2. 🏊🏽 the Sweet Water Pool and a Marconi – part 2 (from the Cinema)

My brother-in-law had a business where they built buses on to prebuilt motorized bases (something like a big-rig cab minus the trailer) which they bought from elsewhere.  At this garage they also tended to some cargo trucks, did general auto repair work, and the city taxis would sleep there every night.

It was located in Suva near the wharf where the big ships docked which was an especially perfect location as far as I was concerned; more on that later.

Every time his company completed the building of a new bus, a celebration was in order!  This consisted of taking the entire immediate family up to a beautiful place called 17 Mile Rubber Plantation for an outing devoted to a delicious picnic and play.  🌿 Think along the lines of ribbon-cutting ceremony and gratitude given in prayers, all rolled into a jovial time for all.  Oh the fun we would have there!

💧There was a natural fresh water pool, which was fed directly by the cascading waters from the above mountaintop.  This body of refreshing water, which we lovingly referred to as the sweet water pool was conveniently located center stage of the very tall rubber trees.

These wonderful giants (to me) provided excellent shade and the dappled sunlight called forth a leisurely spent afternoon.  Another highlight for me was the proximity of this picnic spot to the ocean allowing me to continuously hear the surf crashing on to the sand.

The family all together at various intervals sitting around the pool, the younger girls and boys either hiking around the area or in the pool splashing around happily, such joyful memories!  We would enjoy cool refreshing drinks savoring the likes of guava and coconut juice and there was always an inexhaustible supply of deep red 🍒 to snack on!

I remember the ladies always brought a deck of cards to play the favorite game of trump; one could say it was a part of our tradition, this game.

Meal production time and it was most often the men who would get busy cooking our picnic meal and it went something like this:  everyone had their place on the meal prep *assembly; someone to prepare the ingredients, another is adding said ingredients to the giant pots, one is standing by as the fire & pot watcher, stirring the mix, and another is the taster and contributing whatever else needs doing.

Synchronized like clockwork but a lot more fun. The menu was usually our favorites like curried chicken and veggies, roti and rice of course, and the must have tomato chutney.

After indulgence of a once-again perfect meal, ** we’d rest in the shade for a bit before heading out for a swim or more exploring.  Several of us would climb atop the giant rocks there to jump into the cool waters.

This particular time -as I had not previously attempted this maneuver- I wanted to share in the fun the rest of my family was having so I climbed up and jumped right in.  Well I guess I should’ve taken the time to think it over.

I really wasn’t an experienced swimmer by any stretch of my imagination and so I began to take in water.  A lot of water!  I was now drowning.  I surfaced two or three times, clearly struggling.  As my stars had planned, it wasn’t my time.

Luckily there was a scouting troop at the watering hole also enjoying the beauty of the day.  And so I am told, one of the young men, a Gujarati fellow noticed me and without a second thought I’m certain, jumped right in to save me!  The water was a bit murky and as I went under again, he had to search but he then felt my flailing hand touch his leg.  I had been found …and saved.

📻 I can remember when my brother brought home a Marconi shortwave radio.  🎶 I liked the music I was hearing and not until later did I realize it was country western music.  There were nice shows everybody enjoyed listening to; ‘Voice of America’ and ‘All India Radio’ to name a couple and these programs generally came in the early morning hours starting about five.  Good way to start my day as far as I was concerned.

This radio ran on batteries along with a couple of bamboo sticks & wire for reception.  My friends and I put together an antennae consisting of what we knew to be ‘special’ wire which we strung on to said bamboo sticks.  We then hoisted these sticks up, pounding them into the ground and running one of the wire streams into the house.

Listening to the radio programs further whet my appetite for adventures waiting to be had and I felt absolutely packed to the gills with such fervor; it was alive and ready to erupt inside of me like a volcano!  I knew that part of me needed to come out and explore, at the very least.

I may be incorrect in thought here but I felt there was no one else as interested in such foreign things as I was.  A display of overwhelming curiosity was oozing from every inch of me and I just had to find the answers to all of my questions.  The family seemed to be content with the way things were but I always wanted so much more.

