Auntie Olga - Up Close  

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Terms:
 
 
 
  •   Introduction 
  •  Auntie Olga's Achievements - Awards and Honours 
  •  Relaxation Period 
  •  Life after retirement 
  •  How Auntie Olga would have liked to be remembered 
  •  Closing Remarks 
 
  • Carol Roberts:Hello and welcome, when I was four years old, I wanted to sound like, speak like, and be like, this warm, rich voice that I heard on my Rediffusion in the corner of my house. Aunty Olga is my special guest on Up Close this week. 
  • Musical Interlude 
  • Carol Roberts:
    Auntie Olga was born Olga Lopes, on December 26th, 1918, in Guyana.  
  • Auntie Olga:A place called Broad Street, 39, Broad Street, I remember that, it’s a street that leads to the cemetery.Laugher 
  • Carol Roberts:And what was growing up in Guyana like? 
  • Auntie Olga:Quite good, umm, quite good but very disciplined. You know everybody could tell you, umm what you were doing. Usually everybody told me all the things I was doing wrong. I never seemed to do the right things, although when I look back in my childhood I was a good child, but I ran instead of walked, so that was bad.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Carol Roberts:You always leap and bounds ahead of.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Auntie Olga:Yes, I would ride a bicycle by not just jumping on in the nice lady like fashion, but spring jumping. So that was wrong. And fortunately or unfortunately, I had a sister, she’s dead now, she was about eighteen years older than me, who was a wonderful person, so most of my early years were shadowed with this “why can’t you be like Agnes?” And I have to say, she would have been a very good model, but I could not fit into that, I was a bit of a tom boy. And I don’t know that I was deliberately a tom boy but at the time not being a nice little girl, the nice little girls didn’t want to play with me, I was too wild, so it was the not so nice little boys that I played with. We pitched marbles and we did things, jumped in the canal, you know, the grubby muddy canal but it didn’t matter at all, umm, and that’s more or less my growing years. At school I was a dunce, I never passed from one class to the next, and the reason being I was a sickly child eh? I went to school for many years every other day. I never got a certificate for regular attendance. Umm, they moved me from one class to the next because I had served two years.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Carol Roberts (Interrupted):Because of age?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Auntie Olga:Ye, you just moved on. Not that there was much hope in me ever getting there. I had one very sad experience which taught me something too.  I always had a secret ambition to do things, to draw pictures and so on. And one day, I was still in the slate form, one day I drew a man, which consisted of, two round circles and four sticks, two belong to the arms, two belong to the legs. And I made a man. I mean you could see from what I had added to these things, that this was a man.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Carol Roberts:Anatomically it was a man.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Auntie Olga:That’s right. And there’s a girl sitting behind me and she snatched at my slate, and I realized why she snatched at it, suddenly you felt you done something wrong so I spat on my man and I rubbed him out, and there was general commotion in the classroom. And in the school that I went, it was just one big building and classrooms all around the building so everybody saw what was going on, by the time the teacher had got the slate, and gave it to me to draw what I drew cause she was told what I had drawn, I drew this thing that was neither man nor woman. And Claudia, that was the name of the girl, didn’t want to be made a liar so they went into conference again and they handed me the slate again two or three times and of course I drew it without identifying its sex. The nun came after all of this confusion, and I think sister suspected that I was by this time dying with fright, and she gave me the benefit of the doubt and she says, “I don’t know Claudia why you insist that Olga did more than what she said she did, this is what she drew.” So Claudia then snatched the slate from sister and added what I had left out, and I said, “No, it wasn’t so big.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Laughter 
  • Auntie Olga:So I ended up standing in the middle of the school writing on my slate three hundred times "Jesus teach me how to be good. Jesus teach me how to be good." I can’t remember how many lines the slate took on both sides but you rubbed it out and started writing and over again. So that was my last attempt at becoming an artist by way of drawing. 
  • Carol Roberts:What did you want to be as a little girl? Did you have any dreams at that time? 
  • Auntie Olga:Not really you know, I just wanted to be accepted, but as I said, I was not a nice little girl.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Carol Roberts:Traditionally.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Auntie Olga:And I wasn’t a bad girl either, when I look back, I was good to the point of stupidity. I just wanted to be accepted but because I wasn’t a girlie girl, I wasn’t a girlie girl because the girlie girls didn’t want this girlie girlie girl.  And at school you had a lot of problems, so I mixed more with the children that were not considered bright, we were not bad but we were not bright. And for whatever reasons they were not bright, we were all not bright, and so we got into a lot of mischief, you know like once we filled the urinal with umm bricks, me and the boys, and they made us empty it.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Carol Roberts: Ohhh.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Laughter 
  • Auntie Olga: Umm, at school, I used to wish that the nuns for instance would pay some attention to me. Whenever they had plays I wished they would ask me even to sweep the stage you know. Now it gives me a trill when, there I was eager, and almost begging to be allowed to be a part of backstage or whatever part of the performance and today I’m more or less center stage, laughter, I don’t know how it happened, somebody looks after me. 
