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The basketball saga of Old Parr

(Chronicles of OLD PARR basketball team of the early seventies: The makings of a multi-championships basketball team both at the Junior and Senior level from 1970 – 1974.)

“Cama took a junior championship team by the name of Old Parr, brought them into the senior league, and won a sensational championship. The Old Parr stars included Eric Gladden, Evondale Coburn, Mark Neal and Harry Cadle. This would have been maybe 1971 or 1972. I think Old Parr repeated, and then they became Grand Marnier, whereupon they lost to a new production called Incatecu. Coburn had gone to the States, and perhaps also Rico Gladden.”

The first paragraph is verbatim from the book Sports, Sin and Subversion, page 57 second paragraph Chapter VIII (titled “Wilton, Clinton and Straddle”) written by Evan X Hyde.

Without any disrespect or slight whatsoever to the brilliance of the writer, many people on the outside believe that Cama was the brain behind the Old Parr team; however, that is only partially correct. But let’s start at the beginning.

Old Parr was established in 1970 as a junior team sponsored by one of the wealthiest Chinese businessman in Belize and an avid sports fan and enthusiast, Mr. Gonzalo “William” Quinto. The team entered the 1970 CYO basketball tournament junior division with the following players: Rev. Barnett, Keith Pandy, Steve Pahnke, Billy Smith, Smiley Lucas, Harry “Straddle” Cadle, Bobby Leslie, and I believe Mike Panton. I do not remember the names of the other players; maybe some of my friends reading this can remember and post it in the comments.

This original team defeated Rammers to win the 1970 junior championship. At the time the CYO committee established a rule that no player would be allowed to play at the junior level more than two years. This rule affected most of the players on the team, who went on to play at the senior level the following year. I believe that several went on to play for ASC in their senior year – 1971.

Old Parr reloaded 1971. Harry Cadle and Smiley Lucas were originals from the previous year who stayed with the team and went on to recruit the new players for the 1971 season. Eric and his brother, Thomas Gladden, and I were recruited by Harry. We played for a junior team sponsored by Chavannes (they made lemonade and soft drinks on Albert Street and Prince St.) named 7UP. We were joined by Raymond Arnold, brothers Joel and Greg Gill. I am unable to remember the other players at this time, but our coach was Freddie Evans.

The season was divided into two separate leagues for the season – Independence League and National League. At the end of the season the teams with the best records in their respective leagues met for the championship. We met and defeated a team named Phillips Supersonics, led by Wilbert “Butty”/Wings” Savery for the 1971 junior champions. Although it was not the same team, Old Parr was back-to-back junior champions. Eric Gladden was named the Junior MVP for the season. Due to the two year rule we could no longer play at the junior level so we had to move up to the senior level.

Old Parr reloaded 1972. By this time we were “gym rats” who spent most of our spare time on the basketball courts of St. Ignatius and SJC gym. Weekends and holidays (the entire day) were spent in the gym (Christmas, New Year’s, Baron Bliss, Easter, etc. etc.): no exception. By this time we were a confident group of players who were taking on and beating everyone, including seasoned players and teams who were at the senior level. We believed we were the best and were taking the game to a higher level. A few of our teammates from the 1971 teams that were good players but wanted more playing time and were good enough to start on other teams, decided it was time to leave.

At this time we also understood that we needed a seasoned and experienced center (Big Man, so to speak), a point guard (Harry was a shooting guard), and other players coming off the bench to complement our starters. This is the point where Harry became our leader and the brain behind the reloaded Old Parr. He was beloved by our sponsor and had clout with Gonzalo, so he was The Man. We had a team meeting and we came to a consensus that our new additions would be Wilton “Cama” Cumberbatch, Wilbert “Butty/Wings” Savery (whom I believe was the quickest guard in the league at the time and whose junior team Supersonics we defeated for the championship the previous year), Clifton “Markie” Neal, Lennox “Nox” Bodden and “Piston Pete” August (all three were former SJC players), and Gilroy “Tunan” Fuller.

Cama was the only player on the team with senior experience so we all deferred to his knowledge, experience, and motivational skills to guide us through the season. During this time he became our player/coach and enforcer, so to speak, and this is how Cama became our driving force. We went on to win the senior level championship, becoming the first team with all previously junior players (except for Cama) to win the title while only losing one game during the season.

Old Parr reloaded 1973. We were defeated in the championship game by Baygon in the 1973 season. Players on the Baygon squad were Hubert “Butty” Neal (older brother of Markie Neal), Marion Usher, Errol “Sarge” Skeete, Wallace Branche, Harry Bradley, Patrick Grant, Luis Campos, Raymond Arnold, Victor “Bath” Hewitt and Raymond Menzies. Baygon was coached by Jaime Saldivar, who could no longer play due to a leg amputation from that infamous crash in 1971. They kicked our behind but payback was coming. After the season three of our players migrated to the US – Eric Gladden, Joel Gill and Smiley Lucas.

What is ironic about all this is that we did not take breaks from playing ball. It was all year round, win or lose. After a season ended we were at the gym the following day starting all over again. The “gym rat” mentality took over. At this time we noticed many outstanding and talented players that admired our team and would fit into our system.

Old Parr reloaded 1974. This was the time when we recruited Reynaldo Samuels (he had some of the baddest head and ball fakes and crossover dribbles at the time), Eugene Cherrington (Eugene and Harry Bradley had the best bank shops in the league), and Rafael Del Valle. We regained the championship in 1974. After the 1974 season I migrated to the US and I believe Lennox Bodden also migrated shortly thereafter. I believe 1974 was the last year of the Old Parr franchise. The team became Grand Marnier for the 1975 season, with most of the players that were holdovers from the previous year based on records.

I apologize to all the players who played for our Old Parr teams that I have forgotten to mention. I am positive that someone reading this will jolt my memory.

I believe that Old Parr was the catalyst for taking the game to a new level that was never seen at the time in the early Seventies which was later refined and taken to the next level by teams like Wheels, Homebuilders and Jah Jam in the mid-seventies and early eighties.

Some Old Parr statistics: 1970 Junior MVP – Steve Pahkne; 1971 Junior MVP – Eric Gladden; 1972 Senior Rookie of the Year –Evondale Coburn; 1972 Leading Rebounder –Evondale Coburn; 1974 Senior MVP – Harry Cadle; Back-to-back Junior Champions 1970 and 1971; Three- peat champions: Junior 1970, 1971, Senior 1972; Four championships in five years – Junior 1970, 1971; Senior 1972, 1974.

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