If you’ve ever wondered the secret to living longer, consider heading over to Camana Bay’s Visitor Centre to meet 82-year-old Caymanian Alfred Hydes, who has been the Town Centre’s ambassador since 2011.
With an infectious smile and an affable demeanour, Alfred attributes his stamina and zest for life to clean, honest living. “I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I don’t bamboozle anybody.”
He loves to steer people in the right direction, both figuratively and literally. “I love meeting people,” he says, adding, “I like to help people make a life and to do things that are the correct things.”
Born and raised in West Bay – and still residing there – Alfred has a long and varied working life, which started at age 15 as a student teacher. After three years of inspiring pupils, he decided to spend the next 30 years at sea working on various ships that carried oil, bauxite and other cargo. He worked his way up to the position of chief engineer after starting out as a wiper.
Alfred still views the Panama Canal as one of the wonders of the world and dreams of crossing the channel one more time. After retiring his sea legs, Alfred took a job at the Holiday Inn hotel as a front desk manager. He later moved to the purchasing department where he bought almost everything for the hotel until it ceased operations in 1998. Then he moved over to Island Companies, where he processed and collected imported stock for more than a decade.
Today, Alfred considers Camana Bay his second home — he is the first one into work, and the last to leave. You may even see him picking up leaves in front of the Visitor Centre every morning before his shift begins, or inspecting the Observation Tower to make sure it’s in good order before it opens to the public. Giving tours of the Observation Tower is one of his favourite parts of the job; he relays a story of one vacationing family who had to catch an early flight back home the next day, but were upset that they had missed the opportunity to go up the tower that evening because it had already closed.
Alfred graciously offered to meet them at the break of dawn to give them a tour for which they were very grateful. Afterward, they made a dash for the Owen Roberts International Airport, but not before wanting to tip Alfred. He declined; he was just happy to fulfil their wish. He was recently nominated for a “Diamond Award” at the Cayman Stingray Tourism Awards. Organised by the Cayman Islands Tourism Association, it took place at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa on 20 June. He was honoured to be included. When asked how he felt about it, with an ear-to-ear grin and two thumbs up, he simply replied: “High up!”
When it comes to Camana Bay’s transformation over the years, Mr. Hydes marvels at what it has become from when he was a young boy.
“It used to be nothing but swamp and was wet all the time. We used to come here as kids and collect the land crabs for our meals.”
With a natural curiosity and desire to be supportive, he made the decision to be part of Camana Bay’s continued growth; but his compassionate nature and strong work ethic are what keep him going.
“I come to work for fun,” he says, adding that he doesn’t plan on retiring any time soon. “As long as someone will hire me and I can give an honest day of work and help others, I will continue.”