as told to Amandala sports editor, Charles X Hyde
A: Talk to us, Winty J; because you have been around football circles for such a long time, as well as around Belizean music circles. You mean a lot to a lot of us, because you have a lot of memories about a lot of great sportsmen and events, and you have also played a part in many of these events. Just take us back, quickly, to when you came to your senses as a child in Belize, and take us from there; e.g. your parents, etc.
W: Alright. Winty J, man. My life. My understanding, from my parents; my father came from Jamaica, Manchester – Ivan Johnson. He stowed away on a ship and ended up in Punta Gorda (Toledo District), and he met a lady there, and he had a daughter, who is my sister and who wasn’t my (half) sister yet, until he met my mother; because he hadn’t met my mother yet.
Now, my mother was born in La Ceiba (Honduras); but my mother’s mother (my grandmother) was from St. Vincent; and my grandmother, who was my mother’s mother, Evelyn Brooks, met William Brown, who was my grandfather, my mother’s father, in Roatan (island off Honduras).
You see, Roatan in those days was one of the getaways from Jamaica. Jamaica was always rough and tough, so people tried to get away from there. Even now, you know? So, my grandmother met my grandfather in Roatan, and they decided to go inland (to the mainland), which is La Ceiba, one of the big (coastal) towns in Honduras. So, there they had four daughters and one son. One of the daughters was my mother, Alvorine; and my only uncle, who was “Scotland,” who had a sports background in Belize and who used to mind goal and deal with bicycles. That was my only uncle I ever known, my mother’s brother.
A: So your mother was?
W: Alvorine Brown, married name Johnson, then married named Locke. Johnson was my father.
A: So you were born in La Ceiba?
W: No, not me. I was blessed to be born here at the maternity ward.
A: So it’s your mother who was born in La Ceiba.
W: My mother was born in La Ceiba. My father was from Jamaica. My grandfather was from Jamaica by my mother’s side. I never met anybody yet, up to this day, who said that they and Ivan Johnson “da faamly,” even though Johnson is a big name. And I still haven’t met anybody yet, who said that they and Ivan Johnson “da faamly” (are related), who was my father. Even though I have met a lot of Johnsons. Like I said, even in organizations like one named “The Twelve Tribes of Israel,” which have Johnsons in there who are members; but they say we are not related.
My thing now is to go to Jamaica and get that clear.
A: Anyhow, you came to Belize…
W: So, I was born on October 10, 1948, right in Belize City. And then I moved to the rural, where my grandfather dealt with farming, also my father, who was at mile 29 ½ at a place called Cow Head (on the old Northern Highway through Maskall Road), which is not far from Altun Ha. It’s like a half hour from Altun Ha (on road in those days).
Now, all the time we lived there, we didn’t know that we lived right beside a ruin that is one of the most popular (Maya) ruins right now, Altun Ha, due to they found the Jade Head there. So, as we speak, people are there right now.
A: Yaa, it’s a big thing right now.
W: So, I went to school in Rockstone Pond (village).
Well, first of all, at five years old, I can remember being in Pomona Valley, because my mother used to work at Sharp, in the Section area, the grapefruit, you know, citrus. So, there was a lady there that my mother left me with under a big tree right in front of that “billiards table” (Pomona football field). That tree is still there.
W: Yeah. That tree is still there, brother, right in front of the “billiards table,” right there at Pomona, twelve miles, exactly twelve miles from town, Dangriga Town.
You see, as far as I could remember, the first thing I could say I kicked was a grapefruit, from what I recall.
A: Yaa, Pele (in his book) said he kicked that too, as a little boy.
W: I think all of us, as young boys who come up, gone through that grapefruit kicking thing, where it is bigger than an orange.
A: Yaa, and it is softer to kick.
W: Yes, and you could “toe-pa” (kick with the toes) them, you know dehn way?
So, after that I learned how to cut grass, and put it in a paper bag and tie the mouth, and you have a ball there again. And you could “toe-pa dehn ball deh.”
And then, over the years, the “Chiney” man they came in, that was Augusto Quan, in front of the market (by Swing Bridge in Belize City) with plastic balls. When you caught those with a good instep, the goalie would be in trouble, because they travel (curve in flight) when you catch them correct.
And then, over the years again, the “tube-and-case” came in now. You remember the “tube-an-case”? That you had to lace up (like shoes). You had to lace them up good.
A: Otherwise they could hurt your forehead…
W: That’s why a lot of players used to tie their heads (with handkerchief) to buck the ball, otherwise you would take a lick in the head. Players like “Gas” (John Dougal) and “Attila the Hun;” those guys used to play with their heads tied up.
A: Let’s get back to Pomona, where you said you grew up for a while.
W: Yes, and after my mother decided to go back up to mile 29 ½.
A: About what year was that? How old were you then?
W: I was about 5 – 6 years old. Then I can remember, the first school I attended was Rockstone Pond Government School, where I think they have the Kings College right now, if I’m not making a mistake. Right there I went to school first. And then, my family they got back together; you know how things go some time. And so they took me up more, to Santana, which is 33 miles. Right at this day, where that mile post is, 33 miles on the old Corozal road, that is my people’s land; that was for my father; I grew up right there. And I went to school.
And I want to say this: Every school I went to, I caught the (football) team. Every school I went to.
So, I moved from that school now, which was Rockstone Pond Government School. If I can remember, it was Mrs. Ford who was the (teacher/principal).
A: How old were you when you left there?
W: I was about six going on seven.
A: But they don’t have school teams at that young age then.
W: No, but ball still played you know. Ball still played. Look here, man, we set up some goal posts, and “ball di kick, mi bredda.” I could always remember; but ball is really my life, part of my life, and music.
