During the next few weeks “Twenty Five Years Ago” will be taking you through a list of “Firsts” in San Pedro and Ambergris Caye which have set the pace for a good start and have led to the development of San Pedro as we know it today. This is the third week with the continuation of “FIRSTS” in San Pedro. So who and what and when and why were the “Firsts”?
First Water System: The first water systems used in San Pedro from the time it was founded in 1848 were the shallow wells. Every family had a well made either with wooden barrels or sticks, and later on with metal drums. Secondly the villagers would also place drums or barrels and collect rainwater with gutters from the rooftops. In the 1930's the expert hands of the carpenters made the wood vat that was held together by metal rims. These collected fresh water in large quantities and was reserved for drinking only. The well, however, remained in use for drinking and washing etc. Even babies were fed with well water which was boiled, of course.
It was until 1984 when the first town board was elected that there was a water system that pumped water throughout the town. Again the source were shallow wells, a treatment plant, and the elevated tower. The wells were lined along the airstrip. They worked fine but then the demand became bigger. Some time around 1988 the first desalination plant was installed still by the WASA compound by the airstrip. And finally pretty recently we saw the last phase of our water system with the desalination plant by Victoria House. This system is said to be a long-term project.
The First Hotel: The very first hotel built in San Pedro was actually not put into use. It was the dream of a retired American couple, Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Hammon, who were in real estate and who made lasting friends in San Pedro. They were an adorable couple who got very much involved in the development of San Pedro. Their hotel project, Colony Club, was just completed and awaiting inauguration when Hurricane Hattie came about in 1961 and totally destroyed it along with the entire beach of San Pedro. Therefore for the record the very first hotel that can truly be called the pioneer is the famous Holiday Hotel owned by Celi McCorkel and John Greif. It boasted five wooden rooms at exactly the same location it is today. When it opened in 1965, it boasted a hand pump used to fill a few drums that fed the bathrooms by gravity. Yes, Celi remembers exercising at the hand water pump to keep it going while the tourists took their showers. It was a beautiful building compared to others in the 1960's, and Celi made sure it was the pride of San Pedro. There were no brochures, so the fame of Holiday Hotel was by word of mouth and due to the great hospitality provided by Celi and her team of employees and tourist guides. To think that George Price, Prime Minister of Belize actually came to San Pedro to cut the ribbon was an accomplishment for the tourism business at the time.