Features — 08 November 2013 — by Michael Finnegan
The return of “Plum Jaw”

Harrison Meheia Joseph, A.K.A. “Plum Jaw,” was based on the North Side of Belize in the neighborhood bordered by North Front, Queen and Victoria Streets. It was at a time when the North Side of Belize City had a rough reputation. During his youth Plum Jaw and his street smart acquaintances such as Ebo, Scully, Cupi-D, Tapered, Burly, and Beris, A.K.A. “Hustler,” all from the North Side, frequented the vicinity around the Riverside Hall at the intersection of Victoria and North Front Streets.

I got to know these fellows after the devastation wrought by the 1961 Hurricane Hattie through our mutual devotion to the sport of football. As youth we regularly encountered each other at practice sessions and matches staged at the Old Barracks, the present location of the Princess Hotel and Casino, or at the M.C.C. Grounds. These young men were all characterized as street operators and you know what street operators are… They do anything to secure their livelihood.

Of all the above mentioned individuals, Plum Jaw had athletic ability. When he was noticed for his skill he was hauled under the wings of Bembe “The Mugger” Garbutt, who placed him on his 1967 Independence football team and positioned him to play defence. In 1968 both Plum Jaw and Bembe played for Milo football team, of which I was Manager, and in the following season (1969) he played with the famous Red Stripe football team, which I also managed.

By 1969 Plum Jaw’s football talent excelled to such a high level that he was included among the players selected to form the Belize National Football Team which travelled to compete in Vera Cruz, Mexico. While visiting Vera Cruz he decided to make his way further north to the U.S.A. travelling to Los Angeles, his final destination, via the border municipalities of Tijuana and San Diego.

Plum Jaw spent the next 44 consecutive years in the United States of America – 12 of which he spent in New York, 5 years in the windy city Chicago (Chi Town) and the balance in Los Angeles, California. During this 44 year long sojourn people always inquired into the whereabouts of Plum Jaw, or Donals, as he was affectionately known, and nobody could give any reliable account of this man.

We received all sorts of wrong sided reports about his situation and it was about a month ago a friend of mine informed me that he saw Plum Jaw in the vicinity of the bus terminal in the City of Belmopan. I asked my friend Robert Flowers, A.K.A. “Robbie Dead,” to accompany me to Belmopan last Saturday to seek the whereabouts of Plum Jaw.

Upon arriving in the capital city I inquired of the taxi drivers and one of them asked if I was looking for “Oney, the bally who just come home from the States.” In the alley behind the bus terminal Plum Jaw, Robbie Dead and I came eyeball to eyeball. He hugged and held me. You could feel the electricity of the friendship penetrating our bodies as we hugged and held each other. We tried to recapture some of the experiences during those 44 years he went missing.

He explained that he had been in Belize for about a year and was living between Santa Elena and Belmopan. I promised to return to Belmopan on Tuesday when I took him to visit my office. We sat and conversed recounting my involvement over the past decades. He said he was aware of much of our national developments which h was able to learn about while living in America. He shared some of his experiences playing semi-professional soccer in the United States of America and was proud to boast of the several championships he won playing with Belizean teams in the States.

Plum Jaw still has fond memories and a clear recollection of his time interacting with Belizean athletes such as the late Pomo Usher, Malcolm Hemmans, Hilly Ratch Craig, Winty J who played on Milo’s left wing and the late great Bembe The Mugger Garbutt who he referred to as his coach, mentor and idol.

When asked to share his view of present day Belizean football performance compared to that of yesteryear he ruefully remarked that, “It is a lighter game now, them boys no di really get down like us back in the days.” In Plum Jaw’s observation today’s footballers lack rhythm. When pressed for a suggestion as to what he feels is necessary for the development of our game, Plum Jaw was firm in his advice that Belize needs to find the resources to recruit and equip an all star national selection of football players to train and play together all year round as a single team. His assessment of the outing of the Belize Jaguars to the CONCACAF Gold cup competition was, “Deh no ready!”

He gleefully recounted his many lofty contributions to both the Milo and Red Stripe teams and he recalled when Vera Cruz visited Belize and played at the M.C.C. Grounds against our national selection. During that match which Belize defeated Vera Cruz 2 goals to 1, it was Plum jaw whom the team relied upon to hold down “Blondie,” the best forward on the Vera Cruz side. Plum Jaw as defender frustrated several of the visitor’s attempts on goal, and Belize won the match 2-1.

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