The front entrance to EBV taken during my visit in 1995. I recall the first time that I saw it in 1963, driving up to it with my parents, straight off the plane, when I was first registered at the school after just having arrived in Maracaibo for the very first time. I started school the very next day. The trees are bigger and the shrubbery has changed somewhat, but the front façade of the building hadn't changed a bit. It had remained just as I had always remembered it.
This more recent photo, taken in 2003 by 2003 EBV Senior Alfredo Pérez, shows that they've incorporated a new paint scheme for the front of the main building. While there are no other major changes made to the outside front of the main building, the turquoise paint gives it a bit of a different look. But underneath the paint, it still remains the same.
The Outdoor Auditorium
Those of us who graduated at EBV well remember practicing here for the Commencement exercises. In those years, EBV only went up to the 9th grade. Commencement was always held once a year in the evening and was, of course, a BIG occasion! We also used to hold Christmas programs here in which all the students participated. It was always so warm in the evenings all throughout the year, and I remember that the Christmas robes could sometimes get uncomfortably hot. But that never stopped us from putting on a great show!
I've been told by Guy Cooper, a website visitor, that this whole area has now been roofed over and has completely changed. All of it is now indoors, with air-conditioning, big comfortable seats, a stage, a sound system, etc. So in essence, it no longer exists in the form shown here. I realize that that's progress, and the changes are certainly a big improvement over what we see here. But to me, it's a bit sad to know it's no longer there under the wide open skies.
I still have my EBV graduation ring safely stashed away, by the way. Every now and then, I'll remove it from the small box I keep it in, remembering all the great times and all the wonderful people I knew there. The ring is an inexpensive one, and graduating from the 9th grade - junior high - may perhaps be considered to be, in retrospect, no big deal today. But I can tell you that today that ring means as much to me as my high school, college, and grad school rings do that I earned years later.
The Auditorium from the Stage
This is a view from the opposite end, from inside the stage. Seems like only yesterday that I stood up here during Commencement exercises in 1965. It's really difficult for me to believe that so many years have gone by. Returning here was like traveling back in time, and I could clearly remember other graduation ceremonies and Christmas programs of the past that I had forgotten about until I returned to this spot. I'm glad I got to see it one last time before it disappeared.
Back Stairs - Another View
Another view of the back stairs. The angle of this shot gives a better view of the classrooms behind the stairs as they appear today. The classes are air-conditioned now, and the paint scheme is different, but they're basically still just as we left them years ago. I remember looking out to this back wing from classrooms in the front wing and seeing students walking along these hallways as they changed classes, and everything still looks the same.
The Soccer Field & Colonia Mazzei
This is the soccer field in the back of the school, still very much as we
left it. All of the lovely little homes by the fence line in the back, which is
where I used to live (Colonia Mazzei), are, sadly, gone now. I understand that
the owner, Mr. Mazzei, or one of his sons, razed them all so that he could put
up a large shopping center. So much for historical preservation. But I was told
that the project was stopped by Maracaibo municipal authorities because of the
“historical value” of some of the large old trees that were located on the
property that were not allowed to be removed.
What I wouldn't do or pay to be able to go back in time for a few days to relive a few of those times once again, to recapture that innocence of youth that we all shared, and to once again experience some of those wonderful days. But perhaps our inability to do so is one of the things that makes the memories of those days so special.
The “Teacher's Apartments”
As long as we're on the subject of “What's Not There Anymore”......... remember the “Teacher's Apartments” on Calle 3G? They were called the “Teacher's Apartments” because it's where many, if not most, of the EBV teachers (and others) used to live. The apartments are still there, but as you can see, they're abandoned, fenced off, trashed out, and in ruins. My assumption is that, with all the new buildings going up, these apartments just couldn't compete. They were somewhat old even back then, and there was no central air-conditioning - only window units if you had them. I'm told that most of the EBV teachers now live closer to the school in what used to be the Colonia Shell, or thereabouts, in considerably newer and nicer apartments today.
