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Dill looks back on time at The Centre

No regrets: Carlton “Pepe” Dill was supervisor at the former Pembroke Youth Centre (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

Carlton “Pepe” Dill is one of the island’s most celebrated football coaches and a former professional player.

Mr Dill, now 74, was also an early supervisor at the Pembroke Youth Centre, now known as The Centre, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary tomorrow night.

Politicians, members of the judiciary, sports icons and Dexter Smith, Editor of The Royal Gazette, are among those who passed through The Centre in their formative years.

Mr Dill was still a young man when he was taken on as a youth leader, and said the experience left a powerful impression.

He said: “I put it down to me being a community boy at that time.

“Most young boys got involved with sports. Cricket and football were basically the two main ones, and there was track and field for schoolchildren.

“I’m more of a lover of cricket than football, although I’m known for football because of my history in the early years, but I participated in both. Football took me overseas to represent Bermuda in the Pan-American Games, and from there my life became a football life.

“Right after that, I got a contract with the Houston Stars in Texas, and out of that I became ‘Pepe’ Dill.

“That had a lot to do with my being part of the youth centre, because my first year overseas I came home during the off-season.

“That would have been around 1969. Lancelot Swan, the Minister of Youth and Sport, initially asked me to be supervisor.

“There was always some talk about a youth centre being formed, and a discussion of putting it up in the central area, which is how Pembroke Youth Centre was formed.

Mr Dill added: “As a result of my influence and popularity in the football arena, they asked me to supervise. I stayed for four or five months.

“It was very pleasant. The children were really enthusiastic and we had a very, very good relationship — they treated the Centre like it was theirs.

“I didn’t have to supervise. They were so good in terms of their schooling. They were first-class, fantastic children, and they just sailed along. Right after me came Sammy Wilson, who took over.

“When it started, I imagine people in the area might have been a little reluctant. Nothing like it had been done before, so you didn’t know the outcome.

“But there were so many nickel-and-dime shops where the kids would go for candy and ice-cream, so people took to us and looked forward to us being around the neighbourhood.

“That neighbourhood was close knit. Everyone was in their own environment in these neighbourhoods — North Village, Town, Happy Valley or down on Parsons Road. In sports, it was the same. You played for your neighbourhood. Those children didn’t know me other than my name.

“I don’t know how it happened, but there was a magazine for the fans, and one of those kids back in 1969 took that photo of me in football uniform, and painted it on the wall.

“There was Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy and all these popular people and me on the wall in their company.”

Mr Dill said: “I have no regrets at all. At 25, 26, I was a young man and the children were teenagers. I can’t recall any incidents that had to be dealt with.”

He added: “Over the years I always dropped in. I still enjoy it. I’m not sure if I could fit in now, but I seem to feel that they had a very strong love for my involvement.”

Mr Dill said: “Children today are more educated, more technological. They have developed so quickly, so beautifully and we just have to keep up with them.

“Children need freedom to play and explore, and we need to let them.

“I didn’t have the intention of being a youth centre supervisor, but I have been dealing with young people since I was 25 with football and coaching. The children bettered me.”

For the programme and flyer, click on the PDF links under “Related Media”