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Woodbrook


Woodbrook (Circa 1925)

Located in the western section of Port-of-Spain, the capital of Trinidad, this community is best defined by its extremities: East - Colville Street (Lapeyrouse Cemetery); West - the Maraval River; North - Tragarete Road (the Queen's Park Oval); and South - Wrightson Road. It has 32 streets, with two roads and one avenue that connect it to the other parts of the city. As far back as the 1950s, Woodbrook was prized for its Victorian homes and its amenities: paved streets and sidewalks; street lights; piped water and sewerage; and underground storm drainage. With the passage of time and the availability of government resources, similar services were provided to selected towns throughout the country.

During the middle of the 20th century, Woodbrook was a busy and prosperous place with a vibrant economy, primarily because of its close proximity to the Queen's Park Oval where almost all significant events were held: cricket; soccer; boxing; cycling; track meets; Carnival contests and parades; and appearances by U.S. performers such as the Platters and the Harlem Globetrotters. Another attraction was the Little Carib Theatre which showcased the talents of many local dancers and actors. Night or day, Woodbrook was always busy with free street parking for all events held at the Oval or Little Carib.

In addition to its grocery stores, fresh produce shops, cafes, bars, drugstores, eating places, music bands, cinemas, and theatre, many of which are described below, Woodbrook was the original home of Solo soft drinks which were bottled by the Joseph Charles Company in its factory located at the corner of Tragarete Road and White Street. This site was later used for a Hi-Lo supermarket when Joseph Charles moved his bottling works to Valsayn Park. On the opposite corner, ice treats were produced by the Popsicle factory which was owned and operated by Victor Bryan, the Minister of Agriculture during the 1950s. Up to the early 1960s, residents shopped for fresh meat and vegetables at the Woodbrook Market which was later demolished and replaced by the Woodbrook Government Secondary School. The popularity of its two cinemas, Astor and Roxy, waned after the introduction of television in 1962, and these two landmarks became the sites of other ventures during the 1980s.

Entertainment

One of Woodbrook's greatest contributions to life in Trinidad was entertainment, especially music. Almost every street could boast of a resident, young or old, who played some kind of musical instrument: piano; violin; or pan. With this abundance of musical talent, it is no wonder that there were so many successful music bands and places of entertainment in Woodbrook.

Theatres: Theatres that functioned in Woodbrook were as follows:

THEATRE HISTORY
Astor Located at the intersection of French and Baden-Powell Streets, this cinema featured American, British, and Indian movies. It also was the occasional site of talent shows hosted by radio personalities such as Bonnie Crichlow. Kids flocked to Saturday matinee shows because of its double features. It ceased operations as a cinema in the 1980s.
Roxy Located at the intersection of Damain Street and Tragarete Road, this cinema featured American, British, and Indian movies. It also was the occasional site of the popular weekly children's talent show, "Auntie Kaye," and, prior to the construction of Queen's Hall in St. Ann's, was the site of Music Festivals. It ceased operations as a cinema in the 1980s.
The Little Carib Located at the intersection of White and Roberts Streets, the popularity of this theatre grew during the 1950s as residents began to appreciate the acting and dancing talents of its young artists choreographed by its founder, Beryl McBurnie. Carib performers who went on to achieve international fame included Geoffrey Holder and Pearl Primus. In 1975, the theatre was recognized for its contribution to culture and dancing when it was awarded the Trinidad & Tobago Public Service Medal of Merit Gold.

Steelbands: The following is a listing of the steelbands that functioned in Woodbrook, broken down by type: traditional (pans supported around the neck); and conventional (pans supported mechanically).



STEELBAND TYPE LOCATION IN 2002 HISTORY
Green Eyes Traditional Defunct Functioned in the 1950s.
In Focus Conventional Starlift Drive  
Invaders Coventional 147 Tragarete Road Click here for details.
Katzenjammers Traditional Defunct This band functioned in the 1950s and won the 1956 Steelband Music Festival with "The Breeze and I" (Ernesto Lecuona).
Nightingale Traditional Defunct Located on Gatacre Street, this band was formed in 1949 and functioned for about eight years until 1957 when its name was changed to Dixie Stars. After a few years, Dixie Stars became defunct when most of its members moved over to Silver Stars in nearby Newtown.
The Oval Boys Traditional Defunct Click here for details.
Phase II Pan Groove Coventional 12 Hamilton Street Click here for details.
Saigon Traditional Defunct Previously located on Roberts Street, between Cornelio and Fitt Streets, this steelband was formed in the 1950s by a collection of students, primarily from Queen's Royal College, among them, O'Neil McConnie and Winston "Doggie" Alexis. It functioned for a few years and disbanded when the majority of its members joined the Starlift Steelband in 1957.
Starlift Conventional Starlift Drive Click here for details.
Vibrations Conventional Starlift Drive  
Woodbrook Modernaires Traditional 55 Tragarete Road  
Woodbrook Playboyz Traditional Starlift Drive  

