Visitor’s childhood memories keep bringing her back here
Susan Folk has fond memories of her childhood in Bermuda – and encourages just about everybody she meets to visit.
She has been back more than 20 times since she left the island for the US sometime around the age of 20; Tom Folk, her husband of 41 years, is always by her side.
“I beg my friends to visit Bermuda. There were some people at church who liked to snorkel and scuba dive. I said, ‘Hey, why don’t you go to Bermuda? They have great snorkelling there.’
“Sometimes we book our hotel reservation six months in advance. Then I count the days.”
Her mother, Ivy Jensen, was born in the US to a Bermudian, Andrew Jensen, who married Ellen, an American. The family later relocated to Bermuda. After she divorced her American husband, Ms Jensen returned to the island with her two children.
“My mother grew up in Bermuda but moved to the United States when she married my father, Billy Jo Williamson,” said Ms Folk, 74. “My mother moved back to Bermuda with my brother and me when we were preschoolers.”
She lived in Paget, first on South Court Avenue and then on Middle Road.
“Almost every day in the summer my brother and I would go to the beach,” Ms Folk said. “We would lay there all day with no water and no sun tan lotion, just a towel. We were so thirsty walking home. But back then you couldn’t just buy bottled water anywhere.”
Her mother worked at Kindley Air Force Base in St David’s and would bring home enormous aircraft tyres for their enjoyment.
“We would take these down to Elbow Beach and have great fun playing on them in the water with all our friends,” Ms Folk said.
She attended Warwick Academy until Year 7 when she transferred to Mount Saint Agnes Academy.
“I can remember when I was in the second or third grade at Warwick Academy, it was sports day, probably 1952 or 1953, the teachers lined us girls up and asked us to curtsy and pretend we were holding flowers.”
From that test, she was chosen to present the flowers to “some kind of visiting royalty”. To this day she does not know who the person was that she presented the flowers to.
Ms Folk married and had a daughter, Catherine. At 20, when the marriage failed, she left the island for the US eventually moving to South Carolina.
She met her husband Tom in a nightclub.
“He asked me to dance,” she said. “It was the disco days. He was a good dancer, and I liked to dance. We dated a year and then we were married.”
In 1989 she introduced her husband to Bermuda and “he was hooked”.
Despite the pandemic they paid a visit last year, staying at an Airbnb owned by Wendell Simons.
“[He] and his wife were so nice and welcoming to us. They had us over to their house for dinner one night.”
The one downside was having to wait for their Covid-19 tests results before they could move about the island.
“My husband’s came in at midnight that night,” Ms Folk said. “Mine didn’t come in until 4.45pm the next day, which was horrible. All I could do was sit in a lounge chair on the property and look at the water. But who minded?”
As soon as they were able, the couple rented an electric car and drove all over the island – something they had never done before.
“If only you could have been in the car with us,” Ms Folk laughed. “If I was in the back I was yelling ‘You’re going too fast! See that sign? It says S L O W, slow!’ And if he was in the back and I was driving he’d be yelling, ‘Get out of the bushes! You’re too close to the hedge!’”
Eight years ago she was showing friends around Bermuda on scooters, when she decided it would be fun to go to the top of the very steep Billy Goat Hill in Warwick.
“I am only 5ft 1,” she said. “I got to the top of the hill and looked down and was too scared to go back down the hill. I went to put my bike sideways and fell over. My husband comes up and what does he see, his wife lying under a bike. I said, ‘Get me up, the road is hot.’ That left a Bermuda tattoo on my shoulder.”
Their biggest misadventure happened in 2009 while swimming at Whale Bay in Southampton.
“We had never swum there before,” she said. “There was this shelf of a reef that is there before you get in the water.”
Just as she told her husband to be careful, he slipped.
“He went airborne and came down,” Ms Folk said. “I heard his leg break but I kept saying, ‘Get up! Get up!’ He couldn’t get up. A man at the scene came over and took one of our beach towels and put it under his head. He laid length ways so the waves weren’t rushing over my husband.”
At King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, doctors discovered Mr Folk had cracked his femur, from top to bottom.
He had to stay in the hospital for a week, and then had to remain on the island for several more days before they could fly home.
“It didn’t stop us,” Ms Folk said. “I pushed his wheelchair to the ferry and we took a ferry ride.”
Their hope is to return in April.
“I really want to fly kites again on Good Friday and go to church on Easter Sunday,” she said.