|Sweet Childhood Memories of St. Croix
© Jorge L. Rodriguez
Do NOT copy/print without permission!
It was sunny most of the time and warm all year
Easter was usually dry, fires all over the place
Summer we’d go to Annaly to fetch the best tasting kidney mangoes
Always a fruit in season:
Remember hog plums? Locusts? Keneps? Jojo plums?
And when the sun was too much
The beach was always close by and a swim would always be welcome
The rainy season would fill up Pan Bush
The gut by St. Patrick’s School would become a river
We’d bathe in the murky water
We’d catch crabs that were trying to avoid their water filled holes
Or we’d go out on Mahogany Road and find the falls caused by the heavy rains
Hurricane season? It was more like the rainy season!
While living on Queen Cross, I remember being taken to a shelter, the Fort
Gale force winds, some roof shingles came lose but nothing much
While in Harrigan I remember another storm that passed the island
We couldn’t wait to get to the beach, check out what the waves had done
Fish traps on the shore, lots of dead fish, sand where none had been and vice versa
Fewer storms back then? Less “global warming”? Fewer people on planet Earth?
We’d walk to school, church, the supermarket
We’d walk to our families and friends
We’d walk to Annaly, we’d walk to Whim
Not too many cars around
Some people even got around on horse or horse and buggy
We were never in a rush
Pin (Pablo) was one hell of a mechanic so most of the times
We rode around in a car he was working on
We’d sing songs as we drove around the island,
“How your panty geh wet?”
“Michael be a man, Michael do not touch…”
Some of us would be embarrassed to be seen sitting in the back of a truck!
St. Patrick’s for kindergarten through 8
Mother Leader, Mother Alyde, Mother Alban, Mother Robertine & more
After the 2nd Ecumenical Council, I think, they became Sisters
The boys always with their games
Mirror on shoe laces to see up the girls’ skirts
Sister Ingrid jumped rope with us and also rode bikes
It was strange to see her do all this while wearing the cumbersome habit
She was very strict and yet lots of fun
She left the island, later left the nunnery, now resting in peace!
We gathered in the school yard every school day
We’d ring the bell once assembly done
The bell got stuck in the up position one Friday
It rained during the weekend
On Monday, when the bell was rung everyone under it got wet
We laughed, we screamed but the nuns saw no humor in it!
As always they thought it was a set up. Was it?
Went to church often while at St. Pat's
The high mass during Lent
Was very intriguing
Though the mass was in Latin
It felt better, meant more
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus
Not too many people had phones
The ones that had, used what was called a party line
It would ring once for one family, twice for the next, etc.
Everyone knew their ring
No text messaging then, no fax, no wireless, yet we were closer
And who can forget the outhouses?
One prayed not to have to go at night
Scared of creepy creatures that may be lurking in the dark
No light in the outhouse, other than a “quinquel” (lantern)
If not you'd have to use the indoor "escupidera" (spittoon) or "palangana" (washbasin)
No Charmin, no Cottonelle, just brown paper, newspaper or who knows what else
And don’t forget the “showers”
Mostly a bucket full of water
And a container to throw the water over our bodies
Wet, soap, scrub and rinse
We wondered who removed the full canisters from the outhouses
No one knew
Could they be angels, ghosts or midgets?
We tried to stay up late at night but had no luck
It appears the late night crew was part of a secret organization
Who did their work secretly in the dark of night!
We had Frederiksted and Christiansted
And a few towns in between
The hills were dressed in green, not dotted with million dollar homes
West hardly went East but everyone knew of each other
Cramer's Park was in the east and visited a few times each year
The ride seemed like an eternity…But we never asked, “Are we there yet?”
And remember the picnics at Sandy Point? Remember the coco plums?
Don’t eat too many ‘cause you’d get constipated!
That’s what the grown ups said.
Did we have fun?
We made our own toys
Show someone a toy in Sears, Aldens or Montgomery Ward
And before you knew it, a wooden replica would be made
We made our own go cars, our own wagons
And down Mars Hill we would race
Talk about having fun!
Were we scared of being hit by a car? What car?
Remember Touch the Post? Spin the Bottle?
Hide-and-go-seek? Massah, you it!
