The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “July, 2014”

The Legacy of Johnny Leverock

Johnny Leverock tending his oyster beds 1957

Johnny Leverock tending his oyster beds in Tampa Bay 1957.

The Legacy of Johnny Leverock

By Will Johnson

Mr Paul Pfanstiehl son of Dr. Pfanstiehl and one of the Vanterpools sent me an article from the business section of The Times of Sunday March 16th, 1997.

Years ago at Little Bay Hotel I met John Alfred Leverock and his Ohio wife Bertha, at the Little Bay Hotel where they were staying on their way to Saba. He told me about his restaurant in Flordia and that every year or so he would order a “tire” hat from Rebecca Levenstone as a reminder of his native Saba. He was from a large family in the village of St. John’s, eleven or twelve children if I am not mistaken. His parents were John Leverock and Alice Hassell. They were married on August 1st 1900 and he was their first born, namely born on Friday April 5th, 1901.

Like so many of our Saba people back then when people emigrated to Barbados, Bermuda and the United States mostly, he ended up in the United States but never forgot the island of his birth.

As a cabin boy at the age of 10 he left on a sailing ship and headed for the USA. He served in WWI, WWII and the Korean War; he was an aviator in the flying circus. By the end of the conflict he was commissioned a Commander in the Merchant Marines internationally licensed to command any ship of the World. His great niece Kalena Leverock (granddaughter of James Hassell Leverock) has lots of information about this branch of the Leverock family. She tells me that even though she was born and raised in the United States that her lifelong dream has been to one day come to Saba.

In the Times article written by Kris Hundley, they tell us the following about this successful man. “The local seafood chain has based its success on moderate prices and fresh seafood. But Leverock’s owners, planning expansion, have realized what a marketing gem they have in the story of the colourful restaurant founder

Original Leverock's restaurant

The original Johnny Leverock’s Restaurant


When Johnny Leverock died more than 20 years ago (1976) his wake and funeral were held right where he wanted: next to the oyster bar in his Pinellas Park restaurant.

Strange by most standards, but perfectly normal for Leverock, who defied convention all his 75 years.

Johnny Leverock didn’t just own an oyster bar. He practically lived there. Drink in hand and straw hat on his head (made by Rebecca Levenstone for him), Johnny was in the place every night, making sure customers enjoyed the oysters he had harvested from Tampa Bay. And when he decided to get some shut-eye, Johnny often headed to an apartment he had upstairs.

From 1948 when he opened the restaurant to his death in 1976 Johnny was Leverock,s. The restaurant, first called Johnny Leverock’s Oyster bar, lived on and grew into the Leverock’s Seafood House chain. But the memory of the man who started the business faded.

Now, Johnny is making a comeback. His name is back on the signs, which says Johnny Leverock’s Seafood House. And his picture is being plastered on the menus and walls. Leverock’s owners say Johnny was the obvious choice to lead the marketing campaign. “Johnny was quite a flamboyant character,” said George Lewis, president of Leverock’s Restaurant Corp. “We realized we have a great asset in our history here. Why not use it?”

The chain plans to take Johnny’s story along as it expands into other Florida markets. Within 12 months, Leverock’s intends to open one company restaurant and about four franchised units, adding to its seven restaurants in Pasco, Pinellas and Manatee counties. Potential markets include Hillsborough County, Fort Meyers, Orlando and Daytona Beach.

Within four years, Leverock’s expects to have more than 35 restaurants throughout the state. After that it will consider expanding throughout the Southeast.

“If anything, we’ve been ultra-conservative in our expansion so far said Lewis. “Now we’re ready to grow, and we think franchising will help us meet our goals.”

If Leverock’s can replicate its local performance, it will be a phenomenal success. The chain’s existing restaurants average sales of $3.2 million each. That’s more than six times the national average for sales at a full service restaurant.

But expansion comes with plenty of risk. Six of Leverock’s seven existing locations are on the water – a major customer draw – but much of the chain’s growth will be in landlocked markets. And the chain has never worked with franchises before. Plenty of restaurants have thrived in their hometowns before falling after too-rapid growth. And running a seafood restaurant has its own set of challenges, because your reputation depends on the availability of fresh fish.

Leverock’s has beaten the odds so far. A supply of fresh fish is guaranteed through one of the chain’s partners. New servers are put through intensive training. And prices – all important in a retiree market – remain moderate. In 1996 gross revenues of Leverock’s was $22.5 million.

Within four years, Leverock’s plans to have 25 of its 35 restaurants run by franchisees. But will the franchisees fumble Leverock’s formula? Can the owners keep up quality in far-flung locations? And removed from the water, will Leverock’s still be a magnet for diners? The chain’s owners are betting Johnny’s persona can set their restaurants apart. And Johnny himself probably would admire them for taking a chance: After all, the Leverock concept started with a well placed bet in a poker game.

Johnny, a native of the Dutch West Indies, came to Pinellas County in the 1920’s and set up a gas station on US 19, just South of where Pinellas Square Mall now sits. The station was the site of more than one friendly poker game.

