Publisher — 23 February 2012 — by Evan X Hyde
Some people say that the greatness of the late jazz pianist, Thelonius Monk, derived as much from the notes he didn’t play as from the ones that he did. They are exaggerating, I think, but you get the point.
When our post-World War II generation was growing up in British Honduras, we learned early that silence was a virtue. Every serious trip, by sea or by road, was always a matter of hours upon hours. If there were several people on the trip, sometimes there would be conversational fun and games. But, overall, Belizeans were less garrulous back then. We started out in life as children in a society which explicitly declared that “children should be seen and not heard.” They didn’t have to tell you this if you were a child travelling with an elder from somewhere to somewhere, or perhaps going on a fishing trip with an elder.
Elders didn’t hold conversations with children when I was a child. If you wanted to be in good standing, you made yourself active/useful, and you shut your mouth. And, you were grateful for your role. Because of my childhood, I believe it is possible to communicate without running your mouth, but sometimes you have to say things just to make absolutely sure your message is received.
Last year when I began to do a KREM Radio/TV show called Senior Moments, Gustavo Torres, a baker and boxing aficionado from San Ignacio who was a strong supporter of Assad Shoman’s during the latter’s Cayo North election runs from 1974 to 1984, called me to say he wanted Pappy Smith to be a guest on the show. Albert “Pappy” Smith is a Cayo football legend who also supported Assad Shoman, but he had been a part of something in 1972 and 1973 which was more significant and memorable for me personally. Here’s the story.
In the summer of 1972, Michael Finnegan, who was a UBAD Party member at the time, asked me to sponsor his football team. (In those days, football for me was like religion, and the MCC Garden was my church.) The big bait was that Finnegan had two of my younger brothers, Michael and Charles, on his team, along with some big name stars like “Lee Mole” Alvarez, “Hilly Ratch” Craig, Mamboco Myvett, Salo Usher, and so on. Finnegan’s coach was the late Calbert “Pomo” Usher.
Finnegan was working at Hofius on Albert Street, which had been sponsoring the famous Red Stripe squad, managed by the late Oliver “Racku” Craig, Hilly Ratch’s father. At the time Hilly Ratch was going strong with one of Finnegan’s sisters, Alida (now deceased), so you could say they were brothers-in-law, and they were both very close with Pomo, Ratch and Pomo having been teammates on Red Stripe with Finnegan as an official.
As the decades have gone by, I have come to believe that Finnegan, Ratch and Pomo must have lost a power struggle with Hilly’s dad, Racku, for management control of the Hofius team, which, as it turned out, would be sponsored by Toyota (Cruisers) instead of Red Stripe for the 1972/73 season. (Hofius had both the Red Stripe and Toyota agencies in 1972.) Finnegan, then, had players, who, I suppose, had bought into the Red Stripe mystique and credibility, but Hofius had decided to sponsor Racku, not him. This is speculation on my part.
So now, how am I supposed to sponsor a football team and I’m not even employed in the summer of 1972? The answer in Finnegan’s mind must have been that I had a rich girl friend at the time. Whatever, whatever, we scrambled and hustled and managed to equip the team, named “Diamond A” by Finnegan, in time for the showcase marathon opening the competition, which Diamond A won. But after that, it was quickly downhill for our team, as players began to realize that the team’s sponsorship was smoke and mirrors, as it is said.
With disaster and disgrace hovering over our season, Finnegan and Pomo came up with the idea of inviting some of the Cayo Avengers’ players to strengthen Diamond A. This worked well. Diamond A managed to finish third in the regular season, and reached the Knockout finals when we stunned the undefeated regular season champions, Landivar. (That Landivar game was a sensational one which I will tell you about one of these days.) Our Cayo players would come in by bus on Sunday mornings, then after the games we would drive them back to Cayo in a “newish” Land Rover which the UBAD secretary-general, Norman “Imamu” Fairweather, had bought from Carleton Russell. The Cayo road was not nice back then, but our camaraderie was strong.
As time went by, I never forgot the Cayo players, how disciplined and decent they were – Pappy, Pelis Neal, Speedy Henry, Turo Azueta, Theo Lennan, Nayo Waight, Tan Tan …
When I called Pappy late last year to finalize his appearance on Senior Moments, he said that Turo Azueta wanted to come. I was honored and happy. The night of the show, it rained and rained and rained. The weather was really bad. Needless to say to those of you who know Cayo men, Pappy and Turo made it to town.
During the course of the show, when I mentioned that Finnegan and Pomo had been the ones who put together the package, Pappy looked at me and said straight that it was because of me, and what I stood for, that they had come to play for Diamond A. I can’t tell you how proud that made me feel.
I want to dedicate this column to the late Jalil Bedran, who was the sponsor/manager of Avengers those days. I really liked Jalil, but I never told him. I really like Pappy, Turo and all “my” Cayo players, and I’m telling them now. Man to men.
Incidentally and as a kind of political postscript, partly as a result of our many trips in late 72/early 73 to San Ignacio/Santa Elena to drive back our Cayo players after games, I became close friends with the late Theo Ochoa, who was the energy of the Cayo branch of the Opposition National Independence Party (NIP) in those days. The late Joe Andrews was the more famous and charismatic Opposition star in Cayo, having lost by just a single vote to the PUP’s Hector Silva as the NIPDM Cayo North candidate in the December 1969 general elections. On the ground in Cayo, however, Theo was always on the downtown streets. He was a good man, and I remember him fondly.