So, I went to Zion Park Methodist, now, at Santana. Now, many people don’t know this, but Santana is one of the villages where the most Jamaicans have ever lived in Belize at one spot.
W: I don’t really know why. But, anybody who want to challenge me, can do it; or want to correct me, if they feel like I’m wrong (can do so). That village, Santana, is where, I mean, I could call the names – Stynes, Buchannan, Johnson, Brown, Adolphus… are pure Jamaican. So that was a “Jew”, Ms. Stynes.
A: So it was like a Jamaican community.
W: Yes. And we had our own race track there, with our nice dance hall. Miss Stynes used to have that right there.
A: You know that most of us (descendants of slaves) came from (by way of) Jamaica, right?
W: Yes, yes man. This morning I was telling a brother, when we had that problem, 1798, we went to Jamaica for help. So I try to tell the Jamaicans, the power that they have here. No feel like… “unu deh home when unu come ya,” you know. I want ten thousand a unu come ya now, mek I balance off this thing (demographic changes due to Central American immigration), or even more.
A: Anyhow, Rockstone Pond..
W: Yes, Rockstone Pond. We gone to Zion Park now, at Santana. So I went to school there, played ball, act as Joseph, as an heir… yo hear me? You know that show that they had with Christ…?
A: Oh, you acted in a skit?
W: I played the role as Joseph along with Mary. I was Joseph! They made us make some “sand pata?” out of cardboard and rubber, and that was like our sandals, you know? So, I can remember, I really enjoyed that. And I always tell them…
A: Those little plays were good when you are young. They help to make life have meaning…
W: What!? Yes, man! When I look back at it now, with my experience, you know the role that I was playing? You know who Joseph was!? Joseph was chosen, you know?!
A: Definitely! Da special people you’re dealing with.
W: He was chosen, you know? And he fed his brothers and his family when there was famine, even after they had sold him out and did all kinds of wickedness, you know. I was one of them who plotted against him, you know; because I am a Dan, right?
A: A coat of many colors.
W: Yes. Twelve colors, you know. And that’s why… Twelve gates, you know. We have to know those gates and those colors. Some men will have trouble when those gates are set up, you know.
A: So, how long you stayed at Santana?
W: Alright. I’ve been there…. I experienced ’55 hurricane there. 1955, a hurricane named Janet, tore up Corozal, messed up Corozal real bad. So, I was there for a while until about… Say, 1956…
A: So you didn’t spend much time in Belize City (during that period).
W: No, during those times it was strictly country, because my people were into farming. My mother would bring down beans, and I would be holding her hand, and we would go to sell at the market. I saw it happening, and I said, yea. Those were the days when I… give a little trouble.
A: In the evening, you would catch the bus and go back home?
W: Well, it was by truck in those days. Trucks like “Santana Rose” or “S… White” or one of those kinds of names.
A: Yea, the old Bedford trucks.
W: Yes. Or “Jamesy” or some one of them. But, so I was in Santana for a while, until about 1960, or about late 1959.
A: And when did you say you were born?
W: I was born in 1948. So, like I said, my parents were going through their own thing, you know. So, they were going through their last thing now, I would say that was their last thing, you know. So my mother left up there and came to the city (Belize).
I could remember, one evening my old man looked upon me and my sister; we were still small, very young. She was the elder; she is the one that protected me, my bouncer. Don’t mess with her little brother, or she would kill you. You know, that’s how me and my sister grew up. So, don’t look at me too hard.
A: Very protective.
W: So, Carmela Vaughn, that is the name, Charro’s wife, you know? Charro used to have a place down there by the Boulevard (Central American).
A: You mean the vegetable place (that used to be) at the corner, Charro’s Vegetables?
W: No, not him. He was a Creole brother. Anyway, the old man looked on us, and he said, “You know what? I will send you two to your mother,” you know? We didn’t know what was going on.
A: Where was your mother? Your mother had already left and gone to town?
W: Yes. So he looked at us, after he must have realized that he couldn’t take on that burden alone. I could remember, he looked on us and he said, “I wahn send unu da unu ma,” you know.
A: He was a farmer during that time?
W: Yea, he was a farmer, sure enough. Now, we were young and didn’t understand what was catching us then. And we caught the Santana Rose. You are always happy to go to your mother, you know that kind of way? So, we were not too sad, because we didn’t know what we were in to. We didn’t understand what was going on with life at that time.
A: How long had you been staying up there (in Santana) after your mother left, before your father sent you two to join her?
W: It wasn’t too long. Maybe about two weeks.
So my mother came down and rented a place right on Freetown (Road). There was a shop there named Mr. Bradley’s right in front of Continental (hotel/club). And then you had the Belizaire family; you had an alley right through there. So my mother came down and rented a place right through there. And, she and my old man got into communication, and so he knew where to make the truck drop us off. So, the Santana Rose conductor dropped us off right at King’s yard, where the Dunlop football team used to hang out.
A: So, you’re just coming to town now.
W: Well, I’d been coming to town for a long time already, you know.
A: But you were only visiting then.
W: Yes, true. The system had a thing whereby the Government would send a truck for all the Government schools to come to town when, like Princess Margaret visited, or Tenth of September, you know? So, the truck would come up there for us. And in those times, we would stay at the original yard, that was Scotland’s yard on the canal (Collet) side, right there by Mex Avenue. That was our address right there, for the family, you know, where Scotland lived. So I was used to the city.
A: But those were only brief visits.
W: Yea. So I came down for good now from country.
A: And you landed right where… They say “breeze blow pelikin”..
W: Yea, “right weh I wahn go.”
To be continued. in next issue of Amandala