Raised by the village of Lago Heights

Rudolf Montnor, circulated a charming story, and I was the lucky recipient of the text via Lita Ramphal, my long time friend and former colleague, who forwarded the piece to me with the simple instruction: Enjoy.

I read it with great interest, it represents the innocence, and closeness of the San Nicholas community in yesteryears and the nostalgic recollections of people I have never known touched me immensely. The text sometimes reads like a phonebook, but an entertaining one, and the jokes are immature, but what comes across is a blessed, fun-filled childhood, being raised by a village, with enough rules to prevent recklessness and ample space to encourage personal growth and experimentation.  I wish we could offer this exact same incubator to our kids today.

So here it is, Jeff’s Recollections:

Ah…Lago Heights! Just like the island of Aruba we had our own pariba i pabao di brug. In our case, it was pariba i pabao di play ground. Our play ground was the dividing line between the good citizens of the 600, 700, and 800 blocks, as the main streets in LH were known. I lived pabao di play ground, so here are my recollections…

One thing I am sure of, we had the best nicknames in Lago Heights!

Consider one family with the following offsprings: Shanko, Tootsie, Chunky, Minki and Aki!

Then there was Obie, Jubi, and Sigi Naar, Chibi, Boechin, Tuyo, and Erie “Don Mossey” Willems, Boykie Mesas, Dingo Bryson, Biertje Donk, Sjoerd “Murks” Lashley, Fatty Vierra, and of course, the one and only Errol Browne, a.k.a. House.

I first moved to LH at the tender age of six, I think.

I moved into 606, up the street from the Mesas and Brownes, across the street  from the Naar family. Here’s the street as I remember it, 600 was a vacant lot, 601 Mesas 602 & 603 Browne, 604, 605 and 606 Francis, 607 Naar, 608 Johnson, 609 Zagers, 610 & 611 Murphy, 612 Jessurun, 613 Grant. Then I moved to 705 where the best looking girl in the 700 block, Bonnie Chung, lived.

The people I remember in the 700 street are: the Vierras, Fatty, Fredo, Roy, Norma & Max Fingal, Sjoerd & Cedric Lashley, John Hodgson, John Hassell, Bob Brown (used to be a Lago Sports Park official), Kenny & Nan Martin, the whole Willems bunch, the Mendes bunch, the Brysons, Arends, Charlie & Raymond Morales, the Marquez bunch, Tullocks, Merill & Evy not sure about the last name anymore, the Oroscos, and Bambam Chehin, spelling unsure, but close enough.

Lago Heights was noted for its solid concrete houses with the Dutch (half) doors. I remember us being one of the first families in the 600 block with a TV. It was a black and white (of course) Emerson console TV with a relatively small screen. The whole neighborhood used to show up to see “El Llanero Solitario” and “Furia” on Radio Caracas Television, Canal 10.

Here are some random stories.

As any good LH kid knew, you were not allowed to go up or down the LH Hill on a bicycle. You were supposed to use the bicycle path on the side of the Lago fence. In any event, one afternoon about ten of us decided to ride down the hill on our bikes. Next thing you know, the Red Van (Police) was coming up the hill at the same time. You’ve never seen stiff-rachet bikes move that fast down the hill!

The real joke is that we all rushed down to the Essoville Station, went behind the wall by the Chinese shop and changed shirts! As if the cops wouldn’t recognize us…

Naar was a big-time L.A. Dodgers fan. So much so, that he decided he was going to build a fan club next to the fence in his back yard. So he dug up some wood and  zinc and made the structure. The place was so cool, he even had glass windows made from pieces of glass shutters left over from the work going on at Don Bosco school where they were replacing the pane windows with glass shutters. In any event, we were quite amused when Regie proudly announced he had completed the club and showed us the door announcing in big red letters that this was the “Doggo Doggo fan club!”

