Frederiksted (pronounced Fredriksted and I remember it once being spelled as Fredericksted,
abbreviated F’sted) is on the western portion of St. Croix. In my opinion, the layout of the town is much
better than that of Christiansted (abbreviated C’sted). The streets are wider and all can accommodate
traffic in both directions. West to east there are 7 streets (Strand, King, Queen, Prince, Hospital, New,
and East), while south to north there are 7 also (Fisher, Queen Cross, King Cross, Hill St., Market St.,
Custom House, once known as Talbod, and Lagoon). [In Danish some of the names are Kongens Gade
(King), Dronningens Gade (Queen), Torvegade (Market), and Dronningens Tvaergade (Queen Cross). C’sted
and St. Thomas still show the Danish names on many street signs.]
Frederiksted is also known as West End, and Freedom City (due to the slave revolts). When I began
attending St. Joseph’s the students from C’sted referred to it as Ghost Town. They said there was no
action in F’sted, at least not as compared to C’sted. I enjoyed the town the way it was, ghosts and all.
I can only remember the family living on Queen Cross Street between Prince and Hospital, though I was
told that we had lived at other locations. [Before moving to Queen Cross St., Ma tells me that we lived on
Prince Street in a house she says was owned/managed by a Miss Henry. The plot was 30B/p528. Prior to
Prince St. we lived in a house behind Johnny Belardo’s shop on Queen St.]
The house on Queen Cross Street (#36/p414A) that Ma rented for the family was very small. It was half of a
house. Carmen and Bucky lived in the other half of the house. One room was piled with beds and a crib.
The living room/dining room also had a bed and if I am not mistaken at nights a hammock would be hung.
The mattresses on most of the beds were so worn that trying to sleep on the edge away from the other
person on the bed was impossible. During the night both individuals would end up in the center of the
bed! Keep in mind that more than one individual slept in most beds!!
When it rained, one could hear clearly the falling rain on the galvanized roof. As a child the noise made
by the falling rain was mesmerizing and sounded like a sweet melody. It is a sound not possible from
roofs made of cement.
The ceiling of the house we lived in leaked whenever it rained. When it rained we’d have containers
throughout the house collecting the water to avoid it from wetting the floors and furniture. The back porch
was our kitchen. Ma used a two-burner kerosene stove for cooking that was to the left side of the porch as
one exited the house. To cook certain items Ma used a coal pot, a kind of grill. It was the shape of a pot
with a pocket between the pot and stand, which held the coal to cook the food. At other times Ma had to
make a fire with coal or dried wood with rocks on the sides to hold up the pot. When she wanted to bake
arepas (Johnny cakes), she would place a piece of galvanized tin on top of the pot and on top of that add
hot embers, thus cooking the arepas from both sides. That was equivalent to today’s oven!! There was a
shower stall, an outhouse and a cistern in the back yard. No one was too keen of using the outhouse at
night. Everyone was scared of all the critters that roamed in the outhouse.
Let me tell you a little about latrines or outhouses. Every home had a different style. Some had one seat
while others had two. To get to ours one had to climb a few stairs. The waste fell in a container. In the back
of most latrines, there was a small door that could be opened to remove the filled containers. At nights,
these outhouses could be a nightmare, like I said earlier. Damn things would be filled with all kinds of
critters. When we used the latrines at night, we had to use a flashlight or kerosene lamp to illuminate our
way to and from the latrine and once inside. Some outhouses were painted; others were plain wood,
while others were wallpapered with the pages from used catalogs.
The Aldens, Montgomery Ward and Sears catalogs came in handy in more ways than one. In the house the
catalogs would be used to place an order or just to entertain ones eyes. The pages of some catalogs were
bent in different shapes to make ornaments which were then placed throughout the house. They were also
used as wallpapering in some homes. In the latrines, they were used as decoration or wallpapering and
also as toilet paper. The brown paper bags we obtained from stores were also used as toilet paper. Who
knew of soft Charmin back then? To avoid going to the latrine at night various forms of commodes were
used in the homes. These were emptied in the morning.
Now, who picked up the filled containers? That was top secret. We knew that a “cucu” (feces) truck came
at night but no one knew who drove it. I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood knew who the men were
and if they knew, they kept it a secret. We’d hear the truck at night and hear the guys talking but we were
not allowed to get up to see who they were. If you opened a door or window, they would move on, almost
as if they were invisible. One evening a group of neighbors tried to get a glimpse at them but never could.
They were better than Santa Claus in being able to do their work without being seen. I don’t know if they
worked for the Public Works Department or if they had a separate sanitation department back then. Indoor
plumbing would eventually make their job obsolete!!
During the rainy season, we’d all run up and down the street in our street clothes, underwear or bathing
trunks. It was magical to be in the street as it rained and feel the cool liquid on our skins. Sometimes, we
were the only ones on the streets. Most people thought that getting wet unnecessarily by the rain would
get them sick so they stayed indoors. We also had a habit of making boats out of a sheet of 8x10 loose-leaf
paper and run races in the water that moved swiftly down the gutters. We would eventually lose our paper
sailboats at an intersection where the gutter would lead into a drain or when they got too wet. It was all fun!
Naturally the grownups would tell us to stay away from the dirty water in order to avoid becoming ill.
Eventually the deeper gutters were covered. An example of how some of the sidewalks were covered
can be seen on the south side of King Cross St. going west, next to the old cemetery.
Since we did not own a washer at the time, Ma had to wash clothes by hand. She used a wash pan and she
scrubbed the clothes using her hands or by rubbing them against a scrub board. That was a piece of board
that had ridges in the middle. Some of the boards had metal ridges. I remember Ma using a large empty
metal container (an empty and cleaned lard or oil can) to boil her white clothes. Keep in mind there was no
running hot water at the time. She’d place the can over a fire in the yard, place the clothes in it then add
water. As the water boiled, she would use a stick to move them around. Some articles would be removed
using the stick, examined then be placed back in the can. I don’t know why she did that. She also added
“añil” to the water to make the whites look whiter. I think the blue cube is called simply blue in English.
