‘Those were the days’

In her soft but sure voice, Vanita Ebanks, the longest serving staff member at the Cayman Turtle Farm, reminisced on the years gone by.

Ms Vanita started her employment at the farm on 21 July, 1972 as a domestic worker earning CI$25 a week.

She remembers riding her bike one day in Salt Creek and noticing one big hole shaped like a cesspool forming and rushing home to find out what was happening in the area. Her mother informed her that they were building a turtle farm and what she saw must be what they were calling a breeding pond. This development was just the beginning of the soon blooming tourism industry.

Carolyn Ebanks, Ms Vanita’s sister, began at the Farm as a tour guide and earned CI$40 a week. Ms Vanita remembered the round cabana-shaped gift shop that her sister Carolyn used to work in on the days that there were no cruise ships.In those days, around 1978, cruise ships came in every other Wednesday; Carolyn would do tours on those Wednesdays.

At the time there were 115 people working on the Farm. These were the days of Marlin Simon, and Robert Stroder. The farm staff was large because it was the period where turtle goods were sold to the US until the conservation law came into effect banning the international sale of turtle goods. This forced the company to lay people off. Ms Vanita also remembers it being a very tough time for the farm and families in the area; many turtles were killed as it became too costly to feed so many turtles. At that time that turtle meat was sold at CI$1.25 per pound; the regular price was CI$2.25 per pound.

Ms Vanita remembers the large number of foreign students that used to visit the farm and do research. These students stayed in the dwelling house. There use to be a medical doctor, Gerbert Rebell, who regularly came in and inspected the farm; his post was initially replaced by Glen Ulry from the US as the regular in-house doctor.

Ms. Vanita noted that to make ends meet she and Diana Moore, another long serving employee at the Cayman Turtle Farm, use to clean the turtle pens and wash the turtles for extra money.

From those early days, Ms. Vanita and Ms. Diana were close friends. They enjoyed taking breaks under the large willow tree which was shady and ducking from Jim Wood whenever he walked by. Ms Vanita laughs as she remembers saying to Ms. Diana ‘pull your self in Diana…see him going there now, see him going there now.’ Sighing and sitting back, Ms. Vanita remembers ‘those were the days…those were the days.’

Submitted by Boatswain’s Beach/Cayman Turtle Farm

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