  • Carol Roberts: We hear of a Guyana now that sounds, hard, in terms of making a living, you hear about the prices, and what they have, and what they don’t have, but what do you remember that is special about your Guyana in that time? 
  • Auntie Olga:It was friendly, you know we never had night clubs, and we certainly don’t have beaches and we visited.  And you didn’t have to let anybody know you were coming, you went, if they were home, okay, if they were not home you just ride a little further on and visited with somebody else. It was a, people contributed to each other, it wasn’t things or special places, it was your home that accepted you. There was a lot of homeliness, there was an old cousin of ours that decided that eleven o’clock she was going to visit.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Carol Roberts:Eleven p.m.?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Auntie Olga:That’s right, because some of her visitors did not go away until late, and she would come by and yell for my mother, “Rosie,” and my mother would come down in her night dress and they would sit and have a conversation. Come to visit now, my Rosie was asleep.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Laughter                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    They visited, we visited . We knew so much of each other, and it was a lovely cosmopolitan country, I would tell you something, I think, umm, it’s this separation that came out of political ambitions that created a lot of the sad situation that exists now in Guyana, and to tell you the truth I am a little anxious sometimes when I see where things are going in Barbados, you know.                                                                                                                                                                                                            Carol Roberts:Go ahead, I’m listening.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Auntie Olga:I umm, I do a fair amount of charity work and I don’t go to you unless you ask me to come, and I remember once going to a woman that had invited me to come because she needed some help. I arrived there and there was a little girl, must have been her daughter, in the yard attending to something then suddenly she looked up and she saw me, and she started yelling in fear, “mummy mummy mummy a white woman, mummy mummy a white woman.” That child was afraid of me. You know, and that saddened me, it really saddened me…that the child would be something like that. Of course I don’t as a rule, have that problem with everybody that know me otherwise.       
  • Carol Roberts:After school, let us go back to the story, after school, what happened after you left school?                               
  • Auntie Olga:What happened? (laughter). Ohh! You mean as regards getting into some sort of business?                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Carol Roberts:Yes, Yes.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Auntie Olga:Broadcasting as you probably know or don’t, let me tell you now, started in Guyana. And we had this novelty, of course we used to go to people’s houses that had radios, and as a young person you were not near the radio, the owner of the house was there and you would hear the reception was like eggs being fried and water dropping in the pan and a lot of static. And they were  passing down what the man just said, and the man just said so.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Carol Roberts:Coming down the line to those outside.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Auntie Olga:We just know there was a noise, some of it was audible to those nearest to the set and those of us at the other end, you know it was of no great importance. So, when this, radio came to Guyana, everybody went to do something and the technicians didn’t care what you put in providing you had the guts to stand up in front of this terrifying thing, this microphone, and do something. You had big men reciting the ‘boy stood on the burning deck’ and all of that sort of thing. And singing songs like the ‘rosary’ and they were all tenors and baritones and so on. And I played a Mandolin, very badly and I don’t think I ever played a tune from beginning to end without making a mistake, but I was brazen enough and they didn’t care, you just had to have, that courage, to do something.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Carol Roberts:Before the microphone. 
  • Auntie Olga:Make a sound, whether it was right, or however it was, it come out at the other end. So while I was there, playing the mandolin was always a challenge for me, but I would hear people singing, and we were a singing family it didn’t matter that three, four people, singing three, four different songs in the house, you know, you just sang, all the time. I decided I was going to sing, and, I started singing, and I stopped with the mandolin, and then Johnny Adamson, who was the man that compounded Ferrol and Limacol, produced the first, sponsored program, and they choose from the lot of us, me as a singer, and paid me the handsome sum of seventy-five cents for two songs, and I lost my accompanist.  She would have gone on playing for nothing, but it was so demeaning to be offered seventy-five cents for two songs. Man, I would have paid them seventy-five cents for two songs to let me sing. So I sang, for more and more, then less and less singing for more and more, until I became the vocalist of the program that was considered the ‘hip parade’ of Guyana, and then known as the ‘blonde heart beat of the Caribbean.                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Carol Roberts in background: Wow                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Auntie Olga:And the singing sweetheart of Guyana, and umm that’s, that was my whole life as a singer first of all. When I got married in 1939, long before you or your mother were born, I gave up, broadcasting, because in those days when you became Mrs. Somebody, that was, I don’t know whether it was an ambition but it was considered an achievement. And umm I went to live sixty-nine miles away from Georgetown itself and gave up broadcasting. But performing was not denied me, or I didn’t seek to be there on stage, but it was during the war years 1939 or of the way through those years. And while I could say no to some salaried thing, I could not say no to the cause, you sang for the boys over there and an ambulance and whatever they were raising funds.                                                                                                                                                                                              Carol Roberts:Fund raising effort.  
