Nostalgia 565- Saga of Regent Road and Street

Nostalgia 565 – Saga of Regent Road and Street

By Godfrey Chin

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Godfrey Chin - "Nostalgias"

Regent Road and Street, with pavements on either side of the causeway, running east to west, from Water St to the Botanic Garden’s entrance divides  the Capital City of Georgetown, into northern and southern halves. Camp St, running north to south diagonally across, divides the City in to four quarters. Together with Crown, Princess, King, and Charlotte, the names of these streets, reflect our subjugation to the English Monarchial system, as the City evolved from Stabroek, under the Dutch in 1812.  Wellington and Waterloo Sts, remind us that the victory over Napoleon Bonaparte, 1815, saved us from speaking ‘french’ today.

The City Hall which opened July 1, 1889, designed by Father Ignatius Scoles, a trained architect, is acclaimed to be the most handsome building in the City. Victorian exuberance in timber, it is resplendent Gothic Revival Architecture, reflecting the Gothic buildings of Great Britain, such as Westminster Hall, in London. The superior acoustics of the main Concert Hall was the venue of major Concerts and recitals before the National Cultural Centre opened 1973 for Carifesta. The Police Male Voice Choir held its debut Concert there, while many of the visiting International and Guyanese Artistes including Ray Luck, performed there.  Ironically, decorated with thousand of bulbs as a Disneylike fairy Castle for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953 – the City Council cash strapped today, is in serious arrears with their ‘electric bills’…Picture of Town hall illuminated June 1953.   

Other historical sites include St Barnabas Church, built 1884 as a place of Worship for the residents of Bourda, with the steeple and Corpus Christi Chapel added 1926.  Just recently this concrete edifice was sold to  Afro Alphonson Pomeroon Oil Mill, Inc. on account of depredations by ‘vagrants in the Market Area, and the lack of support locally ‘to preserve this heritage building. What a shame! The Bourda Market opened in 1880,  and the Cemetery opposite is a memorial to Joseph Bourda.  Georgetown, must be the only town in the world where ‘there is no rest for the dead’.  Endless traffic noise, plus mobile music vendors continuously ‘awaken the dead’ – longing for peace in their final resting place, neglected and overgrown with profuse unkempt jungle pastures. Picture of Bourda Market 1930 supplied

St Barnabas Football Club founded 1921, played at the Bourda Green (now Bourda Market extension), and provided strong challenges to GFC, Victoria, Gunners, Artillery, and Charlton for the annual FA trophy and Peppiette Cup.

In the early nineteenth century,  the Tajmahal Boarding House at  the High St corner – south of Central Garage was popular, as was the Regent Hotel, at Hincks St. The Savoy Hotel Fire, 17th , May, 1947 destroyed the block opposite and was replaced by the Bank of Baroda, with the Torginol Paint outlet at Hinck St.  The American Life Insurance Building was built  obliquely opposite, subsequently. Pictures of Regent & Tajmahal Hotels supplied

On the early afternoon of Feb 16th 1962, a catastrophic fire, started at Bookers Cycle and Sports Dept at Water St,  crossed over the road riverside to destroy Bookers Shipping Dock – their Shipping Head Office, and Amalgamated Groceries, to the southern Robb St end. Fanned by a strong wind, the fire proceeded south to destroy John Fernandes Shipping – C A Phillips Ltd – J P Santos etc. Only the concrete structure of Brodie and Rainer Ltd, saved Stabroek Market bydusk time,  amidst wanton looting and rioting in the entire commercial City. A British Regiment was rushed from Jamaica to restore order by early evening.

Other fires on Regent St include the interior of  Bourda Market February, 13th, 1971, plus  a two flat business at Light St  on May 12, 1979. Recently in the last two years, fires west of Albert St,  and later Wireless Connection,  opposite St Barnabas Church were major conflagrations. Bookers Drug Store was also destroyed during the WWII, at Camp St, making way for Kwang Hing’s, –  the first supermarket  in the City.

Asraf Ali, started Acme Photo Studio, 1935, to which wedding couples would rush from the Church for portraits in the Studio, east of the Town Hall.  Color pictures were ‘pastel tints’ then, before digital photography. Amritdhara House, east of Albert St started in 1936,  specializing in Indian Medicines. Picture of Regent St – east from High St supplied

My grandfather,  Rasliegh J, Koo at 134 Regent Road, east of Cummings St had the contract to supply the US Seabees building the Air Base at Atkinson Field with eggs, fruit and vegetables, which he grew in his large kitchen garden at Orange Walk.  This site to the ally is now the parking lot of Bounty Outlet. Opposite east of the Bourda Cemetery, a small post Office Outlet was built  that also housed the Philatetic Society. Can anyone remember the huge galvanised urinal at Regent and Orange Walk, which derived its name from the orange trees that lined this former embankment.

