The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson

Archive for the month “October, 2015”

JUAN ENRIQUE IRAUSQUIN

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The man after whom the airport on Saba is named Juan Enrique Irausquin of Aruba.

JUAN ENRIQUE IRAUSQUIN

STATESMAN AND POLITICIAN

BY: Will Johnson

Over the years many people have asked me; “Who is the man with that strange name after whom the airport on Saba is named?” Not only is the name strange but on the original bronze plaque it is spelled wrong as well. On the plaque it is spelled “Yrausquin” whereas the correct spelling is “Irausquin”.  Even the Encyclopedia of the Netherlands Antilles, of which I was one of the contributors has his name spelled with a Y so whoever made the mistake on Saba can be forgiven.

Juan Enrique Irausquin was born on December 3rd, 1904 on Aruba, then part of The Netherlands, under the rule of “Colony Curacao and Dependencies”.

Aruba at the time was sparsely populated with mostly Amerindians a few white landowners and a very small number of enslaved Africans. Aruba was too dry for sugar cane plantations and was more or less a breeding place for horses and mules for export. Sometimes the situation was so desperate that the Amerindians would take to their canoes and go back to Venezuela for their survival. There were even years when things were so bad that in 1911 there were some 83 cases of people dying from hunger. These years were desperate years and the situation did not change until 1925 when the ESSO oil company started the LAGO oil refinery on Aruba and a long period of prosperity came about. Juan better known as “Juancho” is reportedly descended from Venezuelan ancestors who were originally Basques from Spain.

After passing through primary school on Aruba he went to Curacao to continue his studies in commercial education and to improve himself in accounting, money and banking.

At the age of fourteen he was employed by the “Hollandsche Bank” and before long he rose through the ranks to be a managing clerk.

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On the 10th anniversary of his death the Postal Services of the Netherlands Antilles issued a stamp to honour Mr. Irausquin.

Actuated by a restless urge to surpass himself Juan Irausquin resigned from his post at the” Hollandsche Bank” and was engaged by the firm John Gerard Eman, which during some time carried on a limited banking business. In 1936 the firm John G. Eman in conjunction with the Maduro & Curiels Bank N.V. proceeded to establish the first bank in Aruba, the Aruba Bank N.V. and Juancho – as Mr. Irausquin was generally known – was appointed Bank Manager and occupied this post until 1951. Juancho was involved in many sided activities; he was President of the Chamber of Commerce, the Tourist Board and member of many committees in the field of financial-economic  affairs, co-founder of the Rotary Club and the Home Building Foundation in Aruba.

In 1947 he was elected Member of the House of Representatives (Staten), as the Netherlands Antilles parliament is called and after that he was reelected in all elections in which he participated.

As a Member of Parliament Juancho was several times voted to the Chair. From 1948 on he took part in all important conferences relative to the acquisition of autonomy by the Netherlands Antilles such as the Round Table Conferences of 1948 and 1952-1954, and the so called small committee (petit comite). From July 2nd, 1951 and for several years he was also a Member of the Island Council of Aruba. Until 1954 his party was in the opposition.

In November 1947 together with Porfirio “Fichi” Croes he founded the Partido Patriotico Arubano. The party wanted self-government for Aruba based on the Van Poelje report on the Interim Regulations. The P.P.A. was the favorite party of Windward islanders and other population groups around the town of San Nicolas. This was the refinery town and most of the population lived there back in the day. In 1955 when I went to spend Christmas with my brother Freddie, a teacher on Aruba, the refinery had some eight thousand employees.

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The Government of Aruba, second from left Commissioner William Carl Anslyn of Saba and seated Lt. Governor Oscar Henriquez also born on Saba when his father Dr. Henriquez was serving here.

From 1955 to 1967 the P.P.A. was the dominant political party in the Island and Executive Councils of Aruba. Some of the politicians from the Windward Islands active in the party were Diederick Matthew who at one time was a Commissioner, Leo Chance an island council member, Senator and Minister for the PPA, Carl Anslyn a Commissioner and Senator, Hugh Lopes a Senator, Joseph Lake was elected to the Island Council but could not serve as the opposition claimed since he was born in Santo Domingo he had not acquired his Dutch rights legally. There were many other Windward Islanders involved as field workers for the various candidates for the party. They would make sure that on the P.P.A. list at least two Windward Islanders would get elected. Years later when the nationalistic party the M.E.P. came to power anyone with an English sounding name with origins from the Windward Islands could forget about getting a job with the government. However many people looked at it as payback time as the P.P.A. had also favored Windward Islanders during their time in power. Before the refineries on Aruba and Curacao there was no such thing as a “Windward Islander”. You were either from Saba, Statia or St. Martin. It is in the ghettos of the oil refineries and in outlying regions of San Nicolas when people from these islands were thrown together that they started being referred to as Windward Islanders.

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Act. Prime Minister Leo Chance of Saba hosting a meeting with the Dutch Royal couple.

Benny Nisbeth of St. Martin extract who served as a Senator and a Minister in later years is widely credited with taking the grand old P.P.A. party to its final resting place. Aruba had changed and while the P.P.A. party was still liked, “Benny” should have put an Aruban as Leader of the Party. When Leo Chance served as President of the party some years after Juancho’s death he recognized the need to have a native Aruban as Leader of the party.

On April 1st 1956 Juan Enrique Irausquin was appointed Minister of Finance and Welfare, a prominent post which he occupied until his death on June 20, 1962.

Juancho was married to Maria Waitzberg. In recognition of his many merits in politics, economics, and welfare, H.M. Queen Juliana was pleased to Confer upon him the Order of Orange Nassau. He is accepted as a great fighter who took an active part in the economic development of the Netherlands Antilles. Aruba in particular and the Netherlands Antilles on the whole rendered homage to this illustrious Antillean by erecting a statue on the Juan Enrique square in Oranjestad, Aruba. Also in his memory the airport of Saba and a street in St. Maarten were named after him.

On June 20th, 1972 the Postal Service of the Netherlands Antilles commemorated the 10th anniversary of his death by issuing a special postal stamp in the value of 30 cents.

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Mrs. Maria Irausquin-Waitzberg officiating at the opening of Saba’s airport, September 18th, 1964. Looking on, Administrator L.M. Overberg, Senator Claude Wathey and Winair agent Daniel Johnson.

As leader of the P.P. A. party he had nearly all of the Windward Islanders in his camp. He gave them many opportunities and some of them became Commissioners (Carl Anslyn and Diederick Matthew), Senators (Leo Chance and Carl Anslyn), Island Council Members Diederick Matthew, Carl Anslyn, Leo Chance and so on.

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S.S. Morris June 1973 opening telecommunications Building on St. Maarten speaking to Lt. Governor Jossy Tromp on Aruba.

I remember once the late Sinclair S. Morris taking me around Aruba. At the time (1969) I was with the URA party opposing the Democrat Party in the Windward Islands. They were allied with the P.P.A. . I cannot even remember how he ended up taking me around the island. Mr. Morris took pleasure in introducing me to all and sundry along the road and telling them:” I don’t know why I am doing this, but this crook here is the man who wants to kill our party in the Windward Islands.” It was all in good fun of course. To his amazement when we went into a hotel on Palm Beach, and we entered the Casino I bet my last twenty five guilders on the machine like a Ferris wheel. He said “Man Johnson, that machine no one ever wins it.” Lo and behold my number played and if I remember well I was paid seven hundred and fifty dollars.  Morris would not even let me help him to buy gasoline, but starting with the casino till we reached back at the Seaman’s Club in San Nicolas he was telling everyone, look what he had done; taken this crook to the casino and made him a rich man and now he is going back home to kill our party in the Windward Islands.

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Many familiar faces among those who attended the opening of Saba’s airport, Dr. Hubert Petit, Mayor of French St. Martin, Commissioner Milton Peters, Lt. Governor and Mrs. J.J., Beaujon, Barbara Kassab Every, Remy de Haenen, Mayor of St. Barth’s and the man who made air transportation to Saba possible.

Mr. Morris also let me in on some of the secrets as to how the Windward Islanders used to operate on Election Day in order to make sure that their people were elected. He told me a story about Carl Anslyn. “Oh boy, I respected him a lot, but he was a crook like you.” And then he went on to tell me the following story. He was a big supporter of Diederick Matthew his fellow St. Martiner. The day before the election it was agreed that the school where the voting bureau was being monitored by Mr. Morris,  the Windward Islands voters would be instructed by him to vote for Mr. Matthew.

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First day cover honouring Juancho Irausquin.

Just after the polls opened Mr. Anslyn came to him in a huff and a puff complaining:” I don’t know what these people are doing, now they have changed things around. You are to direct people at this polling station to vote for me and I am supposed to tell them at my station to vote for Diederick.” Well Mr. Morris being a party loyalist followed orders and the people were coming in droves to cast their votes in the early morning hours. Around 4 pm in the afternoon Mr. Matthew came to check with Mr. Morris to see how things were going; Mr. Morris told him the Anslyn version of things and Mr. Matthew started to bawl. There was no such agreement and Anslyn won with a landslide in that election.” Same crook like you that Anslyn but I still admire him. No other man ever pull a fast one on me like that Anslyn.” And believe it or not he, Morris, admired me till  the day he died. He later came to St. Maarten and ran with the Democrat Party in the 1971 elections while I had his son-in-law Clifton Berkel (later Commissioner) on the WIPM list on St. Eustatius.

The reason why Juancho was given credit for the Saba airport is the following. He, Wim Lampe the Minister Plenipotentiary and Lampe’s daughter Sheila had been visiting Saba and were returning to St. Martin on the sloop the “Gloria” of Capt. Matthew Levenston then also Commissioner. They struck up in a storm and were all nearly lost. In his book “Buiten de schaduw van de Gouverneurs”, Lampe describes the whole happening.  People claim that Juancho then made a promise that if his life was spared that he would make sure and get the necessary funds to build an airport for Saba. He was Minister of Finance then and entered a project to Holland and the airport on Saba was the first project financed by Holland to these islands (1960). Up to that time the islands were dependent on money generated mostly on Aruba and Curacao. The cost of the airport was around six hundred thousand guilders and was money well spent.

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A number of prominent Sabans gathered with PPA stalwarts Prime Minister Ernesto Petronia, and Diederick Matthew. Among them Commissioners Matthew Levenston and Max Nicholson and his wife Jermaine as well as the parents of Leo Chance and others.

The airport on Saba had started just a few months before Juancho passed away. He became ill and was diagnosed as having a heart attack while attending a Meeting of the Council of Ministers on Curacao and was rushed to the hospital where he died. On September 18th, 1963 the airport was officially opened and long before that the decision had been made by the Council of Ministers in consultation with the local government to name it after him. His widow Maria Irausquin was given the honour to officiate at the opening and many dignitaries from the other islands were on hand to witness this historic day for Saba.

Juancho did not have any children of his own but his wife had two children by her previous marriage to the well-known San Nicolas businessman Pinkus.

So those of you who wonder why our famous airport was named after a man with, for English speaking speakers, a strange sounding name, now you know the rest of the story!

Tribute to “Pompey”

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Dorothea Ellana Hassell born Miller. Born New York, June 3rd, 1920 and died on Saba on October 20th, 2015.

TRIBUTE TO DOROTHEA ELLANA HASSELL BORN MILLER
We are gathered here today to lay to rest our friend Dorothea Ellana Hassell born Miller lovingly remembered by all as “Pompey.”
She was born in New York on June 3rd 1920 and passed away here on Saba in the morning of October 20th, 2015. Her parents were John Miller and Eugenia Miller born Hassell.
Back one hundred years ago mostly men from the Leeward Islands would go in large groups with schooners to the Dominican Republic, to work on the large sugar cane estates there. Among them were also people from Saba some of whom remained there and lived in places like San Pedro de Macoris and La Romana for many years. My grandmother’s nephew Capt. John Leverock Johnson was one of those who carried hundreds of workers on his schooners to the Dominican Republic when it was harvesting time.
“Pompey’s” uncle Bertie was one of those who went there and remained there. He was related to the English Quarter people like Viola Simmons and Pinta and others.
I remember the night when we had the wake for Pinta at the home of her daughter Kiby. In those days there was hardly any Spanish spoken on Saba. We had a big laugh when one of Bertie’s sisters came out to the wall on which we were sitting and asked:” Queres tumar un café negro?” For weeks after that you could hear the young men repeating that phrase as it was a novelty for all.
Around 1952 or so Clemma Winfield daughter of Bertie and wife of Ernest Winfield, whom she had met on Aruba, came to Saba to build their home in The Bottom and to live here. Around 1960 or so her father who was known as “Uncle Bertie” and his sisters Carry, Ella and Mary came back to Saba. Clemma’s brother Valencio better known as “Slim” and his daughter Alejah also formed part of the group who returned to their roots on Saba. Dorothea or “Pompey” was also part of the group. The older folks had been gone for so long that many people here had never heard of them.
At the time of their arrival the Hon. Henry Every was the Island Administrator and thanks to his efforts and leniency they were able to get their residency permits. Allan Busby told me that his grandmother Susan Rogers was also related to them and he could recall that he, Godfred Hassell and Godfred’s father “Brother” all worked on the building their house up in The Mountain here in Windward side. Allan reminded me when my father against our wishes brought a mongoose from St. Martin to Saba. He was so delighted at the abundance of food that a couple of weeks later he died in the yard of Uncle Bertie. There was a big uproar when his sisters and all started shouting out:” Que raton! Que raton”, and everyone ran up to the house to see what the commotion was all about.
The family used to make soap, even rat traps, and Pompey was well known for her sugar cakes and guava cheese. People in former times had no government to fall back on so they tried to make do whichever way they could.
Some years ago I was able to get “Pompey” her United States passport. The U.S. consul at the time was a very amiable person and accepted the only photograph which I could find of her and it was not a very good one. I tried to see if she was entitled to any kind of benefits from the country of her birth but as far as they were concerned she was on her own and so our little Saba took care of her until today when we bring her to her last resting place here in the Roman Catholic cemetery where other members of her family are buried.

