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Photograph of Eugena Williamson, LSAH customer

Eugena Williamson

I was born 1935 in Brandon Hill, Clarendon Jamaica. I was one of eight children, four boys and two girls, but six died at a young age. I now have one sister left who lives in Jamaica whom I last visited in 1990. So, for me, growing up was like being an only child, because my sister was eleven years older.

My father was a cultivator who then became a butcher. We had a lot of land and grew tomatoes, called 'ox heart tomatoes,' because they were so big. We also grew yam, sweet potato, peas, sweetcorn and ksava. Ksava is a very useful root vegetable, you can starch your clothes with it and you can eat the flowery section. It looks similar to Yam, and Tapioca is made from it.

My mother helped with the cultivating as well as running the house, which was a large farmhouse in the country. Friends helped and worked on each other's land when extra hands were needed, according to the different seasons of each crop they grew. We also had many fruit trees growing, mangos, tangerines, oranges, grapefruit and star apples. Then there was the livestock. We kept pigs, goats, cows, chickens and I kept a goat as a pet. We also had a herb garden and had sweet peppers growing around the yard for cooking.

Aged six years old I had private teaching for infant school with a lady who would tutor small groups of children. When I was seven I went to junior school, it was very close. So close in fact, I could hear the bell ringing. The way schooling was organised, you would stay at that school until you were sixteen. You would start in the 'A' class, then the next year you might move to the 'B' class, and the classes were graded.

The books that we used at school we had to buy them ourselves, and they could often be quite expensive. I went home for dinner even though the school did have a soup kitchen if you wanted a meal.

I played skipping after school, but not at the school, as I had to go straight home. I played with the neighbours’ children. The chores I would have to do at home might be fetching water and sweeping up, or feeding the chickens and the pet goat. We also had to go to the river to wash and dry our clothes.

I would get a small amount of pocket money and a few treats. There was a mobile cinema that brought the projector round and focused on a screen for the local people to come and watch. It was very exciting and cost one penny. I would often go to the cinema. In the summertime I visited relatives on the island. There were also trips available, but I never went as my mother kept me very close.

I went to Baptist church every week and my uncle was a minister there. On Sunday's I would go to Sunday school in the early morning and then attend the later main service at 11am.

The local market was Kellits and it was about ten miles away; the main market in the area was in Chapelton. We would go to the market on a Saturday, sometimes on the bus or sometimes we rode the donkey. When my father killed any of the animals he would load them onto the donkeys to take to the market. Sometimes we would buy cabbages or any other items we did not have.

I liked the guitar music of the travelling musicians who passed through the area and played at the local dances. I also enjoyed poetry at school, and recently got a copy of an old school poem off the Internet. It brought back all my school memories of reading the 'West Indian Reader', which I loved when I was young.

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