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39 hot years as a radiator repair man

George Dacres continues the journey to make life easier for motorists, family

BY KESHAUNA NICHOLS Sunday Observer writer

Sunday, April 06, 2014    

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THE walk from Papine Square up to Gordon Town Road in the cool afternoon breeze was worth it.

But the climate would soon change to a much warmer one, as soon as the mission to interview radiator repair expert George Dacres was accomplished.

Dacres, who repairs radiators of all makes of vehicles, has been wrapped up in the business for 39 years.

From humble beginnings, Dacres has managed to build a successful business, losing persons who were dear to his heart along the way, but still fighting fearlessly for the ones he loves.

"Uncle George", as he is called, a name that he got from people in his community, has a reputation for top-quality work in fixing even the most worn out and battered radiators and making them work like new.

"A lot of people see me as an uncle, some even say father," said Dacres, who admitted to going through his fair share of struggles, but refused to give up, as he wanted to provide a better life for his four children -- three daughters and a son -- Veron, the eldest, Sherona, a Toyota Jamaica employee, and high school students Georgia and Shanice.

"My children are my main motivators. I want to see my two last daughters get past the worst. My two older children have passed through it. I want to help them to become something in life," Dacres told the Jamaica Observer.

Born on April 1,1960, Dacres gleefully admitted that although the stigma of April Fool's Day faces him, he is proud to have been introduced to the world on that day, arguing "that's why me lucky".

The fourth child of six for father Zephina Dacres and mother Una Bruce-Dacres, George grew up on St Joseph's Road, Kingston 13, moving on to West Rural St Andrew where he currently lives.

"I grew up in a poor family. My parents didn't have the money to send me to college or university. I specialised in auto mechanics since I was in grade eight at Cavalier All-Age School in West Rural St Andrew," he told the Sunday Observer.

"Mi people was struggling so the only thing when me leave school was to get a trade. My parents couldn't afford to send us to school. My father worked but my mother stayed home as a housewife. When I was about to leave school my parents found somewhere for me to get hands-on training in auto mechanics. I left school the Friday and by Monday morning I was at Maxfield Avenue learning about auto mechanics," he said.

"I always wanted to experience life on my own. I left my parents' home when I was 15 years old. I had an older brother who lived close to where I was learning the trade and I stayed with him", he added.

He told the Sunday Observer that when he arrived at Maxfield Avenue he was welcomed by a trained auto mechanic whom he said helped him to turn his life around.

"Oh, I can never forget his name, Johnny Augustus Williams. People call him 'Johnny'. I mastered the trade within six months because I was young and my brain was fresh," he said.

After completing his training he worked as an apprentice but soon developed a love for farming, though he didn't pursue it for long.

"The influence to do farming came from farmers and friends in the community. I like farming, and seeing my friends doing it I just joined them. I planted banana, plantain, yam and cane", he said.

Out of his love for auto mechanics, he soon resumed his trade, and built it with belated financial assistance from his brother who lived in the United States. Two years after he made the request of his brother, the start-up money arrived, and 'George Radiator Works' was born -- at the time located at 17 Gordon Town Road, closer to Papine Square.

"The place was divided into sections, me and my co-workers ... we were a family, we never fuss, we never fight, we always pull together, but I went through a whole lot of drama with that place," he said.

Among the list of items on the sheet of drama was a car that was being operated on by a co-worker of his, which caught fire.

"I wasn't there. The mechanic and the owner of the car were there. The place burn down flat and I lose everything. It was a very devastating time for me. I lose tools such as the compressor, torch, gauge and radiators as well.

"When that happen I couldn't stop, because the kids woulda dead fi hungry. My main goal was to see my kids go through life without facing the hard struggles that I did. I tried to give them whatever they wanted," he said.

Dacres said that his brother who helped to fund the business was there for him throughout his ordeal.

"He was behind me, he pushed me. At times I felt like giving up but I picked up the pieces and continued at the same location for about a year, when someone bought the property and I had to move next door. After moving next door, someone else bought that property, as well. That's when I had to move to 68 Gordon Town Road. That was in 2000, February makes it 14 years I have been at this location," he said.

Outside of his shop, passers-by are treated to laughter and continued chatter from men who regularly gather at the location, often disapproving of each other's opinions and voicing their own. But during the time that he was picking up the pieces, the challenges kept mounting.

"Three years after the fire, I was trying to get back on track when I lost my mother to diabetes in April 1998 and father, also to diabetes, in 1999. They both went seven months apart."

Six months after the death of his father, his bus overturned.

"I owned a Hi-Jet minibus. It turned over two times with me. The first time was on Mandela Highway. The second time was when I was driving my son to HEART Trust over by Portmore. A car hit over the bus with the two of us inside. Oh my God, that was a rough time," he said.

"There were no broken bones, no injuries ... God was good to us. That was a miracle! Wow!"

Dacres is thankful for everything in his life and he is happy with the path that God has paved for him.

"I find satisfaction in what I do. Without God, nothing is possible and he proves that to me day by day. He is the captain of the ship," Dacres told this tabloid.

"I was able to buy a piece of land and the first bus I owned was bought because of the business. Most of all, I am able to school the children," he stated.

Dacres said that throughout his hardships he has never thought about getting involved with crime.

"I don't like solitary confinement and once you do the crime, you do the time. Growing up, my parents woulda lick the hell out a we if we misbehave, especially if we get the police involved. Our father was the more aggressive one, while mother would warn us," he said.

In his community of Sterling Castle, West Rural St Andrew, folk describe him as a hard-working man who gets along well with everyone.

Constantine Richards, also known as 'Rambo', described Dacres as a father figure to many.

"He is a jovial person, serious about his work, honest and is a family man. He is one of the best radiator man uptown. He makes sure the radiator is properly tested for leaks and solves the problem before giving it back," he said.

Dacres uses his story to impart wisdom in the ears of the youth within the community. Though ensuring that the needs of his family are met is high priority, he finds time to teach those interested in learning auto mechanics; in particular, the young men in the community.

"I teach the trade to youth within the community. I have been teaching the youth since 2000. A lot of youth pass through my hands, the first person is Barrington Wilson. He left Papine High School and came to learn the trade. His father asked me to teach him," Dacres outlined.

Steven Davis is another young man whom Dacres also taught the trade and later employed.

"He is a humble man, hard-working, encouraging and helpful. He ensures that the work is completed because the customer comes first. He is always early, 5-6 am are his time to start working.

"He helps the youth in the communtiy and we don't have to go to school for radiator training because he teaches us. I have been working here for two years. I respect him and look up to him," Davis said.

Dacres said that his children are proud of him being an auto mechanic, because he is earning a honest living and is able to provide for them.

There are good and bad days in his business, but George Radiator Works Ltd continues to strive.

Keshauna Nichols is a first year degree student at the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication, University of the West Indies, Mona.

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