The following I cannot remember happening, but I was told by Glory and others that it did. It appears that
when she was dating, I would wait for the most inopportune moment to call on her. Supposedly, I would
stick my head out of the bedroom window and tell her, “Glory, come fix me bed!” Maybe Ma was the one
who would send me so that her boyfriend would realize it was time to go?
On the corner closer to Prince Street there was a public faucet where we collected water to cook, shower,
etc. This was a time when there was no indoor plumbing in most of the homes in town. For some strange
reason, I do not remember ever using the water in the cistern in the back yard of the house. We had no
television or phone.
The lady that lived on the NE corner (#32A) where the public faucet was located we called Miss Sendrina.
Her name could have been Miss Endrina but since we merged the e with the s from Miss, it may have
sounded like Sendrina. She was a very friendly woman and would always talk to us as we filled our buckets
and/or pans. The hydrant was located next to her front porch. In her yard, which was to the side of the
house, she had a custard apple tree. Though I cannot recall if I ate any of the fruits from her tree, I do
remember the aroma that came from the yard as the fruit began to ripen. [Today, there is a two story white
building on the corner. The last time I checked there was a bar downstairs and an apartment(s) upstairs.
The hydrant no longer exists.]
An aunt, Titi Catalina, lived close by at #31-AB Hospital Street. (Today the house no longer exists. I think it
was destroyed by one of the many hurricanes that have hit the island since Hugo in 1989.) Her children were
María Esther, Irma, José, and Nilsa. Titi Catalina was a great seamstress when she was younger. She knew
how to make everything, from shirts to dresses. It so happens that Ma and her sisters all knew how to sew.
I think the best of the lot were Titi Catalina and Titi Paca.
There were markets where we bought our groceries on Queen Cross St., on Fisher St. and further down on
Queen St. The businesses were known by the owners’ name. There was Tomás Morales (possibly # 31C,
across the street from this store was a bar, El Tamarindo (#30Ba), Don Domingo (#41 Queen Cross), Miguel
Garcia (#59 Queen St.), Peter Christian (#35 and 36 Prince St.), Angel “Lili” Suarez (#60 Queen St.), Máximo
“Chanchin” Garcia (he started off on the southeast corner of Hospital and Queen Cross Streets (# 31A) and
later moved to Prince St., #55A or 55B) and Johnny Belardo (#10 Queen St). Most of the time, we bought on
credit (“trust”). Each storeowner kept a record in a black and white composition notebook of what was
purchased, what was paid and the balance owed. The farthest we had to go to purchase certain food items
was Whim, owned by a man named David Obando. Clemente Cintrón had a supermarket in Hannah’s Rest.
It appears Obando always had the best pig tail and feet, and the best “viandas” (vegetables like tania,
sweet potato, cassava or yuca, green bananas, etc.)
We knew all the neighbors and they all knew us. Two older men who lived close by and who were always
cooking fascinated my sisters and cousins. I found their food nasty. One day I visited one of these
gentlemen and noted that they had fish hanging on their clothesline. It was explained to me that they were
drying the fish for later use. We called these men “Fordy” and “Baxasan” (Bacsasan). I don’t know if these
were their first or last name or just a nickname. I also found these men to be scary. To most children, older
men and women were “scary”. They lived in the house to the west of and above us.
“Fordy” and “Baxasan” used bowls and cups made from gobi (or calabash, Higüero in Spanish). Calabash
grew on trees throughout the island. I remember there were a lot of them in the area known as Pond (Pan)
Bush, close to St. Patrick’s School. The fruits that grow on the tree can be the size of a breadfruit. They are
first green then turn yellow and later brown. When opened the stench is incredible. However, if cleaned
and dried the shell becomes very hard and thus can function as a cup or bowl. The smaller ones were
used to make cups and the larger ones for bowls. From the same fruit, people made maracas.
When you called the man “Baxasan” his response would be, “Your mother first man.” It appears it was a
nickname and did not like everyone to call him this?
In the next house to our east lived two eccentric ladies, mother and daughter. No one knew where they
came from. There were many rumors flying around about who they were and from where they had come,
and why they were in the predicament they were in. They first lived in the first floor (garage or basement)
of the house on the corner of Queen Cross and Hospital Streets then later moved to the abandoned house
next door. Supposedly, they were related to the individual (Arthur Abel) who owned/managed the
abandoned house. (Arthur Abel I think lived in or owned the two-story building on the SW corner of Hospital
and Market Streets, across from St. Patrick’s Church.) Sha-Sha and Tilly had most of their possessions in
boxes and sat on boxes to sleep. On Sunday they would leave their home for church dressed in their finest.
The ladies always looked sharp in their Sunday attire!! Holding a conversation with either lady was a
rewarding experience. Though they avoided people in order not to be teased, once one got close to them
one would discover how pleasant and intelligent they were! It’s a shame they were in the situation they
Across the street from us (#37AB) lived the McIntosh family: Mr. Mac, Miss Mildred, and 4 boys, Ken,
Dennis, Tony (Bertram) and Rupert. There was a fifth boy, Harry, who I cannot remember living in the
house permanently. I remember him visiting. If I am not mistaken, he was half brother of the other 4 boys.
[Mr. Hubert McIntosh, Mr. Mac, died at the age of 94 on November 12, 2004 at his residence. May he rest in peace!]
Mr. Mac was very strict but he was very pleasant once one knew how to relate to him. In many ways, he
reminded me of Papá Leo. One spoke to Mr. Mac when spoken to and one was always to respond politely.
I cannot remember ever entering the home of the McIntoshes. The younger of the boys, Rupert, spent a
lot of time at our house. We were in the same class at St. Patrick’s school for a while.
I feel that discipline that is not balanced with love and understanding can create problems in a child’s
development. Though we felt that Ma was strict, she was nothing compared to what we imagined took
place across the street.
