Being first is quite a fete. It is nice to know that you were first in your class, first to set a record, first to build something, first to achieve something, or even first to have the honors like kissing the queen's hands or stealing the first kiss from a young lady. It is not quite pleasant to be the first one to go to jail or commit a serious crime or to be the first one to suffer a terrible accident. 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. So who and what and when and why were the "Firsts"?
FIRST AIRSTRIP: The first strip of land used for landing planes here in Ambergris Caye was at Basil Jones area in the northern end of the island. This airstrip that goes back to the early 1950's was used to fly in personnel and goods for a petroleum exploration company that was drilling on the island looking for crude oil. Traces of oil were found, but nothing in commercial quantities. Very heavy equipment was barged in and the big time officials were flown in using this all grass airstrip at Basil Jones. The airstrip is still there and from time to time, there is talk or plans of re-opening that airstrip. Now the first airstrip built to serve the needs of San Pedro Village came about at the time when the first hotel was built in San Pedro by John Grief and Celi Nunez. John Grief also contributed much towards the opening of that airstrip. Area representative Louis Sylvestre at the time was very influential and so was Mr. Jim Blake (+) who was the owner of the land. That first airstrip was all grass, very narrow, and about ¼ the length of the present airstrip. It landed one plane occasionally and has grown to what we enjoy today.
FIRST AIRPLANE: The first plane to land on Ambergris Caye had to be one from the Petroleum Exploration Company at Basil Jones up north. The first plane to land here was actually a sea plane owned by Mr. John Grief . The first aqua landing was at the lagoon behind the village and docked at a little pier by the football field. The entire village came to see this historic and awesome landing. This first sea plane was one of the moving factors behind the Holiday Hotel, the pioneer hotel for San Pedro and owned by John and Celi. From there came the development of the airstrip, commercial airlines, and the commencement of tourism for San Pedro. This dates back to the 1960's.