25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
School Days of Early San Pedro
“School days are the best days of your life.” This is what most people say but one does not realize it until he is out of school. Last week I mentioned some interesting facts about old school days in San Pedro, like the hot Johnny cakes for recess break, and the subject called Bible studies, but there is more.
Every morning, the public bell located at Central Park was rung three times to warn students to go to school. At 8:30 a.m. with the last bell students made two lines at the foot of the stairs at the main entrance and we sang our National Anthem, “God Save The Queen.” The Principal said a few words and then we all walked very orderly into our classrooms for the commencement of classes.
Another thing that was a lot of fun years ago in San Pedro was the singing/reciting period. This was mandatory for all classes. The teacher would begin by having the entire class sing a song from or singing notebooks. Then came the dreadful time for some or joyous for others. Each student was required to go to the front of the class and sing a song, or recite a poem. I remember songs like “Charlie Started laughing” and “I Went to the Animal’s Farm”. Then there were poems like “Trees”, and “Little Billy”. Imagine the fun we had when a girl went up front and started to cry. Or the tense feeling when a boy went up front and forgot the lines of his poem. I said earlier that it was a joyous time for some of us because we loved singing and this was like a break from regular classes. But it was dreadful for those who did not like singing and refused to sing so they got a lashing from the teacher.
Another thing that was different 25 years ago in San Pedro was that there were periodical and very frequent checking of fingernails. Unlike today when there are checks for fingernail polish or long nails, those checks were for cleanliness. When the word was out that there would be a spot check, the children rushed to the beach and rubbed their fingers back and forth into the wet sand. After a minute the black dirt under the fingernails had been replaced by white clean sand. After that it was only a matter of removing the sand and the fingernails were sparkling clean. And since you will ask me what happened to those who failed to clean their fingernails, I will tell you right away that they too received their lashing from the teacher.
One more! I am sure all students of the 1950’s and 60’s have fond memories of those hotly contested baseball matches. Children were selected into teams according to their talents and by the order of arrival. And when there were enough to commence the match, it was baseball action in the morning before the bell was rung, during recess, in the afternoon after returning from lunch and, of course, after classes at 3:30 p.m. It is indeed a pleasant memory to remember the homeruns, the sliding into second or third base, the arguments whether it was a foul or not, and many times the heated arguments about the total number of runs. There were favorite players because they were good hitters, fast runners, or because they took to school a fine rubber ball or a nice wooden bat. Sad moments were when the ball was hit into the sea and it drifted out or when none of the boys who owned baseballs were absent from school. Good old elementary school days which we all miss so much and remember with fondness!