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Returning 50 years on, a visitor serves up a treat

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Alex Gamber, a US visitor, with Rohan Kasturi, a manager at the Henry VIII Restaurant, after presenting staff with a well-preserved menu from 50 years ago (Photograph supplied)

A pristine 50-year-old menu that made its way back to its home establishment has put Bermuda’s recent price hikes into some broader context.

The escargot in parsley at the Henry VIII Restaurant in Southampton, with toasted brioche crumbs and garlic butter, costs $19 today but set diners back a mere $3 in 1973.

Alex Gamber, now 70 and visiting the island from home in Lebanon, Ohio, said that while the restaurant politely declined to honour the prices of yesteryear, he and his wife Peggy got a thank-you dessert for their gift.

“It was a gift from the past and they were very happy to receive it,” said Mr Gamber.

He had kept the menu safe in his scrapbook of Bermuda mementos from his time as young officer at the US Naval Annex in Southampton — now Morgan’s Point — back when the Cold War was alive and well.

A menu from 1973, older than many of today’s staff at the Southampton restaurant (Photograph supplied)

Fifty years ago, the United States was transfixed by President Richard Nixon’s unfolding Watergate scandal, while Bermuda reeled from the assassination of Sir Richard Sharples, the Governor, and his aide-de-camp, Captain Hugh Sayers.

It was also a time when Soviet nuclear-armed submarines prowled the Atlantic and kept US servicemen like Mr Gamber, a third-class petty officer working as an ocean system technician, on the lookout.

Thanks for the memories: Henry VIII staff offer their gratitude to a repeat visitor (Photograph supplied)

He recalled: “The submarine detection system was a big secret when the navy built it. My job was to locate the submarine and send the information on so the P-3 Orions could find them.”

Submarine detection operated out of Tudor Hill at the West End, while the sound surveillance system processing centre ran at the US Naval Annex and the maritime surveillance aircraft flew out of the Naval Air Station.

Mr Gamber, who has worked for the UPS delivery service for 47 years since those days, cherished his memories of the island and kept tokens of his time here well-preserved.

“I turned 21 here, sitting on the dock of the bay and playing my guitar,” said the visitor, here for a two-day stay aboard the Liberty of the Seas.

“Being young like that, I had a moped. I’d go on tours with girls coming off the cruise ships, dancing at the Southampton Princess and going to Horseshoe. I also kept all my cards and pictures, including that menu.”

He had tried to visit in the 1990s but his cruise ship changed course because of a hurricane.

Henry VIII was a vastly different place a half-century ago but the couple enjoyed the same view at their lunch on Monday and staff, many of whom were far younger than the menu, enjoyed getting the keepsake.

Alex and Peggy Gamber check out the menu 50 years on at Henry VII (Photograph supplied)

“Rohan, the manager, had a big smile to get something like that from the past,” Mr Gamber said. “Some of the young guys there hadn’t even been born yet. It gives you a sense of a different time.”

Rohan Kasturi, who joined the restaurant last year, said the “amazing souvenir” was well above him in age.

Mr Kasturi added: “Seeing old pictures, my imagination would go back to the past and I would always picture it, the service, food and so on and so forth.”

Morgan’s Point nowadays is closed to casual visitors. Mr Gamber said he planned to take a jaunt on the rental scooter and show his wife where he once lived at Khyber Pass in Warwick.

He added: “A lot of things have changed.

“I don’t think the 40 Thieves Disco will still be around.”

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Published July 27, 2023 at 7:56 am (Updated July 27, 2023 at 7:35 am)

Returning 50 years on, a visitor serves up a treat

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