By Christopher Tobutt
Bodden Town boasts being Cayman’s first Capital, so it was fitting that the Bodden Town Heritage Committee celebrated both Cayman’s constitution as well as the Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee at Nurse Josie’s Seniors’ Centre at Gun Square on Constitution Day July 4.
Outside, lots of friends and neighbors were sitting and eating some of the lovely traditional Caymanian food, as they shared memories. Inside the Seniors’ Centre as well as in another building nearby, several Committee volunteers were showing visitors around their wonderful display of old photos and artifacts that showed how Caymanians used to live. There was a beautiful display celebrating Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II with lots of photos from her two visits to the Cayman Islands, once in 1983, and the second time in 1994.
In the old days, Caymanians would find a use for everything. There was a lovely bed, filled with the most perfect material for a mattress - plantain leaves. Around the corner in another room, Ms. Mary Lawrence M.B.E, founder member of the Committee was showing a small party around. She stated that all the members are volunteers. “We don’t charge anyone to come and see it, but we have built up a substantial exhibition of Caymanian history in both houses,” she said.
There was an old sewing machine, worth its weight in gold in the old days when skilled hands knew how to use it to make old dresses new again. Over in a corner of one of the rooms was a collection of copies of all of Cayman’s official constitution documents, going back to the very first written constitution. “We didn’t have a written constitution until 1959 but before that we had things like that Handbook that the commissioner put together,” Ms. Lawrence explained as she pointed out the documents. “This is the ‘72 constitution, this is the 65 constitution and this is the 62 constitution and this is the 2009 constitution, all the different stages of the constitution are here.”
What makes a visit to the display charming is all the fun things, like home-made dolls and rabbits next to serious historical photos. Some of the photos went back to World War II and beyond and showed many brave Caymanians who had signed up for military service, either for the US or for Britain. There was a lovely photo of a very young Charles Keith Jackson in the US army. Lots of other old black-and-white photos showed some of our National heroes, as well venerable Caymanian families. A picture of a cart being pulled by a donkey, made you realize just how far Cayman has come in just a few decades.
All around were all kinds of beautiful things from yesteryear including Tilly lamps – the kind that you had to pump up. In the old days – well, not too long ago really, they used to have telephones with big dials on them, and Ms. Lawrence showed a black phone made of plastic, and another heavy one made all of iron. Then there were some old typewriters with keys and levers, which, along with filing cabinet, was the nearest thing that an old office had to a computer.