Category Archives: St. John USVI Stories: The Virgin Islands in the 1970s

Stories and anecdotes describing St. John in the early 1970s

Virgin Islands Stories: Art & Janis

Art and Janis

By Bob Tis
© 2000
Excerpted from Tales of St. John and the Caribbean

Art the Painter
Art the Painter

I come for the stories. And, of course, for the companionship. Cartoon large blue eyes roll in acceptance, as Art fingers a slice of a mango I just picked from his jungle yard and sliced up with my Swiss Army knife. We are out in the bush. A steep dirt road winds downhill to a locked gate. Unlocked, the gate reveals a footpath through a jungle crowded with trash-picked treasures. The path leads to a living museum for the last remaining hippie.

Art’s museum is a home built partly in cooperation with Mother Nature, Robinson-Crusoe style, employing two large turpentine trees. It is constructed from thick beams salvaged from the wreckage of 30 years of hurricanes and boatloads of memories. The walls are strewn with block and tackle from long-sunk schooners and smuggling ships. Bad art and hurricane lamps are everywhere; giant candles, Mardi Gras beads, a collection of colorful shirts and the assorted claptrap of 30 years on St. John decorate this un-electrified museum.

The mango sliced, I set my sights on a bucket of congealed floor wax, which I cut loose and feed to a homemade tiki torch. In the gloaming, the first Cuban tree frogs start to croak and Art eggs them on.

“Rrrbiit, rrribbbit.” St. John’s first hippie is clearly amused with the idea of talking to the frogs and his eyes grow even wider, reflecting their seasoned madness in the candlelight. The frogs, mistakenly imported from Castro’s Cuba by some researchers in the 1970s, take up Art’s gauntlet. We are met with a thunderous cacophony of croaks in the Caribbean night.

I go for the transistor radio to tune out the frogs. I pop another warmish Heineken and get Art a non-alcoholic Budweiser. No electricity means no fridge and ice melts too quickly for it to be economical. There could be thousands of dollars buried on the property from various Caribbean adventures but Art makes do on beans and rice and maybe an O’Douls if I bring some up to his museum.

I like to get out of Cruz Bay, where the noisy beach bars have a way of filling up with sunburned tourists in the winter. Tonight I’ll camp out at the museum. Art and I will watch the still, moonless sky for satellites and rehash the business of the day.

The battery-powered rock ‘n’ roll radio brings us a nugget from the sixties and I coax Art into one of his favorite stories of how he met Janis Joplin in St. Thomas well over thirty years ago. It is a story I love. I am continually astounded by the attention to detail in my friend’s storytelling. In Art’s stories, the details never change, and I have learned first-hand that nothing varies from the original event.

“I missed the last bus,” Art explains, talking about a night over thirty years ago like it was last week. “I was drinking in the waterfront bars and my boat was on the other side of the island in Red Hook.

“In those days, there were no cars going in that direction in the middle of the night and bars stayed open all night. It was about three in the morning, so I had a few hours to kill before I could hitch a ride home.”

Art’s hands begin to move and his eyes widen as he launches into this memoir. I easily picture him thirty years ago sitting on a barstool in an empty Charlotte Amalie watering hole, sipping on a draft beer and waiting for the sun.

“She walked in and went right for the jukebox. It was only the bartender and I and maybe some other rummy in the whole place. She didn’t play her song, she played something else.

“She sat down next to me and ordered a shot of Southern Comfort. I was speechless. This was 1968 and Janis Joplin was a very big deal. I was trying hard to be cool and not to spook her.

“‘You look familiar,’ I told her.

“‘Oh yeah, well just who do you think I look like?’ Janis asked.

“‘Frank Zappa’ I told her.
“Janis loved it. She slapped me on the back and bought me a whiskey. Before I knew it she was gone, pushing her way out through the swinging doors just as fast as she came in. All of a sudden her music was playing on the jukebox.

“Word spread like wildfire that Janis was on St. Thomas. Two days later this guy I knew was telling me all about it. I didn’t let on that I had already seen her. He said Janis wanted to go for a sailboat ride, but she didn’t want to go with just anyone. She wanted to go with someone who was cool. I told the guy I would take Janis out the next day.

“At the time I had a nice wooden double-ender, about 30 feet long, with beautiful lines. The boat didn’t have an engine but I didn’t really need one. It was a nice sailing boat.

“There was a guy named Todd living on the boat with me. He was a real freak with hair down to his waist. He was a real ladies’ man, too. I remember telling him we were going to take Janis out sailing and I know he didn’t believe me.

