“But when we look at the Over-the-Hill of the 50s and 60s…we see a people who, oppressed by colonial and oligarchical regimes, marched, fought, possessed the land and then rose up to become governor generals, prime ministers and leaders in every single sphere of vocational and professional endeavor.” ~ Rosalie Fawkes
By Rosalie Fawkes, Guest Contributor
Photos courtesy of Rosalie Fawkes
They say that as a person grows older, the mind starts to travel back in time. I saw it happen with my mother – did she ever enjoy talking to everyone about her idyllic, childhood days in West End, Grand Bahama.
Today, I often think about Over-the-Hill, the place where I spent the first thirteen years of my life. Just about everyone I knew lived Over-the-Hill, On-Top-of-the-Hill or Fort Fincastle – small world as they would say.
We did not live Over-the-Hill by choice but as a people of colour, that is where most of us were relegated. Why was this area called Over-the-Hill? To be honest I don’t know but one thing I do know is that in front of Over-the-Hill was a street called Bay Street – the street where the land merged with pristine, white, sandy beaches that led to the emerald green and turquoise waters of the ocean – choice property as they would say. Bay Street also symbolized wealth, power and colonial arrogance and in the 1950s Black persons could neither work nor live on Bay Street.
Nevertheless, there was greatness Over-the-Hill; there was intellect; there were thinkers, professionals, freedom fighters, great institutions, churches of every denomination, small business owners, night clubs like The Cat and Fiddle and The Silver Slipper and most importantly there was a vibrant community and cultural life that lacked many of the vices that we have today.
My family supported everything that Over-the-Hill had to offer. We patronized The People’s Penny Savings Bank, St. Agnes Anglican Church, Southern Public Library, Mrs. Pedican’s Variety Store, Mr. Wilson’s Shoe Shop, Mr. Ash’s Barber Shop, Mortimer’s Candy Kitchen, the Capitol Studio, the Capitol Theater, Purity Bakery, the Palm Tree Restaurant, Greta’s Dry Goods, Western Junior School and many other establishments just too numerous to mention.
From a child’s point of view, Over-the-Hill was an ideal place in which to live but as we entered the decade of the 60s, for whatever reason, people grew dissatisfied with life Over-the-Hill. The political unrest was growing and the “Negroes”, the term by which we referenced ourselves back in the day, grew tired of the government telling them where they could live and could not live; what opportunities they could embrace and could not embrace. They were becoming angry about the restrictions being placed upon them and wanted the opportunity to chart their own destiny; they wanted homes on the waterfront too. Therefore, in the 1960s, we witnessed a slow exodus from Over-the-Hill as people started moving Far East, Far West and certainly after 1967, anywhere where they wanted to go.
My mother was among those who in the 1960s had aspirations of how she wanted to live her life. At heart she was an architect, a landscape artist extraordinaire, a builder and interior designer. She envisioned something more than what we had in McPherson Street. One day she contacted a real estate salesperson and told the lady about the neighbourhood where she wanted to build her dream house. “You can’t live there,” replied the woman, “that area is reserved for whites only.”
Then my mother was shown a tract of land on J.F. Kennedy Drive by someone else – it was known as the Pine Barren and regarded as land of no value because it was close to the old garbage dump and where there should have been soil, there were only rocks, potholes and scrawny Pine trees. As the property was literally being given away at a fire sale price, my parents purchased it. Those who have visited the homestead would know that this same accursed property was transformed into a Garden of Eden. This story had yet another ending though. After Majority Rule took place, the sales lady called my mother yet again and said, “I have a house for you on East Bay Street.” Of course, it was too late. We had already built and moved.
So often in life, people blame a lack of accomplishment on adverse circumstances. But when we look at the Over-the-Hill of the 50s and 60s, we see a people with hardly any money and extremely limited educational opportunities move themselves forward; we see a people who, oppressed by colonial and oligarchical regimes, marched, fought, possessed the land and then rose up to become governor generals, prime ministers and leaders in every single sphere of vocational and professional endeavor. Over-the-Hill people have walked with kings, queens, dignitaries, celebrities, world rulers and are to be found in every corner of the globe making a contribution towards the advancement of humankind.
In John Chapter 1:46, Nathanael posed the question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
That verse of scripture sums up the story of Over-the-Hill, Nassau, Bahamas.