Author Harold A. Fonrose's story, as presented here in his memoir, evolves as a historical perspective of a young male arriving in a humble environment of Caribbean culture in Trinidad, British West Indies along with his sister after the death of their mother. There, under the guidance of his paternal grandmother, ambitions and musings began as he was exposed to the characteristics of determination, discipline, and sustained diligence. These attributes became embedded and forged his decision to enter the structured profession of medicine, to which he later made major contributions in the realm of geriatric thinking.
Fonrose is firmly convinced that these similar, average characteristics are available to each and every subset of people and culture. This journey is not about the individual; it is about the memories.
With regard to the title of the book, there is no attempt to be either dismissive or derisive. But he has a certain degree of contempt for people who genuflect at the altar of money, thereby assuming a posture of kneeling and worship with their eyes fixed to the ground, missing or intentionally avoiding the positive vision of a distant horizon.
That general statement is embedded in the title It's Only Money ... Memory is the True Value.
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IT'S ONLY MONEY—MEMORY IS THE TRUE VALUEMusings of a Journey Past
By HAROLD A. FONROSE
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2012 Harold A. Fonrose
All right reserved.
Chapter OneTHE JOURNEY
THE FORMATIVE YEARS
The events which led to a ten-year stay in Trinidad began with the untimely death of my mother in 1932. Two young children, ages seven and five, were left with the need for continued care and supervision. A young father and bereaved husband was left facing an unwelcome chore. A maternal grandmother was left facing the loss of a favorite daughter.
Some of the early solutions involved spending alternating weekends in New York City and Brooklyn with my father. This placed more stress and involvement on the continued care of the children, which was of paramount focus and importance. All involved were grieving. The financial and logistical stresses are obvious.
My father's early remarriage was a temporary solution but hardly positive. In the angst of that environment, an attempt at a permanent stay in New York City seemed only to increase tension in both households. Perhaps the children became pawns in the interfamily discord. The solution of sending us to my paternal grandmother and her triad of family seemed attractive, thus the decision for transfer to Trinidad. The net result from this perspective seems wise, although that was hardly the view of my maternal grandmother and her family circle.
My father's decision was one I look back upon with some doubt, but for the children was singular and positive. From my personal viewpoint, transferring our care to Trinidad is a major and intrinsic episode as events unfold and fulfills several of the themes that emerge in the rest of the journey. The critical features of that decision to go to Trinidad became integral to all that followed. The flow of events with its relationship to the past, present, and future can hardly be denied.
* * *
Even on repeated review, the full basis of the eventual move to Trinidad rests entirely on the untimely death of my mother in 1932.
That sad event produced a trifecta of social needs for solution—(A) continued care of two children at ages seven and five; (B) the need falling fully on the bereaved father of the children; and (C) the grief suddenly descending on the maternal grandmother and her family.
The change of venues appears highly constructive in retrospect and in the tunnel vision of revision. That combination began its motion to the future and the formative years in Trinidad from 1935-1946. Full disclosure requires a peek at the beginning of an adventure that was a trifle untidy.
* * *
The sending of two young children on a voyage on the high seas unattended now would be considered an adventure, but was not that easy for a single father of thirty-five years old. I don't think he considered it romantic, and he probably received major criticisms from his in-law's family. His solution involved obtaining an accompanying guardian to serve as a supervising companion for the trip. The fact that his plan succeeded is another testimony to the role of chance and opportunity, not to mention the high degree of fortune and luck.
The seven-day voyage went smoothly and without mishap. The ship's crew banded together and delivered my sister and myself in good shape to Port of Spain where I can still smell the aroma that will be described later in this narrative. However, memory and recall reveal an event which made a mark on my present personality.
During the passage, there was a tendency for the crew to try and entertain the passengers. One episode touched this seven year old boy. There was a two-bag race which I won, but then I refused to enter a contest which consisted of eating blueberry pie with my hands tied behind my back. That picture of eating that pie with hands unavailable and without utensils was an image that filled me with a sense of awkwardness. My refusal to participate under the rules outlined caused unwelcome friction, but I remained adamant. The memory of my refusal remains clear. Personally that attitude resonates to this day on embarrassing interludes and my refusal to participate in unwelcome imagery.
In contrast, Baby Doll remembers the trip vividly because it was the first time she ever ate tomato soup—and she ate it exclusively every evening for dinner during the entire trip from New York to Port of Spain. To this day, her favorite vegetable remains a tomato in any form.
* * *
My father had planned well, but he could not have known (and the steamship line must have been unaware) that at the disembarkation point a fee or excise tax in the Caribbean island was a necessary practice.
We were not prepared for that contingency of $100.00 per person. On arrival we did not know why we were left in a room while other passengers were leaving the ship. Eventually we were informed by a member of the staff in Port of Spain.
