Imperial Sounds

Ucal Bernard drawing of his brother-in-law's store on Chili Avenue in Rochester, New York
Ucal Bernard drawing of his brother-in-law’s store on Chili Avenue in Rochester, New York

Ucal Bernard lived in Jamaica where he made money by doing drawings for the tourists. Most of his family lives in Rochester so when Ucal passed away recently they held a celebration of his life at the Baobab Cultural Center on University Avenue. Ucal’s artwork, mostly pencil drawings on big sheets of paper, was hanging on the gallery walls.

Ucal was our neighbor’s youngest brother so the group moved to his house for food and drink after the celebration. Our neighbor showed us a big volume of Ucal’s drawings, dramatic fantasy-like drawings, many with voluptuous women. I found them inspiring.

One of the drawings in the show (above) was done when Ucal was in Rochester. It depicts his brother-in-law’s record store on Chili Avenue in 1996. I had heard about this shop from my neighbor and we had met Courtney, the owner, at his house. I asked Courtney what the address was and found out it was right next door to where the Dodd/Miller Tavern (formerly the Munich Restaurant) was, at the corner of Thurston.

I sent Duane the drawing. Duane went to West High and grew up in the neighborhood. In the late seventies we used to buy imported Jamaican 45s from Andy’s shop on Genesee Street and I remember checking out some other places with Duane but all he remembered the reggae shop by Bullshead or further down West Main near Jefferson. I see a date of 1996 in the bottom corner of this drawing so that is after our time and long after my grandfather’s.

Business card for Munich Restaurant in Rochester, New York circa 1940
Business card for Munich Restaurant in Rochester, New York

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