25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

El Comisariato (The Commissary)


S
ome older folks might want to take me farther back in time perhaps in the 1930ís or 40ís, but unfortunately I do not go so far back. So for all practical purposes I shall write about the Commissary as the first or one of the first stores in the village of San Pedro.

The name was written on a piece of board over the entrance - El Comisariato, which means The Commissary. Now a commissary is a store that provides goods for the military. We had no military in San Pedro, trust me, but perhaps the early operation of the commissary was like that of the military. Why?

The Comisariato on the background.
Papa Blake, the owner of the store, also had large coconut plantations where many of the villagers got employment. Good old Papa Blake had this system of paying his workers with weekly coupons, which were redeemable at the commissary. So if your weekly coupon or voucher was 20 dollars, you could go to this store and get 15 dollars worth of goods, and then get your five dollars change.

In the 1950ís, which is when I remember the Comisariato, the coupon system was no longer in effect. The store was located at the lower flat of the Blake House. It was a three-story building. Papa Blake and his wife, Elena Blake, lived in the second floor. The third floor was in the form of a large attic. This was like a guest floor or for his children when they visited from other parts of the country. At that time the Blake House was the pride of San Pedro as far as buildings go.

The store was very large and spacious and clean. There were foodstuff like rice and beans and sugar and flour. There were some canned goods like Milo, Ovaltine and corned beef.

There was a small cosmetic section where you could get your body powder, a body splash or cologne. There was even a small section with liquors and wines. I remember going to the Commissary to get nails, turpentine and a paintbrush, so there must have been a small hardware section too.

Oh, yes, this was perhaps the only place that boasted a kerosene refrigerator so you could get a cold pint of the old-fashioned Belize lemonade, which ironically came in various flavors like strawberry, grape, lime, pineapple, cream soda and ginger ale. Yes, for five cents you could get your pint of cold lemonade, but they would not sell you a pint if you did not bring an empty one. Oh yes, we practised recycling since then.

Behind the counter was Mr. Cristino Gomez, father of Alice Gomez (+) and Mr. Ernesto Gomez, so he was grandfather of our celebrity Einer Gomez.

He was neatly dressed in white shirt always tucked inside his neatly ironed pants. When not attending to customers, he would be seen with a broom sweeping up the tiled floor of the Commissary. This place was spick and span and when we moved from the dirt floors at home to this store, this place seemed like a palace. The place was not too far from the primary school and for recess we would go there with Oscar Aguilar and got a drink of cold water. Mr. Christino Gomez raised Oscar like a son, and since he was our friend, this was the only time we drank cold water.

Blake House, along with the Commissary, was eventually sold to the Barrier Reef Hotel. There were bars and restaurants in the lower flat. Finally John Bremekamp sold it too.

Whenever I pass by the Alliance Bank today, I canít help reminisce about the good old times we used to go for a drink of cold water at El Comisiarato or The Commissary. It saved our lives for Hurricane Janet in 1955 and Hurricane Hattie in 1961 too. Thank you Papa Blake for the Comisiarato.


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