Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
We are a Navy retired family. My husband retired with 24 years in service. We lived on the base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba from July 1974 through November 1977.
Guantanamo Bay is a 45 square mile piece of land and water that the U.S. has occupied since 1903. It is the only base in operation in a communist country. The base received their water from Cuba via of a pipeline for a monthly fee since 1939. In 1964 the Cuban government stopped supplying the water. The base had a supply of water in storage and water restrictions were put into effect. The U.S. imported water from Jamaica via barges for a while, then built the desalination plants. These plants take the sea water, remove the salt so the water is fit for human consumption and then return the salt back to the sea.
The phone system that we had when we lived there was reportedly old. Many said that it was the phone system that came from Pearl Harbor when it was bombed. We dont know if that was true but it worked sporadically. We were able to make calls to the U.S. via of a MARS station that was on base. We were only able to talk for a few minutes (3-5), not very long but it was great to be able to call home.
Food was shipped in to the people living on the base via of seatrain. These are large cargo containers that brought supplies in once a month (such as groceries, toiletries, electronics etc.) via of a large cargo ship. When the seatrain arrived no time was wasted in getting to the commissary to purchase groceries. If something came in that you wanted to purchase, you needed to purchase it when you saw it or the chances that it would be there when you got back were slim. We sometimes did without potatoes for the month when the commissary ran out.
We didnt have American TV down during the period of time from 1974-1977, but we did have a small station that recorded live talent for us to watch and tapes that were sent from the States. We were about six months behind on the soap operas. When mail was received at Gitmo, the TV would flash "mail call". We all loaded in the cars and went to get our mail. We didnt get it daily so we were all waiting for the news.
We had outdoor lyceums (outdoor theaters) that we would go and watch the fairly new releases of movies. They were like stadium seats. The only down side was when the trucks came by and sprayed the mosquitoes and whatever else was outside during the movie (all of us).
If you loved being outdoors and on the water, this was a great place to live. We had a barrel boat and went out frequently fishing. We caught a lot of Red Snapper, Grouper, some langoustines (like lobster but with no claws) and assorted other fish. There were several beaches that you could snorkel or scuba dive. We did a lot of sea shelling and going to the beach. We had a bowling alley and did a lot of bowling. We had only one large athletic sports field at the time, so it was used frequently. Other sports and activities that were available at the time were: a golf course, the Sailing Club, a Hot Rod Association, a horse corral, as well as, motorcycle and drag races every other weekend at the old air strip on base. Gitmo also had hunting for deer and guinea fowl.
Some of the eating establishments were the Enlisted Mens Club, the Chiefs Club, the Blue Lagoon, the Officers Club, the Enlisted Marines Club, and also a restaurant that was run by the Jamaicans living on the base that we all called the "Hey Man" Shack.
I remember one Christmas season, the Christmas trees were brought in by the Seatrain. They were all frozen so that they would stay fresh until they arrived. The trees were delivered to the baseball field. We went to the field to buy our tree. First we were given a number and, of course, had to wait our turn to select a tree. We picked out the tree and took it home to set up. As soon as the tree thawed out (which didnt take long in the heat) all the pine needles fell off the tree as a result of being frozen and quickly unthawed. Needless to say, the majority of residents had artificial trees.
We hope that you enjoy our written personal tour of Gitmo, as much as we enjoyed reliving some of the time spent there.
Northwest Buddy Bears