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‘Dey don’ mek dem like dat anymore’

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(Reprint of an article by Renwick Rose, in tribute to the late Reynold ‘Renzi’ Rose, published in the NEWS newspaper, June 25, 1993)Time continues to march on, bringing with it inevitable changes in the physical, social and cultural landscape. Changes take place too at the human level, with generations passing on, leaving their successors to try to come to grips with new situations.

In the process, St Vincent and the Grenadines has lost, at the physical level, many of its finest sons and daughters. The real danger is that if the younger generations do not grasp the significance of the examples which their forebears have set, the loss may well turn out to be a total one, including on the cultural and spiritual levels.

It is in this context that it is useful to look at the generation of the late Reynold ‘Renzi’ Rose, who departed life on June 14, 1993. His life epitomized the generation of those rough times of the thirties, which triggered off social revolts throughout the Caribbean – St Vincent and St Kitts in 1935, Trinidad in 1937, Jamaica in 1938 etc.

Yet, the same generation was remarkable in its demonstration in adult life of commitment to peace, social order, discipline, and love and concern for their fellow citizens. Renzi’s generation also had to endure the hardships of the war years. Under the guidance of their parents and grandparents, they learned to cope with these hardships, to rely on local food – the madongo bakes, cornfish, bam-bam, farine etc – as a source of nourishment, a life-long relationship with the products of our own environment.

Our young consumer generation of today, hooked on the imported fast-food and bar-b-q concepts, would do well to learn from the generations of the past. For, when harder times come, as inevitably they will, it is to our soil, sea and resourcefulness that we will have to turn for our survival.

Perhaps those hardships helped to bind Renzi’s generation together. He developed a strong bond of friendship with a close circle of friends, right through life. Renzi, ‘Doppy’ (Lawrence Dopwell, incidentally the only one of these still alive), ‘Camel’ (Eric Johnson), and ‘Putty’ (Rupert Williams) grew up together, played football and mas, drank and socialized as one group, never allowing their friendship to fall prey to rivalries, jealousy or such trivialities. Our youth of today would do well to emulate them.

That same loyalty and devotion came out in Renzi’s family life – his undying love for his wife of 46 years, Germaine (née Dopwell) and his devotion to his family. In today’s world, where promiscuity flourishes, where lasting relationships are all too rare and where divorces are “a dime a dozen”, loyalty to one’s partner is all the more admirable.

Renzi, coming from Paul’s Lot, and knowing what it was like to be poor and deprived, gave his all for his children’s education. He set an example of honesty and hard work, characteristics which distinguished his generation. There were other qualities too – respect for others, morality, an abhorrence of lewd behaviour – all of which his generation held high.

Though from a family of butchers, his chosen profession was tailoring, and it was on his broad shoulders that the responsibility of leading and maintaining the tailoring establishment of Cyrus Emporium fell. He never shirked this responsibility in making the Emporium one of the nation’s finest. Personally, he honed his skills so finely that he could well have been the tailor in Tobago Crusoe’s legendary calypso ‘Yo hear lie’, for he could literally fit the description of “Just show he de corner where de fella pass and he go build a suit – dat is Tailor”

Yes, there is much to admire in this simple man, in the generation to which he belonged. That is why, in conducting the funeral service, Father Paynter described Renzi as a “CHRISTIAN GENTLEMAN”. There are all too few of this type in the world today. That is a pity because “DEY DON’ MEK DEM LIKE DAT ANY MORE”.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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