25 Years Ago
During one of my walks down the beach I observed this huge tree trunk that was dumped at an angle right on the beach. The guys raking the beach will not be able to remove it but I am pretty sure the resort will use a tractor or some heavy equipment to remove it pretty soon. So I stopped a moment to chat with my new friend raking the beach. “So what will you do with that huge tree trunk?” I asked. “We’ll remove it with a bulldozer,” he politely replied.
During my daily exercise walk down the beach, I meet a lot of interesting people and most of the time they remind me of incidences of 25 years ago. Today I stopped to chat by the area of Xanadu Resort with a young man, perhaps 12 years old, who was raking the seaweed on the beach. “Good morning, young man. How are you doing?” I greeted him in a friendly tone. “I’m fine, sir,” he replied with a smile.
The other day I was taking my morning walk down the beach between the area of Corona del Mar past Banyan Bay up to The Royal Palm and I noticed the beautiful white sand along the beach and my mind could not resist reminiscing the days when my dad took me to the beach to hunt for sea turtle nests. So here is the story of something we can’t do today and should not do because the sea turtle is a protected marine animal and poaching turtle eggs is illegal.
I was taking my morning exercise walk down the beach last week and saw a Portuguese Man-of-War on the sand and surely my mind went through several stories about these dreaded, dangerous and venomous animals. I had not seen an “Aguamala” (man-of-war) in several years because I did not go to the beach very often. Now I go daily. This one is especially for my new-found friend Alberto from Punta Gorda who cleans the beach at Banyan Bay. Watch out amigo!
The Sanpedrano fishermen earned their living using these lobster traps locally known as lobster pats or crayfish pats from the 1950’s through the 1980’s and to a very limited extent still used today. Let’s first build one. Three rectangular frames are built and then covered with bamboo or palmetto strips. Notice the opening at the top which has a removable cover. From there the lobsters are extracted. Notice the opening on the side where the lobsters enter but somehow can’t figure out how to come out.
Fishing rules have existed 25 years ago and beyond. They were not laws from a moratorium, the police or from government. They were simple laws agreed upon by sensible fishermen who cared for one another. First of all, fishing traps were not allowed in front of the village. They had to be on the shore at least one mile north or south along the coast, but not in front of the village.
Last week Teen Talk Columnist Eni Gonzalez revealed through her inspiring interviews that most teenagers would happily continue a friendly relationship with an ex after breaking up. Not so twenty five years ago. No, no, nooooooooo! Once breaking up, the relationship was not only zero, “but below zero”. In fact here are a few things that happened after that break.
In terms of playing back music systems, we have today moved from small to smaller to tiny. We have gone from small tape players to walkmans and Discmans and now to the MP3 players (add any other types I don’t know about) which can be hidden in the palm of the hand.
There was a time in San Pedro when the few stores on the island did not have any signs with their names. Renowned photographer Sanpedrana Kay Scott, who came to live on the Island in 1982, recalls that when people needed a certain item, they had to recall which store was which, but that was okay for there were only a handful of stores.
There was only one public pier and about three private piers 25 years ago. The public pier was used in several ways. During the season when snapper was running, fishermen went to the pier at 4 a.m. to catch by hand line a dozen or two of snappers for the day’s meal.
Building a sailing boat requires special talent, a skill only a few people were gifted with. Building a skiff also takes special skills. Now building a fiberglass boat or skiff is a science of casting chemicals and materials into a mould which is another art.
Apples don’t grow in San Pedro, but have you heard of coconut apples? Those grow abundantly in San Pedro, and they are delicious. They are called “manzana de coco” so translated literally, it is coconut apple.
Twenty Five years ago, when the time of lent came, it was a time of sincere sacrifice. Lent was not only about fasting, but a time to sacrifice. Most men took time to give up smoking and drinking since those were two of the most common bad habits. So the only smoke there was in the village was the smoke of the “fogon” (fire hearth). The shelves at the village store remained packed with their Colonial cigarettes. And so did the shelves of the local bar remained stocked with their white rum.
Though there were many happy days in school, it is not to say that there were no unpleasant experiences. Some of them we would like to forget, but really can’t. The first ones that come to mind were those that dealt with the dispensing of discipline.
A lot of folks are enjoying and reminiscing their happy school days and are calling to remind me of other fun activities. So here is one you might probably not believe, but is true.
With all the election fever going on, this column must give you a few anecdotes about some of the early elections in the history of Belize and San Pedro, of course. In the early 1950’s this thing called “Adult Suffrage” was granted to Belize. It was championed by George Price who formed the first political party-The People’s Party.
Oh how I miss those fun days in primary school. Despite the fact that we were put in a long one and given words to spell, and if you spelled the word incorrectly you got a good whipping on your hands, I still remember the fun events and programs in school. And I know that you too enjoy reminiscing about your schooldays, so here is another one and see if they were like your days, or even better.
So we are continuing on the topic that school days were so very different from today. One of the programs we used to enjoy a lot in the 1950’ was the feeding program. In those days there were many underprivileged communities in Belize and CARE Belize had a feeding program throughout the whole country. CARE was a Canadian agency that helped in third world countries. They provided our school with large supplies of flour and scores of barrels of powdered milk (KLIM).
In the 1950’s school days were so different, but at the end of the day, the objectives of learning and good discipline were accomplished just as it is today. Let’s look at some conditions. Before going to school most kids had to carry out some chores at home, something most kids today are not required to do. Some kids had to grind the corn for mom to bake the tortillas. Others had to cut firewood or fill the drums with well water for the laundry. Some kids cleaned fish for mom or sold them in bunches to the neighborhood.
Today welcoming in the New Year with free champagne, fireworks and glitter may seem interesting but listen to this interesting and unique tradition of the 1950’s to welcome in the New Year. The dances started at 8 o’clock on the dot and that seemed a bit too late as the guys were waiting for the young ladies to appear from around the bend of the Catholic Church and around the Central Park accompanied by their chaperones, mom or auntie.