Alan Richardson, a great friend remembered.
By: Will Johnson
The relationship between him and I can be summed up in this brief letter from him to me dated July 24th, 1975.
What happened to you last week? Everybody almost was here for Claude’s mother’s funeral except you. God dam it man don’t you think that you should have come over for at least one day in order to pay respect to Mrs. Wathey?
All in capital letters of course as if it was a telegram.
I first met Allan in the nineteen sixties. After the 1971 elections in which I was barred from holding office, I started a column in the “New Age” which was highly critical of the Democratic Party and its leader Claude Wathey. So much so that in the fifth year of its publication the St. Maarten Star edited by Allan acknowledged that the paper had to thank me as it had only come about to counter the vicious attacks on the party by me and so they had to do something. Fact of the matter is that the column was very popular at home and abroad.
Allan must have gotten the name “Sqauwkbox” from our mutual friend the late Mr. Frank Mingo Sr. Whenever Mr. Mingo joined our company from the distance when he saw Allan, a look of glee would come over his face. Allan and Frank had worked together in the ESSO oil refinery on Aruba. Allan had a writing gene from his father, and on Aruba he had a column in the ESSO news I believe entitled “As I see it”, and so he earned the nickname from Frank and others of “Sqauwkbox”
In 1969 when I was running against Claude for the Senator’s seat, Allan avoided me like the plaque. Staunch supporter that he was of Claude Wathey and in a sort of business together, Allan figured better leave that friendship and see what the election result would bring. Anyway at some point later on we must have gotten back together. He was always good company and eccentric to the core. Paid all my bar bills for me just to have me around for conversation on local and international matters. Once a month I acted as his lawyer for an old lady which he rented a house from in Sucker Garden. In order to increase her rent she would lambaste him with religious quotations about his business activities and had she known she would have never rented him her house. It was my job to be his “lawyer” and put her in her proper place. For that once a month letter and my company as a drinking partner he paid all my bar bills and believe me at today’s exchange they would amount to a nice salary for someone. He changed bars from time to time depending on the company. For some years we would meet at the old Juliana Airport, also at the Sea View Hotel, Hunter House and so on. You could rest assured that sooner or later joining the table would be people like Clem Labega, Claude Wathey himself, Sam Hazel and so on. Everyone would be beating up on Allan and pulling tricks on him. One day at the airport bar which was downstairs in the old building he was showing off his new briefcase. Sam tried to open it to no avail. Allan informed all present that it had a combination lock and no one would ever open that briefcase. I picked it up and put in the combination 101. Well that briefcase opened with such a pop that the whole airport could hear it. Allan was furious. And it had other problems for him. He forgot to lock the briefcase back, and the next day he called to tell me the trouble I had put him in. With no combination lock on, according to him the wife had opened the new briefcase and found some compromising letters in it. To make matters worse I told him that I had bet with a number seller on the number 101 with the $20.—which he had given me and I had won a thousand dollars. He said:” So I guess you have money now I won’t be seeing you for some time.” But the next afternoon there we were sitting together again, telling jokes and enjoying each other’s company. I remember once walking into the Sea View Hotel to meet him and Clem Labega there. As soon as I walked up he said: “Well Henry Kissinger is in China.” Which China I asked him?
He shouted out at me: “Man (leaving off the expletives here), there is only one China and that is China.” There was a man sitting at a table close by taking down notes of our conversation. The next week in Time Magazine which Allan always read the headline was:”There is only ONE China and that is China.”
From a young boy Allan loved to read. He was an only child of his mother, from Anguilla. He told me that his mother was a maid and that she received ten guilders per month, and that he kept rabbits to help substitute the family income. He also delivered newspapers for the then popular newspaper “De Slag om Slag” (Blow for Blow). The editor was the well known “Broertje” Brouwer(Anthony Reynier Waters Gravenhorst Brouwer) son of Governor A.J.C. Brouwer. The printery was located in Brouwers home on the beach side of Front street just a bit down the road and across the street from the Oranje Café. Now Allan’s mother had not confirmed anything to him, but rumor had it that “Broetje’s” brother (Othon Egidius Henri Anthony Waters Gravenhorst Brouwer) was his father. The two brothers both born on Saba had married two sisters daughters of August Alexander van Romondt. One day as he was getting the papers together to deliver Brouwer came in from a heavy drinking bout at the Orange Café, looked at him intently and told him “Boy, I am your father, you know.” Brouwers wife, who was twelve years older than him and had always suspected the truth, overheard the remark from the next room and war was on. Many years after I met Allan I had been with him all day on St. Maarten and then came to Saba. That same night A.J.C. “Jan” Brouwer (son of Broertje) and also a special friend called me from Aruba. The moment he started talking I could hear Allan’s voice, the same intonation and everything. So I told him that I had been with Allan Richardson the whole day, and did he Jan Brouwer know him. “Know him? Man my father used to catch hell from my mother accusing him that she knew that he was Allan’s father and not his brother. So in fact we are brothers.” He asked me for Allan’s number and the next day, Allan called to tell me that Jan had called from Aruba to discuss “family matters.”
