City Manager’s Newsletter – 28th January, 2009
Road Town and You!
Jazz! Jazz! Jazz!
The BVI Musician’s Association continues its Music in the Park series this Friday, 30th January at 5:30pm at the Noel Lloyd/Positive Action Movement Park. Bring the whole family out to enjoy a fine evening of great music. The Association plays in the Park every other Friday. (Upcoming dates are 13th and 27th February.)
Crafts Alive at Five!
Come out and enjoy the free entertainment during the monthly Crafts Alive at Five celebration on Friday 20th February. Performances are expected by the VI Callalloo Poets, Showtime Band, DJ Wiz and others. All of the booths will be open and will make a special effort to showcase local arts and crafts so save the date.
Sometime ago I’d had the idea of presenting a series of articles by various persons reminiscing about the Road Town of yore. Sadly, the series never got off the ground but I was so entertained by my first submission that I’ve decided to present it here. The following was written by Elton Georges, former Deputy Governor.
“I don’t have a clearly imprinted earliest memory of Road Town. If I did, it would have probably had to do with the Methodist Church, to which I would undoubtedly have been carried regularly from birth. I do remember the old St. George’s Infant School which I attended from the age of five. (The building still stands as St. George’s Hall, and was also the site of my first experience of cinema some fifty years ago). I particularly remember its dreaded cellar to which bad boys could be sent in punishment. The threat of the darkness induced terror, as did the nearness of the police station, prison and gallows all rolled into one, shamelessly used by the teachers as a backup disciplinary resource. It was perfectly believable to us children that, at a word from “Teacher,” the Sergeant would come and take one off to the mysterious jail where there were bad men like Rudolph and Jump.
St. George’s also meant contact for the first time with fair-skinned Town girls with relatively straight noses and “good” hair, impressive even at the age of five, since we absorbed those values from our elders in toddlerhood. At least it was so for us from ‘the country,’ which, as McWelling Todman never tired of pointing out, started at the Methodist Cemetery in those days. Or rather, the Town ended there. Perhaps the Town boys were more sophisticated.
At any rate, Road Town was, to me, the great metropolis. (Of course, one child’s metropolis is another woman’s dump. In 1942, Martha Gellhorn, war correspondent and third wife of Ernest Hemmingway, dismissed Road Town as “a cluster of unpainted shacks and a single dust street.”) Yet, everything important was there: the largest church buildings with the loudest bells, the government offices, the stores, the hospital, Cockroach Hall which was the doctor’s residence and surgery, the Social Inn, the weekly market, and much more.
In 1950, I was sent to Virgin Gorda to live with my aunt and uncle-in-law for some years. Road Town or “RoaTurngh” as Virgin Gordians called it in their distinctive accent became even more remote, and longed for. It was now an hour’s sail by the occasional motorboat or several hours by fishing boat under sail. Visits were rare. Still, I recall one August Monday, in 1955, I think, when I was allowed the great treat of coming to watch the festival parade. Unfortunately, we were becalmed. Rounding Hog’s Valley Point in the mid-afternoon we came in sight of Road Town in all its glory but could only stew (or rather, bake in the heat) as the boat drifted towards the wharf, inch by frustrating inch. We thought we glimpsed movement and colour in the distance along Main Street, and even imagined we heard the steel band music, but by the time we tied up after a day at sea most of the excitement was over.
It was also in Road Town that I had my first brush with the law as a lad of 17. The Town had not long before received its first stop sign, located at Glannie’s or Fonseca’s Corner, on Main Street, where the Island Sun office is now located. The street was, until the early 1970s, a two-way traffic artery with the narrowest of sidewalks where they occurred. The stop sign was painted on the ground. One Saturday evening the Officer in Charge of the tiny police force was standing on the verandah of the Social Inn and had nothing better to do than observe me fail to come to a complete stop at the line and touch down at least one foot as I rounded the Glannie’s Corner on my way to work at J.R. O’Neal’s Drugstore. (That was what he claimed.) So it was that early the subsequent Monday morning before I left for school my mother was startled by a police constable at the door delivering a summons. I was duly hauled into Magistrate’s Court, conducted my own defence, found guilty (a miscarriage of justice), and fined $1.50. The year was 1961.
Many nooks and crannies of the capital had their story, the bars, tailor shops, grocery shops, the alleys, not to mention the characters, the rogues, the eccentrics. But, for me, the crowning memories of Road Town were of Christmas Eves when, to an early adolescent, the town was at its brightest and best. Downstreet, with the deCastro, O’Neal, Penn, and other stores, all brightly lit, the homes decorated, was a festival of colour and light and magic and people and firecrackers, and popguns and toys and goodies…a glittering display. At least, that is what lingers in the memory. With a very limited electricity supply it could obviously not compare in brightness with that of later years. But this is now. That was then, and one couldn’t wait to put on his prettiest shirt, recently arrived in the box from aunts or cousins in New York, and get dung into Tung!
Road Town on Christmas Eve in the 1950’s. Unforgettable.”
A big thanks to Mr. Georges for this glimpse of what Road Town meant to him.
Community Involvement Tip!
Dreamed of being a track star but didn’t quite make it? You can live vicariously by supporting one of the Elmore Stoutt High School’s many track clubs. Call Mr. Winston Potter, head of the Physical Education Department, or Ms. Angeleta Bernard at 494-3701, ext 6706 or directly at 494-3468 to find out how you can support the territory’s next generation of great athletes!
Did you know…
that the Ginger Thomas (Tecoma stans) plant can reach a height of between twenty-five and thirty feet? The plant is common in the western part of Tortola and is the national flower of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Bahamas. It is also known as Yellow Elder and Yellow Cedar. A limited number of Ginger Thomas seeds are available for interested persons at the Office of the City Manager, second floor, Sebastian Building.
to take your re-usable bags with you wherever you go shopping. They’re not just for