If you misplace a book in my house you can forget about looking for it. Sometimes years later it will turn up stuck between my bookshelves where there are at least 2500 books. I tell friends (and now everybody) that my bedroom resembles the Public Library. I sleep in a huge four poster bed and the room is lined with shelves of mostly books on the West Indies. And then there is my office and most of the other rooms in the house. Books and paper everywhere.
And so it happened with Saban Rascal, a self published book by Carl Anslijn when he was 75 years old. I had asked all over if anyone had a copy of this book of childhood memories written by Carl, to no avail. And just this month the book turned up stuck between another book where I least expected to find it. A hint to the believers. Saint Anthony is your boy to call on for lost items. He always comes true. If you are a believer that is. The Muslims must have an equivalent for him as well. Abu Bakhr perhaps?
Carl and his brother Arthur were the sons of Edward Anslijn whose mother was from Saba and whose father was the famous Dutch Doctor Nicholas Anslijn. He in turn was a descendant of a famous Flemish educator who wrote one or more books on the subject of education.
In an interview in Saba Silhouettes by Dr. Julia Crane ,Carl describes his ancestry as follows:
“My grandfather first came here from Curacao as a doctor. That must have been in l875. My father (Edward) died at the age of seventy-two years. That would give him, let us say, l880 roughly when he was born. My grandfather was a doctor on Curacao, and he had been married to a Venezuelan lady whose father was a military man, and she had died. He came here when he must have been up around forty-five or fifty years, I imagine. Around fifty let us say. My grandmother was very young. She couldn’t have been more than sixteen or eighteen years. He fell in love with her and married her. He took her away to Curacao where they lived for some time. They came back up here then, and he died in Sint Maarten. He left her with three children. She stood here and she married a Saba man who believed that it was much easier to sit down than to work, and she had a tough life.”
Carl and Arthur were very ambitious,and hard working men. They both had an excellent education for their day on the island of Nevis.
Their father Edward was captain of the Luxury yacht the “Nearra” of the Sea Island Cotton company with headquarters on Nevis. The yacht was seldom used and in the hurricane season the yacht had to be sheltered in the Oyster Pond on St.Martin, on St. Barths or St.Thomas, but mostly at the Oyster Pond.
Carl used to tell me many stories about the isolation of the area when he was a boy with no one living there and no roads leading to it:
” In Saba Silhouettes he says:” You can imagine, two boys, my brother and I, in a place where there were practically millions of fish, lobsters, every kind of bird, wild goats, wild sheep, horses, cows, everything you could think of. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer never had the equal of what we had! It was one spree from morning until night, roaming the hills, swimming catching fish, boating, sailing, everything you could do. We were very healthy.
Of course it played hell with our schooling becuase in Sint Maarten living at the Oyster Pond, we could not go to school. The town was some miles away, and in those days there wasn’t cars running back and forth like now.”
In between Oyster Pond, Carl and Arthur lived in Nevis. He said: “We went to a very nice school, a private school that a lady educated in England kept for the Administrator’s children and so on. It was the people who had money, that could afford to pay for good schooling and not send their children to the government school. They sent them to Miss Bridgewater’s school because she gave them a better education. In Nevis I studied not only English but French, and we had Latin classes.”
His father Edward later became the captain of the ferry between St.Kitts and Nevis. He and Carl’s mother were divorced by then and he married a lady from Nevis. Carl’s sister Dr.Brontie Gonsalves-Anslijn and his brother the second Arthur known as “brother” are prominent people on Nevis. “Brother” used to run the ferry for years after his father died. I have occasional contact with them.”Brother’s” son Vaughn is a very talented painter and reminds me of his Uncle Carl.
Arthur and Carl were loving brothers all their life. Carl never married. Arthur had three children. Both of the brothers lived into their eighties.
As young men they bought the “Schotzenhoek Estate” on St.Eustatius for fls.5.000.–This is where the Statia Oil Terminal is now located. They bought it from the Every family of Saba/Statia origin. The first Every was Daniel James Hassell Every a brother of one of my great grandmother’s Adrianna. He married the daughter of a Zeelig who owned the plantation and moved to Statia in the mid eighteen hundreds.The Every’s branched out from Statia into St.Kitts where they owned “Brotherson’s Estate” some 900 acres the largest sugar cane plantation on St. Kitts. They also owned whaling ships, schooners, the “Pinney’s Estate” on Nevis and property on the Frontstreet in St.Maarten.
n the nineteen twenties they were struck with several misfortunes. They lost one son who shot himself accidentally while passing a gun through a barbed wire fence. Two others got lost in a hurricane on their schooner. Their only daughter married a captain of a whaling ship and moved to the U.S.A.
The Every’s spent their last years on Nevis. “Uncle” Carl Buncamper used to visit them and told me how much they missed Statia. They said that if they heard a bird it sang sweeter if they thought it had flown over from Statia to visit them.
