Parents who sent their children to Roman Catholic primary schools in the 1950s were getting a leg up on life for their kids. If these children went on to Catholic high schools, it appears to me that their success rate in the United States was very high.
Now this was in the aftermath of World War II, and British Honduras was going through significant changes that our people were not fully conscious of at the time. In the first place, many Belizean men were returning home from years of work in United States-influenced Panama, and they had become much more worldly where things like loose living, gambling, and aggressive politics were concerned. In the second place, Belize’s richest native, Robert Sydney Turton, had been trading with American companies for some time, and he had decided that British Honduras should fight for self-government and independence. (The word for that in the anti-colonial lexicon was “self-rule.”) Hence, he entered his personal secretary, George Cadle Price, in the election politics of the colony. Mr. Turton would die, in 1955, before Mr. Price became Maximum Leader of the pro-U.S. People’s United Party (PUP) in 1956, but the die had been cast.
Only a couple weeks ago, I pointed out to you that it was people from the British Caribbean, with their superior education, who largely benefited from the job opportunities for blacks which were opened up in the United States, unquestionably the most powerful economy in the world at the time, by the black American civil rights struggle in the early and middle 1960s. My thesis is that it was after World War II that the Catholic schools here were surging to the peak of relevance because a large percentage of their teachers were Americans – priests, scholastics, and nuns, and because the Catholic curriculum was more American-friendly than the curriculum in the Anglican and Methodist schools, which were still classically British. In the 1950s, British Honduras was becoming Americanized, and a paradigm migration shift took place after Hurricane Hattie in 1961.
The young Belizeans whose Catholic education served them well when they migrated to America in the 1960s, were grateful to the Church. My personal, public criticism, beginning in 1969, of the absence of African and Maya history from the Catholic curriculum, was seen as ungrateful on my part, and I lost almost all of my Catholic friends from schooldays. I had to do what I had to do, is all. The history will speak for itself.
The national psyche of British Honduras in 1959, the year Gerald Rhaburn put together his Lord Rhaburn Combo, was dominated by Belize, the capital city, where one third of the population lived and where all the banking, medical, high school, and administrative services were located. In Belize City in 1959, dancing was still a formal activity, and Riverside Hall and its polished mahogany floor ruled the roost. “House funs” came in after Hurricane Hattie. Rhaburn’s combo was not designed for Riverside Hall formality, it seems to me, so what was it that Gerald was actually seeing where his music business was concerned?
I was just 12 years old, had just started St. John’s College, when Rhaburn formed his combo. Anybody, therefore, can question any opinion I pass about this period in Belize. I had been exposed to the socio-cultural phenomenon that was the Dunlop football team in 1957 and 1958, and that is why they are on the cover of sports, sin and subversion. The late 1950s began a golden age for the Creole culture in Belize. More opinion.
In 1962, Rhaburn traveled to Guatemala City with his combo and cut an album he called Trópico y Ritmo. (At this point in his career, for what it’s worth, Rhaburn was being supported by the ruling PUP, especially Cabinet Minister Lindy Rogers. This is my impression.) I guess I began catching up with the Rhaburn Combo vibes in late 1962/early1963 when I was 15 going on 16, when Trópico y Ritmo was the featured record player music at youth dances being held by the Princess Royal Youth Hostel, ground floor the building corner Dolphin and Allenby.
I remember meeting a lady a few years older than I at these dances, and my life may have turned out differently. Two roads in a narrow wood, and all that … I am the oldest of nine children, and my mother had kept a right rein on me, but I think it was more the years of Catholic indoctrination which prevented a more serious involvement on my part.
Now when it came to non-calypso material, Percival “Prof” Drummond was Rhaburn’s lead singer. Perhaps 7 or 8 years ago, when Rhaburn was promoting some shows and Prof Drummond came back from the States to participate, my son Mose, who was at our radio and television stations, became good friends with Prof, having already become good friends with the Lord. In talking with Mose, I get the impression that Prof may have been Gerald’s business right hand in the early days of the combo. But, this would have to be Gerald Rhaburn’s story.
Well, Prof Drummond passed away in Los Angeles a week and half ago, and as I write this column on Sunday morning, November 2, I believe he is yet to be buried. It was Prof Drummond’s bad luck, where Belizean news was concerned, to die on the day immediately following the death of paranda icon, Paul Nabor. An important piece of Belize’s socio-cultural history died with Prof Drummond, and the story is still beneath the radar.
Tony Wright has been testifying on KREM Radio that Prof Drummond may have been Belize’s first great entertainer/showman. In colonial Belize, all you did was sing if you were a singer, and that was it. Belizean audiences, and it remains true sometimes even to this day, just sat there and listened. And, that was that. Prof Drummond may have been our first singer to seek to excite his audiences. But now, we are really getting into someone else’s story – Tony Wright’s.
I personally never saw Prof perform at any floor show or dance. I said that I was under a tight rein. In fact, I was not impressed by his singing on Trópico y Ritmo. I preferred Jorge Hill, the Guatemalan. But, that’s just me. Thing is, we can’t let Prof go without putting him in context and giving him his proper respect. When we lost Prof, we lost one of our own, one of our own from the days when we were innocent in Belize, and life was so good that it is only now that we realize what we have lost. Precious days, and in those days Percival “Prof” Drummond was a star. Trópico y Ritmo will live forever.