Paul H. Williams, Gleaner Writer
THERE WAS a time when Alley, a community in Clarendon, was full of life. And it was the sweet life. In this district beside the Rio Minho, sugar production was booming, and nectar was dripping from people's lips in abundance.
But now, the once bustling sugar cane belt satellite is moribund, and from all indications, there is no life support standing by. That it was an obviously quiet place, and that there were not many youth overrunning the lanes, few streets, and the square, were enough on first observation to say not much goes on there.
Yet, the notion that Alley is on the decline is betrayed by the sentiments of some of the residents Rural Xpress spoke with on Tuesday. And a tour of the community revealed why they would think so. Degeneration is all around.
Many shops in the square are closed, at least one is dilapidated. The market that was destroyed by hurricane some years ago is still in ruins. The property is overgrown, and a section seemed to be occupied residentially.
The post office tells a similar story of destruction and ruin. It is a shell waiting to be demolished, and a new one erected so the residents won't have to go all the way to Lionel Town for mail.
Many of the houses are those built for sugar workers. Some are still quaint and going strong. Others are crumbling. A few are abandoned, and perhaps because their former occupants are no longing oozing life.
Where Rural Xpress tried to find elderly people who could talk some more about the glory days on the Alley, we were told most of the elderly folks had died. One woman struggled to indicate where some of them could be found. Another, who said she was born in Alley, simply said, "Dem dead aaf!"
And the younger ones are also leaving one by one because there is really not much to do. One female resident says when night comes, things get even quieter as there is just no night life. She said not even dances go on after certain hours as the police are quite vigilant in the area where there could be sporadic criminal activities, including praedial larceny.
The sugar industry has been declining over the years in Alley, but since the divestment of the Monymusk Sugar Factory to COMPLANT a few years ago, things seem to have got worse, they say, as the production of sugar has scaled down significantly, with even a factory closing.
There are lands where sugar cane used to be grown, but they are now occupied by grass, shrub and bushes. A man on a bicycle, who stopped to see why Rural Xpress was taking pictures of a certain building, painted a picture of gloom, claiming that people who were laid off from Monymusk are having an extremely difficult task making ends meet.
He said while he had turned to the sea to eke out a living, many of his friends had turned to the bushes to produce charcoal.
Many of those who are still working, he said, do so only a few days per week, and "one man is doing five man job".
And so it was for this writer. I was doing five people's job trying to find a glimmer of hope among the gloom. Was it the few small businesses still operating in Alley Square? I don't know.
But it certainly wasn't the frustrated 20-something HEART/NTA graduate or the well-spoken youngster who has absolutely no intention of remaining in Alley after his high-school days are over.