During a game of five-card stud in the late 1940’s an Apalachicola fisherman put up his oyster beds in Tampa Bay to back a bet. Johnny took them away with a full house. The oyster bed covered all of 7 acres in Tampa Bay and very soon he was harvesting 15.000 bushels a year.

Leverock who had been on the water all his life, started raking the oysters in his beat-up skiff and selling the harvest next to his pumps. Before long, there were more customers for oysters than for gas.

Leverock took note: The gas station came down and was replaced by Johnny Leverock’s Oyster Bar, which became a local institution.

By the time John Stross and Dick Tappan bought the restaurant from Johnny’s family in 1981, sales had dwindled. The new owners changed the name to Leverock’s Seafood House and put money into marketing. In three years, sales tripled.

By 1991, six more Leverock,s had opened from New Port Richey to Brandenton and three more partners were brought in. Over the years, the team fine-tuned the Leverock’s formula: fresh fish at moderate prices in waterfront locations. The mostly tourist crowd outside Leverock’s in St. Pete Beach last Wednesday night attests to the chain’s popularity. Despite a 90 minute wait for a table – diners are given a beeper so they can roam while they wait- these customers swore by the chain. “We had the seafood platter and the white fish was just perfect – lightly coated and flaky,” said Margery Sperlik of Grand Rapids, Mic. “And the salad was great.” Bill Baker from Union City, Ind., said he and his wife make Leverock’s a regular stop during their three-months stays in St. Pete Beach. “We visit Leverock’s at least every couple weeks,” said Baker, who added that it’s not the seafood that’s the attraction to him. “I always get the steak, but my wife gets the shrimp.”

Johnny’s wife Bertha developed special recipes for fresh grouper and other Gulf delicacies. Her famous clam chowder, peanut butter pie and key lime pie recipes are still being served at all the Leverock’s restaurants.

The well-known John Gumbs who had a large trading house in Basseterre, St. Kitts, was married to not one and not two, but three of Johnny’s sisters I am told. When one sister died he would marry the other. There are still descendants of the large Leverock family around the Windward Islands. The late Lyman Halley was a nephew of Johnny as well and Marilyn Sagers-Leverock on Saba is a niece. Those Leverock’s seemed to like large families. I grew up with a Leverock family living just below where we lived in Windwardside. A family of 11 children and they all ended up in the United States but I still have contact with them especially now that we have Facebook.


One more in the chain of Johnny Leverock’s Restaurants

While in the process of typing this article I decided to go on the Internet and check on Leverock’s restaurants and they seem to be still thriving. Leverock’s edge in seafood is due in part (1997) to the tremendous volume the chain orders. About 50 percent of the fish sold at Leverock’s is fresh, a figure that’s increased over the past three years. Some of that supply comes through Dick’s Seafood, a distributor with a fleet of 30 boats in Madeira Beach that’s owned by Leverock’s partner Dick Tappan.


The renovation, complete in St. Pete Beach and scheduled for other restaurants over the next few months, plays up the chain’s Florida ties, as well as the Johnny Leverock connection. Gone is Leverock’s drab-grey exterior, traded for a bright yellow motif with a green roof. A spruced up Model-T truck with the Leverock’s logo sits in the parking lot.

Inside the St. Pete Beach restaurant, there’s a fresh-fish display case in the lobby, a window-wall into the kitchen and plenty of Florida fishing mementos.

The walls are packed with black-and-white photos of Johnny – in his skiff, drinking with local politicians showing off a prize jewfish. And one room, with faux oyster beds along the ceiling, is dedicated to the chain’s founder. Leverock’s patrons, some 22.000 of whom are members of the chain’s diners club, expect consistency, Lewis said.

And so once again we are proud to present our readers with a small island boy who never forgot little Saba the island of his birth and the large Leverock family from which he sprang and who went on to become a successful businessman in the United States.



Eulogy For Raymund Aloysius Johnson


R A Y M U N D   A L O Y S I U S   J O H N S O N

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Raymund Aloysius Johnson born November 19th, 1933 and died July 16th, 2014.



I REMEMBER, ONCE, someone asked me: “Who is this little fellow they call “Mum”? And so I feel called on and it is my sad duty to tell those assembled here in order to give him a final farewell, more about “Mum”.

Raymund Aloysius Johnson was born on Saba on November 19th, 1933 and died on July 16th, 2014. He would have been 81 on his next birthday an event which we celebrated for him each birthday since he was admitted to the Henry Every Home for the Aged. We,( Guy, Ellis Heyliger and I), in searching for his mother’s grave discovered that his brother Ambrose had also died on July 16th.

Raymund comes from a prestigious family and the property where the Roman Catholic Church in which are today, was established in 1860 was donated by his great grandparents Peter Hassell and Esther Lovel Hassell born Johnson. In the back of the church the marble plague which mentions Peter Hassell is a tribute to Raymund’s great grandfather. The family vault here next to the church was also donated along with the property and in that vault two Roman Catholic Priests are buried, Father Josephus Kock and Father Laurens Mulder


Raymond Johnson in the road while his newly built boat on Booby Hill 1600 feet above sea level is being prepared to be taken down to the sea for launching.


