By Suzy Beal
This is the tenth episode of a travel memoir that is unfolding, one chapter each month, here on True Stories Well Told. Stay tuned for more of the adventure as teenage Suzy’s family moves to Europe, builds a sailboat, and takes up life on the high seas circa 1961. Click here to read the earlier episodes.
During the summer months of 1961, Dad and the boys traveled back and forth to Puerto Pollensa on the other side of the island. Dad was negotiating the construction of our sailboat in a boat yard there. An American, Mr. Woodward, owned half of the yard, and a Spaniard, Señor Hevia, owned the other half. They called it MYABCA (Mallorca Yacht and Boat Construction Association.) Soon the talk of moving to Puerto Pollensa took over the dining room table conversation. In August, just before we moved, Grandma (Dad’s mother) and Cousin Jack (Dad’s nephew) came for a visit. Grandma couldn’t travel alone, so Cousin Jack came with her. It was great to have someone our age from home with whom to share our experiences.
Puerto Pollensa was located on the north end of the Island of Mallorca about sixty miles from Puerto Antraitx. It was a beautiful town on the bay with a stone walkway (paseo) that completely encircled the bay. The harbor was huge compared with Puerto Andraitx, lots of room for sailing. Opposite the town on the bay was a military base that supported a fleet of seaplanes for military purposes. Our new home was situated on the paseo between this base and town.
Señor Hevia owned a home on the bay in Puerto Pollensa not too far from the yard MYABCA. He was the father of six children. He rented the entire upper floor of his home to us. It was named “Casa Hevia,” and it hosted eight Hevias and eleven Chamberlins, including Grandma and Jack. We moved in during the fall of that year. Our upstairs floor was huge, with tall ceilings and tile floors. Tommy had a tower room he shared with Jack, which was on the rooftop. The rest of us had rooms of our own, except Mom and Dad. Jan shared with Grandma during her stay. We had two bathrooms, which didn’t seem like enough for eleven of us.
We ate our dinner meals at a local family restaurant for several weeks. The mother and daughter cooked the meals while the husband seated people and took their money. Their son, Mariano, was our waiter. He spoke English, which made it handy for everyone, especially me. His attention, accent, and charming smile interested me.
Mom got help to find someone who could help in the kitchen from an Austrian lady, Mrs. Anderson, whose husband worked at MYABCA. They had been living in Puerto for several years.
Catalina came to work for us soon after we got settled. Her small hands were wrinkled beyond their years, just like her face. Hard work and raising a family had taken its toll. She cooked, cleaned, shopped, and arranged the delivery of wood, water, and electricity for us without complaint, and her small wiry frame was a match for the laundry tub she battled every day. She spoke a few words of English, which facilitated our communication.
Catalina chattered throughout the day with anyone who stopped to listen. She always had time to give advice on the local boys. She told me which ones were okay to date. With three daughters of her own, she treated me as one.
Once Catalina brought a tureen of soup to the dining room and placed it in front of Mom to serve. Mom plunged the ladle into the tureen and out came a chicken head and foot. I saw her falter. She picked up the tureen and headed for the kitchen. Words were exchanged in the kitchen. “We don’t eat chicken heads or feet.”
“Que pasa?” (What’ the matter?)
On New Year’s Day, we ordered a suckling pig for dinner, as was the custom. Catalina served it to Mom to carve. There it was on the platter with an apple in its mouth. Mom attempted to carve it, but shuddered at its eyes looking at her. Back in the kitchen, Dad cut up the entire pig, so the parts weren’t recognizable. When Catalina realized we weren’t going to eat the head, she asked Mom if she could take it home to her family. We giggled imagining her family surrounding the pig’s head, eating its brains.
Every dayJan and I walked to Colmado Mir, our local grocery store, to get our staples such as sugar, flour, and any canned goods. We got up early each morning to catch the fresh open-air vegetable market for our fruits and vegetables. Our Spanish was getting better, and we learned the names of the foods Mom wanted us to buy. We shopped at the panaderia for bread and mantecados (our favorite cookies) and the carniceria for meats and chicken. Shopping required many stops as each store only sold specific things.
I spent my days giving lessons in arithmetic, geography, and reading to Frank and Conrad, helping with the housework, and trying to establish a social life with the local teenagers. Through a blossoming relationship with Mariano, a boy Catalina approved of, I was meeting and making friends. Hank, Tommy and I spent our time with Juanita, Angelines, Magdalena, Jose (2 of them), Maruja, Rosa, Domingo, and Juan. We became the pandilla gang. Carl hung around the fringes with his friend Antonio. Jan spent her days on the playa (beach) in front of our house with the Jaume Family who lived next door, spending much of her time with Antonio, one of the four children in the family. Antonio, Damian, Alfonso, and Rafaelita played out in front of the houses on the beach or went sailing on the bay. We were a small noisy city of eighteen kids at our end of the Paseo.
Conrad and Frank played cowboys and Indians with the Hevia kids who lived below us. They communicated with ease although not knowing each other’s language. The kids shouted “Bang, Bang” in their own language, and the others knew when to fall down dead.
Tommy was dating Juanita. Once when we went to the movies, she sat next to him chatting about something. Because of his time in Palma studying Spanish, he could understand more than the rest of us. When Juanita stopped chattering, Tommy laughed and laughed. We wanted to know what she’d said and Tommy said, “She told me a joke, but I didn’t understand it so I will talk for a few minutes to you, then I want you to laugh when I stop, so she won’t know I didn’t understand.” We did as he told us and laughed and laughed when he stopped talking.
© 2019 Suzy Beal
Suzy Beal, an occasional contributor to True Stories Well Told, has been writing her life story and personal essays for years. In 2016 Suzy began studying with Sheila Bender at writingitreal.com. Watch for new chapters of her travel memoir to be posted! Please leave comments for Suzy on this post.