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Little girls playing on the beach
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Little girls playing on the beach

Entertaining ourselves as children in Belize

by Michelle Rivana Buckley

Entertaining our self during play was priceless as a child growing up in Belize. I could recall us children in the 70s playing on the street from 3pm until 8pm during the weekdays. The street lights or lamp post as we called it came on at 6pm and those who had to go home which was very rare had to go and have their evening supper which we call “Tea”. If you didn’t get home in time for supper boy you were grounded followedby a scolding or even a whipping depending on your parent. Not playing was the worst punishment our parents could inflict on us. You ate your Tea with such gust just to go back and play. Homework was done on time and whatever chores assign like fetching a bucket of water was completed with haste. Most of our parents left us to play on the weekends until 9pm. Boy did we play! Girls and boys together on that dusty old street. Johnson Street was filled with red dirt, small rocks and pebbles. A river of dust. There weren’t many vehicles parked on the street only Mr. Erskin’s big wooden orange truck. We had the street to ourselves and his truck was our resting spot. besides the truck we would rest on the old concrete square well that was used to feed the mules back in the day. It was about 18inches in width and about 2 feet high from the ground. Every summer we would try and clean it out and fill it with a buckets of water but to no avail. I called it a well but it’s really a large thraft. The Gov Apple trees in Mrs Flowers front yard fed us. We would climb up and sit in it just for fun. Eating the fruit and spitting out the seeds. Not a care in the world only the delight of each fruit sweetness. Everyone had a favorite spot. Her back yard held the Red Hammonds tree which was very tall and the much shorter Waika Hammonds tree. Waika Hammonds were yellow in color and much sweeter than the red ones which sometimes looked purple in color. Hammonds are like almonds but came by nature design in a thick hard shell. Us kids would look for the ones that the birds would bite and those were the sweetest ones.There was always fruits to eat. My Grandaunt who lived next to our alley had several plum trees in her yard and it was always fun to get a stick and try to knock them down or have a kid climb on our neighbors roof and shake a loaded branch. The front plum tree branches hung over the street side and thru our alley. This was a sign or license for us to help ourselves to them plums. We would get a kick trying to sneak and get them. My aunt was old and rarely did she share the green plums. So us kids took to taking them during a good harvest. You have your salt and black pepper on hand or on a piece of rules school paper from your old blank (notebook) and sit on the concrete fence or in the truck sharing and showing off who got the biggest plum. The green ones were tart/sour but who cared the the pepper and salt compensate for its sourness. Most of the time Mrs. Flowers would let us kids go climb the fruit trees in her yard and we would spend the entire day climbing the trees on and off. There was a few danger to hanging out in the yard. In Belize some of the yards were swampy and so most families would have their trash or the neighbors trash dumped in their yard as a filler. With this came broken glass and open tin cans. Some tin cans tops like the Condensed Milk cans were sharp and plentiful. Occasionally someone would step on a piece of wood with a rusty nail and oh did that hurt. Nail jook as we called was the worst it was so painful. If you didn’t get your Tetanus shot you best believe your parent will take you to theClinic to get your shot after a nail jook. With all this we did not care we would take the tin cans, bottles and empty boxes and play shop. We would use the leaves as money and trade with each other. This type of play was us mimicking our local vendors in our neighborhood. Us kids would have so many scrapes on your legs and knees. If it was a deep gash we would gather around and just look with enthusiasm and the funny comments would be flying. Look he got a big cut or look like the skin the hang! The worse was during a race. We would race each other from our alley to the clinic at the end of the street. If you slip and fall your knee got peeled up from the rugged rocks. We would limp back to the starting line and go straight to the faucet in the yard and rinsed it off. We all knew it hurt but we were all too proud to let our friends see us cry. Sometimes kindness and concern would kick in and a kid would run to help you back to the start line. We would race with the wheel of a tire or sometimes the rim of an old bicycle. You would get your piece of a short wooden branch and use it as a guide to tap and control your rim or tire as it rolled down the street. You needed speed, good balance and all the sugar in the world to win your race. Yes, we would get spoonful of sugar put it in the palm of our hands and eat to our hearts desire. Candy and cookies got the job done as well. We always came up with things to race with just for fun and to master our skills of child play.