Conventional Music Bands: Conventional music bands that functioned in Woodbrook were as follows:

MUSIC BAND HISTORY
Cassanovas Formed in the early 1960s, this band featured Montgomery (Monty) Williams on the organ. It held practice at the home of John "Buddy" Williams and was very popular with young professionals.
The Flamingoes Led by Andre Tanker on the vibraphone and operating from the home of John "Buddy" Williams, this unique band made many radio appearances and recordings during the 1960s. It was one of the first conventional music bands to integrate a steelband instrument in its music and featured Ray Holman on the tenor pan.
Kaiso All Stars Formed in the 1960s under the leadership of Syl Dopson who lived on O'Connor Street. The band remained active until the early 2000s. Kaiso All Stars recorded two albums during the 1970s, Kaiso 1 and Kaiso 2, comprising mainly vintage calypsoes. For many years, it was the resident band for extempo calypso competitions.
Kalyan Formed in the 1980s, this band remained popular into the 2000s at home and throughout the Caribbean.
John "Buddy" Williams Active in the 1950s, this band led by John "Buddy" Williams provided music for shows at the Little Carib Theatre and was one of the most popular brass bands on the road during Carnival. His syncopated "breakaway" theme, Saturday Night Blowout, continued to be played during Carnival in the 21st century, more than 50 years after it became popular.
Silver Strings This string combo functioned in the 1960s.

Mas(querade) Bands: Mas' bands that functioned in Woodbrook included:

MAS' BAND LOCATION IN 2002 HISTORY
George Bailey Defunct A talented designer, George Bailey rocketed on the mas scene in 1957 at the young age of 23 with his presentation of Back to Africa which won Band of the Year honors. He won five more Band of the Year titles before his untimely death in 1970: Relics of Egypt (1959); Ye Saga of Merrie England (1960); Byzantine Glory (1961); Somewhere in New Guinea (1962); and Bright Africa (1969).
Barbarossa 26 Taylor Street This band was formed in the 1990s and won the Band-of-the-Year title in 2002 with Untamed.
Callaloo Company French Street This band is led by Peter Minshall and copped 5 Band-of-the-Year awards with Carnival of the Sea (1979), Carnival Is Colour (1987), Hallelujah (1995), Song of the Earth (1996), and Tapestry: Threads of Life (1997).
D'Midas Associates 15 - 17 Kitchener Street  
Rosalind Gabriel 26 O'Connor Street  
Legends 88 Roberts Street This band was formed in 1995 by Mike Antoine and Ian McKenzie, and won consecutive Large Band-of-the-Year titles in 1999, 2000, and 2001 with its presentations "Dynasty," "Streets of Fire," and "2001 Now and Beyond," respectively.
The Mass Factory 15 Buller Street  
Millenium Bugs, Inc. 35 Methuen Street  
Rudolph Piggott Defunct A staunch fan of the Invaders Steelband and a 1950s Island Scholarship winner from Queen's Royal College, Rudolph Piggott led a band of Carnival masqueraders for a couple of years in the 1960s.
Trevor Wallace & Associates 189 Tragarete Road  
Trini Revellers 35 Gallus Street  
Victor Rique 40 Roberts Street  

Singers: One of the most renown classical singers was Clarence Johnson who performed in various churches and amateur theatre productions.

Sports

In the 1950s and 1960s, the streets of Woodbrook provided an arena for many youths to play and develop their skills in soccer and cricket. In addition, King George V Park (Pompi-Eye), behind the Queen's Park Oval in neighboring St. Clair, provided additional space for many of these youths to hone these skills. Competitive youth soccer teams that functioned during this period included Fallen Angels, Totspurs, and Rockerfellas.

In the 1960s, the Youth Center at the south end of O'Connor Street was the place where competition was held in basketball, table-tennis, and soccer. Some of the youths who spent many years playing at this facility and who went on to achieve national recognition were Winston "Reds" Mulligan (table-tennis), Kelvin Barclay (soccer), and Reynold Marcelin (soccer).

