Elizabeth “Lady” Montano

Elizabeth “Lady” Montano

In this first instalment of Lady Elizabeth, we meet the matriarch of the Montano clan, Elizabeth “Lady” Montano, during her childhood in Carenage. It seems that from even then, God was preparing her for the eventful lifelong journey she’s been on alongside her husband and sons Marcus and Machel. Along the way there have been obstacles to overcome, challenges to conquer, falls, getting back up, dusting off and moving forward again. This woman has been adopted mother, mentor and motivator to many young people along the way. Often misunderstood and underappreciated by some, she has never done anything for the attention or glory; she always does it just because it needed to be done. Let’s get to know her.

My first one on one interaction with Elizabeth “Lady” Montano was 26 years ago. One morning she picked me up in her grey pick-up truck on Coffee Street, San Fernando to take me to her home at Prana Lands, Siparia to interview the members of the band Xtatik.

Back then many parts of the roads from San Fernando to Siparia were in a horrible condition, but with time being tight, Lady put the pedal to the mettle to get there as quickly as possible. She negotiated the potholes and sinks in the road like a boss.

As we neared Prana, Lady stopped a couple of times to chat briefly with young people at the side of the road that she knew. They were all clearly happy to see her and eagerly responded to her questions on whether they were doing well with their classes or at work and if their parents were well. She told me that they were past students she had worked with as a guidance counsellor.

That’s what Lady has been all about her entire life: service, and guiding young people towards achieving their full potential. Even as a child growing up in Carenage the young Lady babysat for relatives and neighbours and gave lessons to younger children.

“I was born in Carenage and grew up there, the fishing village in Northwestern Pennisula. My childhood was very exciting. I lived with my mother, grandmother and sister. A lot of our time was spent on the beach, especially at a place we called behind the Alcoa. Man, we had fun days. My mother was a seamstress and worked Chaguaramas sewing for American families that lived here. My sister and I attended St Crispins on the Avenue.

“I started giving private lessons to kids around our home in my pre-teens. I also started to babysit at that time. One of my private pupils was Johnny Gonsalves, founder of the band Second Imij and JO-GO Productions. He was three years old when I started to teach him. We had a very strong relationship up to his passing some years ago.

Loving de culture

and cultures

Lady always enjoyed the music of Trinbago, be it calypso, soca, chutney, parang or pan and she loves everything about the culture, whether expressions of Africa, India, the Chinese, the Spanish... everything.

“One of my fondest memories as a child was waiting in our yard every Christmas night when musicians playing pan-round-de-neck would pass in front our house and we would jump in the band up to the end of our street, Raymond Street, then run back home and wait for them to come around again. That was such an exciting experience for us. I also looked forward to the excursions my mother took us on,” said Lady.

“Teaching was my first love from as early as my childhood, but I was also engaged in several other activities growing up. I was a Girl Guide and president of the Legion of Mary at the St Peter’s Church in Carenage. I always enjoyed participating in the St Peter’s Day celebrations when we would go out on the sea in fishing boats celebrating the fisherman of our community and those throughout the island,” Lady said

Lady attended St James Secondary School alongside her sister. This opened her up to a whole new world of cultural experiences, of which she imbibed every opportunity she got.

“Attending school in St James, I experienced Hosay up close and just loved it. Being in such a closely knit multicultural community, I got to see people of different ethnicities living in harmony. I knew nothing about racial tensions,” Lady said.

Meeting Monty

After graduating from secondary school, Lady got a job at the Port of Spain Town Hall, shortly after moving on to the National Housing Authority. She was, however, bent on a career in teaching and in 1969, as soon as the opportunity presented itself, Lady entered the Teachers Training College in Mausica. There she prepared for her intended career and also found her intended.

“I met Monty (Winston Montano) at the college. We spent two years living on campus and made many good friends there, some of whom became our children’s godparents.

“I remember 1970, which was a very historic time for our nation, even as it was unfolding. Monty and I were in Mausica at the time when the Black Power revolution took place. That was a life changing experience for us and our society,” Lady said.

Lady and Monty graduated from the training college in 1971 and Lady began to teach, thoroughly enjoying every moment she was with her students. Some of them remember her fondly to this day.

“I started teaching at La Sieva RC in Maraval. I taught infants and up to now some 50 years later, my little pupils from back then remember me. One immediately comes to mind - Alisia Quaccoo. She believes I was her best teacher.”

Studying on Jamrock

“Monty and I got married shortly after graduating and we lived in Carenage for some time. I had Marcus and Machel while in Carenage. We then went to Jamaica to further our education. Monty studied Geology and I did Education. Our children accompanied us to Jamaica where we spent a couple years.

“While studying in Jamaica I held down three jobs - teaching at Jamaica College -Science and Agriculture. Working in administration and also in the social sciences department.

“I remember my professor warning me that I couldn’t work and study at the same time if I wanted to graduate with a distinction. I told him I had no choice. Of course, I proved him very wrong. Marcus and Machel were with us and we didn’t get any scholarships, so we had to pay our way. I have never regretted one moment,” Lady said.

From Jamaica The Montano family returned to Carenage, but both Lady and Monty started working in South, Monty at Petrotrin and Lady was appointed as the the guidance officer at the Siparia Junior Secondary School. She then moved over to the Senior Comprehensive School.

It made sense for the Montanos to move to Siparia and they eventually settled at Prana Lands. This is where Marcus and Machel Montano would begin to develop their natural musical talents, Marcus on the guitar and Machel as a precocious, versatile singer and phenomenal performer.

In Part 2 we will revisit the beginning of Machel Montano’s journey towards becoming the biggest soca star in the known universe, from Elizabeth “Lady” Montano’s perspective, as mother, co-manager and basically chief cook and bottle-washer.

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