Looking back, some of us have nostalgic sentiments of life in the good old days in Guyana. But those of us who have struggled during that period have become detached and do not wish to relive the memory again. Others have cherished the old times because they were a vital part of the fabric from which their lives were fashioned.
Today, some of the practices and habits of the good old days have been abandoned, although there was nothing intrinsically wrong with them. In this period, nearly all men wore hats and caps at public functions. Obviously, a hat rack was located near the entrance or in the living room of the house to hang hats. Today, there are hardly any hat racks in homes available and when a hat is worn, it is usually a sports cap.
In the old days, it was necessary for children and adults to wear flannel undershirts or flannel vests in order to keep the chest warm and as a protection from chest colds or tuberculosis. Buying cloth, especially wool to make a pants or suit was normal. A three-piece suit was top class when made from wool and worn on a special occasion such as a wedding, funeral or church. It was the style that mattered. This practice has been abandoned.
Those were the days when most people were self-reliant. Garbage trucks were not required, especially in the rural areas, because everything had a recycling value and those that did not, were burnt. For what was bought in a tin container, there was a tin smith in the village to place a handle on it to fetch water from the standpipe on the road or in the yard. Shoes had a long life span. If there was a hole in the bottom of the shoe, there was a shoemaker in the village to half-sole or do other repairs.
The primary schools have taught male students such skills as carpentry and gardening. Female students were trained to cook, bake and sew. Also, boys whose parents were fishermen were taught how to mend nets or knit a fishing net. These skills were reinforced at home and became a trade for life. There were also daily chores for children.
Headmasters were disciplinarians who had three important tools on their desks—a rod, a strap and a black book. The black book was the most feared because if the name of a pupil was placed in it, it was very difficult for him or her to ever get a proper letter of recommendation for a job, a passport or a transfer to another school except in unusual circumstances.
Parents trusted headmasters and brought their children who were unruly at home to be disciplined by him while they watched and decided when enough punishment was meted out.
Falling in love, then, was as natural as it is now. But young men had to write a formal letter to the parents of the young lady to express his intention and plans. He also wrote to request the lady’s hand in marriage. On receiving the letter, the parents will convene a family meeting to discuss the matter with their daughter before giving a formal reply to the request.
If the response is positive, the young man would be invited to visit the home of the young lady with a sponsor who would introduce him to the girl’s family. This was important especially if he or his parents were not from that community.
Today, most of these values and principles have been cast aside.
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