  • Auntie Olga:So I kept on stage, and that’s where the double barrel use of my name came into being, because, I wanted to be Mrs. Seale, you know, I had arrived.  And they wanted Olga Lopes, Lopes is my maiden name. So I insisted on Seale and they insisted on Lopes. And that’s where the double.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Carol Roberts interrupted:You both won.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Auntie Olga:I would say, “This is Olga Seale speaking,” you know or Mrs. Seale speaking, “Mrs. Who?” Olga man, Olga Lopes.                                                                                                                                                                                        Laughter                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    So umm, that’s how that came into being. And I sang through the war years, at live concerts, and then, a man came to Berbice, where I was living, and brought up a program there where he was collecting whatever talent came. Say the program was scheduled for 8 o’ clock, 6 o'clock  he would arrive in New Amsterdam, and whoever felt like doing something, came and did the something whether the something was worthy of being listened too. And I was disappointed in what I was hearing from the program, because by this time, having appeared in so many live concerts and usually provided the talent that was there for these live concerts, I knew that Berbice had some wonderful talent. Where were these people? So eventually they asked me and I said, ‘You waited now to ask me?” He said, “Well we called you on the first two programs and you were not there.” Quite right I was in Georgetown. “Would you appear?” I said, “Yes, I would appear, providing I can help you to produce the program because what you pick up, umm, is an insult to the talent that’s here in Berbice. And umm, I produced that program, when I say produced it I gave them the talent that I knew was there. And the forth program he begged me to do it. And that was the end of his contract with the broadcasting station. And they refused to renew it unless…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Carol Roberts: (interrupted)You were involved.  
  • Auntie Olga:And I told them no, I’m not going to, it was his program I don’t want to take it away from him. I had no real ambition to go back into broadcasting. But they insisted, they said unless you do it, umm, he’s not going to be allowed to do it. And I know the talent of Berbice enjoyed having their talent showcased, so we went on with the sporum called ‘Berbice calling,’ and it was a tremendous success. 
  • And then, I umm took my daughter to school in Georgetown because she wasn’t doing very well in Berbice and my husband and I communicated at weekends. And when I got to Georgetown, they ask me would I come back to broadcasting. Now, I came back in a different role, I became a producer, not setting out to be a producer for Berbice calling, so when I was invited to take part in broadcasting, as an announcer and a producer, umm, this yes when it started after Berbice calling. And it was a different kettle of fish to just singing. But fortunate for me, we had some excellent program managers. They either made you or you got out. They challenged you, they, they, ascertained what they thought you could do. And even though you didn’t have that confidence in yourself, they somehow saw, that you had it within you once you where challenged to do this. 
  • His name is Rafiq Khan that I think of most of all. Rafiq, if he knew you didn’t like a classical program, he made you do a classical program. And he didn’t just throw you in, to sink or swim, he didn’t allow you to go in there and do a bad job, do a good job, or you going out, we are not just taking the program away from you, he’s going to come and help you with the pronunciations, he’s going to remind you the type of program that you’re doing, you don’t do a classical program like you do a calypso program, you know, that sort of thing. And I remember one of the lessons, two lessons, that he taught me. I was working with the Radio Demerara and very tired, on two occasions he to me, umm you’re sounding tired, on the air, and I told him I am tired Mr. Khan, the third time, I was angry because I felt sorry for Olga. They had all gone home and rested the weekend but I was tired and I said, “But I am tired Mr. Khan.” You know what he told me? He says, “When you’re that tired stay home.” And I wondered at this. He says, “Because they’re people who are tired, who are lonely, who are alone, yours is the only voice going into their homes, and you are tired.” In other words you had, I’ve never pulled a mic search from them, and I’m tired, or even answered my telephone, I think some people should be banned from answering a telephone, I really mean it, because there is somebody at the other end. 
  • So, broadcasting for me, we learnt by mistakes corrected. The same Rafiq Khan called me once and he handed me a piece of paper, and he said, “How do you pronounce this?” It was      L-E-O-N-A-R-D. I said, Leonard. So he said, “Where you get this Leonardo from?” (Laughter) I was trying to show off, you know, Leonardo da Vinci. So everybody knows that Leonard is Leonard. So you give the Leonards, especially death announcements, a Leonardo, which was not accepted at all.                
  • Carol Roberts:
    When we come back, Auntie Olga tells us of leaving Guyana for Barbados and that voice that we knew and loved on Barbados Rediffusion. 
  • Musical Interlude 
  • Carol Roberts:Auntie Olga, let us now jump a bit ahead in our story. I want to hear about why and how, you came to Barbados. 
