my father passed away in 2004, I really did
not know what to do with all the photos of Venezuela
that he had taken. That was when I came across Chuck
wonderful website. I did know then that there were
others out there who had similar memories of Venezuela,
in particular Maracaibo. So I contacted Chuck and he
expressed an interest in what I had.
So to put the
photos into proper context, I was born in Maracaibo.
I have many memories as a child growing up there.
I do know some of the people in my father's photos
although many mean nothing no me. That’s
where you step in: if you recognise any family or even
remember my brothers Stan and Robert or I, let
Chuck have your memories. The site is rapidly turning
into a site that is an important historical record
of a life that no longer exists. But from my perspective,
it was a part of my life. If I could re-live those
years, I'd go back in a heartbeat. They were great days.
My life in Venezuela
was as a child growing up in the 50’s. In fact,
it all started on 17 June
1950, when I was born. My father was responsible for
the property rented/leased or owned by SHELL. In modern
terms he would, I suppose, be a facilities manager
and would be working for the property/ estates department
Until the age
of 18 months, I lived in a two story house in Las
Delícias. We then moved to Colónia
Mazzei, house number 5A. I remember
from an early age that life seemed to revolve around
endless parties, at 5A and every other house on the
road, the beach and the club. My impression was that
everyone in Venezuela knew my Dad Stanley (aka Stan)
and my mother Erna, who was Austrian.
I remember the
house being very airy and generally quite cool due,
I suppose, to the tiled floors, though later we got
air conditioning. We had a maid who was with us from
my earliest recollections to the day I left to return
to the UK and boarding school. Her Name was Dora
and she was a good friend to us. She covered my a**
on many occasion when my mother was on the war path.
As a child I spent what seemed to be a lifetime climbing
trees, eating mangos, níspero,
and various other fruits. They were carefree days and
anyone who grew up in Colónia Mazzei at the
same time as I lived the same lifestyle. I recall that
Mrs Mazzei would take the fruit from our guava tree
to make ice cream. She also made ice cream from a tree
in her front garden that had small fruit that we would
pinch and eat - very sweet (I didn't remember the name
of the tree until Chuck mentioned that he did much
the same as we did and Chuck called it a mamón
I recall the ferry that we would travel on the odd
occasion, usually with my father, across Lake Maracaibo.
It was on one such occasion that I was introduced by
a Venezuelan how to eat green mangos sprinkled with
salt. Mother was not impressed, but I recall I liked
the (raspado) ice cart pulled by a
small donkey. The man would scrape the ice, put it
into a cup and add the fruit syrup of your choice
for I would imagine a locha or centimos (http://www.randytrahan.com/ocov/gen_interest_venezuelan_money.htm). Again,
Mother was not impressed and she would tell us we
could die from some terrible disease.
Across the road
lived the headmaster - a Mr. Lemon (as I recollect,
that was his name). Chuck lived in the same
house some years later. The wall between the Mazzei’s
and Mr. Lemon's house was a popular place to hang
out. There were two oil tanks (I think they were
oil) that we would sit on top of, having gained
access via the wall which, as I recollect, sloped
down to the garden wall on the pavement. The kids
in the road were a multinational bunch - American,
Dutch, and English and I seem to recollect a Swiss
or a French family (not sure). Some of them I'm still
in touch with. There were some real characters, like
the family that lived in Colónia Mazzei right
down the bottom next to the wall at the end. This
chap would play bagpipes in the evening and, as I
recollect, he was quite good. He would fly his kite
using his fishing rod.
The mango tree
used to be home for a caterpillar that has long hair
on its back. If you stepped on one, as I did not
once, but twice on different occasions, the result
was pain, a run home with legs failing in their
duty to carry you (probably trying to get attention,
but I think the screaming did that). Then followed
a car race to the hospital, an injection, and laying
in bed for two days (the laying in bed bit was okay).
How many remember the company worker fumigating the
houses with DDT. They also did the trees with the same
stuff, which is when I trod on the caterpillars.
Kites and kite-making
was something we did a lot of. How we survived, I
don’t know as we would
throw the stick with the string on it over what I can
only assume were the power cables and use the wire
as a means of launching the kite so as to get above
the cable without getting stuck in them. How many
of you recall the small piece of paper that spanned
the kite and produced a buzzing sound whilst in flight?
One of the teachers
of the school (Las Delícias) shot an alligator
and dumped it in the shower at the school. Where
it was shot I have no idea. My class was taken to
see it in the shower to have a look at it. It looked
very big as its jaws were up the wall with its body
in the shower base and tail outside the shower, but
undoubtedly it was not that big.
