25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
First Retired Couple in San Pedro
Have you ever wondered about how many retired persons there are in San Pedro? And have you ever wondered who the first retired couple to set foot on San Pedro was and got to call this place “home”? Well, I am about to tell you but it will have to be in a series of articles between “Years Ago in San Pedro” and “Flashbacks” because it is a long story impossible to condense it for what it is worth. If the name Hamman sounds familiar, it is because you knew them. And if it does not sound familiar, you better read on because you are about to enjoy and learn about an important piece of San Pedro’s history.
Vernon and Terri Hamman arrived in San Pedro in the 1950’s at a time when the village was about 400 strong, and fish nets were hanging to air and sun-dry on poles near the beach. The village probably had about 20 fishermen who survived with subsistence fishing. There were also some 15 coconut farmers working for Mr. Blake and earning a living by cleaning the coconut groves known as ‘cocals’ and collecting the coconuts for processing and exportation.
This was the scenario when Vernon arrived to visit the island and the little fishing hamlet known as San Pedro. Vernon liked it and thought it was the best place in the world to retire. He talked it over to his lifetime companion, a beautiful blond who wore large sunglasses day and night, and she too thought it was a beautiful idea. They were people persons and easily got to make friends with 399 of the Island inhabitants. Soon Vernon and Terri were busy visiting friends, getting free fish from their island friends. The locals thought it was an honor to befriend a pair of friendly gringos who either came from heaven or from Hollywood. Of course nobody knew about Hollywood at that time but what is the difference?
Vernon purchased a piece of land, well a few acres, in the area of Ramon’s Village and had is house built among some coconut trees just fifty feet away from the shore line. It was majestic, impressive, well a palace standing on the outskirts of a fishing village with thatch houses and palmetto leaves on the roof. Cruz Nuñez, a San Pedrano, was Vernon Hamman’s right hand. He knew fishing, carpentry, plumbing, even electricity, and was the best handyman Vernon could possibly ask for. Besides he was extremely friendly and well spoken. He could speak perfectly broken English that made Terri and Vernon laugh with amusement. Cruz also loved the outdoor cooking and pretty soon he had Vernon smoking fish and chicken in a homemade fire hearth called a ‘fogon’.
Cruz Nuñez with Holly and Terri Hamman
There were no stores, no boutiques, no beauty salon, practically any business in San Pedro, but Terry did not miss anything like that from back home in the USA. She had Vernon and the appreciation of the San Pedranos. They both liked simplicity and San Pedro was perfect for them. They loved the sea and it was a stone throw from them. They loved the reef, and they had it just outside their window every day. Vernon and Terri were inseparable. You would not see one on the village street without seeing the other. You would never visit them at home without getting a synchronized welcome greeting from both of them. They were soon to become San Pedro’s most loved retired couple ever. Well, we do have to honestly give recognition to Peggy and Peter Hancock who followed their steps soon afterwards.