Fortunately, a fellow passenger by the name of Mr. Cadiz (what memory that I would remember him by name approximately 70 years past!) had become friendly with the young lady who had been hired by my father to keep a watchful eye on us during the seven-day voyage. She had left the ship at an earlier island and had probably asked Mr. Cadiz to observe us on our way to our family in Port of Spain, Trinidad. Whatever the reason, it fell on him to solve this disembarkation problem which he did in gracious fashion.
Mr. Cadiz had a very forceful personality and I remember him as being very well-groomed with an imposing stature that reflected a certain air of confidence. He accompanied Baby Doll and myself to our destination at Four Roads in Trinidad for our safe deposit. It is my best recollection that the $200 loan was satisfied by my father on Mr. Cadiz's return to New York City. I don't recall ever seeing Mr. Cadiz again, although my sister believes he did visit us in Four Roads on one occasion. This is just one memory of the multiple examples of humanity and how it is expressed casually and without notice.
* * *
I remember arriving in Trinidad on a sunny morning, and when we got off of the ship, I smelled the aroma which even right now I can recall as a powerful stimulus relating to my years there.
As I think back now, it is probably true that these sensations were mostly from the many mango trees that were on the property. The aroma of ripe mangoes remains part of every thought and memory of my years in Trinidad.
* * *
I also remember riding down from the dock at Port of Spain to Four Roads where I would live. I was overwhelmed by the appearance of the house as I arrived. It was a wooden frame home with four rooms. One was immediately on the left side of the house with the bedrooms on the right side of the house. It was built on approximately a half acre with the house in the center of the lot, surrounded by dirt with plenty of room for games or cricket and soccer with boys my age.
There was an outdoor kitchen in the back with galvanized roofing and an earthen fireplace and oven. That area led out to many trees such as mango, orange, and cocoa, all of which contributed to that aroma which my recall has provided. I remember there was an orange tree to the left side of the house and I recall climbing the tree carrying a knife and picking the oranges out.
Frankly, in the period of time when I was about age ten until I was about thirteen years old, my carbohydrate metabolism must've been very high because I would go up into the tree with that knife and just feast myself on a load of the oranges, the peels of which I'd drop to the ground. I remember my grandmother berating me for leaving all of the orange peelings behind. Now I look back at that with a certain sense of pleasantness.
Also in the back of the house were the outdoor latrine facilities which represented the rural aspect of the time and place of the social function of the British and Spanish communities of that period in the early 1900s that is still part of the social fabric.
* * *
Further recollections relate to the roads that went down from Port of Spain to Four Roads. It's interesting that I never thought about why the place was called Four Roads, but in retrospect there were four roads coming together at a point from four different directions of the island.
Four Roads is a descriptive memory. The name and the statement are at the endpoint of arrival by mechanical railroad car which was subsequently updated to electric railroad car. The intersection was at a four-staged gas station, whose central bar served as a gathering place at the corner and as a backdrop to a constabulary station upon and above a crest of an expansive savannah, which served as a playground for cricket and soccer matches on both Saturday and Sunday evenings. On reflection, it was an imposing structure that worked into the Four Roads culture of my association of the four connecting roads and the terminal.
* * *
Foremost on the day of arrival in Trinidad was the focus on my paternal grandmother, Amant (Morris) Fonrose, who from that early moment always remained the dominant figure of my stay of more than ten years. My memories of her are both general and specific. The specific is powerful and can be reflected in events or passages of recall.
For instance, an eye injury occurred during a game of war wherein objects were thrown. One late afternoon, a ripened lemon struck me hard in the right eye. My childish response was to crawl into bed to hide. The next day came forth as it must, and the injury was obviously exposed in the morning sun. The expression on my grandmother's face of tenderness and caring represents the full measure of all that she gave me in those early years.
Another example of her compassion was her habit of welcoming me during a time where I left school and was unsuccessfully seeking a job in Trinidad. This went on for approximately six months without success, and upon my arrival back in Four Roads she was always there with a question, "Harold, how was your day?" The tender concern of her question served as a soothing agent beyond what I can express. It was just a welcome measure of compassion—very welcome—from the daily defeat from which I obviously recovered.
My permanent vision of her is that of her waving on the day of departure from Trinidad to New York as I began the adventure of becoming a physician. What a gallant and graceful person.
* * *
Then there was my Aunt Liz, my father's sister, a towering image of strength and steadfastness, always there and ready to solve the multitude of problems coming from the sudden transfer of the responsibility of two children to the island experience. She assumed a central disciplinary role that was both benign but with authority. On any of her visits from the south area of the island, she would arrive with a magical ability to fix and adjust for the comfort of myself and Baby Doll.
In particular, I remember her constant and recurring presence at certain times of celebration or special events. Her visits from an area of the south of the island were numerous and usually salutary. Of special note was her visit at Christmas time. The stripping and cleaning in preparation for holiday practices of an open house in the village community involved layers of work and diligence, which included my grandmother and the children in the household.
