Anybody, here, remembers their first ink pen? A fountain pen with two covers that came in different colours? Blue, red, black, green, sometimes with a silver top cover? The one you had to squeeze- the opaque tube inside the bottom cover- to get the ink in? Or, “push and pull” its plunger?
Anyone, else, went to school with an ink jar in his bag? Then, you would remember days when the ink spilled and soiled your books with ugly stains. Or, the nib blotted in your copy books. And your finger tips were ever blue.
But, the fountain pen was such a lovely pen. A step up from the “lead pencil” with the “rubber” on top: The HB, yellow pencils with which we wrote in “Infants”. However, the fountain pen was the messiest encounter of my primary school years- that and “whitening” with which we cleaned Bata Bullet and Doric sneakers almost every evening and scrubbed it back off on Saturdays with a stream of milk-looking water running down the drain.
Every Trini child who went to school in the seventies would remember ink blots in shirt pockets; copy books with holes from trying to erase ink spots with a lead-pencil rubber; scrubbing blue-stained finger tips on concrete walls and the classic- cloth, green Milo bag with an indelible blue splatter from a bottle that opened or a cover that broke inside the bag.
Yes! Those were de good ole days, when we squeezed, pushed or poured out ink unto ripped pages of our exercise books. Then, folded them over and opened again to see the patterns made. When the smudges looked like butterflies. And, we pulled thread in different directions along the spilled-ink-in-folded-pages to make beautiful pictures. When the hibiscus fence was a whip tree in disguise.
But, then came the non-spill cartridge pen that spoiled the fun. And, the Bic that followed after with the ink already inside. The ballpoint pen which could “explode” in your bag, draining all its gooey contents to cause an even more unsightly stain than that of the fountain pen.
Oh, how simple life was, then. When the only major spills we knew were ink blots and cocoa tea on tablecloths. When plastic was cheap. And a yard and a half would cover the checkered tablecloth to prevent spills from soaking through. When a penny was a real coin and a cent could buy “three salt biscuit”. When “salt butter” and cheese were sold by the ounce. And the ounce ah cheese could really slice an put in bread.
But doh bring back dem ole time days when the blue bus was the only public transport and yuh had to stan up by de bus shed fuh hours waiting for it to come. When the Old Southern Main Road was the only route to get to San-Fernando from Chaguanas. And, it took an hour and more to get there from St Mary’s Junction. When you had to endure Petrotrin’s fumes, like rotten eggs, from Point Lisas to Savonetta along the way. When the bison and donkey cart hauled loads of cane through the village and the few little privately owned cars like the Hilman Hunter and Cortina were luxuries.
The days when the village really raised the child. And the “private school teacher” was the lady dong de road and you didn’t need a degree to teach the ABC. When the jokin board used to scrub khaki pants real clean. And yeast came in a tin and had to be “set” with warm water and sugar.
When “F-I-SH AGAIN!” was the morning alarm as fishermen peddled Cro cro, red fish, and moonshine stringed on bicycle handles. And the bullet and gun shot were not yet known. When Madam Sheila could watch yuh fix in yuh eye until you say “mornin” an yuh dare not pass she straight!
When the milkman sold fresh cow’s milk in washed ketchup bottles. And “pausterization” was known as “scalding” and done in household pots. When bhagi, pumpkin and melongene were picked from the back yard to cook with bake. And kolojamoon stained both clothes and teeth. But you couldn’t resist the grape-like fruit.
Doh bring back dem days when we didn’t know ah ting ’bout “the ozone layer”. And noxious emissions from fuel-run vehicles were too insignificant to cause concern. When “traffic jam” was unheard of and it was common to “walk a mile an a half” to get from A to B.
Just bring back the days when we grated St Vincent chocolate on a damp, cloudy day to “make tea”. When butterflies of all descriptions were an everyday scene. And breath-taking photographs of them appeared behind condensed milk labels. When moral and pitch were our favourite past-times. And the skipping rope provided hours of fun.
Maybe we were poorer then. But, maybe we were richer, too, and didn’t know.
To the school-aged children of the seventies, a happy day!