At the time when the Roman Catholic Church was established here there had been no presence of the church on Saba and nearly the entire island was Anglican. Sarah Mardenborough a local woman of Windwardside is recognized in the Church Records as the founder of the church. There was much controversy back then and the families who converted and became Roman Catholics were much vilified by family and neighbours for their decision.

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Raymond and Ernest Hassell, “Mum”, Dolphie Johnson. Here he is at his once favourite place “Scout’s Place”.


People have asked me if he had any close family. His grandmother Mrs. Gertrude Johnson born Hassell was a very famous lady in her time. She was fluent in Papiamento, Dutch, Spanish, French and of course her native language English. Because of her faith as a young woman she was sent to a convent in Curacao and also spent time in Venezuela. She is the one who introduced the lacework to Saba which is popularly called “Spanish Work”. In the hard days of one hundred years ago and up until recent times Spanish Work was a life saver for many island families, especially those from Windwardside and Hell’s Gate but later spread to all the villages on Saba.

Gertrude was a teacher and also taught on St. Barths for some years and became fluent in French while teaching there. Gertrude only married at the age of 34 and had only one child at the age of 36. This child she named Margarita whom we all called “Daisy”. Gertrude may have spent time on the large Venezuelan island of Margarita when she was in the convent there and so gave her daughter the name of an island she probably loved.

Raymond Aloysius  Johnson.

Raymund here with the dog of the Roman Catholic priest.


My grandmother Marie Elizabeth Johnson was Gertrude’s aunt and Daisy’s great aunt. Marie Senior, Willie Johnson’s family, we spring all from the same root which was Governor Richard Johnson. Margarita was Raymond’s mother. For some reason she was always called “Daisy” which is no part of her official name. She got married young to Henry Johnson and had two children with him one who died young and was also named Raymund. The other child, a daughter named Carmen went to the United States and was the Matron of the famous Hotel “The Cloisters” on Sea Island. She was a very tall woman. After her death we took Mum to that famous resort and the staff was very welcoming to him even though I could see some slight shock on their faces when they met him being that his sister was such a tall woman. Carmen was a very religious woman and in her last will and testament she left most of her money to various churches and convents and to this church she left some $15.000 dollars. That plaque in the back of the church is a thank you to Mrs Carmen Cross which was Raymund’s sister.

In 1928 Daisy sold “Peter Island” in the British Virgin Islands which she inherited from her husband Henry Johnson for $840.—dollars. That island is probably worth five hundred million dollars today. How would she had known how the future would be like and the amount she sold the island for was considered a lot of money back then.

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Joe Johnson (Mum’s brother) here with Capt. Freddie Johnson and Camille Johnson.

Daisy later on had Raymund and his brother Ambrose with Wilson Johnson, who had a number of children. One of Raymund’s sisters was married to Mr. Caroll Labega who used to be Administrator on Saba when the first plane landed here. She later married Wolsey Pandt of St. Eustatius; one sister was also married to a Lejuez from St. Maarten.

His brother Joe used to visit often. Joe’s first wife Dell was a sister of Mrs. Helen Peterson born Johnson and he later married to a Williams from Simpson bay, an aunt of Jopie Williams. I remember going by Raymund’s house and calling Joe on a number of occasions so that Raymond could speak to him. He has a number of nieces and nephews living on Aruba and in the Netherlands and in the USA. He was always very upset that a son of his brother Joe had gone to Vietnam against his father’s wishes and had died just two days on arrival in the week before Christmas

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Benjamin Ambrose Johnson here with Gladys Hassell.


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Margarita Johnson a.k.a. “Daisy” mother of Raymund, Ambrose and Carmen.

Raymund for most of his life worked as the person who delivered telegrams. Of course when telephone service came in and after he became ill, I found most of those telegrams thrown under his bed. At the radio station he would stand next to the telephone while it was ringing and in colorful West Indian slang would tell the telephone what he had on his mind. His boss of many years was Chester Zagers who had the patience of Job in putting up with Mum. Many people were surprised how well known he was. He spent much of his free time at Scout’s Place and there he met many of the regular visitors to Saba many of them who are still alive have contacted me to give their sympathy. Here on Saba he had friends like Michael and Ernest Hassell, Dan Johnson my nephew, Diana Medero and many others. Of course he and Siegfried Maria lived liked brothers and on his instructions I had made a document allowing “Speedy” to live in his house until he died thinking that he would have lived a long time, but it was not to be.


Raymund was into boats all his life, and also into fishing. Many are the times I went with him as a young boy fishing on the rocks. Although he was a small man he had big ambitions. I was always co-signing loans for him to either build or buy yet another boat some of them of a good size. He also loved to farm and at one time had a considerable size farm of Irish potatoes and so on. He even had a drip irrigation system which I later donated to the Garden in The Level.

