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Memories of Half Moon: Guy Steuart III

Aboard a Douglas DC-3 at an antsy age 5, I was headed to Jamaica with my grandparents for the very first time. And time it certainly took.

A DC-3 is a twin engine aircraft capable of 200 miles per hour airspeed with a range of approximately 1,500 miles. First manufactured in 1935, it is said to have revolutionized air transport and largely is considered to have been the first aircraft to be profitable, solely on the basis of ferrying passengers. Converted to private use, this DC-3 was capable of carrying 14 passengers outfitted with two couches, a full bar, restroom, gin rummy table and weather radar, much to the two pilots’ relief. It was built for comfort, clearly, but not speed.

The Half Moon was less than 10 years old in 1963. Situated in Montego Bay on the north coast of Jamaica it is in the same time zone as the east coast of the US but nevertheless it tested the specifications of a DC3 traveling from Virginia. We made a stop for fuel and to pick more guests in Florida, before the final leg across the Caribbean Sea. Peeking through the clouds watching traffic below seemingly outpace us, I may have asked more than once…”When are we going to get there”?

At last! We touched down and taxied to a stop where we were greeted by Immigration officers. While pilots and my grandfather dealt with paperwork, I hopped into the car to make for the shores of Half Moon, a short drive away, I was told. Multi-hued turquoise waves and palm trees mesmerized me along the way and upon turning into the drive to Cottage 1, the first memory of Half Moon is warm, soft breezes and flowers. And Eva. Eva was dressed in a pink uniform with a white apron tied around her waist. She had a small hat pinned to her hair and was not only the housekeeper responsible for the cottage but also my nanny for the duration. She didn’t swim, which concerned my grandmother greatly, and as I played in the sand every day until forced to retreat following a wicked sunburn, she’d be nearby in her uniform keeping an eye on me while my grandparents played gin rummy and relaxed.

Eva chaperoned me every night to the Seagrape Terrace before dinner and sat me down to be entertained by a mento band. One of the three musicians sat on a wood box with six steel tongues bridged over a hole, called a rumba box, and the others strummed a guitar and a banjo. The rumba player showed me how to pluck the tongues while the band crooned Jamaican folk songs over its melodic beat. Three songs standout: ‘Jamaica Farewell’, ‘Yellow Bird’ and ‘Shame and Scandal in the Family”, the latter of which made me smile, but it took a few years to comprehend why it made others laugh! My grandmother always allowed me to hand the band a gratuity.

So these are some of the memories of a five year old’s first visit to Half Moon from a perspective, some 55 years later. And for the record, the mento band still makes me smile when performing a repertoire of ‘oldies’, often augmented by modern standards such as Bob Marley’s ‘Three Little Birds’, but always with a handful of youngsters bearing a few dollars.

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Guy Steuart III is Chairman of Half Moon.

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