War touches the Caribbean By Pam...

A MEMORABLE PLACE

September 02, 2001|By Special to the Sun

A MEMORABLE PLACE

War touches the Caribbean

By Pam Everett

Many travelers to the Caribbean are nostalgic about earlier visits. My first visit was 60 years ago, in the early days of World War II. My father, an American architect, had been retained by a company working with the British government to build army bases on British territories, in this case, Trinidad.

We had moved to Trinidad in January 1941, while war raged in Europe between Britain and the Axis powers, and though we witnessed no hostilities in Trinidad, we did learn something of the difficulties of civilian life in a country at war: restrictions on food and personal freedom.

We lived in the German consul's residence, while the consul himself languished in prison, his lovely, cultured wife occupying servants' quarters behind the main house. Though we felt some of the pains of war, my parents and I were just observers. To me, a child of 12, the war was in Europe, not America; 11 months later, I would find myself more intimately connected to a world turned upside down.

Following my uncle's sudden death in November, my mother boarded a Pan American Clipper to return to New York for her only brother's funeral. Uncle Walter, a young artillery lieutenant, had lost his life when his army truck overturned during maneuvers in North Carolina.

My father remained in Trinidad to complete his assignment, and it was determined that I should return to the United States. Accordingly, my father booked passage for my return on Alcoa's S.S. Acadia, and in the company of two young American women bound for home to be married, I set sail on Thursday, Dec. 4. The only child on board, I was catered to and spoiled, the unaccustomed attention serving to temper somewhat the somber tone of the passage.

Fun suddenly ceased when Sunday's news described the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Adults grouped together in serious discussion, some close to panic. It was a wake-up call to all aboard, and this is when I became an adult.

For the next couple of days, my parents -- Mother in New York and Father in Trinidad -- having learned that U-boats might be prowling the Caribbean, tried to get information about the ship, but neither the U.S. nor the British governments provided information, and my parents were frantic.

It didn't occur to me I might have tried to wire one of them, though in retrospect I suppose that wartime security likely would have prevented my contacting anyone.

Fortunately, I arrived in New York safely on Dec. 11. My mother was very relieved that her daughter was neither at the bottom of the Caribbean nor a prisoner of war.

I have sailed the Caribbean several times since then, each time recalling my transition from childhood to adulthood.

Pam Everett lives in Ellicott City.

MY BEST SHOT

Sails on the Nile

By John L. Robinson, Darlington

The stern look belies the gentle nature of this Egyptian man plying the waters of the Nile River. On a recent trip to Egypt, we made several excursions in a felucca -- a traditional Egyptian sailboat -- to visit the sights. This picture was taken in Luxor.

READERS RECOMMEND

COSTA RICA

Terry and Jim Taylor, Baltimore

"While traveling from the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica to the Arenal Volcano and rain forest, we stopped and were entertained by one of the Ticos -- natives -- and her pet squirrel. The people were friendly and inviting, and the country was beautiful."

Kumbrabow State Forest, W.Va.

Ed Houk, Forest Hill

"In May, my wife and I got a taste of the pioneer experience. We rented a log cabin that had no indoor plumbing or electricity. We read under gas lamps and cooked on a wood-burning kitchen stove. There are lots of stars at night when there's no light pollution."

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