Jane Johannes Helps Keep St. John Culture Alive

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Jane Johannes always keeps a smile on her face and usually some homemade local treats nearby.

From cooking to carnival, Jane Johannes does her part to keep St. John culture alive.

Born in Coral Bay, when donkeys were still the preferred mode of transportation, Johannes has been involved with carnival since she can remember.

“I started getting involved with carnival from way, way, way back—from those donkey years,” she said. “Carnival back then was good, but every year it gets better. At that time there were only three or four troupes, and now, it just grows and grows.”

St. Johnians are Loving People
The Love City Fourth of July festivities is one time of year when the entire community gathers, Johannes explained.

“It’s really more like a family reunion,” she said. “You see some people only once a year, when they come down for carnival. I think it’s the people that make carnival great because St. John people—and I mean native St. Johnians—are loving and greeting people.”

“They know how to make people feel at home, and that has a lot to do with the success of carnival,” Johannes added. Not one to merely take part in the activities, Johannes—who declined to reveal her age—still organizes the popular senior variety show each year.

“Senior in Age, Not Body”
“I keep the senior variety show alive because the seniors have been left out for many years,” she said. “They are still quite active, so people should see what they can do. They are seniors in age, not in body—there is nothing to hide.”

Johannes, who is now employed part-time at the V.I. Department of Tourism, worked at Caneel Bay Resort for more than 40 years—years she thoroughly enjoyed.

“I worked at Caneel back when Rockefeller still owned it,” she said. “It was a wonderful time back then. I loved meeting all the different people and sharing ideas.”

The fun loving Johannes said she loves traveling and meeting people, but nowhere is better than St. John.

Nothing Compares to Love City
“I love traveling because I love meeting people,” she said. “I have been all through the Caribbean and believe me, nothing compares to St. John. I always have a good time, but I always look forward to getting back home.”

Johannes is also well known for her culinary ability.

Cooking Up Old Time Favorites
“I like cooking and I like experimenting with different things,” she said. “I can do American food, but, when tourists come down here, they want the local food, so that is what I give them.”

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of sampling Johannes’s fine food, the Folklife Festival on Feb. 28 at the National Park ball field, shouldn’t be missed.

“I am getting prepared for the Folklife Festival right now,” said Johannes. “I will make kallaloo soup, barbecue chicken, salt fish pates, johnny cake and peas and rice.”

The economic boom and construction bonanza on St. John have both positive and negative effects, according to Johannes.

Getting Too Crowded
“I think there is more work here, which is good,” she said. “But, I hope that it doesn’t get more built up than it is. It’s getting too crowded here now.”

What is happening on Love City is not an unusual occurrence, Johannes added.

“People are moving all over the place now,” she said. “When you get all kinds of people, then things aren’t as good as they used to be. It’s happening all over the world.”

The number of new homes is the biggest difference that Johannes notes from her younger days.

“The houses are the biggest change since I was a girl,” she said. “There are new ones all the time. I just hope that it doesn’t get any bigger here.”

Black History Month is important because people often forget about the past, Johannes explained.

Celebrate Black History
“This is our chance to make our history important,” she said. “The younger people need to see what the older people have done to bring unity among us all. It has to do with the people who have done so much in the past for black people.”

“It goes back to getting equal rights and Martin Luther King’s work,” Johannes continued. “We need this time, we need to get together and celebrate our history.”

Despite all of the changes on St. John since she was a young girl, Johannes is optimistic about the future.

“We still have some strong people,” she said. “We are trying to train the younger people to walk the way we walk.”

“When we are gone, they will pick up where we left off,” Joahnnes added.