Karen Sudu, Gleaner Writer
CENTRAL VILLAGE, St Catherine:ERIC 'BIGGA' Grant has lived more than half his life at Andrews Lane in Central Village, St Catherine. In fact, it was in 1968, after his third child was born, when he was living in central Kingston with his then common-law wife, Daphne Graham, that he was forced to relocate his family.
"There was a house shortage in Kingston at that time, and if you had more than one child, you couldn't get a house to rent, and if you live somewhere with one and you have another, you get notice," 74-year-old Grant, who hails from Hanover and migrated to Kingston to work as a subcontractor, reflected.
He said as soon as Graham got home from the hospital with the baby, the landlord served them notice.
"They say when you have too many children, you use up too much water," he laughed.
Besides, Grant said, there was always an uproar in the yard where he lived.
"There was a Rastaman by the name of Marcus. He's dead now. He was selling books and I used to buy books from him. So one day he came to sell me books, and there was a quarrel in the tenement yard, and he said him no know how a Rastaman live in a tenement yard and asked me if I would live where he lived, and I say yes," Grant explained to The Gleaner.
With that, Grant said Marcus took him on his bike to Central Village, where he leased a plot of land and later built a room.
"When I came to live in Central Village in 1968, there was no war. You could leave your house open, your window, your door. You never even have gate on your yard, and everybody lived as one - everybody united," he said chuckling.
But according to the father of 10 children produced from a 47-year union with Graham - the last 16 years shared as man and wife - in the late 1970s, life in Central Village started to change.
"People started to war and fight, and when you asked them what them fighting for, them couldn't tell you," he said.
Grant noted that while there had been much development in the area of housing, too many zinc fences dominated the community.
"There were few houses when I came, and now there is big development and it could be better, but because people live on lease land, they can't really build like them want to," he said.
At the same time, the cheerful senior said he was particularly pleased about a multi-purpose centre being built on the site of the Jamaica Red Cross Society, funded under the Inner-City Basic Services Project implemented in Central Village by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).
On the other hand, he lamented the delay in the completion of the facility expected to house community-based committees, skills training, social, as well as other activities.
"The community centre start long time now, and I dying to see it finish," he said.
Acting general manager, technical services, JSIF, said the building is 85 per cent complete.
"The building needs to be painted, tiles, electronic appliances and fixtures to be installed. Toilet and other bathroom facilities are not in place. Some windows have been installed, but are not complete. Other minor work is to be carried out," she told The Gleaner.
The unfinished centre is not the only amenity that disturbs Grant.
"The postal agency is a disgrace. It want a good building to house the postal agency. Look at it!" he bemoaned.
Grant is not the only member of the community who has expressed concern about the state of the facility.
"I don't feel comfortable. A big place like Central Village, and look at the little box them call postal agency. I wouldn't mind some changes, some development, something different, something that look like a post office," 46-year-old Albert Pollock said.