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Alban Hassell. After his first wife “Missy” passed away he then married Pompey in 1971 and he died in 1980.

Eoline Peterson

The young lady dressed in dark clothes was the daughter of Alban Hassell and Virginia Rogers. She passed away some years ago. She had emigrated to Aruba and spent most of her life there. She has a daughter who lives in Holland.

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It took me several hours digging up information on the husband who Pompey found here on Saba. We always referred to him here as “Aldin” whereas his real name was “Alban”. He was born on Saba on December 13th, 1901, son of Isaac Hassell and Margaret Gordon. Like so many others from Saba he went to Aruba to work for the LAGO oil refinery and worked on the oil tankers. On Aruba on November 21st, 1934 he married Cecily Bremer, also from Saba. She was born July 3rd 1889 and was a daughter of Jeremiah and Catherine Bremer. They never had any children, though he had a daughter “Dolly” with Virginia Rogers of English Quarter.

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Dorothy Ellana Hassell born Miller was born in New York on June 5th, 1920.

Back in the day when you were returning to Saba and you did not have much money you would get a government subsidized ticket to come here on the motor vessel the “Antilia”. According to Allan Busby,  before leaving Aruba,“Alban” used his last five guilders to buy a lottery ticket and with his luck he won the grand prize of thirty thousand guilders (f. 30.000) which would be worth ten times then what it would be today. He used the money to build his new house just above the house where “Dorothea” and her family lived.
When Albans wife “Missy” died he married Dorothea, The wedding took place on October 27th, 1971. Alban was a widower age 69 and Dorothea was 51. I recall Calvin Holm coming to St. Maarten  where I was living at the time and we threw some money together to buy champagne and such for the wedding.
Father Wilson you can rest assured that we are putting to rest a good church goer here today. Allan tells me that he can still remember seeing Uncle Bertie, his sisters and Pompey coming down the Mountain to go to Mass. Uncle Bertie with his jacket and all of them carrying their big rosaries. After they had all passed away, Pompey would be seen coming down to go to Mass every time the church bell rang. But first she would stop by the home of her friend Melanie Johnson and her husband Willie.

John Willam Johnson and wife Melanie Hassell and unknown

John William “Willie” Johnson and his wife Melanie who were benefactors to “Pompey” and many others. Melanie was a tops baker and her home was a social center for the people of Windward Side.

Among her other great friends were Mrs. Cynthia Hassell-Schrewhardt from Statia, Cilley from St. Maarten, Marie Senior here present today and many more.
Pompey loved her politics. Two weeks after an election if I saw her she wanted to know when the next election would be taking place. And long before the government had set a date for an election Pompey would be showing her colours.
Although we are here today paying a tribute to Dorothea, there are many memories of the entire family which are worth mentioning for posterity. Valencio who was very tall and who we all called “Slim” was a good musician and a character unto himself. He had been a sailor as a young man and travelled all over. He spoke English with a very heavy accent. One of his drinking buddies was a cousin of my father and named Hubert Johnson, known as “Dekker”. His father was a Dutch police officer by that name.
One day Slim hired Dekker to clean his yard for him. While Dekker was cleaning the yard Slim was having a “cafecito” sitting on his doorstep. He started reprimanding Dekker that he was not working fast enough. Dekker told him “Good God slim, I am doing my best.” Slim said to him after a while: “Dekker man you moving too slow. You fired.” When Dekker protested Slim told him: “I always had a wish to fire a white man.”

Slim had lived his lifetime in cultures where he always had a white man for a boss, and through “Dekker” he was able to realize his dream of one day being boss of and firing a white man.

A view of Windwarside nineteen seventies

Alban and “Pompey’s” house is up in the mountain above the Windward side, the top one in the far left of this photograph.

Alban died in 1980 and Pompey remained living in her home and was helped out by her friends Melanie, Cynthia and others. But later on she needed professional help and in the nineties she was admitted to the Henry Every Home. Her life can also be seen as a tribute to good friends which is important in life.
I went to see her two days before she passed away at the Home. She had reached the respectable age of 95. I told her in Spanish that Trujillo had sent me to tell her to hold on and she laughed. I really thought she would have carried on for a while longer but it was not meant to be. Norman Winfield called me in the early morning hours to inform me of her passing.
I would like to thank the staff of the Home for taking such good care of her these past years, as well as the doctors and staff of the hospital.

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Mrs. Cynthia Hassell -Schrewhardt (wife of Walter Hassell) was a good neighbour and benefactor of Dorothea (Pompey).

She leaves to mourn her closest relatives the children and grandchildren of Mrs. Clemma Winfield as well as relatives such as Miss Essie Simmons, Allan Busby and other distant cousins. She will surely be missed at the Home for the Aged, and as we take her to her grave we pray for her eternal rest.
We pray that you rest softly Pompey!!

MAIL SERVICE (FIVE).

MAIL SERVICE (FIVE)

By Will Johnson

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The Government schooner the “Blue Peter” which transported mail and passengers between the three Dutch Windward Islands and the island of St. Kitts between 1947 and 1962.

Voices were once again raised to the Colonial Authorities in The Hague as a result of the reports made by Judge Mr. F.G. Schalkwijk and Lt. Governor van der Zee.

People were once again calling for better transportation between the Leeward and the Windward Islands. Bear in mind there were neither airports nor airplanes flying in those days.

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When the old Saba Captains retired they would make models of their schooners in their leisure time. This is Capt. Will Leverock’s schooner the “Marion Belle Wolfe” a red schooner.

In 1920, the Government owned the two schooners the “Estelle”, 105 net tons and the “Virginia”, 55 net tons. The “Estelle” made a monthly trip to Curacao, while the “Virginia” made a weekly trip through the Windward Islands to St. Kitts and back. My cousin Carl Lester Johnson who lived on St.Maarten in the nineteen thirties used to tell me stories about Captain Abraham Mardenborough who used to own the Virginia. After he retired on St.Maarten he used to take a stroll up to the square in the afternoons. Lester told me that he had a gold pocket watch on a long gold chain. The boys would ask him “Captain Mardenborough can you tell us what time it is?” He then would go through an elaborate ritual to take out the watch and in an authoritative voice announce the time of the day and allow the boys to see his precious gold watch.

The Minister of Colonies in 1921 proposed to the Governor to allow first class passengers to travel via Trinidad and St. Kitts with steam service so as to make the trip more comfortable for them and to make more room available on the schooners for second-class government travelers such as policemen, military personnel and so on.

In 1922, the government was again looking at schooners, as in a letter dated August 2nd, 1922, a Mr. Lampe on Curacao on behalf of the firm D.C. van Romondt & Co., at St. Maarten was offering the Dutch schooner the “Cyril” for rent to government at the rate of fls. 1.250.—per trip. In a telegram to His Excellency the Governor, the Lt. Governor on St. Maarten Mr. Vander Zee, recommended the schooner “Champion” (97 tons) which was three years old belonging to Mr. David Nesbeth, for eleven hundred and twenty guilders per month. The “Estelle” had been removed from service, according to a letter from ‘Herrera Hermanos’, Bonaire, dated August 14th, 1922. They offered their schooner of 160 tons, the “Reliance” for f.1.000.—per month. This was a new vessel built on Bonaire which had made its maiden voyage in July 1920 and was describer as a fast sailer.

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This schooner the “Estelle” is not the Saba owned schooner by that same name but a pretty schooner nevertheless.

Also a Mr. Theodore F. van der Linde Schotborgh, owner of the 85 foot schooner “Carlota” offered his schooner for sale to the government for fls.40.000.—The schooner had been built on Curacao in 1912 by his father-in-law Rene Hellmund and was built from Indjo (Cohi) and Vera wood which according to him was far superior than vessels built in the United States of Nova Scotia. He said that he was also willing to rent it to the government for fls.2.000.—per month.

To give an idea of the number of offers available, there was also a letter dated Curacao July 13th 1922; Mr. C.B. de Gorter offered the Dutch schooner “Meteor” of 143.56 gross tons for sale for a sum of seventy three thousand guilders or fls. 1.900.—rent for a once a month trip to the Windward Islands. Also Mr. Netherwood on St. Maarten offered his schooner “Cyril” at fls. 1.250.—per month. The Lt. Governor of St.Maarten however thought that the schooner was too old and unreliable. Also a Mr. Arends on Aruba offered his schooner the “Aoemoria” at fls. 2.000.—per trip, and a Mr. Boom offered the schooner “Frieda” for fls. 1.300.—per month.

Scooner Mayflower

This is the schooner the “Mayflower” which at one time belonged to Capt. Thomas Charles Vanterpool.

The “Ina Vanterpool” belonging to Capt. T.C. Vanterpool of Saba was the successful competitor in the tender for the mail transportation. This schooner remained in service until she was wrecked in a gale in the harbour of St.Eustatius on Wednesday, September 15th, 1926. The “Ina Vanterpool” was a three master built in Barbados by Capt. Lovelock Hassell of Saba and was sold to Captain Tommy for fls. 162.500.–.

In 1927 we read in J.C. Waymouths book “Memories of St.Martin N.P.” the following; “News reached us on December 30th of the loss of two of our Island crafts – the schooners “Georgetown” and the “Express”.

The owner of the first was Captain Tommy Vanterpool of Saba who had already last year sustained the loss of the “Ina” on September 15th, while performing the same services as that of the “Georgetown”. The “Georgetown” went ashore at Nevis and the “Express” went ashore at Martinique.

My uncle Charles Herbert Simmons who was only 16 at the time was a sailor on the “Georgetown” went it went ashore on Nevis. The captain at that time was Capt. Herman Simmons. None of the crew was lost but it took several anxious days before news of his safety reached my grandparents on Saba.

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The crew list of the schooner Margaret Throop. I have a painting in my house of this lovely four masted schooner. Captain and some of the crew were from Saba.

The “Georgetown” was known as a fast schooner. In a race to St. Maarten from Curacao, Captain Samuel Augustus Simmons took the schooner there in forty eight hours. The schooner did not have an engine. This schooner was a 2 master Canadian schooner, around 60 to 70 tons. Capt. Randolph Dunkin told me that he had made one trip on the “Georgetown” which his uncle Capt. T.C. Vanterpool had purchased from Capt. Lovelock Hassell.

A schooner called the “Alice” which belonged to Mr. Hilivere Lawrence of Grand Case was chartered by Capt. T.C. Vanterpool to take the place of the “Georgetown” and left on January 9th, 1928 for Curacao. She made several trips but was not big enough for the trade, and then Capt. Tommy went to the United States to buy the “Mayflower.”

The schooner “Virginia” in the gale of 1928 broke her moorage and was never heard of again. She was anchored in St. Kitts and did not have anyone on board.

The “Mayflower” arrived in 1929 and was also equipped with an engine. She had two masts, was 190.27 tons and was 147 feet long. She had been built in Gloucester, Massachusetts to compete in the “Bluenose” races, but was not allowed to compete because she was built in the style of a yacht. She broke her bowsprit and both masts in 1931, to the North-East of Bonaire and was later sold to a group in Jamaica.

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Schooner “Ina Vanterpool” going ashore on Statia in the 1928 hurricane.

My uncle Captain Charles Reuben Simmons who commanded the “Mayflower” for Captain Vanterpool between 1928 and 1930 used to tell me that in 1929 he left St. Kitts with 375 passengers and 48 hours later landed them at Curacao. Once he managed to carry 460 passengers with the “Mayflower” on a trip from the Windward Islands to Curacao. He also took some cattle on board at St.Eustatius in case the schooner got becalmed he would then butcher the animals to feed the passengers. On return trips to the Windward Islands he carried as many as 100 people. The least amount of passengers he ever carried to Curacao was 110 from Dominica. Every fifteen days he would make the run to carry workers for the oil refinery there.

The “Three Sisters” a three master schooner which had been purchased by Capt. William Benjamin Hassell, in 1927, and was 190.76 tons and 115 feet long, took over the mail service in 1929 and was the last of the Saba owned mail schooners to ply the trade between the Dutch islands.