When I lived at 115 Regent St, 1942  – opposite George Sookhoo store – I was dispatched at 5 years to fetch the ‘midwife, from behind Thompson’s Haberdashery at Alexander St.  After the stork brought the fourth sibling, I remember the elders ‘soo-sooing’,  and my father burying something under the mango tree in the next yard, behind O. R. Dathorne’s home – above Ramhit’s Parlour. I learnt later years the meaning of the cliché “where your navel string buried”

Ramhit was then the road maintenance foreman for the City Council, when there was very few potholes in the City’s streets.  Yassin’s opened their outlet  next door,  after they started Lyson’s Knitwear in the Industrial Site, Ruimveldt

They were rumshops, at  almost every corner along Regent St including British Warrior, Polar Bear and Sweetheart Bar.  Other popular businesses, yesteryear included Kawall’s at Wellington St,  and Narvo Pestano to the east next door, that became Gimpex,  the PPP Trading arm, selling Fiat motor cars, and goods from the Socialist countries, in the early sixties. Federation Yard opposite, which spawned the Invaders Steelband with Dan Sandiford, Calvin Whyte,  Carl Bledman and Barney Johnson,  became GuyOil Service Station, as petroleum was imported after the Opec Oil Crisis 1972, from Antigua to erode the  market share of ESSO – Texaco, and Shell. At King St, the largest ESSO Station was built in 1969, as ESSO launched their famous ‘Tiger in the Tank’ campaign.

East on that same block was Argosy Book Store  and Rajah Dry Goods, that specialized in Sports and Cricket Gear. Mohamed Rajah, the Owner, promoted Third Class Sunday Cricket, which featured cricket stars such as Vibart Pariag – Saranga Baichu – the Pertabs/ Wailoo, and Shuffler Brothers. There was also a Frank Cup, which was the cradle of our Cricket below Case, Northcote, and Wight Cup.  At College and Secondary School level, there was the Jacob Cup and Chin Cup. Bristol Cup in the late sixties, introduced limited overs for one day cricket in Guyana. I will never forget that day at DCC Ground, as Cosmos had the homesters reeling at 40 for five in reply to 160, when a tall spectacled left hander came to the wicket. Fielding at the boundary, the cricket ball was continuously collected from the Seventh Day Adventist forecourt on Forshaw St,  and the former Fountain AME school compound on New Garden. Clive Lloyd had ‘arrived’.

Top Drug Stores on Regent St included Piggott’s – Lachmansingh’s, and Burrowes. Coppin’s Parlour with their powerful ‘cherry’ drink was opposite Alleyne’s Church and School.  Betty’s gourmet  black pudding,  took over the mantle from the famous Jimmy’s, who at Robb St, west of Tang’s Bakery had that infamous altercation with a young Forbes Burnham. Betty moved to Norton St, next to Lyken’s Funeral Parlour in the Seventies,  and is now back on Regent Road, Bourda. Next to Coppin was Sardinha’s Hardware with Yong Hing’s  Grocery specializing in ground coffee at Alexander St. That site is today Torginol. At the Bourda St end opposite the Market, the Employment Exchange was established 1944.

At New Garden St there was the Civil Service Association where civil servants on strike during the 80 day strike of 1963, received ‘rations and loans’ from the TUC. The Ministry of Agriculture opposite Bourda continues today to expand the nation’s Agricultural production.

The top two night Clubs in the Eighties were on Regent St. The Cave above Fraser’s Supermarket was an elite exclusive disco with lavish décor and Sound System. Its competitor 747 was a replica of the 747 Club in Toronto, Canada, and located in the former Bamboo Gardens site, was destroyed by fire 1990. This site, is today the City Mall. Must mention earlier night Clubs,  El Globo owned by Sydney Green, which was two blocks from the Bourda swards GCC and GFC,  and was a popular bar and favourite watering hole, after football and cricket matches.   At King St corner, opposite Acme there was Flambeau owned by Lionel Grimes.

Peter Halder, former Ambassador, now living in Springfield, Virginia, USA, remembers Stella by Starlight Café, which opened only at nights, and was on the narrow pathway adjoining Manus’ Grand American Hotel. The main menu was a powerful cook-up $1.00, plus pepperpot and rice. Most of the night owl patrons bought the cook-up with a bowl of pepperpot $1.50.

Dr Vibert Cambridge reminisces that  Regent Street had different moods at different times of the day and months of the year, with the mood also shifting with one’s age. For him growing up during the fifties,  Regent St was where you got your shoes from  Bata or Saraka – yatching boots also affectionately known as ‘Juta or Bush Clarks’ or the Achilles tendon blistering round mouth shoes – CEBO from Czechoslovakia. He also noted that Regent St, encouraged a robust adult cultural mix, with enterprising entrepreneurs, musicians, prostitutes, liquor, cuisine, with Bourda Market an enriching experience unto itself.

For this ‘cook-shop-fly,  Regent Street was a triage of his pre-teen innocence – teen age steel band tramps – National Sports at Bourda – adult escapades with the denizens of the City – card sharks and city characters – sinners and saints – all delightful memorable adventures in my El Dorado yesteryear.  Ya think it easy.

For more Nostalgias – refer to Godfrey’s Nostalgias Golden Memories Of Guyana – 1940 to 1980 available at Austin’s Book Store or check out Godfrey Chin at his website      E-mail:

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  • Hugh Pickering  On 09/13/2011 at 10:27 pm

    Hi Godfrey, I think you fell down on the job my may ….. Just joking…But how come you did not say anything about Diamond Horse Shoe on Robb St, Nifty’s on Regent…I think there was also another eating place named Ronde … something
    I cannot remember the complete name…help me here somebody..
    what about Shantas and Boyos..Come on Godfrey give us some more joy…Luv ya man…Picko from Brooklyn

  • David Melville  On 06/30/2015 at 5:10 pm

    Good afternoon. Sttting here with my family we are trying to find out why is there a Regent Street and A Regent Road

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