  • Auntie Olga:Well, how, a plane I didn’t fly. (Laughter) Why, I came first of all in 1963, our son, was in England at the time, and Guyana at that time there was a lot of racial conflict, which was part of the political programme. The Africans were against the Indians, the Indians were against the Africans, and anybody like me, or, well not me personally, because, even when looting, and umm, choking, and robbing, they would stop and wave and say hello Auntie Olga, you know, that sort of business. But our son was in England, and he was not enjoying the weather at all, he wanted to come back to the Caribbean, and there was no way, he would have found a job in Guyana at the time.  
  • My husband, who I don’t think that many people know that he was, well he’s dead now, the Barbadian. I think many people don’t even know that I was married, I was married to the same man for fifty years, and then he died the year after. He had enough. Not true, (laughter), we had a good marriage. So he suggested that we come to live in Barbados.  And it was an easy move for me in the sense that I used to visit Barbados from the late thirties. My first visit to Barbados was right after the riots. But I really didn’t know the island then, because every time I came to Barbados, as his wife and as the family’s guest, they took me to their places of interest, to their friends and family. So it was quite limited, although I was very happy. But we wanted John to get away from the conflict of Guyana, and so we came to Barbados. I asked for a transfer to Barbados Rediffusion which was associated with Radio Demerara, and they accepted me and I came here in 1963. 
  • Carol Roberts:Auntie Olga.                                                                                                                                                          
    Auntie Olga:Yes.                                                                                                                                                             
    Carol Roberts:How did that come about? 
  • Auntie Olga:Lots of people think in terms of Broadcasting, but it was long before then. My sister who I said was about eighteen years older than I, umm, she started having children when I was six, and I insisted on being called Auntie Olga. And she had six children, so they all call me Auntie Olga. And it was a joke, for people to call this six year old child Auntie Olga which she insisted upon by the way. And that’s where the Auntie Olga really started. And in Guyana, once you’re a grown up, and the child is not for whatever reason, bound to call you Mr. or Misses, you automatically were called Auntie whatever it is. And so, I was also involved in children’s programs for the longest while in Guyana and being there was Auntie Olga. Everybody calls me Auntie Olga. Sometimes people much older than I am and you could see they don’t know what to call me. They get my name like Olga Lopes-Seale which is so funny; I hear all this ‘louloulou’…confusion of the Lopes. So Auntie Olga, man.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Carol Roberts: Is the easiest.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Auntie Olga: Yes, easy.  
  • Carol Roberts:Barbados Rediffusion, when you went, what was that like?  
  • Auntie Olga:I had a very good welcome here, know, as a matter of fact umm I was very lucky when I came to Barbados. In Guyana, there was no male program, and female program. We had to do everything, in Guyana and you had to do it to the satisfaction of your program manager. When I came, they had a person, a woman, doing the woman’s program, another one doing the birthday program, another one doing the children’s program, and no woman reading the news at all, all these things we did, in Guyana.  
  • So, there was a nest egg, here waiting for me, and I was able to do all…it’s not bragging it’s just what we did, it’s what we did, children, I was accustomed to children. Actually, I don’t know that I solicited a children’s program, but, Mr. Khan as I told you, I think he, I don’t know why, its either that he read something in you, that you did not see in yourself and decided you can do it, so Olga we want a children’s program so we had a children’s program, whether Olga wanted it or not. Olga, umm, I think we need to have something added to our format, have you any idea what we can do? Of course I had no idea because I think I was doing already too much. He says well what about a, you know, one these little philosophical programs because you’re always having some little uplifting thing to add to your family hour, umm, and taking it out of that and mixing it with some appropriate music, and that was the beginning of ‘Yours Truly Olga,’ which was heard seven times a week, Monday to Saturday, and twice on Wednesdays.  
  • Carol Roberts:It was in the afternoon.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Auntie Olga:It was in the morning.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Carol Roberts:It was in the morning?                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Auntie Olga:It was in the morning and then Wednesday it was called a special edition. And that went on for years, the children’s program too, that was thrust on me. He took a delight, and if you had to do an outside broadcast, you knew in advance, where you were going to be assigned, and you better learn everything possible, about the place, because, like Princess Margaret or anybody like that, there she comes, there she goes, what you’re going to do? You know you got to have something in case whoever is handing over to you dries up, and hands to you, and you just cannot have a blank space, you know, you can’t use a script at that time, you got to see and to say, and you got to keep on yapping away, until the takeover takes over, that was a training that we had.  
  • Carol Roberts:Children’s Party, out of which came Wendy Alleyne and so many other people, yes, every Saturday morning, and if you recited well, you got twenty-five cents and a bag of sweets, I got the sweets, but I didn’t got the twenty-five cents. 
  • Auntie Olga:Well I can’t remember who it was that told me if I’m not mistaken I think it’s Jeanette  Layne-Clarke that said she came for the sweets.                                                                                                                                                               (Laughter)  
  • Carol Roberts:A bag of sweet, sweet, sweet, sweets, forget the twenty-five cents.  