Twelve years ago he was admitted into the Home for the Aged. Doctor Koot told me that one of the nurses had told him that they were told he would only have three weeks to live. But he beat the odds not only that time but several times before and after. Even this time when I visited him the night before he died I left him thinking he would still make it. Just a few nights before when he was still speaking I reassured him that everything would be all right. His last words to me were:” It better had be as I have bought my tickets already.” In his last years he suffered from dementia and was always planning to go up to Holland to buy boats. The staff of the Home for the Aged and his friends used to be amused at his great imagination and there is a great need for people to be aware of dementia and how to deal with it

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Raymund Johnson here up front as a Member of the young men’s progressive club.



When I would go by him and he was depressed I would tell him that he had to get better as I was going to take him to Plaza Las Americas in Puerto Rico. Immediately he would brighten up and sit up and then we would discuss all the tools he needed. He was forever behind the staff to take him to Harry Simmons’ hardware store to buy a large power drill. He was known for purchasing two or three of every tool imaginable as he “had to have it.”, and so it was with the drill when I asked him what he planned to do with it:”Got to have it,” he answered.

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Standing fourth from left Carmen Cross-Johnson head of staff at the prestigious “Cloisters Hotel” on Sea Island Georgia. Sister of Raymund and benefactor of the Catholic Church.



In paying tribute to him, I want to thank the staff of the Home for the Aged who have taken care of him during the past twelve years. Because of his state of mind and vivid imagination he was not easy to deal with, so they and also doctors and other the staff of the hospital deserve a word of thanks for taking care of him. I decided to bury him with his mother. I can still hear her calling his name and asking out loud “But where is Raymund?” He was her greatest concern in life, and now he will join her and “Miss Daisy” will no longer have to worry where her little boy is. Farewell “Mum” on behalf of your friends who were your family, and may you rest in peace.


  • In the birth registers his name is spelled Raymund.


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    Raymund at the bar with Diana Medero, Jimmy Rogers and Elias Hassell.

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    Raymund with the sign February 26th 1948. He was 14 years then.

New book on Saba available …

Dear readers,

For the past few centuries, writers in other countries have been writing about our little island and provided their readers with many fanciful stories about ships being built in the crater of the volcano and lowered over the cliffs into the sea.

Many of these writers have never even visited Saba, but their stories went on to acquire lives of their own and were quoted even into modern times as having taken place. Over the years, through oral history and backed up by research, we were able to prove them wrong and give an accurate history of our small island and the men and women who lived here and went on to do well in many countries after they left Saba.

Over the many years of doing research and publishing books and articles about the lives of the people of Saba, you always feel that there is still much more to be found and written about.

This book of Raymond S. Simmons, a descendant of Saban shipbuilders and captains, and founder of the Facebook page “Of Saban Descent“, certainly fills in a void which has existed. The glory period of Saba’s history is, for a large part, written in the lives and the loss of lives of the many island men who went down to the sea and ventured out on the oceans seas in boats built on our small island.

I had the privilege of writing the Foreword of this book.  I salute Raymond for wanting to bring out this detailed history of our captains and other seamen from Saba who did us proud in former times.

Will Johnson


Click on the book cover and it will open the page at for your purchase, review and comments.

I’m sure you will enjoy the reading!

BookCover - Amazon

Hyman Kaliski the Jewish father of Saban Sailors

Hyman Kaliski Original

We were looking for a photo of Mr. Kaliski. Here is the man himself. Mr. Raymond Simmons was able to get hold of some family and has compiled a family tree of him as well.

Here on Saba he was known to all as Herman Kaliski. Everyone knew him or had heard stories about him and his clothing store at 27 South Street. This is where the Seaport Museum is now located on Manhattan.
In former times when a boy graduated from the Saba School of Navigation he was sent to Mr. Kaliski. If he was from well to do parents he would continue his navigation studies in New York

Navigation School (Capt. Freddie Simmons)

Mr. Frederick Augustus Simmons founder of the Saba School of Navigation from which over one hundred young boys from Saba graduated. Many of them went on to become famous captains.


In all other cases Kaliski would suit him out with a year’s worth of clothing and other seaman’s gear, find him a schooner and get him shipped out to China or wherever the ship would be bound to. Kaliski served not only as a clothier, but as a banker, a post office, a social gathering place where the Saban sailors could meet and relax. He did not allow any drinking in his place but next door was Mr. Baum’s rum shop which was quite convenient. I only found at recently that Mr. Kalisky also had a boarding house at 25 South Street at which many of the Sabans used to lodge. One such lodger was my friend Ronald Leverock’s grandfather John James Hassell. This was brought to my attention by Ron’s wife Mary. John James was born on Saba on July 2nd. 1870. He was first mate on a ship and took in with the influenza. Despite Mr. Kaliski’s best efforts Mr. Hassell got worse and had to be taken to hospital. John James’ brother in Maryland was notified. Mr. John James died at the age of 50 on January 8th, 1921. Mr. Kaliski was so popular with the Saba people for almost 40 years that some people on Saba added the name to their children. I know of at least one Kaliski Jackson who died young, but there were also one or two others born in New York of Saba background.
During his many years of his honest dealings with Saba people there are a number of transactions recorded in the registers here on Saba mentioning his role of which I will only mention two.
Power-of-Attorney to Herman Kaliski residing New York City from Henrietta Johnson residing Windwardside to collect $1.000.—due to her by the order of the Macabees. Saba, March 7th, 1919.
Power-of-Attorney; Annie Peterson born Hassell residing Windwardside empowers Herman Kaliski resident of twenty seven South Street N.Y.C. to collect monies left her by her deceased husband Edward Beaks Peterson (lost at sea).
Saba, May 7th, 1920.
Back then many sailors and captains from Saba were lost at sea had savings in the Seamans Bank in New York or life insurance, back wages and so on and Mr. Kaliski took care of all these matters for the families here on Saba. And he did this free of charge.

