The other day somebody told me they had something that might interest me, and handed me an old newspaper “The Coconut Wireless.” Wow what a find! It totally inspired me to write an article on how newspapers came to be on the island.
I put all my efforts to contact the creator of the Coconut Wireless, Linda Cornelison, but had no luck. I went in search for my next best contact, The Chief and Editor of The Coconut Wireless San Pedro’s very own Freddie Gonzalez. Boy was he happy to remember the good old days.
“I’m proud to have been part of the first newspaper on the island and am really proud to see locals more involved in the newspaper business,” commented Freddie. He gave me a brief description as to how the coconut wireless was born. According to Freddie, in 1981 Linda Cornelison started “The Village Shopper” which was like a newsletter, only it had no news and was about shopping - where you could buy groceries, souvenirs and who had the best deals.
But the people of San Pedro commented to Linda “why don’t you put news in the paper?” and so ‘The Coconut Wireless’ was born in 1982. Freddie was the Editor, Linda Cornelison the Publisher/Founder and Beverly Mercier the Advertising & Art Director. It had some columns - Omar Guerrero had a sports column and even Mr. Nuñez had “Nuestra Juventud San Pedrana,” a Spanish article, column writer Trish Carter and many other contributing writers.
While interviewing Lindsey Hackston, who also worked some years at The Coconut Wireless as the photographer, she filled me in on the town’s favorite article which was called ‘Overheard’. This column was purely gossip (Linda would go to all the social places and was always on the prowl for the latest gossip). She was known for her fabulous short hand and had the power to type at the speed of lightning (today Ambergris Today has a similar article “Rumors”).
The Coconut Wireless ran from 1982 and came to an end for a host of reasons in 1990. My next interview would have to be over the phone as I contacted the founding owners of The San Pedro Sun, Bruce and Victoria Collins. A very surprised Bruce asked “Melody from Belize?” The phone call brought back a lot of memories as Bruce commented on how we met.
“Melody, do you remember how we met?” asked Bruce. Sure I did! I was sitting on the beach in front of what is now Lily’s Treasure Chest (back then it was The Coconut Wireless’ outpost). I was making a sandcastle when Victoria came out and talked to me while she helped me build a sandcastle. Since the Collins where some of the greatest people you could ever meet, I was always following them around, interested in the newspaper.
I always loved having my picture in the paper so I would enter the annual Valentine contests and always had my mom make me the best Halloween costume so I would be featured in newspaper. (Not much has changed huh?) Hey you can’t blame me! Not when my dad Dennis Wolfe, who also had a few of his jokes in the Coconut Wireless and later would join Bruce and Victoria in The San Pedro Sun. He has had his picture and column in every issue for at least the last 20 years. Hey, its funny he has been there longer than most of the owners. Imagine if we both had our columns in the same newspaper - two Wolfe’s would be two much to handle for one paper.
When Dorian offered me a job at Ambergris Today at the age of 20 I was quick to accept the offer and follow in Bruce, Victoria and my dad’s footsteps. Ok, but enough about me huh; this is the history on newspapers not “Where is Melody Today”.
Anyway where was I, yes, after reminiscing I asked Bruce how and when did The San Pedro Sun start? Our phone connection was lost and so I didn’t get to talk to him. Aha! You thought I didn’t get my information, huh? Well, earlier that morning I had emailed him my questions and after my call he responded.
“We helped Linda run The Coconut Wireless for some of the last issues while Linda was away. She offered, to sell us the Coconut Wireless. She would move to Cayo and form a “western” branch of the /Coconut Wireless. We declined her offer”.
The Collins felt they were better off to start an independent paper which they would come to call “The San Pedro Sun”. They first published “The San Pedro Sun” in 1991 which made them the second newspaper on the island. Bruce and Victoria successfully ran “The San Pedro Sun’ up until 1998 and as far as history goes both Dorian and I had the privilege to work with Bruce and Victoria. Of course Dorian was more of a reporter and I was the paper roller! Sure I only got paid $5.00 once a week to sit there, roll and lick stamps to send the newspaper abroad, but I was happy to be part of the team
In 1998 Dan and Eileen Jamison bought the San Pedro Sun and as I mentioned earlier Dorian worked with The San Pedro Sun for a while when he got back from college where he graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Journalism and Mass Communications. He then decided, at the ripe old age of 22 (yes 22), that he wanted his own paper - something different and fresh.
That’s when the third newspaper was born. The first issue was printed on February 1999 with a team of three people - Dorian Nunez, Perlita Zapata and Eduardo Brown and of course there where columnist Mr. Nunez and Teen Talk Reporter. Back then the newspaper was barley fifteen pages long and not much going on.
At present, Ambergris Today proudly boast at least 36pages weekly, a very popular website that receives 69,000 hits daily and of course a staff that comprises of four young energetic local girls and four contributing columnist.
Today there are two newspapers successfully running on the island, “The San Pedro Sun” that is owned and ran by Ron and Tamara Sniffin with the Wolfe’s Woofer still going strong and the third newspaper on the island Ambergris Today on its ninth running year.
Hey stop that! I can hear you guys saying “third newspaper”? Don’t judge! Haven’t you heard the saying “the third time’s the charm!” And now you all know the history of newspapers on the island. I was proud to be the paper roller 12 years ago and today I am very proud to be part of Ambergris Today.
I was so flattered when I read Bruce Collins’ email where at the very end he said, “As I said on the telephone, we have been reading about your progress and are very proud of what you have accomplished, plus you are so, so photogenic. And of course, we couldn’t be prouder of Dorian and Ambergris Today. You all have done a terrific job. Cheers to Linda Cornelison for starting the first newspaper and cheers to good reading!”
1. The Coconut Wireless Vol 1 #6
2. The first issue of the San Pedro Sun Vol. 1 #1
3. Ambergris Today’s first issue Vol 1 #1
4. Lindsey Hackston was photographer for The Coconut Wireless
5. Freddie Gonzalez was Editor of The Coconut Wireless
6. Ambergris Today staff of 1999 Dorian Nuñez, Perlita Nuñez/Zapata and Edwardo Brown