  • Auntie Olga:And you know, umm, I believe, I think it is because as a child, you did so few things you liked, and I looked for something in all children to compliment. You know, even if they try, they can’t fail in everything. I remember like, references my daughter going back, to my days as a child. My daughter’s name is Marcia Elizabeth and Elizabeth comes from an old nun, I can’t remember what it is she saw in this child that nobody saw anything to praise, but she praised me, with something, and I walked behind this nun all the time, hoping to hear how wonderful I was, (laughing), so I always look for something good, in children, to praise, and it didn’t matter if they didn’t sing too well, it was a good trial, everything. 
  • I remember young Ramseses Browne, coming to me when he must have been two or three years old here, and he ran out of his mother’s arms, and she tried to scramble him but he was a quicker runner than she was and he arrived at me and I pushed her off and I said, “Yes what you want to do?” “I want to sing.” He says. “So what you want to sing?” So he took the microphone and he says, “And the Lord said.” And I waited for more, I said, “that it?” He said, “Yes.” I said, “Don’t you know more of it?” “Yes.” And he just said, “And the Lord Said.” That was all Rameses knew “And the Lord Said.  But, umm, I clapped him, we had a big applause and things like that. Ramseys now performs. 
  • Umm, Cheryl Hacket, Wendy Alleyne, Margaret Bovell, the Merry Boys, which turned out to be Spice and that lot, Edwin among them. I remember, Richard Stoute paying tribute to me one night, and I can’t remember all the children that passed through my, my hands, and I, umm, at the end of it all, you know who came up to me and said “Auntie Olga you didn’t remember me?” I said, “Well I can’t remember all the children.” He said, “John King.” John King that played in my program as a child. You know, but I really can’t remember all or whoever passed through my hands. 
  • Carol Roberts:This maybe a difficult question, but do you have one or two extremely special memories, special moments of your life at Barbados Rediffusion?  
  • Auntie Olga:I don’t know, I really don’t know, you know they were the Queen shows, you know, with Marva Manning, winning the show of the night. We, everything I take on is a bit of a challenge. I might appear very calm and competent in a broadcast but sometimes I’m quaking inside like a Jelly. It’s a very grave responsibility and you have such a sense of relief and joy and you pride when you’ve done it, and you feel you haven’t embarrassed yourself. There are many, many places I’ve been, many interesting people I’ve talked to, old or young. I can’t think of any one person that stands out. 
  • Carol Roberts:And of course you were still, on what is now the Starcom Network, you still do a program there. 
  • Auntie Olga:Yes, I do a program now called Beautiful Music on Sunday afternoons at 6 o’clock, six-thirty. And I’m on the gospel station with Yours Truly Olga at 6 o’clock. They’ve asked me to come and do another Yours Truly Olga that I did there every Sunday before I retired.  
  • Carol Roberts:For broadcasters like myself, your voice, and what you did with it, and how you did what you did, was the benchmark against which we patterned ourselves, we want to be, I mean everybody, wanted to be like Auntie Olga.  If you’re on television you wanted to be like Marva Manning, but if you’re on radio, you wanted to be like Auntie Olga. Is there anything deliberate about the way you speak and what you say, that kind of thing?  
  • Auntie Olga:I think, most of us, our new announcers, tend to forget that the microphone will take care of the volume. So they approach this microphone as if they are in the middle of a circus ring. This is to start with, they have to shout, and they have to overdo things. If you could just think of, instead of thinking the thousands of people listening, you think of, somebody out there, be yourself, don’t umm, well don’t have all these various accents that you hearing now.Don’t get familiar calling people sweetheart and darling. Sometimes you can find that a little child you will hug, hello, darling, but don’t use it as a bait to compliment people, you don’t, you don’t need that at all. Um, you just be yourself, talking to somebody out there. And don’t tell people, “I don’t like Luther Vandross,” because I heard an announcer say this, “but you asked for it, I going to play you a Luther Vandross.” Who cares what you like? You know as an announcer, you know, you don’t, you don’t cater to yourself, you cater to the people.  But not everything they like you’re going to like either, for instance, there are certain calypsos that I would never, ever, I don’t care how popular they are, on my program, I won’t play music that divide people, I won’t play music that is vulgar.  You know, (laughter), things went so badly in my early day of broadcasting that a song like, “I got you under my skin” was banded.  Laughter.  That was donkeys' years ago and I could see where that was an exaggeration.  I’ve got you under my skin.  
  • Carol Roberts:I remember when I was working at Barbados Rediffusion and I don’t know if you remember it, whenever, we were looking we, we on Rediffusion as it was then, and I was on VOB.  Whenever we were looking for the hottest calypsos the most popular ballet, somebody always say, check in Auntie’s tray, because whenever Auntie is on the air she  always plays these songs, and you would tend to think, well, this is more going into the senior program and what, but you always had the hottest music of the moment on your show. 
  • Auntie Olga:I’m willing to take on any kind of music, the beat does not bother me, it’s the lyrics that sometimes bother me, you know, and I feel that I must not spread anything that is not good.  It doesn’t have to be bad, bad.  But it’s got to be good, it’s got to be good. 