I must admit that I was saddened to see them in in this state as it was such a vibrant place years ago. All of the teachers lived there, as did a good friend and classmate of mine. One of my best friends lived diagonally across the street from the apartments. I even had an Italian girlfriend for awhile that lived there. So I used to visit or see these apartments almost every day. Someday they'll be torn down and replaced with something new when economic conditions are right. It's in a residential area, so perhaps some day it will be replaced with a beautiful new apartment building.
We all had so many good, hard-working, dedicated teachers at EBV. Of course, at the time, they were just “teachers” to us back then. It was only later, as we grew up, that we were able to realize the significant influence that some of them had on us. It'd be nice to be able to go back and let them know this now, but, of course, through the years, I've lost track of them. But I do occasionally hear from one of them, or one of them will sign the guestbook, and when I hear from one of them, I'm always happy to be able to add them to the alumni list.
Calle 3G was “Gringo Street” where many Americans used to live. This is one of two views showing Calle 3G today with all the new high-rise buildings. A few of the nice homes that were there back then are still there today, but it's changed so much that I felt as if I was driving down some other street. It didn't seem to be the same street that it once was. Much of that is undoubtedly due to the fact that there's considerably more traffic traveling down the street now than there ever used to be.
Looking the opposite direction down Calle 3G, towards Avenida Cecilio Acosta. The corner of 3G & Cecilio Acosta now has a considerable number of residential high-rise apartment buildings. Traffic on 3G, once a quieter residential sub-street, is now about as heavy as it is on Cecilio Acosta.
Faith Baptist Church
Faith Baptist Church is still there as seen in this view taken through the car windshield. It's hard to believe, but today, right next door to it (to the right of this view), there's a large CADA supermarket. The street has become considerably more commercialized than it was, and the “quiet residential street” feel of it is gone now. So many of the original homes that were once there have been replaced with newer homes, apartments, or commercial buildings.
According to a Guestbook entry dated Oct. 19, 2008 from the Rev. James Newman, who was pastor at the church from 1961- 1964, this church building was erected in 1963. He writes, “The structural steel was entirely fabricated wiith retired drill stem and sucker rod donated by several companies, three companies contributed the use of a welding machine and welder on three separate days. That part was completed in just those few days! Another company helped us with the steeple. A number of players from the Chicago White Sox played winter ball in Maracaibo; most of them and their families attended church with us. When we were ready to move the old wicker and iron chairs into the sanctuary, they showed up at the church and refinished all the furniture! So everything really shined on our first day.
“Faith Baptist Church now goes by the name of Iglesia Bautista la Fé, and is a thriving Venezolano congregation.”
The Creole (Lago Maracaibo) Club
We return again to the Club. This is another shot of the movie screen at the Creole Club taken from another angle across the swimming pool. It was so easy to once again picture it in the dark with a movie running across the screen and the palm tree fronds & mango tree leaves around it slowly waving and rustling in the soft breezes of a warm tropical night. Although daytime temperatures were often uncomfortably hot, nights were always pleasant, usually with temperatures in the low to mid-70s.
I remembered how we all used to scramble to the covered area in the back when it suddenly rained during a movie. The rains were infrequent and never lasted long, but they could sometimes be pretty strong, often making so much noise on the metal roof that covered the back area that it was hard to hear the movie soundtrack.
I also recalled the occasional lightning storms that could often be seen in the near distance over Lake Maracaibo. Known as “Catatumbo Lightning”, it's named for the silent lightning storms that occur over the Catatumbo delta region, often referred to as the “Lighthouse of Maracaibo” (El Farol de Maracaibo). The light storms could often be quite spectacular, with sheet lightning filled with branched lightning flashing across the sky. But the lightning never brought any rain.
The Creole (Lago Maracaibo) Club
Another view of the movie screen looking towards the club offices, which have been remodeled. The large patio up by the offices, where we used to occasionally sit around with a record player listening to all the latest 45-RPM “Top 100” hits from the States while eating tequeños, is gone. The front door to the club is towards the left of this view. Security getting into the club is much more stringent today, with a large glassed-in booth and a guard sitting behind the glass checking the club ID of everyone who walks in the door. Years ago there frequently was nobody at the gate except during movie nights - even then, the guard would usually disappear once the movie began - and only occasionally during the weekend.