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Capt. Edward Anslyn of Saba who for many years was the Captain of the Ferry between St. Kitts and Nevis. He was followed in this job by his son Arthur still living on Nevis.

The captain was Will Leverock of Windwardside. In Dr. Julia Crane’s book “Statia Silhouettes” my old friend Ralph Milburn Simmons had the following to say about his time on those schooners: “Then I got a job on the schooner that used to transport passengers to Curacao, what we call “moose boy” to attend to the passengers. Five dollars a month in those days. But five dollars was plenty money those days. There were no real tourists, just immigrants, immigrants. The schooner used to carry immigrants down to Curacao to find work, you see. So in between you might find a couple –‘cause there was no steamers those days. In between then you would find a big shot then would be traveling’. Those schooners would belong to Tommy Vanterpool. I don’t know if you heard about him. He died in St. Thomas. He died in St. Thomas.”

“And then after that I learned how to steer a ship. And then there was another schooner named the “Three Sisters”, three masts. A ship came in one day while I was down there, in Curacao and they said they wanted some men. And I asked the captain – the captain was named Will Johnson, from St. Johns –and I asked the captain to let me stay off, and he told me all right.” Ralph had been dealing with me for so long in the politics that he gave the captain my name. It should be Will Leverock.

The “Three Sisters” ran an independent service and then was followed by the K.N.S.M. steamship service with the ‘Atlas.” The “Three Sisters” was lost off St.Croix in 1932 when she struck a reef. I remember being told by one of her owners, the late Mr. Carl Hassell, that they earned back her purchase price on her first run to Curacao with passengers and freight.

After the “Virginia” was lost, the “Diamond M. Ruby” a 2 master schooner belonging to Capt. R.T. Barnes of St.John’s village came up from Barbados and ran the mails between the Dutch Windward Islands. In the 1920’s the schooner “Johanna” belonging to Mr. David Nesbith of St.Maarten ran the mailservice for awhile. The Captain was first William “Paget” Simmons of Saba and after that Captain Bremer of St.Maarten.

We have a copy of a petition dated St.Maarten, 9th July 1931, and signed by the leading citizens of that time addressed to the Honourable President and Members of the Court of Policy on St.Martin N.P. which reads as follows:

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The sloop the “Gloria” on shore after hurricane Alice on January 2nd, 1955. Owned by Capt. Matthew Levenston she also transported mail and passengers.

“We the undersigned long suffering islanders hereby express our hope that the Government will be convinced of the necessity of providing a subsidy to enable a line of steamers to call here fortnightly on their way from and to New York.

“We know that in the past we have been grievously neglected and our wishes disregarded; but we trust that the Government will on this occasion grant us our sincere desire.

“Steamship communication is now being maintained between Curacao and this island at great cost to the colony. This service so far as we can see could very well be dispensed with. Its tangible results consist in the transportation of a few passengers, packages and mails. The bulk of this business goes with the mail schooner “Three Sisters” and could be dealt with entirely by that vessel.

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A young lady from Saba on one of the Saban owned schooners anchored in the road stead of Fort Bay.

In presenting our plea for the subsidizing of a direct steamship service between New York and this place, we can confidently state that such a service would shorten by half the time now required for the transport of mails and cargo from the United States to the Netherlands Part of this island, while also serving to remove the great handicaps under which business is carried on here as compared with the French division. In fact the benefits derived would extend directly and indirectly to all sections of the community. The monthly service from New York now in operation only on a trial basis, and will doubtless in the event of a subsidy not being granted, be eventually withdrawn. We beg that the request embodied in this document be submitted to His Excellency the Governor with a plea for his favourable consideration. This petition was signed by about 75 influential citizens, many of them merchants from the Dutch side of the island.

We will continue next time with the service after 1931 and in which the K.N.S.M. played a big role and Capt. Gittens worked on some of those ships. He has promised to share his experiences with our readers on this interesting part of our history which the few old-timers would like to hear about one more time before they start their journey to the great beyond. (To be continued).

The Mussenden Family

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Mr. Irving Mussenden the last of that once important family on the island of St. Eustatius.

This once important family is no longer on St. Eustatius, yet less than one hundred years ago the family owned most of the land between Oranjestad and the White Wall. The Mussenden family goes all the way back to 1696 when there is mention of a Major William Mussenden in the population records. His son William (Charles?) is mentioned in the records of 1700, 1705, 1715, 1729 and 1725. The son of William, Nathaniel Mussenden is mentioned in the records of 1728; Nathaniel was the father of Charles and in the Rodney Roll of 1781 there are three Mussendens mentioned, Charles, James and William Charles. On July 19th, 1747 a license to marry was issued to the engaged pair Charles Mussenden, young man and native of st. Eustatius and Rebecca Simmons, native of Saba, both residing on st. Eustatius, to enter a state of matrimony. The marriage took place on August 6th, 1747. Throughout the centuries the Mussenden’s looked to Saba for their wives. The last two Mussenden brothers on Statia both married Johnson’s. On February 13th, 1913, Mr. Nathaniel George Garnett Wolseley Mussenden (22), whose parents were Samuel Augustus Hassell Mussenden and Amalia Louisa Cruger, married Helen Lucille Johnson (23) whose parents were HenryHassell Johnson and Jane Elizabeth Schmidt. He died in the “Kaisers War” and she then married Captain Ralph Holm a descendant of yet another Statia/Saba family. on December 23rd, 1925 Mr. Benjamin Irving Mussenden (32) married Amy Johnson (30), born May 23rd 1895 on Saba. He was the brother of Nathaniel and Amy was the daughter of James Johnson and Sarah Jane Hassell.

Group of Johnson's & other important people of Statia in the early nineteen hundreds

Group of Johnson’s & other important people of Statia in the early nineteen hundreds

Mr. irving Mussenden went on to become the Inspector of Taxes of the Netherlands Antilles. After elementary school on St. Eustatius Irving followed a business course in Brooklyn, New York.

At the age of sixteen he started working for the government of st. Eustatius. From 1909 to 1917, he worked at the Post Office and later at the Court of Justice. From 1917 to 1919 he was in the United states and worked at the Chemical Bank of New York. he then returned to Statia and filled various functions, namely “Officier van Justitie” (Public Prosecutor), Receiver, Notary and Acting Lt. Governor. Already in 1923 he was made a Knight in the order of Oranje Nassau, mainly because he was the founder of the Public library consisting of more than 3000 books. in December 1924 he was transferred to Curaçao to the Department of Finance. in 1931 he was appointed Colonial Treasurer. On January 1st 1938 he was appointed inspector of Taxes for the Netherlands Antilles and held that position until September 30th, 1955, when he retired. He is the only person to have filled this position for more than 17 years. He had cancer of the kidneys and as a result passed away in Curacao on July 27th, 1961. People who knew him describe him as a very polite person who loved to read and to do research about Statia. His only child Sybil Aileen was born in Curaçao on October 31st, 1929, and married Richard Bland McQuiston Mitchell, born in New York January 30, 1924 and died July 14th, 1999. They had four children all born in Curaçao, now living in the USA. The Mussenden family name has now disappeared from the Netherlands Antilles.

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Amy Johnson wife of Irving Mussenden of St. Eustatius.

Before I met Sybil here on Saba I had the following letter from her dated September 11th, 2001.

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Mr. Irving Mussenden with his wife Amy Johnson and their only child Sybil.

“Dear Will Johnson, Although you don’t know me, I feel as if i know your whole family. This is because my friend Inge uit de Bos sent me a copy of your family tree. Hoping I could find some ancestor of mine among yours. We may not be directly related, but I can’t believe there is not a Johnson or a Hassell that are not kin in some way. My father was Benjamin Irving Mussenden, born 1893 in Statia, died 1961 in Curaçao. My mother Amy Johnson born 1895 in Saba –died 1945 in Curaçao. her parents were Sarah Jane Hassell and James Johnson. I know I am related on the Hassell side to Freda Hassell (still living in new Jersey, I think, her sister Lillie died years ago). but do you know anything about Sara Jane’s parents and/or grandparents?

Looking up the Mussendens, Inge was able to get more information for me. We found that a Major Will Mussenden was appointed to Governor of Statia in 1695. I have only been to Saba twice but I loved it. I have no close family on either island. My father had one brother who died in World War 1; My mother had one sister Lillian who died years ago, unmarried. I myself am an only child – my husband “Mitch” died in 1999. We have four children Amy (50) – Pamela (46), Richard (41), Chris (39) and 4 grandchildren. I have known Inge since grade school in Curacao and we keep in touch. looking over your “tree” I see you have a Samuel Augustus Simmons; my father’s father was Samuel Augustus Hassell Mussenden – i wonder where the Hassell came from. I wish now I had asked my father more about his family – my mother died when I was fifteen and i was not yet interested in “family” stories. I have my grandmother’s (Amalia Louisa Cruger wife of Samuel A.h. Mussenden) autograph album; amazing to think the poems were written more than 100 years ago and such beautiful handwriting. Hoping to hear from you soon, sincerely, Sybil Mitchell.

I have another letter dated st. Eustatius, August 12th, 1911 and addressed to Mr. W. D. Mussenden at bath Maine, and it reads as follows:

WFM Lampe & Irvie Mussenden on Statia

Lt. Governor W.F.M. Lampe here with his friend Irving Mussenden on St. Eustatius.

“Dear Mr. Mussenden, often I have proposed to write to you and renew old acquaintances with yourself and family if you are all in the land of the living which I hope to be a fact. Some little time ago a niece of my wife – a brother’s child – living in Memphis Tenn. sent her a photograph taken on the day of her graduation, and as I have Kate taken on the day of a like event, more than ever i determined to write. This young lady Miss Wolseley Mussenden, asked her aunt to give her some information on the Mussendens from which she sprung, also some of the principal events in the history of the little island in which her parents were born. I herewith enclose a copy of what a friend kindly got for us from the old archives of the island. i thought it would be interesting to you and your family. i should be pleased to hear from you and about all of you that i knew. My wife natalie, son henry Alexander, join with me in kindest regards and best wishes for you all. yours very truly. h.b. Mussenden.” The letter went on to mention that William Mussenden was the founder of the family on st. Eustatius and he was probably born in 1642. he was a Captain in the british Army in 1672. he was a Major and Deputy Governor of st. Eustatius in 1693 and married a Miss Jacobitz. he died in 1697. William the only child known to have been born to this couple was born on Statia in 1681. He married Maria daughter of Jan Seys probably before 1704. William Mussenden and his wife were still alive in 1735. The date of his death is not known. Charles son of the preceding pair was born on St. Eustatius october 24th, 1722. he married Rebecca Simmons, a native of Saba and died at the age of 84 on the 31st of May 1806. The rest of the family tree has been mentioned already. The H.B. Mussenden who wrote the letter was married to Mary Natalie Georgiana Mussenden daughter of N.G.G.W. Mussenden. She died 03-03-1939. The Mussenden name must have meant a lot to H.B. as in going through the family records I found out that he was Henry Washington Wilmans and had changed his name officially to Mussenden so that he could pass on the Mussenden name to his son Henry Alexander who was born on September 3rd, 1900.

Saint Eustatius Island was once an active volcano.

Saint Eustatius Island was once an active volcano.

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After he retired Mr. Mussenden continued living on Curacao where he died and was always busy with reading and writing.

The Mussenden family is chiefly remembered through Irving as he helped quite a few of his fellow islanders to become customs officers in Curaçao. The surviving old timers remember how much land they owned. some say they owned as much as 5000 acres, however, that would be the whole island, but they did own a lot of land. like the van Romondts of st. Maarten, today neither the name Mussenden or any land belonging to them remain on Statia. And so passes the glory of this world.

Will Johnson -Saba

TO THE CANE FIELDS OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

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All over the West Indies there were sugar cane plantations during the days of African slavery. Even small islands like Saba tried their hand at growing sugar cane not only for sugar but to make a strong rum called “KILL DEVIL”.