“The day came and it was a little overcast and kind of blustery. It wasn’t the best day, but it was a good day for sailing. The morning went by and Janis never showed up. I kept telling Todd to watch the dock with the binoculars so he could row in and get Janis. He still thought I was kidding.

“She showed up around 3 p.m., with a whole entourage of record company hangers-on. I was yelling to Todd that she was at the dock. When he finally saw her through the glasses, his jaw dropped. It took Todd three trips to get Janis and all her groupies out to the boat. When Janis got on board, she recognized me immediately.
“‘I should have known it would be you,’ she told me.

“They brought all sorts of food, chips, dips, olives, booze, all sorts of stuff you couldn’t get in the Virgin Islands at the time. We put up the sails and it was obvious that most of them had never been on a boat before.

“Janis was scared at first, but after I explained to her the physics of the boat, the fact that the keel was so heavy it wouldn’t allow us to capsize, she felt better. She just didn’t want to tip over.

“Everybody else though, except Todd and myself, were ter­rified. We were slogging through some good chop, really sailing. Janis started to get into it and I let her hold the wheel. She took off her shirt and showed everybody her giant nipples.

“The guys in the record company crew were still griping. Some of them were throwing up. I think they had eaten some Quaaludes.

“After sailing for about twenty minutes, I came about and explained that everybody who wanted to go ashore had one chance, one chance only. I was sailing for the beach and when I said, ‘Jump,’ they could get off or spend the rest of the afternoon on the boat.

When I got to the beach, most everybody jumped off. A few guys wanted to stay but Todd and I just started tossing them into the ocean. After we pried the grip of the last guy off the starboard stay, we chucked him in the water and turned out to sea. Me, Todd and Janis.
“We slipped into a real nice reach and really started having fun. Janis loved sailing. Todd got naked and told Janis that he had always wanted to have sex with her, and how about now?

‘“No thanks,’ Janis said. ‘But if you want to have me after one of my shows, you can. After I’ve made love to the whole audience for two hours, then you can have me.’

Art’s wild eyes radiate when he gets to that part, his smile betraying just how vividly he remembers the day’s events.

Art goes on to explain how he got to be friends with Janis over the next few weeks. He retells the story of listening to the first recording of her new album on the hotel room bed at Bluebeard’s Castle Hotel. He retells the story of having dinner with Janis and a friend at Escargot, which was, at the time, the best restaurant in the Caribbean.

Art finishes this rock star story by retelling Janis’s very tempting invitation, which resulted from his missed bus ride.

‘“Janis said, you’re from New York, come to Woodstock with me this summer, you can be my guest, I’ll fly you up there.’

“I told her I had read in the paper that Woodstock wasn’t going to happen, that they couldn’t find a place for the concert.

“Janis said, ‘Baby, I’m going to Woodstock this summer and so are a lot other people, you can bet that it’s going to happen.’

“I didn’t want to go back to New York. I had just bought the boat, so I stayed in the Virgin Islands,” Art says ruefully.
So like time itself, Woodstock just sort of passed Art by in the Caribbean. In his museum, the cover from the very album that they listened to over three decades earlier is still tacked to a wall. In the photograph, you can see through Janis’s oversized spectacles and look into her equally wide eyes. When you stare at the picture closely you can’t help but think that Janis could have been Art’s sister.

The album cover is faded and wilting, but her wide eyes are still clear behind the Hollywood glasses.

© 2000 Bob Tis

Bob Tis is also the author of Down Island

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St. John in the 1970s: Jelly Nuts

I was first introduced to green coconuts when I arrived in the Virgin Islands in 1969. At that time there were always several vendors on the Charlotte Amalie waterfront who would set up alongside the seawall with their piles of coconuts, chopping block and sharp machete offering the general public this refreshing treat for the modest price of between 25 cents and a dollar each.

These were not the dark brown, fuzzy, three-eyed, hard-shelled coconuts that I was accustomed to seeing in stateside markets. These were the green slightly immature coconuts that were picked early, before they hardened, turned brown and fell to the ground.

There is a big difference between eating a hard-shelled coconut and a green one. When you crack open a fully mature coconut, you’ll find some concentrated coconut water and a hard white pulp adhering to the shell.

The green nut is quite different. The husk is softer and less fibrous. The water inside is less concentrated and and there is more of it and the meat is soft and sweet like jelly accounting for the popular name, “jelly nut.”

