When my generation was growing up as children in the 1950s, this gender issue was not as large and as complex as it is today. We boys basically tried to be like our fathers and other adult males in our families and in our neighborhoods.
From an early age, we boys were of the opinion that girls and women liked to talk more than boys and men did. Because of the “gossiping” characteristic that we ascribed to girls, we young boys, I think, felt a sense of superiority to girls.
Today, having lived for more than seven decades, I have the world of respect for women, especially in their physical role as mothers — nine months of carrying the fetus; the excruciating, life-endangering experience of giving birth to that child; all the hassle of taking care of that child during the months and years when the child is helpless; and, perhaps most stressful, caring for that child during sleepless nights when the child is experiencing some kind of ailment, as children do from time to time. (Gender is such a quarrelsome issue these days, some will say all the above is patriarchal. Let it be.) Holy Redeemer Boys School and Holy Redeemer Girls School were separated by a canal which began from way behind the old Belize City Hospital and ran south all the way to the Haulover Creek where Bottom Dollar is today. In our childhood, where Bottom Dollar is, used to be a chicle warehouse for the BEC company, I believe. One crossed the canal from HRBS to HRGS by a small bridge.
Holy Redeemer School covered most of the Northside Belize City block which was delineated by North Front Street, Queen Street, New Road, and Hyde’s Lane. The boys section was in the east, and the girls in the west.
Holy Redeemer Cathedral itself was in the section of the compound which included Holy Redeemer Boys. Also in the boys section were the living facilities of the bishop and some priests; a back yard where we played during morning recess; and a couple buildings where carpenters and other workers who maintained the buildings had their machines and equipment in the southern portion, and where handicraft and woodwork and so on were taught in the northern of the buildings.
The original Parish Hall, which was destroyed by Hurricane Hattie in 1961; the famous Scout Room (downstairs of the Parish Hall); and a concrete tennis court were located in the girls section of the compound.
I remember as a child that “ABC,” “Ten Cents,” and “Sub One” were all classes for boys which were in the Holy Redeemer Girls section of the compound. I don’t remember about “Sub Two,” but I am positive that “Standard One” for boys was in the boys section. From there to “Standard Six,” we seldom saw the girls.
All this is a little confusing, I suppose, but I am trying to explain that in this Roman Catholic primary school, boys and girls were largely physically separated. This was not the case in the Methodist primary school system, where boys and girls sat in the same classrooms. I don’t know about the Anglican system.
Anyway, there was this instance where Holy Redeemer Boys and Holy Redeemer Girls ended up competing against each other, as finalists in an annual primary school quiz contest which was run by the Education Department of British Honduras. (Leonardo Mencias, where are you now?) The quiz contests were broadcast live by the government monopoly radio station then called the British Honduras Broadcasting Service (BHBS).
The championship finals between the Holy Redeemer boys and girls was either in late 1958 or early 1959. For sure, we were still in the colonial days, young British subjects.
The finals were held in the BHBS studio which was located in the old Paslow Building. It was probably the first floor, but I’m not sure. What is for sure is that the studio was big enough for there to be an audience of non-participants.
And in the case of the championship finals that year between the boys and girls of Holy Redeemer, the girls defeated the boys, 64-62, and the girls won because one of the Holy Redeemer boy students in the audience ran his mouth. One of the girls clearly could not answer a question, each question being worth four points if answered correctly. A Holy Redeemer boy in the audience, excited that he knew the answer, whispered that answer to the boy next to him. The girl in front of the microphone heard him and repeated what he had said. The four points she won, enabled the girls to win. And it happened because a boy talked too much.
Many years later, I realized that the boy had not appreciated the fact that he was in a broadcast studio, where sound is amplified. I know he must have been thoroughly chastened by the experience, although later in life he became a very successful banker. The thing is, it was a boy who talked out of turn, not a girl. They were the champions.
I can remember only two of the four triumphant girls. They were Barbara Alamilla (she lived across the canal from me), who married the late Winston Miller, and Janet Hewlett, who married the late Edgar X Richardson, but later divorced him.
We losing boys, and it was a painful defeat, trust me, were myself, the late Dr. Neil Garbutt, Errol Cattouse, and the great Carlson Gough.
In a column like this one, I’m trying to entertain you readers. I would like to be informed who were the other two winning girls. I made an effort to contact the retiring Auditor General, the highly esteemed Mrs. Dorothy Bradley, because I think her mother may have been one of the four winning girls.
Something like the primary school quiz contest was a big deal for my generation, because there were not that many ways we could entertain ourselves as children in those days. I hope that this column has entertained you readers of the modern era. You have many, many ways to entertain yourselves in 2021, young people of Belize. In my time, we made the best of what we had. You know it was a bitter defeat for us boys of Holy Redeemer. Bitter. Such is life, they say.