Someone once went home and to bed and
Since he couldn’t be found, the game ended abruptly
We’d play games with marbles, like 3 holes
Then there were jacks. And with the locust seeds we’d play “cack”
Friday nights we played till we were exhausted
We looked forward to the next day or next week for another match
Games played, like fruits, were seasonal
At other times we went hunting for birds
We looked for ground dove, mountain dove, sin-sin, and cradles
Cradles I think are now extinct
We used catapults we made, others used B-B guns
But what did we do with the birds?
Can't remember ever eating any!
And remember Maria Monell and her San Juan Day trips?
That Sunday in June we’d walk to Ham’s Bluff with a pot and pan
Maybe we took along a loaf or two of bread and some water
What we fished, we ate – including wilks (whelks)
The best fisherman in the group was Charlie!
Seems like there was more sand on the beach and more trees
Hugo and all his friends changed the landscape over the years
Some Sundays, we visited Titi Guilla in Coble
She was my second mother
We would only go when someone could drive us there
It was always a fun filled day
I can still smell the coffee
Seemed like everyone in the area were Puerto Ricans!
Lots of good food.
We had no malls, so where did we hang out?
We visited families, friends, talked to each other
We went to Jacaranda on Strand Street or the beach
The grown ups had Plantation Club, Vicky’s, Eve's Garden and other places
There was a theater in F’sted and another in C’sted
Eventually there was only Alexander’s in C’sted
Did not get there often
Few people had TV’s
But who needed all that when we had each other to talk to?
There was no CNN, no cable, just an antenna on the roof
Most stations watched came in from PR, in black and white
No 24 hour TV
After 11 p.m. all you’d get was static and a circle on the screen
This to let you know the station was off the air
We would watch "novelas" (Spanish soap operas), dubbed movies or Alfred D. Herger
His show was the Puerto Rican version of American Bandstand
There were stars like Lucesita, Julio Angel and Chucho
We’d dance to Salsa and Calypso and Quelbe
We had El Gran Combo, Sparrow, Milo and The Kings, Archie and Wesley
And then there were the black outs
They occurred often and lasted hours or days
But life continued
Today brown and black outs are annoying, an inconvenience
Back then we didn’t have that many electrical gadgets to worry about
We didn’t even know what surge protectors were!
When the lights went out, one could see the heavenly sky lit up
We’d try to find the Big and Smaller Dippers, the North Star, and more
Navy ships would come in: the Seventh Fleet wasn’t it?
Open house would be on Sunday
Movies were shown on the “new” longer pier
The sailors were willing to share with the locals
Cruise ships were few but the island was not dependent on tourism
Remember the sugar cane fields?
Remember the big trucks bringing the big black rubber containers
Filled with sugar down Centerline Road to the pier for shipping?
Businesses were on Queen Street, King Street,
Queen Cross Street and Prince Street.
Miguel, Don Domingo, Suarez, Johnny Belardo, Chanchin, Peter Christian
Appears most of the stores were owned by Puerto Ricans
For a good meal, visit Chico’s on King Street
Or for a burger one could go to Jacaranda
Shoes on King Street, Gustav “Good Fit” or Bata
We’d go to Titi for clothes at Cinderella
Or we’d buy from the "Arabs" selling out of their vehicles and/or suitcases
Most of the times, we bought things "fiao" (on credit, trust)
Every store kept a "libreta" (note book) with a running tally
And more could be bought even if there was a balance due
Store owners trusted buyers
There was no finance charge, no late fee added
Ma paid as she could
Give some ladies a catalog like Sears, Montgomery or Aldens
Show them a dress or shirt you’d like
And before you knew it, you're were wearing an identical copy
No pattern needed and the ladies had little or no formal education
But they were talented
Titi Catalina, Titi Paca, just to name two
Fish at Fish Market, vegetables at the Market on Queen Street
Good pig tail would be in barrels filled with salt water
And don’t forget the "bacalao" (cod fish) in crates!
Not too much to choose from but it wasn’t really needed
We shared more, and some people grew their own stuff
Ye sah, no sah
Miss this and Mister that
Mama and Papa were names used for the Puerto Ricans
La Madama or el ingles were the Cruzans, later Crucians
We’d cuss, we’d argue
Who didn’t like a good melee?
