train to Garça
April 1952, my wife, baby daughter Barbara and , the Afro Brasilian nursemaid
called Cecilia and myself boarded the Paulista train for Garça in the interior
of the State of São Paulo. Met by the Assistant Manager we were conveyed
by car to the fazenda of Cia Agricola do Rio Tibirica, part of the giant
British owned Cambuhy Coffee Estates.
were allotted a bungalow standing in its own grounds in a line with other bungalows
for the Manager, Assistant Manager, the Office and the trainee British staff.
furniture and belongings had already arrived from Rio de Janeiro so the first
day was spent putting everything in order. A cook/maid had been engaged for us
and she was sent to purchase essential foodstuffs from the fazenda store.
There were three of these on the farm selling cloth, kitchen and household utensils
and some foodstuffs. We were informed that we were allowed 15 kilos of top grade
Coffee per month and 7 litres of milk each day. There were grapefruit, orange,
lemon, cherry and plum trees in the back garden as well as pineapples and mamão
[paw-paw] . We could keep chickens, ducks, turkeys etc, we could grow our own
vegetables, fish could be obtained from the nearby river and we were allowed to
purchase the best filet mignon at a ridiculous price. We had reached Heaven!
have always been very partial to milk but even allowing for milk for my family,
the nursemaid and the servant, there was milk left over at the end of the day.
As we were not allowed to give milk away, at the first opportunity I purchased
a cream making machine. Now I made quantities of cream and butter with the excess.
I had cream with my breakfast cereals, tea and cream and a glass of cream at night!
No wonder I put on weight.
work was not onerous. I had a staff of one. I kept the accounts, wrote occasional
letters to Head Office in Sâo Paulo, paid the wages and paid the occasional
invoice, Sales of the coffee were controlled and paid for in Sâo Paulo.
I was also in charge of choosing the films for our local cinema. Films were shown
on Saturday evenings. The British staff sat in a box alongside the projector room.
The show could not start until we arrived so if we were having pre-dinner cocktails
at say the Manager's house and were a bit late, it was bad luck for the rest of
the audience who just had to wait. Truly feudal. Often, if there was a jeep available,
I would drive around the estate. The workers would stop and remove their caps
as I passed.
from coffee, the fazenda also grew beans, rice and corn, all for the use
of the people on the fazenda. Silk worms were reared for their silk and
we were allowed to purchase lengths of the cloth which was woven on the premises.
Apart from horses, we had a herd of milk cows and some bulls which provided not
only milk but also meat for the fazenda. Of course we also had complete carpenter
and mechanical workshops.
were two types of workers. There were the labourers taken on at the time of the
harvest who were known as empreteiros and workers and their families who
had yearly contracts to plant, weed and cultivate the crops. These were known
as colonos and their contract included a small house and garden in which
they might grow vegetables and have a few chickens. It was a hard life though
as they had to put in a full day's labour each and every day. If the husband fell
sick, his wife had to do the work and in her absence the children. If the work
was not done for more than a few days for whatever reason, then the family were
thrown off the fazenda.
is bitten by a bicho
my daughter was growing up and starting to walk. One day she and the nursemaid
were sitting on the lawn in front of the house when the nursemaid gave a shriek.
A small snake had passed between her and my daughter. Fortunately neither was
bitten as it was a very poisonous snake. On another occasion, a small pimple appeared
in the middle of her forehead. At first we ignored it but it grow bigger so we
took her to the Hospital in Marillia. One look and the doctor exclaimed "It
is a bicho. I have to cut it out at once." He made a slight incision
and out came a small insect. The doctor told us that the bicho had laid
it's egg in our daughter's forehead and the egg had hatched.
enjoyed watching the harvest and subsequent categorizing of the coffee into five
grades. The best grade, known as despulpado, naturally commanded the best
price. The fifth grade, which was roasted and ground up in some of the cafes of
São Paulo, consisted not only of the damaged or half ripe beans but also
bits of leaves, twigs and anything else which had been swept up with the rest
of the coffee.
One day we received a visit of the Manager, an Accountant
and another member of the British staff who came to check what we were doing.
After their visit, it was suggested that I spend a day at Cambuhy fazenda
to see how they did their accounts. The following week, I set forth in the firm's
car. It was an interesting journey through the state of São Paulo. The
Cambuhy fazenda is a huge place having its own railway to reach all boundaries.
I was taken to one of the stores or shops which were not only larger than those
at Garça but also stocked a larger range of goods. The Accountant showing
me round showed me their system of checking stocks and costs which seemed very
sensible so I took back with me several accounting sheets.
in Garça, I attempted to put the scheme into operation but I found it more
complicated than I had anticipated so I decided to leave it in abeyance until
I had an opportunity to visit Head Office in São Paulo and receive more
was a glorious life but we began to worry about our daughter's education. Where
would she go to school? To send her to São Paulo or England would mean
that one of us would have to be with her. And then on the grapevine we heard that
the Brasilian Banking firm, Moreira Salles was considering buying the whole fazenda
when the next coffee crop had been harvested. We decided the time had come to
leave and seek elsewhere. Although I had no other job in mind I decided to resign
as soon as possible and in June 1954 we left for São Paulo.