He got to know the Saba people and Saba so well that even though he had never been here he seemed to know every inch of the island. He was a big joker as well. Captain Irvin Holm told me that once he was in the store talking to Mr. Kaliski who had noticed Ainslee Peterson walking into the store. Kaliski had overheard both Ainslee and Wilson Johnson having heated arguments about sheep in the past. So he said to Capt. Holm:”It’s a crying shame what Wilson has done.” That got Ainslee’s attention right away. Kaliski went on to say that Wilson had gone down behind Old Booby Hill and shot all of the sheep that were there. Well Ainslee was immediately ready to quit his job and to head down to Saba to deal with Wilson. Capt. Holm said it took a long time to convince Ainslee that Kaliski was only pulling his leg.

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Skyline of New York City as it would have looked back in the day.

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Mr. Henry Hassell Johnson left Saba at the age of 12 barefoot and illiterate to work on Schotzenhoek plantation On St. Eustatius which was owned by the Every family of Saba/St. Eustatius. Within a few years he was the biggest businessman on St. Eustatius and the Schmidth lady he met and married learned him to read and write and to calculate as it did not take him long to become a millionaire when the island was a poorhouse.

Another story I heard was that those sailors who could not read or write would entrust Kaliski to read their letters to them from their wives back on Saba. One day he was reading a letter to Phena Holm from his wife. She was telling how the fog had just moved in and it was getting cold. Kaliski decided to add some romantic relish to the story, when Phena jumped up and grabbed the letter from him saying:”Now look here Kaliski, this is private. I will read the rest of the letter myself.” I think Norman Hassell told me that one.
Helen Peterson/Johnson was telling me sometime back how her grandfather Henry Hassell Johnson of St. Eustatius fame had left his money belt on the floor of the bathroom at Kaliski’s and lucky for him Richard “Rich” Hassell the next customer had found it lying on the floor and returned it to him. In those days when you went to do business in New York it was all cash transactions. The Money belt contained twenty thousand dollars an enormous sum of money one hundred years ago. Henry Johnson and other merchants from Saba would use Kaliski’s place to meet with suppliers and load up the Saba schooners at Pier 17 or at Greenpoint.
We were told that Mr. Kaliski was from Russia. However some years ago a gentleman from the South Street Seaport Museum visited me and later sent some information on Mr. Kaliski. I do not have the information on the name of the gentleman who sent me the information. This is what he wrote to me:
“ Hyman Kaliski was born in Germany around 1866. I have been unable to obtain a record of his death. He had apparently moved out of New York City before he died.
There is no record of his applying for U.S. citizenship. He may have become a citizen when he married and American-born woman. In the 1905 New York census he stated that he had been in the country twenty-five years. This would mean he arrived in 1880. The 1915 New York census, which misspells his name “Harris Kaliski,” states that he had been in the country only twenty-eight years.
He has been described as a “Russian Jew,” but I found no evidence of a Russian background. His father’s name on his marriage certificate is Henry Kaliski, and his mother’s maiden name is given as Tilman. Both were born in Germany.
Prior to establishing his own business, Hyman Kaliski was apparently associated with a Jospeh Kaliski in a store at 72 Greenwich Street on the west side of lower Manhattan, and later with a Gustav Kaliski in a store located at 26 Greenwich Street. A Joseph Kaliski who died in the Bronx in 1938 at the age of eighty-five could have been a brother. So far I haven’t been able to confirm this. He would have been thirteen years older than Hyman. A Gustav Kaliski born in Germany who died in Manhattan in 1925 at the age of seventy-one could have been a brother twelve years older than Hyman. Gustav’s death certificate lists his father as Hyman Kaliski, and his mother as Marie “Tinbman,” both born in Germany. The Gustav Kaliski who had a clothing store at 26 Greenwich Street applied for citizenship on June 30, 1880.
Hyman Kaliski was married on April 20, 1890 to Nettie Frankel. He was twenty-three and she was nineteen. He gave his address as 26 Greenwich Street, and hers was 123 Henry Street in lower Manhattan. She had been born in the United States, and her father’s name was Samuel D. Frankel. One witness to the wedding was a Joseph Kaliski. Hyman Kaliski and Nettie Frankel Kaliski had five children:
A daughter named Alma born around 1892
A daughter named Sadie born around 1893
A daughter named Henrietta born around 1896
A son named Harry born October 10, 1894
A son named Leonard born around 1907.
Alma and Sadie (I must be part Jewish, my mother and sister had those names) were married in 1912, in a double ceremony at 80 West 126th Street in Manhattan. Alma married David H. Wachsman of 563 Amsterdam Avenue, the son of Samuel Wachsman and the former Ethel Feldman. He was twenty-four, born in Hungary, and his profession is given as salesman. Sadie married Reuben A. Popkins of 108 West 115th Street, the son of Israel and Sarah Popkins. (Her maiden name is illegible.) He was thirty, born in New York City, and his profession is given as clerk.