More stories at Regie’s expense: Some time in his mid-teens,  he decided he wanted to be a painter (that’s what he still does  today, as far as I know). I’m not sure where he got it, but one way or the other he ended up with a compressor and a spray gun and would practice on stuff around house, the hours. His father, Elias Naar was a very proud and hard-working man. One way to enjoy the fruits of his labor was to buy a new car every two years. He was a Ford man. Bought all his cars from Neme Ford in the Ferguson Straat. At about  1960 he traded in his 1957 Ford Fairlane (red with a white top, a beautiful vehicle) for a brand new Fairlane with the gull wings in the back, and lots of chrome. He used to work the night shift at the laboratories and slept during the day. I don’t remember the original  color, but one day Elias woke up to find his brand new Ford a funky shade of purple. Regie had decided he needed some practice. Needless to say all the neighbors found out exactly at the same time with Elias! I think parts of Regie’s anatomy were also some funky shades  of purple, immediately thereafter.

And then there was Fatty Vierra and his uncanny way of using the English language. What did the monkey say after the train ran over his tail? It won’t be long now! I don’t remember any more of his jokes that played on words but the one that  stands out most is his contention that the word “if” was of no use and you should really use “had I known” instead, to describe the situation.

Merrill and Evy, last name, a mystery, ( Editor’s note:  Hassell) were a couple of Saba goats who lived two houses down from the play ground. One day we were all playing cutaway. This involves attaching razor blades, cleverly mounted on little pieces of wood, in strategic locations on your kite’s tail (made from old bed sheets, of course) and then trying to cut away the string on as many kites as you can. Anyway, that day somebody cut their hand in a fight involving the razor blades. Next  thing you know Merrill and Evy’s mother comes running up the street  and in perfect Saba-ese English starts yelling “I’m going to call to Poo-leese. I’m going to call the Poo-leese.”

The other vivid memory of LH that I have is that you could always tell what movie played at the Lago Heights Club (with Van Stroe (spelling?) collecting the tickets). If was an Elvis movie, everybody would be running around with shades and greasy hair with a “pouf” up front. The thing I remember most are the comments people would make in the theater.  Like “Watch out, Django, the crook’s behind you!” Or, during the chase scene when Rocky Allen Lane or Wild Bill Hickock was chasing the crooks, everybody would be saying something like “ten te neh, ten te neh, ten te neh.”

Or, when there was a fight, all you would hear was “nie yeh, nie yeh, nie yeh.”I have lots of fond memories of the LH Club. Twenty-five cent movies, free ice cream on Sunday, the Sunday talent shows. I actually won a Hula Hoop contest and my sister Joan won a singing contest singing “Que Sera, Sera,”

Remember the Creole Cats and the Tops, and the Platters?

How about the French fries from the Chinese man behind the bar by the tennis court? They used to say that the fries tasted so good because Chiweena (the crazy woman who used to walk around LH) would spit on them. I’ll never forget one afternoon when we were all sitting on the fence and the Red Van and an ambulance went speeding up the 600 street. Next thing you know we’re on our bicycles chasing it up the road. When we get to Barranca Hundu, it turns out that Kenny Martin was trying to see if his 1955 Oldsmobile could fly. Somehow or the other, he managed to jump over the 6-inch pipe guardrail and end up on the bottom of Barranca Hundo without even a scratch.

Editor’s note: Barranca Hundu was the name of the large excavation east of Lago Heights a.k.a. the Caliche Pit…which later became a graveyard for cars, and still later was completely filled with sand.

How could I forget “The Local?”

I used to get 5 cents for every one I sold. I used to get 200 every Friday and go to the Bachelor’s Quarters (BQ), the Lago gate, and the Lago Heights Club and sell like 50 at the time, time and then go to most of the houses pabao di play ground.

Here are some jokes at my expense involving the English language.

Max Jessurun was a genius. The guy knew more about math and science and languages that anyone I knew. I was at his house one afternoon and he was making ice cream. Peach and cream, hmm hmm good. In any event, he came up to me to asked me if I “would care for some ice cream.”

I said something like “Hell no, I don’t to care for it. But I would sure like some!

Lago finally got smart and opened a road through the tank farm up by Chester Vlaun and Junior Leverock’s house. Lago was always big on safety and always had safety billboards with safety slogans in key spots in the refinery. One of them was on the new road through the tank farm. Max was driving us to the beach one afternoon and we passed the sign which said something like: “Is safety important? Yes! Si! Oui! Indeed!” So I turn to Max and asked: “What language is Indeed?” And this from the son of an English teacher, to boot!