25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUÑEZ
The Early Days of Tourism
I was chatting this past weekend with my very good San Pedrano gringo friends, Tom and Ruby Kirkpatrick, who are presently visiting on the Island and living at their Island home, “Casa de Amor”. Tom and Ruby bought their property from Vernon Hammon back in 1962 (42 years ago), and were among the very first tourists to the island, so they are in a position to relate many things that happened in San Pedro 25 years ago and even 42 years ago. By the way, Tom and Ruby have been coming to the Island ever since, but no longer as tourists. They simply come to enjoy their friends and their home in the Caribbean while their grandson is building his own home in Isla Bonita.
Tom recalls staying with Celi at the Holiday Hotel. One day as he was walking in with his luggage, George Price was stepping out from cutting the ribbon to inaugurate the hotel, which counted with five rooms at the time. One day during a rain, some drops of rain landed right at his table, but nobody minded that for everyone was just happy to be in San Pedro. Some inconveniences did not bother anyone. Yes, Ruby recalls that Tom had to help fill the elevated water tank using a hand pump if they wanted to have a good shower. And they mostly remember that they ate the day’s catch at sea, making it the most excellent seafood ever.
Ruby recalls then staying at Fido’s place, with Fina attending to the kitchen. Fina had no training in catering or food handling, but was a good cook at her own home. Some days Fina did not know what to cook for her guests, so Tom and Ruby volunteered to help in her kitchen. Fido’s did not have a restaurant. They ate at Fina’s kitchen. They also recall Guillermo Nuñez (deceased) and Bell Trejo (who passed away just this week) taking them fishing at the reef. A local guy named Dolores Guerrero and whom everyone called “Potted Meat”, used to wake them up very early in the morning to bring them fresh fish for breakfast. By fresh, “Potted Meat” meant fish that were still alive. Ruby used to get up reluctantly, get the fish, put them into the sink, and then went back to bed to enjoy her morning in bed in Paradise.
Tom and Ruby remember one night when they needed to leave Fido’s pier to get to their home on the Southern end of the island where they presently live. Fido Nuñez (deceased) volunteered to take them with his skiff because he wanted to try out his brand new twenty five-horse power outboard motor. As he sped off, his brand new motor landed right into the water because the stern of the skiff had rotted and could not take the force of the motor. They ended walking all the distance because at that time there were no taxis on call. Ruby, who loves Belikin, recalls shopping at La Favorita, which was one of the very few stores in San Pedro. She also recalls drinking Amstel Beer and Heineken Beer for 35 cents a pint of beer. Later on when Ovidio Guerrero opened Skin Diver’s Bar, they used to drink Colt 45 for forty five cents a can of American beer. Ruby recalls having to bring many food supplies from the U.S. because many things were simply not available in the stores. Today she still brings some items out of habit because you can practically get everything in San Pedro. Oh, yes, Ruby and Tom even recall the days when they had to crank up their generator to get electrical power only at night. They even used the kerosene lamps to save on electricity.
And do you know what? The very same things that were missing in San Pedro 25 years ago are the things that made them enjoy the island. Life in the past was a little crude and simple, and that is exactly what they were looking for to retire and enjoy the rest of their lives together. Today, 42 years later, with over 50 years of marriage, Ruby now has microwave oven and air conditioning in her home, but she certainly misses life as it was 25 years ago.