The Creole (Lago Maracaibo) Club
The Snack Bar where we all used to sneak Polar beers.....er, I mean...drink Cokes....during the Tuesday and Friday night movies is to the right in this view. The tequeños we would get here for 2 Bs were great as well. The Snack Bar is still there, and it was great to see it again after all these years. Now, what was the name of the heavyset fellow who used to stand behind the Snack Bar and serve all of us? For the life of me, I can't remember! Also behind the Snack Bar was a barbershop. Mario, the Italian barber, once asked me if there were still a lot of gangsters in Chicago! At that time, The Untouchables was a big hit TV series. I didn't actually notice during the time of my visit whether or not the barbershop is still there.
“The” Creole Club Mango Tree
Here's a good, clear view of the mango tree that often used to occasionally drop mangos on us during the movies when the season was right! Or maybe it happened all year long - can't really recall. Anyway, it happened to me not once, but twice during the 5½ years that I went to movies there. And yes....they did indeed smart a bit! Amazing how large, solid, and heavy a fully-grown mango can get! The tree now has a protective concrete planter around the base - or was it there back then?
Restaurante Los Cristales at the Creole (Lago Maracaibo) Club
This was a difficult shot to digitize because of the high-contrast exposure, and it's not very clear. But it's enough to give a general idea of what the inside of the Los Cristales restaurant at the Club looks like. As you can see, it offers a great view that overlooks the whole Club, including the pool. I'm happy to report that the arepas, empanadas, and tequeños with that great cheese with its unique flavor are as good as they always used to be!
Salon Palma Real at the Creole (Lago Maracaibo) Club
This is the stage area of the Salon Palma Real ballroom at the Club. It's located between the restaurant and the front door of the Club. It's much nicer than anything that ever existed at the Club before when many of us lived there, occupying the site of the old “ballroom” that used to exist. It was great to see the wonderful improvements in this area, but it was also a bit sad to know that the old ballroom, where we used to have such great parties, often with a live band (remember Los Jaguares?) - many of which I still clearly remember - is now gone.
The Creole (Lago Maracaibo) Club Tennis Courts
All of us spent many happy hours on the tennis courts. The surface is nicely
surfaced and graded, and appeared to have been recently repainted. The green
walls around the court looked fairly new, except that they're now about half the
height that they used to be. Before the big movie screen was built (before my
time), the movies used to be shown here, projected against one of the high
The “Snake Pit” at the Hotel del Lago
Even the “Snake Pit” at the Hotel del Lago has modernized with a “High Tech” look. It's been enclosed with dark glass, so it's no longer possible to see who's in the bar by simply peering over the wall from the lobby like before. Perhaps that's better. The purple neon lights add a nice touch. Again, this was taken in 1995, and I can only assume that it still looks the same today since this shot was taken. But I know that it'll eventually change again as time, tastes, and fashions change.
The Lobby at the Hotel del Lago
This are views of the Hotel del Lago lobby. In the first photo, the dark glass walls enclosing the Snake Pit can be seen on the right. The Reception Desk is left of center (see 2nd shot also), in the same area where they used to be located, and behind the columns right of center are shops. Farther to the right, not visible in the shot, and further back, is a bank of two elevators. These elevators go to the tower rooms as well as to the other rooms in the opposite wing. There are quite a few more shops beyond the Reception Desk than there used to be. The old bookstore/gift shop owned by the Sweeneys, where we used to buy American books, magazines, and the Miami Herald every Sunday after church, is gone, replaced by other shops. There is another magazine shop, but it didn't seem to have quite the great variety of magazines that Sweeney's shop once did.
To many of us, this hotel was “home” for us when we first came to and when we finally left Maracaibo. So many great parties were held at this hotel, including all of the large school proms every year, and most of the school Christmas parties. The Hotel del Lago will always hold a unique and special place, I believe, in the hearts of us all.
As with the first page, I'm ending this second page with views of Mi Vaquita. This shot is a combination of two pictures, one showing the old familiar Mi Vaquita neon sign outside the restaurant, the other showing the entrance door with the carved wood steer and logo backdrop wall and the framed menu posted in the left of the 2nd picture. The steaks here were as good as I used to remember them. Once again, it's nice to know that at least some things have remained the same through the years.