  • Carol Roberts:Your charity work, how did you, in Barbados, get into continuing your charity work in Barbados?  
  • Auntie Olga:First of all when I came to Barbados, it was not my intention to say here I am, and I’ve come to look after all the poor people, but I would go along with anybody who thought I could help.  And I was invited to take part umm, in a highly regarded and recognized group, and we had a lot of meetings, many of them could not start because they weren’t enough people there and when you had these meetings, half of the people brought excuses why their assignments were not done.  And figured I needed that, like I needed a hole in my head, because the actual event made a net profit of $12.  That to me was a total waste of time, and by this time, my reputation from Guyana had followed me here and Frank Prado asked if I would do a show for the broadcasting station similar to the one I did in Guyana.  I didn’t do it for the broadcasting station, I used the broadcasting station, umm, bravely, I don’t even know that it took bravery.  I just leapt; I have a way of leaping and then looking , because it all started with five boys needing some second hand clothes to go to a lunch, a Christmas lunch in Guyana.  And I got on there and I asked people if they had clothes because I was given the age of the children, you can average the size if you can send me these things so that these boys can go to this lunch.  And I got more clothes for the five boys, so I had to go back on the air and tell people I have more clothes. You know of any poor children? And that went on and on and on until we had one hundred and sixty-six children, and we had a so call party, so that’s where it started.  The following year, it was not my intention to do what was done, but gifts started coming, money, toys and so on.  I took it to my program manager and asked him what to do with this, and he said “well evidently they like what you are doing so let’s have a Radio Demerara Needy Children’s Fund,” and that’s where it started there and went right up to 1963, when I came to Barbados and I was asked if I could, umm, would do such a program and Barbadians picked up that challenge .  And from the moment I voiced my willingness if you would join me, they joined me, and even after my official, umm, retirement from broadcasting, the program, I think I’m even more busy in that field of endeavour, since I’m not officially in broadcasting than when I was in broadcasting.    
  • Carol Roberts:Are we, in Barbados a giving people, is the response very generous?  
  • Auntie Olga:Oh yes, oh yes…I am not short of supplies…I don’t know if it’s because I am a hands on person.  If you write to me, you can tell me your saddest story, I’m coming to see that what you are telling me is the truth and I’m not really coming to see if what you’re telling me is the truth.  I’m coming to see how I can appropriately outfit your need, like your children because all eight year old children are not the same size.  So it’s going to be specific, and being individualistic that I locate frauds.  You know, I find that you’re not who you figure that numbers would umm impress me.  No it doesn’t impress me. 
  • Carol Roberts:In these changing times, where everyone and communities in general are not as open and welcoming and quite frankly, as safe as they used to be, yet you carry-on. 
  • Auntie Olga:Oh, I can go in some of the most challenging places, you know, boys on the blocks sort of places and between their conversation or whatever they are doing, “Hi Auntie Olga!” You know, they shouting me, most of them know me from, maybe from school.  So I, I can go anywhere, my husband used to tell me, because if he expected me home at 6 0’clock and I didn’t come till half-past six or so.  He says, “I want to know where you are, if something happens to you.” I said, “If anything happens to me somebody’s going to look down and see it’s Auntie Olga, somebody will tell you.” 
  • Carol Roberts:So then, you then, have a pretty clear picture because you’re out there every day, as to, the state of poverty in Barbados, I’d like you to comment on that. 
  • Auntie Olga:There are a lot of poor people in this country.  A lot of poor people in this country, we try to help as many as possible, and I must say I get support from the Government itself.  Quite a few of the houses I have asked for,  I have obtained, but of course, it’s not an easy program, the demand where Government is concerned is grave and plentiful, but on quite a few occasions, I’ve met with a certain amount of success.  Umm, and supported with the widows' might.  I’ve had old people coming to me apologizing for being so late, but they were waiting on their little thing, you know, their pension.  They would find from their little to give.  Corporate Barbados also helped me.  I get support all the time, in all sorts of ways. 
  • Carol Roberts:When Up Close continues, Auntie Olga tells us about her awards and honours in Guyana and Barbados, and how she wants to be remembered. 
  • Musical interlude 
  • Carol Roberts:Auntie Olga, your work, and your contribution has earned you the respect and love of us all, but also numerous awards and citations and honours, how does that make you feel? 
  • Auntie Olga:Humbled, but happy, and I usually tell people on these presentations that I’m the recipient, but I’m representing so many people who helped me to be whatever I achieved.  Starting back in 1961, there was the member of the British Empire from Her Majesty the Queen. Here in Barbados from the Barbados Government, there are two awards, The Barbados Service Star and the Gold Crown of Merit.  So far, all the various organizations, The National Organization of Women, JC’s Rotarians, name them, The Indian Community, the Richard Stoute show, Barbadians that are living overseas, I don’t want to list people because I might not remember everything.  One of the tributes that I felt particularly touched with is the Roots Experience.  When a few years ago they named me as “The Mother of the Year.” You know, it was really a very touching experience.  There are so many of them, I really can’t recall, you know, but there are all over the place. 
