This week we bring to you more on the series of "firsts". We have seen the first, airstrip, the first vehicle and the first speed boat. Now we bring to you the first hotel.
Holiday Hotel carries the fame of being the first hotel opened to the public in 1965, and indeed it was. But was it the very first hotel built on Ambergris Caye? The answer is no. The very first hotel to be built on Ambergris Caye was a luxury individual units style hotel, but it never got to open its doors to the public and, it did not get the opportunity to welcome-any single guest to its rooms, restaurant, bar or swimming pool.
In 1960 and 1961, Vernon Hammon and his lovely wife Terry Hammon had acquired a large piece of land from about Barry Bowen's green house to the Sunbreeze area, more or less. The property was called Reef Colony Club and Vernon and Terry built a complete resort that included several single units of concrete and perhaps some wood. Each unit boasted its own front lawn with garden and access to the beach. The bar and restaurant were exactly at the present day location of the restaurant at Ramon's Village. And its swimming pool at exactly the same location where Ramon's pool is today. In fact the pool was the same one that Ramon's used for many years and just recently demolished and renovated.
Vernon and Terry had at least some 6 to 8 units all beautifully painted and furnished with beds and kitchen facilities. Promotions were already being made. and Vernon was proudly looking forward to opening day. It was said that he had even received some reservations for the Christmas Holiday, but on that fateful day of October 31, 1961, something tragic occurred. Hurricane Hattie hit Belize, the center of the hurricane passing just south of Belize City, a category 5 hurricane, with sustained winds of 165 m.p.h. and gusts reaching 200 miles per hour. Belize City was hit badly with some 600 persons losing their lives. And Ambergris Caye was also hit with severe impact. Practically the entire beach front of San Pedro was washed away and with it The Reef Colony Club that Vernon and Terry were about to open.
After the hurricane subsided in the morning of November 1, all the units at Reef Colony Club were badly damaged or destroyed. Beds and mattresses were scattered in the bush behind the property more or less in the area of Island Cuisine to Island Supermarket.
The villagers roamed the area and picked up whatever was usable including some canned goods from the kitchenettes of the hotel. The restaurant was badly damaged and the swimming pool was filled with sand and debris. In fact, the pool was cleaned and covered with sheets of zinc, and for many years it served as a container for rainwater (drinking water) for the village. Fishing boats in the 60's and even 70's used to stop at the Reef Colony Club to fill their barrels with rainwater from the pool for their fishing expeditions.
Terry and Vernon remained on the island for many years thereafter. They constructed their house just past Ramon's, but never ever attempted to build another hotel. In fact, they started selling some of their real estate and eventually sold the property on which Ramon's Village presently sits. That is the true story of Reef Colony Club, that existed as a structure, but never got to open its doors to guests due to Hurricane Hattie in 1961.
And just a few years later in 1965 Celi McCorkle inaugurated Holiday Hotel. So which was the first hotel in San Pedro? To my mind, it was Reef Colony Club, but to my heart it was our proud San Pedro Holiday Hotel. And please do take a look at its real name San Pedro Holiday, not just Holiday Hotel.
On another occasion I'll bring you the story of the San Pedro Holiday Hotel, which many people in San Pedro know about. But there are many who have never heard of Club, which stood as part of our history before it was destroyed by the Hurricane, more than 25 years ago.