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When we were kings!

FeaturesWhen we were kings!

Thurs. Mar. 2, 2023

“I was within and without, simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” F. Scott Fitzgerald in his book, The Great Gatsby.

When I was a young man, I had the pleasure and the honor to be invited, every Wednesday morning at 10:00, it was a very precise time, to have soup with the late Rev. Gilbert Rodwell Hulse, and the late Sir Wolrich Harrison Courtenay, who was a Knight when title meant something, not handed out like candy, like it is these days. I don’t know what they saw in me, or why they invited me into their inner sanctum, but there I was. I was in awe of them and held them in a reverence that bordered on worship. G.R. Hulse was a defrocked priest, Anglican I believe, and W. H. Courtenay was the Speaker of the House at that time, and one of Belize’s most prominent barristers. Reverend Hulse was also a columnist and wrote for the Reporter. So, there I was, knowing I didn’t belong, but listening to history and politics and religion being discussed, names, like Denbigh Jeffries, Leigh Richardson, names which I didn’t recognize, but never forgot. They took me under their wings and lectured me about the ways of the world, and spurred my interest in politics. It was the first time I was star struck!

Sometimes I feel like Forrest Gump, meeting some of the most important people in the history of Belize. Price, Goldson, Lindo, San Cas, Horace Young, Agapito Hassock, Cyril Davis, the X man, names that most of the younger generation wouldn’t recognize. People like Ray and Stretch Lightburn, Dave Usher, Justice, influencers of my generation. Many others, some famous, some just regular folks who were impactful on Belizean society. I haven’t forgotten all the special women who were so important, but then was a time of misogyny, so they weren’t given their dues.

It was a time when we slept with our windows open, when dogs were pets, not security guards, when the streets were cleaned everyday, drains totally unclogged by men with brooms and wheelbarrows, city council employees. When you left Palace, Majestic or Eden theatre at midnight, after seeing a double header for 35 cents, you walked home unafraid of anything, except for imaginary ghosts. You would run into a policeman on his bike or British MPs looking for wayward soldiers. I remember one night I was so tired, I gave this man a shilling to take me home in his bicycle cart from a party. No stress, no fear, only anticipation of what was coming next!

Life was good; civil servants reigned supreme, as members of the upper class. There were water faucets all over, the ice factory; Birds Isle was just a place where we used to go to play pirates, building rafts and leaving from Wesley College grounds. Yarborough grounds and cemetery were kept pristine, and a place for grave hopping after school, on the graves of the famous and infamous—who cared back then? All these little stands all over the city, selling sweets and ideals and pepitos! Maddas, good times indeed, of wonder and innocence and hope!

So yeah! We were kings, rich or poor, tall or short, maaga or fat, we were kings! Invincible, indestructible, with promises of a great future before us, with an optimism that was unfazed by minor setbacks. It was the best time and place to grow up in, that little city of maybe 30 thousand, at the time, in the 60s, 70s. When I was in college, I remember looking at pictures on the walls of students from another era, all gone from this world. The similarities I saw in those photographs were that we all had the same look in our eyes, that confidence that we were on a voyage to a brighter future.

I hope that optimism never goes away from our children and grandchildren, no matter how hopeless life might seem sometimes. I hope that they see themselves as kings and queens of their now.


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