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Beatrice Foster, 103, says women nowadays are too 'licky licky'

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

Sunday, May 04, 2014    

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THERE is no doubt that 103-year-old Beatrice Foster from Mount Pleasant in St Elizabeth has a wealth of information.

Foster remains quick to remember dates and incidents that took place 100 years ago, as it they had occurred just last week.

After admitting to sleeping with only one man in her entire life, Foster said that young girls these days were too 'licky licky'; the root cause, she said of relationship problems.

"After mi consent to a man to married - mi never have none before because everybody would want mi to marry to them. And after mi married to one man mi nuh notice no more man again," she said.

"These girls nowadays, dem too licky licky! And if they see one girl have on a dress dem want it to, so dem have to go take man -- some of them take people husband just to get it. Satisfy with what your parents give you!" she advised young women.

Foster said that women should stick with one man.

"Nowadays dem yah woman yah a kill them self fi man and man a kill themselves fi woman, and mi look on them as solid idiot!" the centenarian said. "Listen mi, after you grow come up, yuh look one somebody and married to that person and make death separate you. No run down this, run down that, and run down the other. If him dead you can married again. But after my husband dead mi talk plain say mi never have no time to fool 'round no man and have mi six pickney fi look after. Mi could get a next man, but mi never have no time to fool round no man!" Foster said.

"One man claim that him interested in me, and come in my house a tell me that mi should sell one of the cow and give him the money because him shoes ah mash up. Mi look on him and seh. 'John dead lef him things for him pickney dem and mi nah sell none fi support no man, so you better come out mi house and go bout you business'. Him bright!" she added, seemingly still annoyed by the incident.

Foster, who attended the Content Elementary School in a nearby district, left at age 13 to care for her aging grandmother who was ill.

After leaving school, she worked on the large farm that her father owned until she got married at the age of 23. She recalled how she met her husband.

"On Saturdays I would go to Balaclava market with my sister and my brother to sell food. So one Saturday the rain was falling and we run out of the rain to a man's store to shelter. I felt somebody touch me. But I was selfish though, you know, so I turned around and looked at him with bad eye and he said 'excuse mi lady' and he introduced himself to me and told me what work he did," Foster said.

"That time I was not paying him much mind. He asked if I would take a letter from him. So I said yes, you can post it. But mi never particular, you know. So I give him my name and address. By the next week Saturday wi parents send us to go post office — because we couldn't go anywhere and we parents never send we — and mi get the letter from him and mi read it, and mi carry it home. The Sunday mi daddy didn't go to church, him did have headache. So mi carry the letter go to him and him read it and start question mi where mi see the man and so on. Then him say to put it down 'til mi mother come mi give her. When she come she read it and hand it back to me. But she never say anything. So mi just carry the letter go throw down in my room," Foster stated.

She said that one day her mother asked her if she had responded to the letter, but she had not. She then encouraged Foster to do so.

She explained that the man was a shoemaker, and in those days they were well paid. In the letter he had asked her to marry him, though they did not know each other well.

"I never did love him," she admitted. "But is my parents who wanted me to married to him. And to tell yuh the truth, to how we grow, you had to just do what you parents want you to do. So my parents find everything for the wedding — married dress, dinner dress, everything. Up to this time mi never know nothing 'bout nuh man; neither me or my sister, because my parents always tell us 'leave man alone and have no unlawful children'. So him was the first man mi talk to."

Foster said that after she got married she still did not work until her husband died and she was left to care for their six children alone. The eldest child was 12, and the youngest two years old at the time. He died on March 6, 1946 from pneumonia at age 37. They had been married for 12 years.

"So after that I used to bake bammy and fry fish and send it to market to sell, until they pull down the market and I had to take up mi hoe and get job from people weeding grass," she explained.

"I would get up from in the night and do my yard work, plait pickney hair and send dem to school. And the first job mi get I didn't know it was half-acre of land, and mi done weed it out in two days. When the man see that mi finish so fast, from that day him never give me a job again because him say that job pay mi too much," she said.

Foster grew with seven brothers and sisters. With the exception of her 92-year-old sister, now living in the United States, all the others are deceased. Foster was the second of the seven.

