With the ruins of UBAD sadly surrounding me in 1974, I decided to make a symbolic farewell by running as the only UBAD Party candidate in the October general elections that year. There were precious true believers close to me, and I needed for them to see for themselves that the ride was over. I man would be the sacrifice.
You had to deposit $200 in order to be a candidate back then. If you got 10 percent of the vote, you got back your money. If not, you lost your deposit. I remember that the two friends who helped me come up with the deposit money were the businessman Arturo Matus and Dr. Leroy Taegar.
At the time, Mr. Matus had his store at the southern foot of the Swing Bridge, in a building owned by Alfred Melhado between Central Drug Store and the old La Mariposa. I’m not sure if Mr. Arturo and his younger brother, Orlando, had already started brewing Charger beer, but Mr. Arturo and I had become friends from back in 1969 when he was a contributor to the UBAD breakfast program on Hyde’s Lane. As a result of those contributions, Mr. Matus told me, Mr. Price had considered him a UBAD sympathizer.
By 1974, both Leroy Taegar and his wife, Andrea, were in private medical practice, and Mrs. Taegar had become very popular. Before then, the only woman doctor Belize had known was Dr. Bernice Hulse, and she was a public health expert who specialized in the fight against tuberculosis. When it came to their private ailments, generations of Belizean women had been forced to submit to examinations by male physicians. Dr. Andrea was a godsend for Belizean women.
In the Collet constituency in 1974, the PUP candidate was the late V. H. “Harry” Courtenay, and the Opposition UDP, founded in September of the previous year, presented Ken Tillett, a dynamic orator who had been living in Oklahoma, as their candidate. At that time, Collet included most of what are now the Lake Independence, Collet, and Queen’s Square divisions.
I received 89 votes in that election. Michael Finnegan was Ken Tillett’s campaign manager, and Tillett lost by a single vote to Mr. Courtenay, 1008 to 1007. The UDP convinced themselves that most of my 89 votes would have been Tillett’s, that those votes would have put him over the hump. So they began a bitter, scandalous vendetta against me, branding me with the “89” monicker. Amongst UDP fanatics, this brand lasted through the years until Hubert Elrington, who had won the Lake I seat both in 1984 and 1993 as a UDP candidate, ran for the seat as an independent in 2003 and received 88 votes. Since then, I don’t hear anything about the “89” business.
I always felt that my 89 were a special bunch of Belizeans, and cherished those who later confided in me that they had given me their vote. I saw one of my 89 on Sunday afternoon when I attended the funeral for Mr. Raymond Robinson, one of the old stalwarts of the original, fabled Santiago Castillo business empire. She is Edilia Burgos Zayden, herself a San Cas stalwart, and as pleasant a lady as you will ever meet.
Another of my 89 was the football superstar, Chris Mayen, and at that time in 1974 he was player/coach for Berger 404. My late younger brother, Miguel, had just joined his team, and that 74/75 season Berger 404 would win their first championship. As the years went by, Chris and I became closer. I always felt proud that he had voted for me.
Shortly after those 1974 elections, Ray Lightburn brought $200 to my home at #1 West Canal Street. He said that Mr. Price had sent the money, by way of replacing my lost election deposit. The money came in handy, for sure, and what the gesture did was lessen some of my hostility to the ruling PUP, whom I had been fighting ever since they tried to jail me in February of 1970. In 1973, the new UDP had stabbed me in the back, but my relationship with the PUP had remained completely antagonistic.
Ray Lightburn now began to talk with me. In December of that year, the PUP lost the Belize City Council for the first time ever, less than two months after they had barely defeated the UDP in the general elections. I could see where Mr. Price and his generals were now in a different position from where they had been since 1956. The PUP were more vulnerable than they had ever been, and they wanted to “reason” with me.
In desperation, with the UDP having adopted a vicious and vindictive attitude towards me, I held a series of meetings, perhaps four or five, with Deputy Premier C. L. B. Rogers, who was the PUP’s Mesopotamia area representative and their Southside leader. The PUP essentially complied with my requests. The most important one was that my most loyal general, the late Wilfred Nicholas, Sr., who had lost his private sector job because of the May 29, 1972 riot, should be regularized. Mr. Rogers made a place for Brother Nick on the Belize City waterfront.
Because of this negotiated working alliance, I gained access to the government monopoly radio station, Radio Belize, where I began broadcasting basketball and football live, usually in the company of the late Manfred Atkins. I also began to do a weekly interview show at Radio Belize. All these broadcasts, done between 1975 and 1977, were taped and stored in the Radio Belize archives.
Becoming a PUP ally was an unexpected development in my life. I had not thought this possible, especially between 1969 and 1974. But, that is what one of the two major political parties can do to you, if they so choose: they can create so much hatred for you on the streets that you have to seek shelter on the other side. Before I gained my revenge in 1979, there was much pain to endure, especially because of those young people who had believed in me between 1969 and 1974 and now saw me as having “sold out” to the enemy. There was no way to explain to those young Belizeans how treacherous the game is at the highest levels.