So for a small amount of money, you got a nice drink of coconut water and if you so desired a bit of coconut jelly to boot. Jelly nuts are a very popular item and vendors on St. Thomas had no problem selling out just about as fast as they could open them up and collect the money. Also, the commonly accepted notion that coconut water, especially when mixed with gin, has aphrodisiac qualities, certainly didn’t hurt sales.

Personally, I not only loved coconut water and coconut jelly, but I also loved the cultural experience; the coconut man wielding his sharp machete seemingly without effort, confidently and precisely while holding the coconut in his hand. (At first I was afraid to watch, for fear of the man cutting up more than the coconut if you know what I mean.)

The Process
The first cut would be to slice a thin piece of the outer green husk about two or three inches wide and four or five inches long, to make a spoon used later to eat the coconut jelly. Then the husk on the top of the nut would be cut away exposing the thin shell beneath. The next cut would expertly take off just the tip of the shell leaving only the coconut meat itself to close off the hole in the nut. At this point the coconut could be carried away and the drunk later by simply cutting off the top piece of pulp or this could be done on site and you could drink the coconut water right then and there.

After finishing the water, you could ask the coconut man to cut open the nut so you could eat the jelly. In which case he would either lay the nut on a chopping block or hold it in the palm of his hand, and in one swift motion pass the machete through the nut, chopping it in two. The spoon would be removed from the nut and used to scoop the jelly off of the shell.

Going into Business with John Gibney
I found the whole process to be quite impressive and one day, while eating jelly nuts with my friend John Gibney, I mentioned my fascination with coconuts as a business enterprise. John knew all about it, and said that we could easily do it ourselves and so was launched our one-day foray into the jelly nut business.

We started bright and  early one morning getting our coconuts from the coco palms growing along the beach on John’s property. They were full-size trees, not the dwarf variety that are so prevalent nowadays. This meant that the coconuts were high up above the ground and not so easy to get at.

I had heard that on the island of Dominica, they used trained monkeys to climb the tall coconut palms and throw them down to gatherers waiting safely below. Safe, that, is if one avoided getting hit by falling coconuts. We didn’t have access to trained monkeys, but this wasn’t a problem, because John could probably out-climb the ablest Dominican simian.

John tossed the coconuts down to me, and I chased them and gathered them up. We then brought my 16-foot fiberglass outboard-powered runabout close to the beach and started to load the coconuts aboard. We filled the boat as much as we could, and John and I had to climbed over the coconuts to take our positions aboard. We motored out of Hawksnest Bay headed east to Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas.

I guess we may have let greed overcome common sense because we had put way too many coconuts inside this small craft. The boat was overloaded, we were left with only about twelve inches of free board. That is, the weight of the coconuts made the boat so heavy that we were riding way too low in the water. The run from St. John to St. Thomas can be a bit rough and between the big seas and the small free board we began to take on water. Luckily we were going downwind, so the effects of the waves were moderated, and we were able to control the situation by John baling out water with a calabash while I manned the wheel. We reached the St. Thomas waterfront safe and sound, with no more than a few good scares and a crash course in having respect for the sea.

We set up shop on the waterfront. John was the coconut man. I collected the money.

Now John, notwithstanding the lightness of his skin color, was every bit as good with a machete as any other West Indian. With his long blond hair and tall stature, many native St. Johnians referred to him as Tarzan. But, he was virtually unknown on St. Thomas and the sight of a white boy cutting open coconuts on the Charlotte Amalie harborfront was a little more than some local people were ready for. You could see the nervousness in their eyes as John, albeit skillfully, cut open the jelly nuts with his machete. Sometimes customers even refused to let him do his job, and instead insisted on opening their own coconuts. Nonetheless, we sold out our supply of jelly nuts in good time and motored back home to St. John with some good money in our pockets. But for me, much more than the money, the overall experience was something that to this day brings a big smile to my face when I think about that Virgin Islands morning some forty years ago.

Gerald Singer

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The Virgin Islands in the 1970s: Foxy & Jost Van Dyke

When I lived on St. John back in 1970 I was lucky enough to own a 16 ft fiberglass runabout powered by a 40-horsepower Johnson outboard. It wasn’t much of a boat, and the engine would cough and sputter at times, but by and large it took me where I wanted to go and allowed me to explore this Virgin Islands wonderland.

