1986 was when Miami Vice was the tv series to watch, Mullets were not fish but the coolest hairstyle for men, solving the Rubik’s cube was the latest indoor sport, Errol Walton Barrow had just reclaimed Barbados’ administration after 10 years in the wilderness while Ronald Wilson Reagan was President of the USA second time around, Barbadians were still guzzling soft drinks like Baby Bim’s and Ju-C’s, all-beef rotis at Chefette were an ‘astronomical‘ $5.75 (try $9.25 nowadays) and you could try the ‘new‘ lamb & potato roti from the little chef (sadly, no more)!
The car you see in this picture was only 29 years old back in 1986 when it arrived in Barbados, it’s a 1957 Plymouth Belvedere. You remember that same type of vehicle was buried like a Time Capsule and discovered 3 years ago? Well this one left its native shores of USA and thrived in Barbados’ tropical climes for all these decades. You probably thought only Timex watches took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’! Maybe it can’t jump from 0 to 60 in 9.69 seconds, but this vehicle has been running longer than Usain Bolt!
Robert Chatson, the South Carolina native and driver is 84 years old and adores Barbados, he went through four jobs including a dishwasher and a shipping clerk before starting his own business as a barber while in the USA. He wanted to be a doctor but didn’t have the cash and still found a livelihood where he got to wear a white jacket anyhow, he jokes.
While his barbershop took off, it was his wife’s steady work at popular American Department Store Macy’s which kept their young family afloat – they have one daughter who’s married and lives in the States with her hubby and their two children who are Robert’s two grands. His wife is still alive in Atlantic Shores and still drives him crazy but he says he loves her anyway…
The Belvedere was Robert’s third car, his first was a Studebaker, but his third car was the charm and he loved it so much, he brought it with him to Barbados when he retired 24 years ago; it even brought him post-retirement income when he drove the car along the coast of Bathsheba for a Coca Cola TV commercial! People who see the car swear it’s the Batmobile and as a result he earned the nickname of Batman here in Barbados, but he think’s it’s all a big laugh.
While interviewing him, a ZR driver asks Robert if he can borrow the vehicle and take it for a spin, so Robert looks at me and winks – he says you got to leave a cash deposit before driving and the ZR man asks how much… Robert’s cool response with a next wink and yet you can tell he means it – One Hundred and Sixty Thousand Dollars! The ZR man laughs and says, “Ya hurt me, man! You don’t trust me?”
“‘Course I do,” Robert chides, “But I trust you more with money in my hand!” Mr Chatson’s work ethic is not so far from his semi-humourous conversation, he says keeping your eye on the objective and working hard each day allows you to relax in the long run which is why when he had the chance to come to Barbados and retire, he was able to do so comfortably and never regretted his decision.
He sees his long life by using holistic medicines and boiling Barbados’ water which has a heavy lime deposit, he wishes his mechanics followed his advice since every time the Belvedere needed a major overhaul, the fellow who fixed it would die shortly afterwards! Now in his golden era, the US transplant really hopes now Prime Minister Thompson is back in Barbados that he truly takes charge and sets the country in order once more…