Shoppes of Mt Lambert

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Aiye­goro Ome

The shop­keep­ers, the own­ers of mi­ni marts, par­lours, and bak­eries are the life blood of every com­mu­ni­ty in T&T. But they don’t get the cred­it that they de­serve. Where I am in Mt Lam­bert our shops have not been any dif­fer­ent from oth­er small busi­ness places. Es­sen­tial­ly they are and were not just places for the sale of goods but they pro­vid­ed en­vi­ron­ments where neigh­bours ex­changed news and views. With­in every shop, there were mem­o­rable sto­ries—in­spi­ra­tional, de­press­ing, amus­ing or trag­ic.

Go­ing through the his­to­ry of shop­keep­ers in Mt Lam­bert is like paint­ing a por­trait of life in this close-knit res­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ty that was cre­at­ed out of a por­tion of the Aranguez Es­tate. A lot of in­for­ma­tion came from old­er res­i­dents and the Face­book pages. “the Mt Lam­bert Posse” and “yuh know yuh from Mt Lam­bert when…” and my own rec­ol­lec­tion.

Africans played a sig­nif­i­cant role in Mt Lam­bert’s shop­keep­ing. One of the ear­li­est sell­ers was Mr James who sup­plied ice on the Cir­cu­lar Road.

Younger peo­ple may not know how im­por­tant sell­ing ice was, but be­fore there were re­frig­er­a­tors, most homes had an ice­box. Ours was made of wood and lined with “tin­ning”. Ice in large blocks was kept in­side the box to keep per­ish­ables, like milk and but­ter.

I re­mem­ber my moth­er was adamant that our fridge, which re­placed the ice­box, should go in the kitchen, not in the draw­ing room where some peo­ple placed their new­ly ac­quired ap­pli­ance.

Mt Lam­bert had a drug­store (Mr Lash­ley) where you went be­cause the doc­tor’s of­fice was closed in the evening. Next to him was Mr Byam’s Beer Gar­den, not a pub.

Ms As­soon’s “Café” at the top end of 7th Street sold hab­er­dash­ery, sweets and ice cream. Mr El­cock ran his busi­ness at the east­ern end of 1st Av­enue. A lot of his cus­tomers were from Trinidad Match Ltd, a fac­to­ry which may have been one of the old­est man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness­es in the Caribbean. Ms. Blaides, Bar­ba­di­an woman, was down on 6th Street. Two own­ers af­ter her were Ms Sirbagee, whose daugh­ter drowned in the San Juan Riv­er, and Mr At­tai.

Garvin Thomas now owns GILLI­GAR, a mi­ni-mart at the cor­ner of 6th Street and 1st Av­enue. His cus­tomers can “make mes­sage” with com­fort be­cause his ser­vice is su­perb. Garvin, orig­i­nal­ly from Laven­tille, says he learnt the skills of run­ning a shop from his moth­er who mi­grat­ed from Grena­da and was a ven­dor in Port-of-Spain. He is al­so pas­tor of the Beth­le­hem Trinidad House of Prayer, East­ern Main Road, Pe­tit Bourg.

My broth­er, Garvin Mur­ray and the late Sid­ney Green, had a veg­etable stall. Nowa­days there is one owned by Kendall and Anisa Woo.

The Llewellyn bak­ery is closed but the fam­i­ly still lives in the area. The twins, Bri­an and Al­fred, are now in­to re­al es­tate and own prop­er­ties in Mt Lam­bert.

But no record of shop­keep­ing in Mt Lam­bert would be com­plete with­out men­tion­ing the Ay­oung Chees, in par­tic­u­lar, Mr Samuel and Ms Mer­lyn, grand­par­ents of Anya Ay­oung Chee. They built Chex Café, a land­mark in Mt Lam­bert. Di­aram (Mr Ram) and Sam­daye Ram­lakhan be­came the last own­ers of Chex.

Mr Gilbert Ay­oung, fa­ther of Mar­i­lyn and Math­ew owned the shop op­po­site. David Ay­oung Chee’s was near­by. Mr Ap­ple­whaite (Big Ap­ple) suc­ceed­ed him fol­lowed by the Llewellyns and Fay Suther­land. David, his wife and daugh­ters, Iing and Melan, moved to the spot which GILLI­GAR even­tu­al­ly oc­cu­pied.

Be­fore his fam­i­ly fi­nal­ly mi­grat­ed to Cana­da Mr Samuel Ay­oung Chee pre­sent­ed me with his per­son­al suan­pan (count­ing tray) which many Chi­nese shop­keep­ers used for their cal­cu­la­tions. It is one of my prized pos­ses­sions.

Mt Lam­bert is about 80 years old but has not lost its ap­peal. As new homes are be­ing built and new fam­i­lies come to the area, res­i­dents need to know about Mt Lam­bert’s shop­keep­ing lega­cy.

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