Ethien Chinnery
Ethien Chinnery

The nearby island of Jost Van Dyke became a regular destination, when John Gibney and I, discovered that buying our fish pots (wire mesh fish traps braced with West Indian birch sticks) from Ethien Chinnery on Jost Van Dyke for $25 a trap was a well worth the money and the trip. Not only was the price reasonable enough, and not only did it save the time and money involved in buying the chicken wire on St. Thomas, cutting birch sticks in the bush and cutting , tying and bracing the pots, but also, Ethien’s pots were a whole lot better than the ones we made.

Jost Van Dyke held another yet attraction and that was Foxy’s Tamarind Bar and Restaurant run by a man I’m now proud to call a good, friend Foxy Callwood. Foxy’s at the time was a small simple establishment, which actually had customers every now and then when a sailing yacht from St. Thomas would bring charterers to Jost Van Dyke as part of their sailing itinerary.

Dr. Knight
Dr. Knight and Jean Delmage
Jost Van Dyke Customs 1970
Rodney Varlack

Not long after I got settled on St. John, I began to received visits from my mom and dad, who like me fell in love with St. John.

My dad, who was a dentist, used to bring supplies to Dr. Knight, the resident dentist on the island.

Dad also used to bring car parts for Rodney Varlack, who had St. John’s only car dealership, which specialized in Jeeps and he brought old 16 mm movies, which were shown at the Lutheran Church.

Jost Van Dyke Customs 1970
Jost Van Dyke Customs 1970
Albert Chinnery
Albert Chinnery

On one of these visits, I brought my parents to Jost Van Dyke. I introduced them to my friends there, Albert Chinery, the customs officer, Mr. Ethien, who made our fish pots and, of course, that Virgin Island celebrity, even back then, Feliciano “Foxy” Callwood. That evening we had dinner at Foxy’s restaurant on the beach at Great Harbour.

Foxy, owner, manager, waiter, busboy and chief cook and bottle washer took our order. Foxy asked my mom what she would like for dinner. She chose lobster.

Foxy said, “would you like that lobster fresh, ma’am?”

When my mom answered in the affirmative, Foxy, who was dressed in cutoff pants, tattered T shirt and barefoot, spun around, took off his shirt, ran to the water’s edge, dove into the sea and disappeared beneath the water, where unbeknownst to my parents he had a wire cage where he kept his lobsters.

Foxy emerged from the sea shortly afterward, dripping water and holding a wriggling two-pound lobster by its antennas. He turned to my mom and asked in a totally nonchalant tone, “would this be fresh enough for you?”

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1970s Virgin Islands Stories: The Cygnus

by Gerald Singer
As told to me by Tal Carter
The Cygnus was a 50-foot John Alden yawl. She belonged to Steve Boone, who claimed to be descended from Daniel Boone. Steve Boone was born and bred in Boone, North Carolina and is best known for being the bassist for the popular rock and roll group, “Loving Spoonful.”

Boone moved to St. Thomas around 1970 where he continued his musical career performing at a place called the Grass Shack in Charlotte Amalie. He bought the Cygnus shortly after arriving in the islands and docked her at the Yacht Haven Marina in the Charlotte Amalie harbor.

Boone lived aboard the yacht for a while, sailing around the islands, but never going too far from home. After a while, like many boat owners, he began to spend less and less time with his boat, which, like a lot of stuff in the Virgin Islands, gradually (maybe not so gradually) began to fall into a state of disrepair.

Taking advantage of the owner’s many absences and basically good nature, a series of somewhat disreputable hippie friends and hangers-on began to use the boat as a crash pad. As a result, the Cygnus got a bad reputation, which, in fact, was actually quite an accomplishment at the Yacht Haven Marina in 1971, a venue for a sizable compliment of questionable characters.

But the truth was that life aboard the Cygnus was getting pretty sleazy. One night, a young drifter was found dead in his cabin succumbing to an overdose of heroin. This was when the denizens of Yacht Haven’s, Fearless Freddie’s Bar gave the Cygnus a new name, the Sickness.

After this incident, Boone assigned a guy named Brad, who worked for Zora, the sandal-maker, when she had her shop on Main Street to take charge of the Cygnus.

Brad kicked the remaining druggies off the boat and, in return for maintaining the neglected craft, was given the use of the yacht. Brad sent for two of his friends from Michigan to come down to St. Thomas to help. They all stayed aboard the Cygnus at the dock at Yacht Haven Marina for a while, but eventually they decided that St. John would be a nicer place to be, so they sailed over and anchored in Cruz Bay.

Brad and the Michigan boys listened to a lot of music and smoked a lot of dope, but didn’t do a whole lot of maintenance or a whole lot of sailing.