I remember that at the school was an open quadrangle,
a hall where we would do exercises, and the music lessons
where we marched around. Invariably I would get the
triangle although I always wanted the drum or tambourine.
after parties, we would run around the tables drinking
the dregs (I know, but hey - I was a kid!), eating
the peanuts, etc. On one occasion I was totally out
of my head by about half-past seven in the morning
(saved by Dora), my mother not finding out till some
days later on that occasion.
I recall the birthday
parties, which were always excessive (although we
didn't think they were excessive at the time). If
it was your party there would be gifts from all that
came. Likewise going to a party meant taking a present.
As often as not, the party would drift into the evening
as the adults came to collect their little cherubs,
and stayed for a drink or two or three and the barbeque
might get fired up (see pictures 22 - 26).
beach and the hours spent there - I can recollect on
one occasion that we had spent the day at the beach
with all the kids and the mothers. The fathers joined
us after work. The barbeque was fired up and a great
time as always was being had by all. I remember the
details, being filled in by my mother talking about
it in later years as we did re-live our days in Venezuela.
The women went out for a swim and the men folk, realising
that they were skinny-dipping, parked all the cars
in the darkness so that the headlights were pointed
out to where they were swimming and, when they exited
the water, switched on the car lights. As I recollect,
I've to this day not seen so many women run back into
the sea, still separated from their bathing suits!
I was far too young back then to appreciate the delights
of female nudity.
I do recall
the Navy coming to town and my folks throwing a party
for them and getting to go on ships though the memories
are hazy. But the photos show more than I remember
30 - 35).
I remember school days that
started early. Getting home around midday for a siesta,
we would sometimes sleep. Other times we would be
running around having a cup of tea whilst my father
listened to the World Service on the BBC. We would
go back to school in the afternoon, do one or two
lessons, and we'd end up at the club for swimming
lessons. I'm sure it was not everyday, but it felt
like it. Then we would drift into the evenings as
the adults turned up to collect their kids. Often
we would stay on at the club watching cartoons on
the big screen in the open air cinema at the club.
We might then go off to the Rincón
I remember that we had great
times at the club pool and spent a lot of time there.
Does anyone remember the foot bridge that divided the
pool into the shallow and deep parts? We would swim
under the bridge through a narrow gap between the bridge
and a low wall. It was a bit of a squeeze. My father
recounted that when the pool first opened the footbridge
had no restrictions in crossing it. But so many adults
fell into the pool on their way from one side to the
other, as it was a shortcut. I'm sure that
no part in their falling in. But it was eventually
fenced off - to protect the kids, you understand (see
pictures 7 & 8, the barrier/gate/fence, whatever
is visible in them).
My father told
me of the time that the club management put a chemical
into the water to embarrass those who would pee
in the water when swimming. This chemical would turn
the water blue around them if they peed. When the
kids found out about it, there was no stopping them,
so that idea was scrapped.
I remember a revolution and soldiers in the back garden,
being told to stay indoors, thinking it was quite exciting.
There seemed to be revolutions, but only once do I
remember a soldier in our garden.
I remember sports days at the sports ground and cricket
on the weekend and dad making chili con carne and rice
by the truckload, big barrels filled with ice separated
by bottles of Zulia beer, bottles of Coca Cola and
Fanta - wonderful days that were so full.
I recall collecting
metal bottle tops and swapping them for Disney characters
from the Zulia deliveryman, doing swaps with the
other kids. I seem to remember them all being white,
don’t know if plastic had
colour in those days or if it was too expensive.
A rabid dog
was killed in the back garden of the very last house
on the left in Colónia
Mazzei next to the waste land with a bow an arrow by
an expatriate, who did archery. My brother Robert (aka
BOB) was bitten and had to have the jabs in his stomach
He later recounted his heroism in the face of death
and showed his needle marks to the other kids.
Some of the
photos show the orphanage visit (see pictures 49
- 55), and Prince Philip's visit to Maracaibo (see
picture 36) talking to Ian McKechnie. Also in the
photo is Ian’s wife Margaret, my Dad and my
Photo 37 shows
kids in what I believe was the school cinema; however,
it might have been in the SHELL offices. I don't
really recognise anyone. I know where Bob and I are
but I'm not telling!
How many of
you recall the rain and how heavy it could be. The
front garden would be flooded to the depth of my
knees, so that would be at least a foot. The thunderstorms
and lightning were always short-lived and the air
smelled so clean and fresh afterwards.
I can recount
childhood memories of Maracaibo endlessly, which
brings me back to where I started. We had a wonderful
life that was carefree and very full. We had holidays
in Barbados & Jamaica. When traveling home to see
the family in the UK, I could not wait to get back
Since leaving, I've never gone back.
I understand that the old Colónia Mazzei is
gone now. But going back may spoil my childhood memories.
So there you have it. I hope that the photos bring
back great memories for all of you.