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Those Fancy Houses

If you walk around Ambergris Caye today you will find some really nice fancy houses especially in the new and developing subdivisions like San Pablo, Escalante and Mosquito Coast area. The town core remains with the same structures of the past for the most part except for the new spanking business premises, which are modern by all standards. Now don’t ask me what constitutes a fancy house, but the architects will throw in a Jacuzzi, hot and cold air and water, and other amenities plus a fancy design outside.

The houses of the 1950’s were for the most part thatch houses. The walls were made of pimento sticks with one door in the center and a window on the side. The roof was fabricated with bush sticks and palmetto leaves. The materials for these houses came entirely from the island and could be built by two men in one week. They had dirt floors and no partitions. Several hammocks crisscrossed the room and there was a wooden table with one or two long benches at the corner of the room. This was dining, living and sleeping quarters all in one. A kerosene lantern with a wick stood at the table or shelf while the more well-to-do people boasted a pressurized gasoline lamp with a mantle.

In the 1960’s with the coming of the fishing industry, there also came the wooden houses. The typical wooden house was a square or rectangular house, a front porch as close as possible to the edge of the street, a zinc roof and wooden windows and doors hanging on hinges flung fully open during the day. This house had a small front room for living room, a kitchen at the back and two bedrooms on the side. Shelves covered the walls of the kitchen for plates and cups and other utensils. Lots of photographs covered the walls of the living room and there were beds and hammocks in the bedrooms. Yes, there was one light bulb majestically hanging in the center of each room and that was it.

Homes did not have telephones but news still spread like butter on hot cakes. There were no televisions sets, so foreign culture had no impact on our lives. As there was no form of advertisement, public messages were written on a portable blackboard and carried around the village by two boys ringing a bell. There were no fancy stereos with equalizers and all the gadgets. Yes, there were small battery powered radios that could capture signals as far as Harlingen, Texas using a tall 50-foot antenna. The small record players played the small single records as well as the large ones that carried six songs on each side. Of course there was no hot and cold service but a pail of fresh water from the well made a good shower right in the middle of the yard. There was no water pump, nor a flush toilet system. In place there were outdoor toilets using two or three drums sunk into the ground. There was not even a washbasin, and everyone scrubbed his teeth at a window or doorstep and father shaved outside too.

In the kitchen there was a kerosene or oil stove, and lots of pots and pans and spoons hanging from nails along the wall and a few shelves for the plates for no one had invented plates that could be hung. A few wealthy (well, better off) families boasted a small refrigerator. If you care to read about a few more “No’s”, well there were no ceiling fans, air conditioners, Lazy boys nor even sofas, polished closets or bureaus, no rugs on the floors, video players nor cameras nor play stations that you find in most houses today. Oh yes, San Pedro was quite a different little fishing village, laid back and unsophisticated. But do you know what, people back then thought they were kings and we certainly did not miss the amenities that we have on the island today. I did not miss a television. I wonder if I would miss it today?

Photo Caption: The “fancy” wooden and thatch houses of San Pedro Village 25 Years Ago.

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