The Autobiography of Alfred H. Mendes 1897-1991

By Michèle Levy; Alfred H. Mendes | Go to book overview

Chapter 4

WAR, 1916

On my return to Trinidad, I found my father and the family in a large house on Stanmore Avenue but a stone's throw from the Queen's Park Savannah, mecca of Trinidad's aspirants to social status. Two-storeyed and topped by a tower, the front facade was imposing and pleasing to the eye. My father bought it from an Anglo-Saxon family who had been domiciled in the island for many generations. It was said that the house had been prefabricated in Britain and imported packaged in its component parts — but this is probably apocryphal. Its one incongruity was the plot of land upon which it stood, far too small to give the building its full aesthetic value. On the other hand, the whole large block of land in front of it was occupied by tennis-courts; and this, added to the fact that the house was constructed almost exclusively of hard wood for keeping the termites at bay, and that it faced the east, ensured that it was kept cool throughout the year by the perennial trade winds blowing from the north-east.

My stepmother was charming and kind, and made me feel at home.

Soon after my return I learned of an organization called The Merchants' Contingents of Trinidad. Initiated by a wealthy merchant, who must have sensed in his scheme an easy path to knighthood, 1 and fortified by the financial help of the merchant class, its main object was the enrollment and transportation to England of those young men who wished to serve in the war "for King and Country", as the patriotic exhortation was phrased in those distant days. The first contingent had

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