One of Ma’s dearest friends, Sica Guerra, was a very friendly and comical individual. Like Ma, she liked to
party. I remember her coming to visit us on Queen Cross Street and began to complain about aches and
pains. She asked Ma is she had any rubbing alcohol. In those days Vicks ointment and rubbing alcohol
were things always available in most homes. Who could live without them? Anyway, Ma gave her the
alcohol. Ms. Guerra was on the porch. As I sat at the window watching her, she rubbed some alcohol on
her arms, knees, etc. Then she surprised me. She took a drink of the rubbing alcohol. I was shocked. I
suppose it was the closest thing to liquor she could get her hands on. For some reason I thought it would
immediately burn a hole in her stomach. Ma said it wouldn’t. After the swig, Ms. Guerra left. I suppose she
felt better? For many years, Sica lived in a house on the corner of Prince and King Cross Streets.
Other families I remember on or close to Queen Cross Street were: Brow (NE corner of QC St., #37A),
Milligan (SE corner, #36B), McIntosh (see above), Taco and his family (NW corner of QC, # 37A),
Matthews (at least that was the surname of the girl I knew, Hospital, #29), Joseph (Prince, #44), Isabel
Romero and her clan (Prince, # 30B/p528), Evans (QC, SW corner, # 41), James (Hospital, 32A), Christensen,
Queen St, #28), Christian (Fisher St.), Christopher, Morales (the store owner on QC), Wynter(a house on
plot 33 on QC), Allick (SE corner QC and Queen Sts.), the Clarke (Horace “Harry” Clarke) family on the NE
corner of QC and Queen Sts, # 32), Nesbitt (#30Bb) and Sackey (SE corner of Prince St., #59), the Nielson
family on Queen St. 30) and the Benjamin Family at #48 Queen St and Sica Guerra on Prince St.(#23/24).
The Brady’s lived on Fisher St. (33A) and Miss Michael lived at 33C and there she had a candy store.
Previously, Miss Michael lived on Centerline Road (Queen Mary Highway), in a house that’s now Pink. It
is easily distinguished by the name Toftehøi on the front. Close to the Matthews on Hospital St. lived
a man named Archie, and if I am not mistaken, he was a fisherman. I was amazed at the beautiful seines the
fishermen made by hand. On Queen Cross St., closer to New St., lived Miss Delita. (May she rest in peace!)
She was the Queen of candy making. She made “lasinja” (lozenge) and “dundersla”. The first was a twisted
sugar candy of about 5-6 inches made with mint and the latter was a harder candy made with nuts.
The Delemos family lived on Fisher St. close to Queen St. Some families I can remember by nickname
only and because of this, I do not know what their real names may be. [I was recently corrected by Ma.
Though Ms. Romero could be seen entering and leaving the area where Ma lived, 30B/p528 Prince St., I
was told she actually lived on Hospital St. Since the back yards connected, Ms. Romero used where Ma
lived as a short cut to Prince St. I also found out that Archie’s last name was Stevens.]
Fishermen like Archie also used fish pots to catch fish. These are traps made by the fishermen from wood
and chicken coop wire that was used to catch fish. It was somewhat pentagon in shape. At the base was
an entry for the fish. Inside there would be bait used to lure the fish in. Once in, there was no way to get
out because of the way the entrance was built. Weights were used to sink the pots to the bottom of the
Another great candy was what we called "piruli". It was/is caramelized sugar on a stick, somewhat like a
lollipop but better tasting. It was cone-like in shape. I think this was more a Spanish creation. (This candy
can still be found in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.)
I think the most memorable person I met in F’sted was the man that we called Half-a-man. If I am not mistaken,
he was a Puerto Rican. The man had a very muscular torso due to his condition. His torso sat in a rubber
casing that was placed on a small round piece of wood with wheels. He used his arms to move around and
thus the muscular frame. He was very friendly. Sometimes he’d get off the board and ride on a skate. The
same way he appeared on the island, he also disappeared. Everyone had the same questions but I don’t
think anyone asked him though we asked them among ourselves. First, how did it happen? Second, how
much of his lower half did he possess?
One day I was walking home and a lady approached me. She held my hand and told me that the bone
protruding from my wrist was abnormal. The lady advised me that I could get rid of it by hitting the bone
with a hammer. I thanked her for the advice and kept walking. Keep in mind that I could not tell her that her
suggestion was ludicrous. Doing that might have offended her and if she complained to Ma, I knew I would
be reprimanded in one form or another. When I got home, I gave what the lady said a lot of thought. How
could hammering the bone help? Wouldn’t it hurt? Wouldn’t it create more problems than it solved? I left
my wrists alone. Why would she recommend something so absurd?
I found that female Black Crucians did a strange thing to their hair. As a Puerto Rican-Crucian, I could not
understand how they could tolerate it. What was it? They’d place a metal comb on a stove or over hot coals
and after the comb became hot, they would run it through their hair to straighten it. When this was done to
kids, they screamed. Some times the adults burned themselves. One would see burns on the necks and top
of ears of women and girls. Combing hair with these hot combs was usually something done by someone
else to avoid injury.
My baseball career was very short lived. We were playing on Hospital Street one day with me as the pitcher.
I threw a ball and the person at bat swung, he hit the ball really hard and it ended up hitting my stomach with
great force. Talk about pain. The pain made me bend over. I cried while the others laughed. After that, I
played no more.
Talking about baseball, St. Croix did produce a few athletes that played in the major leagues. There was
Horace “Harry” Clarke, who played with the Yankees and José M. Morales, better known as “Shady”, who
played with various teams, including Giants, L.A. Dodgers and Minnesota Twins. The first Virgin Islander to
play in the Major Leagues was Valmy Thomas, who played for the NY Giants. [In recent years, the island has
been represented by a basketball player, Tim Duncan (he was born on another Caribbean island but grew up
on St. Croix). For a while, St. Croix was represented in the boxing arena by Livingston Bramble.]
