Abaco Life in the Early 20th Century

bahamas, abaco, green turtle cay, autobiography, history, geneaologyIn  the years before she passed away, I’d sit with my grandmother in the evenings. She’d rock back and forth in her creaky glider chair and reminisce about her childhood in Green Turtle Cay.

She’d talk about picking sea grapes and digging shells at Gillam Bay, cleaning conchs before school to feed the family’s hogs and farming watermelons on Black Sound with her father.

My grandmother told me about the day her six-year-old sister, Mirabelle, suddenly took ill and died, and about surviving the 1932 hurricane, which demolished her family’s home, along with most of the New Plymouth settlement.

Though she often couldn’t tell you what she’d had for breakfast that morning, she could describe – in surprising detail – events from many decades before. More than seventy years later, she could recite the full mailing address of Molly Mayberry, her British childhood pen pal.

Though my grandmother shared her memories informally, a number of her contemporaries have published their memoirs, creating a valuable source of historical information and providing fascinating insights into Abaco life in the early to mid-20th century.

Floyd Lowe,  A Man of Many Firsts, Green Turtle Cay, Abaco, BahamasSome of my favourite Abaco autobiographies include:

A Man of Many Firsts, by Green Turtle Cay’s Floyd Lowe (available at Curry’s Foods or the J.S. Johnson Insurance office in Green Turtle Cay.)

My Life – The Abaco Boy Story, by Marsh Harbour’s Jack Lowe (to order, email highrocks@coralwave.com or write to Jack directly at Box AB-20042, Marsh Harbour, Abaco)

I Wanted Wings: The Autobiography of Leonard M. Thompson, and Sea to Sky: From Island Boy to Flying Man, by Hope Town’s Leonard Maurice Thompson

Jack Lowe, The Abaco Boy Story, Bahamas, Marsh Harbour Man-o-War, My Island Home, by Haziel L. Albury

The Fledgling: A Bahamian Boyhood, and The Long Day Wanes: A Memoir of Love and War by Hope Town’s Chester Thompson

Island Captain: The Memoirs of Earnest Dean by Sandy Point’s Captain Earnest Dean and Gary Woodcock

Out Island Doctor and My Castle in the Air by Evans W. Cottman. (Though Cottman wasn’t Bahamian, he was certainly a prominent figure in Abaco in the mid-1900s, and his memoirs offer a vivid glimpse into local life at the time.)

Most of these titles may be purchased at Green Turtle Cay’s Albert Lowe Museum, or at book and souvenir shops throughout the Bahamas.

No doubt there are other Abaco autobiographies out there. If you know of any I’ve missed, or you have historic family stories or photographs you’d like to share, drop me a note. I’d love to hear from you.

  3 comments for “Abaco Life in the Early 20th Century

  1. gayleupstairs@comcast.net
    July 8, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Mandy –

    Greetings from toasty warm Seattle –

    Additional authors/historians:

    1) Dave Gale, owner of Island Marine on Parrot Cay, just off the Elbow Cay harbour entrance and lighthouse. His “histories” are more personal narratives of immigrating to Elbow Cay from the NE US in the 1950’s than the personal histories of Abaco “natives”. They revolve around the development of Elbow Cay, his founding influence with BASRA, his involvement with the Elbow Cay Reef Lighthouse Preservation Society and history specific to Elbow Cay, it’s growth, development, outside influences, the independence movement, and local government as well as his business endeavors from the 50’s until today. They also include insight into Abaco as a whole and it’s development and growth. I know for sure one title is “Ready About” and I think I remember, and am reasonable confident, there is a second book but I can’t remember the name of it. I don’t find it on my bookshelves, so I have apparently, yet again, given it to Nancy or some neophyte Abaco wanna-be or intentionally left it in a cottage on Elbow or GTC.

    2) The elusive “2nd” Dave Gale book might, in fact, be Steve Dodge’s (of Cruising Guide fame) “Abaco – A History of an Out Island and It’s Cays”, available from his “White Sound Press”. I’ve read a bunch of Elbow Cay personal memoirs/narratives because of not only the experiences and contributions of Hopetown residents but their proclivities to record those histories as well. Not just Gale and Dodge, but also both Leonard and Chester Thompson’s book(s), so I kind of lose track of who did/wrote/said what.

    ON A DIFFERENT, BUT GTC RELATED TOPIC: Looks like Nancy and I, Angie with daughter Laurie and grandson Alex (no Tommy, they can’t get him to board a plane, or even walk through the front doors of a place he knows for sure is an airport. anymore), Linda, Irene and Abaco Ma (Mary Ann Huggins) all be there for at least Festival Weekend next year. Angie has already made her initial house reservation (Osprey’s Nest because Sea Star wasn’t available) and I’m just a night or two away from making one for HOTP for Nancy and me. We called “dibs” on it about 3-4 weeks ago and, so far at least, our circle of friends, who are sadly not “owners” but lowly “occasional renters” on GTC, like someone I know, are honoring that. Looks like we (Nancy and I) will be on “The “Rock” (not Eddie Bodie – lol!) from Thurs, April 30, until Tues, May 5 for Nancy and probably me, although I may stay an extra night or two. Nancy is semi-retired now (as of the middle of our trip to Spain the end of May, beginning of June), working just 3 days a week to supplement and stretch her social security and medicare benefits, so she is unwilling/unable to take more than 6 days (including travel) away from home because she needs that income just now.

    Will you guys be “home” at Fish Hooks during that time? It would be wonderful to see all 3 of you again.

    • July 13, 2014 at 9:22 am

      Gayle, thank you so much for the suggestions. Will check out Dave Gale’s book(s). I’m not 100% sure, but I’m certainly hoping we’ll be in GTC for the upcoming festival. Will let you know once we know for sure. We’d love to see you and Nancy, and have you over for a drink on our new porch (it’s the only room in the house that’s ready for receiving guests, but it’s a great one!) 🙂

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