Toree Chin.
Simyung was a foreman with Paltu. I believe that Simyung bought his lands from Paltu. When I was a boy a big deer had lied down under a big zaboca tree across the road from where Simyung built his house. I was around ten years old. It was the first time that I had seen a deer. I was with my father on the donkey and we had stopped to pick up zaboca the same way that we used to pick up mango. When it got up and ran off I saw it and it scared me. I bawled like a cow and I jumped. My father told me that it was a deer. My father died at approximately sixty years.
James Sashew was a Vincentian. He sold both pieces to Derrill and then he bought a piece in Paria where he went to plant. He also had a house in Arima. He had three sons. A snake killed him while he was in a dasheen patch. He did not get transport in time to bring him down. The main transport in those days from Paria was the Backra Johnnys from Olton Road with the sawmill. The sawmill is dead out now.
Pwes was the nephew of de Ramos. He was a kind of French-Spanish. They played tennis up there. The wives of the Mannette people came and sold sugar cake.
Celestine was in charge of his uncle’s land. He was a tall, tall fella.
Marquis was kinda French Creole.
De Silva made wines on the estate. That was the grandfather of No No.
Gowtam had a sweat house. You put cocoa there first for a few days and let it sweat and after two or three days a lot of water would come out and then you put it on top the cocoa house to dry. The sweat house was about the size of my gallery.
All on the side of the road there were sweat houses on all the estates on the Arima-Blanchisseuse Road. In those days nobody was stealing.
The Backra Johnnys would give us a drop to bring down our cocoa from La Laja. We used to sit down with our cocoa on top of the logs.
Marquis had lots of donkeys and horses. He used to collect his cocoa after it dried and bagged off and he would drop it by the turntable by Derril. From there he would hire a vehicle to take Arima. Arima had about three cocoa buyers: Henry Kong, Affat and Marlay.
Kiwi had a ten-acre estate further in from the main road. There was a road on the right hand side after Marquis that led to Kiwi estate. Government maintained that road. Lall was on the hill on the road to go by me. He was from Calvary by Lawrence.
Arnold had lands where the big sign board is located on the road to by me. Arnold sold it to an old Indian man called Dowden (alive). He lives before the Backra sawmill, on the left hand side. He was in my class and he joined the forestry. Dowden sold to doctor.
The first bridge is by Sorzano and the second bridge by the pool.
My uncle Sipweeyeh had lands in Paria as well.
The lands of David Mannette and Etta Mannette were bounding.
A big piece, a few acres well, of Chin Affat’s lands crossed the road but only a small piece of Mannette.
A big piece, about an acre of Scott’s lands also crosses the road.
Jersey is on a piece of Maingot’s land. I only heard about him. The Government forfeited his land.
Vialva was a Spanish fella. He had a sweet drink factory right where the bank is now. Vialva left it for Franklyn (deceased) and then Franklyn swapped it with a piece of Vialva’s land. A man from Mausica swapped with Franklyn. Franklyn took the piece outside. He lived opposite Hearty Foods in a pretty old house that he also got from Vialva. His wife was Vialva’s godchild and Vialva gave the wife that house and land as a present.
Metico’s land bounded with Dolly’s land. I did not know her. I only heard the land being called Dolly’s land but she lived in Arima.
We already passed Jersey. By Jersey ravine needs a bridge but they would have to blast that stone.
Metico was a black Creole man. He sold his lands to an uncle of Jersey called Sonny. Sonny sold it to a sawmill from Arouca. It was a nice estate with about fifteen to twenty acres of mainly coffee.
Seeboo was the owner of the estate on the Branch Road that Shirley bought out. Shirley’s mother was family to Seeboo. Shirley had Indian in him.
My mother worked picking up coffee and cocoa and avocadoes on Herde Estate. It was called Dr. Marie Estate. He was a Frenchman. They would only sell it to another Frenchman. That was how Herde bought it. He got it for about eighty or ninety thousand dollars.
We rented first from Dr. Marie at six dollars per year. Now it is over two hundred dollars per year.
Dr. Pierre sold his five acres to the timber doctor.”