It was always exciting when we made tin can phones. We would pierce with a nail the top of the can lids and string a piece of string thru each end of the two tin cans and their you had it! The best tephone in the world. It was funny how us kids would pretend to be calling States meaning the USA. You chat and share to hear the echo or vibration that came through. Another fun toy we created was the use of large Milo cans (Hot Powdered Chocolate Drink) or the large Klim cans (Powdered Milk) to make rollers. The large the can the better. We would pierce each end of the can place a long string through each hole and tie the ends of the string together into a knot then fill it with dirt or sand. A race would take place on the street to see who would win and whose can could endure the rugged street. It was so much fun. In addition to rollers we would used two tin cans that were the same in height and place strings on the side of each tin and used them as can shoes as shone in the photo. The older teenagers would used the old wooden crates and build carts with tin wheels or old tricycle wheels. If you had a cart you were popular.

Another fun activity was playing softball/baseball with not bats but pieces of wooden sticks or your hands. The bases would be triangles drawn on the ground or an old cushion from a chair. It was a kick watching us running, screaming and encouraging our team mates to run home as quickly as possible to home plate. The more exciting the game got the louder our screams of delight and encouragement. Sometimes we would argue about who was safe and who wasn’t after a home run. If an argument broke out boy did the triangle get messed up. We played fair because we were all good hitters. It was funny when someone hit the ball and it broke Mr. Erskin’s truck window. That evening we all scattered and took to home for an early evening. Jimbo got the blame because he had the last hit or maybe it was another kid who threw the ball to home plate and hit the window. The truck was always parked near our home plate. For two days no one came out to play. Us kids were as mischievous as those mosquitoes that roam the night. It would be dark and you would have to find the tennis ball that was used either in the drain or in someone’s yard. If you know Belize the drains on the street were muddy and stunk from the stagnant water. This was the fun part because the tennis ball would absorb the dirty water and the pitcher would get a kick when it was time to throw it to the batter. You best believe it , if it was your turn as the batter you would pray and make the sign of the cros to get a strike out. Unfortunately if you got to hit it with all your might that water would spray in the air and us kids would run the opposite way as to not jump to catch that ball. Your hand and clothing would smell awful and you know what that meant! Your in trouble because you have to change your clothing or take another shower. Which means your mother will be asking why? As much as they knew we were playing the drain was off limit. It was funny because the whole/ entire neighborhood could hear a kid getting his but whipped or as we say in Belize Den di tear eh rass!! On that note These activities kept us busy during the day and in the evenings and those toys kept our imagination and skilled hands active. I personally wouldn’t trade does days for anything in the world. I proudly wear my childhood scars like many others of our generation. Btw, I fell out of the big Red Hammonds tree while sitting at the very top and I mean top because from there you could see the Ice Factory on Magazine Road. Yes, like always someone yelled snake and me being very afraid of them missed the branches while scrambling to get down and down I went bam bugga down Boof to the ground. I could not stand up for a while. Why? I landed on one of those Condense Milk can and cut the top of my foot. It was aching like no other. My friend helped me up while trying not to laugh and carried me home. I was not allowed to play for several days due to my injury. My mother said to me while cleaning my wound and I quote “now yuh wah stay yuh rass down on the ground when yuh go play.” Ah yes, I was always climbing on stuff like the fence, ladder and roof and this made my mother say to me before play, “Nuh come home di bawl.”

At the end of the day you would go home with dusty feet as few of us wore tennis shoes aka sneakers. Flip flop or as we call it Cha Cha adorned our feet. Your big toe was always exposed either from a worn out sneakers or your slippers. You rinsed your feet off at the faucet in the yard wipe your face and arm with a wet rag and off to bed you went with not a care in the world. As you lay there reminiscing about the funny things that took place until sleep creeps in. Childhood in the 60s was worth every scrape and fall.