One day there was talk about the Cygnus having a charter in Aruba and Brad, his two friends and a girl that had joined them made some hasty preparations for the voyage. Their plan was to sail to St. Croix, provision and then sail directly to Aruba.

It apparently was a hellacious trip from St. John to St. Croix. Rough seas opened up some serious leaks and the Cygnus just barely reached St. Croix with all pumps pumping in conjunction with some good old-fashioned bailing.

The girl who joined the crew at the last minute was so freaked by the ordeal that she bowed out of the adventure and flew back to St. John on the Antilles Airboat seaplane.

The girl came back to St. John with the story of the voyage. She said that there was no safety equipment aboard, no life preservers and no radio.

She relayed a message to a guy named Skip, telling him that Brad had asked if he would fly down to St. Croix, help them patch the leaking boat and sail with them to Aruba.

Skip was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. He had crashed twice. Both times he was the only survivor of the craft. On four other flights, his tail gunners were killed. He came to St. John when his tour of duty was over, where he met Jackie, who became his girlfriend. Jackie had come to St. John from Maine with her girlfriend Allison, where they were living at Allison’s father’s campground.

Skip and Jackie hopped the seaplane to St. Croix and this was the last that anyone ever heard from them or any of the crew of the Cygnus. They vanished without a trace. Although there was all sorts of speculation as to what might have become of them, given the poor condition of the yacht, the lack of safety equipment and communication devices and the inexperience of captain and crew, the assumption had to be made that the boat sank and all hands presumed drowned.

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St. Thomas, US virgin Islands circa 1970

by Gerald Singer

Arriving from St. John at the Charlotte Amalie waterfront on the downtown ferry yesterday, I had an attack of nostalgia, remembering the town as it was when I first arrived.

Charlotte Amalie had real soul back then. Trader Dan’s, billed as the only saloon in the Caribbean, was the focal point and meeting place for American expats, local hustlers, pirates and serious drinkers. The New York Times had referred to St. Thomas “a sunny place for shady people,” and nowhere was that more obvious than in Trader Dans.

Around the corner was Up Chucks, guest house, frequented by artists and hippies and dropouts and rock stars like Janice Joplin and the Mommas and the Poppas. Up Chucks’ owner, Chuck, was one of a group of Miami boys who made St. Thomas their home away from home and rumored to have connections with the infamous “Murph the Surf.”

The Crazy Cow served food all day and all night and you could dance until dawn at Le Club down the strand.

Along the waterfront, colorful native sloops lay tied to the town bulkhead, bringing and sending cargo to the Leeward Islands to the east and Puerto Rico and Santo Domingo to the west. Other boats brought fish and fruit and ground provisions.

Kiosks were set up all along the sidewalk, selling coconuts, fresh fruits and vegetables and locally caught seafood. Domino games and West Indian Checkers were played in the shade of the kiosks. People bargained and talked and argued in a polyglot of languages, different varieties of West Indian English, Creole, Patois, Spanish and Popumento and the fragrances of perfumes, oils, fruits, fish changed constantly with the breeze coming in from the sea.

Back Street and Main Street were rife with local restaurants and popular night clubs with live music ranging from jazz to calypso, to rock and roll.

The town beach was Morningstar Beach, which had a gay area, a hippie area and a tourist area. On Sundays skydivers with brilliantly-colored parachutes decorated the skies and drifted down to land on the beach (sometimes).

Outside of town was “country.” That was it, “country.” No K Mart, no Cost’s U Less, no Pricemart or Tutu or Four Winds, just country. St. Thomas Dairy had real cows back, which you could see wandering through the grassy valleys.

The East End was dedicated to fishing centered around the Johnny Harms Marina,a sport fisherman’s Mecca.

In short, St. Thomas was a very cool place to be. Don’t get me wrong. It still has charm, but I preferred the island in “the good ol’ days.”

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1970s St. John Stories: The Fishing Knife

my boat tied up alongside the Cruz Bay dock behind the St. John Ferry
my boat tied up alongside the Cruz Bay dock behind the St. John Ferry

by Gerald Singer
When I first came to St. John in the early 1970s, crime was almost non-existent. People were honest, accepting and helpful and children were respectful. The following anecdote may serve to illustrate this aspect of St. John in those days.