Aunt Liz's continued presence was integral to the completion of this process and cannot be overstated. The end product of sparkling glasses and light fixtures in crockery were exposed as if by magic as part of her presence. In addition, her energy in the baking of bread and cakes and cookery was manifested during the Christmas season and made for a joyous intervals marked by her presence. The contribution of her visits and earthy joy was and is part of the memory of things past. In looking back, it is no mystery that her guidance in those early years rendered a foundation for the upcoming future for which I am so proud and pleased.
Aunt Liz's role is well-defined. Her function and determination was central to the development and future conduct of her niece and nephew while in her care.
In later years, after Baby Doll and I returned to the United States, her responsibility became taking care of her mother (my grandmother) who died within two years after our departure. She then assumed the role of caretaker of the house where I spent my years in Trinidad. Aunt Liz, who had never before been employed, worked as a hospital worker in Port of Spain, Trinidad and endeavored not only to care for herself, but to also rebuild the house of her mother. This enabled her to start repairs and add plumbing, water, and acceptable kitchen facilities. Fortunately, her timing coincided with the completion of my medical training. Therefore, my financial contributions to her were very helpful in her rebuilding the house. My wife and I visited Trinidad in the 1965-1970 timeframe and stayed at her home. I also returned in the 1970s for Aunt Liz's funeral and again stayed at the family home.
* * *
Finally, the rest of the threesome was Uncle Cornel, my father's brother, who was a young man who made his living as a tourist guide. My recall about him is striking—always being immaculately dressed with an easy-going personality. Specifically, I remember when he was a guide for Errol Flynn, the famous actor, and the fuss generated as my uncle drove him around the island. That was a famous celebrity memory.
Uncle Cornel's financial contributions made my education possible outside the boundary of Four Roads at Tranquility High School. He would supply $1.20 per month for my school fees which he earned actively in his role as a chauffeur. There is recall of my need to often wait for his accumulation of the fee, which sometimes would take hours for him to earn. The monthly tuition of $1.20 was both monumental and of overwhelming importance. This well illustrates the real status of economic activity of the island. It also illustrates the magnitude of his contribution and what it came to mean in my development on the topics of algebra, English and philosophy, all of which prepared me for college and the future. Without that offering, there would not be a Harold Fonrose today. No question—that is no overstatement. It is impossible to overestimate his role and the help that it provided in the years that followed in the United States.
* * *
It was my distinct pleasure to have entertained both Aunt Liz and Uncle Cornel in my home, separately, in Jericho, New York during the 1970-1990 timeframe. Uncle Cornel visited after the death of his sister. Aunt Liz visited the United States following the completion of the house. Obviously her stay with my family for approximately two weeks was of special significance to her. My wife, Betty, showed her most of the New York sites. Her appreciation of "all of America," as New York was thought of by her, was expressed with her customary dignity and grace.
Memories allow me a sense of satisfaction, gratitude and fulfillment, particularly in 1968 (the exact date is beyond my recall). My wife and I took a vacation to Trinidad. At the Piarco Airport, my proud uncle welcomed me back to the island as a returning physician where the germinal aspects of an aspiring young male started the mission. The description of our meeting with the abundance of pride and esteem can be imagined but only marginally felt if you were not one of the participants. The 40-mile journey was traveled in his taxi, which was old but dignified. By my knowledge of the islands, culture and habits, it made me aware that his taxi was unlikely to produce wild-eyed approval by average visitors. Since his vocation was that of a tourist escort with vehicle, there was no mystery that his economical survival was at risk. Because of his sense of pride, my uncle never asked for anything.
Later, it was my distinct privilege and honor to offer my uncle my enduring gratitude for his gesture to me during my early days at Tranquility High School. Thanking him in the only way that occurred to me. It became possible to have a new Ford vehicle transferred to him. The car had to be a right-handed drive, motor, of English vintage, and the only possible outlet was Canada. Luckily, the Ford Motor Company had an outlet in Canada and by that time I had established a business contact at Ford, as I had owned several of their vehicles over the years. I was able to use the impression of value that could be satisfied and thus aid Uncle Cornel. The car was delivered to him in Port of Spain, Trinidad. An excise tax of approximately $900.00 had to be paid first, which a local bank in the United States was happy to facilitate.
Excerpted from IT'S ONLY MONEY—MEMORY IS THE TRUE VALUE by HAROLD A. FONROSE Copyright © 2012 by Harold A. Fonrose. Excerpted by permission of iUniverse, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
THE FORMATIVE YEARS....................3
THE MIDDLE YEARS....................19
THE ACADEMIC YEARS....................28
THE PROFESSIONAL YEARS....................40
PHOTOGRAPHS AND MEMORIES....................49
RECOGNITION AND APPRECIATION....................169
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