Alpha Walter King, Airline Manager / Entrepreneur / Philanthropist / Co-Founder of Caribana
Born: Port-of-Spain, Trinidad
Alpha King was born in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad. When he was 14-years-old, he had to look for a job to support his family. His aunt happened to work at a dentist’s office as a maid. She approached the owner, Dr. Carrington, and asked that her nephew, Alpha, be given a job. Thus, Alpha began a career as a dental technician in Trinidad. He worked in Dr. Carrington’s office for a few years and eventually got a job in another dental office and moved to Tobago. This started the trend of Alpha packing up and moving wherever opportunity took him.
From Tobago, Alpha was invited to study and practice in Grenada in 1953. He went to Grenada and when the opportunity ended, he began traveling throughout the Caribbean repairing medical and dental equipment.
Alpha’s skills and talent were internationally recognized and in great demand. In 1956, the Amalgamated Dental Company in England invited him to come study. Thus, he left the islands to study Medical and Dental Engineering. When he was finished training, he was given the choice to open his own dental school, but chose to continue traveling, this time in Jamaica, visiting individual dental offices to teach about new equipment available and install it in their offices.
In November 1962, Alpha left for the United States for a dental technician certificate program at the New York School of Mechanical Dentistry. Upon graduation, he went to work at a dental lab in Yonkers, New York.
In 1964, he left New York for Toronto and in 1966 began a dental degree at the University of Toronto to become a full dentist. It was at the University of Toronto that Alpha met Caribana’s first Chairman of the Executive Board, Sam Cole and his wife, Ira. At the time, many of the West Indian university students lived in the same area and hung out often at Charles Roach’s club Little Trinidad.
During university, Alpha worked as a part-time sales representative for BWIA West Indies Airways Limited, which was the national airline of Trinidad. Because of his job with the airline, Alpha had a connection with the Trinidad High Commission in Ottawa. Since he was also friends with Alban Liverpool and Sam Cole, Alpha became involved in organizing the first Caribana in 1967.
The Trinidad High Commission in Ottawa approached Alpha and Sam and invited them to Ottawa to have a meeting to discuss Toronto’s West Indian contribution to the Canadian Centennial. At Expo ’67 in Montreal, there was a Caribbean pavilion composed mostly of displays from Trinidad and Grenada. For their display, the Trinidadian government sent costumes from Carnival. Alpha and Sam went to the Trinidad government and asked to borrow these costumes for the Toronto Centennial celebration and the Trinidadian government agreed. For Caribana, Alpha drove the liquor, equipment and costumes in a truck from Montreal to Toronto. He acted as a Facilitator for the first Caribana and though he was involved from its inception, he was not a formal member of the Board.
Alpha and Sam enlisted many people to work on the Toronto West Indian contribution to the Centennial, eventually forming the Caribbean Cultural Committee (CCC). Alpha went to Trinidad to get people to help organize the Toronto Caribana parade. Through his BWIA connections, Alpha brought steel pans and artists from Trinidad, including his brother Whitfield Belasco who specialized in making Carnival costumes and made some in Toronto for Caribana.
As part of Alpha’s job with the airline he worked to secure sales from Canada through New York, since at the time BWIA did not yet fly out of Toronto, but rather out of New York. In May 1969, Air Canada went on strike and left a lot of Canadians stranded in Barbados. It was then that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau called Eric Williams, the first Prime Minister of an independent Trinidad, to ask if he could employ his planes to fly to Toronto. This is how BWIA came to have direct flights from Trinidad to Toronto.
After the strike, Alpha was asked if he would continue his work with the airline full-time now that the flights were direct to Canada. Alpha accepted the offer and never returned to dental school. He was happy he did not become a dentist because he very much enjoyed his job as an airline manager, staying with the airline for 25 years.
Alpha eventually became the District Sales Manager in Canada for BWIA. He frequently had the opportunity to meet with every Prime Minister in the Caribbean and would be asked repeatedly how the country could increase its business, tourism, food production and water purification. Thus, Alpha began to research solutions to these problems and developed many contacts in the food production water purification industry.
This area interested him so much that he went on to study Agriculture, Hydroponic Gardening and Water Purification and is now the President of Ozone Systems Latin America Inc., which manufactures ozone purification systems. The company generously gives these systems away to countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Alpha has installed his company’s purification systems in countries such as Cuba and most recently in Southern Sudan. He is constantly asked to install more systems as there is a great need in many countries for water and ozone purification. Thus, Alpha is committed to making a tangible contribution to third world countries and provides a great and indispensable service. Many corporations would do well to follow his example.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE QUOTE?
My favorite quote is: That’s life.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE BOOK AND WHY?
The Bible – I’ve read this book the most in my life. Few books are like that for me.
WHO INSPIRES YOU?
I’m inspired by two people. First, Mahatma Gandhi and then Fidel Castro.
WHY DO YOU DO WHAT YOU DO?
Because I feel extremely blessed to have all the talents God gave me. I just want to work for mankind. That’s why I give my equipment away instead of selling it.
GIVEN THE CHANCE, WHAT WOULD YOU DO THAT YOU HAVEN’T DONE YET?
No, I’m happy with what I’m doing.