Times were quiet on St. John in '50s and early '60s. There was very little drama. People lived their lives, took care of their families, and enjoyed their friendships. We were a village where everyone knew everyone.
When something did happen it was a big deal. Years before we moved to St. John there had actually been a double murder. The murderer was released from jail not long after we arrived and as children, when we saw him pass, we would hide, afraid of being seen by him. Then there was the time a house burned down and the occupant was killed in the fire. And there was a man who killed himself. These were huge tragedies because all of us knew the people involved, knew their families. These kinds of things were personal and the incident would be talked about for months.
But mostly, St. John was a sleepy place where we kids were free to roam, our parents' only concern being that we might get hurt while scrambling over the rocks like goats or falling out of trees.
We had a collection of characters like Old Mr. Penn, who, no matter how drunk he got could dance with a beer bottle balanced on his head. Or the Russian tenor, John (Ivan) Jadan, or the mystery writer, Richard "Duke" Ellington, or Miss Agnes who had to give you something to eat if you passed by her house, or Trumps the humpback who swept the park.
Then there was Leroy Smalls. He was our resident thief.
Everyone knew Leroy was a thief. Mostly he stole fruit like mangoes, guavas or limes off of Neptune Richard's fruit trees. Then he would try to sell them. When he came around with, say, a bag of limes the question would be, "And where did you get these limes, Leroy?" To which he would adamantly reply he had gotten them off his own tree. But everyone knew he had no lime tree of his own. His thieving was harmless and for the most part tolerated.
But one time he stole a suitcase. Why he would steel a suitcase is beyond me. I doubt seriously he needed it to go somewhere. If he had ever been farther than St. Thomas or Tortola I'd be surprised. But none the less he stole a suitcase, was caught, put in jail, and had a trial.
At the end of the trial Leroy was given a sentence of a few more days in jail where he would be well taken care of and fed three meals a day. But Leroy had other plans. He got up, went to the front of the courtroom, picked up the suitcase (which had been used as evidence) and started to walk out with it.
Our fine and wonderful policeman, Captain Jurgen, said, "Leroy, where you tink you goin' wid dat suitcase?"
And Leroy said, "Well, tis mine. I teef it."
That was the extent of crime and punishment on St. John.