Cricketers who were born in Woodbrook and who went on to represent the West Indies in Test cricket were Lennox "Bunny" Butler, Michael "Joey" Carew, Gerry Gomez, Deryck Murray, Lance Pierre, Willie Rodriguez, Edwin Lloyd St. Hill, and Wilton H. St. Hill. Cecil St. Hill, brother of Edwin and Winston, also represented T&T and the trio set a record for the largest number of brothers to represent T&T in cricket.

Shopping

Emamali's Gift Shop, located at the corner of Luis Street and Tragarete Road, was a popular stop for tourists who wanted to purchase jewelry and local artifacts.

Favorite Eating Places

Banking

In the 1980s, Woodbrook got its first bank when the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) opened a branch at the corner of Ariapita Avenue and Murray Street. Prior to this time, residents travelled to other sections of the city for their banking needs. CIBC later became the Republic bank in 1998.

Academic Institutions

The following is the list of schools that operated in Woodbrook dating back to the 1950s.

SCHOOL LEVEL ADDRESS RELIGIOUS AFFILIATION HISTORY
All Saints EC School (defunct) Primary Tragarete Road Anglican  
John Donaldson Technical Institute Tertiary Wrightson Road Non-Denominational Opened in the early 1960s.
Osmond High School (defunct) Secondary Roberts Street Non-Denominational  
Progressive Educational Institute (defunct) Secondary French Street Non-Denominational  
St. Crispin's EC School Primary 101 Ariapita Avenue Anglican  
St. Theresa Girls' RC School Primary & Secondary 50 De Verteuil Street Roman Catholic 499 Pupils in 2002
Woodbrook Government Secondary Secondary French Street Non-Denominational  
Woodbrook CM School Primary 179 Tragarete Road Presbyterian Used to be referred to as "Akal School," after its first prinicipal, Patrick Akal; its name was changed to Woodbrook Presbyterian School.
Woodbrook Presbyterian School Primary 179 Tragarete Road Presbyterian Formerly named Woodbrook CM School and referred to as "Akal School," after its first prinicipal, Patrick Akal.

Public Facilities

The playground at the intersection of Murray and Roberts Streets was always well-equipped with mechanical devices for the enjoyment of the children of Woodbrook.
At the southwest corner of the playground was the tax office where residents could pay their land rent and property taxes; this office was closed in late 1998. On Murray Street, directly opposite from the tax office, was the Post Office.
Immediately east of the playground were the Fire Station and the Police Station. The two parks, Adam Smith and Siegert Squares, provided a great forum for political meetings and were places where adults could sit and relax during evenings, outside the confines of their homes. In the 1980s, Adam Smith Square became a centre of attraction during Carnival when it was made a reviewing site for parading bands.

Health Facilities

The Public Health Office was located on the northern side of Tragarete Road at the northern extremity of Cornelio Street. This facility served the greater Port-of-Spain community very well, especially in the 1950s when it was efficiently used to administer vaccinations to young children to stem the worldwide spread of smallpox and polio. Medical prescriptions were filled at Kong's pharmacy, which was located at the intersection of Roberts and Warren Streets, Tang's pharmacy, which was located on Tragarete Road (next to the Invaders Steelband yard), and Wallace's drugstore, which was located at the corner of French Street and Tragarete Road.

Places of Worship

Roman catholics worshipped at St. Theresa's Church, at the intersection of Warren and De Verteuil Streets, while Anglicans worshipped at St. Crispin's Church on Alberto Street. Other denominations held services at churches located at the intersection of Alfredo Street and Tragarete Road (Ebenezer Church), on Carlos Street (The Church of God), and on Kelly-Kenny Street.

Popular Hangouts (Liming Places)

Although every street corner was a potential hangout, the most famous ones were those that attracted the most recognizable members of the community. Not surprisingly, corners in close proximity to the music makers (Invaders, Starlift, John "Buddy" Williams, Cassanovas) attracted the largest amount of "limers."

