Digging Deeper 

My parents' trip to Honduras in 1968 was always foggy in my mind and I never knew much about it, since I had stayed home in Michigan that week, being too young to go with them.  All I knew about it were their stories of pirates, buried treasure, some land they bought, and a character they met there named Jennings (as I dimly recall, Dad once referred to him as a "crackpot.")  As I was writing the biography of my parents in 2019, I looked through my Dad’s slides, trying to piece together in my mind their whole Honduras trip and from those pictures, and my vague memory, I wrote the account above describing my parents’ visit to their property in the 1960s.

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Above:  A photo from 1968 that had puzzled me for years.  Who was this woman on the left, and why was she sitting next to my Mom in a motorboat in Honduras?  And, as I chuckled to myself, why were they wearing similar shirts?  Questions, questions...

However, one slide that my Dad took in 1968 had always intrigued me:  it was a picture of my Mom and a striking young woman sitting in the back of a motorboat.  “Who was this mysterious woman and where was this taken?  And was she related to that ‘Jennings’ character Dad once mentioned?”  These questions wafted through my mind whenever I thought of their visit to Honduras over the years. 

My Dad, who had died several years earlier and shortly after my mother, unfortunately didn’t write many descriptive captions on his slides.  Therefore in 2019, I did some Internet research to see what I could learn, to flesh out their biography a bit more.  Of course, after hearing so many happy stories over the years from my parents and brothers about their wonderful and exciting trip to Honduras in 1968, my family's whole "Bay Islands Story" had always been positive and uplifting in my mind, so I blissfully began my Internet research to see what I could learn.

About the only thing substantive I remembered about my parents' Honduras trip in 1968 was the name “Jennings,” so in 2019 while writing their biography, I Googled the phrase “Jennings Roatan” to see what I could find.  I was excited to stumble across a person named Howard Jennings who had apparently lived in Port Royal during the 1960s, and I figured this was this same fellow who had sold my parents their land.  Was this Howard Jennings fellow one of the unknown persons in my Dad's slides from 1968?  I had no idea, but I continued my research and after visiting a few more websites, I learned that he had led a crazy, adventurous, and tumultuous life.  Apparently Howard had been a swashbuckling, two-fisted American treasure hunter, something like an “Indiana Jones" character and perhaps even the person who Steven Spielberg later modeled the movie role after.  But Howard, as I slowly learned, also had a dark side:  according to what I read, along with being a treasure hunter he was a charlatan, a womanizer, an embezzler, a swindler and, quite possibly, a murderer. 

As I learned from my research, Howard Jennings was from Texas and had served in World War II as a bomber pilot, one of the youngest in the Air Force.  His B-24 was shot down towards the end of the war and he was taken prisoner by the Germans, but after the war he returned to Texas and began working for an oil company.  In the early 1960s, however, he stopped looking for oil and began looking for lost pirate treasure in the Caribbean.  He knew that Port Royal harbor on Roatan had been a refuge in the 1600s for the daring English pirate, Henry Morgan.  He also knew that Morgan had raided several Spanish ships that had left Panama bound for Spain, carrying gold from South America.  Therefore, he figured that Morgan must have buried some of his pirate treasure around Port Royal.  

 

English Navy Maps of Roatan from 1775

 

Howard Jennings, from what I learned, had moved to Roatan in 1963 and began hunting for Henry Morgan’s lost pirate treasure, and he supposedly found it.  In the 1970s, Howard wrote a book called “The Treasure Hunter” in which he claimed that he found a chest of gold doubloons and silver bars that was buried on a small island in Port Royal harbor.  He co-wrote the book, by the way, with Robin Moore who later wrote the book “The French Connection” and co-authored "The Happy Hooker," and Robin was supposedly with Howard during their supposed “find."  Howard’s claim about finding buried treasure in Port Royal was very dubious, however, and was never confirmed.  By the way, around that same time, in the early 1960s, Howard met a woman from New Zealand named Jane and married her, but he left her after she had a baby.  Hmmm... quite a guy, I thought to myself.

