Ah remember Hurry Cane Janet
MR HAZELWOOD is a very popular caller to every Talk Show on Radio in SVG. He has lost his sight, but has been compensated tremendously wid de gift of memory. What ah man. Any discussion on any past event of significance, dat took place in SVG as far back as 80 years ago, dat discussion is not complete until Hazlewood calls and makes his contribution. Ah missed his bit when he shared his near death experience during Hurricane Janet dat devasted Grenada in 1955. Apparently, he went to catch fish on dat day and was caught in de Storm. Major See-in Clear Leacock was so impressed wid Hazelwood’s story, dat he invited those among us who think we have an “Ole Time Story” to come forward.
September 1955 opened wid ah Bundle of joy foh me. My kid brother Don was born ah week before Janet de Janitor stormed de region. Everybody wanted ah piece ah my cute baby brother. But around week three, de morning before Janet, dey was stillness all around, no breeze, cloudless skies, de channel looked as smooth as oil. “Weather up!” my grand-dad de ole Sage said, in other words, expect ah storm any time. In dem days we did not have de technology of today, all ears were glued to de one Radio Stay-shun, de Windward Islands Broadcasted Service (WIBS) dat operated from Grenada and served de four Windward Islands well from 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. daily.
Dey was also BBC and two stay-shuns broadcasting out ah Trinidad.
No NEMO back den, and by de way, NEMO gets ah D as in Distint-shun foh ah good coverage dis season. Today dey’s ah lot ah caution and pre cautionary notices coming via Facebook, Google, Twitter, Instagram et al.
So back in 1955, someone would pass de word around dat de White Flag (storm warning No 1) was raised and flying at Police stay-shun. As de Storm got closer, de surroundings got more and more scary. De stillness continued, high daytime and de place in darkness, still no clouds, ominous looking skies,..
And den at about 4:00 p.m. we heard de final warning, de 1-minute sound of de Siren coming from de Police Stay-shun, also de Siren at de Cotton Ginnery; those were de days when we processed cotton (flower) buds and extracted rich Cotton Seed Oil from de seeds. There-after people armed wid pillows and nighties headed foh temporary shelters e.g.
Church and school buildings, Peace Mo. Shortly after yuh could hear de loud Praise and Worship Songs coming from de Shelters.
Ah timely reminder to go down pon yuh knee and pray.
Ah few members in de community took shelter at our home dat was quite suitable, a downstairs with concrete block walls. At 10: 00 p.m. when WIBS Radio was closing down, de announcer said ah prayer foh SVG and wished us all de best as we weather thru de Storm dat night.
Within minutes of dat farewell we felt a strong gust ah wind, followed by ah second and ah third, den no more, de place went calm again. De ole sage said, “dat was only de smoke, de beginning, we now going thru de calm between de big storm.; de worse is behind. But as we looked across de Bequia Channel, dey was ah massive cloud mass moving across de ocean, and de ole sage said: “ Dey’s de storm going down de channel. Thank yuh Jesus.” After two hours of uninterrupted peace and quiet; de consensus was dat de Storm had definitely passed and we were going thru ah phase known as “de calm after ah Storm!”
So we wer safe.
By daylight de news broke dat Janet “blowdown Grenada”
and all roads led to Kingstown way all de stores including de Police Barracks on Bay Street was flooded from ground swells bordering ah mini soon-nah-me.
Dey was no Deep Water Harbour, so Bay Street was all beach, and ah crowd had gathered in front de Barracks looking wid keen interest, at ah small fishing boat wid two sails, ah captain and two sailors who had braved de channel from Bequia to come to Kingstown on an urgent mission.
De captain made about five attempts to beach de lickle sloop, de 20-feet swells were too big, and every-time he seemed to be getting thru, he had to abort and go back out to Sea. Finally he went far out to Cane Garden point, and when everybody thought he had decided to go back to Bequia, he seemed to have found de right swell, and we say de boat on top of ah big wave, heading full spead in de wind foh de shore. De crowd started to shout and clap: “ He got it dis time! He got it!” Dey sailors down de Jib and Main Sail and de boat rode on top ah dat swell right into de Police Barracks.
Town people roared and shouted and clapped.
And what was de urgency? Someone had died during de night and dey captain and crew came to de mainland to purchase lumber to build de coffin.
But de skills and bravery dat we all witnessed dat morning, as de crew of dat lickle sloop won, de near death experience at sea remains my greatest memory of Hurry-Cane Janet! And wid dat is gone ah gone again.
One Love Bassy
Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.