At one point we also acquired a phonograph player and yes we played those old 78 rpm records and yes, I was fascinated by the picture of the dog attentively listening to … His Master’s Voice and I used to watch the little dog go round and around.

There was a once-removed uncle that at some point had looked at my palm, and told my mother something like, ‘…this guy can’t be held back, he’ll always be traveling the world.’  My mother loved me so much and she desperately tried to keep me safe at home with her.  Even that love didn’t stop me from breaking my security I had on my island home.

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* The picnic meal was always as fresh as can be.  At the Plantation there were fire pits ready to receive sticks and wood for the cooking fire.  Today the family still does things this way at the large get-togethers and many of our homes have 2nd kitchens, even if it is out back or in a garage due to snow and rain!  At any rate our meals were –and still are- top notch!

** In taking a retrospective look, I have realized, in the very act of being outdoors in the greatness of nature, how greatly my appetite is increased, how much better I feel –even if under the weather- and how divine a nap underneath a tree can be!

These days I go to my (very comfortable) bed and sometimes it takes most of the night to fall asleep, in fact, I usually don’t get into a deep sleep till the wee hours of the morning.  Yet camped on the beach or in the woods, sleep comes so easy and so soundly.

Nature – the way we were meant to be!

2.  📽 the Cinema … part 1

Now I am wondering, do our island dogs look the same as the ones in Japan or England or any different from say the dogs in Africa?  Do they bark with an accent or is it all the same?  What about the people – how do they look when they smile or get angry and do the babies and children sound the same when they cry?

What about cowboys, do they really have gunfights and why do they say doggie when they talk about their cows?  I had to know!

📽 In the meantime my friends and I would get together on the weekends, most often going for ten-cent matinees, which bought us front row seats, the balcony costing two shillings.

Usually it was Captain America who ruled our weekends!  🎞 These shows were presented serial style in that there would be 2 episodes shown back-to-back on the big screen.  I do have fond memories of that pleasant theatre.  It even had a nice little café downstairs.

I was especially taken with their terrific papaya, 🍓, mango,  🍌 and  pineapple 🍍 milkshakes.  I can see the making of these milkshakes right now!  There were the always-fresh cut-up fruit chunks to one side of the counter, the🥛and ice cream on the other.

The ingredients were put into a silver can then mixed, blended and poured into the glass but only half the way.  The maker then placed the can up on the counter with the remainder of your shake and doing it with such great flair: perhaps it was just the thrill in anticipating the cool delicious milkshake at the cinema!

Needless to say the theater owners always made certain there was a nice variety of cool refreshing tropical fruit juices to savor as well sodas.  The café served up flavorful fish & chips, sandwiches, the best milk-coffee on the island, cupcakes and candies too.

Private vendor citizens were able to sell their freshly roasted warm peanuts and muttar (green peas) to the moviegoers, but they had to do this outside the theatre doors.

As a young lad around 10-11 years of age, I used to go with my brother-in-law and his brothers to the American soldiers’ camp in Tamavua.  We could sell snacks to them like narongi (tangerines), bananas, salted and dry roasted peanuts, and muttar.

We also offered an immediate favorite; rolled roti filled mostly with spicy-curried veggies and sometimes we filled them with chicken curry too.  I remember we would get a lot of silver dollar coins in our payments from these uniformed guys.

They must’ve liked us well enough because in the evenings, sometimes we would get to stay there in the GI soldiers’ camp (as we called it) and watch American movies.  These were projected on to a screen that was set-up outdoors.  They watched mostly Westerns and I quickly came to realize that John Wayne was my favorite cowboy!

I paid as close attention as I could to the friendly American military persons.  I silently noted to myself their demeanor and from what I could tell, I liked the attitude they demonstrated towards one another as well as how they interacted with us, the island natives, as we are that.

I was relaxed there, feeling perfectly comfortable.  These friendly experiences sparked a yearning to go to the USA and get myself a horse, some boots, a canteen and learn how to sling a gun or two!

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See you next Sunday night for the continuing chronicles!