In any event Allan’s grandfather was Governor A.J.C. Brouwer(born in Parimaribo, Surinam of Dutch parents on 29.11.1858, who had served on all three Windward Islands for a total of no less than 30 years. In his book “In the shadow of the Governors), Mr. W.F.M. Lampe who as a young man worked under Brouwer said that Governor Brouwer was the smartest man he had ever known. His son “Broertje” whom we have written of before was a tall man some six feet and seven inches tall. You mostly associate rebelliousness with little men like Napoleon and “Papa Doc”.
Allan St. Clair Richardson was born on March 31st, 1921. I did not find a record of his birth so he may have been born on the French side or on Anguilla. His mother was from Anguilla, lived on the Back Street and there is where he grew up. He loved to read from early on and from this reading he developed a love for writing.
Allan went to Aruba at an early age. He resided there for a number of years and led a colorful existence and according to Frank Mingo, that Allan had been the same person in old age as he was when he was a young man on Aruba. He also served in the army during World War 11. Allan would regale us with stories about the war. One of the stories which I forgot to mention when I did the eulogy for him in the Methodist Church was the following. Allan had strict orders when guarding the army camp in the night if he heard any strange noise to call out “HALT” and then with no response to let go with all shots available in his rifle. One night, between sleep and wake, while on duty Allan heard a strange noise coming at the camp from the bushes. He shouted out the obligatory “Halt” and thinking it was a whole squadron of German soldiers he let go with everything he had. Well the whole army rushed out of their barracks with guns ready to help Allan in the struggle. On Aruba during the War a German submarine had attacked the oil refinery and as a result killed a good number of sailors on the tankers in harbor and many of these men were from Saba. So it is not as if Aruba had not lost any lives in the conflict. Well the poor donkey which Allan had riddled with bullets was not counted among the war dead on Aruba. But I do believe that the Aruban Government though belatedly should recognize the poor donkey shot by soldier Richardson as the only land victim of the Great War.
Allan did not live this one down with his friend Frank who with his usual teasing looks would say to Alan:’ hear anything more about the donkey lately?” And then Frank would belly up with the laughter at Allan’s expense.
I have so many stories I could tell about Allan. Space will not allow for all. Once I was out on a boat with Edward Buncamper and Commissioner Rene Richardson. I was not drinking at the time. Some twenty years I was on the wagon. When we docked up at the Great Bay Marina, there was Claude, his son Emile, Allan and some others. Rene in his cups was not in a pleasant mood and you could see that an argument was brewing between him and Claude. Allan did not want to get in the middle of that. Of a sudden he jumped up left his hat on the table and his drinks of course and some keys. He told us he was going to make a phone call. About fifteen minutes later the barmaid told me there was a phone call for me. No one in the world knew I was there. So I went to the phone and it was Alan. I said to him, “But I thought you were going to make a phone call?” He said:” Man this is the phone call, bring me my hat and keys to my house when you get a chance.” When I got back to the table, Claude turned to me and said: “That was Alan of course.” I answered:”How did you know it was Alan?” A stupid question on my part of course as if anyone knew Alan it was Claude.
Alan, after the “Star” started his own newspaper “The Clarion”. It seems that the more you write the more you like to write. After the incident with the briefcase Alan fortified his bedroom like Fort Knox, with six or more locks on the door, his own fridge inside, and desk for writing the paper. So when I did visit his house by the time he had opened all the locks at least a half hour had passed. I also got a German shepherd dog from him once. I named her Tanya, after Che Guevara’s German girlfriend as my cat was already named Che.
Alan and I remained good friends throughout. I came across a letter he sent me after I sent him copies of photos of his grandparents. His letter is dated November 23rd, 1983 and I quote from it;
“Willie me lad,
I am always glad to hear from you. I know having read the last several issues of the Clarion, after Bishop’s demise; you must be wondering how I stand with the C.I.A and the local anti-communist, anti-Castro, anti-socialist and ultra pro right wing holier than thou purists. –That’s quite a mouthful there, by the way.
Well the old man is still alive and kicking; but a little more wary than usual, as you would understand. And, I always value your critical opinion –pro-or-con. But the occasion for this letter is to thank you for your always thoughtfulness; in this instance sending me the “dope” on the grandfather. Believe me I appreciated it immensely, and I had a lot of fun showing my daughters the picture, and explaining things to them. Patsy immediately found some resemblance to him and me, around the area of the “nose” which is B.S. as you well know.
Anyway Will, once again, I appreciate hearing from you, any time. I will be putting the old grandfather, complete with picture in the next issue of The Clarion (Thursday, December 8th, 1983). And I’m going to let everyone know where and from whom I received it; among other things that people should appreciate about people like you.”
Please call me whenever you are in town, I’m always happy to talk with you.
Your old friend
P.S. Will, I envy your stationary, and I feel so ashamed of mine, I’m going to do something about it, pronto!”
Allan passed away on April 18th, 2003 and he was buried on April 28th, 2003. I was asked by the family to do the eulogy which I gladly did. I cannot put my hands on it but it was more or less along the lines of this article. Even the Anglican priest the Reverend Irad Hodge who churched him in the Methodist had a few humorous stories to tell about Allan to the amusement of family and friends present. As you can see, we were good friends indeed and may he rest softly.