Enjoying a lifetime adventure in Bermuda
Joyce Watlington arrived in Bermuda in 1953 and decided she was never going back to Montreal.
Friends of her parents had invited her and her sister Muriel to stay with them in St George’s — they couldn’t believe their luck.
“We were going to find jobs and have an adventure,” Ms Watlington said. “It was February and it was a lot warmer compared to Montreal. We went down to the Elbow Beach Hotel; Ev Hetland was the manager there.
“We went in with our little secretarial certificates and said we were looking for a job. He said ‘You’re hired.’ In those days you just came for a job and got it, as long as you were qualified.”
The sisters quickly realised that, although he’d promised them both a job there was only one. Ms Watlington was hired as a reservation secretary; her younger sister eventually went back to Canada with their parents, Billy and Pinky Smith.
“Everything was done by hand,” she said. “The reservations were written in a big fat book. The hotel in those days was gorgeous and very popular. They had wonderful nightlife and all sorts of music and limbo dancers.”
She met her first husband, Struan Smith, at the hotel and they were married a short time later.
They had four children — Robert, William, Alexa Petty and Lisa Outerbridge — and ran a cottage colony for several years.
“Things were less expensive in the 1960s,” she said. “We never owned any cottages. We rented them from other people and then rented them out to tourists. They were usually close to the beach.”
Her husband did a bit of bookkeeping, but mostly played golf. Ms Watlington did all the secretarial work, laundry and whatever else was needed.
“We had a great time and did good business until the rents started to go up,” she said. “It put our children through Warwick Academy.”
Mr Smith died at age 45 from leukaemia. Years later, she married Hugh Watlington, who “died about 20 years ago”.
At 89, she’s focused on staying fit. She was on board the Silversea for a cruise from Hamilton to the Azores when she fell in the ship’s bar and hit her head last April.
“I might have had a few glasses of wine,” she admitted with a laugh. “But I wasn’t drunk. Maybe I was a little wobbly, though.”
A ship steward found her unconscious in her cabin the next morning and she was rushed to King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.
There, doctors found she had a brain bleed and that her brain had shifted to one side. She spent ten days in an induced coma to help her brain heal, and then a month in recovery.
“I was told by the neurologist here that I am among the 5per cent of people who recover from such a brain injury,” she said. “I was like, ‘Thank you, thank you’.”
Today, she partly credits the fitness classes she takes at the Bermuda College with her survival.
“I’d been doing Keep Fit classes for years,” she said. “I think I was in good shape when I fell, and had had no illness up until that point.”
Once she left the hospital, a Keep Fit instructor came to her house to help her with her walking, which had been impacted by her injury.
“When I came home, I really couldn’t look after myself,” she said. “My brain seemed to be uninjured, but I was slower, and I still am slower. I had some home help and gradually I started making my own meals. I was told not to drive for a year because I had some seizures in the hospital.”
In September she was finally able to return to her fitness classes. Ms Watlington particularly loves the dancercise during the first half-hour.
Her goal in the coming year is to walk the entire Railway Trail, in sections with her daughters.
“We go twice a week and do an hour and a half,” she said. “We started in Paget. We’ve done Warwick and we are now entering Somerset.”
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or email@example.com with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them
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