Some years ago on the outskirts of La Romana we stayed in the beautiful hotel called “La Reina Cumayasa.” It is a small hotel surrounded by twenty or more square miles of land belonging to the Barcelo family of Spain. The hotel is located on a height above the Cumayasa river. I had left my friend Elmer Linzey behind in a guesthouse opposite a gas station near the center of La Romana. The guesthouse was compliments of our hosts, but I wanted something quieter. A taxi driver said, “If you want quiet I have the place for you.” When the wife and I drove up to the hotel they were amazed. The manager said that they had never had people drive up without reservations and ask for a room. We got a real good price and it was all inclusive. The room we stayed in was so big it was like having three houses in the country. I still have the hotel with me as I brought back seed from an unusual palm tree located at the front of the hotel and the palms are now in front of the Government Administration building on Saba as well as at the Saba airport terminal building. You would think that I would be around the swimming pool relaxing. Instead my wife had to ask me what in the name of God was so interesting about Santo Domingo phone books. She had seen me doing the same thing in the Howard Johnson hotel in the city of San Pedro de Macoris. What kept me so busy all morning was studying these phone books and taking notes of surnames. The ones I was interested in were mostly those from the former British, French and Dutch islands between Nevis and Anguilla. In the San Pedro de Macoris phone book I found some 186 different surnames and in La Romana at least 110 of people who could have descended from these seven islands. There were hundreds in total of course, but I just noted down one of each. So if there was an entire page of Richardsons’ only one of my totals in each place was a Richardson. As a boy growing up we used to hear stories about Saban and Anguillan owned schooners taking people down there to work in the canefields. I had a great uncle John Leverock Johnson, an elder brother of my fathers mother who owned a large schooner. He used to trade there carrying people from the Leeward Islands. If he followed the trend of the day he must have left some little people down there as well. He had a son on St.Barths so he was already known as a drifter from the home front. Sailors and all that you know. Some years ago then Senator Kenneth van Putten and I were sitting at the airport on St.Maarten. We were on our way to Curacao. It seemed like nearly all the workers were speaking Spanish. We reminisced on the days when only a few of our older people were able to say a few words in Spanish. People like my old friends Milton Peters, Lionel Bernard Scot, Piasco Wilson, Capt. Austin Hodge and others would tell me stories about their stay in Santo Domingo. I lived with the Hodge(Velasquez) family for about ten years. We had a dog named Ramon Natero after a wellknown rebel leader who fought against the United States occupation of the Dominican Republic. Captain Hodge used to tell me that he had met the rebel leader once in person at a dance.

Rebel socialist leader Fidel (Castro) showing workers in the cane field that he can carry his own weight in the cutting of cane.

Rebel socialist leader Fidel (Castro) showing workers in the cane field that he can carry his own weight in the cutting of cane.

In 1898 and 1899 two hurricanes hit the Leeward Islands and ruined the already shattered economy. Many people were forced to migrate en masse to Bermuda, where a large naval shipyard was being built by the British Government. By 1901 there were 1600 workers from the Leeward Islands living in Bermuda. Between 1901 and 1904 no less than 2.431 migrants, the majority of whom were men ready to work as loaders, carpenters and masons, arrived in Bermuda from Nevis and St.Kitts. Only 10 to 20 percent of the immigrants were women. Most of these women earned a living by cooking for the workers, although many were employed as domestic workers. When the construction of the shipyard was completed in 1905, the majority of the recent immigrants had to leave Bermuda, and many went to Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The Dominican sugar cane plantations had been employing manual labourers from neighbouring islands for some time. In 1890 alone the Dominican centrales (sugar factories) imported more than 3000 labourers from the Leeward Islands. In 1902, this figure rose to over 4.400. With the increase in population and the construction of new centrales after 1906, the demand for manual labour in the Dominican Republic grew considerably. In 1914 the number of contracted labourers in the Dominican Republic grew to 11.800. About 2500 of these people came from the Leeward Islands. The rest were from the Virgin Islands, the Turks and Caicos and Jamaica. Dominican plantation owners offered salaries of up to one dollar per day, a clear improvement over the thirty cents per day paid in the British West Indies. The Dominican Republic also witnessed a seasonal immigration of workers from the Leeward Islands between 1914 and 1939. The Dominican sugar plantations offered wages that were more than double those paid on plantations in Nevis and St.Kitts. The sugar factories in La Romana and San Pedro de Macoris paid between $20.– and $30.– weekly for six consecutive days of work, while in the Leeeward Islands the average salary was barely $12.– per month. Unlike in Cuba where labourers would often settle for years, in the Dominican Republic cane cutters from the Leeward Islands would frequently work for the six months of harvest and then return to their homeland islands. Year after year, between 2.500 and 4.000 labourers from St.Kitts and Nevis as well as several hundred from Antigua, Montserrat, the Virgin Islands, Dominica, Anguilla and also the Dutch and French Leeward Islands would sail to the Dominican Republic in search of work.

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One of the many Saban owned schooners. This one is the Mona Marie of Capt. Laurie Hassell leaving Aruba in 1935 with gasoline for Barbados.

The large schooners which transported them were rented by Dominican sugar factories. The labourers left the women, children and elderly behind. This created a labour shortage in the Leeward Islands. Planters here in these islands were forced to employ women and the elderly to cut sugarcane and pick cotton.The Dominican sugar factories were controlled by United States capital interests. In 1924 the United States sugar companies controlled 438,182 acres of the best farmland in the Dominican Republic. In 1927 they controlled 6.3 million acres in Cuba and 75 sugar factories there produced 62.5% of Cuban sugar. Some scholars estimate that of the 4.2 million tons produced in 1924 in Cuba more than 75% was controlled by financial interests in the United States. Migration statistics from Nevis and St.Kitts alone register more than 90.000 workers who went to the Dominican Republic between 1914 and 1939. This does not mean they remained there though some of the single men did stay.
Many workers repeated the trip numerous times until they grew older or tired or until they had saved enough to buy a plot of land or improve their homes on their homeland islands. Others settled in the vicinity of San Pedro de Macoris, La Romana or Puerto Plata. Dominicanos nicknamed the labourers from the West Indies “cocolos”. The origin of this name is not clear, but it is widely accepted to be a corruption of “Tortola”, Spanish for an inhabitant of that island which also sent labourers annually to the Dominican Republic. The 1935 Dominican population census regsitered 9.272 “cocolos” working there. Due to emigration the population of the Leeward Islands declined between the years of 1901 amd 1921. At least 2.000 Leeward Islanders settled in the Dominica Republic, and close to 1.000 moved to Bermuda. Whereas many of the migrants from the Dutch and French islands in the Leewards booked passage via St.Kitts to Bermuda and especially the U.S.A. these statistics would also reflect migration patterns from these islands as well. These numbers are small, however, when compared to the number of people who migrated to the United States in search of higher wages and better living conditions. Nevis and St.Kitts together lost about 12.000 inhabitants to the United States between 1900 and 1920. Nearly 60.000 people from the rest of the British West Indies immigrated to the United States. Between 1901 and 1921 there were more than 80.000 West Indian immigrants registered in the United States. Most of the migrants were peasants or proletarians who descended from the plantation slaves of the nineteenth century. Many of them had even been born into slavery. The British West Indian freedmen who had become peasants by occupying or buying Crown lands, or by squatting on plots outside of the plantations, were frequently unable to earn enough cash to sustain their families. Emancipation did not turn them automatically into peasants, and many became proletarians who were forced by economic necessity to return to the plantations as salaried workers. The lenghty economic crisis of the British West Indies in the second half of the nineteenth century created a sizeable supply of labourers who were forced to leave their homeland islands to earn cash elsewhere. Dr. Johan Hartog in his book “De Bovenwindse Eilanden”, also mentions seasonal migration patterns in the Dutch Windward islands. St.Martiners mostly went to the sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic in Cuba and in Puerto Rico, as well as to the phosphate mine on Sombrero. At the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries an exodus began to the United States from the Dutch islands. Also to the island of Connetable (French Guyana) for mining phosphate there. Also to St.Kitts where the salt ripened earlier. Women also took part in the seasonal migration to harvest salt on St.Kitts. After a month or two they returned to St.Maarten where the salt was then ripe for harvest. Statians hardly went to the Dominican Republic, but sought employment as labourers in the harbour in Bermuda, in Demerara and also in Trinidad. Because of the work provided by the whaling fleet, Statians also migrated to New Bedford, Massachussetts, as well as to New York. Sabans worked as seamen in the United States and also went to Bermuda in large numbers. The Bermuda museum statistics claim that Saba provided the third largest group of permanent settlers to that island. When the Boer War broke out in South Africa

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the British employed especially white Sabans as guards to work in the prison camps on Bermuda. In 1902 there were more than one hundred Sabans working in the prison camps. The British mistakenly believed that Sabans could speak Dutch and would be able to communicate with the Boers. As a boy I remember old Sabans telling stories about the various Generals like Viljoen, Melaan and so on with whom they had made friends while working in the prison camp Captain Ernest Alfred Johnson in his book also mentions this. In 1898 when the male population of St.Maarten including boys was 1546, no less than 420 men of that island went to the Dominican republic to work. In 1901 of the 1239 males there were 761 who were working in the republic which was nearly the entire productive working force. For Saba in 1912 out of a male population of 774 (excluding boys) there were 530 working off-island (mostly as sailors and Captains). In 1906 about 20 Windward Islanders went to Surinam in search of work on the construction of a railroad. They could not take the climate however and most returned in 1907. My former boss Joseph Alphonse O’Connor told me that Saban owned schooners used to carry salt to Surinam and that as a young boy he went along with Captain Herman Simmons on a large schooner to Surinam and back. During World War 1 the seasonal migration from St.Maarten to the Dominican Republic increased. From 1885 to 1895 the population of the three Dutch Windward Islands declined by 14% (from 8623 to 7402). And since it was nearly all men who left, in 1895 there were 45% more women in the three islands than men. The transportation was horrible. As many as 200 to 300 men were crowded into schooners. There were even deaths at times due to unhygenic conditions caused by crowding.

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A nice old postcard with the island of St. Kitts and the sugar cane plantations in the background. I remember in the nineteen fifties when the sugar cane workers during a strike set fire to the sugar can plantations on St. Kitts and for many days you could see the smoke and the fire from here on Saba.

On November 20th 1907 a schooner from St.Maarten (not a Saba captain though) left that island to go with a large contingent of men to Connetable. On December 30th the vessel returned, after not having found the island. Conditions on board were so bad that food had to be rationed. So great was the labour shortage on St.Eustatius that the following incidents are recorded. In 1912 because of a landslide by the Bay Path, the government brought in forty labourers from Curacao. And in 1914 when the historian J.H.J. Hamelberg rented 500 acres of land from W.J.Mussenden on which to plant sisal, Governor van Grol had to import 22 labourers from Curacao, 20 from Nevis, 25 from Aruba and one Venezuelan. On Sundays Father Bertrandus Krugers O.P. who was fluent in Papiamento even preached in that language for the newcomers from Aruba and Curacao.

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Farmer going home with cane tops for his cows.

In a previous article I mentioned that two distant Dinzey relatives who migrated from St.Kitts to the Dominican Republic had gone forth and multiplied. One had 54 children and the other had 38. And so you can see that the reason why they (the Dominicanos) are now here is because WE were once there. *******

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Harvesting cane on one of the great plantations in Cuba.

Literature consulted: Dr. J. Hartog “De Bovenwindse Eilanden.” De Wit Stores N.V. 1965 Richardson, Bonham C. (Caribbean Migrants: Environment and Human Survival on St.Kitts and Nevis.The University of Knoxville Press 1983 Frank Moya Pons: History of the Caribbean. Marcus Wiener Publishers, Princeton 2007

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Many Sabans went to Bermuda to work for the dry docks there and as prison guards for the South African prisoners of War during the “Boer War.”

Dr. George Hopkins

Dr. George Hopkins

Dr. George Hopkins as a young doctor when he first arrived on Saba.

Doctor George Hopkins

Dr. George Richard Hopkins graduated from Tufts College Medical School on June 17th, 1908. There was also a student from Barbados at Tufts and he told Doctor Hopkins that the Dutch Government was looking for doctors to serve in the West Indies colonies. Doctor Hopkins started working on Saba in 1908. Exactly one hundred years ago. He came to the island with his wife Lucy Graham Hopkins and baby daughter also named Lucy. Doctor Hopkins sister-in-law, Flossy Rayfuse visited Saba a few years later. She died at the age of 93 in California.

She wrote about Saba as it was at the time. I got a copy of what she wrote years later from Lucy who lived in Florida.

I would like to share her views on Saba which she entitled: “Dr. G.R.Hopkins on Saba.”

“About fifty years ago the Colony Curacao (six islands) was very poor and the Dutch in Holland had great trouble to find doctors to come here. Every well-educated man wanted to go to the Dutch East Indies, rich islands where a lot of money was made.

George was just a few months from the end of his studies. He was married and Lucy was already born, so he was on the lookout for a job to begin with as soon as he had his doctor’s title.

He had a class-mate a Barbadian, who had a sister, a nurse. This nurse had a love affair with an Englishman who worked for the Dutch in St.Eustatius (the love affair must have been going on during their stay in a Baltimore hospital).

One day the Barbadian nurse wrote to her brother that she had heard from her sweetheart (the British doctor) that there was a vacancy for a medical man on the Dutch island of Saba and she wanted to know if he was interested. He told George about it and said at the same time that he did not want to go to Saba. He was a Barbadian and he intended to go back to Barbados. So George asked him;”If you are not interested, why not get the information for me? Do you object to that?” The Barbadian did not, so he wrote to his sister. They received the wanted information and George applied to the Dutch Government.

Dr. George Hopkins and his wife Lucy, Saba 1910.

Dr. George Hopkins and his wife Lucy, Saba 1910.

Months passed, both forgot about it. George started to look around for a place to establish him self and he had already decided on some village around Rumford (Maine). He had visited an old doctor there and the old man had told him there was an opportunity for a young doctor. It would have been too expensive to start a practice around Boston, but George thought that in the backwoods he would only need a horse and carriage; in winter a sled and snowshoes and the office would have been in the front-room of his house.

