History of St. John Car Rental
by Lonnie Willis for the St. John Car Rental Website
The next morning we returned his car and told him we were going to think seriously about buying the car rental. Months later we wrote him, and made arrangements to move to the island, and become the new owners of his car rental.
Early on a cold morning, January 4, 1975, we packed up our two children Aaron, 10, and Robert, 7, our dog, Pooh-bear, and our cat, Ikie, and flew out of JFK airport in New York for the Harry S. Truman Airport (an old World War II hanger) in St. Thomas. Forest picked us up at the Cruz Bay dock and drove us to our house rental in Chocolate Hole. The children were enrolled in Julius E. Sprauve Elementary School that week, and Albert & I went to work as car rental owners. Forest was kind enough to give us an extensive period of training, which proved invaluable.
The car rental was originally located at the foot of the Cruz Bay dock, and our 14 cars, mostly VW “Things” and Mini-mokes were parked in the space in front of where the Dockside Pub and stores are today. The office was the old water barrel from Trunk Bay with an opening on the side, and coconut thatch on top. We had a telephone, no credit card machines (we didn’t take credit cards!), no fax (they hadn’t been invented yet), and no copy machine. All paper work was done by hand. In addition, all customers had to buy a Virgin Island temporary driver’s license, and leave a cash deposit. The one gas station on the island, Texaco, was often closed on Holidays, open only a half a day on Sunday, and was often just out-of-gas!
Hours of operation in those days were flexible. If someone needed help in the community, everyone would close his or her business, and go to the person’s rescue. Spotting whales in Sir Francis Drake passage, the downing of a seaplane in the harbor, or just a very rainy day could be the excuse for a total closing of the car rental and half the other businesses in town. Gradually, we got into the rhythm of the Island. (We got used to taking two hour lunches on the beach next to the car rental!) … read more