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Family 'sacrificed' their home for the US air base

Marlene Warren gives evidence to the land losses commission (Photograph supplied)

A woman whose grandparents’ home in St David’s was bought up to build the US base during World War Two said the two made a major sacrifice “for the good of Bermuda”.

Marlene Warren told the Commission of Inquiry into Historic Land Losses that her grandparents, wheelchair-bound Solomon Fox and Rose Fox, were moved from the property where they had lived for 44 years and given a new home on Texas Road, also in St David’s.

In addition to the new home valued at ₤400, they were paid ₤748 in compensation, more than the original US government offer of ₤422 and a total value of ₤1,148.

Mr Fox had valued his property at ₤1,125.

Ms Warren said there was a “lack of empathy” shown towards her grandparents.

She added: “They had been resident in that house for 44 years. My grandfather was an invalid and they just had to pick up and move to Texas Road.

“They had no view of Castle Harbour, and no right of way where they could run down the road and just jump in.

“It brings me to tears every time I think about it, trying to put myself in their position. I think because the final offer was ₤300 more than the initial offer they accepted it.

“But life was never the same for any of those people. This was 1942. In 1944, my grandfather died.”

Ms Warren, giving evidence last Friday, said her grandmother died in 1948 aged 71.

She said the family lived in a four-room wooden house with a view of Castle Harbour on a fifth of an acre with electric light, but no running water. The property had a stone privy.

The land included five orange trees, 50 banana trees, three loquat trees, four lime trees, and a grapevine, all of which had to be left behind.

The Texas Road property, a four-room stone house, was on 0.26 of an acre.

It had an indoor bathroom, but excluding that addition was slightly smaller than the family’s previous home.

Ms Warren said Mr Fox needed an ambulance to transport him to the new house.

She added she would have appreciated the addition of a bathroom and running water, and a building of the same value, but highlighted that “you’ve taken me out of my beautiful environment”.

Ms Warren said: “Most people at the time didn’t have a bathroom, they had privies and they were comfortable where they were.”

Ms Warren’s presentation included 15 exhibits, the result of research by her daughter Kristy Warren.

Among them was a letter written by Ms Warren’s grandmother, Rose Fox, to the director of the Government’s public works department about the US offer of ₤422, which Ms Warren read into evidence.

Ms Fox wrote in her rejection of the offer that the family were giving up “something that is a part of us”.

Ms Warren said: “The first time I read my grandmother’s letter, I cried, and cried, and cried. Every time I read it, I try not to – but I do.”

She added: “I guess I internalise just how they must have felt when they had to leave their home. I don’t think you can put a value on a homestead.

“They had a wooden house, but they were happy. They had an outhouse, but they were happy. They were satisfied where they were.”

Ms Warren agreed with a suggestion by a commission member that a house valued at ₤400, plus ₤748 in compensation, was more than her grandfather’s valuation of his property.

She said: “On the surface, that is what it looked like.”

But Ms Warren added her grandparents were “making a sacrifice for the good of Bermuda”.

The inquiry continues.

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Published December 02, 2020 at 8:00 am (Updated December 02, 2020 at 1:53 pm)

Family 'sacrificed' their home for the US air base

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