“All at once there came a reply from the Dutch Government in Curacao. George had given references with his application. They had made enquiries and the job as a doctor in Saba was offered to him. The letter was in Dutch, so there was the first difficulty. He had a Belgian neighbor and went to him, and this man knowing Flemish pretty well translated the letter. The salary offered was f.2500.—yearly minus 8% for something. The Belgian could not figure out what for, so George decided that must be some kind of graft. He decided to agree to that, but the “f” was considered by the Belgian as being francs (then $0.20). George decided he could not live on that and wrote back that he was willing to come but not for fcs.2.500.—but for fcs.5.000.–, so again nobody expected that anything would come of it. Another surprise followed, the Dutch Government wrote him that the salary was really what he wanted as f.2500.—meant florins just twice the amount of fcs.2.500.—as he thought he would receive and the 8% reduction was for his pension.

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Lucy Hopkins and her sister Flossie riding horses on Saba.

“After further information George decided to accept the Dutch offer and start his career as a doctor in Saba. First he had to find out where this island was situated. He found the little spot in the Caribbean. All the preparations were made and George, wife, and baby Lucy journeyed to Saba, by British boat from New York via the Danish islands of  St.Thomas, St.Croix to St.Kitts. From this last island by small sailing vessel to Saba where they landed, just when it was getting dark on Fort Bay on August 30th, 1908, eve of Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday.

There was a horse for George to be transported on up the steps to The Bottom (capital

of  Saba in the old crater). Wife Lucy & Baby Lucy were carried up in a chair. On the

way up Mrs. Hopkins heard a funny noise from her dark environment and asked one of

the carriers: “What bird is that?’ Kind of astonished he replied “Ma’am that is a goat!”

Part of the information the Hopkins family received before departure was faulty,

Especially one fact was very annoying, viz. they had been informed they need not

bother about house furnishings etc., as you could buy all those things on Saba. On arrival

they discovered that except food and a few little items nothing could be purchased in

Saba and as the hurricane season had started no sailing ships were risking trips on the Caribbean, so the doctor’s family lived for months in a house wholly furnished with borrowed goods, but the population was very nice about it.

Dr. & Mrs. Hopkins and children, Belle Plaine, St.Martin

Dr. George Hopkins when he owned the Belle Plaine estate in French Quarter, St. Martin.

Although George did not know anything about Holland and Queen Wilhelmina, he enjoyed especially the celebration of Queens Birthday one day after arrival in Saba.

Most of the transportation was done on horseback on mountain paths and partly on steps, cut out of the side of the mountain. Mrs. Hopkins became an expert horse-woman and George had the honour of designing the first divided skirt for riding in Saba. Side-saddle was too dangerous on those trails. George’s mother was a dress-maker, so in his youth he had seen a lot of models etc. and being rather handy he understood how the shape of the horse-back riding skirt had to be, so the doctor and a few women started on this experiment and it was successful.

George had a pretty good surgical training in his last year as an intern in a hospital, so because of the hurricane season, and the only way to get out of Saba was on a sailing-ship, he was pushed into doing rather serious operations. His assistants were the schoolmaster and the shoemaker, the operating table was the kitchen table.

In the beginning George did only refractions, but as time went on, he understood he might be able to help the people there by doing cataract-operations. Even when transportation was possible most of his patients in Saba could not afford to go somewhere else to have an operation. So with the help of his medical text books for theory and sheep’s eyes as practical material, he started on his career as eye-doctor.

Life was fairly pleasant on Saba. Food was sometimes kind of monotonous, especially when you were virtually shut off from the rest of the world during hurricane season. Canned salmon and chicken was very much on the menu. Once in a while somebody came to ask you if you wanted meat, and if there were enough customers some man went out to shoot a goat. If he was successful you had a roast the next day. If not you tried to find a new method to prepare chicken or canned salmon.

Dr. George Hopkins

Another photo of Dr. Hopkins.

Fresh fish was available quite often and sometimes turtle. There was never beef, once in a great while veal.

In the course of 1910 Mrs. Hopkins left on a trip to the States. She was pregnant and expected to have the child in the States, but she changed her mind and in August decided to go back to Saba. Landing in Saba is always some kind of adventure. The ship stays off-shore. Blacks come to meet her in a rowing boat and you are launched ashore through the surf. Nearly always you are soaked through when you step on land.

When Mrs. Hopkins arrived the sea was especially rough. Landing in the Fort Bay, the most convenient one was impossible. So the ship had to go to go to the Ladder Bay and a rowboat met her there. Mrs. Hopkins was 8 months pregnant and not in the best condition to go through that kind of adventure, but she was there and had to land. The miracle was performed and a big strong black man took her upon his shoulder and carried her up the mountain to meet George there. He went out to meet her from the Fort Bay, but they could not come back the same way. Part of the way higher up a horse was available to carry her to The Bottom. There are also steps cut out of the mountain from the Ladder-Bay, but they are too steep for horses, so big husky black men do the job.

( The baby , George Thomas Hopkins, was born on Saba on September 30th, 1909 and delivered by his father assisted by a local midwife.)

Saba is one of the West Indian islands where the population is proportionally dominating white. Very few mulattos’, that shows there is hardly any mixing of races. Whites and blacks live in villages very near to each other, but very definitely apart. That was in 1910, how it is now we do not know.

Population mostly old men, women and children; younger men were mostly sailors. They had in that time their own navigation school. Young men started early to go to sea, then they came back and generally got engaged to get married. Generally stayed long enough after the marriage till they were sure that a baby was expected, then, took another trip again to make money to support the family. Then on their next stay home generally another baby was launched.

Lucy Hopkins-Rayfuse, with maids Ella and Lillie-Saba 1908

Lucy Hopkins with her maids and two children on Saba.

Lots of the white sailors from families of The Bottom became first mates and Captains of big ships. They generally reached better positions than those belonging to Mary’s Point, they became bosons etc. Saba sailors have a very good reputation.

Only thing the island exported was white potatoes, very good quality, grown on the mountainside on terraced plots. The women make a very nice kind of needle work, which is widely appreciated.”

So far the description of life on Saba one hundred years ago written by Flossie Rayfuse

In the early 1960’s Dr. Hopkins received from Governor Cola Debrot the  distinction of Knight in the Order of Oranje Nassau for his services to the Netherlands Antilles. After some years on Saba where he also serviced St.Eustatius he moved to St.Maarten, on March 31st, 1911. There he bought the Belle Plaine estate from Diederick Johannes van Romondt. During his European vacation in the First World War he served as a doctor on the hospital ship “The Hope” which accompanied the fishing fleet, and then he moved to Aruba after which in 1932 he was transferred to Curacao.

Dr. G.R. Hopkins was born in Brewster Maine on June 7th, 1884. He worked as government doctor from 1908 to 1934 after which he retired from government service.

He then started his private practice as he was an eye specialist in the meantime. The practice he had on Saba on the people there and using his sheep’s eye had done wonders for him. His office was located in the “Heerenstraat”. He died on Curacao and is buried there.

I have a file with many of his documents including a copy in French of his bill-of-sale for “Belle Plaine” estate which he bought in 1912.

In ‘Saba Silhouettes” by Dr. Julia Crane, Mr. Carl Hassell tells the story of Dr. C.A. Shaw, who was on Saba from February 1899 to February 1903.

He relates; “Meantime there was no doctor on Saba then. Finally in Barbados we get talking. The man out there used to come aboard and sit and talk; and finally we found out he was a doctor, one looking for a job. Well, the captain told about Saba had no doctor, and perhaps he might be able to come here and get the job. So, all right, the captain of the schooner belonged to St.John’s. He says, “Yes, yes, I will give you free passage to Saba.” All right we came along and we introduced him to the office, but the office said he would have to go to Curacao and pass examination and so on. But then he had no money. He was just in his pants and shirt. He was from Nova Scotia. You had to travel by schooner from here to Curacao – what they call a packet that run once a month. You get there in a months time and back. So we took a collection here on the island. He done quite a few jobs while he was here. The government give him permission to work, you know. He remained here about a month, and finally we get together enough money to pay his way to Curacao; and exactly they accepted him. The government of Curacao accepted him, sent him back, put him in his position, and he was a splendid doctor.

“ We had the office for the doctor  where the post office is now. There was a room in that building. Well the building was only half the size that it is now, where the doctor used to tend. Oh, boy! There was nothing that that man couldn’t do in the line of surgery and all of that, you know! He done some wonderful jobs here. He was in Saba about three years, I guess, then they shipped him to St.Maarten, and he tended both places. Great Bay and the French side, and the Dutch side. The French side had no Doctor either, so he used to do both jobs. Well, he got up to be big, earning plenty of money, and he got to be rich. He got to be so …kind of sarcastic, you know on these places – the places that had helped him, raised him to get somewhere. He got so then that he didn’t like Saba or its people. Well, they shipped him to St. Maarten and he did the same there. He didn’t use the people like they felt they should be used; and he left there and went to St.Kitts, head of the hospital –bigger job- some other doctors under him then. He remained there till he died. His name was Shaw. But he knew his business, there was no getting out of that. Wonderful operations that they performed here in this island. We had a lady up here on the mountain. I believe it was appendix or something; anyway it was so it was life or death. She either had to die or have the operation, and he did it. She came out all right. He wasn’t grateful for what the people of Saba did for him. After he got so he could handle himself, he had his own way. Why, he wanted to be head of everybody!”

Doctors were important enough in those days to warrant mention in “Memories of St.Maarten” by Josiah Charles Waymouth.

In Chapter V he mentions;” At his departure, as already detailed, the writer had left in his island home, doing duty pro temp. as government physician, in the place of Dr. Shaw, Dr. Cristensen.

“On his return to Philipsburg on 23rd May 1911, after his 4 years absence, he found Dr. Hopkins in the occupancy of that position.”

In Chapter  VI for the year 1913, Mr. Waymouth mentions the following;  “Dr. Shaw returned to this island on 28th September and relieved Dr.Hopkins who left us on 2nd October and has since then been continuously at the other islands – his first station having been Saba.”

For those who want to read all kinds of other information on the life of a doctor on a small island I would like to recommend reading Doctor Robert Mols’ book:” Doctor on  Saba.” Also for those who think it is difficult today just imagine being held down by the schoolteacher and the shoemaker while the doctor takes out your appendix on the kitchen table without the help of an anesthetic.

Will Johnson

REPORTING THE NEWS

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Aerial view of the peninsula with Fort Amsterdam where the radio-station was located.

REPORTING THE NEWS

By. Will Johnson

I am a hoarder of paper of all kinds. Regrettably though in my moving from place to place as a revolutionary and young bachelor I lost many documents which is a source of much regret today.

Thankfully, there are some things which still survive however. One of the files I have goes back to 1966 when I replaced my colleague Sydney Lejuez as the local reporter on the Voice of St. Martin. Sydney had gone on one of those long vacations we used to enjoy as civil servants back then and so I was asked by the Rev. Brother Bob Mayer to take Sydney’s place.

Somehow I kept nearly all of the news broadcasts which I did between 1966 and 1968 and I have them in their own file. There is a lot of historical information in that file, but I want to only give my own experiences with the station in this article.

In going over the file turns out that I was paid fls.25.—per month to collect and broadcast the local news. Out of this I paid Mr. Alcile Lake who worked at the Philipsburg Utilities Store, fls.15.—per month to pick me up at Captain Hodge’s Guesthouse and then to drop me off after the news was over. So obviously I was not doing this for the money. When Alcile could not make it, Brother Mayer would pick me up. I remember once he picked me up at the Pasangrahan Hotel. I came into the car with my unfinished beer in my hand. He protested and said he could not allow me in the car with a bottle of beer. So I waited until I had finished the beer and got in the car and we took off for Fort Amsterdam where the radio station was located.

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Little Bay Hotel with in the distance Fort Amsterdam where the radio station was located and where I gave out the local news between 1966 and 1969.

There were times also when I would walk to the station and back to town via a stop at the Little Bay Hotel and meet friends there for a drink.

It would be easy for me to pretend now that it was as easy as a piece of cake. For me it was a nerve racking experience. Never having been on radio before and thinking on who all were listening out there was a big problem for me. However after a few broadcasts I acquired my own little fan club. After each broadcast a Mr. Reed from Mt. William Hill would be the first on the phone to tell me:”Mr. Johnson, wonderful job tonight, you are the best etc.etc.” I remember Mr. Reed always with a long cigar. I don’t even think he smoked it. More for effect than anything else. This was before local television. Mr. Reed had brought a television and outdoor antenna from Aruba and found out that he could get a couple of television stations in Puerto Rico from his location. He transformed his living room into a sort of television viewing theater. If you wanted to watch television you could pay one guilder and spend a couple of hours watching Spanish language television. Not much Spanish on St. Martin back then but Mr. Reed did get his customers as television was a great novelty back then.

With my broadcasts I got a head start for my later political career. I was the first Saba person at the time (1966) to be broadcasting on a radio station and people on Saba were pleased and proud to hear my voice.

In this article I will share with my readers some of the comments I got from family members and the reaction of others to my first broadcast.

