Bajan History and “Her Story”

One bedroom house similar to house Sandra grew up in
One bedroom house similar to house Sandra grew up in.

When I talk to middle- age and older Bajans, I find that they are more appreciative about value of life than valuables in life! 

I love to hear them talk about their history and culture! Sandra often leads the ‘back in time’ discussion down memory lane! Many friends back home in the US don’t know that Sandra grew up a few blocks from where we recently purchased a home. The one bedroom house  was home for a family of 7 (2 boys and 3 girls) had  no electricity, running water, or inside toilets! With one bedroom, all of the kids slept on the living room floor.

Stand Pipe
Stand Pipe

Breakfast usually consisted of  tea and a couple of biscuits (crackers). They had chicken or fish, at least once a week usually on Sunday. However, if they had a visitor stop by while they were eating, Sandra’s mom would offer them food and take the meat or fish from the kids plate to offer the guest! The kids learned to eat the meat first lol! Often during the week they had just plain rice and butter.

It’s interesting to hear of their excitement about getting parcels from over seas which was often nice store bought night gowns, undergarments and clothes. The majority of the time those night gowns were put aside for use if they ever had to go to the hospital. They never ended up in the hospital! So a year or more later the garments no longer fit and was given away without ever using them.

The actual stand pipe that Sandra used as a child in Oistins. It still is used today!
The actual stand pipe that Sandra used as a child in Oistins. It’s still in use today!

Life was hard for most Bajans in the early history of this island. I cannot imagine a life without running water, refrigeration, electricity and gas. Yet, if you were to hear those that experienced that life style laughing about emptying the topsy, bleaching clothes in the sun, getting water at the stand pipe, scrubbing floors with bitter bush, picking rice, and putting water in cans at the larder legs to keep ants out, you would see that even though they were poor in material things (valuables) they had such a rich, happy and meaningful life!

Larder for perishable items
Larder for perishable items

I should explain a few of the things I mentioned above. A topsy is a pot that was used to pee in so you would not have to venture out at night to go the the bathroom. A larder is what is used to store food since there was no  refrigeration. A stand pipe was a place that you could get water strategically placed by the government in different villages. It was also where locals gathered to exchange the latest stories and gossip as they waited in line for their turn.

If you ever visit Barbados, and I hope you do, they (we) don’t want to hear about your credit score, your 401K, your houses, your cars or motorcycles! We do want to hear that you are enjoying yourself, going to our world class beaches, eating tasty food, liming (relaxing) and having a great time!

Barbados has the second highest rate of centenarians per capita in the world (1 for every 2500 people)! Most older Bajans realize that as long as you are healthy, have a place to stay, family, friends and food to eat,  ya good!

Topsy or chamber pot used by families at night and emptied in the morning. If you had to jobby you had to go outside! Lol!

For the next two weeks I will continue to go down memory lane which started this week. Next will be a Bajan Christmas past when I make observations that go back in time followed by a Bajan New Years past.


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  1. I would like to know more about the Bajans that travelled to the USA in the early 1900’s

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