C. Phillip Waight: We had a traffic no entry sign that we would place at the street junction while we played football on the street

Michelle Rivana Buckley: that funny! Did the cars go around?

C. Phillip Waight: Yes they did and we continued to play.

Eugene Trench: When we got nailjuk my mom beat my foot bottom with a flat board then tie it up with garlic & vicks we dint go for tetanus shot which should be. I remember we use to block off our street to play cricket or baseball.
Growing Up in the 70’s you must did one or partake in some or all:
1- Play marble, hopscotch, top , snake& ladder & Ludo, whether baseball/softball/cricket in the streets
2- swim outta barracks or backa Hanger-or Old College
3- been to Matinee at either Palace,Majestic,Eden or Bel-Rio
4- go to Church on Sunday or else no matinee
5- window shop on Albert & Queen Sts during Christmas time
6- must take a purge of Castor Oil or Sienna before returning to school after summer vacation
7- enjoyed watching Fire Engine parade 9th September & watch the parade on 10th
10- sail boat out of sea bread in the drains after a downpour
11- fly your kite made with coconut straw with kite paper from Angeles Press or Las Vegas then make your glue with flour & water and a two drops of kerosene in it make roach no bite your kite at night and when your kite pop away you chase it to try recover it
12- read Hardy Boys & Nancy Drew mystery books or Archie Comics

Harold Usher: Did them all, and more, in the 40's and 50's. Here are some I can think of: Play cuparuche; jax; swallow WORM Oil, in addition to the castor Oil. Play RACE up and down the street with the neighbours; push Bicycle Rim; catck lizards; catch CRAB in August (Rainy days); go to Sawmill waste yard and fill crocus bags with wood-chips to fill the yard - using push cart; mark spot at faucet early morning to make sure I get a bucket of water. Play house with chaney (China - broken plates) money, under the house - I used to be the grocery owner. Walk to the Beach (Bishop's Beach, Gill's Beach and Schnar Beach, each about a half Mile apart) up the Southern Highway pass the cemetery, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Walk around Fort and later ride my bicycle, on Sunday afternoon - all the boys and girls put themselves on display after Sunday School - just walking and flirting. Fun and Games, Read Comics about Roy Rogers and dale Evans, Rocky lane, Hopalong Cassidy, Lone ranger and Tonto.

Percival Thompson: Add kerosene to flour paste to paste old news paper and magazine pages to the walls instead of paint at christmas especially if you live in prementa or cabbage house.

Michelle Rivana Buckley: Going to park or hanging by your front yard to watch the funeral go by while Mr Park followed beating his drum or the Lodge hall people dress up for a funeral. Fight by knocking the bomb out the referee/instigator hand or drawing the line and daring to cross it. Then there was Chick Chick and Put A Right Bloody Back he was always drunk and falling over trying to say his name.

Liz Bowen: I remember my mom taking us to Valencia's and Blue Birds Ice Cream Parlour on weekends. I also remember sitting on the street side or sometimes on Jack's (the horse) cart with my brothers and neighborhood kids at night just telling stories (sometimes scary ones) laughing out loud, & playing hide & seek.

Eslobar Evaton: Add caparucho to no. 1. Used to make my own outa cotton reel. Thread came on a wooden spool we called cotton reel. We glued our kite with the milk of cojotone/horse balls. I swam at the baracks but my best swimming days was at piedra blanca in Santa Elena. I think there's a new bridge in that area now.

Angelique Neal: Grew up in Stann Creek. Climb fruit trees, swim by barmouth, go pick mangoes at Melinda Road, get rolled down the street in old tires, Sunday school, back sand dah beach.

Nadia Flowers: ...and Chicky Chick with the Bamboo Stick was funny too, but I as a child never teased her. I was too scared, but friends did. And what about Gimme a Lee Laugh and Tongue Pan Chest?

Photograph by Tom Blackledge, M.D.              
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