  • Carol Roberts:How do you, recharge, and find the strength to give and give and when just when you thought that there was nothing else, you pull out something else, and give again. 
  • Auntie Olga:I don’t know, I think once you see a need and you can do something about it.  It doesn’t necessary have to be material.  It could be a word, it could be a look, and if it’s something material, you can, you don’t have to do big things.  Lots of people call me and want to do what I’ doing, I say if you want to help, just look around, there’s somebody that you can help, some child, some old lady, some, there is always someone that you can help.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
  • Carol Roberts:Without you having to join an organization.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Auntie Olga:You don’t have to join an organization, you don’t have to belong, matter of fact I have no committee as such you know, I’m the most disorganized, organized person.  I don’t work with many people, when I’m ready to go I’m ready to go, because people offer to help me, “if you can pick me up at 9 0’ clock, you think you can get me back at 2 0’ clock?” I don’t hold it against then because their responsibilities of husband and children and home and work and so on.  I’m a free agent, I go, and I stay as long as possible and I come back when it suits me, so I really don’t hold it against them at all. 
  • Carol Roberts:How do you relax? Well actually, I should probably begin by asking, do you have any time, where you actually relax? 
  • Auntie Olga:Oh yes, what do I do? I like to read, I like to read, I like to look at television.  I’m fortunate in that I have several channels to chose now, apart from the channel 8, so I flick all over the place.  And I find that that is relaxing enough.  My life is a constant reward, I go out, I think not with a deliberate friendly feeling, but I'm not going out there to fight a battle, I’m going out there with a smile, and it’s a genuine smile. I don’t go out there mad, I try to smile my way through traffic even if I am provoked, you know, so I don’t know. 
  • Carol Roberts:That’s an amazing gift or secret because you are, I’ve never seen you…                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Auntie Olga: Interrupts: I’m easy.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Carol Roberts:Anything but, when I say smiling, not grinning, really, really happy but always very calm and passive and willing to stop and say something. 
  • Auntie Olga:I, umm, sometimes I think people act because something is bothering them.  I’ll tell you what happened to me the other day.  I was at Budge Buy and this was during the mango season.  And I had sent somebody into do some some shopping for me.  And a man was selling something there asking me if I wanted it.  I said “no thank you!”  And he was so aggressive, “Wuh yuh thanking me for?”  I said, “Well you don’t seem to understand a polite refusal, I said no thank you, so I’m going to tell you in local language, I ain’t want none.” Laughter.  And he laughed you know.  I was surprised at the reaction, I thanked him graciously, “No, thank you.” “Wuh you thanking me for?”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Carol Roberts:So then you had to really…                                                                                                                              
    Auntie Olga:I retaliated, he took it in good spirit (Laughter) 
  • Carol Roberts:You spoke earlier of the visiting and the warmth of growing up in Guyana.  Are we as a Barbadian Society losing our warmth our closing family relationships? Cause you hear that quite often. 
  • Auntie Olga:Not for me they aren’t, not for me, I’m enveloped with love, wherever I go, old young, I’ve never, met anything that effects, and I think you can get it if you give it.  Don’t wait for people to reach out to you, you can without it being too obvious reach out to people, it doesn’t hurt.  Sometime when I go to a check-out counter and I say good morning or thank you, the reaction I get is as if I say stick em up, you know.  They’re so surprised at somebody, greeting them with a good morning or a thank you that they’re taken back, and I wish more people at these check-out counters will at least show some sign of appreciation or recognition of your presence.  I know the job is not at all that happy, but you are there and you’d feel a lot better if I think you, it, you can’t hurt yourself, you’re totally selfish.  So be your better self, than relying on people to bring out the goodness that is there. 
  • Carol Roberts:What is a typical day for you like now that you have retired? 
  • Auntie Olga:Very busy, very busy. Umm, most of the time I go to sleep or try to go to sleep with things undone, although I’ve been doing things all day long. I got a lot of things to catch up with. There are plenty of things for tomorrow, but my tomorrows are usually filled all the time. 
  • Carol Roberts:And you’re still doing your tours as well, Island tours. 
  • Auntie Olga:Yes, I love my tours cause I love Barbados, and I pompasette when I get in there, especially the rich people who come you know, are ready to look at these little houses and things like that, I’m quick to remind them, that where you come from, the richest Countries in the World, we have a … poor people, and if you want to be poor, pick Barbados to be poor in, because you can wear the same clothes from one end of the year to the next, year after, year after, year, and you’re not going to go hungry.                                                                                                                                                                                 Carol Roberts:There’s always a breadfruit tree nearby.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Aunty Olga:Exactly, so I shut them up, as if they haven’t got poor people. And I can tell you, poor people punish a lot more than our poor people, in countries like England, and Canada, and the States. So I told them if you’re going to be poor pick Barbados to be poor in. 
