Monday, April 22, 2024

Party for my book


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SOMETIME LATER this year I will throw a party at our home. There hasn’t been one in recent times – thanks to the recession. My friend Jewel Forde has stopped asking: “What’s become of your Christmas party, Carl?”
So I’m planning one this year. I have to. It will be a party to celebrate a centenary; not of a family member – my mother scored a good 93 and there’s no one that close to the big 100 since her.
This party is not going to set us back too much for the simple reason that the guest list is not that long. Unfortunately, I don’t know many people who are avid readers. We should be able to entertain about 20 friends, some of whom, we know, will bring along a bottle of something or a tasty lasagna or salad.
The guest of honour will be . . . a book. Yes, a small, brown, ageing 120-page book titled The Tourist’s Guide To Barbados published in 1913 by the Barbados Improvement Association, one of the earliest iterations of the present Barbados Tourism Authority.
The Barbados Improvement Association introduces itself by explaining that it was “recently formed for the purpose of advancing the possibilities of the island as a health and winter resort, and, with this object, of affording information to any intending visitors who may apply for the same, and ensuring their comfort whilst staying in the island”.
Like any ageing treasure, it is fragile and has to be handled with care. I lent it to a friend once and was on tenterhooks until he returned it.
When my late grandmother Sarah Moore “packed off” her 18-year-old daughter Mignon to Harlem, New York, in 1923, among the few possessions Aunt Migs took was that book. She paid a shilling for it.
It’s a comprehensive account of the several attractions in Barbados, and contains a rare map of the island; excellent old photos of places of interest; even the famous Baobab tree in Queen’s Park – it’s still there 100 years later; advertisements from hotels like The Ice House, Bath, Victoria, Langham, Standard, Atlantis, Balmoral and Ebenezer; business establishments like Bowen and Sons, D.M. Simpson and Co., Johnson and Redman, The Ideal Store and the Barbados Light Railway Ltd, as well as lists of prices of postage rates, motor vehicle registration, dog licences and property taxes.
The book contains information, too, of ad valorem duties, customs tariffs and this gem about bus fares: “The fare to be charged by the owner or driver of an omnibus shall not exceed two pence for each passenger for each mile or part of a mile.”
The Tourist’s Guide To Barbados also contains a fold-out map clearly showing the 24-mile path of the train track of the Barbados Government Railway from Fairchild Street in Bridgetown through districts like Carrington’s Village, Belle Gully, Haggatt Hall, Bulkeley, Brighton, Marchfield, Bushy Park, Fortesque, Bath, Bathsheba on to Belleplaine.
My grandmother often told the sad story of the boy from our village who lost his life “hopping the train” just off Hall’s Road. Indeed, part of that district is still known as the Train Line.
When I arrived in 1940, the train had gone out of service three years earlier.
This book is my most prized possession and occupies pride of place in my small library – the Mignon O. Agard Memorial Library.
My aunt, who married George Agard, a St Lucian, passed away at the age of 90 in 1995. Before her departure she entrusted that publication to me during one of my visits to New York in the early 1990s. I remember her words well: “Carl, take good care of this book. It contains useful information that many Barbadians have forgotten or do not know about.”
Since the book does not give any specific date of publication other than the year 1913, it’s up to me to select a date for that centenary party.
• Carl Moore was the first Editor of THE NATION and is a social commentator. Email

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