Thursday, January 12, 2012

Earle of the islands

Earle Nelthropp and daughter Sonya
Here are some stories from one of my ancestral homes, St. Thomas.  You may recall a previous one about how the island came to be covered with flamboyant trees.

Today's stories are about an interesting personage from the Virgin Islands, Earle Nelthropp.  You met his daughter, Sonya, in an earlier post, in which she presented several sayings from the islands, updated here.

Earle served as Administrator of St. John from 1966-69, appointed by his old friend, Governor Ralph Paiewonsky.  In 1970, he took over as manager of the Magens Bay beach authority.  But it is his earlier history that offers a sense of the color of the times.

Earle was born in St. Thomas in 1906. In an interview with Sonya in his later years (1988), he reminisced about the arrival of Halley's Comet in 1910:

Halley's Comet in 1910
I was in St. Thomas.  I was only four years old at the time.  My father and I went out in the evening to see this comet over the town of Charlotte Amalie and from where we were standing, we were facing the town across the Harbor of St. Thomas.  It seemed to me at the time that we were standing from one end of the town to the other end.  The sight was very spectacular.

Shortly after, Earle was sent to Denmark for his early schooling. 

In Denmark, I was enrolled in a boarding school.  The schools were very rough on children who did not speak Danish; therefore it did not take me long to learn.

King Christian the Tenth used to ride by the school yard every Thursday on his horse.  At that time, 10:00 in the morning, we were out in the play field when he rode by.  He would give us a bag of sweets over the fence.  That's the kind of King he was.  He was 6 foot 6 or 6 foot 7, a big man, a wonderful man.

Apparently, Earle became a bit more mischievous upon returning to St. Croix, attending Mrs. Lauder's School at the corner of Church and Queen Street.  A contemporary, Antone Taytoe, relates this story:

One day, Earl N., who was always up to tricks like this, brought to school a large centipede which he had caught and removed its poison fangs.  Now, with the fangs removed it was perfectly harmless; but if you did not know that the fangs had been removed it was still very frightening. So, while we were all seated and busy with lessons, Earl removed the centipede from a little box in which he carried it and place it on the floor and called the attention of one of the more timid girls to it.  The girl took one look and let out a scream of course and pandemonium broke loose.   Earl had to push one boy out of the way just as he was about to stomp on his centipede.  Finally Earl got it back in its box and took it outside in the yard ostensibly to kill it, as he said.

Mrs. Lauder cautioned loudly, "Look out, they always travel in pairs, another one might come along at any moment." This gave Earl just the opening he wanted.  After coming back into the classroom saying not to worry that he had disposed of the creature, he let a few minutes go by and when things had settled down and lessons resumed, he let his centipede out of its box again to the accompanying shrieks of the children.  "See what I told you," said Mrs. Lauder, now a proven naturalist, "They always travel in pairs."

Earl again caught the centipede and was now viewed as a sort of hero.  He took his defanged centipede outside and set it free in the garden.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like he should have been a surgeon!