By Angel Nuñez
Was it different? You bet! Oh yes, we had a grand celebration, but we did it in our own wonderful way. Twenty five years ago we did not have a lot of flags to fly around the town and at our homes. So what we did was to decorate the place by going into the bush and cutting small palm trees which were placed around the town to add more greenery and to make the place look joyful and in the celebration mood.
There were no large flags or banners to decorate the stage where the beauty pageants were held. Therefore the organizers, who were the village council personnel, cut coconut palms and wove them to make the stage attractive. Palms remained green for up to a week before they started getting brown. As long as the children did not tamper with the palms, the stage remained beautiful for many days.
Twenty five years ago young ladies did not wear swimsuits in public places. Therefore you could not get a young lady to model in swimsuit on a stage, so the pageants were based on wearing casual wear and the formal gown. The girls were not asked questions because speaking in public was not popular.
Twenty five years ago we did not have those loud music systems and D J’s to give us loud party music, but we did have many talented musicians who enlivened the parade with accordion, harmonicas, and acoustic guitars. Our primary school teachers used to teach us weeks in advance all the songs related to the tenth of September. There was “The tenth day of September”, “The Queen of the Bay”, and “Vamonos Compadres a St. George’s Caye”. (Let’s go Friends to St. Geroge’s Caye) and "We are Marching Today". On the day of the parade all the school children sang these songs as we paraded down the streets waving our Union Jack flags.
In the 1960’s we had not yet achieved our independence, therefore we used to wave in the air the flag of Great Britain or England. One large flag was fixed to a stick and the leader waved this one with alacrity. The children were given paper flags which were fastened to small pieces of sticks. These made a very colorful parade along with the songs of the Tenth Day of September.
In the 1960’s there were no trucks in San Pedro, therefore there were no floats. The queen and her maids walked all the way around the village waving their hands at those on their verandahs who came out to view the parade. The parade was half a block long and included only school children and their teachers, and a few adults.
Also in the 1960’s we had not yet achieved our independence, so we only had one celebration and it started on the fifth with a queen pageant followed by the parade on the tenth. There were no other activities and events. For the crowning of the queen at the park, the entire village turned out to witness such a marvelous event. Mr. Alan Forman (RIP) was the Master of Ceremonies, and he really made the young ladies feel majestic, like real queens.
Finally for the tenth of September, St. George’s Caye Day, the government used to send one shilling or 25 cents to the primary school teacher for each child in school. Some lazy teachers chose to give each child the 25 cents, but most of them chose to fill a bag of goodies and gave them to the children after the parade. The bag contained biscuits, candies, chewing gum and a cup cake. Also each child was given a pint of lemonade. In the afternoon the entire village assembled at Central Park where the children participated in all kinds of races on land and sea, and fun competitions and were awarded pencils and exercise books and some toys as prizes. The greasy pole has always been a main attraction. This, as you can imagine, was a real treat to every child. This is how we all celebrated every year twenty five years ago, the famous Battle of Saint George’s Caye.
The Tenth Day of September (Song/Lyrics)
It was the 10th day of September
In ninety-eight Anno Domini
when our fore-fathers
won the glorious fight
at Old St. George's Caye
Hip! Hip! Hurrah. Hip! Hip! Hurrah.
Then hail them - cheer them.
Let our grateful loyal hearts not fail them,
as we march and sing and shout in merry glee
The Battle of St. George's Caye.
Hip! Hip! Hurrah. Hip! Hip! Hurrah.
Vamonos Compadres a St. George’s Caye (Song/Lyrics)
We jooked them and we poked them and we drove them like fleas,
Right into salt water, right up to their knees,
And each greasy Spaniard to the other did say:
O vamonos compadres de St. George’s Caye.
(O compadres, let us get out of St. George’s Caye.)