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Tough Times 25 Years Ago

I was talking the other day with a good friend, Mr. Sanker, who is an avid reader of this column and he said, “You know what Mr. Nuñez, I really enjoy those articles because I can identify with them. I remember having to write those official letters to be able to formalize a relationship with a girl as was the custom in Guyana where I come from.” And we talked about how difficult times were but how good they were too in their own rights. Oh yes, things were pretty tough, not because there was poverty but because of circumstances.

Asking a girl to dance took courage and was tough. You had to walk across the dance hall where the girls were seated in a row and you ran the risk of her telling you “NO”, right in public. I know a guy who moved all around the hall and was rejected by all. But you could not blame a girl if she was waiting for her “dream boy” to come and ask her.

Studying in high school was a tough experience. We had to stay in Belize City for one entire term or three months, away from home, parents, friends and the girlfriend, of course. We missed walking barefoot on the sand, the beach, the sea and the reef. We missed the island life. There were no telephones in San Pedro, so we were not connected to San Pedro. We had to write letters and send them by boat. And when it was finally time to come to San Pedro for the vacations, it was tough traveling by cargo boat with a sail, a trek that at times took ten to fifteen hours on the sea and sleeping on top of different types of cargo.

I was the son of a fisherman, and I was proud of that until my city friends belittled and embarrassed me. They said a fisherman stinks, and his sons too. It was tough suffering humiliation without retaliation. Most families ate fish morning, noon and evening. That was pretty tough. To move away from fish, on Sundays corned beef was prepared and that offered an exquisite alternative.

Life without ice was difficult. Meats and fish were not placed in a freezer. To preserve fish you corned it or salted it. Before using it, it had to be boiled to remove to remove the excess salt. Everything that needed refrigeration had to be consumed as fast as possible to prevent spoilage- things like vegetables, evaporated milk, pasteurized milk, or a cooked pot of beans, soup or gravies and stews. They had to be consumed or boiled time and time again.

How about life without a washing machine? The alternative was washing by hand, with a pail of water, a scrubbing brush and lots of soapsuds. Also difficult was life without disposable pampers. The alternative was using cloth diapers, which had to be washed daily and that could be a nerve wrecker. In school there was a time when there were no exercise books to write on. We wrote on slates, which were like miniature blackboards. Shampoo was unheard of. Toilet paper was rare, and you could forget paper tissue for that did not come to San Pedro in the 1960’s nor 70’s. So there you have some tough situations that the villagers had to face twenty five years ago.

– by Angel Nuñez, Columnist

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