George Frost - Now & Then
George Frost NOW and THEN
 

The photos in the accompanying slideshow and the wonderful “recuerdos” written on this page were generously contributed by George Frost. Although George is now living in England, and has been for many years now, he was originally born in Maracaibo to an English father and Austrian mother. Because his earliest memories are of Maracaibo & the childhood that he spent there in his youth, George has many memories of his happy and carefree life there.

George left Maracaibo in 1959 to attend boarding school in England. He returned various times during school holidays, finally leaving for the last time in 1962. He has never returned.

After George's account, you'll find the link that goes to a photo slideshow of the pictures that George has contributed to his story.

Further down the page, read the interesting story of the SHELL cemetery & then view the photos.

Lastly, listen to the fascinating account of George's father Stan's life in Maracaibo in Stan's own recorded voice - an original “audio memoir”.

We're all extremely grateful to George for taking the time to share these wonderful memories with all of us here.


 

Update FEB 2007

George came across this postcard greeting that shows the Bella Vista Club. It was sent by his father to his mother who was waiting to join him in Maracaibo before they had moved there as a family. It was marked up by his father. As his assumption is that his mother did not arrive in Venezuela until 1949, he believes it was sent around Christmas 1948. It shows a point in the photo that would be their house and his father's room. It also offers a good view of the cinema screen.
 
 

When 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 Clausen’s 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 in Maracaibo.

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.

Stan Frost
Erna Frost
Stan Frost
Erna Frost

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 tree).

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 it.

I remember 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.

The morning 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).

The 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 (see pictures 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 (Rincón Borícua).

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 drink had 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 mother.

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 to Maracaibo.

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.





 
 
SHELL CEMETERY
 

George also relays to us the interesting story of the SHELL Cemetery.

He relates that, in the 1950's, SHELL did not repatriate the remains of expatriate staff or their dependents if they died while they were assigned to Western Venezuela. Instead, they were buried locally at one of two cemeteries in Maracaibo. The second cemetery was opened when the first one became filled.

Over the years, the second cemetery became run-down & overgrown as the issue of ownership became unclear with the passage of time. Upon finding out about this unfortunate circumstance in 1991, George's father immediately began inquiries as to the proper ownership of the cemetery in an effort to remedy this situation and to improve its poor condition.


What followed can best be fully understood by reading his father's correspondence with SHELL on the matter, which George has graciously agreed to share with us here. This will then give you a better idea of what you'll see in the following slideshow of the SHELL cemetery. Just click on the link below

George is currently seeking any information available about the present condition of the cemetery. If you have any information at all about it, please contact George directly by clicking here.


Update, August 17, 2006
: George has received a reassuring update, including recent photos, to his inquiry about the current condition of the SHELL cemetery. It reads: “

“Dear Mr. Frost,

“Thank you for your letter regarding the two cemeteries in Maracaibo. Please accept my apologies for the delay in getting back to you.

“Please find attached some recent photographs I have received from Gabriela Tudares in the Building Facilities Department in Venezuela. I hope they are able to reassure you that the cemeteries are being maintained in good order. Gabriela has assured me that there is an ongoing programme of maintenance on the cemeteries.

“Once again, thank you for your enquiry. If you have any further please do not hesitate to contact us.

“Kind regards,

“Richard Priestley
Customer Services- Retail”


I've added the photographs mentioned above to the slideshow. Many thanks to George for his persistence in following up on the status of the cemetery.



 


 
 
“Audio Memoir”
 

One other extremely interesting item that George has offered to share with us is an audio recording made by his father.

Imagine yourself sitting next to George's father Stan and asking him about his life in Maracaibo. This would be his response to your question…in his own voice.

In it, he relates his experiences about his life & work in Maracaibo with SHELL, starting from his first arrival there in the late 1940's, to his retirement. It is, in effect, “an audio memoir”.

You can imagine how precious this recording is to George, particularly in light of his father's passing in 2004. So we're really quite privileged to be able to listen to it here.

This file is in MP3 format and is 11.5 Mb in size. So please give it time to properly download as it's time well spent. Just click on the tape recorder image that follows and give it time to download to hear it:

 

 
 
Motilone Arrow Collection
 
One of the wonderful items that George inherited from his father was this superb collection of Motilone bow with a variety of arrows. These are currently mounted on the wall of his office in England. George advises that his father exchanged the bow & arrows for a bag of salt while on one of his many jungle trips.