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A Grocery List for St. John in the 1930s

Desmond Holdridge and his fiancee came to St. John 1934. They previously lived in New York City where he was a writer and she worked in a museum of modern paintings. They were married at the Battery in Cruz Bay and rented a small house overlooking Trunk Bay. The following is a record of their expenses for groceries for one month:

From St. Thomas
3 cans mushroom soup —————.42
6 cans tomato soup——————.84
1 can Klim (large)——————-1.50
1/2 Lb.. American cheese————–.15
1 can black pepper——————-.08
2 cans butter (1 lb. each) ————-1.20
1 Shredded Wheat ——————–.25
1 Corn Flakes ———————-.16
1 can pure lard (5 lbs.) —————1.00
2 cans cocoa————————30
4 lbs. macaroni ———————-60
1 jar mayonnaise (small) —————.18
2 bottles Ketchup ———————.30
5 lbs. rice —————————.25
5 lbs. granulated sugar —————–.15
10 lbs. wheat flour———————.35
6 cans pork and beans—————–.33
1 can kerosene oil (5 gal.) ————-1.00
1 cake yeast (large)——————— .40
1 bottle stuffed olives—————— .28
2 lbs. black tea ————————.50
1 box salt —————————-.14
1 can coffee (Bokar)——————— .45
1 can Quaker Oats ———————-.25
3 cans sweet corn ———————-.54
5 lbs. corn meal ———————–.20
2 pkgs. Bran————————– .40
12 Octagon soap ———————–.60
12 cans Evap. Milk———————1.20
10 lbs. onions————————–.30
1 box raisins —————————.12
1 jar peanut butter ———————–.25
1 can peach jam ————————-.27
2 cans apricots (large) ——————–.58
2 cans peaches (large)——————– .48
1 pkg. corn starch ———————–.05
12 oranges—————————– .20
2 lbs. split peas————————–.20
2 lbs. white beans————————.14
2 lbs. garbonzos ————————-.26
2 cans corned beef————————.24
6 cans tomatoes————————–.45
1 can oleomargarine (5 lbs.)—————– .75
1 can clam chowder ———————–.12
3 cans lima beans————————- .48
1 can red salmon————————– .25
1 Can tuna fish—————————- .20
4 grapefruit——————————-.12
2 cabbages——————————-.30

3 lbs. fresh tomatoes———————– .18

Total ———————————$21.08

From St. John
6 doz. eggs @ $.03————————-2.16
15 “straps” of fish @ $.10 ——————- 1.50
Miscellaneous vegetables and meat————-5.00

Total ———————————–$8.66

From St. Thomas—————————21.08
From St. John——————————-8.66
Total for month—————————$29.74

“To this add about ten dollars for rum, tobacco, and cigarettes. The rum was two dollars and a half a demijohn and the cigarettes of the standard brands were sixty-five cents a carton. Four or five dollars a month went in payment for small services to the boys and about eight dollars to those unreliable and almost insolent sloop captains, Also, eight dollars a month to Agnes (Sewer) for cooking and laundry, and six dollars a month for the use of two horses and their attendants.”

From Desmond Holdridge, Escape to the Tropics, Harcourt, Brace and Company, New York 1937.

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Dubious St. John Stories – The Shelling of Carval Rock

Carval Rock
Carval Rock
Carval Rock
Carval Rock Aerial

It has been said that Carval Rock, the small Cay located off the north shore of St. John and just northeast of Lovango Cay, got its name because a one night long ago, a British warship fired cannon balls at the rock all night long, the crew believing it to be a Spanish Carval. Rumors also exist that these cannonballs can either still be found at the base of rock some 80 feet below the sea or that someone somewhere has found cannonballs there.

Thinking about it. It’s a nice story, but almost certainly not true. The rock can be plainly seen even at night. It doesn’t move like a ship and it doesn’t return fire. What must the gunners have been drinking to have waged war on this innocuous foe?

About Carval Rock

Balanced Rock
Balanced Rock
fig tree on rock face
Fig Tree Wedged into Rock Face

The cay is consists of large limestone boulders that are continually exposed to the sun, wins and surf. During periods of heavy ground seas waves hitting the north side of the cay will spray the whole cliff face, sometimes rising higher than the cay itself.

The only lasting vegetation on the cay are two small trees wedged into the eastern cliff face.

Carval Rock is used as a rookery for seabirds who lay their eggs in crevices on the rock face.

Fishing off Carval Rock
Fishing off Carval Rock

The cay is also a popular dive spot, fishing destination and venue for burials at sea.

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Virgin Islanders and the Right to Vote

It is interesting to note that a United States citizen living in any part of the world, be it on the remote banks of the Amazon, in the mountains of Tibet, the North Pole or, I would imagine, in a submarine hundreds of fathoms below the surface of the ocean or circling the Earth in a space station, all can cast their ballot to decide who will be the next president of the United States.

Except, that is, if that citizen happens to reside in the United States Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico or in another United States territory or possession. United States citizens living in these territories, commonwealths or possessions do, however, retain the right to be drafted into the US military.

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Virgin Islands WAPA, Outages and Electricity Rates

by Gerald Singer

You had to hand it to WAPA. During the night when Cat 3 Omar slipped through the Anegada Passage instead of whacking us on St. John, where we live in Chocolate Hole, we lost a little more than one minute of electricity as evidenced by our electric range-top clock that had to be bumped ahead by one short minute the next morning.

Notwithstanding WAPA’s exemplary performance Wednesday night, Virgin Islanders have been subject to an increasing amount of power outages in the last several years. Perhaps this is due to the increased demand presented by the building boom, which has not only given us many more houses, but also larger ones with more systems requiring more electricity than ever before.

The problem of not being able to supply enough electricity to meet demand is a common one throughout the Caribbean. In Santo Domingo, where outages an almost everyday affair, anyone who can afford it has a backup system, a generator or an inverter which stores electricity in car batteries and dispenses it when the power goes out. In Santo Domingo they say that the power no se va, se viene (doesn’t go out, it comes on every once and a while).

Power or Current
What do we say when the electricity stops. Interestingly, the word we use differs culturally.

Continentals will usually use the word, power, as in: “we lost power” or “the power went out.

West Indians, on the other hand will usually use the word, current, as in: “we lost current” or “did the current come back?”

Webster’s Dictionary defines power as relating to electricity as “a source or means of supplying energy,” and current as “a flow of electrical charge.”

Although I am accustomed to the word power, thinking about it, I believe I prefer the term current better.

So on Wednesday night, we had current just about all night

Electricity Rates in the Virgin Islands
Our September WAPA bill showed a rate of about 40 cents per kilowatt hour, which consisted of a Consumer Charge of seven cents/KWH and a LEAC charge of 32 cents/KWH plus other charges such as a Customer Charge, a PILOT SUR, and a WHB SURCHG, whatever these are. (The LEAC is the charge WAPA’s customers face each month to pay for the cost of fuel.)

Comparing our Virgin Islands territorial electricity costs to electricity rates in the United States we find that our .40/KWH is quite high, especially considering our proximity to the Hess refinery on St. Croix.

Within the contiguous 48 states, June 2008 prices ranged from about a little less than eight cents/KWH in Idaho to a high of 19 cents/KWH in Connecticut. Alaskans paid 16 cents/KWH and in Hawaii the rate was 32 cents/KWH.

In short, we on St. John and in the rest of the USVI pay a lot more than other Americans for electricity and for just about everything else, for that matter.

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