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Visitors to the old Fort overlooking the Great Bay harbour.

But first some more interesting things which I remember from those days. One late afternoon while I was walking up to the station I noticed a mass of dark clouds coming in from the direction of St. Barth’s. As I came into the station Brother Mayer was giving out the weather report. This consisted of looking out the window in the opposite direction from where the weather was coming. He predicted that the islands were in for a prolonged period of good weather. The local news and the weather report were requirements for him to maintain his license. By the time I was finished with the news the storm cell which I had seen coming up to the Fort was already dumping loads of water on the island. I will not tell you that St. Martin has not had more major rain events than that night. But believe me that night’s rain and the resulting flooding can be counted among the major rain events which the island experienced outside of the hurricane season. So much for Brother Mayer’s weather reporting.

After the news a friend called me and thanks to her picking me up at the station I was able to get back to town that night.

I remember fondly Brother Rogers from St. Kitts who did part of the religious programming. He worked for Brother Charles Vlaun of F.W. Vlaun & Sons who sponsored the radio station and all of Brother Mayer’s church activities on St. Maarten.

One night when I was reading off the news I happened to look up and in the next studio through the glass I saw Brother Rogers buckled up with the laugh. Realizing that I had to mention that name at least twice again in the broadcast I got real nervous. The headline was that the ALM had acquired two FOKKER airplanes. Who tell the man with that name to give the name to his planes as well? His name was already messed up for English speaking people as it was.

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A view from the sea of the Fort and the radio station with the antenna to the left. I was the Local News reporter there from 1966 to the end of 1968.

The next day when my friend Lorenzo de Lain was passing down the alley by the Courthouse he poked his head in the Post Office where I worked and shouted out to me:” Will, when are those two FOKKERS coming again?” So you can see why poor Brother Rogers had a problem dealing with my broadcast that night.

Sometimes I would even get in trouble with the politics as well. I remember one night on my way to the station I stopped at the Seaview Hotel bar to fire one with Claude and Clem. They gave me a news item which I should have avoided. They were at war with then Commissioner Charles Vlaun and let me know that they intended to bring in a new Commissioner. I worded it in such a way that it was not specifically directed against Mr. Vlaun, however he knew what was going down. After the broadcast he called me and told me the story and in a nice way suggested that not to let anyone use me. Let them come out with their own press releases. And I took his advice after that.

In that old file I found things which I don’t even remember. A resolution from August 12th, 1968 changing the resolution on hurricane preparedness article 11 whereby the Head Command Post was put under the responsibility of the Lt. Governor, and the Head of the Department of Public works A.C.Wathey (who though Senator had to have a job). Senators back then got a stipend of f.75 guilders a month and in 1986 I used to get f.750.—a month. The other members of the Head Command Post were Johnny Siegers, William S. Johnson, Joe Richardson, and John Vlaun. That position must not have lasted very long as soon after that I was at war with the establishment and was thrown off every committee I was on.

These are some of the comments which I received after my first broadcast. My mother wrote:

“My son,

I just came from Eric’s listening to your dear voice. It sound like you was in the room with us.  Van Delden and Eric said you can do your stuff. Eric had gone out the first night but Mathew (Levenston) called me up to give me joy of my son. They are all praising you. Some will be jealous. Anastacia asked where you was when she heard your voice. Oh my son all your mother can do is pray God to take you in his care. You are cut out for something. Virginia (Rogers) says they won’t want to listen to Sid after hearing you. I wrote you for Thursday but this is just to tell you that I heard your dear voice.”

Of course a mother would say those things. The next letter is from my brother Freddie, teacher, oldest brother and lecturer to me as to how things should be done. Letter dated September 9th, 1966.

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From Fort Amsterdam where the radio station was located looking towards the town of Philipsburg.

Dear Will,

We listened to your Local News Cast on Tuesday night, it was very good, but try and not do like Uncle Sid and give out news that’s 2 weeks old. You should slow down a bit. Evered (Jackson) got on something about it. He says when he heard you start talking he demanded for Carlos (his grandson) to keep his mouth shut. Maybe this is something for your local news cast, namely the changing of the school system in Saba. Maybe you already know about it.

All the children from the 4 villages go to the First grade in the Windward Side, also 3rd + 6th grade are in the Windward Side. 2nd, 4th, 5th and 7th grade are in the Bottom, in this there is a teacher for every grade, where formerly a teacher had to contend with 2 classes. The Government pays for transportation from the different villages. And Spanish and French are taught in the highest grade.

Listened to the local news tonight and it was very good. I hear the Dornier will be on the run the first week in October.

My Brother Freddie’s main concerns were the schools and the airline as you can see.

My brother Eric wrote on September 17th, 1966: “I didn’t listen to you last night. I had to go to the Bay for the mail. Guy has 2 weeks off and Kenneth is sick.

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There was also a lighthouse in the Fort which Mrs. De Weever and her husband used to take care of. Also a signal station for the boats entering the harbor.

When you spoke Wednesday night some of the rummies that hang around Carl (Hassell) was listening to you and when you was finished, Mr. Carl told them:” Dog gone it, have a drink on the heads of that boy.” Some of the critics here or jealous people have some remarks to pass. I hear the Dornier will soon be on the run again and they expect the Twin Otter in December.  Carlton (Riley) told me you was here on the speed boat. I was going to go to the Bay but after I didn’t see her anywhere coming I went to my sleep. “And then he goes on with several articles which I can use for the local news cast.

And the more things change the more they remain the same. Here is a news item from around the same time: Theft at Oranje Café. On Sunday the Police Department was busy investigating a theft which took place at the Oranje Café in Philipsburg. According to reports a window at the back of the building was broken and the person or persons involved in the theft, entered through the window and got away with quite a sum of money.

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Mrs. de Weever checking on the light of the Fort. She and her husband and children took care of this for many years.

This is one of the latest in a series of such incidents which have taken place this year. Something which formerly was unheard of in Sint Maarten. We hope that the Police Department will be successful in their investigation as this matter is causing much concerns among local residents.”

These many years later when reading with incomprehension why there would be people who would be jealous or envious of such a thing as me giving out the news I am amazed. However now that I use Facebook as my personal newspaper and I read posts with comments against my son and I who work hard with only the general interest of the island and its people in mind, I realize that there are really envious and jealous people out there even if you do not have ill feelings towards them.

My lifelong activities have been determined by following the lives and the advice given by the great men and women of the past. In ending this article let me pass on the following advice from Antoine de Saint-Exupery, a writer: “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

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I am just posting this so that the reader can see the letterhead of Brother Robert Mayer.

CIAO!

Going to work for LAGO

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A nice view of LAGO when it was operated by ESSO.

Going to work for LAGO

By: Will Johnson

Before the two oil refineries started on Curacao (SHELL 1915) and Aruba (ESSO 1929) especially the men of the Dutch Windward Islands went to places like Santo Domingo to work in the cane fields or to Bermuda to work in the Dry Docks. Others moved back and forth to New York where the Sabans would mostly sail out from to the rest of the world. The men would send back their earnings to their families back home. The work in the cane fields was seasonal work and many of those who went to Santo Domingo, mostly men from St.Maarten and to a lesser extent to Cuba would return to the island after the cane cutting period was over. The oil refineries on Curacao and Aruba actively sought workers from these islands. Some 30% of the population left. After 1924 it took on such drastic proportions that the colonial government was concerned that the three islands population would be completely depleted. Seasonal immigration came to a standstill after 1924. On St. Eustatius by 1926 so many men, as well as now women also, had moved to Curacao that it had a lasting negative effect on agriculture there. Until 1932 Bermuda was still the favored destination for Sabans and to a lesser extent Statians who went to work there in the British Naval Dockyards and on the hotels which were being built there to accommodate the expanding tourist trade to that island. In April 1927 the first Sabans started moving to Curacao to work for the SHELL lake tankers (Curacaosche Scheepvaart Maatschapij). The islanders who remained here survived from the Postal economy brought about by those who went to Aruba and Curacao and sending money back to their relatives by Postal Money Order. Also by so many people moving out from the islands tradesmen from Anguilla, Nevis, St. Kitts and St. Barths started moved into the Dutch Windward Islands. Many people from the French side also went to Aruba and from the other Eastern Caribbean islands as well. I remember my uncle Captain Charles Reuben Simmons telling me that when he was Captain of the large schooner the “Mayflower” (147 feet length) in 1928 he took as many as 450 passengers with his last port being Nevis and within 48 hours was docking up in Curacao harbor. These were all people going there to look for work. On the return trip he would bring back as many as 100 workers who either did not like the place or could not find work.

Because of the decline in the working population the colonial government had to either stop collecting or abolish certain taxes such as land tax and even income tax. In 1927 there was only a birth surplus on all three islands of 60 children. Between 1920 and 1929 the population declined from 5609 to 4553.

Year                                        St. Maarten                          Sint Eustatius              Saba             Total

1920                                         2.633                                      1.315                          1.661           5.609

1929                                          2.180                                         965                           1.408           4.553

The populations of the three islands, even with new incoming immigrants from the neighbouring islands, continued to decline and remain small until the early 1960’s. Many of those who left from the leading families remained on Curacao and Aruba.

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A view of LAGO from the air when it was in full production.

The Reverend R. Colley Hutchinson in 1951 in a booklet commemorating the establishment of Methodism in Dutch St. Maarten had the following to say: “ The island families, of which the van Romondts and the Brouwers were among the most prominent, have almost entirely left or died out, and the older generation which was contemporary with them is quickly passing away. Those who would have been the natural successors are most of them living away. In their place an unceasing stream of immigrants from the neighboring islands supplies the craftsmen, manual laborers and domestic servants of today.”

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The LAGO CLUB was for top employees mostly.

In 1925 an agreement for a lease of 99 years was signed with the Dutch colonial government to build a refinery on Aruba. In 1927 a crude oil transshipment terminal was in place. The actual refinery started in May of 1928 and by January 1st 1929 the first refinery units were in operation. By December 1929 the refining capacity was 100.000 barrels a day. The crude oil was brought in from Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela by small 6000 tons capacity “lake tankers” as they were called. They were of a shallow draft as the entrance to Lake Maracaibo was not very deep and the sand was constantly shifting thereby making it difficult for any large tankers to enter the lake. Besides that the political situation in Venezuela was unstable and Aruba lies right along the Venezuelan coast and because it was Dutch territory there is still a false impression that if somehow Venezuela moves to take it over that the Dutch can put up any kind of fight to defend it.

Lago colony 1950's.

This was one of the many homes in the Lago colony which was for their United States employees.

When the refinery started up the island of Aruba had a population of only between six and eight thousand inhabitants. The ESSO being an American company actively recruited English speaking workers not only from the Dutch Windward Islands but also from the rest of the English speaking Caribbean at that time all of them colonies of Great Britain. During World War II and with the increased need for gasoline and other fuel products by the British in their epic struggle with Germany the production of the refinery steadily increased. However Venezuela set a plan in motion to eventually take over and to manage their oil industry. Firstly a production agreement was signed which capped the amount of Venezuelan crude which could be processed at the Lago oil refinery at 500.000 barrels a day. Secondly and most importantly a dredging program was started so that larger tankers could now sail through a channel directly into the lake. Also Venezuela started forcing oil companies to build large refineries on the shores of Lake Maracaibo. I have visited these refineries and they are huge.

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These were some of the tankers from the Lago fleet which brought in the crude oil from Lake Maracaibo. Many Saban sailors were employed on these tankers and when the refinery was attacked by a German submarine eight (8) Saban sailors lost their lives on the same night of the attack.

Many of the Sabans who went to work for the Lago worked on the lake tankers. I have a story in my book from Peter Every who was torpedoed on the “Valera” on March 7th, 1944 off the coast of Barranquilla, Colombia while carrying a cargo of fuel oil from Aruba to the Panama Canal. Walter Woods from Saba was also on board of the “Valera”. Peter ended up spending months in a hospital in Panama with a crushed leg. Others were not so lucky. On the night of February 16th, 1042 when the Lago refinery was attached by U-156 under the command of Capt. Lt. Werner Hartenstein, four tankers were destroyed and seven men from Saba lost their lives. In another accident in 1944 three more Sabans lost their lives on a lake tanker.

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Bruce Dunlock husband of Casseline Hassell one of the eight Sabans killed in the attack on the LAGO oil  refinery. He was a sailor on the tanker the “Pandelis”.Enter a caption

The last of the lake tankers was sold in 1954 and replaced by new large 32.000 ton tankers sailing under the Venezuelan flag and manned by Venezuelans. They were the “Esso Caripiti”, the “Esso Maracaibo” and the “Esso Caracas.”

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The “Three Sisters” one of the large Saban owned schooners which transported workers from all over the Caribbean to work for the LAGO on Aruba.

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The main gate of the LAGO oil refinery was very busy at the change of every shift. I spent Christmas of 1955 with my brother Freddie on Aruba and was fascinated by how busy it was back then when the refinery had eight thousand employees.

