Sun | Sep 20, 2020

Remembering the ‘70s with Cynthia Clarke

Published:Thursday | August 6, 2020 | 12:26 AMArianne Hammond and Kareem LaTouche/Gleaner Writers
The Kingston Mall was one of Cynthia Clarke’s favourite spots in the 1970s.
The Kingston Mall was one of Cynthia Clarke’s favourite spots in the 1970s.

IN 1969, the Bank of Jamaica began issuing banknotes that bore the images of our national heroes, and on October 20, 1970, a brown $5 note was introduced. A review of the island’s money structure in 1974 gave way to the $20 dollar, which bore the image of Noel Nethersole, founder of the Bank of Jamaica, and the 50 cent note was replaced with a coin in November 1976.

In October 1978, the shades of the $10 and $20 were changed to a light blue and grey and orange, respectively.

Cynthia Clarke, manager, New Editions Bookstore, recalls the decade of the ‘70s and shares with us some things from the good ol’ days. She said life was pretty good back then, noting that her rent was very affordable.

“Living was very reasonable back then; I remember vividly my rent in Harbour View was $90 per month for my three-bedroom home. People could easily get by on minimum wage back then. Electricity was cheap, as it would cost me approximately $1 for light bill,” said Clarke, who was 21 years old in 1976.

She also remembers the food crisis back in the late ‘70s. “There was a food crisis back in 1979 to 1980. It was a crisis where we couldn’t afford food, because it was scarce. I remember rice couldn’t be sold singularly, you had to buy the rice with another product.”


“Well, I remember getting 10 cents for lunch money; with that I could get a cooked meal at school for about a penny. Also, I remember saving my lunch money to buy bulla and cheese, sugar bun, jackass corn and soldier button almost every day after school. These wouldn’t cost me more than a penny. Later on in the 1970s, I was living with my aunt and I would contribute to food. It would cost about $4 to $5 for food at Lee’s Supermarket and we could get oxtail and chicken, rice, flour, sugar and milk, without breaking the budget.”


“I would go downtown and put a dress on layaway for about $5. I tried to budget my money, since I didn’t get much as a cashier. Shoes cost about $11 to $19, between the years 1974 to 1976. Shoes were considered to be expensive back then, and clothes were usually made by dressmakers.”


“ I’d pay 20 cents to get to school and back home. I went to Yallahs Comprehensive High School, and to get to Yallahs from Lyssons would cost me 10 cents each day. When I moved to Kingston, the fare would be approximately $3 from St Thomas.Where I lived, there wasn’t any government buses running, we had private bus owners that knew their passengers, and would wait for them. For example, my driver would wait for me at 5:30 a.m. every morning.”


“School was free. That’s right, zero dollar was the cost of my tuition while attending Yallahs Comprehensive High School. Back then, government paid for everything, and the books they gave me was what I used. Schooling wasn’t that expensive for my family.”


“All we did back then were movies and house parties. Matinee performances were early shows that were held for young children, and that cost about 25 cents. Regular movies were later in the nights. They were attended by adults and a ticket would cost about 40 cents. House parties were free because we would all meet up at a friend’s house and learn all the latest dance moves, like the funky chicken.”