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The Saba schooner the “Ester Anita” docked up at the South Street Sea Port. For more than a hundred years Saba schooners plied the trade from the Eastern Caribbean islands to New York, carrying cargo and passengers.

Henrietta Kaliski was married on June 22, 1924 to Leonard Leon of 470 West 146th Street. He was 30, born in Warsaw, Poland; and his father’s name was Lazarus Leon.
Harry Kaliski was married on December 3, 1923 to Grace Skinner of 31 Arden Street. Harry Kaliski died September 4, 1946 at 1781 Riverside Drive at the age of fifty-one. His profession was listed as liquor salesman and he was a veteran of World War 1.
Hyman Kaliski undoubtedly has surviving descendents. The remaining son Leonard may also have married, but I have not located that information yet. I could not find the two oldest daughters in the 1915 or 1925 New York State censuses under their married names. They had apparently moved out of the city soon after their double wedding. Records of births in New York City after 1909 are more difficult to research as they are still held by the Health Department.
The fact that the seamen from Saba remembered Hyman Kaliski having three daughters suggests that they were still in the New York area, and may have been helping out with the business.

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Mr. Kalisky’s place at 27 South Street, New York where Saban sailors made their homes while on shore. The name Kalisky is on the awning behind the truck.

When I have time I will look for Leonard’s marriage, and see if I can find children of Harry, Henrietta, or Leonard born in New York City in the Health Department records. Tracing Alma and Sadie, and Hyman himself, after they left the City, is going to be more difficult.
City Directory entries: 1891-92 Hyman Kaliski – 72 Greenwich St. –men’s furnishings home 100 Henry St.
1910 -11 Hyman Kaliski – 27 South Stret –men’s furnishings. Home 108 West 115th Street. 1933-1934 Hyman Kaliski -27 South Street- clothier wife Nettie. Home 66 Fort Washington Ave. A Leonard Kaliski at same address. This was the last business directory published.

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Capt. Irvin Holm here at his fathers grave on Saba. He lived to be 93.

Capt. Irvin Holm told me that when Mr. Kaliski was doing business on Greenwich Street that some sailors from Saba had made friends with him. This friendship intensified once Mr. Kaliski moved his business to 27 South Street close to pier 17 where the Saba schooners would dock up. So it is safe to say that from around 1890 or so until 1940 thereabouts he was doing business with the Saban sailors. No wonder he knew the “Back of Old Booby Hill” and how to irritate Ainslee about his sheep there. Capt. Holm told me that as the Sabans moved to Barbados and later to Richmond Hill with their families, they got land based jobs especially in the United States. No more sailors were coming from Saba. Capt. Holm said that when he went to visit Mr. Kaliski he was lamenting the fact that he no longer saw his Saba friends whose interests he had been serving for at least fifty years. When I was a boy you could hear the old sailors telling all kinds of stories about Mr. Kaliski and his Saba headquarters at 27 South Street. The entire area is now the South Street Seaport Museum. I have been there several times. A worthwhile visit for anyone from Saba to make contact with the past when here was swarming with sailors from a small Caribbean island. As I was typing this article, in between, I was also busy scanning some of my photos. When the article was almost finished the next photo to be scanned was of James Jackson with my son Peter at the South Street Seaport Museum in 1996. James had a brother named Kaliski Jackson. What a coincidence I thought to myself, so I scanned it right away and it will form part of the story.

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Here visiting the South Street Seaport museum with my son Peter Charles Albert Johnson at the wheel of the “Peking” and with James Jackson (brother of Kaliski Jackson) looking on.

If you ever visit the Seaport Museum in New York, while there, say a prayer for the sweet repose of Mr. Hyman Kaliski a true friend of the Saban sailors of the past and Saba’s former ambassador to the great City of New York.

Death of the “Mona Marie”.

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Capt. Laurie Hassell behind the wheel of the “Mona Marie” with friends on a race around Barbados

Death of the Mona Marie

By; Will Johnson


Formerly people matured earlier it seems. Nowadays you see big men hanging around street corners calling themselves the youth. They could be somewhere doing useful work instead. The person I am highlighting here at the age of 19 was already captain of an inter island trading schooner.

The first part of this article is taken from the Barbados Advocate and written by Tom M.Knowles, after which the captain will tell his own story.

“While in my early teens, inter-island commerce was mainly handled by the schooner-owning fraternity. Many of these old sea-dogs had originally hailed from Saba, a tiny 5.1 square mile Island in the Dutch Antilles.

Men like the Vanterpools, the Johnsons, the Hassells and the Everys were synonymous with the schooner trade. They had to work hard to make a living and were highly respected by the mercantile community.

