Tourism ambassador offers a warm welcome
Is it going to rain tomorrow? Tourists constantly ask Alfred Wright that question. His standard response is to stick his finger up as if testing the air, before pronouncing solemnly: there's a probability. People usually take his word for it.
“For the past seven years I have been greeting people at Penno's Wharf,” the 74-year-old said. “I also wander around the square and talk with visitors. A lot of the visitors want to go straight to Crystal Caves or Tobacco Bay, so I give them directions.”
No matter how many questions are asked, he always stays patient. As an ambassador with the Bermuda Tourism Authority, it's his job.
“Some of my friends tell me I'm the most patient man they know,” he said. “But when I was younger I really struggled. When I was a child, I can remember a couple of times punching panels off the doors in the classroom. It was frustration.
“When I was really young I remember having a motorbike and I had trouble with the engine. I took a hammer and mashed it up, then I went to the bank, took out money and went uptown and bought another engine. I felt good afterward but that wasn't the right thing to do.”
Patience came after he started fishing and got hooked on jazz. The “mellow” music helps him to fall asleep.
“I would sit on the rocks and I didn't catch anything but a cold,” he said. “I would sit there for hours.”
Mr Wright claims he struggles with shyness, although the condition has not affected his role as an ambassador. He said: “What the heck, I'm never going to see most of them again anyway. I like telling people about Bermuda and St George's.”
He has spent much of his life living in St George's on Cut Road, or the vicinity.
“It's pretty much the same as when I was a child,” he said. “There's just a few more people and a lot more traffic. It's like the Indianapolis Freeway out there now.”
When he was a child, his parents, Alfred and Anna Wright, ran the Elite Refreshment Parlour on Wellington Street and a couple of satellite restaurants. His father eventually sold off the business; his mother worked for Robinson's Drugstore as a cashier well into her eighties.
His own working life started at the tender age of 8, sweeping floors at Meyer's Machine Shop.
“I worked from 7am to 5pm and I was paid seven and six,” he said. “It was something to occupy me through the summer. I learnt to use some of the machines. I remember they had to replace a boiler plate and I spent all day drilling holes into it. I learnt to make bolts.”
When he was 10 the family moved to Canada, in search of a better education for him.
“We came back when I was 14 and I couldn't get a place at St George's Secondary School,” he said. “The place was full. I went to work at the Kindley Air Force Base. An elderly gentlemen said just get the work done and keep your mouth shut. It was only when I talked that you could tell I was young, because I was big for my age.
“After a year I was able to get into St George's Secondary School. I'd been a year ahead anyway when I came back from Canada, so it didn't impact my education much.”
Some people were surprised when he graduated third in his class.
“I liked to fool around a lot,” he said. “I was a typical boy but I retained what I learnt so I was able to do well.”
At 17 he went to work for Esso, refuelling aircraft.
“I worked with all kinds of planes, including Electras and turboprop planes,” he said. “You had to ground them before refuelling. During flight they acquired a lot of static and if you didn't ground them one little spark during refuelling might have blown us sky high.
“That never happened though because we were well trained.”
Later, he worked for Nasa, maintaining their water system and then for Works & Engineering as a building supervisor until his retirement in 2007.
He developed high blood pressure in his early twenties. He said: “I was overweight. Dr MacDonald Smith suggested I go and get rid of some blood to help with that.
“From then, every six months for the longest while, I donated blood. I was getting tired of doing it then one of the nurses told me, ‘You are helping someone by doing this, you may not know who, but you are helping someone'.”
He retired from giving blood this month. His official record is 92 donations spread over 18 years.
“Eighteen years ago is when they started keeping record of it, I guess,” he said. “I've been donating for at least 50 years and I estimate I've probably donated more than 200 pints in my time.
“I enjoy going up there and visiting the nurses. They are really nice people up there and they make you feel comfortable.”
He met his first wife, Aliene, at a football match. She died in 1994 from breast cancer after 20 years of marriage.
Mr Wright remarried in 2005 but it did not work out and they divorced.
He enjoys spending time with his three children, Christopher, Amanda and Alicia, and his four grandchildren. He also likes to bowl and take photographs.
“I usually post my pictures on Facebook or Instagram,” he said. “I try to keep up with technology.”
• Lifestyle profiles senior citizens in the community every Tuesday. To suggest an outstanding senior contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Have on hand the senior's full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them.