During the 1970s, I worked as a commercial fisherman on St. John along with John Gibney. We set fish traps off the coast of St. John, hauled them in the early morning and sold most of the fish at the dock when we returned to Cruz Bay around noontime. Certain fish were reserved for special people. Eric Christian, for example, would buy all the Ole Wife we had for his restaurant. Other species of fish were reserved for Power Boyd and the residents of Power Boyd Plantation, many of whom were from Dominica and St. Lucia.

As much as possible, we outfitted ourselves with whatever we could get on St. John, which mostly came from the land. We cut West Indian birch sticks for fish pot braces, tyre palm for strapping fish and used old Clorox bottles for floats.

Chicken wire for the traps, line to haul them and other basic fishing necessities we bought on St. Thomas. Some items, however, were sent to us by my parents who lived on the mainland.

One of these items was a state-of-the-art fishing knife, which my mother had purchased for me as a present. It had a stainless steel blade, with a fish scaler on one side of the blade. On the scaler side, near the point was a blunt flattened area used for stunning fish by giving them a blow to the head.

I used the knife the day after it arrived ion St. John. The first time I hit a fish with it, the knife broke – that beautiful, shiny, stainless steel blade that my mom had sent all the way from New York City just broke into two pieces.

That night I called home to let my parents knew that I had received the present and even though I promised myself that I wouldn’t let on that the knife had broken, it seem that moms know their kids and right away she sensed that something was wrong. After that it didn’t take much to squeeze the information out of me.

No problem, son. The knife came with a 100% no questions asked lifetime guarantee. So I sent the knife back and about a month later a brand new knife arrived in the mail.

The next morning we went fishing, but the knife remained unused.

The Dockmaster on St. John was Mr. Titley
The Dockmaster on St. John was Mr. Titley

In those days, I often would leave the boat tied up at the end of the Cruz Bay dock. If it was in the way, Mr. Titley, the dockmaster would let me know so I could move it.
It was a great fun, but hard work and after a day of pulling traps and selling fish, we were tired and didn’t always leave the boat in total “shipshape.”

This was one of those afternoons. We left the boat tied up to the dock and I left my new knife lying on the deck in plain view.

The next morning John and I arrived at the dock – we hitched a ride from Hawksnest as usual and the same National Park Ranger on his way to work gave us a ride into town – and there lying on the deck, in plain view, was a fishing knife – but not my stainless steel one, an ordinary, but perfectly functional fishing knife.

A week later we were approached by a young man with an interesting story to tell. He confessed that he had taken the knife off the deck of the boat and used it to clean some fish. The stainless steel blade had broken with the first cut. He swore he didn’t do anything unusual, the knife just broke. Then he didn’t know what to do. He felt badly about having broken the knife so he reached into his savings and purchased a new knife and placed it into the boat so that we would have a knife to use when we went out fishing. He offered to buy a new one for us as soon as he had the money.

I explained that it wasn’t his fault at all, that the knife was obviously defective having broken in the same way before, and that it was under a 100% lifetime, no questions asked guarantee, but that I no longer had confidence in it and would prefer the one he had bought. I insisted on paying the replacement knife, one that never broke, was easy to sharpen and lasted me for years to come.

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St. John Stories – Mom’s phone call

by Gerald Singer

Stories from St. John Virgin Islands in the 1970s
I present here some short anecdotes. Little stories of my life on St. John, which I hope will serve to capture something of the feel for the island life on St. John during the 1970s, at least my take on it.

Mom’s phone call:
I was living at the top of the hill on Centerline Road just outside of Cruz Bay in a small apartment I rented from Captain Jurgins, a colorful St. John old-timer with a heart of gold.

It was late afternoon, we had finished pulling the fish pots,selling the fish and putting the boat away, when I heard, “Inside.” Then a knock on the door. Not the normal, is anyone home knock, but a authoritative knock … bap, bap, bap! kind of loud and insistent.

“Who is it?” I asked

” ‘afternoon, open up, I want to talk to you.”

It was a policeman.

My pulse quickened, “What did I do?” I thought to myself. I couldn’t think of anything, but I was nervous anyway.

I opened the door.

“Look here,” said the officer. “We just got a call down at the station and it was your momma. She’s worried about you. She wants you to call. What’s the matter with you boy? You need to respect you mother. You need to call.”

In fact, I hadn’t called in about a week. But, in my defense, I didn’t have a phone, the pay phones worked sometimes, but often were out of order. My mom had no way of getting in touch with me outside of writing me a letter, so she came up with the idea of calling the Police Station

OK officer, I’ll call today. Thanks for stopping by.

“Don’t make me come up here again,” he said and he flashed a short, friendly smile as he turned to walk up the driveway.

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