Coming to the Virgin Islands: My First Visit

St. Thomas USVIby Gerald Singer

The year was 1967, I had just graduated from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Four great years of a fine liberal arts education including exposure to student activism and the hippie lifestyle had earned me a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology.

Why psychology? Well I really didn’t yet know the answer to a commonly asked question first asked during my early childhood, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” So when it came to choosing a major, I was lost. I didn’t have to commit for the first two years , but when I finally did, I chose psychology because I was interested in the subject, which had an almost cult-like following in those days, but mainly because it was the subject that required the least credit hours for a major, thereby freeing one up to take whatever other courses that struck one’s fancy.

The downside came after I graduated. What was I going to do then? Go on to graduate school and become a “psychologist?” That ugly question reared up its head once again – what do want to be when you grow up? a psychologist, an engineer, a doctor, a lawyer (Indian chief was out because I lacked certain credentials for the position)

Actually it was stressing me out. My dad, apprehensive about my state of mind, had, what seemed to be, a reasonable temporary solution, which was,forget about it for a while and go to the Virgin Islands.

My dad was a dentist in the Bronx and he had a patient, Estelle, who was then living in a place called St. Thomas with her boyfriend who was from St. Vincent. He had already spoken with Estelle and she had agreed to show me around the island.

“Good idea,” I thought, and I was St. Thomas, Virgin Islands bound. By the way, I didn’t know anything about the island, not where it was or what it would be like. It might as well as been Mars, but I was happy for the distraction.

The first flight took me to San Juan Puerto Rico where I changed to a small Prinair flight to St. Thomas. The old airport was a converted Navy aircraft hanger built during World War II. I stepped off the plane and took my first breath of the sweet, warm, fragrant Caribbean air. It was intoxicating! Love at first breath.

Estelle and her boyfriend met me at the airport and installed me in a small guest house in the Contant area and for the next two weeks I wandered about the island in a kind of euphoric daze. I spent the day at Coki Beach and snorkeled for the first time. Talk about another world, that was another world especially in those days when the reef was vibrant and alive.

I got a ride back to the guest house with Judy, an absolutely beautiful young lady, who I met at the beach. We sped along the curving mountain roads in Judy’s Mini Moke, an open little jeep-like Australian car popular in St. Thomas in those days. Exotic tropical landscape whizzed. Judy’s long red hair flew in the wind.

Well that was that. I knew what I wanted do do. I was coming back to live in the Virgin Islands, which I did.

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