Letters — 22 August 2018
Long school holidays in April and May/Johnny Woods, RIP

Greetings, Mr. Editor,

Please allow me to respond to Mr Hyde’s “From The Publisher” column of Aug 18, 2018.

Mr. Hyde, I would like to refute your statement that no one but your dad paid attention to your lamentations about the changing of Belize’s long school holidays from April/May to July/August. Unless by “no one,” you mean those in a position to do something about it, I beg to differ. Although I am about a decade your junior, I was fortunate enough to catch the last couple of years of the April/May holidays. Growing up in rural Belize, I distinctly remember the difference when the July/Aug summer break kicked in.

I was lamenting the ill-advised change to my peers for a few years when, as a teenager, I picked up a copy of the Amandala sometime in the 70’s. I remember feeling a sense of pride after reading the first (I knew it was the first because I became an avid Amandala reader around 10 years old and NEVER missed an edition) of the articles referred to in your column. The pride I felt was due to the fact that I was of the same opinion as someone I considered a hero of mine and who influenced my youth.

I read every single one of those articles you wrote about the holiday change, up until I migrated North. Then it was when I could get my hands on a copy for a couple of years. After that I had a pretty dependable supply right up to my return home a little more than a decade ago. While I was living “da farin,” I once wrote a letter to the Editor, which was published, concerning said holiday change.

I remember working in the city in the late 70’s through late 80’s and passing you every morning on my way to work. Our timing was such that we would always pass each other somewhere between the old Civic and Sav-U, going in opposite directions on our bikes. I always wanted to stop and have a conversion about those holidays with you, but I was always in a hurry to get to work on time and from the power pedaling you were doing, I assumed you were in a rush to get to Partridge St. too. You always greeted me with “Yes, Rasta,” and I responded with “Yah, The X”, but we never actually met.

Fast forward a few years, I was on a visit home and was invited to the KREM Radio studios. This would be sometime in ’96 or ’97 if I remember correctly. I had just emerged from the studios in the upper flat of your building when I looked down and saw you enter the yard with a small cheering crowd of people in high spirits. I thought to myself, this is my opportunity to finally meet you. It was not to be, as your team had just won a basketball or football championship and the celebratory energy in the compound was such that I didn’t think it was the appropriate time and place. You were totally hyped and energized.

Later that same day I saw you in Ladyville but you were still celebrating. I now live way down South in Toledo and don’t come to the city very often but I still intend to come to meet you sometime in the future as I have some books and framed art to donate to the UEF Library. I also have a copy of your book, that I would be honored to have you autograph. And maybe we can talk about something dear to both our hearts, those unforgettable times on the waters of this wonderful Jewel of ours, among other things. I don’t know much about Spanish Caye, but Tobacco Caye, South Water Caye, CarrieBow Caye, Turneffe, Halfmoon and others farther South. I snorkeled in the Blue Hole when I was 16. All I can say is WOW!!!!! I would give anything to repeat those magical times.

By the way, what a coincidence that we both have memories of the Bowen family in relation to our seafaring youth. Though I grew up in Ladyville, when it was a village and not a suburb of the city, as kids we extensively explored the coast between the Haulover Bridge and Sandhill. We even conquered pretty much any offshore island reachable by dory (canoe). We rigged sails from sheets of plastic found along the shore and sailed (in dories we “borrowed” from Mr Willie Bennett or Mr. Brown) to some amazing fishing spots near Hen And Chicken, Fowler, Exis and other no named cayes off the immediate coast of Ladyville. Both these dory owners have passed, RIP. Sorry anyway, “Mr Willie and Brown Man.”

But back to the Bowens. My first real trip across the waters was during my first year at SJC. My Homeroom Teacher was the wife of Bruce Bowen, brother to Barry .I think her first name was Julie, but could be corrected. Mrs. Bowen had organised a class trip on, I think, her husband’s sailboat to, I believe, St. George’s Caye. That trip was magical, and needless to say I was hooked on the wind and waves.

At some point after school, I even became a full time fisherman for a few years along with a brother named James Young and his stepfather, Llewellyn “Brother” Vernon from Griga. We based on CarrieBow, Tobacco and South Water Caye. Most fun I’ve ever had while making money. We mostly did our fishing underwater, spearfishing or lobster and conch harvesting. Sometimes it was so amazing down there, you could almost forget to resurface. Where are you now, James?

I digressed quite a bit, but in closing, you can make that a majority of two because “I deh wid yu.” Keep on keeping it on, “The X.”

Rest in peace, Mr. Johnny

Please allow me to give respect to Mr. John Woods. Belizeans like to say, “No wait til di man ded fu tell am ih good.” Well, I have told this story whenever Mr. Woods’ name was mentioned in my presence. Sometime in the 80’s when we worked as sub-contractors for the one and only Carlos A. Barillas, my partner Nick and I got a contract to install a custom sapodilla flooring in Mr. Woods’ home on the George Price Highway. As any Belizean woodworker will tell you, “sapadilly” no eezy fi work wid. When we completed the job he was out of the country but his wife inspected and approved the job. Needless to say we did a splendid job and gave the floor a finish you could see your reflection in. We had been paid and probably spent the money already when, about two months later, I pulled into a gas station in the city to fill up the boss’s work truck and Mr. Woods was filling up on the other side of the gas pump. When he saw us he called me over and said how satisfied he was with his new “sapadilly” floor. Then he took out his wallet and handed me four crisp bluenotes ($100 bills). Two for me and two for Nick. Remember, Nick?

That was just my personal experience with Mr, Johnny. Over the years I have read or heard news reports of countless acts of selflessness by this True Belizean Man in the service of his country. Condolences to his family. Big up, Mr. Johnny, RIP.

Nautically Yours,
Orlando “Ras” Warren
Toledo, Belize

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