Dear Errol Fans,
In this last installment of the series, we see an aging, run-down Titchfield hotel. Although The United Fruit Co. had rebuilt it, and half-heartedly promoted it, World War II and the changing times all played a part in it's gradual downhill slide. Money was scarce, travel by airplane had largely replaced travel by ship, and Port Antonio's remote location combined to create a 'perfect storm' of sorts. It was in this time period that Errol, while traveling to the U.S. east coast by way of the Panama canal on the ZACA suffered storm damage and put into Kingston, JA for repairs. During this time Errol did some exploring and discovered Port Antonio. After the repairs were finished, Errol sailed the ZACA into the now sleepy coastal town and fell in love with the place.
Timeline: 1951; Needing a base of operations, Errol set about inquiring as to the ownership of the hotel and found out that it could indeed be bought. The owners probably could not believe their luck. Instead of a savvy real estate broker who would have bargained the price down to almost nothing, they had no less than a real-life Hollywood movie star with deep pockets on their hands. And what was even better, he was in love with the place! The words 'ca-ching!' must have came to mind. Needless to say, the deal was quickly struck and Errol was the proud owner of his very own hotel / bar. (Now he could cut out the middle man.)
Soon after the Titchfield deal was consummated, Errol bought a huge tract of prime land in the Priestman's River / Boston Bay area from the same folks who owned the Titchfield with the idea of setting up a cattle ranch and coconut plantation. There already existed a large 'great house' on the property that was built in the banana heydays and Errol moved right in. The house was to be used as a getaway from the Titchfield until another, more modern one could be built. (to Errol's design, of course) That 'Errol designed' house still exists and is occupied by Patrice Wymore Flynn. Meanwhile, the hotel needed a vast amount of repairs and there still exists a check from Errol for the 'a/c for $10,000. That was a ton of money in those days. (especially in JA) Errol also had the famous artist, Olga Lehman paint a large mural in the reception area depicting Cpt. Morgan, pirates and Cpt. Bligh in a sort of running history of JA.
Errol brought in his parents to stay at the Titchfield whenever they liked, and stay they did. Errol's mother took over as the defacto manager of the hotel and by all accounts, ran the place with an iron hand. Her word was law and pity those who would try and cross her. All opponents soon 'laid down their shields' and did her bidding, even Errol. Errol had the bright idea of changing the name of the hotel to 'Flynn's Inn'. Mama Flynn put the kabosh to that idea, But Errol succeeded in re-naming the hotel to 'The Jamaica Reef Hotel & Bar. Errol also considered buying the Demontevin Lodge and converting it into a 'New Orleans' style brothel. (and with the fancy gingerbread woodwork, it looked the part)But it never came to be. Errol's father did what he did best and took a position at the Fort George middle school as the master teacher of biology and by all accounts was quite happy. I have a picture of Father Flynn(center) Pat in the foreground and Errol on the Left hand side laughing at some forgotten joke. The lady who provided the photo said Mr. Flynn was a very good teacher who delighted at a student's ability to dissect a frog successfully than most anything else.
The year is 1958, Errol and his 'small companion' Beverly Aaland (to whom he referred to as 'Dhondi') arrived at the Titchfield. By all accounts, things went smoothly enough in the beginning, although the proper English ladies were soon inquiring about Beverly's 'function' without really seeming to 'inquire'.(in other words, being nosey) They got more than they bargained for when Beverly, a veteren of the cut-throat 'child actor' business in Hollywood, and anything but a 'shrinking violet,' (plus possessing a vocabulary that would do a sailor proud,) smiled sweetly, looked them in the eye, and said “As a matter of fact I'm screwing him, and for 5 bucks each, you old bats can watch us!” This news sent them running like wet hens straight to Errol, who laughed it all off as 'youthful indulgence'. Beverly also had a habit of cavorting through the place dressed in a string bikini.(remember, this was 1958) To the old regulars, she might as well have been stark naked. She would pick out the oldest, most uptight looking pensioner, wait until he was surrounded by his friends and then run up, sit in his lap,stroke his thigh, whisper in his ear and kiss him on the cheek until his face turned beet red. This behavior was 'Errol at his best', who loved nothing more than to put someone on the spot. Once when Errol bought her a goose with goslings for her birthday, she set them loose in the hallways. The reason was (I guess) just harmless fun or to 'raise a little hell'. In that endeavor, she succeeded. The formidable 'Lady's and Gentlemen” of the old order had more than met their match and steered clear of Bev. from then on.
