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THEN & NOW – Ms. Melcena

 

This week I had the privilege and pleasure of interviewing two other elderly persons within our community – Mrs.. Melcena Smith of Little Apple Bay and Mr. Salvador Callwood of Carrott Bay – both on the island of Tortola. – Mr. Callwood will be featured under separate cover.

 

Ms. Melcena, as she is affectionately called, is a beautiful lady with an exceptional memory for details – while she is missing exact dates it was a delight to sit with her and listen to tales of years past – she still lives in the same village where she was raised as a child, not in the same home – she recalled how small those houses were and even showed a picture of the house, which is proudly displayed on the wall of her modern house that her oldest son, Bernard, built for her.  Despite being the only child to her parents (one other sibling died at a very early age) Ms. Melcena and her husband, now deceased, had twelve (12) children – all of whom are still alive – one daughter still resides at home with her.

This was quite an emotional interview for me as Ms. Melcena was the “god-daughter” of my paternal grandmother, whom I did not know – I didn’t even know where my grandparents lived or really anything about them as they both died before I was born and no-one ever told me anything about them – but here I learned that my eldest sister, now also deceased, was named for that grandmother – Annie Thomas (nee Vanterpool) and she and her husband who was from St. Kitts lived “just down the road” from where Ms. Melcena lives, in the same village and that she was from Great Thatch Island, which is one of the islands in the Archipelago which make up the Virgin Islands (UK).

Although her children had built her a modern home on the beach front – beautiful! This wonderful lady has retained a collection of utensils and other accoutrements from her earlier years including an oven built from a tin (similar in design to a large saltine cracker tin – rectangular in shape, with a lid made also from tin, wired on and on the inside there was a  layer of wires to form a central shelf – this was used for baking bread or any form of baking when the brick oven was not in use – she even retained three large pieces of charcoal as evidence of what was used for heating the oven (charcoal burns without smoking) – some was on the bottom and some on the top.

(Below is the closest picture I could find of such a contraption – this one does not have the central shelf but its gives the concept)

http://rt492.org/dl/projects.html#stoves

Look for Camp stoves and Ovens under the index

 

Then & Now – Brewers Bay Seniors

The Brewers Bay Seniors speak about their early years growing up in the Virgin Islands – how difficult it was but, nonetheless, a good life – living was simple, people worked hard and together, shared whatever they had and children helped in the home – they had to get up early morning to help with the animals, fetch fire-wood for cooking before going off to school – you could buy a “dumb bread” (a round, flat bread without yeast baked flat over the fire on an iron skillet) for one penny and that had to stretch a long way – the popular drink of the day was “sugar and water” – they would mix brown sugar with water and make a refreshing drink to go with the bread or just on its own. One person recounted how her mother gave a penny to her brother with the instructions to “split it” as it was all she had – he tried to do so by pounding it with a rock but was unable to break it only to return home without anything for him or his siblings to eat all day as the baker refused the beaten up coin! His mother had to point out that she meant to split the bread and not the coin. Life was simple and without the necessities that we now-a-days have come to expect, but it was safe and secure with a meaning of purpose and community spirit – the village actually raised the child.

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