Our Readers' Opinions
December 13, 2016
Failed attempts for a brighter future

Editor: Since leaving school in December 1943, I worked for a period of 53 years, including 25 years at Frank B Armstrong (St Vincent) Ltd, as their general manager.

This firm operated and still operates as a wholesale distributor of merchandise for resale to the various retailers in SVG. Because Saturdays were the busiest days for the retailers, our salespersons were not permitted to go into the outlets in order to solicit business. As a consequence, our operation was closed until the following Monday; and this gave me more time to do something on my own.{{more}} One of the things I remember doing was to purchase peanuts for export to the neighbouring islands. My friend, Mr David Johnson of blessed memory, volunteered to go along with me to ensure that the nuts were in good condition and fit for sale. May he continue to rest in peace. Apart from this, he got permission from Colonel Anderson to store the nuts in a room in his house at Mt. Pleasant until it was time for them to be exported. “Thank you again, Colonel”, and may you also continue to rest in peace.

As time progressed, business began to show a marked improvement and it was just around that time when I received my biggest order from a firm in Guyana, when the St Vincent Marketing Board took over the complete handling of peanuts for distribution. This approach pushed me out of business completely, since all the growers were taking their produce directly to the Marketing Board, without having to wait for an order from me or anyone else. In view of this disappointing situation, it became necessary for me to use the lost time in another direction, so I spent more time producing a mauby drink, which I had been taught how to preserve and process.

This product was sold to the local supermarkets on the mainland, as well as to JB Crosby in Bequia who, according to the records, purchased four shipments of the syrup between March and June, 1978. I also shipped two consignments to the USA on behalf of Mr Augustus “Chippy” Browne.

Apart from producing mauby, I also produced ginger and sorrel syrups mainly during the Christmas season. I also took a try at gravy, browning and soap. With regard to soap, I do not propose to give any information about it in this article, but I have given details in my story ‘Born to Lose’.

An old bill book which I recently discovered reminded me that Mr Trevor Burke and Vinciclean were my biggest customers for floor polishes, which I used to keep in stock for resale.

Permit me to explain to you that the reason why I tried to market various unrelated products is to try to discover which single item would have been the most profitable and at the same time most convenient for handling and storing in the small area where I operated.

At this moment as I write, I recall having received a call from a gentleman who worked at a local company, asking me to give him the formula for my mauby. At first, I thought it most unreasonable, but as our conversation continued, it occurred to me that it would have been more profitable for me to concentrate on the production of soap, on which I had begun and since everyone needs soap on a daily basis. That was my thinking at the time. Believe it or not, I gave him the formula over the phone and he never ever sent me a “thank you” sample. I truly believe that the product which is now on the market is the result of my formula which I gave to the gentleman at the company.

However, my product had a different taste from that of the company, due to the fact that after adding sugar, I left it over a period of time to ferment before bottling, so that it may taste like ole time mauby.

I once sold the syrups in 26 oz bottles and the straight drinks in 10 oz pints.

Raul U Soso