Voyage to Venezuela (12) – The Adventure of Landing at La Guayra – January 4, 1939

This is the  beginning of a series of posts concerning Lad’s Voyage to Venezuela, taking a similar route as John Jackson Lewis during the first portion of his journey, about 88 years later. Lad and Dan had been hired by their Uncle Ted Human (husband of Helen (Peabody) Human), Aunt Helen, sister of Arla Mary (Peabody) Guion, Grandpa’s wife who had passed away in 1933 after a long illness. This is Lad’s version of the adventure he was taking and the same trip Dan had taken earlier in the year, traveling with Ted Human to South America.


The Harbor  at Curacao, January 3, 1939

Native  Quarters at Curacao – January 3, 1939

Wednesday, January 5, 1939, (actually, Wednesday was January 4th in 1939) was a beautiful day, quite well advanced, by the time I rose from my bed.  We were just outside the La Guayra harbor waiting for the Pilot to come aboard to guide us into the harbor.  With him would also come the Officials to check our passports and issue the landing papers.  While I was eating breakfast the small tender arrived and we proceeded into the harbor.  There were ships at the dock so we were able to tie up at the wharf with no trouble at all.  While the ship was being made ready for passengers to disembark, the Customs men were busily checking all passports of those intending to stay in Venezuela.  After studying the little red book for a few minutes they would ask a couple of questions through the interpreter, fill out a sheet in Spanish, which had to be signed by the person himself, and then with almost a tone of greed they asked for 10 Bolivars.  This seemed to be the thing that they were most interested in and after that you were told that you would get your passport back in the Customs House on shore.  The landing papers were given out at the Purser’s Office and we were allowed to leave the ship.  It was eleven o’clock when I got to the long gray galvanized sheet iron building that was the Office and storage room of the Customs Dep’t. and in Venezuela there is a two-hour lunch period which starts at eleven in some towns and in others at noon.  La Guayra starts its lunch hours at eleven so immediately after reaching the building everyone was chased out in the place was locked up while the men went out for lunch.  Naturally, the wise thing for me to do was to go out and eat also, but where?  Out in front of the office I met two men who had come down on the Santa Rosa with me and one of them had spent a number of years in Venezuela and knew where to eat, so we asked him to be our host and he did a nice job of it.  Had lunch at a famous seaside restaurant in La Guayra, of which I have forgotten the name, and drove around a little, seeing parts of the city.  It was all interesting and new to me and at the time, I didn’t notice particularly the dirt and filth that I saw on a call to La Guayra after I had spent a few months in Venez.

At 1:00 we all came back to the Customs Office and found out that before getting our passports we would have to call at another administration building and give some more information concerning how long we were intending to stay in Venezuela, our address, for whom we were working and 5 Bolivars more.  For this last we were given a receipt and told to go back to the Customs Office for the passport.  Arriving back there we were told that we would have to wait because there were a few other people in front of us.  They were terribly slow, and spent more time talking than working.  As our baggage was inspected and passed as O.K. the “jefe” put on a sticker with no regards as to how it would look, with a very messy and sticky glue.  Then it was taken to the car or whatever means of transportation one had, and packed for the trip to wherever.

I am getting a little ahead though.  On board the room Steward had a carton of cigarettes, and offered them to me at a substantial savings, and in answer to my question, told me that if the seal were broken they would pass the Customs.  Therefore I opened each pack and put them in my trunk in a conspicuous place.  However the official must have liked Chesterfield’s for when he saw them he smiled and removed five of the remaining eight, but tobacco, which is definitely taboo, he did not take after I told him that it was all I had with me.  It was a one-pound tin of Briggs about one-third empty.  Everything else that I had went through with no questions.  Our host, Frank DaCosa, had hired a car with our permission, for the three of us and all our luggage was strapped onto the trunk rack on back and by four we were ready to leave La Guayra.

At this point a man who had been hanging around quite closely handed each of us a slip of paper that had all the symptoms of a bill and from Frank I learned that it was one for the unasked for assistance that we had gotten in taking our luggage from the Customs house to the car and for watching it in the locked building during the noon hour.  It amounted to 15 Bolivars, which was ridiculous, but had to be paid in order to avoid a scene.  Therefore by the time we had finally left La Guayra I had paid a total of Bolivars 30, without counting my meal or the charge for the taxi to Caracas.

Tomorrow, more about my Bradford Ancestors.

Next week,  I will begin posting more Childhood Memories of Trumbull.

Judy Guion


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