I ran the Charger beer football program for about a year and a half. I took it over in September of 1975 and built a completely new team in three weeks. We reached the marathon finals, won third in the regular season, then reached the knockout finals. Stobal Mayen’s Berger 404 won all three titles that 75/76 season. Our big star on Charger was Harry “Straddle” Cadle.
Straddle, whom Edison Michael and I used to call “The Big Striker,” migrated to California during the offseason following, but we added several of the stars from the Cinderella Plaza area for the 76/77 season. These included Francis “Rojo” Arnold, Robert “Big Baby” Flowers, Philip “Ripper” Coye, Malcolm “Mimin” Hemmans, and Winston “Caduroy” Denton. Charger was leading the league in the 76/77 mid-season when I gave back management of the team to the Matus brothers – Arturo and Orlando. On my advice, they re-installed Racku Craig as the manager. That’s a story I will tell you another time.
Today’s column is not really about football. Tuesday, August 13, is the 44th anniversary of the first publication of this newspaper, and today’s column is about our editor-in-chief, Russell Vellos. Vellos was the left defensive back and sometimes roaming back on the Charger team I told you about in the first two paragraphs. Previous to that, he had played for Mr. Hoy’s Landivar and for myself on Diamond A. After that, he went on to play several years for Charger and also, I think, for Belmopan. Every game we played, you just wrote down his name for that position, and he did his job like a soldier and a warrior. Seventeen years ago, Amandala experienced some instability at the editor-in-chief position, and Russell Vellos, who had been assistant editor for a few years, had to take over. He’s been there ever since.
The thing is, Vellos’ special training is in television video work. A career public officer, he had been at the Radio Belize video unit when KREM Radio came on the air in November of 1989. The engineer who put KREM on the air, the late Rodolfo Silva, was more interested in television than in radio. He had been the pioneer in cable television in Corozal Town, but was experiencing some marital problems there. Glenn Godfrey, the PUP Cabinet Minister who brought Rodolfo to Belize City, promised him the cable television franchise for Ladyville. That promise was not kept, and Rodolfo Silva became a victim of the crazy business and political process which was early KREM Radio.
In any case, Russell Vellos, who is married to the older of my two younger sisters, came over from Radio Belize to Partridge Street with the expectation that we would soon be going television, which is where Silva really wanted to go. Instead, Said Musa cut a deal behind our backs with Lord Michael Ashcroft and Stewart plus Lita Krohn, and that was how Channel 5 came out of nowhere with a national television signal, in 1991 if I remember correctly. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Gerald Garbutt and/or Dickie Bradley.
As somewhat of an aside, I would say that this was the first occasion I am sure of when Said went cold against me. As late as 1991 when he was Minister of Sports, Said Musa supported the Kremandala-sponsored initiative which led to the beginning of semi-pro football. This involved Mr. Musa’s essentially going against the Bowen empire. For sure he deserves respect for that.
Rodolfo Silva collapsed and died in his bathtub no time after he realized he had been betrayed, and the first dream of KREM television perished with him. That is how Russell Vellos ended up at Amandala, in 1992 or so. For sure, it was in September of 1996 that he became editor-in-chief. You pencil him in for the next 17 years, and he always gets the job done, week after week after week, just like in football.
The Hyde family is a disunited family, cold like that. Mrs. Christine Hyde Vellos has been 100 percent religious for many years. She prays and marches and demonstrates: her religious faith is the most important part of her life. Mr. Russell Vellos is one of the best husbands and fathers you would want to meet, but Mrs. Christine Vellos often has issues with material that is published in the newspaper he edits. After all, the publisher of this newspaper, yours truly, has views which are very different from those of Mrs. Vellos.
There is more. The business manager of Amandala, who is my second daughter, Jacinta, works closely with editor-in-chief Vellos from day to day. Her views are also very much different from those of Russell Vellos’ wife. So Mr. Vellos has to walk somewhat of a tightrope, it appears to me.
It is also a difficult thing for a man to be working along with someone who used to do the same job, especially if that someone is his employer. Every now and then, the person who used to do the job will make some kind of criticism, and then workers feed off that kind of dissent to undermine the authority of the new boss. It goes without saying that Russell Vellos has his flaws, we all do, but this is an exceptional individual with whom I have worked under the greatest of stress conditions, both on the football field and in the newspaper business, and I choose to honor him publicly now, on the occasion of this newspaper’s anniversary.
All professions have their hazards, and what this newspaper business has is deadline pressure. This deadline pressure over a period of time starts to unravel people. During my time as editor-in-chief, the pressure would attack me with terrible migraine headaches, sometimes one after the other. Mr. Vellos has now done this job for 17 consecutive years, longer than I did. For most of the years from 1975 to 1977, my youngest brother, Ronald, edited this newspaper. My longest consecutive stint as editor was from 1978 to 1992 – 14 years. Between 1971 and 1973, there were a couple years when Norman Fairweather edited Amandala. So, to repeat, in terms of consecutive years, the humble, unobtrusive Mr. Vellos is the champion of Amandala editors.
To conclude, I will tell you an anecdote of this newspaper business. Through Orlando Matus, I met a white American in the mid-seventies by the name of Frankie who used to live at Caye Caulker. He was a tall, almost gaunt individual, and he told me he had been in the newspaper business in the United States. Frankie explained his decision to leave that business as follows. He was with some newspaper colleagues sitting around the television set in a bar in Denver, Colorado, on the afternoon of November 22, 1963, when the news flashed on the television that President John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas. One of his colleagues blurted out, “Geez, why didn’t he wait until he got to Denver?” Denver was Kennedy’s scheduled stop after Dallas on the tour which saw him assassinated that afternoon. Frankie decided, then and there, that he couldn’t take it anymore. It’s rough out here sometimes.