Saturday, January 18, 2014

Island Boy goes Home to St. Croix, US Virgin Islands

Last January we took a cruise to the Caribbean and one of the ports of call was St. Thomas.  We took a tour of the Island with Marc pointing out places he had lived and beaches he swam in.  We took a walk up from the diamond district to the grade school he used to attend. He was so happy to be on St. Thomas once again!
 This picture is of Susan, Debby and Marc on St. Thomas (5th grade).
This in Marc down on the wharf in St. Thomas when this newspaper picture was taken.

 So.... when we saw some rooms at the Hotel on the Cay advertised in February, we decided it was time to go to St. Croix.  We booked the Hotel and the airline tickets for January, 2014, knowing it would be a good time to get out of the cold! We planned our trip to spend a couple of days with Marc's step-dad Ray O'Neal down in Florida and then we could leave from the Miami airport.  The blog before this one is about our wonderful visit with Raydad.  
Now for our vacation in the Islands.   We arrived late Thursday night and the next morning we got up and walked around the Island so Marc could see how much it had changed. When he lived on the Protestant Cay there were only two houses and some small cabanas on the beach.

Here is the house on the point that his family lived in for a time.
 Later a couple would live in the small house on the point while Marc's family lived in the Danish Gov. house.
This is what the left side of the house above used to look like before they filled it in to make a room out of it.
What a shame it doesn't still look like this!
One night when Marc had a friend over they decided to sleep outside.  Marc put his sleeping bag down and felt something hard beneath him. He found out that he was on top of this grave stone.  He said that they jumped up, grabbed their stuff and quickly went into the house to sleep!  (The gravestone is still there).
This Danish Governor's House was also where Marc's family (his mom Barbara, step-dad Bill Provost, his step-sister Debby and his little sister Susan) lived while on the Cay.  
This house did not have these upper rooms in this part of the house years ago and the ground floor was like a porch that was open and breezy. 

This is what the original house looked like.
 One night Marc put a lit candle in the top of a model box so he could read in bed.  He fell asleep and when he awoke the bedclothes were smoking.  He thought he had put it out and moved down to the big open porch (you see on the right) and went back to sleep.  When his mother went to wake him up the next morning she saw only the ashes of a burnt bed and was afraid of what had happened to Marc.  Thank goodness she found him on the porch.  He got a good scolding.

 This was the part of the house where the family slept.  There were lots of rooms upstairs so the kids often switched rooms to sleep in.  Some had electricity and some did not.  The Hotel built another staircase on the right that wasn't there originally so hotel guests can get up to their rooms.
 Instead of brick as in the picture above, this courtyard used to be all grass with lots of foliage around it as you can see where Marc's mother Barbara is standing in the picture. 
Marc is in the yellow shirt with friends at his birthday party sitting on the open porch of the big house.  Right of Marc is Randy McDonald & Ricky Vernon.
Looking out at the bay from an area where you could sit, eat if you wanted, and mix and mingle.
This is Marc down on the same beach  you can see in the picture above except that when he lived on the island there were 4 little cabanas on the beach and a lot more trees.
Dinner on the beach in the 60's,
Fran and Mary left front. Marc in back standing behind his mom, Bill to her left, Susan and Debby on right.  The beach was much smaller back then.
This is Freddy who helped out on the Cay. In this picture he had caught this turtle and brought it to the beach.   Freddy worked for the Hotel on the Cay until just three years ago.
The Hotel was quiet, peaceful and quaint.  It was in a great location because it had the privacy of the Cay, but you could be in town in a few minutes by taking the ferry.  
Our room was facing the Danish Fort straight ahead in the building on the end.
 Beautiful views where ever you looked.

Sea planes flew in and out several times a day from Christiansted to the other Islands.
This is a pic of one of Antilles Air Boats "the Goose" sea plane circa 1960's on St. Croix.
"The plane landed on it's belly and it felt like you were going to the bottom of the sea," Marc said.
  Beautiful flowers were all over the Cay.
 This Iguana was out sunning himself everyday.  He was about 3 1/2 ft long.  He was not in an area where we walked so you couldn't get near him.

 The Hermit crabs were not down on the beach, but on the grounds near the walkways.  You mostly saw them in all kinds of different shells at night while walking to the dock or in the area near the Hotel.  When Marc lived on the Cay he thought is would be a fun idea to put a whole lot of hermit crabs in Debby's bed.
She was pretty upset when she got into her bed that night.  They do like to pinch!
 This big guy had a hole near the restaurant on the beach and we would see him when we came down to get some breakfast (which was delicious).  He would come out for a morsel of food and then scurry back in.  Amusing first thing in the morning.
 We spent time snorkeling and swimming on our first day at the beach on the Cay.  I even found a medium sized conch shell while snorkeling.  A few people from the other hotels rode the ferry over for a couple of hours of sun on the Cay, too, but it was never crowded.  We rode the ferry for free.  We would get on it at the Hotel dock and it took us over in front of the Fort.  When we wanted to come back we stood in front of the Fort and the captain was watching and came right over to get us.  
The waves out away from the Cay are hitting the Reefs that circle the Bay.  Large ships cannot come into port because of the reefs so it is mostly fishing boats, diving and touring boats and sailboats that come in and out of Christiansted.  The cruise ships dock on the other end of the Island at Fredricksted.
The Danish Fort.

In the afternoon we took the ferry over to the wharf and boardwalk and walked the streets where Marc walked in his youth.  He showed me where Dick Newick's office used to be in this building that also houses the King Christian Hotel.  At one time they were renovating the building and Dick's Office was moved upstairs.  His competitor, Bill Miller's office was right on the corner downstairs and he would snag Dick's customers before they could find  Sea Rovers.  Dick sent Marc down to make sure to ask tourists if they were looking for Sea Rovers and would then send them up to the office.  Bill Miller called Marc's parents and told them that Marc was ruining his business!

 We also found Club Comanche where Bill Provost (Marc's step-dad) used to play piano at night.  The building has places to eat and drink now but no entertainment upstairs.  

This walkway between the two buildings used to say Club Comanche.
As seen in this picture when Bill was playing at the Club.

Bill Provost
Bill & Barbara Provost, Marc, baby Amy and Nicole Clay (in front). 
 This picture was taken in PA in 1977 after the Provosts had moved back to the states.
We ate a very late lunch at a place called Angry Nates on the boardwalk.  I had the fish of the day, a blackened Ahi Tuni sandwhich that was delicious.  Back to the hotel to collapse into bed with a breeze blowing through the screen doors on our balcony.   It had been a great first day!

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