The Saba Islander

by Will Johnson




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Police constables from left to right: Harry Johnson, Arthur Harold Johnson, and Richard Austin Johnson.

Arthur Harold Johnson who lives at Hell’s-Gate [1986] was born on Saba on April 12th, 1906. He has a brother Stanley, who is 96 and who lives in Richmond Hill, New York. His brother though crippled from a fall, at 96, still has an excellent memory and can recall events of the turn of the century as if they happened yesterday.

Harold (it is an old Saban custom to call people by their second name!)., worked  here on Saba as a boy helping his parents and doing what he could to carve out an existence from the soil as was customary in those days.


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Having a chat on the old Police Station in Windward Side. Left to right Algernon Hassell, Carl Hassell and Police Constable Harold Johnson.

In 1927 he went to the United States for the first time and stayed there for eighteen months and then came back to Saba because of the depression. While in the United States he worked on the ‘Georgia’. This was a riverboat which sailed from New York to Providence Rhode Island. It belonged to the New Haven Railroad Company. Many Sabans sailed on this riverboat from way back. Among them John Peter Hassell, McDonalds father Hazel Johnson, Stanley Johnson, Ainslee Peterson, Camille Johnson and others. The ‘Georgia’ could carry over 200 passengers and was longer than 300 feet. Another riverboat called the ‘Tennessee” belonged to the same company. They liked Saba people according to Harold. The riverboats used to run in the Long Island Sound. They sailed from pier 19 in the East river to Providence Rhode Island. The other riverboat the ‘Middletown’ used to go to Hayward Connecticut.

Harold’s brother Stanley (or Stanliss) used to sail out on schooners when he went to the United States. He worked on a 4 master schooner the ‘Albert F. Paul’ for a certain Captain


The ‘Albert F. Paul’ on which Stanley Johnson sailed.

Suthers, mostly along the U.S. coast as the home port of the ship was San Francisco.

Once Stanley saved the ship and crew in a 4 day hurricane when the captain took in with gangrene in his leg. They were bound for San Francisco. The Coast Guard managed to get him off, but Stanley stayed aboard the ship with a listed cargo of lumber and brought her safely to San Francisco a week later. He lived to make many trips to places like Argentina, Murmansk Russia during the Second World War, and at 96 he can still talk about it.

Harold’s other brother John Lawrence was a boatswain’s mate on the ‘Leviathan’, the cruise ship captured from the Germans in the First World War. Another brother James Lambert, was a well-known carpenter and builder on Saba and died in 1973.

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Capt. Edward Anslyn who was also Captain of the yacht the ‘Neara’ which belonged to the Sea Island Cotton Company. This is the ferry which he was captain of for many years and which ran between St. Kitts and Nevis.

In 1929, Harold came back to Saba via St. Kitts on the yacht ‘Neara’ captained by Capt. Edward Anslyn. Edwin Johnson and Reuben Simmons were both with them. Harold says he stayed at a boarding house in St. Kitts which was owned by a Mrs. Aggie Seaton.

After spending some months on Saba, Harold then went to St. Thomas in 1929 with the schooner the ‘Diamond M. Ruby” of Capt. Richard Austin Barnes. He said there was a whole set of Saba people on board. He waited for some time in St. Thomas and stayed at the home of Capt. Will Simmons, who hailed from Saba and who was harbormaster at the time there.


Hyman Kaliski Original

Hyman Kaliski, benefactor of Saban sailors.

Harold went on to New York. In those days all Saban seamen went to Mr. Hyman Kaliski at 27 South Street. He had a boarding house and clothing store there. Harold says he was an English Jew who lived in Germany before coming to the United States. Others have told me that Mr. Kaliski was a Russian Jew. He liked Saba people and for more than 40 years he made a room at the back of his st ore available to them. He carried items in his store which sailors needed. The Sabans used his store as a mailing address and a gathering place. He belonged to the ‘Macabees’, a masonic lodge, according to Harold.

In 1934, Harold came back to Saba via Puerto Rico. He started working for the Post office when Mr. Kruger was Vice Lt. Governor. Later during the Second World Ear, he entered the Police Force as a constable. This was the old military police. He remained in the force for 5 years and months and when the new style Police Force was introduced he left the force and worked for the department of Public Works until he retired.

Harold can remember a lot about the old days. He says that people today should not forget that as little as forty years ago anyone who had $100.—(one hundred dollars) was considered a rich person. People lived off the land and the sea and were happy.

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Police constable Harold Johnson of ‘Above-the-Bush’ at ‘Upper Hell’s Gate’.

Harold can also tell a lot of stories about how life was during the Great Depression in New York. As a matter of fact as bad as things seemed on Saba back then, according to Harold, life on Saba was a whole lot better than life in New York during the Great Depression and that is why he came back to Saba and stayed. We wish him many more years on Saba.

Taken from the ‘Saba Herald’ -1986.


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