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Gone to manage Club Paradise

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When ah had reach de age to go partying, Coronation Club was de party headquarters, it was owned and managed by one S.G. “Syl” De Freitas next to de beach at Indian Bay, de Balcombe’s property.

When Coronation Club closed; it was Crows Nest, den finally Aquatic Club, another night spot dat was built by de very Able ‘n’ Progressive, Syl or Pappa as he was affectionately called.{{more}}

Talking bout contribution to de development of SVG, Syl De Freitas made his mark on de housing stock. Before Coronation Club, he had built several bungalows along de seashore at Edinboro, I am told dat in those days (1940’s) Edinboro was an extension ah Kingstown, it had stores and shops. Pappa/Syl den moved out to Villa way he built another set ah bungalows including de Aquatic Club along de seashore. The buildings in both these developments are still standing, refurbished of course but still characterized by dey imposing hip-roof.

Mr De Freitas did not stop dey, he went next door, over to Indian Bay and opened up another residential community before heading up to Sion Hill, way he built his last set ah houses one of which houses Nice Radio Station, “two percent Radio, ninety-eight percent Love.”

But Syl was ah roving realtor, “fast he build so he sell.” And Villa beach was like de mecca in Real Estate, de only white sand beach on mainland SVG, Lie-Za reminds me dat dey isn’t a single grain ah white sand dey now, dey dug out all de coral up in Canash to mek limestone, poor people cement; when all ah de processing ah dis cement substitute was taking place, nobody cared or gave thought to de fact dat if we destroyed de Coral, we will destroy de production ah white sand. But de white sand was de trump card within dat development, and Syl was able to sell off his bungalows including de Aquatic Club to de few rich and fare-most white folks in SVG.

Dat environment was I-deal foh ah private club, and indeed Aquatic Club became very private and very exclusive, in other words “black people couldn’t go dey,” except on invitation to special functions, and not any and any black person, yuh had to be someone like de Administrator’s deputy of Crown Attorney and so on.

Lie-za does always pick up she stories, sometimes late but never too late. She was telling me dat her grand-mother told her dat one Sunday, de den president, was Hardly able to take his adopted son, Toe-knee to de club, de lickle fellar was half-black, half-white; his skin colour was brown, and in dem days de slang was “if yuh white is all right, if yuh brown stick around but if yuh black, stand back!” De colour scheme today is Yellow, Red and ah light Green. However Toe-knee was spotted on de wharf by another member who was Gun-in foh ah fight, he ordered dat “de lickle black boy” be thrown off de wharf, and received ah cuff in his mouth dat Hardly caught him.

Interestingly, when all ah dis race-in and cuff-in was taking place at de Aquatic Club, another “lickle black boy” was some-way up in de country in de Georgetown area, running up and down bare-foot, stoning mango tree, sucking cane and learning to swim in de “rough waters” along de coast; he was totally unaware, oblivious of what was happening lower down town, certainly oblivious of de fact dat in another twenty years or more, dat he would be acquiring de same Aquatic Club, and would break down all racial barriers dat had infested de compound, thereby introducing ah new Civil-eyes-say-shun, ah new era in de field ah Entertainment in SVG.

So dat was de environment dat Stilly Fraser inherited, and had to deal wid immediately when he acquired de Aquatic Club.

He had lived in Canada foh ah while and was no stranger to Night Club, so from day one, or was it night one, he laid down de rules, and he was always present to enforce his rules even if he had to execute ah head-butt or two, just to mek sure his intent and statements clear.

He brought de very best in Caribbean Artistes and talent to SVG, names like Sparrow, Arrow, Dennis Da Souza, he brought Lord Nelson who later made mention of Stilly’s hospitality in one ah his Kaiso.

He promoted Vincy Artistes once dey met his high standards, he certainly raised de bar in entertainment in SVG.

My personal experience wid Stilly, de manager, was when ah was president ah de CSA now de PSU dat giving de Pry Minister night-mayor. When ah took over dey was an over-draft of about $3,000. 00 small money today, but in 1979 it was sizeable. Membership was small and was no way we could ah pay dat death. So we decided to put on ah dance as part ah de In-de-pen-dance activities. Dat was de weekend when all club owners were hoping to mek ah killing, so very early ah went to Stilly to ask him foh Aquatic, when ah told him we looking at de night before In-deep-and-dense, he gave me dat Stilly Fraser loud outburst, and said: “Bassy yuh got to be crazy, anybody who want dat night got to pay me $5,000.00, dey not getting my bar and dey got to pay de band.” When ah laid down de case foh de Union, Stilly gave us de Thursday Night foh free, he will tek de bar only, and we will pay de band and security. We planned foh de night dat we would announce de winner ah de Mr and Miss Civil Servant, an inter- departmental competition.

Aquatic was ram-jam, de bar buss, Stilly had to open his store-room and sell hot beers. When de dance was over, he came up to me and shook my hand, den he whispered in my ears: “Yuh catch me big time, yuh have to give me something from de gate receipts to pay foh lights.” He was ah winner man. So St Peter waiting foh him up dey; he gone straight to manage Club Paradise: no alcoholic drinks, no loud sounds, dancing yes, but only Gospel music.

May Stilly rest peacefully. And wid dat is gone ah gone again.

One Love Bassy.

Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.

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