House Parties of the 80’s

In the latter part of 2015 my then 17 year old daughter was invited to an eighteenth birthday party by Anthony, one of her former classmates at ….gasp!…a club!!

In this 21st century where party night clubs abound the entertainment environment, the young party goer adheres to what is now considered a normal practice. My daughter attending a party at a club made me uneasy and set my mind afire at the numerous dangers that she would be susceptible to. I played the scenario out several times. Hoodlum attacking her from behind as she danced; hoodlum trying to carry her away; hoodlum lifting his hands up in slow motion as I descended on him with the ferocity of Jet Li in the revered kick up, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon; hoodlum on the ground bleeding and crying ‘murder!’; hoodlum being cremated at 6.30 p.m. at Belgrove’s Funeral Home officiated by Mr. De Arbeau, the Anglican Funeral Deacon of Coffee Street. The scenes described in the sentences before have played over and over in my mind and the only slight change is that hoodlum may have had to be interned at Guide’s Funeral Home as there were booking challenges at Belgrove’s on Coffee Street.

I grew up in the eighties when night clubs were whappie clubs (e.g. downstairs Deluxe on Coffee Street) and try as I might, house parties remain etched in my mind as rites of passage providing consistently enriching experiences particularly for their simplicity and focus on having a good time.

House parties came without any sophisticated trappings of 2015. Firstly, there was no Internet or social media. Word about these parties was spread by word of mouth. Printed hard copy tickets resembling those for church barbeques were sold in advance, a garage under a house in a residential community was the venue, tarpaulin, illegally procured bamboo and fig-tree leaves blocked out the light, up turned half metal or plastic barrels were used for drinks and the critical ingredient was the music.

The selection of the Disc Jockey or DJ, required some due diligence and proper contractor selection criteria. Each DJ came with a reputation. That reputation dictated who would attend the party. A DJ had to be able to mix his music and had to know which songs blended well. Each DJ had to know at what point to play the “The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire…..we don’t need no water let the mother……burn!” There was no hard drive nor playlist on an external drive to jack into the player. Success as a DJ was based on hard skills which were idolized in the house party circuit. That was the era of the vinyl record and that legendary device drove the skills set required in the chosen DJ.

The range of music needed for a party to swing meant that the DJ had to bring many records to the party. As a consequence each DJ came with an entourage. The entourage was headed by the self-appointed ‘manager’ and in tow were several handlers who each carried SM Jaleel blue coloured two litre soft drink cases filled with record albums. Insider trading was obvious in the DJ fraternity as once a DJ was hired it was known that the handler would gain free access to the party once his case of vinyl records was inside. This was organized crashing or storming. Some well-known DJs came with as many as twenty handlers!

There was an understood sequence to music in house parties. Invariably there were three disco/pop/R&B songs followed by three calypsos. Then came three dub/reggae songs then three slow songs. One had to know the sequence in order to position oneself to dance with a girl when the slow songs began. If you missed the first cycle then meeting that girl that you saw on the Williamsville taxi stand was most likely a lost cause!

At age ten I attended a house party in Vistabella I saw a DJ work his turntable. At that tender age I possessed neither the courage nor skills set to venture onto the dance floor and as such retreated to the safe zone created by the DJ and his set up. He was good! He deftly thumbed through his library of records in one of the sweet drink cases and flipped the chosen record up in the glare of his lamp as if checking for a sign from God. Then he placed the vinyl record onto the turntable and then lowered the needle so softly into the groove with his eyes the level of the record. It was really magical to witness. I even got a chance to replace records in the jackets!!

As I grew older I attended house parties in Marabella, Gasparillo, Diamond Village, Cocoyea Village, Pleasantville, Claxton Bay, Couva, La Romaine and Palmiste. Once, along with Anthony Joseph (son of an Anglican priest) and Deryck Phillip, I found a house party on the St Francois Valley Road down in a dead end! There were several opportunities for these parties to flourish as the entrepreneurial spirit together with specific female targets acted as catalysts for many of these events. What better way to get to meet a girl that you are interested in than throwing a party! Just ask Carl Guichard!!

Some parties remain more memorable than others. Every Christmas night there was a party by the St George’s home on Scotland Drive in Cocoyea Village. The downstairs was not too big and importantly it was dark but well ventilated. Ventilation was facilitated by those diamond shaped vent bricks installed along the northern wall so that the trade winds blowing in from Toco in north eastern Trinidad would flow through the garage. These vent bricks also aided the vice grip of a young lady from the Cocoyea Rhythm Section who held my cousin Mc Kenzie in close embrace with his back to the wall. The Cocoyea Rhythm Section was a bevy of three sisters and two cousins, who were so named as they each walked with a rhythmic sway that made many young men lose their balance. She pinned him to those bricks much to Mc Kenzie’s unmitigated delight. He nearly suffocated inspite of the telling wind at his back. He lived to tell the tale, however Mr and Mrs St George had to repaint that wall after his exploits.

But if you are from San Fernando you must speak of the legendary Pariag Parties. Marlon Pariag attended Presentation College San Fernando and I am not sure when his entrepreneurial spirit kicked in but my first Pariag Party was in 1982.

Marlon lived just off the corner on Hubert Rance Street Vistabella close to the Southern Main Road and his party was held in the yard and under his house. Downstairs had two chambers. The outer chamber was really where the majority of party goers remained. The inner chamber was dark and one only ventured in if accompanied. If by the first slow song one was unaccompanied or unable to woo accompaniment then proceeding into the inner chamber was futile. It is lonely in the dark! Ha!

This party was hugely popular with subsequent editions held each year until about 1986 when competitive rivalry from competing parties and the disco at the Gulf City Mall led to its demise.

House parties attracted miscellaneous elements and two or three muscular men and Uncle Dave at the entrance as gate keepers worked well to ward off potential riff raff.

Just as Marlon had done young people now are demonstrating their unique understanding of the social landscape and have displayed special innovations in staging events and parties. There are more and more young entrepreneurs who deserve credit for their ability to give their peers highly planned and organized entertainment experiences.

There was significantly less danger in my era than now and perhaps parents were more trusting than parents today. My daughter said that I need to trust her and I confess that I do. Earning your parent’s trust and being allowed to attend a party without either of them staring over your shoulder is a huge step in the path to adulthood. From my perspective the release of the invisible umbilical cord inherent in parenting is never easy.

She is correct. She deserves my trust. As such I slept in my car outside the party until it ended as I did not trust the hoodlum.


3 thoughts on “House Parties of the 80’s

  1. This is so well written and filled my heart with so many memories as I read it. Lance had been my friend since Boys RC days and still continues to be a great friend to this day . Makes me remember my daughter’s first party. I tried to play it cool ,as if it wasn’t a problem . She went to Zen the nightclub in Port of Spain. As a police officer in charge of the shift that night I had no choice but to make several patrols to the club to make sure everything stayed smooth. Refusing to admit I was scared about the sort of critters I saw entering the club young persons. Well done Lance


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