Straker’s sweet surprise

A relaxed Wesley Straker.

by Latoya Burnham

It does not take long to realise that Wesley Straker is a man of few words.

For this Simpson Motors employee of 40 years, it’s probably one of the reasons he has held the job for as long as he has, and as contentedly, because he admits that very little gets him riled.

“When I leave home I come to work. I don’t come work, I come to work,” he states most seriously, left hand propped on the back of a chair and resting against his left temple, with brow furrowed in thought.

This serious man of seeming deep thought is the man I shake hands with in the lobby of the company and who leads me to a set of comfortable chairs a little off the showroom for our chat. We converse a bit and he tells me about his busy morning as I get the recorder and camera ready.

He was with Kyffin Simpson, now Sir Kyffin, owner of the Simpson operations, even before the boss first started selling Ford vehicles.

“I started out selling gas, at the gas station there in Harmony Hall. Then Mr. Simpson bought Ford, and then added Suzuki. That was long before we move up here and they started to expand,” he says.

Those were days of a family type atmosphere, where it was all hands on deck and everyone knew each other intimately – like brothers and sisters. It’s almost with a kind of longing that Straker, as he is called by most, recalls those early days.

His award of a brand new vehicle by the company less than a week ago is still fresh in his mind, and about six minutes into the interview his serious persona starts to crack and gives way to a very affable character.

He doesn’t shed tears now, and admits that he didn’t then either, but his emotions are almost tangible as he recalls the surprise that led to him driving away a Suzuki Celerio that night. It was just after they had recognised the workers that had moved from Harmony Hall to Warrens with the company.

Watch the crane

“Debbie told me to stand to one side and then she told everyone to watch the crane. We had seen the crane earlier, but then it start to move and you started to see the top of the car. I was like, ‘Wait, dat fuh me? Dat can’t be fuh me!’ Then it come right in front of me and she said here, and gave me the keys. I couldn’t move. I was shaking so bad,” he says with a laugh now, gesticulating the movement of the crane as he told his story.

That night, he adjusts his glasses now and says, many of his colleagues had tears in their eyes and on their faces. As for him, he says he suspects he was “too frighten to cry”.

“No one had anything bad to say. There wasn’t anyone that did not think I should get it. They were all congratulating me and I was in shock. I know usually every five years of service they would give you something. People get televisions, washing machines, you know things people can use, but they don’t give you no plaque or trophy.

“For my 35th I got two trips to New York for me and my daughter. So I know this is 40, so I say well I would look for a car, let them buy it and probably pay back de rest because I was looking for a little $5,000 or $6,000 worth, but I never expect this.”

His daughter, he says, now drives the brand new gift, because he is too attached to his own Baleno. And to get him talking about his family brings a huge smile to his face when he admits that his 22-year-old daughter is “the apple of my eye”.

He has been in a solid relationship for more than 30 years, adding with a twinkle in his eye, but with not a smile on his lips now, that he has never been the kind to “gallivant”. Straker considers himself more of a home guy, one who is comfortable just staying in and watching television.

Pretty quiet guy

Again, he relaxes when he talks about his youth. He confesses he has always been a pretty quiet guy. He was never one to find himself walking home because the midnight bus had left him, though he loves to dance and would attend several dances in his younger days.

“That last bus could never leave me. I used to be on it.”

In his later years, he and his spouse would attend those dances together and return home.

Even before he got his licence, Straker laughs and admits that he used to drive at night. So it was quite a surprise when he finally went in for his first test, he failed in the poles. His second attempt, his legs froze at that same point and he gesticulates again as he recalls physically lifting his foot off the clutch before continuing.

“I ain’t know wha happen, because that was de part I failed de first time. From then I was good. It was smooth and I pass.”

Which was a good thing, because when he officially joined the car operations at Simpsons, he was the one trusted to clear vehicles at the Port and then take them to the Pine to be registered, a job he still relishes.

Asked whether he has ever thought about changing jobs in the 40 years, he shakes his head.

“I could get this handle. I know what I have to do, I know what this all about. That’s why I never worry about changing. I just have about five more years before retirement.

“Probably even if retirement come, it depends on how I feel and if I ain’t got no disability or anything like that and they still allow me to work. So long as I could work and I could function normally I would go. Otherwise I would go home and find something to do,” he says.

For a man who likes to keep active though, he says he suspects inactivity at retirement would drive him a little bit crazy. For now he is mostly contented and thankful for everything that life has brought his way.

As we end the interview and walk out of the showroom, Straker says he is now about to head to the Pine to license some new vehicles.

“It’s a busy day.”

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