“Capt. Ben Hassell was one of the leading figures in this marine trade. He and his wife Mary Love, came to Barbados from Saba over 70 years ago. They had 8 children – Herbert, Johnnie, and Ida who became Mrs. Bruce Goddard.

The next five were all born in Barbados and included Carl (now in Victoria), Laurie (now a retired tug captain from our port), Lloyd, (killed in the Dieppe raid), Ben, now living in Michigan and Alfred who had the dreadful experience of seeing his brother, Lloyd, killed in Dieppe.

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The “Mona Marie” in the Bocas off Trinidad. Capt. Laurie’s brother Ben was a radio operator on one of the Canadian passengers boats took this photo.

Laurie and Lloyd’s father Ben, owned more than 20 schooners during his lifetime. Amongst these were the ‘Mona Marie’, the ‘Maisie Hassell’, the ‘Dutch Princess’, the ‘Lena’, the ‘Rhode Island’ and the ‘Mary C.Santos.’

After leaving college Laurie tried to get a job in Aruba, but after three fruitless months, he went to Curacao and joined the ‘Rhode Island’ serving nine months before the mast. His father had sent him a sextant and urged him to learn navigation.

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The “Mona Marie” with Capt. Laurie Hassell leaving the island of Aruba with a load of gasoline for Barbados.

After completing his service he joined the ‘Rhode Island’ signing on as Mate, from Barbados.

Eventually Laurie became captain of the ‘Mona Marie’ a fast two master which his father had bought for the prince sum of Bds$5,000! He skippered this schooner through the Windward and Leeward Islands, going as far North as Turks and Caicos Islands on occasion. On one of these runs from Turks island to Barbados, he established a record crossing of 6 days less 3 hours.

This lovely schooner met a tragic end. On Sunday, June 28, 1942, she was about 50 miles South West of Barbados heading for Trinidad, with a cargo of empty oil drums.”


The following letter I received from ‘Laurelton’, Lower Black Rocks, St.Michael, Barbados, dated June 13th, 1996.

Dear Will,

Received your letter of the 19th May and was very glad to hear from you.

I was born in Barbados on the 21st December 1913, was married on the 17/8/1936, which is the same date that my Father and Mother were married in Saba (but not the same year).

My Father wrote me while I was with Aldrich Dowling on the schooner ‘Rhode Island’ in Trinidad to come home as he had bought a Nova Scotia vessel called the ‘Mona Marie’ which had gone to Opporto Spain with codfish and on its way back to Canada she broke some of the wheel gear and put in to Barbados.

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Capt. Ben and his brother Tommy on board of their schooner “The Maisie”.

The ‘Mona Marie’ as I remember was 142ft overall and 26ft beam. No Bowsprit. She was termed as a “Knock About’. She had two masts and a quarter deck beam. In other words she was not a flush deck. Two hatches and she could carry 230 tons.

I was made master on the 7th April 1933 (aged 19). We left for Demerara (British Guiana), had two days over and left on Easter Monday of that year for Home.

The old man suffered from diabetes and he picked a pimple on his nose and it turned septic. We arrived in Barbados on the Tuesday evening and he died the next day.

I was on my own at the age of 19 years and 4 months. I made trips to Puerto Colombia, Haiti, Curacao, Bonaire and Aruba. We used to carry cotton seed, salt and transhipment cargo from England to the islands.

Now some experiences in port and at sea. In 1934 I carried my future wife and her sister and another friend for a trip to Guiana. On my way in I went to see that the anchors were ready. As I got up by the forecastle, a young boy that I had as a deck boy was standing by the forecastle companion way and not helping. So I ordered him to help the others with the chain and anchors. He told me “Captain, I so tired I could sleep with the dead now.”

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Capt. Laurie in the back closest to the sail leaving Aruba with a cargo of gasoline for Barbados.

After we anchored and while lowering the main sail he fell overboard and I heard one of the crew say “ O God the boy overboard.”

The tide was falling so I jumped over and managed to hold him and told him to keep quiet and we could hold on to the anchor chain of another vessel that was anchored just astern of us, but he tried to get on top of me and on the second time I went under I knew I was drowning. I managed to get his hands off of me and he disappeared. It was 3 Am.

The Mate jumped with the board that we put the boom in when the mainsail was lowered and sail made up.

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The “Mona Marie” was one of the four Saban owned schooners competing in the first race around the island of Barbados.

The crew then launched the boat and picked up the mate and I. I reported the matter to the authorities. On the Thursday morning the police came and told me they had found the body but it was in very bad condition and if I did not want to go and see it I could send someone else. But I went with them to the mortuary and as I removed the covering there was only three notches of the back bone and pelvis and the shanks all the other parts of the body were missing. All the flesh was eaten off by the sharks.

Capt. Frank Hassell of the schooner Edward VIIth was over there at the time and when he came to Barbados he told the harbour master Commander Wynne that he would not jump in the Demerara River for his mother.

On my return back to Barbados the Harbour Master told me he was going to recommend me for a medal attempting to save a life. I told him not to worry as if I had saved him no one would know. I do have a medal and certificate signed by King Edward VIIth when he was Duke of York.

The sinking of the schooner ‘Mona Marie’.

