News

The days of telegrams, no electricity and rare acts of crime

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

Monday, June 09, 2014    

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WHILE cellular phones have become more or less a second skin for this generation, 100-year-old Nerissa Golding recalls that telegrams were the medium utilised for emergency contacts over 50 years ago.

"We never know nothing about cellular phone," Golding told the Jamaica Observer last Thursday. "We used to communicate by telegram. So if you had an emergency and needed to contact someone you would send a telegram from the post office and they would send it by somebody to take it to you," she explained.

She said 40 years ago she was honoured by the then Governor General Sir Florizel Glasspole for her service to the country as an accountant. The message notifying her of the award was, of course, relayed to her via telegram.

"The time when I was getting the meritorious service award I came home one evening and saw a policeman sitting on a motorbike and as I came to the gate the man came up and gave me a telegram which told me they were giving this meritorious service. And they wrote something on it telling me about the event and I was to mark 'yes' or 'no'. I marked yes and gave it back to the man and he jumped on his bike and gone!" she recalled.

No electricity

"There was no electricity when I was growing up," Golding added. "They had kerosene lamp and lantern. And we used to study with that at nights and when you studying or whatever yu doing yu would have it on the table or you 'kotch' up beside it, and that time you wouldn't be thinking that it was going to affect your eyes or anything like that. But that was what you had to use. It could have been on the way to affecting me but I didn't think about that," the centenarian, who now wears a pair of eyeglasses, said.

Because there were no street lights, Golding said people would refrain from travelling at night while those who did would use a bottle torch.

"I never did, because I didn't like to travel at nights," she said. "So I was one of those young women who would stay in their mother's house. I wouldn't walk on the streets at nights to go anywhere."

Crime

Golding could only recall domestic crimes being committed while she was growing up.

"The first thing I remember as a teenager was hearing about a 'coolie man' killing his wife. So killing was not a general thing as far as I remember. And this was not near to where you are but it was a big talk throughout

the country because it was not a common occurrence," she explained.

"When I got older, I remember there was a man who was a cricketer and he had a wife and she went abroad for about a week or two and he seem to have heard that she was seen with another man and he got in touch with her and told her to come home.

"I remember hearing that 'Mrs Brown had returned from the United States' so it was a big thing because it was a cricketer's wife and big in society. She came the night and the following day, it was said, she was sitting on her bed sewing and her husband came in and sat on the bed talking to her and pulled a gun and exposed her (undressed her) and she saw that he was pointing the gun at her and she yelled for her mother and he said 'mi nuh want you' and 'boow!' He killed the woman.

"That man was a cricketer and also a well-known PNP man. He sent to call Norman Manley who was a lawyer. So because he was PNP he believed Mr Manley would come and get him off. But the lawyer man never even turn him eye because that was a disgraceful way of killing the woman. He exposed her and put the gun up in her vagina and killed her. I was sensible enough to know what was going on because it was on the radio. But apart from those, there was no more murder that I heard about."

Jamaica's Independence

Golding said Independence Day, August 6, 1962, was a big jubilee as persons were very excited to celebrate freedom from British colonial rule. But, she recalled some wanted independence, and others didn't.

"So there were those for and those against, but they were all celebrating," she explained.

Golding, though, holds the view that after Independence more people were able to get jobs as prior to that it was not that easy.

She said, too, that in those days skin colour mattered.

"Because if there was a bank and you go in there it was Chinese people, only Chinese, no black people weren't working there. They (Chinese) were the persons who could get jobs like that. And light-skin people were the lawyers and doctors, etc," she recalled.

Golding also recalled that there were no televisions and so people were glued to Radio Jamaica (RJR) listening to dramas and other shows as their only source of entertainment. One of her favourites was Teenage Dance Party.

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