Blessed with bright, white, sandy beaches, clear blue water for swimming or fishing, and a semitropical climate that makes for year-round comfort, the islands of the Caribbean are turning into an American playground. To capture the spirit of this exciting resort area, SI commissioned Artist John Groth to visit four of the most popular island areas and give an artist's impression of these former haunts of pirates, empire builders and swashbucklers. First stop on the itinerary was Jamaica in the British West Indies, where Groth traveled by boat to a beach party (below) at Ocho Rios. Calypso singers, a bar and buffet service enlivened festivities which were climaxed by the antics of guests attempting to win a free bottle of champagne—the standing offer of the Silver Seas Hotel to anybody able to swim out to the cruiser carrying a glass of champagne on his head without spilling the contents.
Jamaica offers tourists both the trappings of modern civilization and nature in the raw. Visitors can sit on the terraces on hotel row at Montego Bay and throw pennies to the "fireboats" which pull alongside while their native crews chant the sagas of Mary Ann or Daphne Walkin'. The costumes of the boatmen and their fiery headdresses supposedly go back to African Ashanti witch-doctor lore.
Vacationers looking for a less obviously artificial means of entertainment can travel on rafts poled downstream by natives on the Rio Grande river along the northeast coast. Along the shore they see native villages where the people live largely as they have always lived, with the thick jungle just a few feet beyond the settlement. The women wash clothing in the streams while little nude boys, looking like youthful fauns, stand playing Panlike pipes at points where the river narrows and pennies thrown by the tourists can be easily retrieved.
Cricket and polo, brought over from Mother England long ago, are the dominant sports of Jamaica. The native bowlers and batsmen play a rousing, colorful game and willingly pose for photographs by visiting tourists. The sport of the plantation-owning aristocracy is polo, and clubs like the one at Drax Hall, near St. Ann's, dot the island. Matches are usually held on Saturday afternoons and serve the widely scattered plantation families with an opportunity for social get-togethers as well as sport. While husbands gallop up and down the field, wives exchange gossip in the members' pavilion and native "nanas" try desperately to keep children from being trampled underfoot.
December 13, 1954
Dunn's river falls near St. Ann's Bay on the northern coast of Jamaica provide thrills for the adventuresome. One hundred feet high and cascading over rough, pumicelike rocks, the falls can be climbed without much danger of slipping. Before them lies the ocean; behind them the ever-present jungle.