B efore 1970, there were no telephones in San Pedro. The word B.T.L. was unheard of. To communicate with someone in Belize City, one would write a letter and give it to the captain of the cargo boat, The Elsa P. , and that letter would be delivered on the following day. Sometimes the addressee would not come by the wharf, so the letter would be returned to San Pedro. If there was an emergency, one would take his message to the policeman in charge, and he would radio the police station in Belize City. They in turn would call in at Radio Belize and one's message was aired several times with the hope that the message would reach the recipient. I recall hearing one such message: "Message to so and so, somewhere in Belize City. Your wife had a baby boy and she is very ill. Come to San Pedro immediately. Anyone hearing this message, please pass it on to so and so."
In 1970 the government saw it fit to set up the first phone in San Pedro. It was a community telephone, the one and only in San Pedro. The number to dial was 52. It was a wall telephone and was installed in the kitchen of the late Enrique Staines Sr. When a call came in, Mr. Staines would run or send a messenger to your house to inform you that you had a call. You had to run to his house. Many times when you got there the caller had already hung up but said he would call again in five minutes. To dial out of San Pedro, one went to Mr. Staines, asked for permission, and made one's call.
After a short while, a small 6'x 6' booth was built outside of the house and this gave callers some more privacy with the telephone. The little booth eventually had much use that at times there was a short line of 2 or 3 persons when you got there. It was in 1971 that the government (owner of the telephone company then) decided to install a few private phones, some 10 to 15 of them. Martha's Store got number 53 - they still have that number. Coral Beach Hotel had number 13. Fido's had 56. Felipe Paz had 59. Most of them have their numbers with the 20 digit added in front. San Pedro High had the number 14, but when it could not pay its bill, it was turned in and given to Holiday Hotel, who still has the 2014 number.
As the demand grew 20 more lines were installed and so on until one hundred. Then another hundred. Then they started with the 21 hundred series and 22 hundred series and every time another 100 phones would be added. Today we have reached the 38 hundred series which means that we have about 1,800 phones operating in San Pedro.
Today San Pedro is well connected with the outside world. There are some 120 cellular phones, about 85 fax machines, and practically every large business or organization has a computer system which may be hooked up to the internet and thus with an electronic mail (e-mail) system. With my computer today, I can pick up a writer in Hawaii or Japan and converse with him live via the monitor of the computer. Any message can go around the world at the press of a few keys of the computer keyboard.
Indeed, communication has come a long way in San Pedro. I remember my first personal telephone some 35 years ago. It consisted of 2 small tin cans of condensed milk tied to a piece of string. With it I could talk to my next door neighbour and understand 25% of what was said. To understand the other 75% of the message, I opened my window and shouted.