The kids in the neighbor played a game called Stone War. Here is how it went. We’d gather rocks and make
two piles, one for each team. One team would have their rocks on the corner of Prince St. while the other
would be on Hospital St. We’d all meet in the middle of the block, count to three, and then run to our rock
pile. Once there, we would begin throwing rocks at each other. Many of us ended up with what we called a
“chap”, a slight injury from one of the rocks hitting our head or forehead. Luckily, no one ever had to be
rushed to the hospital, even though the injuries from the rocks produced blood. It’s a wonder we didn’t kill
One day I teased one of the kids in the neighborhood and ran to get away from him. He ran behind me.
I jumped onto the front porch of our house but my foot slipped. My forehead ended up in the corner of the
column on the porch. I was injured! I got “chapped”! The boy that was running behind me commented that
God had gotten even with me. He left me alone. The scar from the injury is always there as a reminder of
this incident. It’s in the center of my forehead just below the hair line.
While living on Queen Cross Street, I remember that a hurricane was headed our way. St. Croix ended up
with what was being called gale force winds. The roof of the house next door was falling off and landing on
the roof of our house. I remember that a police car came by and took us to the fort, which was used as a
shelter. When we got there the place was filled with other families. The hurricane did not hit the island as
Another time, I was in bed and noticed that the objects on the wall were moving. I called out for Ma. She
came in and told me not to worry that it was an earthquake and would be over soon. What a weird feeling
that was. It felt like the whole room was shaking. I would later learn that the quake was island wide.
For Washington’s Birthday Holiday, on or around February 12th, we had donkey races. It was always a fun
July 4th was a big day for us. There would be all kinds of games on Strand Street. We would have bag races
(the racers had their feet in a bag), egg races (running with an egg on a spoon and trying to avoid having
it fall), etc. My favorite was what took place on the small dock. There would be a greased pole with a prize
at the end. The pole extended into the water. Most participants would fall into the sea before getting to the
prize. Few men were able to make it to the end of the pole. It was a fun filled day!!
One Halloween a group of neighborhood kids decided to go trick-o-treating. We were mostly given money.
That day, we passed Seven Flags Bar on Strand Street (#14A) and when we asked for a treat, we were told
we’d have to work for it. We all began to dance to the music that was playing. As we danced, money was
thrown at us. We stopped to pick it up. It was pandemonium as we pushed each other to get the coins!
The Calypsonian Sparrow was in the bar. He was there to put on a show, which were common in
From Seven Flags the group went to a business on King Street to see what we could get. The business was
in the yard. We were shocked to see a number of Catholic priests sitting at the bar. We walked out and
pretended we saw nothing.
For me, Christmas began as soon as the Aldens, Sears and/or Montgomery Ward Christmas catalogs were
received. I would spend hours daily perusing the toys section. However, I knew that receiving a toy for
Christmas would be very slim. Most years we got practical gifts – shoes or clothing. On Christmas day we’d
go out and see all the kids with their toys and we would have none. However, I never resented not receiving
any gifts because I was well aware of my mother’s financial situation. The good thing is that most kids let us
play with their toys. Some years we would receive gifts at school. Various organizations would donate them
to the school and the nuns in turn would give them to the students. Sometimes, we would receive a small toy
on January 6th, Three Kings Day (Epiphany, Dia De Los Tres Reyes Magos), which was Christmas to the
Seeing the streets decorated for the Crucian Christmas Festival was magical. It meant a lot to me. It also
meant that the Villages would be open and going to the Villages was fun. The festivities began about a
week before Christmas and would last until January 6th or the day after. [These days the period of the
festivities has been shortened! Today it’s from about December 26th to January 6th.] The Villages would be
made up of small one-room structures that sold drinks, food, and all kinds of other goodies. There would
be a stage for entertainment. I liked the Calypsonians the most. On or close to January 1st and 6th there
would be a parade down King Street. Every other year the parades would be in Frederiksted but each town
opened a Christmas Villages. [St. Croix’s street performances have been called Parades while the ones on
St. Thomas are called Carnivals. St. Thomas’ Carnivals are usually held on a Friday and Saturday after Lent,
usually the end of April or the beginning of May. St. Croix recently adapted the same method and holds its
Children’s Parade on a Friday and the Adults Parade the Saturday of the same week. The parades continue
to rotate between the two towns; however, there is now only one Christmas Village. The Villages (as it is
referred to) are now held in the town hosting the parades. This changed again when a center was built in
the park that housed the Christmas Villages in C’sted.]
The Parades were very colorful with the Children’s Parade being the shorter of the two. Participants of the
Parades would include majorettes twirling batons as they performed various moves and dances, troupes
(on foot), floats (on trucks) and floupes (a combination of troupes and floats). Each group had a theme. In
between the various groups would be a band or recorded music. Generators on the trucks supplied the
needed power. Three men dressed as the Three Kings would usually be the opening act of the Three
Kings Day Parade. Sometimes they would appear on horses, other times they would appear on foot. The
participants would pass in front of a reviewing stand, which consisted of judges, usually including the
governor, who would vote for the best in each category.
In Frederiksted the Villages at first were at the tennis/basketball courts at the end of King Street next to
Fort Frederik. It was great here because the grounds were paved. It eventually moved next to the Paul E.
Joseph Stadium, though it switched back and forth for a while. When it rained the area by the stadium
would get muddy. Eventually they began to use gravel to reduce the amount of mud when it rained. In
Christiansted the Villages were usually at the Canegata Stadium grounds and/or the parking lot on
The Villages was a nice place to see grown-ups make fools of themselves and where kids could hang out
with friends. Why did grown-ups make fools of themselves? They would tell us about the ills of drinking
then they would drink themselves to oblivion. By the end of the night most would be unable to walk a
straight line. That included some of my relatives!
There was a stage in the Villages and every night there was a performance. The entertainers could be local
or from other islands.
Then there were the tramps. During my youth it was a steel band that went around the town playing music.
