Sunday, April 21, 2024

ROCKING CHAIR STORIES – Foundation of knowledge


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BACK IN THE fifties whenever I had those brief Bridgetown sidewalk meetings with Herbie, the subject of herbs and good health took prominence. Today I found him relaxing with his youthful wife June at their home, Malvern House, St John, a former plantation property, and invited him to share his journey with The Rocking Chair.  Meanwhile June asked whether she would be allowed to sit in. My reply was: “No problem!”  
Herbert Percy Cheeseman was born on January 22, 1927, at Worthing, Christ Church.
He said: “My father [Herbert Percy Sr]  never allowed me to forget an incident in the sea when I was six weeks old. He took me for a swim. While we were in the water this huge wave came and all he could do was hold me so that I wouldn’t slip out of his arms.
“But what amazed him most was that I was laughing and not crying.”
Herbert attended Miss Watson’s Primary School in Belleville before moving on to Boys’ Foundation where the headmaster was Mr Talma.
As to whether he liked games or was a bookworm, he promptly replied: “I liked games and I liked fun, but I always had an appetite and I will give you a joke.
“Every day my parents gave me 12 cents for lunch. I would buy 12 turnovers, sit down, eat those turnovers and drink some water before I went to play cricket, football or any other game.”
His contemporaries included youngsters like “Bree” St John [former Prime Minister], his brother Eric, the Proverbs from Lowlands; a whole lot of people like that.”
Herbie took to task a former Foundation School reverend for what he termed a disgraceful attitude.
He explained: “We were riding uphill [both on bicycles] when I saw a car heading towards us. I said ‘look out’ and my friend headed towards a barbed-wire fence.
“When I took a second look, I discovered that his body was badly mutilated by the barbed-wire fence, so you can understand, I thought what kind of person could [the driver] be. I turned around and rode the bicycle back up to the [Foundation] school. I told the headmaster what had happened and the need to get him treatment. He took him to the General Hospital or something like that.”
On graduating, Herbie began his working life with Scottish firm H.B. Niblock & Co. and with typical Cheeseman humour he told me: “People drop jokes at the Scotsmen, saying they are cheap. But I will tell you what happened to me.
“When I took the job I was told that the porter would meet me downstairs every morning and take me to the Main Guard [Central Police Station] to get the keys. I would then open the place. The first morning I got there the place was wide open.
“I said to the porter, ‘weren’t you supposed to give me the keys?’ He replied: ‘I open the place every day’. I said alright. But when I went and looked at the stamp book and so on I realized that a lot of  money was missing.
“The young man that was there before me remained for five years. He went on at $5 a month and left at $5 a month.NEXT: World War II breaks out and Herbie changes. 


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