We have been staying in Accra a few days before going up country. To-morrow we are starting for a tour in the Bush, where we shall be in the midst of cocoa trees growing amongst native chop crops. This being harvest time for the Big Season's cocoa crop, we shall see a particularly wide variety of interesting and amusing scenes, many of which will have more meaning for us now that we have made a first acquaintance with Accra than they would have done if we had rushed straight into their midst.
Meanwhile let us survey, in the light of our experiences since we landed, the capital and leading cocoa port of the Gold Coast.
The beach merges into a plain. On that plain, close behind where we landed, stand the business quarter and native town of Accra, a mixed assembly of up-to-date facilities, pioneer makeshifts, and primitive squalor. Fine premises built in European style, of durable concrete or concrete blocks, are scattered about among weather-beaten, ant-eaten wooden shanties resembling old barns surmounted by a loft, and wedged in among these civilized and semi-civilized buildings are mud huts and warrens of mud hovels. The mud quarters are the homes of swarms of black people - men, women, and children. Thanks somehow or other to cocoa, these natives are all better off to-day than they have ever been before; most of them, it is generally believed, have money hidden away in the ground, and from the evidence of our own eyes there is no doubt that many a one who looks as if he had not a penny in the world keeps his own motor car.
The wooden bungalows in the barn and loft style are typical of the buildings which served the white pioneers as combined houses and business premises. The majority of those pioneers were fellow-countrymen of ours; some of them are still alive to tell the story of what the Gold Coast was like when they first came out here, but many of them, alas, succumbed to the physical, moral, or mental effects of roughing-it conditions allied with an exacting climate.
Less than ten years ago the worst of the old conditions had to be faced by every white man who came to Accra. To-day, fortunately, so many changes for the better have been made that men who came out only five years ago say they can hardly believe they are in the same town; from what we see of improvements and developments in course of progress, and what we hear of proposed activities to be pursued in the near future both by Government and private enterprise, we are persuaded that if we visit Accra five years hence we, in our turn, shall not know the place. Already, many a camp-style bungalow that was crowded in amongst native surroundings has given place to commodious business premises with spacious yards - or, as they are called, "compounds " - and mud huts are being removed to afford sites for more such premises; the location of destructive and constructive operations suggests that the business quarter will eventually rise clear of the native town.
An extensive stretch of open country, about a mile and a half distant from the beach, has been set apart as a European Reservation Area; by virtue of its elevation, this area is known as "The Ridge." A model tropical garden suburb is quickly growing up on the Ridge, judging from the houses that have already been erected, and the flowers that bloom in newly laid out compounds. The existing houses vary in size and style, according to individual estimates of accommodation required and individual ideas of the best way of planning a house for tropical life. Differences of opinion on architectural matters are making for a pleasing variety of appearance, and for progressive experiments in designs and materials. All the houses, however, are alike in that they are well built, planned with consideration for the health, comfort, and convenience of white people accustomed to a high standard of decent surroundings, and situated in their own spacious grounds. Some of these country houses provide their occupants with much more than first-class housing accommodation, and when the occupants are first-class men - as is the rule in these days, and not the exception - they respond in a way that results in a delightful home. For instance, there is the house where we are staying, and under whose hospitable roof we are now having this little palaver about Accra over a daintily served tea, including a dream of a fruit salad: the furniture is solid and well made, pleasing to the eye and to the touch, and suitably selected for all practical purposes by someone who, obviously, understands that a particularly practical purpose is served in the tropical home by furniture and furnishing accessories that are conducive to rest - good beds, fitted with mosquito curtains that can be tucked in under the mattress, best quality bedding, nice bed-linen, well cushioned lounge chairs, plenty of light but strong wickerwork easy chairs, and loose cushions that can be moved from room to room, or into the garden. The equipment throughout is on a par with the furniture - solid brass fittings to doors and windows, good table linen and table appointments, fitted porcelain baths and lavatory basins, with a running-water supply. Recreation facilities include a library, billiard table and cabinet gramaphone; in the well-kept pleasure grounds of the compound, prettily situated amongst fragrant frangipannis and gorgeous flamboyants, there is a tennis court, whose every detail is of the tournament order. The house and everything in it is spotlessly clean. Life runs smoothly on attractive lines in this exceedingly well-managed establishment. As is the case with many of the bungalows on the Ridge, the members of the household are the Gold Coast staff of a British cocoa-buying organization; their servants are Kruboys. Neighbouring bungalows are the homes of Government officials, or of staffs representing firms engaged in activities intimately connected with commerce - such as banking, shipping, lighterage, and motor transport.