In 1964, when I came to St. Martin, the island was truly paradise. As the St. Martin Song mentions , ‘thy cows and sheep and goats’ were really in meadows and on roads.
I lived in French Quarter (French Side) from 1964 to 1974 and went to school in Philipsburg (Dutch Side).
Many of the children back then traveled from the French side of the island to the Dutch to attend school.
“Madame Gloria” was the school bus I rode on first. It was called a “Tahnah”. Later on I learned that the word came from the Spanish word ‘patana’. A patana was a train cart or wagon that cane was carried on in Sto. Domingo. Madame Gloria seemed to be a flat bed truck with a wooden body built on it. Madame Gloria was owned by Mr. Jean (French for John) Frederic Brooks, known to all as ‘TATA’.
Before riding the bus, I rode in private cars, that were used as bus and taxi. The famous car in those days was the Peugeot 404. The Peugeot 404 was made in France.
The two drivers I remember driving with in those days were Vincent Jermin and Kenneth Hodge. Their cars were named; Caribair and Panam respectively. Another driver was Oberic “Obey” Hodge.
Most houses had cisterns; some under a room of the house and some built away from the house. Every house had a few 55-gallon drums for storing water, for drinking, washing and bathing. During the ‘dry season’ we would have to go to the wells for water. The ‘Moho Well’ was the most famous in French Quarter. People came from the extremes of the area to ‘fetch water’ in the Moho . Everybody knew everybody and ‘fetching’ water was like a social outing. Fetching water meant bringing a full or as-full-as-possible bucket of water from the well to your house. It was no surprise to see people helping each other fill their 55-gallon drums. Any container that could hold water, would be used. At times when the Moho was ‘dry’, we would go to well in an area called ‘Matchay’ and sometimes, someone with a lot of water in their cistern would sell water to others in the area
There was also the 'grandbas'. I beleive from the french words 'grand bas'. This well serviced the area close to the Shamba Hill area.
Most people had animals; sheep, goats, pigs cows and chickens. These were to be eaten. There were also dogs and cats as pets. Donkeys and horses were the work animals and transpotation. People would take the sheep, goats and cows to the pastures or hills for grazing. That was a job that was not well liked by all. You had to ‘take out’ the animals early morning and sometimes ‘fetch’ water during that trip. And that was before getting ready to go to school. Most times the water was for your morning bath. After school, you had to ‘water the animals’ (give them drinking water). At about 4:30 in the afternoon, you had to ‘bring home the animals. When you bring them home, they had to be ‘staked’; tied to a stake so they would not wander off. Lucky for me, we only had pigs and chickens.
Some of the fun things I remember from the old days are;'Chucking Cherry Nuts':There were also ‘festive games’. These games were played during festivities.
This was played with Cherry nuts (Cashew nuts).
Why it was called pitching, I will never know. I remember asking a cousin of mine why he called it ‘pitching’ and he said that was the name in good English.
Setting Flying Traps:
These were traps made with a cord and the tension on a twig that was used to catch birds; mainly doves and ground doves.
Making and Setting Killibans;
These were traps used to catch birds. They were build like a roof with four sides and the trigger mechanism was a stick, that the bird would brush against when going for the feed.
Making and Flying Kites
Making and Spinning Tops
Jumping in the Bag Race
The Egg in the Spoon Race
Platting the pole
The toilet was a latrine (I believe from the French word). A latrine was a hole, about 6 to 10 feet deep, dug into the ground and covered with wood or concrete. The top had a hole and that hole had a seat over on it. I believe that speaks for itself. The latrine was enclosed to provide privacy.