Baby Boomers and those born at an earlier period, have had the opportunity to observe the rapid social and economic development Barbados has undergone over the 48 years of its independence.
Unfortunately, the phenomenal growth recorded in these two spheres of life has not been matched in the spiritual realm, with Barbadians witnessing abuse of illicit drugs, the rise of the drug baron, the emergence of boys on the block, and the steady breakdown of the family stucture over time. However, in spite of these negative aspects of life in Barbados, over the 48 years of Independence, Barbadians cannot deny they have witnessed the phenomenal growth of a vibrant middle class in such areas as West Terrace and Husbands in St James and Elizabeth Park in Christ Church.
During this period, Barbadians would have also witnessed the narrowing of the economic gap between those who owned wealth and those who were emerging from the labouring working class. Today, many Baby Boomers, children born after World War II –– the offspring of domestic servants, field labourers and artisans –– now own homes in these and other similar residential districts dotted across the island.
In the area of public health, Barbadians have witnessed a near revolution with the mushrooming of polyclinics in such parishes as St Michael, St George, Christ Church and St Peter. When it is considered that at an earlier period of Barbados’ history the infant mortality rate was higher than that of Guyana’s, policymakers in the Ministry of Health are to be highly commended for enhancing the quality of life of the average Barbadian.
Barbadians may proudly ask themselves when last they attended a funeral service where a small white casket was seen? The answer would be comforting. Over the last 48 years Barbados has been able to wrestle this health scourge to the ground.
Travel by land has also undergone much change through the years of Independence, with the average citizen now owning motorized transport. Persons born after World War II may recall droves of artisans on bicycles from such far-flung parishes as St Philip, St George, St John and St Thomas making their way to their places of employment in The City.
These workers would then make their way back home to their rural parishes after labouring for a full eight to ten hours, using tools not driven by electricity.
Today, the public transport system uses enclosed buses, built either in Brazil or Britain, but at an earlier period of Barbados’ history, an open wooden structure was superimposed on a chassis for a bus. Unlike today when the operator of the bus sits behind the wheel and collects fares in a turnstile box, it took a high degree of athleticism by the conductor to hold oneself secure on the running board and skip safely the rear wheel of the bus to collect passengers’ fares.
The conductor’s work became more hazardous when the rain fell and he had to deal with a flapping tarpaulin and a wet running board.
Bus concessionaire and funeral director Harold “Zeek” Tudor of The Ivy, St Michael, was the first person to import a fully enclosed bus, servicing the Bush Hall, St Michael route.
At a time when several schooners connected the other islands of the Eastern Carribean with Barbados, the Pier Head in Cavan’s Lane, Bridgetown, was the site of the Screw Dock where vessels were repaired.
Before the Deep Water Harbour was constructed in the early 1960s, officials of the Customs and Immigration Departments were located at Cavan’s Lane, The City, to supervise the departure of thousands of Barbadians who were seeking employment in Britain. Small vessels were used to transport passengers from the Pier Head to large ocean-going vessels anchored in Carlisle Bay some three to five miles offshore.
The inner basin of the Careenage on which Independence Square and the statue of the Father Of Independence Errol Barrow is located was reserved for huge “lighters” which transported goods from anchored vessels in Carlisle Bay.
Seawell Airport, now the Grantley Adams International Airport, the Berinda Cox Fish Market in Oistins and Kensington Oval have all benefited from upgrades over the past 48 years of Independence.