GUYANA: NOSTALGIA: Brown Betty Restaurant – Georgetown – By Geoff Burrowes

  – By Geoff Burrowes

Georgetown was British in its lack of pretension, its laid back style and the laid back lifestyle.

So the Brown Betty was different and exotic with its long silver bar, running down the whole length of its North side and the red leather seats, perched on shiny poles, in front of the bar and red leather booths running down the South side and with a stair case running up to  a landing against the back (West) wall with a shiny silver and red Wurlitzer Juke box dominating the landing and stairs from the lan.ding to the next floor. I never mounted those stairs and imagined  unseen delights up there!       

There was an air of excitement as soon as you walked through the red batwing doors of the Brown Betty and into the glittering red and silver interior. I understand that it was built to take advantage of the Yankee Dollars from the US Air Force personnel on furlough from the Air Force base at Atkinson Field, 30 miles South of Georgetown on the banks of the Demerara River. I believe that was the impetus for the construction of the Carib Hotel and the Bel Air Hotel on the East Coast foreshore East of Subryanville.

I have no clear memory of the Airmen being in the Brown Betty although I understand that they frequented it! Maybe we didn’t go there while the base was in operation but we definitely went there after. Dad would occasionally take us for a drive up to the Sea Wall or Fort Groyne and after that we would be given the treat of going to the Brown Betty. We could choose a pint of ice cream or a hot dog or hamburger and a Coke or Milk Shake. Friends from Georgetown reminded me of a concoction called “Frosted Malt” which appeared later.

I never had any difficulty deciding! I still, to this day have never tasted the equal of Brown Betty Ice Cream! I couldn’t tell you what the difference was but the flavour was incomparable! Later I was to experience Creamsicles, Fudgicles christened by Brown Betty as “Eskimo Pies” and other variants but nothing could compare to the sweet flavour of a Brown Betty Vanilla Ice Cream. My sister Mary preferred Chocolate Ice Cream but to me the chocolate spoiled the clean, sweet flavour of the vanilla!

To me the memory of the “Brown Betty” is a bright part of my childhood. It was across the road from the Singer Sewing Machine company and just to the left or North of Ferreira and Gomes, the Department Store, and to the South of the distinctive single storied Guyana and Trinidad Mutual Insurance Co. building.

It spoils the memory of the original but after the fire that destroyed the buildings at Regent and Hincks Sts, I think in 1962, Brown Betty moved to a temporary location across the road next to Pradasco Cycle store. You could get ice cream in pint and 1/2 pint cardboard containers but somehow the glamour of the original Brown Betty was gone.

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  • Charles Cadogan  On 07/30/2021 at 1:40 am

    My family was poor but my dad made that around Christmas time each he would take the kids for an ice cream cone at Brown Betty. For us it quite a treat. We travelled there by the Yellow bus. Quite nostalgic for me this article. Thank you!

  • ISHWAR PRASHAD  On 07/30/2021 at 10:08 am

    I often went their betwee1954-59, with friends/classmates, from Central High. Our last celebration was when we passed our Senior Cambridge…..Patrick Fung, the Lam brothers etc. and Rudy Luck( teacher), who promised to lend us his car, if we gave him a “treat”. We did but he reneged until we walked out and left him with the bill. We then drove to Atkinson Airfield and had a great picnic. Halcyon days, when we were young. Ishwar Prashad.

    • Kman  On 07/30/2021 at 11:49 pm

      Sounds like he paid for the treats plus lent you the car?

  • Diana Abraham  On 07/30/2021 at 12:06 pm

    Geoffrey it appears that the Dutch Dreams Ice cream cafe in Toronto was started by the guy who ran the Brown Betty!

    • geoffburrowes  On 07/31/2021 at 11:35 am

      Where is that Diana? How’re you doing?

  • detow  On 07/30/2021 at 1:16 pm

    A good reminder of some of Guyana’s glory days. My memory is not what it used to be but was Brown Betty not also well known for Chicken In The Rough?

  • wally n  On 07/30/2021 at 1:48 pm

    Ha …you guys know how to make me feel old. Not sure the owner’s name was Seymore(?) in Robb Street, I got to know him in Scarborough, had a popular night club, we sometimes taped shows there. There was another ice cream place called Nifty’s went there often, saw my first music video there. I did get to meet the owner and his son in Canada, played table tennis at the same club for years.
    Off topic, people were known to take home the chicken in the rough baskets, I was told.
    Love the memories, looking back was actually a whole lot of fun.

    • detow  On 07/30/2021 at 6:29 pm

      Yes Seymour was the owner of Rendezvous on Robb Street in GT. He and his son John moved to Canada and lived on Orleans Drive in Scarborough. I golfed with both of them for a number of years until the father died and John moved to downtown Toronto.

  • Kman  On 07/30/2021 at 11:55 pm

    One pint of ice cream per person, wow. We had to settle for a cone or a mall container of ice cream.

    You live in Canada too long, it was called Cokes not coke,lol.Or sweet or areated drink.

  • guyaneseonline  On 07/31/2021 at 1:22 am

    Submitted by Clyde Duncan

    Here is a photo of a US Air Force soldier near Brown Betty – July 1946

    • Chris  On 07/31/2021 at 4:38 pm

      Thanks for the photo, Cyril! It’s a trip back in time.

  • Farzan  On 07/31/2021 at 1:32 am

    Thank you Mr Burrowes for bringing sweet memories to me. My Dad also used to take us for a drive to the seawall and we would stop there for our treats afterwards My favourite was their egg sandwich and chocolate milk shake, up to this day (60+years after)when I tell my family I want a Brown Betty sandwich , they know exactly what I mean. Thank you again

  • Clyde Duncan  On 07/31/2021 at 3:25 am

    Caldeira owned Brown Betty

    • ulric pestano  On 08/02/2021 at 4:00 pm

      Caldeira was the manager of Brown Betty..Cecil Pereira was the owener.

      • Richard Mendonca  On 02/27/2022 at 5:18 am

        Yes you are correct. My father Michael Mendonca was the manager of the ice cream plant at the back and Mr. Harding was the Engineer. I was about 5 when I went to work with Dad sometimes to fill the popsicles molds and taste the soft ice cream after it was made. At night my Dad worked as the manager of the restaurant and I went with him sometimes. I always recalled the hamburger I ate. The Pereira’s’ were hardly there they were what we called saga boys. After the big fire it broke my father and we immigrated for Canada when I was 11. I am now 69 having worked in the Oil and Gas Industry in Algeria, Kuwait, Venezuela, Iraq, UAE, China, Japan and the USA.

  • Richard Mendonca  On 02/27/2022 at 5:21 am

    We lived on Laluni St. across from Dr. Chedi Jagan (he was a dentist then) and Lance Gibbs home. I recall with great glee going to the DCC. I have not been back since we left in 1963.

  • Ben Gaule  On 04/03/2023 at 4:05 pm

    I and my two brothers went to British Guiana about 60 years ago. We traveled from England, and went looking for diamonds. Never done anything like that before.
    While in Georgetown we would go to Brown Betty. It was a wonderful place. We would eat banana splits.
    I have been back to Guyana recently. Have tried to find that place where we looked and found diamonds all those years ago. But, a lot has changed. Will carry on trying to find that place. But, how I miss Brown Betty!

  • Andrew Cromwell  On 04/22/2023 at 8:20 am

    Yes. I remember that spot very well. I mainly remember the occasional ice cream cup with the wooden spoon.

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