I left Barbados on the 28th of June 1942 at 11 o’clock for Trinidad having arrived here a few days earlier with some wallaba wood from Guyana for a bakery.

At about 5.30 pm I was aft with a friend of mine who was going back to Trinidad and then to Venezuela where he was working.

As I looked around I saw a submarine coming from the horizon on my starboard side so I immediately called the crew and told them what to do if we were attacked

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Capt. Laurie, son of Capt. Ben, pictured here sitting on the railing of the “Mona Mare” of which he was the Captain at the age of 19.


I went below in the cabin and got the Union Jack which was the flag we used to fly as the flag was registered in Canada and some ships papers. I gave them to Stanny Hendricks to put in the boat which had a motor. We had put in an extra tank of gas earlier.

As the crew got the boat ready to lower, the submarine came up and started to shoot at us with the machine guns. One of my crew got shot in the arm and another in the back, but not too serious. As it was getting dark you could see the tracer bullets passing through the sails and some even passed over me a few feet as I was lying on the deck. As the shooting stopped I got up and found out that Stanny on his way back aft had fallen overboard, so I threw him a life ring to hold on to it until we got back to him.

We got in the life boat and cast off as the vessel was hove to but still had slight movement forward. The sub came up and I came alongside just aft of the cannon tower and we climbed aboard the sub as the bullets had bored holes in the boat and it was sinking.

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The “Mona Marie” in the Bocas off the island of Trinidad.

We were met by two men on the deck of the sub. One spoke perfect English and the other you could understand. They ordered us to go forward right by the big gun. The Commander of the sub told them what to ask me and then they relayed it to him in German.

As Stanny was dressed in white the fellow thought he was the captain, but Stanny pointed to me. They wanted the name of the ship, the cargo and where we were bound. I told them. Then they asked me if I had any wheat or coffee, so I knew they were short of grub.

By then the lifeboat had sunk so I asked the fellow to ask the commander to put me back aboard to get my other boat. He replied that the captain would put us back aboard and give us five minutes to cut away the sails. I said we could not do it in five minutes give us ten minutes. He turned back and said the captain says five minutes and then we shoot.

They then sent us right to the front of the submarine and the fellow went with us to give the captain the distance but every time he stopped him short. So then Stanny said to me the captain getting vex (he Stanny could speak Portuguese, French, Spanish and English so he could understand a little German as well).

So I told the fellow to tell the captain to let the submarine drop astern and let us get up over the stern.

He did it and eventually we got aboard and lowered the boat. I stayed to cut away the sails then jumped overboard and swam to the boat.

They then started shooting with the big gun trying to sink the vessel but as she had in empty drums she just listed to starboard. They fired ten shells and then turned towards us and shot five shots at us which dropped in the water a few feet away. It seemed that they would hit us. That is the only time I was scared. They then turned fired ten more at the vessel. By then I had altered my course and they fired three shots where they had seen me go the first time but by then I was in a much different place.

We pulled all night and the next evening we saw St. Vincent and eventually landed the Tuesday morning on the Island of Mustique at about 1.30 am. (June 30th, 1942)

No I do not have a copy of the ‘Tales from my Grandmother’s Pipe’, but I would like 2 copies. Thanking you in advance, I remain,

Laurie Hassell. “

The Barbados Advocate states further: “Here they landed in a calm little bay, hauled up their lifeboat and Laurie and Hendricks tried to shelter under it while his men went for help.

Mosquito’s were voracious and everyone was happy to be welcomed by Mr. Oliver in his home in the hills. Here they had coffee (there was no milk), sugar and biscuits and they went to bed.

Next morning the sea was raging in their little bay and Mr. Oliver assured them that no one in St.Vincent would believe they had landed safely there last night.

On Wednesday morning, they went by sailboat to St. Vincent arriving at 3 pm and met by Supt. Cozier of the Colonial Police Force. “Massa Fred” Hazel ( Hassell) looked after their welfare until they left for Barbados by schooner. In the meantime, the two wounded crew-members had been satisfactorily treated at the St. Vincent hospital.

So perished the “Mona Marie” but in a subsequent article I hope to tell you about her happier days.”

Capt. Laurie died some years after this letter to me. After his death I received a letter with drawings and photo’s from the real “Mona Marie” in Nova Scotia after whom the schooner had been named. I would have loved to have shared that information with him as his love for that vessel was like the love of a man for a beautiful woman. And, talking about beautiful women, Captain Laurie must have been a charmer when he was young. He showed me some photographs of his wife and she must have been the real “Pride of Barbados” when he met her.

Another 19 year old captain from Saba was a cousin of my mother. He was Capt. Will Simmons. At the age of 19 (around 1900) he was Captain of a large four master schooner the “Andrew Adams” and used to sail around the world. His entire crew was from Saba Rupert Hassell (Chief Mate), Rudolph Simmons (Second Mate), Dory Heyliger (Engineer), Peter Hassell (Sailor) Ronald Hassell (Steward), Peter Every (Sailor) and Carl Hassell (Cabin Boy).

To all teenagers I say look at the lives of these old timers and remind yourselves “Yes we can.”

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