Well-Known Characters

There were many residents who were well-known in Woodbrook but who were always referred to by their nicknames. Since these men hung out on street corners, usually on their bicycles, they were frequently seen by residents who had a very good idea of what their contributions to the community were, whether good or bad. Although the real names of some of these men may never be known, their nicknames are worth documenting since they were so unique that some of them may never be heard again in Woodbrook.
NICKNAME REAL NAME NOTORIETY
Ah-toe Unknown Had the gift of gab. He began playing pan with Invaders in the 1950s before moving over to Starlift and becoming one of its most loyal supporters during the 1960s and 1970s.
Bambi Andrew Contant This excellent tenor-pan player started with Invaders and later moved over to Starlift. He became well-known in the 1960s for tuning miniature tenor-pans for souvenir collectors.
Bamboo Unknown He was a flagwaver for Invaders in the 1950s, a time when very few East Indians took part in Carnival parades on the streets.
Birdie Vernon Mannette Brother of Ellie Mannette. Pan tuner with Invaders and Starlift, and leader of Invaders from the late 1960s to the 1990s.
Boogie Hylton Weekes Had the gift of gab and interfaced very frequently with residents as the delivery-man for Young's grocery store.
Boogsie Lennox Sharpe Gifted composer and music arranger who achieved great success with Phase II Pan Groove.
Boy Blue Joseph Mansingh A promising pan player as a youth, he rarely remained sober for most of his adult life.
Choonks Randolph Turpin Bass player with Invaders in the 1950s when panmen carried their instruments around their necks. Known for his glasses with characteristic thick lenses, he served the community well as a plumber.
Coaye Cecil Forde Played tenor-pan with Invaders and was a feared man during the 1950s when there were many violent steelband clashes.
Dicko Murten Ellis Outstanding conga player with the Invaders and Starlift steelbands, and the Cassanovas music band; also had the gift of gab.
Dinners Roland Innis This 1960s bass player with Invaders and Starlift became an excellent pan tuner with Starlift in the 1970s. He went on to lead Starlift from 1990s through the 2000s.
Ellie Elliott Mannette Pan tuner and leader of the Invaders until the late 1960s, he took up residence in the U.S. and became the Artist in Residence at the the University of West Virginia in the 1990s.
Fatman Irwin Ross Rhythm player with Invaders in the late 1950s and then bass player with Starlift in the 1960s, this former gang member matured into a fine citizen. Even though he moved to the U.S. in the 1970s, he continued to be dogged by a nemesis from his youth. He died from cancer in Boston, Massachusetts, in the 1990s.
Happy David Williams Trained musician and accomplished bass player who went on to accompany the popular American singer, Roberta Flack. Also played second-pan with Invaders in the early 1960s, and became a calypso composer and singer in the 1990s.
High-Lo Hugh Wellington Pan tuner with Invaders and Starlift in the 1960s.
John-Man John Man Chen Wing This oriental store-keeper had the gift of gab. He operated the grocery store at the intersection of Roberts and Rosalino Streets that was the favorite hangout for almost every limer in Woodbrook during the 1950s and 1960s. He went bankrupt after extending too much credit to some of his customers.
Kanhai Anthony Emrit Groundsman at the Queen's Park Oval from the 1930s to 1970s where he was responsible for preparing the cricket wicket. Also reared cows and supplied milk to local residents.
Kobo Jack Emmanuel Riley This pan tuner and renown tenor-pan player established a jazzy playing style in the 1950s that became the trademark of Invaders. He will always remembered for his improvisations in the Invaders recordings: Lieberstraum; Melody in F; and Outcast.
Lam-Eye Brensley Mahon Played rhythm (iron) with Starlift in the late 1950s and remained a loyal supporter of the band.
Mouther Bee Winston Phillips Excellent tenor-pan player with Invaders and Starlift in the 1960s.
My Fan Carlton Drayton This former guitar-pan player with Invaders in the 1950s teamed up with Ellie Mannette and Francis Wickham to form the "sweetest" iron rhythm trio of their time. He moved to Starlift in 1963 where he continued as a rhythm player and remained a loyal, active band member through the early 2000s.
Philo Albert James A trained musician and bandleader of Starlift from 1957 to 1966, this pan tuner and arranger will always remembered for his 1962 Carnival arrangement of Allelujah Chorus from Handel's Messiah. His classical arrangement of this piece of music landed Starlift in 2nd Place in the 1964 Steelband Music Festival.
Puddin Reynold Marcelin A determined soccer player who grew up playing on the streets, he went on to represent the Malvern soccer club in First Division play; he also played tenor-pan with the Invaders steelband.
Rabbit Jeffrey Mahabir Popular for his gab, his animated "Cat and the Fiddle" in the 1957 Starlift Carnival presentation "Nursery Rhymes" will never be forgotten.
Splav David Waddell Popular for his gab, he was a prolific second-pan player with Invaders and Starlift from the late 1950s to the 1970s.
Sugars Clive Wellington Second-pan and rhythm player with Invaders and Starlift in the 1960s.
Toepee Unknown Reared cows and supplied milk to residents.
Vats Vernon Duncan A panman with Invaders during his early years, he moved to Starlift in the 1960s where he played the guitar-pan. He became a loyal and respected Starlift supporter in his later years.

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