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HomeNewsArchivesBRATHWAITE PENS A CARIBBEAN SUCCESS STORY

BRATHWAITE PENS A CARIBBEAN SUCCESS STORY

Christopher Brathwaite could well be the Caribbean's own Horatio Alger. His just-published "There Are No Mistakes, Only Lessons" amply illustrates his success story.
Subtitled "A Modern Caribbean Success Story," it is that, but more. As Brathwaite chronicles his adventures dating from his rural upbringing in Barbados to becoming one of St. Thomas' leading insurance brokers, a lot of local history comes to light. And a lot of local color. Names one may have forgotten jump out of the pages — Eddie's Number One Back Street, the Village Green and, of course, Cavanaughs on Main Street.
Brathwaite was born in Barbados, the eighth of 10 children. His parents both worked in the sugar cane fields and had a small farm of their own where they grew vegetables which the young Chris would take out to sell. Early on, he discovered his gift for selling, often talking the townspeople into more lettuce or cucumbers than they had planned.
He attended only one year of high school when he had to drop out to work to help support the large family. He learned the electrician's trade and became adept at it. However, after a mishap on a wiring job where he fell through the ceiling, he turned to keeping books for a hardware company.
About this time, Brathwaite ran into an old teacher of his who hired him to do wiring for a home that he was building. The teacher's brother-in-law turned out to be Father Clarke of St. Thomas' St. Andrew's Anglican parish, who was down visiting. Father Clarke took a liking to the young Chris and invited him to St. Thomas where Clarke said he "could make a lot more money."
After about two more years of wiring jobs, and after the death of his revered father, Brathwaite remembered Father Clarke's offer, and decided the time had come to make a move.
And here's where Horatio Alger steps in. Arriving in St. Thomas, Father Clarke met him at the airport and offered him a room in his home. At church he met Ivan Heyliger, the church organist and the Carib Beach Hotel's night auditor, who got him a job wiring at the hotel. But that was short-lived as Brathwaite wasn't bonded. After three days' employment (which he still isn't sure he was ever paid for ), he found himself penniless in his new home. But not without friends.
This was in 1967 and the Hilton Hotel was the place to be. Father Clarke took Brathwaite to the hotel's Maitre D', Charles Griffith, a fellow Barbadian, and asked if there was any employment. There wasn't. However, Griffith said if Brathwaite could get a health card and if he could work hard, he would hire him as a busboy.
Health card in hand, Brathwaite embarked on his new career. Though he knew nothing of hotel work, he felt he had hit the big time — all the wealthy guests, the exciting music and, of course, the turtle races.
The hotel restaurant industry was to prove a boon to him throughout the next several years, providing the money to pursue other careers.
After three years at the hotel, where he had become a waiter, he took a career challenge and quit the hotel to start as a salesman at Cavanaughs on Main Street. And this wasn't the only challenge. He married his girlfriend, Myrna, and began taking accounting courses at the then-College of the Virgin Islands at night. When he wasn't at the college, he waited tables at the Village Green on Garden Street. The young couple had purchased a home, and they were feeling the financial crunch. Brathwaite worried if they had taken on too much.
As if in answer to his prayers, he received in the mail an invitation to a financial seminar to be held at Frenchman's Reef. Curious, he attended, where he found it was about selling insurance, and a beginner's kit for $27.50 was offered. Braithwaite was intrigued and purchased the kit, little knowing it would prove to be the most portentous investment of his life.
This was his start with American Bankers Insurance and its local agent, Willoughby Lewis. He maintained his position at Cavanaughs, where he was now a manager, and worked for Lewis at night, learning the insurance business, and taking college courses. Finally, he made the decision to break with Cavanaughs and plunge full-time into his new career.
The rest of this engaging story is detailed in the balance of the book, detailing the ups and downs of his always interesting career, his travels, his second marriage to Jenny and his community involvement. This is accomplished with several humorous asides, always accompanied by Brathwaite's life motto — the book's title.
And the rest, as they say, is history — at least, St. Thomas, history.
Brathwaite's book is available at Dockside Bookshop. The price is $14.99.

