From the LINCOLN PLAZA PORTRAITS series:
"Home was street"
Ron Thomas was born in Trinidad. His mom is from Guyana, and she went back to her town, New Amsterdam, where Ron grew up. Mom got remarried when Ron was one, and left to the Bahamas when she remarried. Ron's father, Don Carlos was a man of several trades; he owned a bar with the first jukebox that had a TV screen showing people dancing. He also had grocery stores. He was an engineer and worked the Tide water marine drilling for oil. His weakness was for women & friends-he was tall & slender, always well dressed in suits. Ron's parents didn't have time for him, so he stayed with his grandparents until they died within 6 months of each other. Then Ron stayed with his cousin who drank a lot. His cousin chopped sugar cane as many Guyanese workers did. Since the age of seven Ron & his older brother were on their own- in the streets, ate at other's houses, & mangos from trees.
Ron's father's lawyer was supposed to handle the family's money and give Ron a monthly stipend, but he mishandled the situation, and Ron had to clean house where he was staying; getting up on a ladder to scrub the sides of the building with rags -he was 9 years old at the time. He left, and slept under trees, was scared of night spirits; Dutchman spirit lived under coca tree, Moongazer stalked all paths. Ron would try to find barns to sleep in. He used to go to a theatre & pass a cemetery on Waterside Road, near the sea, a main road Backdam Rd. That's where the spirits partied. He ate fruits called 5-Fingers, jaman, sapodilla, sugar canes & guava.
Ron's mom eventually came to the US & lived in the Bronx near Happyland amusement park. Ron came to NY when he was 11. He stayed with his mom in the Bronx for six months. He had thought, "at least one of my parents will be here." Once when Ron asked his sister for a cup of tea after he arrived, his mother told him "This is America, everyone does for themselves," and threw the cup of hot tea at him. Ron went into his room; put a pair of khaki pants into a "thank you smiley face" grocery bag. He took the Q44 bus to Jamaica, Queens, ran into a cousin on the street, and stayed in his uncle's attic, was on drugs for one year.
"Home was street."
He worked for awhile at Youngworld, a children's department store in Jamaica, and lived in the streets, until he eventually found his own place. Then he worked in a pharmaceutical factory for awhile. His sister Lizena worked at the Lincoln Plaza theatre, & helped him get a job there in 1988. He got there four hours early for his interview. He was happy working at the theatre. Ron met his wife, who at the time was working in an ice cream shop next door. One of the other theatre workers coaxed him to take a look at her, & Ron got up the nerve to go in & asked her for a scoop of ice cream, a cookie and her phone number. They are married and have 3 kids, ages 10, 4, & 2. Ron bought his own house in Queens several years ago and lives with his family there.