Visiting the Bahamas Chapter

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
January 22, 2015

On Monday, January 12th, Virginia Lingelbach, National Chair, Units Overseas and I flew to Nassau, Bahamas for a visit with the Bahamas Chapter. To our delight, we were escorted from the plane by Eric Hanna from the Protocol Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Immigration who ushered us into his office while he handled customs and retrieved our luggage.  It sure is easy to get used to this royal treatment! 

Met at the airport by Vicki Thomas, Chapter Regent and Ruth Mytty, Vice Regent, we were driven to our hotel, the Atlantis Resort.  We learned that January 12th is Majority Rule Day, a holiday celebrating the day in 1967 that the Progressive Liberal Party came into power.

That evening Dale and Donna Baucom drove us to Godfrey and Vicki Thomas’ house where we were greeted by seven chapter members and three husbands, two of whom were descended by British colonials.  Godfrey is descended from the British; his mother’s family had been in the Bahamas for generations and his father’s family was from Wales.  Interestingly, he and Vicki both had ancestors who fought at the Battle of Yorktown – on opposite sides.  Most of the native Bahamians are avid boaters and fishermen and we dined on some of Godfrey’s catch.  Our delicious dinner started with Shrimp Puffs and included salad, Mahi Mahi, steak, Bahamian macaroni and cheese (thicker and spicier than we are accustomed to), asparagus, rum cake and a chocolate cake, Bacardi Nassau Royale. 

Godfrey is a history buff and showed us his impressive collection of historic bottles from the 1700-1800s which he retrieved from the harbor years ago before it was dredged for cruise ships.  Apparently many of those colonial sailors were gin drinkers…

All of the seven ladies from the chapter that evening either have lived on the island or currently do.  They have developed close friendships and spend a week or two together each January catching up while conducting the chapter’s business.  Members unable to meet in person attend the meetings by Skype.  The chapter was organized in 2001 and currently has 37 members.  They appreciate their 150 associate members. 

After lunch at the Ocean Club on Tuesday, we went to the American Embassy where we were warmly greeted by the Charge’ de’ Affaires, Lisa A. Johnson.  She is the highest ranking American diplomat in the Bahamas as they do not currently have an Ambassador.  Ms. Johnson graciously invited us into her office and explained that the Embassy not only assists the citizens living among the 700 Bahamian islands but also assists tourists with emergencies.  She relayed that at least five cruise ship passengers miss the boat every week!

She shared with us the importance of the U.S. Coast Guard which handles dangerous shipping conditions, immigration issues, airlifts passengers from cruise ships with medical emergencies, and also works closely with the Drug Enforcement Agency.

We offered to assist Ms. Johnson with genealogical research in order to join the DAR and she told us she had been in our beautiful buildings several times for diplomatic receptions.

We walked around downtown Nassau and learned much of the local history, including the history of the straw market and the Government House, completed in 1806 where the Edward the VII, the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor, lived while he was Governor of The Bahamas 1940-1945.  There is a large statue of Christopher Columbus outside Government House as his first landfall was on the island of Hispaniola.

Encountering a Junkanoo Clown, Virginia and I had to pose for a photo.  I learned that the original Junkanoo is the strongest remaining African tradition in the Bahamas which celebrates the free time the slaves had at Christmas.

Dinner that evening was on the patio of the Café Matisse.  Imagine our surprise to arrive and see dozens of officers and a band waiting across the street!  Apparently they were not there to greet us, but rehearsing for the opening of the Supreme Court the next morning.  Our group thoroughly enjoyed getting acquainted and sharing ideas over another delicious dinner.

Wednesday morning we went to Luciano’s Restaurant for lunch and the chapter’s official meeting, held on the patio overlooking the harbor.  Eight members attended and I gave each a tote bag and a copy of American Spirit magazine.  It was fascinating to hear the chapter reports, including a comprehensive report of their Celebrate America! activities which totaled 4,637 hours in 2014.  Because of the challenges with international snail mail, the chapter has digitized all of their history, minutes, photos and reports in Dropbox.  Chapter officers have access to the membership rosters, chapter history and photographs and financial reports.

Virginia and I were both invited to share updates with the members and were delighted to each receive a beautiful painting from a well-known local artist. Vicki presented a most generous check from the chapter and I look forward to presenting the Benefactor certificate to her at Congress.

After lunch, Godfrey picked us up on the dock and took us for a delightful harbor cruise on their boat.  While admiring the gorgeous water with many shades of blue and aquamarine contrasting with the soft white sand, Godfrey gave us a marvelous history of the country.  He pointed out Fort Charlotte, a British Colonial fort built in 1789 on a hill overlooking the Nassau Harbor. 

We learned that King Charles II granted the islands to the Lords Proprietors of the Carolinas in 1670.  However, during proprietary rule, the Bahamas became a haven for pirates, including the infamous Blackbeard. To put an end to the 'Pirates' republic' and restore orderly government, Britain made the Bahamas a crown colony in 1718. Britain granted its independence on July 10, 1973.  

The first Marine landing of the Revolutionary war was held on March 1, 1776, on the eastern end of the Island of New Providence at Fort Montagu. Construction began on the fort 1741 to defend the British possession from Spanish invaders. The fort is made out of limestone and when it was built, it had 23 cannons and over 95 barrels of gun powder. The Flag of the USA actually flew over the Bahamas for a fortnight as the American soldiers searched for gunpowder. That brief conquest happened without a shot being fired.

Its close proximity to the United States makes it an ideal location for many Americans to establish residence and enjoy the beautiful islands. With the primary industries of tourism and international banking, the islands welcome over 3 million visitors a year.

Our farewell dinner was at Carmines where Godfrey and Dale again joined us.  It was a family style restaurant near our hotel and by this time, we felt like family.  While Virginia and I headed back to our chilly weather Thursday morning, the chapter was meeting at Vicki’s to finish the Chapter Master Report.

We shall look forward to greeting our new friends at Congress!

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