I remember once coming across a letter in the office once from Lago Manager L.G. Smith to Administrator Xavier Krugers asking him to encourage Saban men to come to Aruba to work, and he said he would prefer white men. I had to admire Mr. Krugers who was answering the letter in the nineteen thirties. He told Mr. Smith that he had posted a notice, but that Mr. Smith could not expect him as Administrator of a Dutch Island with different population groups to suggest that Lago only wanted white workers from Saba. Many are the stories I heard about the Lago from friends on all three islands.  In 1936 the Lago had 2810 employees of which 790 were from outside the Caribbean and were listed as the “skilled” staff. An American colony was created complete with hospital, schools, and houses and so on. The colony was completely sealed off so the “skilled” staff would not be contaminated by the local employees some of which were housed in “bachelor quarters” or in “The Village” with housing better left alone for this article. Many interesting Caribbean leaders started out in LAGO. I remember once Mr. Henry Earl Johnson telling me that Eric Gary was living in the “Bachelor quarters” in the same section with him. Someone came and called him and said that Gary had “gone off.” They all ran down and there was Gary wrapped up in a sheet and with something looking like a top hat and curtseying to a broom in the corner. When asked, Gary said he was only practicing for when Her Majesty the Queen would later Knight him. And after he engineered a strike on Lago and he was deported back to Grenada he started a Labour Union was elected Prime Minister and who said that Eric was not later knighted and became “Sir Eric.” His practice had paid off. The young man who overthrew Sir Eric, namely Maurice Bishop was born on Aruba. I remember sitting on the porch of the home of Prime Minister Sir Nicholas Brathwaite, overlooking his lovely city of St. Georges and talking about his years on Curacao and Aruba, when I was visiting Grenada with Senator Kenneth van Putten and a delegation from St. Eustatius. In the British islands many houses were known as “Aruba Houses” because the owners had built them with money made on Aruba. Mr. Paul Southwell, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts/Nevis who was born on Dominica also worked for Lago and many others from the islands.

Many prominent Sabans worked for the Lago, people like Cessie Granger, Sam Wilson, Mathew Levenston, Earl Johnson, John Woods, Christian Sorton ,Ernest Winfield, Arthur and Carl Anslyn, Leo Chance and so on. The only non foreigner to become a shift foreman in Lago was Mr. Leonard Hassell from Saba. Also some of our women like Joanna Martin-Johnson and others had high positions in the Lago as well. While a number of Sabans returned home, some remained on Aruba while others moved on to the United States.

From St. Maarten, people like Milton Peters, Joseph H. Lake, Sr., Alrett Peters, Alan S. Richardson, and Frank Mingo Sr. Many St. Martiners remained on Aruba and their descendants are prominent on Aruba. If you check the Aruba phone book you will see a large number of names of Windward Islanders living on Aruba.

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This is the schooner the “Mona Marie” with Capt. Laurie Hassell of Barbados/Saba leaving Aruba in 1935 with a load of gasoline for Barbados. He was already a Captain at the age of nineteen (19).

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The “Mayflower” was 148ft long. My uncle Captain Charles Reuben Simmons was her captain and carried as many as 450 workers on one trip from the Eastern Caribbean to Curacao, and of course he also carried workers to Aruba for Lago.

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Lago colony with the Lago Hospital. There was also a school. These facilities were for the United States employees and their families.

From Statia people like Vincent Lopes, Jan Thompson, Alfred Spanner, Grifford Canword, the brothers Ruford and Gifford Duinkerk and so on. Many Statians worked on Curacao for the Shell as well. In the attack of February 16th, 1942, among those lost was James Clarence van Putten(born St. Eustatius Dec.29th, 1913) fireman on the S/S San Nicolas, a great uncle of the Right Honourable Commissioner Clyde van Putten. Also lost from Statia that night, were John Otavan Dembrooke born Oct. 13, 1913, sailor S/S Pedernales and Hooker, William O. Born Statia January 17th, 1911, Fireman S/S Pedernales.  Many of the names mentioned in this article were personal friends of mine and countless are the stories I heard from them about the Lago. Cessie Granger who is still going strong in his nineties told me that my uncle Reuben Simmons who was his neighbor had given him his suitcase to go to Aruba with. He was put to work in the Dining Hall and on his 18th birthday got drunk and made a mess. The next day the German boss took him aside forgave him and Cessie now in his nineties has never drank or smoked from then to this day. He told me his biggest worry was if he had to come home what he was going to tell my Uncle Reuben who had given him the suitcase. Cessie told me just a few years ago that he still had the suitcase. And then my friends Alan Richardson and Frank Mingo who was always calling Alan the squawk box as Alan used to write a column in the Lago Union newspaper. Alan regaled me with stories of his days in the army during World War II. He was instructed to shoot on sight if he was on guard and the person coming to the camp did not respond to halt. Alan said when he heard a person approaching the gate he called out halt, and on the second call to halt with no response he let go at the person. The poor donkey was the only victim of Alan’s army camp duties on Aruba. I forgot to mention this when I did the eulogy for him so I am telling it now.

When the Lago closed down the refinery at the end of 1985 people in the village of San Nicolas were crying in the streets when the smoke stopped pouring from those chimneys. In 1955 when I first saw Aruba all the activity was in San Nicholas which was an English speaking town with its own peculiar accent. The accent developed out of the potpourri of accents from all over the English speaking Caribbean. The refinery had some eight thousand workers at the time and many of those still living and their children who were born on Aruba in that period in our Caribbean history hold cherished memories of those days.

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PETER EVERY

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Legendary sailor Peter Every. After he left the sea he retired to Saba and worked as a house painter.

Peter Every

The late Peter Every was born in Windwardside. In Julia Crane’s book “Saba Silhouettes” he describes his life as a young boy and his desire to go to sea. That was the custom back then. At the age of 13 you were considered old enough to go to sea as a cabin boy.

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Capt. Ben Hassell in black with whom Peter Every went to sea.

In an interview he said: “Well, you know, when I was a boy growing up, I used to be with those people there Under the Hill. Mr. Carl (Hassell) and their family lived Under the Hill, you know. We used to be around there with them, making messages and doing from one thing to the other for them. And Mr. Carl’s brother was captain of a schooner; he was captain of a schooner. In fact, he had must’ve been two or three of his own sailing vessels, you know. And every couple of weeks he’d be in here and any of the young boys who want to go to sea would go down and ask him to take them away, and he’d carry them. So I says to him one day, he was in, I said, “Captain Ben, I’d like to go aboard the vessel.” He said, “Go aboard the vessel for what? I said, “Well, I don’t know. Everybody got to go to learn.” He said, “Well, if you want to go to learn,” he says, “I’ll carry you.” And he says, “ Well, we’s going away Thursday, so go up and tell your mother to get your clothes ready and go aboard.” So I went home and I told my old lady. I said, “Well, I’m asked Captain Ben to carry me with him on the vessel, and he’s told me to get ready. He’s going back a Thursday.” She said, “My boy, you’s too small.” “Oh,” I said, “why that ain’t nothing,’ You got to grow.”

Well, anyhow, I decided to go. And I went aboard, and there was two other young boys there besides myself, and they said,” Peter, you think you’s goin’ make it?” “Well, I agoin’ try it.”

Peter goes on to describe his first trip at sea. “And we left here and we went down to the Virgin Islands, Tortola. Went down there for a load of livestock – horses and mules and donkeys and cattle. A whole pile of livestock we went down there for. Down in the hold, they had a whole bunch of them down in the hold, and they had a deck load, all livestock. And when they took ‘em in, he turned to we. He says,”Every morning you got to go between and pull out all that old dry grass and throw it overboard, so as that the water can run out. So I turned to one of the boys. I said, “Why wait, we got to go in between them bad horses and cattle and things, to take out all that dry grass, to throw o’erboard that the water can run out through the scuttle.”

He said, “Yes that we got to do.” I said, “Suppose one of them horses catch you in the back?” These bad horses,” I said, “is bad, you know, they’ll bite you in the back.” Anyhow, we went down, we took in the animals and we left to come back up.

We left to come back up, and we passes back in to Saba on the way up; and we went o’er to St.Eustatius, and we took in some more cattle there. And we sailed from there; we went to St.Kitts and took cotton seed from St.Kitts. And he said, “Well the last port is Montserrat.” We go to Montserrat. We went to Montserrat to take cotton seed oil to carry to Guadeloupe. And the vessel was properly loaded. Then we sailed out from Montserrat and we went back to Barbados, discharged all of this thing we had aboard there, cattle and cargo and everything else.

“You know, you don’t feel too good (when you first go to sea) because you miss all of those that you leave back behind. And, you know, especially for the first couple of days, you out there gettin’ wet with rain and sea and everything, and nowhere to hide. You all the time wishin’ that you was back home in the kitchen or somewhere around the house that you could hide.

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Peter Every was inspired to go to sea because his “heavy portly looking fellows” his uncles who sailed on these large schooners. This is a painting of the “Margaret Truph” which I have at home and the captains from Saba were Capt. Lockland Heyliger and Capt. Arthur Wallace Simmons of The Bottom Saba.

Going to sea, I tell you, is all right as long as you meets it working all right. But when you gets in bad weather and wartime, it’s awful out there. Oh yeah, yeah. My first trip on the sailin’ vessels from here, I was fourteen years old. I was fourteen years old. And I been sailin’ from then up to 1950, I quit.’

What motivated Peter to go to sea partly was his “big fat” uncles which he considered an asset.

“So when I made thirteen I was thinking about going to sea. You see I had two uncles used to sail onto these big American schooners; and every couple of months they’d pass in here, see. Every couple of months they would pass in here and remain here sometimes for two days. And I would see these big heavy, portly-looking fellas you know, and I always used to tell my mother that I’d like to go on a vessel to get big and fat like my uncle and they. Yeah, that always attract my nerves, you know, to see these sailors comin’ up in these big vessels, and big and fat and heavy-lookin’ men.

“My older brother, he went away when he was thirteen years old, went on a sailing schooner when he was thirteen years old. He never came back neither. He sailed around Barbados for must’ve been ten or twelve years, something like that; and then he shipped onto a schooner, American schooner in Barbados, that went to the States. And he never came back. He died over there though, three four years ago. He got knocked down on the sidewalk. A car knocked him off the sidewalk.

The late Harry L. Johnson interviewed him for my book “Tales from My Grandmother’s Pipe” and he told him of two adventures he had at sea.

The first episode took place in 1921. He could not remember the exact date. During the year in question he was sailing on a two-master schooner by the name of “Margie Turner”. At the time the vessel was under the command of David Hassell from Saba. The ship’s complement consisted for the most part of men from Saba, namely David Hassell, Peter Every, Phoebius Hassell, and Clifford Johnson.

Schooner Ina Vanterpool

Many Saban owned schooners were lost at sea sometimes with their entire crews. This is the “Ina Vanterpool” going ashore in Statia in the hurricane of 1928.

Peter stated that the “Margie Turner’ left Saba bound for Curacao under a fair breeze all the way. It was about forty-eight hours after their departure one afternoon that Captain David took a longitude sight and told them that towards midnight they would see the lighthouse in Bonaire. Exactly when eight bells were striking there was a thunderous crash and the ‘Margie Turner’ was ashore on a reef sixty miles to the West of Bonaire. (A sailor, who was striking the bell at the time of the incident, went head first down below into the cabin.)

The Captain immediately ordered the lifeboat over the side, and the crew headed for what turned out to be a barren reef about thirty miles long. There was neither water nor food on the place.

The following day the Captain, the mate and the cook left with the lifeboat and started to row for the island of Bonaire, sixty miles away.

As the dawn of each succeeding day broke over the heads of those left behind, their hunger and thirst became unbearable. They drank sea water which merely increased their thirst, and the only thing they could find to eat were the raw whelks picked from the reef.

One day they saw a schooner passing very close, and they tied a white piece of cloth on a stick to attract attention. But the schooner did not stop. Later it was learned that it was Captain Lawrence Johnson from Saba, on his way from Curacao to Barbados.

After seven horrible days on the reef a fishing boat from Bonaire came to their rescue when the disaster had been reported by the Captain. The fishing boat then took them to Bonaire.

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In the picture Fred Hassell on the left and on the right Peter Every and his wife Lean, 1950’s.

Peter Every lived to survive yet another tragedy in World War II.

He told us:” It was a sunny yet windy Saturday in mid-April 1943, when the ship I was sailing on eased from the oil docks of the ESSO refinery at Aruba, bound for Panama. Our ship “Valera”, one of the lake tanker fleet that plied between Lake Maracaibo and Aruba, was deeply loaded with heavy fuel oil. The skipper, Captain Russell, and the other officers were British while the other crew members were from the Dutch Antilles. Also on board was a Norwegian passenger as a sailor. The next day, Sunday, the weather worsened and our ship began taking waves over the bow. Sunday night at eight bells (midnight), I went to the bridge to relieve the quarter master at the wheel, who was also a Saban named Walter Woods. Shortly after Woods left to go aft, where the crew’s sleeping quarters were located, there was a sudden thunderous explosion. The ship felt as if she had been lifted out of the sea by a tremendous force while the men on the bridge were flung to the deck.

