Fifty years ago or now: when would you rather be living? – By Dave Martins + music video

50 years ago or now by Dave MartinsT

Dave Martins

Dave Martins

That’s right, 50 years ago or now: when would you rather be living? The next time you’re in a close social setting and the conversation lags, pose that question and brace yourself for the melee that will follow. Conceding that subjectivity will be hugely at play in that discussion, it’s a fascinating topic; prepare yourself for heated exchanges and perhaps even losing some friends.

Going out the door, one of the first points that would be raised is the conveniences of life today. Fifty years ago, we didn’t have email or cell phones; telegraphed messages to my father on his Pomeroon farm took a week between send and receive. Back then, we didn’t have electric blenders; housewives used mortar and pestle. No equipment to make ice cream at home, meant bringing the ice home on a bicycle followed by the long tiring churning of the milk by hand – a job I used to run from.  

With no refrigerator in the house, and no Bounty with a frozen-food section down the road, my mother had to cook the meat the day it was bought from the butcher or grab a chicken from the pen. The upside, of course, is that we were eating fresh; no preservatives or other taste-enhancing additives, and that home-made ice cream, perhaps because of the effort involved, seemed better than the store-bought version.

Another early comparison will be in the area of social exchanges. Lack of distractions meant people had more time, at home or about, to simply talk to each other either about personal matters or events of the day. The picture of two daytime shoppers, engaged in a long roadside gaff, with their bags resting on the ground, would be very familiar to persons living here 60 years ago. Today, they just wave at each other driving by and give the thumb-and-finger “call me” signal. Back in time, a polite manner was standard, and behavior in public was everybody’s business so that waywardness in the young would draw a rebuke from complete strangers and, in parallel, a “Sorry Sir” or a “Sorry Ma’am” from the miscreant; today that correction would draw a “mind your own business” or even some select French.

The game in town was Test cricket, with matches lasting 5 days, and there was no hurry to score runs. If you had 6 dot balls in an over, but didn’t get out, that was good. In the stands, people would bring a basket of food (after all, you were there all day), and in those spells of three maidens in a row, the boys would repair to the bar, and the ladies would chat…about the boys at the bar. There was a low volume p.a. system and numbers painted on tins told you the score, which often came well after the hit. Some folks would read the newspaper or the latest scandal sheet (the Bomb in Trinidad), some people would actually fall asleep, and there was a long break for lunch (substantial lunch, no hamburgers) and a shorter break for tea.

Fifty years later, the game in town is T20, with the contest over in 3 hours, and runs in a river (3 dot balls is panic time). The stadium is jumping, alive with music, an electronic scoreboard, and dancing girls. Time is critical (you have only 20 overs), so if you don’t score fast, from the first over, you’re in trouble. There are signs and flags all over the place, and the stadium erupts for a boundary or a wicket, with spectators mugging for the TV camera and the scoreboard flashing fireworks. You know instantly how long a six was, and the scoring rate ball-by-ball. In some grounds the batsman hitting a target in the stands gets a cash prize. Some people still long for the 5-day match as the ultimate test for a cricketer, while many prefer the more frantic T20 game that is popular world-wide now. I hear from both camps in this space.

Access 50 years ago was difficult. Outside Georgetown, drivers had to put up with pot-holed red-dirt roads – clouds of dust in dry weather; red slush in the rain – and there was no Berbice Bridge or Demerara Harbour Bridge. When I had a very serious injury to my hand late one afternoon, I had to wait in my home in pain all night at Vreed-en-Hoop before I could get the first morning ferry and Mercy Hospital in town. Getting to the Rupununi was an ordeal only the hardy souls took on. Given the choice to go back to that, I would very quickly refuse.

Touring the Caribbean, 47 years ago, Tradewinds had to travel with every bit of equipment we needed to perform – 27 pieces in all; set it up, plug it in, and play. Now bands travel with just a drum machine and a computer, and perform on locally available high-quality audio equipment projecting the music to thousands. Even more sophisticated is the Ableton electronic device which reproduces the full recorded sound of a band while the vocalist performs live in the “singing-over-tracks” phenomenon that promoters love because it’s just two persons to pay – the singer and the sound engineer – and two airline tickets and two hotel rooms. On the other hand, while more complicated to deliver, and more expensive, the effect of a band or orchestra with every musician playing live can be the most enthralling audio experience, so which would you choose? It is revealing that in classical music presentations, or in carnival steelbands, where the largest complement of players take part (40 – 100), playing over tracks is not happening.

Of course, this foray is all hypothetical, triggered by the constant chorus of complaints one hears about life today. In most cases we can’t go back 50 years, or even 20; we grapple with the new dispensation while the nostalgia writers remind us of what was. Besides, some choices do remain, so that with some effort one can find produce without preservatives, and there are some families where children are required to be polite, and the ice-cream maker now comes motor-driven. But generally, unless you’re a confirmed recluse, most people would probably say “give me now, not then.”


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  • De castro  On 03/06/2016 at 4:23 am


  • Bella de clou  On 03/07/2016 at 1:55 pm

    Thank you David for the beautiful memories of the past, I am from thr Pomeroon, and of course, I myself remembering getting the chicken from the pen, my grandmother will cook a tasty meal. Listening to your music on the radio was a treat.
    May you continue to play your beautiful music

  • OBSERVER  On 03/08/2016 at 1:26 pm

    For me, it’s not THEN or NOW; for me it’s Then AND Now. Both have their good and their not-so-good.

    • De castro  On 03/09/2016 at 3:50 am

      For me it’s ‘tomorrow’ and beyond 🇬🇧

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