The Story of Dick’s Tree
In 1957 Dick was working with his brother Jack at their menswear store in Hamilton, Ontario. John Birch the Men’s Shop. Dick had learned to dive in the mid 50’s and was inspired by his idea that diving would become a world wide popular sport. So in 1957 he went to Andros Island in the Bahamas, specifically because of the Andros Barrier Reef, to see if he could perhaps find some land, to build the dive resort of his dreams.
He arrived on Andros and begun walking North along the road which then only went from Fresh Creek to Small Hope settlement. He stopped at the schoolhouse in Calabash Bay and was sitting on the steps there when Mr. Wilbert Edgecombe, the then local school teacher, happened along.
When Dick arrived at the house of Mr. Minnis in Love Hill and knocked on the door, he heard Mr. Minnis call ”Come in!” Dick opened the door and found that Mr. Minnis was in fact in his bath, in a tub, behind a screen. So they began to talk, with Mr. Minnis splashing in his bath. When Dick asked if he had any land that may be for sale Mr. Minnis asked him if he had anything to do with the Lighthouse Club, the big hotel down on the other side of Fresh Creek. The Lighthouse Club was a hotel built by Axel Wennergren for the big yacht and jet setters. Dick assured him that, no, he surely did not, that he was an independent investor who wanted only to build a small resort and hire local people, use local materials, that his would be strictly a local project.
Mr. Minnis, still in his bath, told Dick to open the top drawer in the dresser there in the living room, that there he would find the deed to the land he owned that he would be willing to sell. He advised Dick to take the deed into Nassau and get it checked out if he was in fact interested in this land, which yes, of course was beach land, two beaches in fact.
And so he did. The deed checked out. This land was available. In the lagoon. Facing the reef. With a beach on either side.
Dick walked the land. And then he climbed up in the casuarina tree that was right there on the place where the two beaches meet. For three days he sat up in that tree and looked at the land and thought about his dream.
We know what his decision was, of course. And we can only assume that Dick and Mr. Minnis did meet face to face the next time Dick visited him at Love Hill to tell him that he would buy his property in order to build Small Hope Bay Lodge.
Dick returned to Canada to gather his investors while Joan became a teacher so she could teach school on Andros. Dick and Joan and their three children, Janet, Margo, and Jeff returned to Andros in 1959 when Dick began to build Small Hope Bay which opened its doors to its first guests in December 1960.
He built Small Hope Bay with local rock and Andros pine which he had to tow behind his boat up to North Andros to get it milled. The first cook, Talmon Newton, was from Small Hope settlement. Local people and materials. True to his promise to Mr. Minnis in his bath. A gentlemen’s agreement.