We all knew at that moment that we had been torpedoed. The “Valera” now lay dead in the water, and took a heavy list to port as oil from her ruptured tanks poured overboard. Captain Russell ordered the life rafts thrown overboard and to abandon ship. There was a sound of tortured metal as the ship, her back broken, parted in two. As the two halves drifted apart, we could see the men on the stern section lowering the lifeboats. The Captain and I were the last two left on the bridge, the others haven taken to the rafts, which were still alongside. The Captain ordered me to the raft, saying: “The Captain is the last to leave.” I tried to persuade him to come with me, but he refused to do so. The bow section of the ship was now so much listed, that it was necessary for me to climb down a pipe in order to gain the deck which at times was buried under water. I clung to the rail, waiting for a chance to jump in the raft, when I heard the Captain yell’ “Look out Every!” Thinking it was something about to fall on me from aloft, I glanced up. I felt a terrific blow against my thigh, my hands were torn away from the rail, and I was flung over board, landing a sprawl on the raft. The men on the raft, realizing that I was injured tried to make me as comfortable as possible. Captain Russell was now clinging to the wing of the bridge and was in danger of falling. We called to him to jump. Unfortunately, when he did, he fell in the oil that was still pouring out of the ship. He went down under and never surfaced again. There were now five on the raft: the first and second mate, the chief steward, the Norwegian sailor and myself. The bow section of the “Valera” sank shortly afterward, but we could see the stern section still afloat in the distance. Just after daybreak, a huge wave struck the raft, washing me overboard. I surfaced partly under the raft and might have drowned. Luckily the Norwegian sailor saw me. He hauled me out and lifted me back on the raft. I am very thankful to that young giant who saved my life.

About midday a huge hammerhead shark bore down on the raft. For a moment it seemed that he was actually going to attack us on the raft, but at the last moment he died under us. For hours afterwards the monster circled the raft while we watched and held on to the ropes, in terror of being washed overboard to be eaten by the creature. Suddenly the shark changed direction and headed for the raft and again dived underneath us, but this time he got stuck when halfway underneath. Our raft began to shake and heave, as the beast struggled frenzied to free himself. For hours this continued, until eventually his movements lessened and then ceased entirely. Our raft how had a man-eating shark as passenger down there.

On the morning of the second day, the stern end of the ship disappeared, and neither raft nor lifeboats could be seen. The first mate rationed the food and water, saying it might be days or weeks before we could be rescued. Then on Saturday morning, seven days after our ship was sunk, a Catalina flying boat appeared, circled above us and dropped a flare, indicating that help was on the way. Sure enough, three hours later and American cruiser came up with a bone in her teeth and stopped near us. A landing net was put over the side, by which means our men climbed on board with the assistance of sailors. Because my hip was broken I had to be taken on board on a stretcher. One of the warship officers asked:” What is that thing under your raft?” The first mate replied: “That thing is a hammerhead shark that has scared the hell out of us.”

A couple of minutes later there was a sound of rapid gunfire and shark and raft were chopped in pieces.

I was taken to Panama, where I was hospitalized for six months, and then sent to Aruba, where I learned that two others of our crew had suffered broken bones. Our Captain, a fine man and a good seaman, was the only casualty.

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Captains Quarters Hotel when it was under construction.

Peter retired to Saba and became a house painter. He spent his last years on his native Saba and this is what he had to say about the island:

“I heard one tourist speaking down there, by Captains Quarters, that he said the onliest thing that this place wants is a beach. But different to that, he said, the climate is the whole thing. Fresh air and everything, he said. When you stand to look at the hills, he said, the green trees and everything, the climate is the whole of it. Nice fresh breeze and everything. St.Maarten, he said, between the heat and the sand flies….Yeah, they really like here. Yeah, they really like here. The onliest trouble with here is there’s no beach, you see.

“I’m all right here, comfortable here, oh yeah. I always said that if I had to live anywhere different to here, I would live in Nevis. That’s something like here, quiet and nice. It’s one-road traffic, you know. Only one main road all the way around the island and it’s a nice li’l quiet place.

“Well the best place, I believe, in the whole atmosphere is right here. Yeah, oh yeah. It’s a nice li’l place to live. No one trouble you, you almost do as you like. Yeah, almost do as you like. No man says anything to you. You troubles nobody and you lives very good here.”

* * * * * * *

Alberteens Girl

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Mrs. Maria Liberia-Peters, here in Santiago de Chile. I have other photos of her somewhere in my computer. When I find them I will update the article with some of them.

ALBERTEEN’S   GIRL

It was a tumultuous opening of the new parliamentary year 1986. A fragmented and weakened Netherlands Antilles was being launched on January 1st.

Aruba after years of bickering and non-cooperation with Curacao had just achieved its own separate status conditioned with independence after ten years. Mayotte and Aruba are the only two places I am aware of which gave up independence, later on, to climb back up into the lap of a perceived European mother.

The National Party had obtained the most parliamentary seats of all the parties running for office on Curacao.

On Curacao it is customary to declare a winner out of several parties running for office. The newspapers regularly declare a party with 4 or 5 seats out of a total of 14 seats as the “great winner”. This is confusing to the other islands. To be a great winner in our books you should have at least 8 or more seats. Other than that you are only the largest party.

On the night of November 25th, 1985 I went to the radio station to thank the people of Saba for having given me a personal vote of 57% of the votes cast. When I got to the station I was told that Leo Chance had been waiting on the telephone for almost an hour for me to arrive there. He wanted to talk to me urgently and said he would wait on the telephone until I arrived.

He did not congratulate me if I remember correctly. He immediately asked me if I would bury the hatchet with Claude Wathey and form a government. I told him I would form a government with anyone who could bring parties from Curacao to the table who represented at least eight seats in parliament.

Mr. Chance told me that he and Mr. Wathey had the eight seats on Curacao already. This was only two hours after the polls had closed on the five islands. Chance obviously had done his job. He had been in contact with all possible parties which could form a government, except the National Party obviously. Two days later on Curacao Chance proved to me that he could deliver the eight from Curacao at a meeting between parties in the Plaza Hotel. All of this took place without the press even being aware of what was going on.

On December 5th, Maria who was then Prime Minister came to help us celebrate Saba Day accompanied by her beloved husband the late Niels Liberia. While the ceremonies were going on we had already negotiated a coalition and signed the agreement at Captains Quarters Hotel with Maria sitting two tables away.

The next morning Maria invited me to have breakfast and informed me that someone from her party would be in contact with me in a few days about forming a coalition. I felt obliged to tell her the truth. In retrospect I can understand how upset she was. She was not to blame. I am certain that within her party someone should have been doing what Chance had done. The political culture on Curacao put the National Party to rest on its laurels after having been declared the great winner. As a student of warfare and a disciple of Machiavelli I realize that you are most vulnerable after a great victory.

Our political relations were off to a rocky start. I knew all about Maria’s political history to that point. I knew her personally as well. However I had always been in island politics in the Windward Islands. I was only now starting to work with political parties at the National level.

In the years between 1986 and 1988 Maria and her National Party was in opposition to our coalition and there was hell to pay with Maria as opposition leader. Holland is now talking about “Strong Women” as if they need encouragement. Maria taught us what it means to be a strong woman all the way back in the nineteen seventies. She came from generations of strong women who had to survive on this small rock while their husbands were roaming the seas of the world.

Often, in parliament I would hear Leo Chance referring to Albertine’s girl and Plantz’ boy (Rufus MacWilliam). He was doing it sarcastically of course and to draw attention to Maria’s Windward Islands heritage. I could not blame him totally. Much of the Curacao electorate was unaware that Maria’s father was from St.Maarten (Louis Peters) and her mother Albertine Hassell was from Saba. A taxi driver on Curacao nearly threw me out of his taxi one night on the way from the airport because of Maria. He was totally amazed that I did not know that Maria was from Banda Abou. I later heard him telling the other taxi drivers in front of the hotel what a stupid man I was that I did not even know where Maria was from.

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Maria’s mother was Alberteen Hassell from The Bottom Saba.

Maria’s parents like many other Windward Islanders had met on Curacao and Aruba while working for the oil refineries. Because of the language issue the people of the Windward Islands formed close bonds of friendship and marriage on Aruba and Curacao.

However Maria grew up on Curacao. Her political base and career are from that island. While we appreciate that her roots are from St.Maarten and Saba, we must recognize that she owes allegiance to where she was born, grew up, and was elected time and again.

Senator Kenneth van Putten of St.Eustatius, my old friend and sparring partner, used to tease her in parliament about her Windward Islands background. Sometimes while searching for the proper word in Papiamentoe she would use an English expression. Kenneth would turn to me and say loud enough for Maria to hear; “That’s Albertine talking.” And Maria pretending to be angry would look in our direction and say;”Look allyou two. Don’t humbug up my head, you hear.”

It is remarkable how certain things from your youth remain with you throughout life. It is as the author Charlson L. Ong wrote of his Chinese upbringing, “The words of infancy, the vessel of one’s soul, kept in some ancient sanctuary for fear of being lost in a thousand journeys across strange lands.”

After 1988 we worked in coalition with Maria. I must give her credit for defending her coalition as strong as she would defend her own National Party. She tried to keep the islands together in a period when the smaller islands were traumatized by the departure of Aruba. The smaller islands believed very much in the Netherlands Antilles, with Aruba. The Windward Islanders had helped to build Aruba. Through their elected representatives on the PPA party on Aruba and the Democrat Party on Curacao, Windward Islanders had enjoyed a relatively large measure of influence and authority disproportionate to the size of their populations on Aruba and Curacao.

The Minister of Finance was usually from Aruba and looked favorably on requests for financial aid from the smaller islands. Aruba was the balance needed in the political relationships at the National government level.

After 1986 the disintegration of the Netherlands Antilles started almost immediately. The Central Government officials charged with administering finances looked at the “Solidarity Fund” as a sort of separate government for the smaller islands and we got stuck with a contribution to that fund equivalent to that which the Central Government had spent on the small islands in 1982.

Maria on a recent visit to the Windward Islands in a statement lamented the animosity between politicians on the various islands and the acrimonious way in which the country was being broken up into separate constitutional units. While I can understand her point, the last eight years as Commissioner of Saba I felt oppressed by the Central Government. So much so, that with the same enthusiasm which I had campaigned in 1994 to keep the islands together, I felt pressed to prepare Sabans to leave the Netherlands Antilles even if it meant asking for complete independence from The Netherlands. An option, which could still be considered if the December 15h, 2008 agreement is not reached.

Saba honored Maria in 2005 with a plaque on Saba Day. We did this in the presence of another great Saban Father Simon Wilson. The ecumenical service was held in the Anglican Church in Windwardside.

I was sitting next to Maria when Father Simon walked in. As he was busy greeting the congregation, I asked her; “How do you think he would do in Curacao politics?” Without hesitation she replied;” Boy I ‘fraid’ he.”

So there you have it. This justifies Maria’s recent statement that there are still good relations between the people of the islands, in contrast to the acrimonious relations between the politicians.

In Holland recently at a lovely church in the ‘Spaansche Hof’, they were telling us of the Curacao priest ‘Pastoor Wilson’ who had filled up their church for the first time in ages.

After the ceremony I informed them privately that a correction was in place as he was from Saba. They were amazed and asked me how a Saban priest could lead the Curacao people like a pied piper wherever he preached in The Netherlands. I felt obliged then to tell them about Albertine;s daughter Maria who for many years had managed to do the same thing in the political field. At that point they concluded that I must be some joker who wanted to claim everyone for Saba as they were certain that Maria was from Curacao.

Much, if not most, of what I have today I got from Curacao. Whether it is discipline and values I got from Jongenstad Brakkeput on the shores of the lovely Spaansche Water. Whether it is the education I got from the Fraters of Mgr. Zwijsencollege and Radulphus College. Whether it is money I won with the Lottery and on a throw of the dice invested it in the Curacao mining company and did well, thank you.

While outspoken on political issues I hold absolutely no animosity against the people of Curacao and can only think back with fond memories of my teenage years spent there.

Once on St.Maarten in a heated debate with a gang of Wathey’s supporters at the Sea View Hotel bar, his friend and sometimes driver/bodyguard Mr. Nel Bergland told the hotheads who threatened me ”Quarrel with him all you want, but touch him and you got me to fight.”

I will say the same of Maria. Despite the political differences we may have had in opposition and in coalition, we maintained a good personal relationship and I can still consider her as a personal friend.

After the islands settle in to their new political status’ and the Netherlands Antilles will only be a memory, I am hopeful that The Kingdom of The Netherlands in their quest for strong women will start a “Senioren Convent” for the Dutch West Indian islands and that Albertine’s girl will be asked to lead such a “Senioren Convent.” After all she proved her salt as a woman, as Prime Minister, as loving wife and mother. The islands will still need the experience and wisdom of one who recognizes that the people of the islands do not have any differences among themselves.

Maria, girl, May God bless you and I thank you on behalf of the people of Saba whom I have been privileged to represent until recently, for all you did to help us in times of need.

Will Johnson

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