In 1960, The Bank of Jamaica Act was passed and this gave Jamaica the right to operate her own banking system and issue her own currency on the island. The Bank of Jamaica, however, did not begin operations until May 1, 1961. The first monies that were distributed had the image of Queen Elizabeth II and the signature of the then governor of the Bank, Stanley Payton. In 1968 there came a change in our system, especially since we had gained Independence. No longer were the images on money that of the queen's; they now bore the images of Jamaica's National Heroes. Also, the decimal system slowly introduced dollars and cents.
To commemorate Jamaica's 50th anniversary of Independence, this week Youthlink will reach out to our more senior readers in the hope that they will share their experience of money matters and life prior to the digital age (2000s).
Name: Dennis Raj
Profession: Retired lawyer
Dennis Raj, reliving his teen years in the 1960s, eagerly shared his knowledge of Jamaica's booming history with us. He expressed how Jamaica flourished immensely under our newly independent status. "Jamaica was extremely progressive and had a growing GDP rate and per capita income. So much so that the Chinese minister Li Quan Yew came here and commented on our flourishing economy and wanted to emulate our policies." Factories were once mainstays in Jamaica; Marcus Garvey Drive in Kingston was once the hub of industry and commerce. "Marcus Garvey Drive had many factories. Jamaica made everything from shoe polish, paper, refrigerators and stoves." He also revealed that Industrial Terrace got its name "because of the growing industry of factories."
Dennis recollects what it was like to live in Jamaica during that era.
Food supply for the week would cost no more than a quattie and three pence (tro' pance - this would be close to $150 today). He added that people in those days hardly bought food, they mostly grew it. Grocery shops were what we had back then, not supermarkets. Ovaltine, rice, flour, sugar, kerosene oil were just a few things that my family bought frequently but, as I said, we never really spent much on things to cook and not even to prepare food. All we had to do was dig and pick our food.
Every woman in those days knew how to sew so we hardly had clothes stores. What we had to do was buy the cloth to get the clothes made, which would cost about tro' pance (about $50 now). My mother would buy some calico material (white, empty flour bags) and use those to make clothesl usually, underwear for themselves, that would cost about six pence. There was a factory in Spanish Town named 'Bata' that would cost charge one shilling ($,1000) for shoes. It was expensive, but that would last me the entire year.
Dennis attended St George's Boys' School in the '60s.
I went to Holy Childhood Prep School and fees at that time would be about £3. I moved on to Campion Hall, then did a test and got accepted into George's Boys' School. School fees for George's back then cost £7 per term. School was expensive at that time and we had to buy books. My subjects would range from algebra, Latin and English literature (Shakespeare) to geography and that would cost about £2 the most. I went to university in England. For the first two years I got a half scholarship for school, then in the last year I received a full scholarship from the commonwealth granted to me by England.
Movies was the main entertainment in those days; Majestic Theatre, Queen's Theatre, Deluxe Theatre and Carib Theatre were the places I used to go for a good time. That would cost $1 or thereabout. House parties used to happen very frequently as well. They were orderly and fun and those days everybody knew everybody so no one had to pay. Usually, it was a friend throwing a party so you just go and enjoy yourself.
Pantomime would cost about five shillings. Those were hallmark shows that showcased the folklore culture at that time, so people like Louise Bennett and Ranny Williams would put on a show alright.
Look closely and you will see that this is Marcus Garvey Drive.
Jamaica Omnibus Service (JOS) was the bus company at that time. Those were long, white buses and that system was a much better structured one. The buses were punctual, clean and properly maintained. Taking the bus would cost a quattie to penny per stages. For example, stage 1 would be from Half-Way Tree to Three Miles, Three Miles to Parade. You could purchase a ticket that would carry you straight to from Half-Way Tree to Papine (or your destination) that would cost four pennies.
These were the buses on which Dennis and others would ride during the 1960s.