BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Aug. 13, 2020– In Belizean Creole, we have always pronounced the name as “Paama” Davis, when referring to 1950s-‘60s legendary goalkeeper, Wilfred Davis.
Many years ago, some folks would write Wilfred “Palmer” Davis when referring to this renowned Belizean athlete. In his 2005 sports classic, “Sports, Sin And Subversion,” however, Evan X Hyde used Wilfred “Palma” Davis.
It is one of the things I still needed to clarify with the elusive gentleman, but I ventured to try the spelling “Paama” in our “The making of a legend…” story in this past Tuesday’s issue of Amandala. That’s how we say his nickname in Creole, so I had decided to write it that way.
I finally managed to re-establish contact briefly with Mr. Davis yesterday; and you know what? He chucked some more stories on me, telling me about a company that his grandfather was connected to back in the 1940s in Belize City named “Gordon & Palma;” so it seems that’s where his nickname came from.
Therefore, in future continuation of his story, we will stick to the X’s spelling, and refer to him as Wilfred “Palma” Davis, to retain the historical significance, although Belize Creole speakers will still refer to him with the pronunciation of “Paama” or “Pawma.”
In our last encounter, Palma also recounted stories about a gentleman (George G.) residing on Daly Street who used to operate a cargo boat transporting merchandise between Belize and a number of ports in the southern United States, which also facilitated the travel of some Belizeans seeking employment up north. This would explain how his mother and his father first met in Mobile, Alabama, where they left with him at a year and four months old for Belize City in 1942.
Giving more details on his father’s journey, Palma explained that his father and his sister, children of wealthy parents in Nicaragua, had originally fled Nicaragua with money taken from their parents, only stopping in Belize to take the boat ride north to Mobile, Alabama.
When his father and mother returned to Belize in 1942, his father’s sister stopped off in Payo Bispo (now Chetumal) where she spent some time, during which she picked up some “card cutting” skills from an Italian. She became well known years later in Belize as the best in the business, especially when she once warned a young woman not to return home one night by way of Water Lane or she would be killed. In a famous incident, the woman reportedly passed by Water Lane that same night, and a man attacked and stabbed her (to death) twenty-two times.
Incidentally, Palma also recalled the famous incident, where George G’s boat was reportedly caught supplying fuel to German submarines during WW II. He also revealed that he was raised by his mother, May Gordon, on Eve Street in Belize City, as his father, Fred Davis did not live with them. “The only time I saw him was when I was sent to get money from him,” remembers Palma.
Some of these background details we record purely for their historical or entertainment value, but some are also important, as we try and lay the groundwork for the question that inevitably arises when a sportsman has risen to the very top of his sport, is a champion many times over, with fans eagerly paying to see him perform; why then does he decide to leave it all behind? Are the rewards of Belizean sporting success not alluring enough to keep him here? It’s a story often repeated in Belize with different sports. We’ll ask Palma the next time we get to talk to him.