Despite his many achievements as a doctor and an entrepreneur, Dr. George Anthony Laquis is best known to us as “The Cancer Society Guy”, as he is one of the founders of this essential establishment.
But there’s so much more to his life than this, so many more experiences, and he tells all in his memoir, Call Me Pud, which was launched in February this year. The book was two years in the making, and written in collaboration with ghost-writer and MACO editor, Roslyn Carrington. In it, he pays homage to his ancestors, that first wave of Syrian/Lebanese immigrants, who arrived over 100 years ago, yet proudly claims his identity as a Trini.
He pays homage to his ancestors, that first wave of Syrian/Lebanese immigrants.
As a boy growing up in Woodbrook, the streets were his playground. Encouraged by the monks at Mount St. Benedict, his intellectual curiosity blossomed. His father’s second son, he was free from the tradition of entering the family business, and chose medicine as a career.
In this engrossing and brutally honest story, a student spots a beautiful teenager called Jacqueline from across a crowded room, and declares, “I’m going to marry her.” A young doctor takes his family abroad. A stubborn smoker experiences the terror of a heart attack. A grandfather becomes a living legacy to those he loves.
Call Me Pud is warm, intimate, funny and sincere. It is a wonderful record of a life well lived.
Excerpt from Call Me Pud
Everyone has a nickname, although some are more ridiculous than others. Mine is as ridiculous as it gets. The people who know me best, and the longest, call me Pud. Some people who know me a little less call me Doctor Pud, or even Uncle Pud. It’s a name that goes all the way back to my days in short pants. I don’t remember who started it, but I do remember how it got started. And once it started falling from everyone’s lips, it literally stuck to me like chewing gum.
When I was a kid, I loved Dubble Bubble gum. It was sugary and pink, and, better still, each piece came wrapped in a full-colour comic strip featuring a mischievous boy called Pud. How could any child resist? My father used to bring them down from New York when he went there to buy goods for the shop, as they weren’t sold in Trinidad, and I guarantee you that once my pockets were filled with them, I became the most popular boy in school.
I attended Newtown Boys, and like most children I walked to and fro, usually with my posse, an untidy cluster of boys who couldn’t care less about who had light skin or dark, or whose hair was curly or straight. And it was these boys who bestowed the name Pud on me, in honour of the sweet, sticky pink treats I dispensed like manna whenever my father travelled. Once the name Pud stuck, the next step came naturally. A friend named Zephrine, who later became a steelband man, labelled us the Pud Gang, and we thought we were large and in charge!
There’s an interesting story about those boys. A school lunch cost four cents at that time, and my mother used to give me a shilling every day, so I was able to buy lunch for myself and my friends. I loved the school meals; they used to give us rice, beans, and stewed meat. That’s what Isabella used to cook for us, and it’s the kind of food you could have always tempted me with, although I don’t eat it now. But one day, I had nothing to spend, and neither did they. So I decided that the best place for us all was my mother’s kitchen. I gathered up the Pud Gang and we began the trek to my house.
My poor mother, who was a nervous lady by nature, looked out the window and saw me walking toward the house, surrounded by about ten boys, and panicked. She flew outside, fretting and wiping her hands on her apron. “What? What happened?” she asked. I was too young to understand why my mother was so scared. I tried to calm her down. “I couldn’t leave them behind,” I explained. “They have nothing to eat.” Then she gave me enough money for all of us, and back we traipsed to fill our bellies with a good, wholesome school meal.