This time, while sitting on my verandah sipping a rumpunch, my mind switched down Memory Lane. I can remember clearly the first week of my medical clinics held at Wesley in 1960. One day a patient asked me if I would accept a gift of vegetables? I said of course. The patient replied that the previous Indian doctor refused gifts and told them they needed the vegetables more than he did. This insulted them, as the doctor was insensitive and certainly not very diplomatic. I never had to buy vegetables and fruit during my three years at the Marigot Health District. I even received a parrot a patient had killed and brought to me. I suppose it was illegal to hunt them in those days as it is today, but how could I refuse?
Reflecting on the duties of a District Medical Officer, the doctor travelling to hold a clinic at a village had to stop at a house displaying a red madras flag on the outside. This meant that the patient inside was either bed-ridden or could not come to the far away clinic for treatment. This custom has died out as today there are Health Clinics in most of the villages.
Would you believe it that the fee charged for an Office Visit was only EC$2.00, and for a Home Visit only EC$3.00. This was in 1959 when I first started medical practice in Roseau. The cost of living in those days reflected the prices charged. My! How times have changed!
Leaving behind medical stories, my mind drifts to the time in the 1940s in Roseau when electricity was from 6pm to 6am only. The Power Station was located at the site where the present University of the West Indies Open Campus now exists. The engineer responsible for the operation of the Power Station was Mr. Eddy Trotter who with his family lived adjacent to the Power Station. On a Friday however, the electricity was turned on at 11am to facilitate the X-Ray machine at the Old Roseau Hospital. People with electric irons could avail themselves of this opportunity if they so wished. It was only in the 1950s when CDC came to our rescue that we had electricity in Roseau north during the night and during the day.
Dances were held routinely as well as concerts as there were no other forms of entertainment at that time. There was the "Albert Hall" upstairs of the Phoenix Supermarket; the "Coronation Hall" where the present market now exists; and there was "Hambring" on Valley Road. This last venue was frequented by the so-called elite of Roseau where they could indulge in unrestricted pleasures! There was also the "Aquatic Club" and the premises of the "Roseau Girls School". Dominica has produced many musicians and dances were held in the various villages throughout the island.
In 1936 the "Queen Mary" passed quite close to our shores and the whole town of Roseau found themselves on the bay front to witness the passing of this famous ship. I was among the onlookers as it was the first time we had seen such a large cruise ship. This created some excitement for the people of Roseau, believe it or not!
Today there are very few "characters" as we had in the past. To mention just a few names that come to mind: characters like Ugly Willy, Short Willy, Mannix, Old Police, Breese, Tet Doward and Symbert. These were what I called "weird" and not on drugs, unlike the paros we see today, who beg you for a dollar. It was interesting to talk to these characters, some of them were jailbirds, who could entertain you with their vocabulary and antics. Most had a good story to tell especially the jailbirds!
In the 1940s when the Canadian "Lady Boats" anchored in Roseau, boys on pwi pwi would dive in the sea to collect coins thrown by passengers from the boats. This could be considered the beginning of our tourist entertainment and why not?!
School boys and girls used to raid the fruit trees at the back of the Botanical Gardens especially after school hours. The girls would hide the fruit in their "bloomers" as it was called in those days. We were all afraid of the government security guard – a Mr. Bowers – who chased us and sometimes caught us. He either reported us to the school authorities or to our parents which resulted in a punishment of some kind.
As a young boy I can remember an epidemic of bedbugs which hit Roseau in the 1950s. This caused quite a stir as most households were affected. On a Sunday Mass if a bed bug was seen walking on someone's clothes, people would scatter and keep far away from the unsuspecting culprit. Mattresses were treated with a dusting power by the name of "Keatons Powder" and DDT was used to treat the walls and furniture.
Also in the 1940s the Free French forces came to Dominica from Guadeloupe and Martinique to escape the war as France was invaded by the Germans. Much can be written about this: needless to say, food was scarce and we had to rely on breadfruit as a substitute for bread.
The rumpunch has certainly widened my walk down Memory Lane, but now my glass is empty!!
Dr. W.E.V. Green