When you’ve lived on Guam for nearly 51 years, you tend to notice changes. Some are deemed good while others are not.
Take Tumon Bay for instance. Some 51 years ago, if you stood on the corner across from what today is the Kmart/John F. Kennedy High School intersection and faced the ocean, all you would have seen were coconut trees and water. There were no large hotels lining the beach.
The Continental hotel, Fujita hotel and one other hotel were really the only beachfront hotels. I believe the original Hilton hotel may have been there or just being built – less the tower.
The Continental hotel was made up of single-story beach-type houses spread over the property that today houses the Pacific Islands Club tower and resort.
If my memory is correct, there were no hotels that were more than three stories high and the majority of the Tumon area was jungle, small residential areas and fantastically clear waters. Now the beach wasn’t as white and clean as it is today, but you have to take some bad with the beautiful naturalness that existed during that time.
The other thing was a general lack of crime.
I remember being able to go snorkeling in Tumon Bay and leave all of my things – wallet, keys, etc. – on the beach. When I returned, they still would be right where I had left them. It was idyllic, to say the least, and was one of things that attracted me to Guam.
Around that same time, I lived in Mongmong-Toto-Maite and rarely locked the doors at my home and in many cases left the keys in my car. Oddly enough, no one ever stole my car or came into my home uninvited.
The crime rate was very low at that time. That brings me to the crime problems we are seeing today and asking myself why. But then we didn’t have cable TV or internet so people spent more time talking to each other face to face. Neighbors knew and watched out for each other.
Additionally, as I remember it, the vast majority of our roads were only two lanes wide with the exception of the former Marine Drive which is now Marine Corps Drive and that was three lanes in most areas, if memory doesn’t fail me.
Also, there were not nearly as many people nor ethnicities back then, cars or accidents which brings me to the number of highway fatalities that we have had in these first few months of 2019. Driving slower and more carefully, wearing bright-colored clothing and carrying lights when walking along roads at night will help reduce these fatalities.
While on the subject of fatalities, we also didn’t have the level of drug problems that we are seeing today. Yes, there was marijuana which was mostly coming from Palau packed in plastic inside tuna fish bellies and a heroin problem associated with the war that was going on in Vietnam, the war that brought me here.
All in all, Guam was a quieter, gentler place during my earlier years of living here. I miss those years.
Lee P. Webber is a former president and publisher of media organizations on Guam and Hawaii, former director of operations for USA Today International/Asia and is a longtime business and civic leader on Guam.