Middletown celebration shines despite the rain
Grey skies didn’t dampen festivities for Middletown residents, who turned out over the weekend to celebrate their community and its roots.
The ‘Yes Day’ organised by community groups Imagine Bermuda and the Bermuda Coalition brought music, games, food — and memories — to the gathering at Parson’s Road Park.
Governor George Fergusson and wife Margaret were on hand to hear neighbourhood history from former Postmaster General Gary Phillips and banker Philip Butterfield.
Certificates of recognition were presented by Mr Ferguson to friends of area, including blacksmith Alpheaus (Artie) Black, music legend Freeman (King) Trott, and the late Justice Earle Seaton.
A Fentons Drive resident, Mr Trott said he is known as “uncle” by the young men of the area.
“I get along fine with all of them — they treat me like a grandfather,” he told The Royal Gazette, preparing to play his guitar and give the block party “a little bit of Bermuda”.
Mr Butterfield said: “I grew up at the end of King Street and the top of Middletown. Back then, everybody knew everybody else. People spent more quality time together, so they were never strangers. That led to a cohesiveness that we need to reclaim.”
Restoring a sense of community was the aim of Saturday’s event, organised in response to a community survey by the Bermuda Coalition that found many residents of Middletown keen to get to know one another better.
Economically marginalised and associated by many with the Island’s gang culture, Middletown is reclaiming its traditional neighbourhood values.
Mr Trott, who has lost his eyesight to glaucoma, said the young men who socialise in the area helped him up and down the hill to his residence.
“There’s a lot of nice things around here beyond fighting and shooting,” he said. “They just need love, that’s all. I make it my business to get everyone saying good morning and good afternoon.”
Addressing a crowd of about 50, Mr Phillips recalled the Gombey troupes that would stopped at his grandmother’s house in the area.
“I was never allowed to dance with the Gombeys,” he said, “but I was allowed to run with them, and carry the bag of potatoes.”
Performers would use half a potato as a folk remedy to treat muscle cramps, he explained.
“I am absolutely proud to be a pond dog,” Mr Phillips finished, referring to the nearby marsh by which many area residents still define themselves.
“This is where my roots starts, where my family is and my friends still are. It’s great to be here today.”
Mr Butterfield extolled the neighbourhood’s tight-knit values that defined his childhood.
“If you misbehaved on your way home, before you got home you were disciplined, and when you got there you were disciplined again,” he said. “And we were better off for it.
“It was safe. We never locked our doors. I never even had a key for my parents’ house. It truly was a neighbourhood, and it’s contributed to who we are today.”
Former Government Conservation Officer David Wingate told the gathering of his own connections with the area — including the design of the nearby pond, where waterfowl thrive in spite of the dump site’s pollution.
Recounting the 1987 Pembroke Marsh Plan to restore the area after 50 years’ dumping, Dr Wingate said: “The only part of it that was completed is where we stand now.”
As children worked on a mural with an art teacher, and volunteers gave out hot dogs donated by Butterfield and Vallis, event organiser Glenn Fubler said he was heartened to see so many come out in spite of Saturday’s downpour.
“Give yourselves a round of applause,” he told revellers. “Bermudians are not known for coming out in the rain.”
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