People worrying about how to survive today’s economic challenges have lessons to learn from the previous generation who survived in much harder times.
Long before the Cayman Islands became a financial hub and world-class tourism destination, people lived a much simpler life.
The stress of losing a job, worrying about a business, having bills to pay and a sluggish economy were far from the minds of Caymanian people in earlier days.
Their concerns were much more rudimentary – putting food on the table, having a roof over their heads, having something to wear, etc.
“We cared for each other and everybody shared a little bit of what they had,” said Bodden Town senior Josie Solomon, 82. “People do not think about each other [as much]; this is a new Cayman and whatever little bit they have, they would rather throw it away than give it away.”
Ms Solomon urges people do what they can to help those who are less fortunate. She recalls that in her day, the older folks would help others build homes, prepare the ground for planting a garden and share catch from the sea.
“We need to get back to grass roots. Talk with friends, family and neighbors and share one another’s problems,” she said. “Try and plant something in the yard; do a little fishing and spend less.”
Ms Solomon still keeps a small garden near her home. This, she said, saves her from having to buy fresh produce at the supermarket.
Asked why the earlier generation did not view life as a struggle even though times were difficult, Ms Solomon said people shared what they had and helped each other in whatever way they could.
There were no electric, cable or water bills to pay, one car in the community served as public transport for those heading to George Town to do the Saturday morning shopping and fishermen shared their catch-of-the-day in exchange for “breadkind.”
There was often a community well for water and those who were fortunate enough to have a radio tuned in loudly to BBC for everyone to hear.
Today’s stressors can be worrying at times for many; however, tough economic times can look less like a struggle if people recapture the community spirit of old. Most seniors credit their resilience through hard times to sharing and caring for one another.
Julia Hydes, who at 104 is Cayman’s oldest resident, recounts how her family made do with what they had in those days.
“I lived in an era of great hardship in the Cayman Islands, but never once did I not see food on the table. We were poor, but we looked after one another,” she said.
Growing up, she recalls her mother, Susannah, walking from Boatswain Bay in West Bay to New Town, George Town to cut thatch tops and her father, Daniel, heading out to catch fish and tend cows in the grass piece.
“My mother walked to New Road and even farther to find the tops. The mosquitoes were so thick, we had to fight them off with a switch made from birch tree leaves. It was hard, but it was a good life,” she said.
Aunt Julia recalls that, although there were no washing machines, they wore the cleanest clothes, washed by hand.
Everything they did was done well and they never forgot to attend church. When they wanted to have fun, they would dance.
When it comes to hardship, she thinks people need to do what her family did – work hard, meet the conditions and God will do the rest.
Her advice is to be more loving, visit each other often and work hard at everything you do.
“I would love to see that happy, loving feeling come back again, where everyone was happy; all they are doing today is finding fault. They need to put their trust in God,” she said.
Ms Solomon said the older people never had the kind of stress seen nowadays; people were always smiling and helpful to each other.
Her father had a car and he would carry people from Bodden Town to George Town; carpenters made homes for others; and no one went hungry if a fisherman went to sea.
“People are not that free today. It is a different generation but despite that fact, we should keep that same spirit of sharing and caring for one another,” she said. “People made it their business to walk and talk with each other.
Today there are telephones, televisions and other modern necessities that occupy the time.”
Fisherman Olson Levy said the fishing tradition is lost. He said rising gas prices, environmental restraints and sport fishing can sometimes make it difficult for to make a living from the sea – and young people are just not interested.
Mr. Levy still shares his fish and breadkind with elders in the community – just like his father and grandfather did long ago.
Community life was simpler in earlier times, with children spending time after school wandering the neighborhood and visiting from house to house.
Despite the meager life that most people lived, they never failed to hand out something and were consistently cheerful and full of songs.
There is a lot to learn from the older generation – lessons from the past can help many in present times.
Sure, we pay higher prices here. But there are a few places we islanders know that offer a good deal on many things. For those who are looking to save a buck or two, here are some ways to have you saving more on the island.
Plant a garden, fish and stock up on items that are on special at the supermarkets.
Dining out is enjoyable and convenient, but doing it too often can leave you out of pocket money for awhile. Eating at home more often is the best way to go.
Try to minimize costs of buying brand new. Garage and moving sales offer great bargains.
Thrift shop inventories consist of items that don’t get sold at garage sales, as well as items from people who don’t hold garage sales. It’s like searching through Grandma’s attic for buried treasure. The Humane Society Thrift Shop, NCVO and the Red Cross Bargain Store offer many hidden valuables and at a good rate too.
Used furniture and appliances
In Cayman not many stores sell used furniture and appliances, but there are a few who do. Some offer good quality items at a reduced rate. Scratch-and-dent at hardware stores may sometimes be the way to go if you are tight on money for appliances.
Visitors pay for the privilege of entertainment we enjoy for free and sometimes take for granted. Visit the beach, hike or visit the library.
For children, remember the good old days – skip rope, dolly house, gig, moonshine baby, hopscotch, marbles and tree climbing; all fun for free.
Enjoy outdoor get-togethers or join a variety of clubs.
Watch for flea markets that are occasionally held at the Lions Centre.