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Centenarian recalls her youth in SVG, aboard

Centenarian recalls her youth in SVG, aboard


Travelling by boat to Scotland, walking to school from Rose Bank to Troumaca, and going to a party in Kingstown and being entertained by a live band, are just a few of the things that centenarian Theresa McKenzie recalls from her youth.

Theresa was born on February 1, 1915, to parents Clarence and Theodore McKenzie. {{more}}Last Sunday, she celebrated her 100th birthday in fine style with family, friends and well-wishers in a festive atmosphere at the Grenadine House, Kingstown Park.

Theresa, who was a seamstress in her working days, attended what was known back then as the Troumaca Hill School and later taught herself to sew, a skill that allowed her to make a comfortable living when she moved abroad.

“I didn’t finish school; I leave school to take care of my brother when Mommy went to the garden. She had nobody to leave him with, so I stayed with him,” recalls Theresa, who adds, “my Mommy told me I had to cook, then learn to sew, but I did not want to sew, but I did it after Mommy said so.

“I could remember the first dress I made; it was a nice blue dress to fit me. I stayed in my room and cut it and based it and pressed it and tried it on. I had just left school; it was a nice dress.”

Later on in her life, Theresa migrated to Scotland with one of her sisters, where she spent 14 years.

“One of my sisters’ husband got a scholarship to go to Scotland and she went with her husband and I went with them on the banana boat to Scotland where I lived for 14 years. I didn’t like it there, because it was too cold and I used to get sick all the time, from December, January February, March, I used to stop working because of the cough and the cold.”

Theresa said that she remembers going to a doctor in Scotland because of her cough.

“I thought it was TB (tuberculosis). The doctor said it was because of the weather, but I asked, ‘Doc you sure I ain’t have TB? But he said no. I suffered that cough for 14 years before I went home,” said Theresa.

After leaving Scotland, Theresa visited the United States, St Vincent, then went to Canada where she lived and worked as a seamstress for 20 years.

“I used to sew in Canada. I stayed there for exact 20 years and then I said not a while longer in this cold, I’m going back home.”

She said that when she returned to St Vincent, she lived at Cane Garden and at one point had a stroke that affected the left side of her body and hospitalized her for a week.

Theresa currently lives with her only son, Norral McKenzie, and says that every morning she eats a bowl of porridge.

She said that she has no idea what is the recipe for long life, but noted that every morning since she can remember, up to this day, she eats a bowl of porridge and prays.

“I eat all types of food growing up,” stressed Theresa, who is particularly fond of sweet biscuits and a cup of tea “at 4 o’clock.”

“The cooking is different these days than when I cooked,” stressed Theresa, who is described by her family members as an independent woman who hates the idea of having to be helped to do certain things for herself.

In relation to changes, Theresa said that when she was a young girl growing up in Troumaca, boats and walking were the main means of transport and you hardly saw a car.

“Now and then, you would see a car, but now there are a lot of cars. Boat was the main means of transport and we used to be walking all to Chateaubelair, but we would come to town on a boat owned by the Government,” remembers Theresa.

During the interview, Theresa spoke of an incident that every adolescent must have gone through, wanting to go to a party and not being able to get the permission of one’s parents.

“There was a party in town, but I lived in Rose Bank and the party was next to the Anglican School in town, so my mother did not want me to go. The dance was on a Wednesday and I had a boyfriend and I wanted to see him,” related McKenzie, “I really wanted to go, so I told my pastor and he helped me to get permission; so I stayed with some family members in town and when I reach the party at 9, if you hear how they get on; people were glad to see me and I saw my boyfriend and I had a good night,” smiled Theresa, adding that her boyfriend at the time played the saxophone.

She revealed also that her favourite music includes Frank Sinatra, Engelbert Humperdinck, Elvis Presley; “but I don’t really like Michael Jackson; he too common with all the lifting up his clothes and things.”

During her birthday celebrations, Theresa was visited by Governor General Sir Frederick Ballantyne, while she also received a certificate from the Governor General of Canada, David Johnston.

She is the only surviving child of a family of eight children. She had two brothers and five sisters and was the fourth child. She has one grandchild and two great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews, including artist Jabari Elliot and news anchor Nneka Elliot, who both live in Toronto and were home for the celebrations.

Other family members include Carol Gonsalves, Jo Elliot and Marcus Thomas.

Jo Elliot said that her aunt has been an inspiration to her and other family members.

“It is a wonderful thing to have somebody so caring in your life and I thank you,” said Elliot.