Known as a pioneer of growth on the island of St. Kitts, Emanuel Gonsalves who was originally from Old Road, owned a wholesale and retail business in Half-Way-Tree that served the entire island. The retail store was of the traditional shop type, standard at that time and it sold groceries, hardware items like stoves, and household goods. In the wholesale operation he delivered his products including frozen food items to the many small shops and other businesses door-to-door, via his well-known delivery trucks on a daily basis.
His generous acts were well known, including his extension of credit facilities to the many families in the community, making him loved and respected by many. At one time, Mr. Gonsalves operated buses, one on each side of the island where he provided tokens of appreciation, “Gonsalves Free Transportation”, to customers who purchased at his shop.
His business ceased operations in or around 1992, however, in its earlier years it was one of the few major commercial operations in the rural area and employed a number of notable persons during their student days. These persons included former Commissioner of Police Calvin Fahie whose family lived in Half-Way-Tree, and Dr. Simon Jones-Hendrickson who mentions working at the shop in his book, “Sonny Jim of Sandy Point”. The shop is also mentioned in the very entertaining book by Stanford Lewis of Half-Way-Tree, “Things Left Behind”.
The shop was a hub of activity, especially on Saturdays, with customers doing their weekly shopping, and other third-party vendors such as Daisy (Ms. Daisy Pyke) coming to the shop to take advantage of the many customers to sell her delicious custard ice cream. The shop assistants would prepare the customers’ grocery boxes from shopping lists and there would be, from time to time, some argument over who was next. The mix of interesting characters and personalities was endless. The shop normally closed at 6:00 p.m. on Saturdays which was strictly enforced by George Payne (affectionately known as Brother P) the watchman and caretaker, who suffered the wrath of many customers who were late and wanted entry. Although having closed at 6:00 p.m. sometimes service to the last customer and final closing off of the books did not occur until 8-9 p.m. When it came to adding up figures he was a wiz and often challenged anyone to complete the addition by use of a calculator faster than he could do so manually. Some of the notable personalities who worked there were Alwyn (George Buncome), Walker (St. Clair Walker from Old Road), the cashier Ms. Ermine (Ermine Maclachlan), Uncle Millie (Joseph Hutchinson), Ken (Kenmore Johnson) and George (Alec George Warner).
The business was located just about 12 feet from the seashore on the southern border. On many accounts, it appeared that Gonsalves would sometimes “go missing” except, there was a gate at the back and he would find himself fairly far out at sea, casually floating and enjoying himself in his most favorite recreation. He was an avid swimmer and loved the sea and his reputation in the village for his solo early morning swims from the back of his house to near Godwin’s and back was well known.
Mr. Gonsalves was a devout Catholic. Attendance at services was mandatory and he was a stickler for punctuality. He died on February 8th 1988.