Behind the band were revelers dancing to the music. We called this tramping. Tramps were usually at
night or in the wee hours of the morning. As the band went from street to street locals would wake up
and join the tramp. It was a lot of fun. The one individual that sticks out most in my mind is Paddy Moore.
His instrument was a long piece of pipe; it looked like a muffler, into which he blew to make different
sounds. [Today, tramping is called J’Ouvert (pronounced ju-vay, I think from the French meaning open day
since it’s done early in the morning). Instead of the band walking around the town they now ride on the
back oftrucks with huge amplifiers to augment the sound.]
Then there were all the religious festivities that went along with Christmas. Every year there was a show
in St. Gerard’s hall that was directed by the nuns and acted out by the students. I loved to listen to the
story of Jesus and listen to the beautiful songs. It was a joyous time. And there were the midnight
masses. Most years we went to mass before going to the Villages.
St. Gerard’s Hall was famous for their Quadrille dances. What is Quadrille? It’s like square dancing but
with a Caribbean flair to it. Just listening to the music made me happy. Watching the dancers raised me
to another level of happiness. (It was performed by the European farmers and then adopted by the African
slaves and their descendants that were brought to the Virgin Islands. Presently, the residents in St. Croix
dance the Quadrille on special occasions. The men and women dress in the native attire usually consisting
of the madras material and white cotton with lace. A caller usually instructs the dancers during a set. When
everyone dances with the various colors of the madras, the movements look very gracious. The Quadrille
is danced to the rich sounds of a Quelbe Band. The Quelbe band was made up of instruments such as the
banjo, tambourine, flute, pipe squash, guitar, steel triangle, and various types of drums. Today, modern
instruments have replaced some of these instruments.) [Note - St. Croix dances the French Quadrille
while St. Thomas dances the German. The difference is the language used to call the movements.]
Christmas time also meant being able to eat "pasteles" and drink "coquito". The making of "pasteles"
was another of those jobs that required an assembly-like set up and a lot of planning. There were lots of
vegetables involved so a day at the market was not uncommon. The vegetables had to be just right.
Then there was the pork that had to be bought. The tanias (yautia), green bananas (or malango), and
pumpkin, had to be grated by hand (in later years it would be done in a blender/food processor), and then
mixed together with other ingredients. Ma used "achiote" (Annatto) to add color and an oil base to
the "mas". The Annatto beans were placed in a pot with lard or oil and cooked for a while. Once done,
the oil based substance, which is orange in color, was added to the "masa", Some people add
garbanzos (chick peas) and/or raisins to the vegetable mixture.
After that the meat was cut up into small pieces and cooked. Once all that was done, banana leaves were
prepared. They were passed over a flame for a while to make them more flexible and prevent them from
breaking when folded. On top of the leaves went the mush/dough (called "masa" by the Puerto Ricans)
prepared from all the vegetables. (Some people now use a special made paper first then the banana leaf.
Other people use cabbage leaves instead of the banana leaves to wrap the "pasteles".) Pieces of the
meat were placed on the vegetable batter and then it was wrapped with the banana leave. Twine was
used to hold two "pasteles" together. The two "pasteles" are called a "yunta". Once all that was done
the "pasteles" were placed in boiling water to be cooked. In later years chicken, beef and other meats
were also used since many people began to avoid pork. Some people made the masa with cassava
(yuca) instead of bananas. Give me a pastel with some rice and pigeon peas and I am happy!
The "coquito" was made with eggs, milk, some spices and rum, usually Cruzan. It was the Puerto Rican’s
version of eggnog. Though sweet it was potent! During the Christmas season there would be many
discussions about whose "coquito" was the best. I found Ma’s was the best. Everyone had his or her own
recipe, which was a guarded secret! [The closest to this that is mass produced comes from the island of
Curaçao and is called Ponche Kuba.]
The Black Crucians had guavaberry (Myrciaria floribunda). Guavaberries, no relations to guava, were small
black berries that grew mostly in the hills of St. Croix and hard to find. They are little smaller than blue and
blackberries. Guavaberries were in season in December. They would be mixed with Cruzan Rum to make a
concoction that would knock your socks off! Soaking in the rum the berries fermented giving the rum more
potency. Guavaberries were also great in tarts and in ice cream. [On the island of St. Maarten, the stuff is
bottled and sold in stores but it is not as good as the one made on St. Croix. The berry is very scarce due
to all the development on the islands.]
During the holidays we ate "turrón", an almond and honey crunch with a very thin white wafer on the top.
Most of the "turrón" we ate was from Alicante, Spain and could only be found during the holidays. The
company’s name was Sanchis Mira. [Lately the "turrón" is sold almost year round and is also sold in a soft
version. In the 90s, I visited Spain and got to visit Alicante. It is a beautiful city. I felt at home. I walked the
streets as if I had been there before. As a matter of fact, one of the members of the tour group asked me if
I had visited the city before. I said no. When I asked why the question she told me that I was walking the
streets as if I had been there before. Recently, I found "turrón" in small individual pieces, one type crunchy
the other soft.]
Christmas Second Day was part of the celebration. It was a carry over from the British and it was called
Boxing Day. It had nothing to do with boxing, however, the origin of the holiday is not known. Some say
it’s the day the slaves celebrated Christmas and that day they were given boxes to put their gifts in, while
others say it’s the day given off to the British servants so they would be able to visit their families and on
that day the servants were given boxes containing gifts.
On New Year’s Eve the family would gather at someone’s home. It was an all night affair. As a youngster I
found what happened at midnight amusing and confusing. At midnight everyone would hug and wish each
other well. As they did this, the grownups would begin crying. Were they crying because they were happy
they made it to another year or were they crying because they were sad others didn’t make it? Another
explanation: They knew what the previous year was like but didn’t know what the New Year would bring!
The part I hated most of growing up was the ritual Ma had about giving us Scott’s Emulsion, cod liver oil
and/or Milk of Magnesia. The first two were to make us healthier and the last one to clean out our system
(purge), and thus would also improve our health. We knew when it was time for the goodies because there
was always orange soda on the table. That was to reduce the after taste of the goodies. I grew up to
dislike orange soda. Every time I see an orange soda, I remember the days of emulsion, cod liver oil and
Milk of Magnesia!
