Now this was also interesting lol!
25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE BY ANGEL NUŃEZ
The Very First Ones- of many things!
Being first is quite a fete. It is nice to know that you were first in your class, first to set a record, first to build something, first to achieve something, or even first to have the honors like kissing the queen's hands or stealing the first kiss from a young lady. It is not quite pleasant to be the first one to go to jail or commit a serious crime or to be the first one to suffer a terrible accident. During the next few weeks "Twenty Five Years Ago" will be taking you through a list of "Firsts" in San Pedro and Ambergris Caye which have set the pace for a good start and have led to the development of San Pedro as we know it today. So who and what and when and why were the "Firsts"?
FIRST AIRSTRIP: The first strip of land used for landing planes here in Ambergris Caye was at Basil Jones area in the northern end of the island. This airstrip that goes back to the early 1950's was used to fly in personnel and goods for a petroleum exploration company that was drilling on the island looking for crude oil. Traces of oil were found, but nothing in commercial quantities. Very heavy equipment was barged in and the big time officials were flown in using this all grass airstrip at Basil Jones. The airstrip is still there and from time to time, there is talk or plans of re-opening that airstrip. Now the first airstrip built to serve the needs of San Pedro Village came about at the time when the first hotel was built in San Pedro by John Grief and Celi Nunez. John Grief also contributed much towards the opening of that airstrip. Area representative Louis Sylvestre at the time was very influential and so was Mr. Jim Blake (+) who was the owner of the land. That first airstrip was all grass, very narrow, and about ŗ the length of the present airstrip. It landed one plane occasionally and has grown to what we enjoy today.
FIRST AIRPLANE: The first plane to land on Ambergris Caye had to be one from the Petroleum Exploration Company at Basil Jones up north. The first plane to land here was actually a sea plane owned by Mr. John Grief . The first aqua landing was at the lagoon behind the village and docked at a little pier by the football field. The entire village came to see this historic and awesome landing. This first sea plane was one of the moving factors behind the Holiday Hotel, the pioneer hotel for San Pedro and owned by John and Celi. From there came the development of the airstrip, commercial airlines, and the commencement of tourism for San Pedro. This dates back to the 1960's.
First Doctor: The first doctor to offer his services to the people of San Pedro was Dr. Manuel Lizama of Belize City. Today we complain when there is no doctor in San Pedro for one day or even for one hour because we have a population of some 8 thousand, and out of them all, someone is bound to have severe pains and need a doctor almost every hour. Dr. Lizama only served San Pedro once a week, and it seemed that people waited for that day very patiently. In fact, there were some days when the good doctor came and only had one or two patients with minor problems. You need to remember that at the time of Dr. Lizama, there was a population of some 500 persons, so that was one doctor to 500 persons. Today there are three doctors for 8,000 or a ratio of one doctor for every 2,666 persons. Dr. Lizama operated at a little wooden building that belonged to Mr. ApoloŅo Alamilla where The Alijua Building is at present. The first doctor to live permanently on the island is our good Dr. Otto Rodriguez at the Lions Community Clinic, and he has been there for over twenty years. Thank you Dr. Lizama and Dr. Rodriguez.
First Cinema or Movie Theatre: The first movies shown here in San Pedro were at the park by the government information service. They were documentaries about cows and agriculture or control of diseases. The entire village of some four hundred inhabitants stood around Central Park to witness such spectacles. The first cinema to be completed was owned by Jim Blake (deceased) where Sun Breeze is presently located. It never went into operation as it was destroyed by Hurricane Hattie a few weeks before inauguration in 1961. It was a first class cinema with cushioned seats and large screen etc. The first one to operate was Teatro Arenas owned by Mr. Wilfrido NuŅez Sr. (deceased) It is the same building now used as Jaguar's Temple, but used to be located where Fido's Courtyard presently stands. The cinema was then passed to Mr. Pedro Salazar and now belongs to Pedro Salazar Jr. Unfortunately for San Pedro, there is no cinema for us to enjoy the latest releases in movies. Next investor, a cinema instead of a bar, PLEASE!
