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'Cheap, cheap...'

100-year-old Eleshia Bryan tells of Jamaica past

BY DONNA HUSSEY-WHYTE Observer staff reporter husseyd@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, June 16, 2014    

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PURCHASING food for the family years ago was no bother for the housewife, as 100-year-old Eleshia Cleopatra Morgan Bryan explained, things were 'cheap cheap'!

"You don't know that money -- threepence (trupence), sixpence, shilling, florin (two shillings) and half crown (two shillings, six pence) along with the Jamaican penny, ha'penny and pound," Bryan said to the youngsters who had gathered at her Ramble St Thomas home last week.

"But you could get flour and sugar for quatty a pound; penny farthing for a pound of brown rice; tupence (twopence) for a pound of herring sprat; and trupence a pound for pork. Nuff things you could buy with yuh money."

On September 8, 1969, Jamaica switched to a decimal system of currency, where the major units were dollars and minor units, cents. The pounds, shillings and pence were recalled and replaced by notes and coins.

Bryan, who was a vendor, also clearly recalled that Coronation Market was a burial ground before it was made into the bustling place of trade it is today.

"They knock down the tombs and such and built the market and mi sell in there," she explained.

While not sure of the exact year when the market was built, Bryan recalled that at that time market trucks were not used by the vendors, and persons going to market had to travel by carts drawn by mules.

"There were no trucks on earth," the centenarian declared. "So is cart with mule we used to take, until a bus come in afterwards. They called that bus 'Flamingo' bus. Then a little truck come and they call that truck 'Nana' for it old," she laughed. "But is cart mi used to go with all the time until truck come in and could take we to Kingston (from St Thomas) three times a week."

Bryan said a market was also located near Kingston Harbour.

"It was called Beef Market," she explained. "The sea would beat near the market. We could stay in the market and just bend over the wall and wash we hand in the sea."

The centenarian said when she moved to St Thomas in 1932, there was no electricity and roads right across the island were unpaved.

While she was not the outgoing type, Bryan said her husband Hurbert was, and recalled him leaving for the big Independence celebration on August 6, 1962, which he chaired. She showed off a cup he was awarded that same night for doing an excellent job at the event.

"Mi husband win this cup on Independence in 1962," she explained holding up the teacup printed with the words 'Jamaica Independence Day, 6th August, 1962'.

"He won it for chairmanship, he was a chairman at the independence concert and they gave him that cup for his chairmanship."

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