The architecture of the homes in Frederiksted was/is incredible. Lots of pastel colors. Lots of lace-like
designs in the woodwork. Every building had at least one porch. When one was in town and it rained, one
could walk from building to building in most areas with minimal exposure to the rain due to all the porches
(galleries, as they were called). Stones used to build some of the buildings was said to have been brought
over from Europe as ballast on the ships.
The most unique house in F’sted was the Durant Tower, which was located at #43A King St. There was
nothing in F’sted that came close to this house! It even had what looked like a tower. To most kids the
house was spooky yet at the same time intriguing. It’s a shame I never got to see what the house looked
like in the inside. The house no longer exists.
The churches I remember in Frederiksted were: St. Patrick’s (Catholic, #7 Prince St.), St. Paul’s (Anglican,
#25-27 Prince St.), Holy Trinity (Lutheran, Hospital and Hill Sts.), Friedensberg Moravian (Hospital St.) and
the Seventh Day Adventist (Fisher St./Two Brothers). I attended service in all except the Moravian and
Adventist. There was a Catholic chapel in Mount Pleasant (St. Joseph’s) and another in Montpellier.
Christiansted had its share of churches also. The one I remember the most is Holy Cross, a Catholic
In the 60’s other denominations began to come to the island. Some started as groups that traveled from
community to community while others had services in huge tents. Most groups eventually erected
houses of worship or rented space. [The construction of churches continues to this day. Today, I think
there are more churches on St. Croix than businesses! It appears that all the preaching is not getting to all
the people because the crime rate is high!]
Once I started visiting Christiansted, I found the buildings to be very quaint. They were also very colorful
and were maintained very well. The architecture was as nice as Frederiksted’s, if not nicer. The only thing I
didn’t like about C’sted was the streets. In F’sted the streets are wide and they are all two ways but it is the
opposite in C’sted. The streets in C’sted are narrow and most are one-way. It looks as if the streets in
C’sted were built for horses, and/or horse and carts (buggies), while the streets in F’sted were built with
the future in mind.
The government house in C’sted is an incredible building. It is something that must be seen. While on the
steps try to imagine the day-to-day activities that took place in that building during the time of the Danish.
[The building has been renovated over the years.]
In Christiansted’s harbor there is an island known as Protestant Cay, which is a hotel, and further east there
is Buck Island, which is partly an Underground National Park, I think the only one in the U.S. The story goes
that President Kennedy visited the area and liked it so much that he designated it a National Park. [Before
President Clinton left office, he extended the area of the Buck Island Reef National Monument. Some tried
to get President Bush to override Clinton’s decision but to date he has not done so.]
We shopped mostly on King and Queen Streets. We had a Bata (#6 King St.) for shoes. There was also Mr.
Gustave “Good Fit” James at #65 King St., next to Brow Soda (#66 King), for shoes. Whenever you went
into his store and tried on a pair of shoes, he would say they were a good fit even if the shoes were too
big or too small. All the man wanted to do was make a sale! There was Holy Land (#51 King St.) and
Cinderella (#45 King St./p539) for clothes. For fresh fruits and vegetables, we went to the market on
Market and Queen Streets (now the Anne Heyliger Market) and for fish and conch, we went to the
Fish Market. Other groceries were bought in grocery stores that went by the name of the owner such as
Suarez (#60 Queen St), Miguel (#59), Johnny Belardo on Queen Street and Peter Christian on Fisher.
On Prince Street we had Don Chanchin and Doña Ana. On King St. (#54 or 55), we had Kano
(pronounced Kay-no). From him we got fresh cuts of meat, etc. The barrels of goods that were kept
in the stores always fascinated me. One could purchase pig feet, pigtail, and cod fish (bacalao) that
came in such barrels. The barrels were filled with a solution that was composed mostly of salt. One could
buy a nickel worth of ingredients. Most of the items bought had to be weighed. There were also stores
on Queen Cross St. like Don Domingo’s, and Don Tomás. Across from Don Tomás was a bar that was known
as El Tamarindo (The Tamarind). [During my trip ofApril/May 2004, I discovered that the building was
partially destroyed by a fire.]
Animals were slaughtered at the slaughterhouse on the beach on the opposite side of Marley Project, close
to what is now buildings 17 and 19. Animals were brought to the slaughterhouse in trucks and then one by
one taken into the building to be slaughtered. Since the blood and waste went into the sea, we were
advised not to swim in the area. Sharks were known to visit the area looking for food. [The slaughterhouse
eventually moved close to the Dept. of Agriculture on Centerline Road and the area around the old house
was eventually spruced up. Today it is a great area for bathing. There is a small park with benches close by.]
For all our medical needs, we went to The Apothecary Hall on the corner of King Cross (#49A/B-50) and
Queen Streets. The owner I can recall was Mr. Alex Schade (we pronounced his last name as Shah-dah).
I remember the Humphrey’s products Ma sent us to get. There was a Humphrey’s pill for everything and
each had a number. There was one to relieve the pains of teething, another to help children stop wetting
their bed, etc. Humphrey number 44 is the one I remember the most since it was used by my brother, since
he was known to wet his bed. I once tried one of the tablets and it tasted like a sugar pill.
Did they really work?
Most of the stores closed at noon and did not re-open until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. People took lunch
seriously. After lunch followed a siesta (nap). I remember Ma telling us to take a nap after lunch when we
were not in school. After lunch the neighborhood would get very quiet. If one went to town during lunch,
one would find it empty. On Thursdays most of the businesses closed at noon and did not re-open.
The only lawyer I knew was Mr. Frank Padilla at #53A King St.
For all photographic needs, we went to Mr. Ovesen on King St.
