BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Dec. 7, 2017–In the late 1960s, the Lands Department in Belize City, located on the second floor of the Paslow Building, was a hotbed of activities for some of its young staffers who were openly sympathetic to, or were actual members of, the new black power organization, United Black Association for Development (UBAD), that had become a dominant feature in the life of the colonial Belize City.
These young UBAD members and supporters would not have been able to survive and thrive in the civil service, if the department was not under the leadership of a brilliant, visionary man, James Valancourt Hyde.
“If I go back as far as 1967, I graduated out of St. Michael’s College along with the likes of our prime minister and foreign minister,” Clinton Clarence Gardiner told Amandala in an exclusive interview this week, when he was asked how he became a UBAD supporter. “Then I did one year at St. Michael’s 6th Form, before I transferred over to SJC 6th Form. There I met Michael Hyde, and we became close, despite objections by Father Zinkle.”
Gardiner recalled that, in 1969, “Michael told me that his uncle, Jim Hyde, wanted 3 applicants to fill the post of Lands Inspectors. So I spoke with Norman Arnold and Bill Wagner, and the three of us applied and the three of us got jobs.”
“In ’69, when UBAD came to the forefront, I used to attend the meetings. I got to like the vibes, and then lo and behold, when I go to work I dressed like UBAD. Two of the senior members of staff did not like the idea, but I would say to them, ‘my boss da Jim Hyde’,” Gardiner explained.
“Who were these seniors?” Amandala asked Gardiner.
“You had Karl Levi Gibson, the Surveyor General, and then there was a fellow by the name of Mervin Hulse, one of two principal lands officers, and Gustavo Bautista,” he replied.
Amandala asked Gardiner, “Apart from yourself, who else in this Lands Department setting was UBAD-sympathetic?”
“There was Arturo Rosado, he was the stores keeper. And Michael Stevens. Then Michael Hyde came in and got a job as well,” Gardiner recalled.
“One more thing about the summer of ’69,” Gardiner said. “Remember, we had been reading at SJC about all this turmoil in America concerning the Vietnam War and the problems of racism. So when the message was being brought by Evan X Hyde and the others, first of all at Liberty Halland then again at Court House Wharf, I was always out there. I was around 19-years-old,” Gardiner said.
Gardiner said there were days when the entire executive left the office, and he stayed back and kept it open.
“It came to the point when Civic challenged UBAD to come up on the rostrum at Court House Wharf, and I remember my uncle getting involved, and getting knocked out. My uncle was Hubert Gardiner, better known as Walter,” Gardiner disclosed. “I think it is the same night that Billboard Press got burned down.”
“Throughout that time, I attended all UBAD meetings. Then I got involved in football, with a team from Yarborough named ‘The Braves’, and we did some serious training. We were a junior team, second division. Whilst we were on the field, out comes the senior guys. I think their name was Milo…they had people like Lindy Blair and Randolph Scott. They used to bet us, but they never won a bet game. When we done win, we go by Aunt Joyce go celebrate. As a matter of fact, I can say the first championship team from Yarborough was The Braves. We started up 1970 and ended up 1971,” Gardiner said.
In 1971, his life would go through a major change when he went to Canada to study on a CIDA (Canadian International Development Agency) scholarship that he obtained through the efforts of the Lands Department.
“They had already sent off William Wagner to England. He was the first one to leave. He was followed by Norman Arnold, who went to Kumasi, Ghana, West Africa. It was a challenging experience over there for three and a half years. I didn’t meet any Belizean in my first year. But during the summer of ’72, I ran across one Belizean. When I say ran across, I mean, I recognized them in passing,” Gardiner explained. “Glen Reyes was the first one I ran into, and he started to tell me about Lorna Bennett, who had been a teacher in Belize. Eventually, I heard about Stretcher Lightburn and eventually we started finding out about more Belizeans and I started to get more comfortable,” he said.
Gardiner explained that in Canada, he studied Urban Land Economics and graduated in 1975 with a Bachelor’s Degree. “I would have combined law with that, but that would have taken me too long. I was there to do a job and get out. So out of the three of us, I was the first person to get back to Belize with a degree. Coming back to Belize, I got appointed to Lands Officer, in charge of the Corozal and Orange Walk Districts.,” he said.
He further related, “In the summer of 1973, when I had come home, UBAD decided that they were also a football team and they were all over the city beating up everybody. There was a challenge with Surlands, which was the Lands and Survey Department team. We brought in our out-districts guys, man like Hashy Ferguson, a team mate of Ramon El Toro Alvarez, who was playing for UBAD. What eventually happened came about as a jostling between the two of them, as to who was the better man. Every time Hashy was up front with the ball, Ramon was there trying to stop him.
“Hashy decided he would hold defense. I was playing left wing, but I was not doing good until a long pass came and Ramon El Toro decided he would get like Malcolm, sit down on the ball. When he gone fu squat, the ball bounced passed him, and I streaked, and I heard footsteps beside me and I decided, you no wan ketch me before I shoot. There was a tall, dark fellow that they used to call Quando Del Sol in the goal, and he was going from side to side, and when he went to one side, I push the ball the next side and scored the only goal for the whole game.”
“Now this game…you could play a few minutes and come off, so I only played 15 minutes in that first half, but nothing scored for the rest of the game. I waahn remind Evan about this. The following weekend in Amandala he wrote, ‘Poetic Justice.’ I still have that article in one of my archives. Most people don’t remember that I was the one who scored the goal. Evan wanted me to play with UBAD, but I said enough of them were better than me, so I was going to stick with Surlands,” Gardiner explained.
“By the time I came back home, I only read about UBAD in Amandala,” Gardiner said.
(To be continued in the next issue of the Amandala)