by G. Michael Reid
I was born and raised on what has been designated as Southside Belize City. I attended Holy Redeemer School which is of course, on the North side of the city. Back then, most kids walked to school and just about all of us went home for lunch. That meant a good walk four ways each day and I guess that kept us in pretty good shape. Obesity was a rare thing for Belize in those good old days. We played a lot in those days, whether it was in the schoolyards or in whatever empty space we could find. There was no television, no internet and no play station. Most of our games were outdoors and to be quite honest, in looking back, I believe that we had the better end of that deal. The boys played with marbles and tops while the girls played with jacks and hopscotch. On any given day, you could find girls on one side jumping rope and boys on the other side roughing each other up in a game of pickup football. It was a time of active social interacting.
Every day on the way to school, I had to pass what was back then known as Edward’s Park. Back then, the park was a bustling hive of sporting activity. In fact, way back, (way, way back), it was even the venue of the yearly Queen of the Bay pageants. On any given weekend, there were big games of football, boxing and baseball. Yes, Belize had a thriving baseball competition. I cannot remember all of the teams, but the name Jungle Honey stays vividly in my memory.
When there were no games or other activities, there were many of us who made Edward’s Park our home. Among them was a young Michael Finnegan. We spent many hours in that park, sometimes playing ball or at other times playing cards or shooting dice. I remember that as a regular Edward’s Park kid, I was among those tasked to chase down the ball when there was a homerun or a foul ball. Back then, balls were scare and most games were played with one ball. If the ball was lost, that was it for the game. I believe that we were paid something like two cents for every returned ball. The challenge was when homeruns were hit. The park bordered what was back then the slaughter house and the ball would sometimes land in the cow pen which was right on the other side of the fence. That presented quite the challenge for even the bravest among us. Those cows were not tame and that exercise entailed much ingenuity. Many times, we had to cede our bounty to the big guys from across the fence. They were bigger, braver and had the experience in handling the cows and moving them around. The game had to go on and the handlers did not much care who collected the reward as long as the ball was returned.
Just when Edward’s Park became Rogers’ Stadium I am not quite sure because I was at that time away in the U.S. It is a matter that has gnawed at my craw for a long time however, because I know the story of Mr. Edwards. By the time I came along, Mr. Edwards had already done most of his hard work and had the park in playable condition. I do know that the old gentleman put in much hard work in establishing that park. My grandfather knew him well since they were fellow immigrants from Jamaica. My grandfather, Mr. Edwards, Mr. Matthews, Mr. Pitterson (father of the famous baker Sonny Pitterson) and Mr. Lyons (another famous baker) supposedly all came to Belize around the same time. Mr. Edwards was a cabinet maker by trade but worked many endless hours, sometimes late into the night, in order to fill up what was once a swampy area. According to the stories, old man Edwards would wheel his barrow all the way up to Mr. Lord’s ridge and fill it with sand and return to dump it in the low lying areas of the park. I’m not sure if Edwards had any children of his own but I had heard that he had adopted a daughter. He apparently had a deep lover for children though and was determined to create a space for us to play. Several generations have enjoyed the fruits of his labor!
Now this is not to take anything away from C.L.B. Rogers, in whose honor the park was subsequently renamed. Rogers was a prominent public figure and left an indelibly mark on the landscape of Belizean politics. He undoubtedly deserved such an honor but it should not have been at the expense of Mr. Edward’s legacy. It was unfair, and an insult to the hard work of that gentleman to remove his name from the park for which he labored so selflessly. I am sure that they could have found any number of other monuments to have dedicated in C.L.B.’s honor.
I have never been in favor of naming any landmark or monument for any living politician. There is a logical reason for that. One can never be sure how any politician will wind up his or her career? An excellent example is Michael Finnegan in whose honor the Queen’s Square Market was renamed. Given Finnegan’s recent antics in the House and his penchant for vulgarity, it is doubtful that he will go down in history in any memorable way. Yet we must forever live, honoring him every time we step into the market.
I really do not believe that any political party should name any public landmark or monument for any of its own people. Given the fact that the nation is so politically polarized, and given that the support of either party is almost equal, this makes absolutely no sense. As a rule, nothing that is used by all the people should be a monument to any one particular party. There are heroes galore for us to honor. Let our memorials be for all the people and to be enjoyed by one and all.