Most, if not all, the printing in Frederiksted was done at Square Deal Printer in Smithfield. There the
Joseph family lived and ran a press. If I am not mistaken the couple that ran the press had two children,
a boy and a girl. For printed news, we turned to the Avis (St. Croix) and the Daily News (St. Thomas).
Some newspapers were flown in from the continent and we were able to get a paper (San Juan Star) from
Puerto Rico. [Mr. Paul E. Joseph at one time was the editor and publisher of The West End News and had
an office at #53 Queen Street. I have been told that Mr. Joseph purchased the business from Mr. Axel Ovesen.
He was the brother of the owner of Square Deal Printer.]
There was one traffic light in all of Frederiksted and it was located at the intersection of King Cross and
Queen Streets. [That light no longer exists. Why this spot had been chosen as the only one to have a light
is beyond me. We were too young to care!]
Most buildings in F’sted had metal rings attached to the columns. I once asked what these rings were for.
Strangely enough as a youngster, I thought they were used to tie up the slaves while the white owners
shopped, etc. I was told that the rings were used to tie up the horses and carriages.
Fort Frederik (p199 King St.) was said to have been completed in 1760. I remember the fort having a
second floor. On the side facing King Street, I remember always seeing this man sitting there. I was once
told that he was a prisoner who after being released decided to stay there because he had no place to go.
I don’t know if this is true! The park on the south side of Fort Frederik we referred to as the Bandstand
since in the center of it was a bandstand. The area was used for various affairs with the speeches being
given from the bandstand. For many years, the fort was the police station and jail. It was also used as a
shelter during hurricanes. [Today this park is known as Buddhoe Park. Mr. John Buddhoe was one of the
main figures in the slave revolt on St. Croix. It is said that he was sparked the insurrection that led to the
emancipation of the slaves on July 3, 1848. Eventually, Buddhoe was sent to Trinidad.]
The F’sted post office was located at #9B Market St. Eventually, it moved to its new location on Fisher St.
The building on Market St. became the police station. The building was also used as a restaurant.
Today most kids hang out at the various malls on the islands. St. Croix was not spared the mall-building
craze. There is Sunshine, La Reine, Sunny Isle, and Plaza to name a few. When we were growing up we
hung out at places like Jacaranda. Jacaranda had everything: a huge counter that served food, ice-cream,
milk shakes, etc., an instant photo machine, a few tables with chairs, a few games, and a dance floor at the
back. The dance floor was used mostly for dances held for adults. Jacaranda was on Strand St. between
Market and Custom House Streets.
The other place I visited a lot was Chico’s Bar and Restaurant on King St. (#18A). It was owned by Angel
“Chico” Morales and his wife, Josefina, also known as “Fina”. One of the owners’ sons, Wilfredo, went to
school with me. Chico’s served great Puerto Rican food. Today the family’s business is known as
Villa Morales in Estate Whim and is owned/managed by Angelita, Chico’s daughter.
On the corner of Strand and Market Streets, we had our first movie theater in Frederiksted. The Gardine
family, who lived in the beautiful gingerbread home above the theater, owned it. I did not get to see any
shows in this theatre. I think some of my siblings did, though.
Great dances were held at Plantation Night Club and Eve’s Garden. Plantation was on Mahogany Road and
Eve’s Garden was on King St., between Queen Cross and Fisher. There was also a club in La Grange close
to the ballpark that was named Vicki’s or Vickie’s (now Rotary West). Most of the dances were for adults so I
have little comments to make. I did go to Plantation for my sisters’ wedding and for a birthday party for the
son (Frederick, Freddy) of the owner (Mr. Arturo Christensen), who went to school with me for a while. I was
told that Titi Paca and her husband, Don Carmelo, owned a club on King St., close to Lagoon St., but I can’t
remember it being open when I was growing up. The club was called El Caribbean Bar. I think it was closed
down by the time I became knowledgeable of F’sted. I also think by then my aunt and her husband had
moved to New York City.
Across from Cinderella on King Street was a building we called Cumberland Castle (#32-33). It was a huge
home with a grand staircase. Unfortunately, I never got to see the inside of the house. The yard that
bordered Queen Cross St. was huge and surrounded by a wall. I never knew why it was called Cumberland
Castle but assumed it had to do with its former owners. The bottom floor was once a club, Birdland. This
was another great place for dances which the adults frequented. Today the building is abandoned.
The barbers we used were Don Galo on Hill Street (#59) and Don Cosme on Prince Street (#53-54, next to
Mr. Golden’s store). Don Galo’s two sons were friends of mine. Piano, a close friend of the family had a
habit of teasing us each time we visited Don Galo. Since we were small and Don Galo was a man, Piano
would tell us that Galo was taking advantage of us by placing his guevos (genitals) on our shoulders.
According to Piano, Don Galo got a kick doing it to unsuspecting customers. I stopped going to Don
Cosme because I ended up with a very bad case of dandruff. I remember my mother telling me to shampoo
with Astringosol, a mouthwash, in order to get rid of the dandruff. Astrigosol was mostly alcohol. When I
put it on my scalp, it felt as if my scalp was on fire but it did get rid of the dandruff.
Don Cosme always complained about my hair. He said that the coarseness of my hair caused his equipment
to go dull. Was it my hair or he didn’t maintain his equipment properly? Keep in mind that barbers during
this time used non-electrical cutting appliances. [In defense of Don Cosme, I want you to know that later in
life other barbers stated the same thing about my hair. In later years, I blamed it on the heat I experienced
while working at La Crosse Laundry. The building was very warm and I was always sticking my head into
clothes dryers to place and remove items. All in all, though, my hair could just be naturally coarse!]
We used various types of pomades (hair grease) to comb our hair. The two I remember best are Halka
and Palmolive. Halka was blue and Palmolive was green.