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Christopher Brathwaite could well be the Caribbean's own Horatio Alger. His just-published "There Are No Mistakes, Only Lessons" amply illustrates his success story.
Subtitled "A Modern Caribbean Success Story," it is that, but more. As Brathwaite chronicles his adventures dating from his rural upbringing in Barbados to becoming one of St. Thomas' leading insurance brokers, a lot of local history comes to light. And a lot of local color. Names one may have forgotten jump out of the pages -- Eddie's Number One Back Street, the Village Green and, of course, Cavanaughs on Main Street.
Brathwaite was born in Barbados, the eighth of 10 children. His parents both worked in the sugar cane fields and had a small farm of their own where they grew vegetables which the young Chris would take out to sell. Early on, he discovered his gift for selling, often talking the townspeople into more lettuce or cucumbers than they had planned.
He attended only one year of high school when he had to drop out to work to help support the large family. He learned the electrician's trade and became adept at it. However, after a mishap on a wiring job where he fell through the ceiling, he turned to keeping books for a hardware company.
About this time, Brathwaite ran into an old teacher of his who hired him to do wiring for a home that he was building. The teacher's brother-in-law turned out to be Father Clarke of St. Thomas' St. Andrew's Anglican parish, who was down visiting. Father Clarke took a liking to the young Chris and invited him to St. Thomas where Clarke said he "could make a lot more money."
After about two more years of wiring jobs, and after the death of his revered father, Brathwaite remembered Father Clarke's offer, and decided the time had come to make a move.
And here's where Horatio Alger steps in. Arriving in St. Thomas, Father Clarke met him at the airport and offered him a room in his home. At church he met Ivan Heyliger, the church organist and the Carib Beach Hotel's night auditor, who got him a job wiring at the hotel. But that was short-lived as Brathwaite wasn't bonded. After three days' employment (which he still isn't sure he was ever paid for ), he found himself penniless in his new home. But not without friends.
This was in 1967 and the Hilton Hotel was the place to be. Father Clarke took Brathwaite to the hotel's Maitre D', Charles Griffith, a fellow Barbadian, and asked if there was any employment. There wasn't. However, Griffith said if Brathwaite could get a health card and if he could work hard, he would hire him as a busboy.
Health card in hand, Brathwaite embarked on his new career. Though he knew nothing of hotel work, he felt he had hit the big time -- all the wealthy guests, the exciting music and, of course, the turtle races.
The hotel restaurant industry was to prove a boon to him throughout the next several years, providing the money to pursue other careers.
After three years at the hotel, where he had become a waiter, he took a career challenge and quit the hotel to start as a salesman at Cavanaughs on Main Street. And this wasn't the only challenge. He married his girlfriend, Myrna, and began taking accounting courses at the then-College of the Virgin Islands at night. When he wasn't at the college, he waited tables at the Village Green on Garden Street. The young couple had purchased a home, and they were feeling the financial crunch. Brathwaite worried if they had taken on too much.
As if in answer to his prayers, he received in the mail an invitation to a financial seminar to be held at Frenchman's Reef. Curious, he attended, where he found it was about selling insurance, and a beginner's kit for $27.50 was offered. Braithwaite was intrigued and purchased the kit, little knowing it would prove to be the most portentous investment of his life.
This was his start with American Bankers Insurance and its local agent, Willoughby Lewis. He maintained his position at Cavanaughs, where he was now a manager, and worked for Lewis at night, learning the insurance business, and taking college courses. Finally, he made the decision to break with Cavanaughs and plunge full-time into his new career.
The rest of this engaging story is detailed in the balance of the book, detailing the ups and downs of his always interesting career, his travels, his second marriage to Jenny and his community involvement. This is accomplished with several humorous asides, always accompanied by Brathwaite's life motto -- the book's title.
And the rest, as they say, is history -- at least, St. Thomas, history.
Brathwaite's book is available at Dockside Bookshop. The price is $14.99.