July 14, 2001 – It might have been Bastille Day in France, but 50 or 60 years ago it was Anthony Quetel's birthday in Frenchtown, when the locals stormed the Bar Normandie to celebrate with the jovial proprietor.
"All roads led to Frenchtown on Tony's birthday," Henry Richardson said, and, of course, it was coincidentally Bastille Day. Richardson is president of the Frenchtown Civic Organization, which sponsors the annual affair. "Everyone came to have a drink or a dance with Tony," he recalled. "And the French flag was flying at every home in those days."
Richardson looked around at the early evening slender crowd and shook his head. "We try to carry on the tradition," he said with a smile, while keeping a beat to the Sea Breeze Band led by Richard Berry on saxophone.
People were starting to file into the Joseph Aubain Ballpark parking lot, with the dancing picking up. Familiar faces: former Sen. Elmo Roebuck, Sen. Lorraine Berry, Odile de Lyrot, the French consul for the Virgin Islands, Rina Jacobs McBrowne, Margie Caraballo, Cain Magras, Bobby Danet and Allan Richardson, grand master of the Frenchtown Moby Dick carnival troupe.
FTCO stalwarts Pete Ledee and Louis Greaux were hosting the bar, as Elizabeth "Lalal" Aubain danced. Aubain is a familiar figure in Frenchtown, always walking with a cheerful smile as her hands busily weave the little ribbons that become bags or purses or belts, or fancy party decorations.
Gathering admirers at one side of the parking lot was Bobby's Danet's boat, the Seanonda Rose. "We brought it because it's what we used to race in the '50s and '60s," he said. More accurately, Danet's grandparents used to race the French-style sloop, of which Danet has made an exact replica. Danet and the Frenchtown Posse Sailing Team just won the bronze medal in the 3rd annual Chief Minister's Cup Youth Regatta held July 7-8 in Tortola.
Richardson looked pleased to see the crowd picking up, but he was thinking of times past when he was a teen-ager living right around the corner. "Tony was the patriarch of Frenchtown," Richardson recalled, "and he was the patriarch of carnival village, too. The Community Band would march to Frenchtown. We had Irma Olive's Frenchtown majorettes -– everybody took the day off. Actually, they took several days off."
Quetel's late, lamented Bar Normandie was the little Senate of its day. Everybody did business at the Normandie, which closed in 1996. Today it's known as Chickie's Place.
"Tony had always wanted everyone to come and celebrate," Richardson said. And they were still celebrating Saturday night. Quetel and the abundant flags and free champagne might be gone, but Frenchtown's esprit de corps was very much alive. And the tricolor was flying over the parking lot.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here