Memories of Arima – Lynette Pietro (nee Belle-Smythe)

I was only 4 years old when my family moved from Tunapuna to Nettoville, in the Borough of Arima, a small village built and owned by Mr. Charles Netto, a prominent businessman. I believe he was also the Mayor of Arima at one time.

Schooling in Arima

My very first school was run by a middle-aged woman (Mrs. Andrews) in her home on Elliot Street in Nettoville, a short distance from our home at the corner of Charles Street and Netto Ave.

There, I learned to read and write and when I turned five, I attended the Arima Girls’ Government School, to study for the subjects that allowed entry into High School.

At age 16, I was granted a scholarship to attend “The Arima High School” a privately run High School run by Mr. Archibald Hinds on Pro Queen Street in Arima.

”Bolae” as his students fondly called him, was a hard task-master, who insisted that we all study eight subjects for the Senior Cambridge Exam. I managed to acquire a Grade two Certificate.

I am proud to say that Arima is, in my memory, the town where I did almost everything……academics, housekeeping, gardening, building friendships (some of which I still have) and the early appreciation of music and singing.

Music

We had a “ Redifusion” radio (on the wall) from which my mother and Grandmother listened to the daily Soaps, like “Second Spring” and “Dr. Paul” and we heard the early calypsos by The Mighty Sparrow and Kitchener and Lord Melody.

Sometimes we would hear the sweet sounds of the steelband that came to play at the neighbor’s home and indelible in my mind, is the lively parang music that would awaken us each Christmas morning. Parranderos would come to serenade our next-door neighbor, Mr. Morris.

I participated in Holly Betaudier’s Scouting for talent. The old Arimians may still recall that I placed second in the Grand Finals of Scouting in 1967.

Horse-racing in Arima

Our mother took us “to see the horses run” as she put it, as she never bet on any; but she would give each of us a few pennies to play on the board games that people used to have along the side of the racing track, or to have a few enjoyable rides on the Carousel and the Merry –go –round nearby.

My favorite part of these outings was seeing the jockeys in their colorful silk shirts riding the beautiful horses with shiny coats and lovely bushy tails. They looked amazing.

We stopped going up to the racing grounds after witnessing a very sad accident when one day a horse broke the wooden guard-rail, broke its leg in the fall, and had to be put down. It was very sad for me to see the animal in pain and I never wanted to go there again.

Changes to the Arima Savannah

The race track was subsequently moved to another location across the Highway and Horse-racing still goes on there to date.

But the removal of the race –track gave way to the building of the Arima Velodrome where lots of Sporting events were held.

Cycling Meets, and Carnival Parades, as well as Parang and Calypso competitions, were also held in the Velodrome, while sporting events like Basketball were given a separate Stadium higher up and closer to the Arima market.

The Bus Terminal was also built around that time to accommodate passengers wishing to use the National Transit buses, and this I am sure was welcomed by residents of Arima.

The Arima Market

The Arima market holds memories for me as my mother would take us there on many a Saturday morning to get all her meat, fish and vegetables for the week.

I can still see her standing at the different stalls of the butcher for choice cuts of fresh beef or pork; at he, “Patik” a female Indian vendor, for all her vegetables; and “Miss Vio”, the fish vendor, for nice fresh fish.

The market, like all other markets, was always filled with people hustling and bustling to get the best and freshest produce to take home.

The Arima Borough Council

I cannot ever recall Arima being a dirty city. The Arima Borough Council ensured that garbage was removed regularly and the streets and drains were always swept clean.

Walking along the pavements with large flowering trees around the Savannah was a real pleasure.

One could sit and relax on benches provided along the mile-long savannah pavement. I remember going for walks with my mother and grandmother and sitting on those benches and just enjoying the cool evening breeze. I hope they are still maintained by the ABC.

The water and electricity supplies in Arima as far as I could recall were very rarely interrupted. Also by the time I was old enough to join the workforce as a Public Servant (Civil Servants), we were called in those good old days. Arima got its telephone service and the exchange on Pro Queen Street.

A Crime-free city

In all my youthful days in Arima, one never heard of criminal activity, maybe a few petty fowl-thieves, or break-ins; but murders? Just one or two can come to mind.

There was the case of a young woman beheaded by a young man. She alleged was her boyfriend and he took strong objection and killed her in anger. Then some years later a young Canadian was murdered by a guy called Abdul Malik who was subsequently hanged for the crime.

Social Life in Arima

“The good old days in Arima” as I recall, were really good…children grew up without fear of being molested when they were out on the street without their parents. Everybody’s parent was “looking out” for everybody’s children….a thing we all appreciated.

Children respected their elders and our teachers too, who were more like extra parents while in or out of school. They instilled moral values in our young minds, along with all the other academics and sporting education.

We were also given spiritual guidance when I was in Elementary school in Arima. This last is totally non-existent in today’s schools.

The families, as expected have long since changed. Some left Arima for other cities and countries for better lives for their children.

The new “Arimians” have brought different politics and different plans …..the names of the streets are the same, but now some have been changed to one-way entry.

The residents have become strangers to the families that have remained in Arima, and now we are only left with fond memories of “The way we were” in those good old days……yes, times have changed drastically from those I knew, loved, and appreciated while growing up in my old hometown, Arima.