A few years later, in 1966, and now in his early 40s (and still legally married to Jane), Howard visited England and met an attractive 34-year old English socialite and artist named Anne, who had been recently divorced.  Along with her being attractive, most important to Howard was that she had some money, from her recent divorce settlement.  Anne was mesmerized by Howard’s fascinating stories and suave demeanor, and seeking adventure, she decided to travel with the brash, outgoing American to Roatan, where they were soon married (Howard conveniently forgot to mention that he was already married). 

As I learned in 2019, Anne slowly fell in love with Roatan – while falling out of love with Howard, as his nefarious character, mercurial temperament and abusive personality began to emerge.  In early 1967, around the time my Dad first visited Roatan and met the Jennings, Howard and Anne had begun building their house in the remote Port Royal harbor, a Tudor style home that Anne not only designed but also paid for.  Then I learned that to supplement his meager income, Howard started selling plots of his land.  “Ah hah,” I said to myself as I read this in 2019.  “This must’ve been how Dad met Jennings.” 

Howard continued searching for buried treasure nearby (and shooting at anyone who did likewise) while Anne adapted to Roatan as her marriage steadily deteriorated.  With a demure and gracious appearance and a fine taste in clothes, all of which belied her adventurous spirit, she learned to sail, fish, shoot and hunt just as well as the locals.  But she was also broke, trapped, and unable to return to England, because Howard had spent most of her money building their house (he kept the title, though) and then quietly transferred what was left of her savings to his own bank account.

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Above:  After doing some Internet research in 2019, I found this picture of an "Anne Jennings Brown" taken in 2011.  After studying this photo, I realized it was the same woman in my Dad's photo in the motorboat in 1968.

 

I still didn't know what Howard or Anne looked like, but after learning this amazing story, I Googled the phrase "Anne Jennings Roatan" to see if I could find a picture of her, hoping that perhaps she was one of the persons in my Dad's pictures from 1968.  From my Internet research, I found only one picture of Anne Jennings, taken in 2011 when she was 79 and now known as Anne Jennings Brown.  She was older, of course, and with gray hair.  But as I looked at her eyes, and based on her age, I realized this was the same woman who, in my Dad’s uncaptioned picture from 1968, was sitting next to my Mom in the motorboat in Honduras. 

From that one piece of detective work, I could now match the names of Howard and Anne Jennings with the many photos of a mysterious Caucasian couple that my Dad had taken in 1968 during his trip to Roatan.  Then I remembered a video interview I had done with my Dad in 2002 shortly before he died, in which I asked him about his visits to Honduras in the 1960s.  I'd almost forgotten about that interview, but I watched it and he said that my Mom, during that visit to Roatan, had become good friends with “an English woman named Anne Jennings” and my Dad spoke highly of her.

The most important and informative item I found during my recent research, however, was an interesting book that Anne Jennings – now Anne Jennings Brown – wrote in 2007 called “Roatan Odyssey” about her experience in Honduras during the 1960s and 1970s.  In her book "Roatan Odyssey," Anne wrote detailed descriptions of her life in Roatan during the late 1960s, which was the same time my parents visited her and her husband, Howard.  I bought the book, read it on Kindle and was utterly fascinated.  Anne Jennings didn’t mention my mother in her book, which disappointed me because, according to my Dad in 2002, the two Annes had become good friends during my parents' week-long visit to Roatan in 1968 (and I believe they stayed in touch afterwards).  That was a time, the late 1960s, in which Anne Jennings, according to her book, was feeling increasingly lonely and isolated from her volatile husband, Howard, and was apparently needing a friend, so I was a little surprised that Anne hadn't mentioned my mother.

Nevertheless, I was totally captivated as I read her well-written book, partly because of the family connection, of course, but also because of her incredible story.  As Anne Jennings described in her book "Roatan Odyssey," her story up until my parents’ visit to Roatan in 1968 was certainly interesting.  But afterwards it became downright bizarre.  

 
Above:  My Dad (left, holding bottle) sitting between Howard and Anne Jennings in the Happy Landing bar in Oak Ridge, Roatan in March 1968, with the Michigan State group.  I'm guessing they were celebrating the sale of the property.  A larger, clickable version is below.

 

My Parents' 1968 Photos of Port Royal, Roatan

 

This Story Concludes in Part 3

 

 
 
 
 

 

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