Because her father was a committed member of the St Paul's Anglican Church, Foster was confirmed in the faith at age 16, but switched her membership to the Moravian Church after getting married. With her sharp memory, Foster recalled that the church blew down in 1968 and was never rebuilt.

She also recalled what made up crime back then.

"My parents sent me out and this boy hold up him hand to take off my hat off my head. Him didn't get to take it off because I traced him, you see," she said. "When I got home my father said I should have run left the hat in the yard and go police station let them arrest him. At that time you could not walk bare head, because if you walk bare head you were regarded as a naked woman. You had to have you hat on you head. And no matter how the girl small, she had to have her hat on her head. Some people who couldn't afford to buy the hat would make it. Is coconut straw we used to plait make hat you know. So if mi did run way leave the hat and go station they would arrest him for him left me naked that time."

She also explained the circumstances under which she had to leave school before she graduated.

"In my time you go to school when you seven and leave when you 14. And if you pass you exam you go straight to college. But my mother did have a young baby, and my grandmother was sick. We used to have to hold her in a sling and spread mat and put her out a door and sun her. And when one side of her burn in the sun we take her and turn her over on the other side and make the sun burn that side.

"Because she in the house lay down and can't get up off her bed, so when you sun her is how she get her vitamin D and get energy. So both me and my sister had to leave school to look after her. I leave in fourth book and she leave in sixth book. But we leave the same time," she said.

She said that her grandmother was 102 when she died.

At age 80, Foster visited Germany and spent three months with her daughter, Olive Foster-Linnepe, who has since returned to Jamaica to reside. And, even after returning to Jamaica, Foster still continued her farming. This, she did until she was in her 90s.

Foster-Linnepe described her mother as one who loved her children and would ensure that they were taken care of.

"She was a very good mother. The dearest mother of all," Foster-Linnepe said. "She was so strict. She used to beat wi! But, Lord, she loved her children. She made sure we never go to bed hungry. If it's even one banana we getting it. And beg? We could never go out and beg anything - she would kill us! And wi couldn't go steal people's things either. That's the type of mother that she was," she said.

She said that even though the seven grew up in two rooms, in the evenings their mother would go in one room and all of the children had to sit on the floor at her bed. Foster would pray and sing and help the children with their schoolwork.

"She would get up early mornings and make sure that we did our housework and then she combed our hair, wash our foot, and we gone to school," said Foster-Linnepe, who lived in Germany for over 35 years. "We would come back home midday for our lunch, and it would be ready — doesn't matter what, but we eating it and then run back to school. And we must get to school before the bell ring at one o'clock. That was about two miles away."

She said that when they got home from school in the afternoon, if no smoke was coming from the outside kitchen, then they knew they had to go and find wood so that their mother could cook.

"She had no stove, so it was wood fire that she used. Sometimes she only had bammy and a little gungo soup for us, no meat. But we were happier than the people who had meat," Foster-Linnepe stated.

"The neighbour was a butcher and they were never without meat. They used to laugh at Mama because she had children and didn't have much to give us. One day I remember Mama said 'you continue laughing, God will provide'. And He did provide, because there were some people in those days who used to call Mama 'one frock', and when clothes started coming from abroad for Mama, dem same one send and beg her clothes, and she give them. She don't forget, but she forgive, so she give it to them," she said.

Foster's four boys were masons, with one of them emigrating to England to work. One girl was a cook, who worked for persons like Sir Alexander Bustamante for many years until he died, after which she opened her own restaurant before moving to Germany. Her other daughter worked as a domestic helper.

Another major issue that Foster frowned upon was people having children out of wedlock.

"Those days no parents not taking in any unlawful children," the centenarian said. "They run dem out of the house and you have to go find place put them. Any man who get woman pregnant fi find place put them. When the people dem have bastard pickney now, is the parents dem put up with it... licky, licky! No bastard! If they weren't accepting the bastard children, people wouldn't be having them."

She recalled the story of a neighbour whose daughter brought a baby into the house, despite not being married, and saw how her father reacted.

"Him grab the baby by one foot and toss the pickney out the door. Ah God save the pickney from lick up him head 'gainst one tree trunk! Him dis fling out the pickney straight out a door!"

Foster, who will be 104 on August 16, loves drinking Wincarnis Tonic Wine and still reads the headlines of the newspapers.

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