Boyd plays back his life with pride
Boyd Smith sobbed when he was told he had to drop out of school. He had dreamt of becoming an architect.
“Two of my older sisters went to Berkeley,” the 90-year-old said. “My father, Seward, couldn’t afford to send me also.
“There was only one scholarship available to Berkeley and I came second in the scholarship examinations, which meant I didn’t get in.”
Instead, he became a grocery store delivery boy and at 15, an apprentice to carpenter Stuart Trott.
“I still remember the first article he asked me to make,” said Mr Smith. “It was a window frame.
“When I was done, I was so proud of myself but it was at all sorts of angles. I almost cried when he threw it in the trash. Slowly, over time I learnt and improved.”
He thinks he had two things going for him, a good work ethic and a love of books.
Reading helped him gain greater insight into carpentry work and, at 19, he was promoted to shop foreman.
“I said, ‘Oh no, I can’t be foreman’,” said Mr Smith. “Everyone else there was older than me.
“But Mr Trott said, ‘No, you do good work’. So I took on the role, and the other workers never gave me any grief about it. They were good to me.”
His father was his inspiration. He was a founder of the Hamilton Parish Political Association. In 1933, the group helped Ernest Furbert become the first black man elected to the House of Assembly.
“He was a mason with the Bermuda Development Company,” said Mr Smith. “He was also self-educated and read a lot. I wanted to be a man like him.
“There used to be four representatives to a parish. My father taught people how to vote for one, rather than split their vote between the candidates. They call it plumping.
“He said if there is a black person running, vote for that one black. Don’t vote for the others, they’ll get in.”
Mr Smith’s father was also secretary of the now defunct Grand United Lodge in Shelly Bay.
“When I was 10, he’d send me around to collect dues from the members,” said Mr Smith. “I got to know a lot of people that way. At 19, I joined the Independent Order of Odd Fellows Manchester Unity.
“Our lodge is the Loyal Flower or Day lodge on Parliament Street opposite People’s Pharmacy.”
He still attends lodge meetings, just not as often.
“A lot of the men in the lodge now are younger than me,” he said. “I think it’s better to leave things to them, so I don’t go as much.”
He met his wife, Moria, at a Cup Match dance in Sandys when he was 19.
“I remember her standing there tapping her foot to the music,” he said. “I went up to her and asked her to dance.
“She was from Smith’s but was staying with an aunt in Somerset. We became friends and later she became my girlfriend.”
They married on April 28, 1947 and had three daughters Marva Bridgewater, Dawn Darrell and Waverley Minors. Mrs Smith died in 2002.
“I would say the secret to a happy marriage is communication, love, and respect for each other,” said Mr Smith.
He left carpentry soon after getting married and went into the hotel industry.
“I was a dining room waiter at the Coral Beach Club, a wine waiter at the Inverurie Hotel and a bartender at Fourways Inn.”
He retired in 1995 after ten years working in the utility department at H A & E Smith’s.
To amuse himself he enjoys playing an electronic keyboard set up in his living room.
“I started playing music when I was a child,” he said. “My mother, Albertha, used to play the organ and she taught me to play.
“But when I was about 20 I cut three of my fingers with an electric saw. Two of them knitted back together, but one didn’t. After that whenever I tried to play I’d get a tingling sensation in my fingers, so I stopped.
“Then after a couple of years, a friend of mine suggested I play his trumpet. He urged me to try it. When I did, I found that it didn’t bother my fingers any more.”
He bought a keyboard and started playing again.
“I got quite good and friends would come over to my house and listen to me play,” he said. “They said, ‘You’re good, you should play out’.”
He took their advice and started performing at lodge functions, weddings, church and as accompaniment to singers.
His only real regret in life is his lack of education.
“I know they have courses online and courses at the Bermuda College,” he said. “But at my age I’m not going to do that.
“I think the way children are taught in school today is beautiful. Now there are scholarships all around.
“Today they have computers to learn with. When I was going to school the only computer I had was a slate and piece of chalk. We didn’t even have water to wash it off, we had to use spit. I think children, particularly black children, have so many more opportunities today than they did in my day.”
He is thrilled that his daughters and his seven grandchildren all had the chance to go to university.
“I am really proud of them,” he said.
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