Carl told me that Governor Johannes de Graaf was buried on the estate. He decided to dig out the grave but grave robbers had already gone with the golden sword which he supposedly was buried with. All he found was a finger bone. He placed it on the eve of the house above the front door. For two nights there was such an infernal racket on the roof that Arthur gave orders to take the bone back to the grave and bury it. The following night Governor de Graaf allowed them to sleep peacefully.
After several years Carl and Arthur sold Schotzenhoek for fls.25.000.– to a Dutch farmer Mr. van Rijswijk and they went to Curacao to manage two plantations for Dr.Maal whom they had known on Statia.
Carl said: “When you are handling a farm with about four hundred goats, two hundred sheep, a herd of cattle, and big cultivation, two men cannot run it. Arthur wanted to work twenty four hours a day and did not believe in letting a guilder stray from home through employed labour.” Carl wanted to go to church on Sundays and reflect on life, and so they decided to sell.
After Curacao they moved back to Aruba and Carl worked for the LAGO oil refinery. He was a favorite of Juanco Yrausqin of the PPA party and was also a top vote getter. He served as a Member of Parliament for Aruba for seven years. He was also five years a Commissioner and also served as a Member of the Island Council there.
When he was sick and ailing I had one hell of a time getting Aruba to pay him his pension. It seemed to me that all the leading politicians on Aruba were unaware of his career. Some even denied that he had ever been a Commissioner. In 1985 they had fixed up sizable pensions for themselves. How I was able to get through for him is too long for this article but he finally got something a few weeks before he died on Aruba.
Arthur came back to Saba in 1950 after their mother had died on Aruba.He brought a jeep with him. I think it was the first privately owned vehicle and the third one on Saba. As a little boy I used to help him. My job was to jump off the jeep and place a rock under the wheel while he switched gears. He named one of his two sons that he had by Phyllis van Putten after me. At least he told me,” If its a boy I am going to name him Will.”
Arthur also has a granddaughter on St.Maarten. Patsy the wife of Joseph H. Lake, Jr.
Arthur became Commissioner and Island Council Member on Saba in 1955 and served for twenty years in both jobs.
Carl returned to Saba in 1968 and he and I were in opposition to one another. He was not easy with his pamphlet “The Bulls eye”, but then neither was I with the “Saba Herald” After one election Carl declared Cessie Granger and myself the world’s two best eye specialists. He said that young people declaring to the voting bureau that they could not see well enough to vote, after being helped by one of us, were miraculously cured when they left the booth.
In l987 he suddenly decided to support me and stayed with me politically until he died.
In “Saba Silhouettes” Carl gave his reasons for leaving a successful political career on Aruba and coming home to Saba.
” All the years that I was away, I was looking forward to the day when I could come home and do what I am doing now., I say, well, that isn’t much of a goal for a man to look forward to, to come home and have a little garden and keep a flock of sheep and keep chickens and birds and peacocks and fish and all that. But it is a very peaceful existence,, and that is something that after so many years in politics, with all its intrigue and treachery, I learned to value the things we have here on Saba, more than a man usually does who is not involved in the rat race. So I yearned all the while for Saba and looked forward to the day I could come home and live as I’m living now.”
I thought I would share a part of Carl’s book with the readers. With certain groups in the Antilles trying to provoke Venezuela the story is timely as well.
On the eight of June l929 Rafael Simon Urbina and some of his Venezuelan supporters took over the government on Curacao. They took Governor Ir. Leonard Fruytier and garrison commander Borren on a ship with them, which they had commandeerd.They were released but the Dutch government replaced Fruytier with B.W.T. van Slobbe a trained military man, and also jailed the mnilitary commander Borren.
Rumors circulated in the meanwhile that Venezuela was going to taek over the islands and Carl in his book “Saban Rascal” gives an account of:
The Urbina Invasion
Our island was in an uproar. News had come that the rebel Venezuelan, general Urbina, had raided Curacao, and many of our simple-minded citizens thought that the other Dutch islands would be raided next.
Nobody stopped to think that our small rocky island had nothing to tempt any rebel force to raid it. Tension was high, and everybody feared the worst when a steamboat was seen approaching the island from the South.
The average islanders believed that we were about to be raided. People gathered about in groups discussing what should be done. Some of the women gathered up their most prized possessions, and were wondering where was the safest place to hide them. There was a lot of talk about hiding in caves on the island, and carrying food and water until the invaders left.
One old man, who lived close to the road which traversed the island, carried a rat trap and put it on the road, as it was the only weapon he had. He told the neighbours that he didn’t have a gun to shoot with, but at least the trap could give one of the invaders a sore toe.
People had begun to leave their homes to hide in the forests and caves, when it was noticed that the steamboat had anchored on the Saba Bank, which was some miles off the island. A sigh of relief went up from many a heart, and people once again went about their daily chores, but lookouts were still kept on several hills to keep watch on the steamboat.
A day later she pulled up her anchor and disappeared in the distance. And so ended our invasion by Urbina’s forces.”
For those who believe that President Hugo Chavez intends to invade Curacao or any of the other Dutch West Indies, the moral of the story is, be vigilant, be prepared, BUY A RAT TRAP.