Publisher — 19 July 2007 — by Evan X Hyde
When I was maybe nine years old, my piano teacher, Miss Helen Craig, went to the United States to live. My mom then sent me to the piano school run by Mrs. Floss Casasola, who was also the principal of Wesley Primary School. (Both Miss Helen and Miss Floss are deceased.)
Mrs. Casasola’s school was in her home on East Collet Canal between Allenby and Dean, almost directly across the canal from the old slaughterhouse and the old Edwards Park (now Rogers Stadium).
The lady, Yvonne Pilgrim Suite, who has brought an Anglican choir from Trinidad which is presently touring Belize, was Miss Floss’ senior piano student at the time. She is the older sister of G. Harrison “Harry” Pilgrim, and has lived in Trinidad and Tobago for maybe four decades or more.
She would not remember much of me. I was just a little boy to her. Other older students I remember at Miss Floss, include Emma Young, Ilona Usher, Joan-Alice Waite and Joel Arnold. Miss Floss brought little Frankie Reneau to fame before I left the school in 1961, when I was fourteen years old.
I had preferred Miss Helen’s tutelage, because she let me play by ear, whereas Miss Floss was strictly classical. You had to take exams at Miss Floss. Miss Helen ran her school where she lived on Regent Street, exactly where Channel 5 Television is presently located.
When I went to Miss Helen on Saturday mornings for lessons, often there was a man sitting there in the living room. Miss Helen introduced me to him by the pet name she called me, “The Professor.” The man wore glasses. He seldom spoke or rose from his seat. A retired teacher, Miss Hilda Foreman, was usually at Miss Helen’s.
When I was a grown man, I learned that the man who used to be at Miss Helen’s on Saturday mornings was a well-known homosexual. He was an employee of the Belize Estate and Produce Company. I cannot say that the man ever came on to me in any way, but I think he represented a danger of which I was very much unaware.
At Miss Floss, who had adopted two young ladies – Janice Robateau and Greta Palma (Greta later became Mrs. Clarence “Claro” Grant), the atmosphere was Methodist, and much more wholesome, in retrospect.
Today is a ride on Memory Lane for another reason. In last weekend’s Reporter, we were informed that Dr. Geoffrey Frankson had won an award in Trinidad or some other Caribbean island.
Geoffrey Frankson came to Belize in the summer of 1964 to study at St. John’s College Sixth Form and try to win the British Honduras Open Scholarship, which he did in 1965. Apparently, Geoffrey, who is the son of a Jamaican father and a Belizean mother, had already completed Sixth Form in Jamaica, but he had failed to win a scholarship in that island’s more competitive circumstances. So his parents brought him to Belize to join the class to which I belonged, in hopes he would win a scholarship. This was their right, but it appeared to be irregular.
The late Ronald Zinkle, the Jesuit who became the first full time Dean of the S.J.C. Sixth Form, took his new assignment very seriously. You have to remember that in 1964, St. John’s College did not absolutely dominate high school and junior college education in Belize the way they do now. It was important to Zinkle’s school’s prestige for an S.J.C. student to win the Open Scholarship.
After I won a U.S. Consulate university scholarship in early 1965, Zinkle, who had done his best to prevent my winning that scholarship, pressured me to apply for the B.H. Open Scholarship later that year. I was considered his school’s best student, so I know why Zinkle was pressuring me. But I felt that my classmates would be offended if I applied for the Open Scholarship after I had already received the American one. Zinkle and I clashed again. Looking back, I guess he may not have considered Geoffrey Frankson a Landivar product, as such.
I learned from my experiences with Ronald Zinkle that so-called men of God can also be liars and deceivers. I was just 17 at the time, and a practicing Catholic. But I was just a pawn in a bigger game. For sure that was the time when I began to trod this road of rebellion.
I lost all my Catholic friends. They will not allow you to criticize the priests. But I had solid reasons to do so. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I was fortunate to survive. My Catholic friends, I have no problem with your religious beliefs. But you should always remember that not all of those who bless you, are saints. You have to sleep with your own eyes.