Reminiscences of my 60 years in South America
Trevor Stephenson 1915 -2015
Arranged by Tony Morrison

In the 1950's trams were used across Lima and later Trevor wrote a short book about their history

Schoolboy to Apprentice 1931-1936
Maranham 1936-41
Parnahyba 1937 -1943
Homeward Bound 1938
Tropical Troubles 1942
Para 1938/1939 1943 /1945
Amazonian Interlude 1941
Manaus 1941-1942
War time diary 1942
Back to Brazil 1943
Iquitos 1945-1946
Brazil for the second time 1947
On a coffee fazenda 1952 -1953
São Paulo Alpargatas 1953 - 1957
Crossing the Continent 1956
Lima 1957 -1963
Working for myself 1964-1990
Lima, Peru 1957- 1963
"How to speak"

General Odria had just stepped down

When I arrived in Lima from Brazil early May, President Odria had just stepped down being replaced by the democratically elected Manuel Prado. The economic situation of the country was in poor shape so Pedro Beltran, who had been educated at the London School of Economics, was made Prime Minister. This resulted in a swift recovery, the cost of living improved and the exchange rate was stabilized.

I found that Helena had rented a bungalow in Chaclacayo [in the Andean foothills] and was already installed there. As this place was some 20 odd kilometres from Lima, the first thing I had to do was buy a car. I decided on a British made Hillman Minx. Then I had to obtain my driving licence. At the Driving Licence office, I showed them my British licence, my Brazilian one and one from Iquitos. The only one which seemed to impress them was the Iquitos one which was a 'professional' one giving me permission to take passengers. So I received my Peruvian licence without having to do any test.

We had a living-in maid from the Sierra [the nearby Andes] who had two long black plaits either side of her head. I instructed her that when I arrived back from the office, I would toot the horn and she should then open the gates of the house so I could drive right into the garage. The first evening I tooted but she did not appear. I tooted again and again. Still no maid. I got out of the car and was about to open the gates myself when she appeared. I shouted at her, then grabbed one of her pigtails and pulled her to the gates saying "Open them" That evening she not only served me first but stood close by. As soon as I had finished she whipped my plate away and brought the next course. After dinner, she hovered around me. I mentioned this peculiar behaviour at the office next day when I was told that to pull a girl's pigtails is a sign of intense love. We asked her to leave iimmediately!

My job in Lima was as Sales Director of Textiles Generales S.A., a branch of the British firm Duncan Fox who also owned Tejidos La Union, the cloth factory. Sales consisted mainly of cloth produced by La Union but also woollen cloth made by a firm in Arequipa called Lanificio. There was a manager in charge of each section ie Wool goods and Cotton goods. There were 4 or 5 Lima salesmen.. The firm also had Agencies in Arequipa, Trujillo and Piura, one salesman for the city itself and the other for the surrounding countryside. I had to supervise and control the whole sales outfit.

First I studied the various types of cloth. Then I went out with each salesman in turn to meet their clients and check their method of working. One of the Lima salesmen was Eduardo Mathews whose zone of work was towns north and south of Lima. I travelled with him visiting such places as Chincha, Pisco and Ica, all fascinating places. I enjoyed his company and hearing all his tales about Peru.

Back to Arequipa - the 'white city'

Then I started to visit the Agencies. The first was Arequipa and I was accompanied by the Accountant to show me the ropes as the Manager was to go on holiday and I would be in charge of the Agency whilst he was away. Arequipa was a wonderful city with a backdrop of Mount Misti, a semi extinct volcano. As I had found a year earlier many of the old houses were fashioned from a pinkish volcanic rock beautifully carved. There were many churches. The Cathedral formed one side of the main square and is the only church I know with the main entrance on the side and not at one end.

Whilst I was in Arequipa, I tried the local Pisco Sour. It was so delicious that I decided to buy a case of the brand Toquepala. The Pisco was so lovely that I decided to preserve it purely as a straight drink. The last bottle I finished in 1991.

Later we obtained the representation for Montecarlo stockings from a Sr Muferich. This was quite a success and through our Agencies we obtained a whole country distribution. One day, Muferich held a reception in Cuzco to launch a new type of stocking and obtained the presence of ' Miss Cuzco' . It was my job to present ' Miss Cuzco 'with the first pair. I was not greatly impressed with ' Miss Cuzco ' although my photo was taken alongside her.

Lima had not altered much from when I saw it in 1946. Trams were still running including the service from Plaza San Martin, down the Colmena, then down Avenida Colonial to Callao. There was also the service to Chorrillos through Miraflores and Barranco. There was a service from Lima to Miraflores which after leaving Plaza Mejico, passed by Limatambo airport and then alongside cotton fields, passed a halt named Surquillo and to Miraflores. In 1956, Sears Roebuck built a store not far from the airport . Apart from the cotton fields, there was nothing around and people commented "What a crazy place to build a store so far from anywhere." Within a few years there was a Todos supermarket and numerous buildings went up. Then came the Banks, residential blocks and before long it became a built-up area.

The courtyards of Old Lima

In 1957, most businesses were located in the centre of Lima. Many families still lived there in the lovely old mansions with open courtyards and first floor balconies jutting out over the pavement. Restaurant Raymondi was the preferred place for lunch of the business people. One lovely mansion was the Torre Tagle building now housing the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. One day whilst peering at the entrance courtyard, Fernando Belaunde, a future President of Peru, happened to enter and seeing me said "Would you like to see the interior and the chapel? Naturally I was delighted and he gave me a wonderful tour of the building.