First Bar: The old timers speak about a famous place in San Pedro known as El Casino, which was nothing of a casino but rather a dance hall and apparently liquor was either sold or consumed in that place since the 1930's. According to stories, it was located somewhere by Central Park area. In the 1950's there was one bar proper, which used to belong to Mr. Gildardo "Daddy" Paz. The bar was called Daddy's Club and was equipped with bar, dance hall and even billiard tables and pool tables later on. That business has been the center of entertainment since the 1950's and very proudly still stands today as Big Daddy's. It has withstood Hurricane Janet, Hurricane Hattie, Hurricane Keith and several others that have threatened our beaches like Hurricanes Carmen, Fifi, Gretta, Gilbert, and others. Long live Big Daddy's.
First Speedboat: The late Vernon Hammon and his wife Terry had constructed a tourist resort in San Pedro known as the Reef Colony Club. His speedboat was the first on the island and was named the Reef Colony. The entire operation was managed by Vernon Hammon with the able assistance of Cruz NuŅez, who also run the Reef Colony from Belize City to San Pedro. It was a lovely skiff, perhaps about 18 feet long with a powerful engine. It was considered the fastest thing in Belize at the time. The Reef Colony Club was never inaugurated for it was totally destroyed by Hurricane Hattie, which devastated the island in 1961 or it would have been the first Hotel on Ambergris Caye. The speedboat, however, made frequent trips and villagers could travel free with Cruz NuŅez. It was also in service during medical emergencies. At the time when there were only sailing boats in San Pedro, to travel by the Reef Colony meant traveling like a king.
First Vehicle: Once again as Vernon Hammon and Cruz NuŅez were engaged in the operations of building up the Reef Colony Club, they also had a small jeep on the island. It was painted yellow and for fun was called the Yellow Cab. It was a personal mode of transportation for the company. After 1965 when CaribeŅa Fishing Cooperative was getting ready to export lobsters, they needed a vehicle to move boxes of lobster from the cooperative to the main pier and to also haul large blocks of ice for the fishermen. They then brought one of those land rover jeeps, which ran our streets for many years. That was an army green rover and was driven by Reynaldo Munoz and Oscar Aguilar who worked at the processing plant.
Remnants of first power plant buried in Mr. Parhamķs yard.
First Power Plant: If you want to see San Pedro's first power plant all you need to do is ask Mr. George Parham's permission at Sands Hotel and he will be all too happy to show you the remains of a an old generator that still stands in his property. It is rusty but perhaps you might be able to even find the date on the generator or he will take you back in the early 20th century for this accomplishment. It is said that it provided power for a privately owned business and a few neighbors in the area. Later Mr. Jim Blake (deceased) set up a fairly large generator for his own use and provided streets lighting for the main streets. This plant was located at the Sun breeze Hotel area and was cranked up from dark until about 9 p.m. This must have been in the 1940's and 1950's. In the 1960's, CaribeŅa Fishing Cooperative installed a large plant that also served the organization and part of the town. Finally the electric company of Belize set up the first 24 hour power service to San Pedro and it was perhaps one of the best investments ever made in and for San Pedro. I understand that perhaps San Pedro is the second highest consumer of electricity in the country. B.E.L can clarify this if they wish.
The Very First Telephone: Can you imagine yourself in San Pedro without a telephone for one hour? Well, can you picture San Pedro without a telephone back in the 1760's? There was a time when there was not a single telephone in this place except the ones we used to make with two tin cans and a long string. Some folks remember the very first telephone installed in San Pedro at Mr. Enrique Staines' (deceased) house. It used to be located in his kitchen and when he received a call for someone, he sent a message that you should come and answer the telephone. A person could also go to his house to dial a number in Belize City or other parts of Belize, but not international calls. The number of that community telephone was 52. This must have been about the year 1971 or 72, and when the phone became popular, a little booth was build in the yard and then people used to come in larger numbers to make calls. When B.T.L realized that it was a profitable business, they came to install about thirty phone lines to individual houses. I still recall San Pedro High as 2014, Coral Beach 2013, Martha's 2052 and CaribeŅa 2011. Do you know the number of telephones today in San Pedro? Would be an interesting fact to get from B.T.L.
This is some research isn't it?
Love is a many splendid thing and food runs a close second.