Island Youth

Three boys enjoy their youth as the tourism industry rises up behind them. (Photo by Herbert Miller)

One of the most evocative images of St. Martin from the early tourism era is a photo of Great Bay by Herbert Miller that was published as a postcard. Unlike most postcards, the composition is vertical. Nearly half the photo is just cloudless blue sky. In the distance, a cruise ship is headed towards the pier. On the beach, a trio of tiny sailboats have their colorful sails up, ready to rent.

Further inland, in the foreground of the photo, the beach slopes down towards another water line. Perhaps this is the outflow from Fresh Pond, not quite reaching the sea at this moment. Three boys are standing at the water’s edge. One dips a stick or net into it. Their backs are to the sea, the cruise ship and rental boats. Behind them, the tourism industry is rising up to take over the island, but for the moment they are in their own world.

Of all the published photos of St. Martin’s past, not many feature kids. Of these, some are carefully posed school photos. Others are images of big events where kids happened to be present. Very few show the life of kids outside the bounds of school, church and family.

Kids in a boat. (Photo from the Tropenmuseum)

We do know some things about the life of kids in the past. Some of the popular songs and games have been added to the Intangible Cultural Heritage Inventory of Sint Maarten. Often these games and songs have small differences from island to island. This gives us hints about the movement of people and culture through the region.

Schoolchildren on the pier. (Photo by Boy Lawson)

Elders are still a great source of knowledge about life as a kid on St. Martin. They often have detailed memories about his time in their life. It is important to document because the island has changed so much. The experience of growing up has also changed all over the world. Technology, fears about safety and changes in parenting styles have transformed childhood.

Many kids had a lot of freedom in the past. They traveled all over the island on foot or by donkey. They also spent a lot of time in nature, catching lizards with nooses made from grass. It could also be a lot of work, helping out around the home or even working in the salt pond. We will never go back to those days, but it would be a great loss if our memory of them disappears.

What were some of your favorite childhood memories? Share it by sending it to [email protected] or to The Daily Herald.

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