OPEN SECRET EXCLUSIVE: STORY BEHIND LAGOS AIRPORT HOTEL
Photo shows exterior view of the Ikeja Arms Hotel, Lagos, Nigeria. The Hotel is now known as the Lagos Airport Hotel.
In May, 1948 Joe Harold bought a five-roomed house in the bush at Ikeja and established the Lagos Airport hotel, known as ‘The Ikeja Arms’. This is now a vast project with accommodation for hundreds of guests. But I can remember the original house. There was no electricity, so the monthly dance had to be held on the tennis court on whichever Saturday night coincided with the full moon.
Illumination was provided by means of small ashtrays filled with palm oil, in each of which floated a burning piece of string. These little lamps also lined the driveway from the road. The Sunday ‘Palm Oil Chop’ sessions at the Ikeja Arms were an especially popular feature.
In 1957, after the death of his wife, Beatrice, Joe married Miss Jean Smith of the Colonial Nursing Service; she was the first Matron of the newly-opened hospital at Isheri.
He was Founder-President of the Ikeja Rotary Club; always very active in the social life of Lagos and involved in various charities. He was offered three Nigerian Honours, but he accepted only one, in 1964, when he became “Besape of Otta”. No doubt this honour was given to Joe in appreciation of the help he gave to many Nigerians to establish their own businesses.
In 1966 Joe Harold was awarded a CBE. Ten years later, having remained in Nigeria throughout the tragic civil war, he sold the Lagos Airport Hotel and retired to America.
Image Source:Eldred Echols and Boyd Reese./USC Digital Library.
Text: ASIRI Magazine Lagos
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