But the next day, we were all friends
Then in the 60's St. Joe's opened its doors
East met West in the center of the island
We had to be bused to high school
In the country, no more walking to school
Every classroom leaked when it rained
More lay teachers than nuns
But the education was the best!
July 4th we had the games
On Strand Street around the small dock
We'd have bag races, egg races
Some would try to get a prize
Hung on the top of a greased pole
Many fell into the sea trying to get to the top
And then we had the fun filled donkey races
Donkey want watah, hole e Joe!
The holidays were the best
Around Thanksgiving we’d begin to get in the festive mood
St. Patrick’s would have their annual bazaar
Another place to meet friends and family
All kinds of games would be played for prizes
There’d also be food on sale and dances at St. Gerard’s Hall
Remember the nuns dressed in their white and black habits?
"Noche Buena" (Christmas Eve), Christmas, Boxing Day, January 6th
And there were the Villages, where we’d again meet family and friends
The parades were smaller and not as glamorous but still lots of fun
Christmas Villages began before Christmas and ended after Three Kings
We had tramps, not j’ouvert
Who can forget Paddy Moore?
We had steel bands, not amplified music
The bands walked, not driven around in big trucks
No generators to operate the instruments
Police never stopped a tramp ‘cause people were there to have fun!
And the food around the holidays!
"Arroz con gandules" (rice with pigeon peas), "lechon" (roasted pig), "arroz con dulce" *
"Coquito" **, "pasteles" ***, and "turron" (nougat)
Or it could be kalalloo, red peas soup (sweet), or souse
Then there were Johnny cakes (journey cakes), we had "arepas" (fried & baked)
Fried fish and Johnny cake, stew or boil fish with foongee (corn meal)
Sweet bread, Vienna cake, fruit cake, sugar cakes, tamarind (tambran) candy and tarts
Remember Miss Delita with her lasinja ^ and dondosola ^^?
And don’t forget the guavaberry!
My favorite time was getting together at "La Granja" (farm, homestead), Estate Whim
If there was a visitor from off island,
Papa Leo (Grandpa) and Mama Lola (Grandma) would have a special feast
Family and friends from all over the island would meet
Even when there was no visitor, we’d always have a good time
Pin and Piano would tease the kids
Papa Leo would tell us to stay in the yard
I remember once seeing a pig killed, hung from a tree and skinned
The blood was drained to be used with the intestines to make "molsillas" ****
The pig was slowly roasted over coals
Through my mind’s eyes, I can see it, smell it and taste it!
What happened to the good old days?
Explanation: * Puerto Rican style rice pudding.
** Puerto Rican style eggnog with liquor
*** In Puerto Rico, Pasteles are a cherished culinary recipe that has become a Holiday tradition to make
and eat together with family and friends. Puerto Rican Pasteles are much more labor intensive than any
other. The masa (dough) consists of a combination of grated green banana, green plantain, taro, and
calabazas (tropical pumpkins), and is seasoned with liquid from the meat mixture, milk, and annatto oil
(annatto seeds infused with olive oil. The meat is prepared as a stew and usually contains any combination
of pork shoulder, ham, raisins, potatoes, chickpeas, olives, and capers seasoned with, recaito ("Eryngium
foetidum is a tropical perennial herb in the family Apiaceae. Common names include culantro, recao, shadow
beni, Mexican coriander, bhandhania, long coriander, sawtooth coriander, and ngò gai"),
tomato sauce, adobo seco (dry), and annatto oil ("food coloring derived from the seeds of the achiote tree
(Bixa orellana)"). The pork shoulder can be replaced with chicken.
**** Blood pudding. Blood sausage. Also seen as "morcillas", possibly correct spelling.
^ A whitish peppermint candy, hard, a few inches long, swirled.
^^ A nougat-like candy with peanuts in the center. Candy amber color.
This poem was written on 12/18/07 by Jorge L.Rodríguez. It was a sleepless night!
Edited and posted 12/19/07. Revised 12/22/07. Some revisions made 03/07/21, 03/11/21, 03/14/21 & 03/21/21.
Do NOT copy without written permission.