Making Impressions - Part 2
by Orville Green
The rural bus lines sported the familiar names of Magnet, Herolin, Romance, Stream in the Valley, Victor, Bugle Boy, Western Flyer, Clarendon Comet, Blue Danube, Morning Star, Tiger Transport, Field Marshall, and others.
For a young child, especially a young “town bwoy", travel by country bus was more than a bus ride, it was an adventure. Departure out of downtown Kingston was via Spanish Town Road; past the allegedly haunted Tom Cringle’s cotton tree opposite the Ferry police station and the sea of greenery that was the Caymanas Estate cane fields; past the Spanish Town hospital and St. Catherine District prison; through the narrow streets of the Old Capital for the first major stop -- the Spanish Town market. And so on, from one town or district to the next.
A parent could safely put a young child on the bus in the wee hours of the morning, with a note pinned to his or her shirt/blouse, and instruct the bus driver to deliver the child to Mr. So-and-So at a particular destination. Trips into the country could take most of the day, and often the child would arrive at the destination after sundown, worn out from the endless stops and starts, twists and turns of the journey -- fatigued but delivered safely into the waiting arms of grateful family members.
The preferred mode of travel for some was by a car that delivered the Daily Gleaner newspaper throughout the countryside. Rising very early in the morning (“before cock put awn ‘im trousers”), my father would ‘tow’ me on his bicycle, with my small ‘grip’ (suitcase) clutched tenuously in one hand, to the Gleaner’s offices on Harbour Street. The weak ray of light from the bicycle’s small battery-powered headlamp made the trip from Jones Town to downtown Kingston in the pre-dawn gloom a challenging feat.
The prospect of getting space in the Gleaner car was a gamble -- it was a first come, first served proposition, of course -- but somehow I was fortunate to be squeezed in between the driver and another adult in the front seat, while three or even four more adults would be forced into back-seat intimacy. As several of my visits to the country were with aunts who were postmistresses, the Gleaner car delivered me to the door of my destination because many of the newspaper were delivered to a post office, to be picked up by the local distributor.
My rural sojourns included stints in the post office at Clark’s Town, Sherwood Content and Lottery -- where I learned to catch ‘janga’ (crayfish), unknown to my aunt, under stones in the stream across the road from the post office. Yet, the most important post office for me was the one at Jackson Town, my mother’s hometown.
It was there that my father (a young, upwardly-mobile civil servant then on temporary transfer from the Collector General’s Department in Kingston to the Jackson Town tax office) met my mother at the post office, where she was assistant to her elder sister. The young man from Kingston and the shy Trelawney maiden soon struck up a friendship.
As the relationship advanced he asked for permission to meet her father, and a date for the visit was set. Fortunately for him, her eldest brother was also a clerk at the tax office and had grown fond of his fellow-civil servant, so he gave the suitor a tip that was to enhance his approval by the reputedly hardnosed father.
The brother explained that the ‘old man’ had the firmly entrenched conviction that belts were bad for a man’s health, in that (he reasoned) a belt forced one’s ribs to grow malformed; that was why he wore only ‘braces’ (suspenders) and had little regard for a man who unwisely wore a belt.
With that valuable information, the young Kingstonian was sporting a newly acquired pair of braces on the evening of his first courtship visit. It was reported later that the father was so impressed with “that young man Green” that he did not hesitate to give his approval when “the question” of marriage to Joyce was “popped” soon afterwards.
I longed for the holidays, when I would visit Dada and revel in his unconvincingly gruff expressions of gratitude for cutting up the “jackass rope” tobacco and packing it into his pipe in preparation for his evening smoke. One day, when he had cleaned the pipe after a smoke and put it on the windowsill, as soon as he left the room I sat in his rocking chair, picked up the empty pipe, leaned back and began to imitate the way he drew air into the pipe and blew out the smoke. I awoke sometime later, dizzy from the effects of whatever chemicals had been absorbed and distilled by the pipe’s wooden bowl after years of use.
One of my rewards for being Dada’s companion at the market on a Saturday, where I remained in the gatehouse while he patrolled the premises, was that he would buy me an ‘ice’ (snowball) as a treat. Yet another treat from him -- but unintended -- was to attend choir practice at the First Hill Anglican Church in Jackson Town, where he would belt out a bass tune (no longer melodious) with eyes shut tight and head thrown back, oblivious to the reprimands from his wife, the choir mistress/organist. Afterwards, the family and some of the choristers would walk home in the dark, chatting and laughing in competition with the night noises that are typical of the countryside.