My husband, Robin, came to the Virgin Islands forty eight (48) years ago and often recalls how things were in those earlier days.
He first flew out from the UK via New York, San Juan and St. Thomas USVI, where he was met by Captain “Fishy” (Roderick Soares) and brought across on the “MV Sunshine” and was taken to Stephen Dickinson’s office (The first accounting firm in the territory) by the same “Fishy,” where he was shown to a desk and put to work – all in one day, and he only found out where he would be living later that night – the house immediately next to the office, which was located in Road Town – he had no excuse not to be on time!
The movie theatre was in the same building as his office and naturally as a young man in a strange new place and unable to sleep while the movie was in progress he quickly found his way into the projection booth with two local young men, Marshall Davies (deceased) and Ickford (Dandy) Scatliffe – the three soon became fast friends. The cinema was owned by an Englishman by the name of Douglas Williams (Deceased) who had bought the building from Norman Fowler (an American). Douglas had been a war correspondent for The Daily Telegraph in the UK and did a lot to promote the Virgin Islands (British) in the UK – he visited here occasionally and converted the ground floor of his building into two apartments so that he could have a place to stay when in the territory – the ground floor of that building, Robin believes, was the location of the “Tortola Times Newspaper,” the first in the territory before Carlos Downing started the “Island Sun.” In those days the phone system was by “party line” and it was necessary to listen to the number of rings to determine who the call was for – “often when you picked up the phone to make a call you would find someone else speaking so you would wait a while before trying again” – the line was shared with Virgin Islands National Bank (which went through various progressions to become Banco Popular today – it was also known as the First Pennsylvania Bank, NA), J. R. O’Neal – G. A. Cobham (the Landrover and Seagull Engine agency), Jackson’s Insurance Agency Ltd. (now Creques Insurance), J. A. Storey & Partners (Land surveyors) and surprisingly, Treasure Isle Hotel, which was the other side of town. Just down the road from his office was the premises of Ruth C. Anthony and her husband Alban Anthony (both deceased), with whom he became very friendly, and across the street was the booking office of the Sunshine, Clarisa’s Beauty Salon and a few small stores – further down the street was J. R. O’Neal Ltd., and Government offices, which included the Post Office.
Back then, the airport, which is on Beef Island, was undeveloped – it consisted of a sandy strip and the weekly flight from Antigua was met by a short wheel based (SWB) Landrover, which was a combination of immigration, customs, fire brigade and baggage handler. Passengers off the flight would walk behind the vehicle to where the bridge connecting to the main island of Tortola is now to get on a pontoon upon which passengers and luggage were placed – the pontoon would then be pulled across the channel using a “wet slippery rope” in the sea and would be met by the police LWB Landrover, which would take you into town – obviously the Queen Elizabeth II bridge, which was opened in 1966, was a great boom to simplifying travel into and out of the territory by air and getting to the few businesses that were on that end of the territory – one of these was Marina Cay, a small hotel, which was run by Allan and Jean Batham (who left the territory many years ago, returning to New Zealand), another was a Slip-way on Beef Island and a miniscule hotel on Bellamy Cay (now called the Last Resort).
Robin’s account will continue next week….stay tuned…..