  • Carol Roberts:Have you been back to Guyana recently? 
  • Auntie Olga:Umm, the last time I went back, was the fortieth anniversary of the Radio Demerara Children’s fund, and they asked me to come and it hurt me so much that, to see my magnificent country of eighty-three thousand square miles, a very loving country, where people from political ambitions were separated. They are no longer as friendly as they were, and so, a lot of material things, a lot of things that are there, you know, with all the natural resources, gold, diamond, bauxite, massive rivers, you could stick the whole Barbados in the mouth of Essequibo River. I’m not making fun, and this little place, this little place with no real resources.                                                                                                                                                                                   Carol Roberts:Just its people.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Auntie Olga:And the intelligence of the people and the use of it, you know, that’s why I get so concerned sometimes when they start with this black and white business because I knew Barbados in its old days of prejudice there’s no getting away from it at all. You never saw people of colour in banks or shops or anything. Now you can’t find any person that's fair in the banks, in the shops, in postal administration, in Government, in the professions, I don’t know, we can’t lie down and die, we going to die eventually, but I think this is bad, that people use race or religion, the worst thing you can do, umm, when you’re asking me for help, “I come from Guyana yuh know, I ain’t no Portuguese,” by the way I’m Portuguese, umm, “I’m a Roman Catholic.” It doesn’t matter to me what religion you belong to or if you belong to any religion. I don’t care whether you’re black or white or Indian or whatever, and I, you know these are not, these are things that are important to each person. 
  • In Guyana when I sang, I was a sort of singing star and I used to get fan mail. Somebody wrote and ask me to come and have dinner with them one night, and when I arrived I knocked on the door and she opened the door and she said, “Before you come in, I have something to tell you, I’m a Seventh Day Adventist, do you mind?” I said, “Well, you have something to tell me, I have something to tell you, “I’m a Roman Catholic, do you mind?” (Laughing). I don’t mind what you are, you know, I really don’t. Those things are not important. Religion is meant to unite. Sight was given to see preferably things that are good. You don’t fault a person because of their complexion. I cannot stand any sort of prejudice at all, you know. 
  • Carol Roberts:And my final question Auntie Olga, have you at eighty-two, have you lived the life you wanted to live? 
  • Auntie Olga:I think so, I believe so.  As a matter of fact, so many things have come to me that God must have been watching over me, because let’s face it, I could not apply for jobs in broadcasting today. I never passed an examination in my whole school life, I used to be moved from one class to the next because you were there in that class for two years, I left as I said, I didn’t know anything about broadcasting but I came when I don’t think many people knew anything about broadcasting. I had people directing me, and I think it was either cowardice, not that I was that ambitious,  to listen and learn from it like, this boy Taitt’s mother, I remember when I thought I was a singing star and started to throw words around like dammit and blasted and things like that, you know, just showing off, and his mother Dorothy Taitt came behind me very quietly and she says, “Olga you’re so much nicer without those words.” And you know, there were little things like this that created me.  
  • God has been good to me in that he sent so many people that directed my footsteps and offered me opportunity, I think that I am so far in broadcasting its all the big stars in broadcasting that I used to admire, but they thought they had arrived, so they did all sorts of things, including leaving the work, you know, I’m not having any of this, and when they left, I was the spare tyre. You know you were the star, you gone, so they got to look for somebody to put in your place, they put me. And I became what you were and maybe, without really deliberately setting out to be me, I became me, and I was accepted. 
  • Carol Roberts:
    And finally, finally, how does Auntie Olga wants to be remembered. 
  • Auntie Olga:Well, I think, most of all I’d like to be remembered as somebody that tried, to help wherever possible, and I think to a certain extent, I feel need will go on forever even after I’m gone, but that, that is really what I would like people to remember, that I tried.  I hope I succeeded to some extent and I’ll go on trying. And I’d like to thank all those people who helped me to help the people who are asking for help. 
  • Carol Roberts:
    I’m going to thank you so so very much I remember when we first decided we were going to do this program you were our first choice as a guest but at that point in time you were incapacitated so we really….                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Auntie Olga:Yes that’s right, I remember you asking me and I was in hospital at the time. And I was hoping that you would ask me again.             
  • Carol Roberts:Yes, and we did, thank you so very much, I wish you all the very best.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Auntie Olga:Thank you very much.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Carol Roberts:That’s our program for this weekend, thank you so much for joining us and do join us again next week, when another outstanding Barbadian, gets Up Close with me Carol Roberts. Good Evening.Musical Interlude
     
 

Metadata
Title:Auntie Olga - Up Close
Publisher:Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation
Creator:Carol Roberts
Date:2015-11-26