Call To The Bar: Hannah Town adores Olga's Place

June 07, 2018
Olga Thwaites outside Olga's Place, on the corner of Hannah Street and Slipe Pen Road.
Olga Thwaites (centre) with her barmaids Neveta Thompson (left) and Solea Simms.
Owners of Olga's Place, Olga and Leroy Thwaites.
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A Jamaica Urban Transit company bus stops to let off a passenger on Slipe Pen Road, Kingston, and the driver sticks his head out and calls for Miss Olga.

Olga Thwaites, sitting inside her bar, Olga's Place, right on the corner of the popular street and Hannah Street, waves back with a bright, "Hello, morning."

"Dem know we. Anytime dem pass dem always check on me," she laughs.

That's how it is with Mama Olga, as she's called, who has lived in Hannah Town since 1968. It is very much her home, even though she is originally from Cave in Westmoreland.

Though she would travel to Kingston and back home regularly, Thwaites did all her schooling in Kingston.

She had various jobs, including at the Banana Industry Board and National Baking Company.

"But then my husband decided to open a bar. I thought it was a good idea because when you're self-employed, that's the best thing," she said. "He said he wanted a barmaid, but I told him I would do it."

Leroy Thwaites, Olga's spouse of more than 50 years, nods as she tells her story. He worked at the Jamaica Public Service for years and started a sound system, Grotto Swing, that still plays regularly.

So on a Friday night, Olga's Place comes alive with oldies music.

They've had three locations before this. The first one was at the corner of Rose Lane and Hannah Street. The second one was further on Rose Lane and a third on Orange Street.

The bar has been on this lively corner since 1992. "I think this is my last stop," she laughed.

 

STILL SURVIVING

 

"It's right on the corner. There may be a lot of incidents, but we are still surviving. I got about three break-ins, but I have some terrific customers," she said. "The last time they actually emptied us out. But one customer come with a box of beer, one with something else and they say, 'start again'."

It's a joke in the community that Olga's Place is 'the elders bar', because the majority of the clientele are over a certain age.

But despite its nickname, Thwaites said that they do get their fair share of 'young people', as they play 'modern' music and the barmaids do attract a younger crowd.

Hannah Town has had many issues, but Olga's Place has remained open.

"I don't deal with workers like workers. I don't boss around people. Maybe that's why I've been in it so long," she reasoned.

As for giving up the bar life, Thwaites isn't thinking about that just yet. Even though she doesn't necessarily work behind the counter anymore, she loves the atmosphere.

"I enjoy being here. I like to put on mi clothes and come out. The bar keeps me going. It keeps me active," she laughed.

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