Boomer Memoir

Searching For My Students

“Little Switzerland” beckoned. I rounded the corner of the open-air market just down the road from Bluebeard’s Castle where Don and I were staying for the first few nights of his three-week assignment in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and there it was; the famous jewelry store I remembered from when I lived in St. Thomas the first time. The last article I bought there was an ivory cameo brooch for my mother in 1969.

After having spent four years upstate New York, at SUNY (State University of New York), Cortland, I had had enough of ten-foot snow banks, and moved to the tropical paradise immediately after graduation. I was hired in New York to work in a disco on the waterfront in the USVI, which I learned meant United States Virgin Islands after I accepted the job. Due to an incident at the nightclub during which the owner got stabbed in the gut by an angry customer who didn’t agree with the $2.00 cover charge, the owner, concerned for my safety, cut back my hours so that I only had a few shifts to coincide with his presence.

Having lots of extra time with the cut-back, I applied for a teaching job in the public school system as an itinerant Phys. Ed. Teacher. By day, I marched my students down water-front to Emile Griffith Park to play baseball; by night I mixed rum punches for the tourists in the bar above the A.H. Riise Gift Store. The building is still there. Although the days of cocktail tables sitting on the balcony are long gone, that’s what I see when I look at the building, which now says “Rolex” instead of “Le Club”.

A trip to the jewelry store was not on my current to-do list. Really, I was just curious to see how much it had changed since the olden days. I poked my head through the doorway and was immediately greeted (accosted) by the hungry sales-people in the shop. It’s hurricane season, so the customer base is limited, dependent on the cruise ship passengers. The winning smile and gentle demeanor of a young lady behind one of the counters drew me in for a conversation. I assured her I was not in the market, and I had no idea who John Hardy was, the designer she was touting. I told her I lived under a rock in Costa Rica, and never heard of him, which set her into peals of laughter, which, in turn, set me off on a giggle-fit.

After we recovered, I told her I used to live there and wondered how old she was, in case she was one of my students. “I just made twenty-eight.” She replied. Not being quick with the math, I said I was the PE teacher in 1968 at Back Street School. “1968?! I wasn’t even a seed yet! But if you’re that old, I guarantee you look better than your students do. Good luck finding any of them.”

The John Hardy necklace she dangled in front of me danced and twinkled, hypnotizing me. It’s an exquisite sterling silver dragon, adorned with eighteen carat gold designs woven in, and an amethyst sparkling from its neck. It is, after all, the year-of-the-dragon isn’t it? A person should honor the Chinese calendar no matter that she is Jewish, from Brooklyn, who-looks-like-a-shiksa who moved to the west coast, turned big-boobed blonde when she crossed the California border. The year of the dragon must be honored!

Whoops … I just looked it up; the Year of the Dragon ended in February. It’s now the Year of the Snake! Does this mean I can’t have the necklace?

The sales-girl, Shaline, crooned: “You can make monthly payments. Here, try it on.” Once she encircled my neck with the shiny chain and got that lobster claw fastened, she knew she had me. I was speechless as she pulled out the oval mirror from beneath the counter. I muttered something about not having my wallet and having to check with my husband as I handed her the necklace. Her knowing smile and soft nod said: “You’ll be back”.

I decided to look for my students at Magens Bay instead of the shops.

2 thoughts on “Searching For My Students

  1. What goes around, comes around. You’re doing EXACTLY what a nice Jewish girl from Brooklyn would do in the Virgin Islands. And how appropriate that it’s the year of the Snake. Remember how it tempted Eve? Past is prologue bubula…!

    Janet 🙂


  2. Oh Carole, I just adore you!!

    With all the robberies going on when you live, just as well you left the silver dragon in USVI 🙂



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