Barry Bowen, long ago... and a bit about the history of his family
ERIC WILLIAM MANSFIELD BOWEN, 1908 - 1985
Eric Bowen was born in San Ignacio in the Cayo District of Belize. Considered a sixth generation Bowen, he came from one of the oldest line of families living in Belize. His progeny on his father’s side extends back to the mid-Eighteenth Century, when the first Bowen disembarked from a British ship from England and joined the ‘Baymen’ at the mouth of the Belize River.
The bottled beverage industry in Belize, then British Honduras, had its beginnings in the 1930s, and Eric Bowen was among the first entrepreneurs to establish a ‘lemonade’ factory, named Crystal Bottling Works located on King Street in Belize City. Although there were two other bottlers of ‘lemonade’, Chavannes and Bradley, Bowen was the largest producer at the time. Interestingly enough, ‘lemonade’ was the term used to describe Crystal aerated beverages, not necessarily made from lime or lemon, but which came in flavours like: grape, strawberry, pineapple, ginger, cream soda, orange, and root beer. The beverage was very popular at Christmas and other celebratory events; but mostly prized by children during the annual September celebrations, when after they had paraded received a treat of cake and ‘lemonade’.
Eric Bowen was married to Emilie Josephine Blancaneaux, whose father was Dr. Francoise Blancaneaux, originally from France who lived and died in the Cayo District. Their eldest child was Barry Bowen, who his father taught how to produce and market the aerated Crystal drinks. Before Eric died on 5 January, 1985, he had sold his interest in the Bowen and Bowen Group of companies to Barry in 1978 who, in turn moved quickly to develop and exploit the opportunities he saw in Belize. Eric’s legacy came down to this generation, through the wise entrepreneurship of his son Barry in the bottling of Coca Cola, Sprite, Fanta, juices, purified water; and the alcoholic extensions of Belikin beer. The Lodge in the Pine Ridge was named after Emilie Blancaneaux. Francis Ford Coppola bought the Lodge Blancaneaux from the Bowens.
Classed as a ‘white Belizean’ with large real estate holdings, Eric Bowen possessed considerable social status. As a businessman, he became a member of the Rotary Club of Belize, serving as President from 1984 to 1985, and thus joining an illustrious, diverse and energetic line of persons.
The foresight of Eric Bowen remains the influence that brought about the bottling revolution, which despite the tough economic times of the early 20thCentury Belize, transformed a young industry into a multi-million-dollar empire in the ensuing years.
Photograph by Dimas Guerrero
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