South Sounder and ex-Hells Angel Carey Hurlstone is working to get his name in the Guinness Book of World Records thanks to a rather unusual collection of garments.
Thousands of thongs in all sizes and colors are tacked to the rafters of Mr. Hurlstone’s workshop, “the Bikini House,” on South Sound Road, where he welcomes visitors with his handcrafted roadside sign, “Carey’s Black Coral.”
In the past 10 years, he has collected more than 1,000 women’s thongs, which he keeps a record of in an official “Thong Book.” His first thong was donated by Adrienne Barnave of New Jersey on Jan. 22, 2004.
“I like collecting them and often ask people who visit the shop to make a donation,” he said. He also collects bikinis and has hundreds of them as well. On a recent visit to the workshop, the Cayman Compass had the chance to find out more about this fascinating local character.
Born in South Sound in 1936, Mr. Hurlstone, 81, like most young Caymanian men, went to sea for work, joining National Bulk Carrier ships at age 17.
But the life of a seaman was not in the books for this interesting and talented South Sounder, who has many amusing tales to tell.
Before long, Mr. Hurlstone jumped ship to join the Hells Angels – a motorcycle gang formed in 1948 in California by the Bishop family.
Mr. Hurlston said he got involved after one of the gang members saw him perform judo moves on a man during a fight. They promised to teach him to ride if he showed them judo, and he agreed.
“I wanted some excitement and I got it too,” Mr. Hurlstone recalled. “I was young and foolish, I wanted to learn about motorcycles – but a lot of bad things was done.”
He said the Hells Angels did everything that was bad – fight, smash up nightclubs and beat up people.
Rolling up his shirt sleeve, Mr. Hurlstone revealed the Hells Angels insignia of “AFFA” – Angels Forever, Forever Angels – tattooed on his arm.
The taste of the rogue life waned, however, and he left the Hells Angels after being with the gang for more than 10 months, and made his way back to Cayman by boat.
But back home, life would not be that easy for him. He found odd jobs as a furniture builder, and built the little workshop in South Sound he still has today.
Mr. Hurlstone also started drinking and doing drugs, and he said he went through a few marriages before falling madly in love with a George Town woman named Merrill, who he affectionately called “Kitten.” He said it was she who would save him from further ruining his life.
After a night of partying when, he said, he single-handedly smashed up the premises of the old Seaview Lodge, Mr. Hurlstone said she told him he had to stop the drugs and alcohol or she was leaving.
He resolved to quit, but he said the withdrawal from drugs and alcohol turned him “thundering mad,” and at times suicidal, for a year and seven months.
“Something started crawling all over me, I started to shake and sweat from the withdrawal, but I knew I had to stick it out if I wanted to have my girl,” he recalled.
“I fought that demon and finally got off it with the help of my mother, father and girlfriend.”
He eventually proposed to “Kitten” and the couple married and had a daughter, Princess.
“My wife tells me it was Jesus that turned my life around. He only sent her as an instrument to do his work. I’m a good guy now, making a decent living after giving up that life 38 years ago.”
He said not even for a prize of $10 million would he take a drink of alcohol again.
“It’s a demon asleep inside that I never ever want to wake again,” he said.
An avid collector
These days Mr. Hurlstone spends most of his time in his workshop. Along with collecting thongs, he crafts and collects items such as black coral jewelry, knives and marbles. He also has a passion for animals and keeps quite a few around his workshop as friends, including a handsome rooster he named Einstein.
His collection of close to 100,000 marbles is displayed in bottles around his workshop.
“One Christmas morning I found a little bag of marbles under the Christmas tree with ‘Carey’ written on it. The collection grew from there,” he said.
“When people visit the workshop, some take my address and send marbles from their country.”
Like the thongs, the bottles are marked with donors’ names and dates. He has marbles from as far away as Australia, and said he is proud of the two large light-reflecting green marbles that Englishman Keith Raffenty sent him from the United Kingdom. Mr. Raffenty told Mr. Hurlstone the marbles were always kept on his grandparents’ mantle piece, and when they died and left him the house, he found the marbles were still there.
Mr. Hurlstone’s collection of hand-carved knives is just as impressive.
After meeting founder Bo Randall of Randall Made Knives, he started carving his own knives, some to keep and others to sell.
“My knives have never touched electric tools, they are all a labor of love made from Cayman wood, and ivory,” he said.
Mr. Hurlstone also collects painted plates of America’s most famous sailing ships fired by the Danbury Mint in Connecticut, USA.
“When my sister-in-law Eve Flowers was alive, she would send one each month from the States,” he said. In a frame display on his workshop wall are 25 beautiful plates.
Expensive vintage Lucchese Western boots are also in his collection.
“Boots are the shoes I wear. One of these [pair of] boots in good condition can sell for over $2,000,” he said.
Looking back on the changes that have come to Cayman, Mr. Hurlstone is grateful for the times he has lived through.
Mr. Hurlstone never went to school but can read and write. He said he was even offered a job by a Hallmark representative because of his beautiful handwriting.
“I told her if she brought it to Cayman and let me do it in the corner of my workshop, it was OK with me. When she said I would have to go to America, I told her I would rather stay in Cayman and make little money than go to United States and make plenty money,” he said.
A few days ago, he said, he went to the supermarket and saw one hind fish and two white grunt fish packaged up and selling for $6. He said he thought to himself, if he was to go up to the graveyard and show it to his daddy, he would roll over in his grave.
“In my young days, we would have to go out in shoal water and get 20 pounds of fish to get $6,” he said.
Mr. Hurlstone fished and played marbles a lot growing up. There was no traffic on South Sound Road then and he spent many hours in the sandy streets spinning gigs with his friends.
“Those were the good old days – I can look back and honestly say I lived in a period when it was good times and it was Cayman. That’s what comforts me. But now it’s different,” he said.
He said in South Sound there were only a few thatch-roofed houses and dirt roads and the people lived in unity and love.
“When the thatch was rotten and leaking on a house in the neighborhood, everyone pitched in to cut thatch and we would boil conch and breadfruit for the people to eat when they were working. We will never see those days again.
“I tell my daughter today … I lived through some beautiful days, but it doesn’t belong to us anymore.”