Errol was also not without his little quirks: After some drinking, he would remove his clothes in full view of all present and do a little 'skinny dipping' when the mood came over him. One story stands out above the rest: Errol, tipsy after 'one too many', mistakenly stumbled into the ladies restroom at the hotel to take a 'relieve himself'. One of the ladies who happened to be also in the room walked up and said. “Sir! This is for ladies only!” whereupon Errol pulled out his 'member' and replied'”So is this madam! But I must water it every now and again!”
Errol hosted many famous stars at the Titchfield. A short list would read: Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Katherine Hepburn, Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Peter Ustinov, Peter O'Toole, and Truman Capote. All the guests were said to be on their best behavior when at the hotel, save one: Truman Capote. Truman was a curious and irritating fellow. He seemed to be allergic to almost everything,(even sand) had to be carried to and from the beach like an invalid, never dared to venture into water more than 2 ft. deep, would bundle up like he was at the arctic to protect himself from the sun, wear his canvas shoes even in the water, and would constantly whine and bitch about everything and nothing at all. Beverly hated him, and never being at a loss for words, called him a “dirty little fag”. All the more puzzling was why he kept coming back to the Titchfield over and over.(that puzzle would soon solve itself.) Things came to a head when Errol and a group of friends (Truman included) went rafting on the Rio Grande. Somehow, Truman managed to fall off his raft and nearly drowned. Now for those of you who have not participated in this little adventure, the water is never more than 2 or 3 ft. deep and the current is very lazy. To drown there would be akin to drowning in a plastic kiddie pool in the back yard.
After this episode, Errol had had just about enough of “old Tru”, as he called him. One of the group privately asked Errol just what the hell was wrong with him, to which Errol replied, “The fact is sport, he's absolutely worthless. But don't worry, I'll get rid of him if I have to do it myself.” So Truman, pale and shivering, was bundled into Errol's convertible and Errol, with cigarette holder firmly clenched in his teeth, took his place behind the wheel for the journey to the Kingston airport. Everything was fine until they reach the outskirts of town. It was there that Truman, (who had a huge crush on Errol) lost control of his 'unrequited love', and 'seized' the moment. (by grabbing Errol's crotch with both hands in a vise-like grip) Now make no mistake, Errol was capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time, and even sword fighting at four to one odds, but now he had to juggle driving a twisty, mtn. road, smoking his cigarette, and trying to dislodge love-sick Truman, all the while trying to avoid injury to his 'particulars”. Well, the whole charade ended with Errol plowing through a large wooden wall and into the backyard pool of an unlucky resident. It is said that Errol sprang from the car so fast that his cigarette was still burning when the owners rushed to see what was the matter. One of the owners said that Errol stood for a moment, hands on hips, surveying the carnage, then coolly asked to use the phone, while ignoring the half-drowned Truman.
After Errol's death, the hotel was purchased by a self proclaimed 'friend' of Errol's. (one Rex Rand) A man of questionable references and reputation. Most referred to him as a 'con man'. He had an old Grumman Goose seaplane and would land it at the beach at the foot of the hotel. He would stage large parties at the hotel and try to get guests to invest in one venture after another and all the while shamelessly dropping Errol's name. Eventually he was broke and his properties were mortgaged to the hilt. It was at this point that one night in 1969, a mysterious fire seemed to spring up from at least two different places in the hotel. The local firetrucks were out of service as a direct result of JA declaring Independence in 1962 and the UK no longer paying for their upkeep. So the trucks stayed in the station and the hotel was pretty much burned to the ground. Mr. Rand immediately packed up and walked away, never to come to the area again. Insurance eventually payed Mr. Rand but only after a protracted court fight.
Little stands today that would hint of the Titchfields grandeur. Only an open field with the remains of the large foundation and the deck of the bar, the empty swimming pool that Errol and friends frolicked in, and memories, like the breezes that seem to whisper something just out of ear shot. The palms that ringed the hotel are still there for the most part, as is the now enormous banyan tree that graced the entrance, now growing over the long unused concrete pathway. It is a sight worth seeing, and as for me, provokes happiness and sadness at the same time.