Then I fell ill with pleurisy and was hospitalized at the Good Hope Hospital. When I was better, I realised that the journey to and from Lima each day was too much for me so we rented a house in Orrantia close to the Lima Cricket Club which I joined. At about that time I joined the Caledonian Society being Hon Secretary for almost 12 years. Helena and myself enjoyed Scottish dancing each week at the Lima Cricket Club and also the very popular St Andrews Dances. As Secretary I was usually called upon to give one of the speeches. Later I wrote a history of the Society.

A journey north along the coast

One day, it was arranged for me to inspect the Piura Agency. As the salesman was going to travel along the coast to the frontier with Ecuador, I decided to accompany him. We called at Sullana, Paita and Tumbes. Just before Tumbes was a lovely beach so we stopped and walked down to the water's edge. I noticed a number of bubbles coming from the sandy beach so I scoped out some sand and found a shellfish. It looked good so I prised it open and swallowed the lovely fish. So nice that I dug up half a dozen more. The Tourist Hotel was most comfortable and had a garden full of flowers. I was sitting there after lunch when I felt something nudging my behind, It was a vicuña!

Before leaving Tumbes, we went in the car further north until we came to Aguas Verdes at the frontier. There were small huts alongside the road selling all sorts of merchandise. Three were selling cloth and the salesman told me they were our clients so we obtained orders from them. Then with few formalities we drove over the bridge into Ecuador. A quick look around and then back and to Piura.

One day it was announced that the American management training enterprise ' Dale Carnegie' would be holding a number of ' How to speakin public ' lessons so I decided to enrol. This was very successful and helped me tremendously when speaking at Sales Meetings and indeed for the rest of my commercial life. To my amazement I actually won two prizes: ' "Best Speech 'and 'Award for Achievement '.

Our first chance for a trip to England

In 1960 my first leave came round so Helena and I flew first to Buenos Aires, then to Rio de Janeiro where we embarked on the Italian liner Augustus for Genoa and Naples. After an enjoyable time seeing the sights, we moved to Rome and then to London to visit my mother and brothers. Our daughter Barbara was sent from Lima by plane in charge of a stewardess and I met her in London. She stayed with my mother whilst Helena and I visited my several relations as well as sightseeing. Before leaving Lima I arranged to sell my Hillman back to Peruvian Autos and in exchange they arranged for me to pick up a new Hillman in London. We had booked to return to Lima aboard the PSNC Reina del Mar. However, on sailing day the crew went on strike so the firm arranged for us to have our meals at the Adelphi Hotel. After several days, the company told us to disembark and stay at a hotel until the strike was over. This lasted a few days, then we returned to the ship and sailed. We had a wonderful time aboard, swimming in the pool, dancing etc

After our return to Lima, Helena had an attack of asthma which got so bad that on one occasion she was rushed to hospital. I came to the conclusion that we would have to return to living in Chaclacayo. One of my salesmen told me his father had a house to rent so I took it on the spot. With the help of Eudocia, the nursemaid for our son Andrew we moved the following day.

A plot of land, 500 square metres, came available at the corner of Los Cedros and Las Dalias so I bought it. I found an architect. I told him I wanted a single storey house facing the sun, with 3 bedrooms, living and dining room, a maid's room and a workshop. Then I found a builder who estimated the cost would be S/10,000.00. Helena's cousin, who worked in the Banco Hipoticario, obtained a mortgage payable over 10 years at 5% p.a. Construction began. However, when much of the house had been built, I discovered that the builder had been using part of the funds from the bank to finance his business in the fishing industry. His foreman agreed to complete the house with the remainder of the funds plus what he could get back from the builder. All went well until it came to the construction of the fireplace. I wanted a smoke free chimney and from my experience of other smoking chimneys, I drew a plan which entailed a straight flue and a lip at the top front of the fireplace. The foreman said it would not work and refused to carry on. Then one of the workmen offered to do it without any responsibility. The result. A smokeless chimney!

A political upset

In 1962 there were political upheavals which ended in the army breaking into the Palace and arresting Manuel Prado. General Perez Godoy took charge to be replaced shortly afterwards by General Nicholas Lindley. Then in June 1963 elections were held and Fernando Belaunde was elected President. As the public expenditure was increasing, Manuel Ulloa was named Minister of Finance.

Then in 1963 my second home leave came up. This time we, with our daughter Barbara now 12, flew first to Mexico and then to New York. After a sightseeing visit we flew to London where we were met by my brother Graham. Again I decided to change my 1960 Hillman for a new one. On the windscreen was a sticker which read ' Visitor to Britain '. I was informed that this would help me if I got into trouble. About two days later we were driving down Piccadilly just past the Ritz Hotel. There was a policeman on duty in the middle of the road. Suddenly Helena said "I don't want to go to Piccadilly Circus but to Victoria" so I did a "U" turn around the back of the policeman. He whistled so I stopped. He came over to the car but when he saw the sticker, he said "Sorry, Sir, but in England you are not allowed to do "U" turns in the middle of the road." Then he asked from where I came. When I said Peru, he mentioned that he hoped to go there one day. Then he saluted and we drove off.

After the usual rounds of meeting family relatives etc and travelling by car around England, Helena decided to stay a little longer and return by ship whilst I, with Barbara, returned by plane.

A gorgeous place

I now bought a lovely VW car which was a joy to drive. Helena wanted to drive too so I gave her a few lessons. Then she would drive around Chaclacayo doing the shopping etc although she had no licence. She once gave the Chief of the Police a lift!

At week ends we would go to the Bosque Club on the way to Chosica. This was a gorgeous place. It was on the side of a small mountain with roads leading all around the grounds so we could find a nice spot, stop the car and picnic amongst the trees. There was also a swimming pool and restaurant'

The text and most of the images are © Copyright
For any commercial use please contact