On Strand Street next to the Ingeberg Nesbitt Clinic was the Poor Yard (now the Aldershville Center for
Senior Citizens). To most kids the place was frightening. It was more of a Senior Citizen home. One day I
got the courage to visit the old folks living in the Poor Yard. It was a rewarding experience. The ladies
were beside themselves having someone young visit them. They told me that I did not speak Crucian as it
was meant to be spoken. They taught me a few words and phrases but I quickly forgot them. The only three
words I remember are “wahbin” (prostitute), “bamaco” (sort of a herniated testicle), and “galpo” (a big
penis). (Keep in mind that these words may not be spelled correctly phonetically or the definition could be
wrong.) As you can see I only remembered the bad words! Leave it to me. I kept going back to the Poor
Yard just to enjoy the company of the old folks since I began feeling comfortable with them. It was time
well spent. It’s a shame that I cannot remember the names of these colorful individuals! I was not old
enough to record what they knew of their childhoods on St. Croix! A missed opportunity!
One day my brother and I were playing in some trees on the other side of the home of this lady we called
Crazy Maude (she was also referred to as Sailor Maude. Rumors had it that she entertained the sailors
when they came in). She wasn’t crazy, just that she didn’t like kids bothering her. Maude lived at the
end of Queen Cross between New and East Streets. While we were up in the tree, I don’t know if we said
something to Maude or she said something to us. The next thing I knew I was out of the tree on the ground
with a piece of glass stuck in my left foot. I was bleeding profusely as Maude laughed hysterically. She felt
I was punished by God for being rude (fresh) to her. An acquaintance (Dowlin) took me in his car to the
Nesbitt Clinic on Strand St. Before he headed for the clinic, he stopped by to let my mother know. I got out
of the car. To me it was nothing. I had to get back in the car and rushed to the clinic. I ended up with 7
stitches on the left side of my left foot. We never climbed those trees again and we stayed as far as
possible from Maude. I felt as if she was the one who made me fall!
For some reason, I remember that I was on a table in a room in the clinic. I remember a big bluish circular
light over my head. Though I could see what was being done to my foot, I could not feel anything. It was
the first experience I had in the operating room of the clinic and was a weird experience. I suppose I was
given something to relax me and reduce the pain I would feel.
I also remember an incident with my brother. He came home with a thorn (“kasha”) stuck in his foot.
I think he was playing ball on the Clarke’s property. Other than to school, church or social event, we
hardly wore shoes! Anyway, a few days later there was a bump on the top part of my brother’s foot.
Ma squeezed the puss filled bump and the thorn came flying out! The thing had traveled from the
bottom of Paco’s foot to the top!
The hotels I remember in Frederiksted were Royal Dane on Strand (#13) and Hill Streets, Sprat Hall on
Northside Drive, Clover Crest which was in the Ham’s Bluff area, and The Cottages by the Sea which were
at the foot of the north side of the lagoon and close to Crooked House. We called the house crooked
because the walls were somewhat tilted.
The West End Salt Pond was intriguing to us. We crossed it many times but were very cautious since it was
pure mud and it was easy to sink knee deep. We would use a long stick to test the area in front of us before
making a move. It was said that the lagoon was used for salt in the early days but was eventually poisoned.
By whom I never found out. Could the reason have been to prevent making salt if it is true it was used for
making salt or is the story a folk tale?
The beaches we went to had names like First Target Wall (a small building on the beach that is said to
have been built by the military), Second Target Wall (a wall which could have been part of a building and was
also said to be built by the military), Crooked House (due to the shape of the house close by), and Dorsch
(Miss Delta Dorsch and her family lived close by). On the north side we had a beach that later became
Rainbow Beach. In the east, we mostly went to Cramers Park, which had rooms to change in, benches, a
At the entrance of Marley Project on Fisher St., close to Strand St., was a huge rubber tree. We played
games like hide-and-go-seek in the tree. We also swung from the many vines that grew from the tree.
[In 1989, Hurricane Hugo tumbled this majestic tree. It was sad to see the tree on its side after having
given so much shade and provided so much fun for us!]
One of the strangest occurrences I experienced as it relates to nature took place every year on a tree in
the cemetery on Prince Street. In the cemetery was a frangipani tree, (Plumeria alba, a tree native to
Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the Lesser Antilles to Grenada). It eventually would flower. The aroma
from the flowers was incredible. If I am not mistaken the flowers were pinkish but the flower could also be
found in white, yellow and possibly other colors. The tree would be covered with leaves and flowers. The
flowers were admired by all. Then all of a sudden the tree would be attacked by black caterpillars. They
had either white or yellow stripes. The tree would be bared of all its foliage. Incredible! The caterpillars
would eventually turn into a cocoon and later become butterflies. Every year, the same cycle was repeated.
|© 2008, Property of Jorge L. Rodríguez. Not for publication in any media without permission
Original draft written in 2003.
|© 2008, Property of Jorge L. Rodríguez. Not for publication in any media without permission
Original draft written in 2003.
|[It appears that the streets going north/south were used to identify the plots, even for those on streets going
east to west. In other words, a house on Queen Cross Street, which goes east/west, would appear as a plot
number with Hospital or Prince Street as the street name. Any plot numbers I have indicated refer to a 1940
map of Frederiksted which I purchased from The Whim Museum. I have used the plot number but refer to the
street regardless of how it runs. Recently, the homes were re-numbered in what people thought was a more
modern system but the new numbers created a lot of problems. It appears most of the tax collection agencies,
etc., have the homes listed based on the old plot system. If I cannot figure out a plot number, I have indicated
the address used by the post office and the number will be preceded by the letter “p”.]
|"Everyday People" by the Supremes
Turn music off is distracting!
June 29, 2017
With permission from the author, I am posting the contents of an email I received below.
I was so moved by the email that I thought it would be nice to share it with my viewers.
Yes, it was great growing up on St. Croix. Yes, it was quite an experience growing up in Frederiksted.
So many memories! So much beauty! So many colors! So many sweet aromas! So many rhythms!
The email received was transferred to Word 2013 and has been attached. If you cannot open the document,
check out the links below. If you still have problems, please let me know.
Need a Word Viewer? Go to: How to obtain the latest Word Viewer