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Those Grammar School Days

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In Bassy’s column last week, he mentioned Kenneth John and I consuming 10 bread and beef and six Ju-c. Bassy might have said it as a joke, not knowing that it was partly true. I remember one year sitting in the feed room and filling a desk with about 14 bread and beef and actually finishing 10.

I wasn’t one for Ju-c. Kenneth taught me French when I first went to school. I told him later that he was the reason I never learnt French. {{more}}

Having missed Old Boys’ Day activities over the years, I decided on Wednesday to visit the school, merely to see what was going on. I was ushered into one of the rooms to speak to the students and briefly reflected on my days as a student and teacher. Wednesday is normally the day I write my column and having not made a decision about the week’s topic, I simply continued my reflections on my days at the Grammar School.

I had taken the scholarship and entrance examinations and was overjoyed when I was successful in the entrance examination and was looking forward to my first day at the Grammar School. This was short-lived, because my teacher at the Barrouallie Anglican Primary School, Olson Peters, aka ‘Caribbean Pete,’ convinced my mother that I should remain for another year and redo the scholarship examination. How I hated ‘Caribbean Pete’! Not long after, one of my uncles suggested that I spend the year with Alphonso Dennie, who was principal at the Gomea Methodist School. Dennie, like Caspar Marshall, had developed a reputation for successfully preparing students for the scholarship exams.

I spent a year at Gomea and enjoyed it to the fullest; continued my love for cricket and every Wednesday evening joined Dennie on his visit to the Market Square to listen to Ebenezer Joshua. In those days the Government gave three scholarships to the Grammar School and High School. I happened to be one of the winners and joined Geoff Edwards, now a vet in Mississauga and Winston Frederick, who went into the medical field, doing research into an area of cancer, I believe. Geoff and I still remain close friends.

I went to the Grammar School when there was a deep gap between town and country students. Being from Barrouallie, I was associated with ‘black fish,’ which few Kingstown people ate at that time. I remember my first day at school with a ‘clean’ haircut. The senior students looked forward to this time when they would administer clouts to the new students. My brother Rodway, who was from Kingstown, was in one of the senior forms and I suspect that protected me. Additionally, I was very good at cricket and football and got some credits. In fact, if I recall correctly, I started practising with the senior cricket team from my second year. In those days, Barrouallie was the only community outside of Kingstown that played football. I became, as Austin Clarke would say in ‘Growing Up Stupid Under the Union Jack’, a cricket and football fool! To participate in House matches meant having to walk to Barrouallie after. Fortunately, I was always able to get a ride after walking, on occasions, reaching as far as Rillan Hill.

My first three headmasters were non-Vincen­tians, Crick and Hughes from Barbados and in my final year at school, Morgan from Jamaica. My first caning will always be remembered. I was waiting on my friend Bing Oliver, who was getting his books together to leave. Headmaster Crick, hearing noise in the hallway, came out and beckoned Bing to his office to be caned. I laughed, because I knew that Bing was innocent. Crick heard and administered the same treatment to me. We knew later that when Crick was walking down the hall we were never to look up, for that meant a date with his cane.

I became captain of the senior cricket and football teams and head prefect in my last year. At the 1965 Inter Schools Tournament I led the team to victory in cricket, but failed in football, largely through my fault, kicking a penalty spectacularly over the goal and into the Neverson’s home near to where OT has his car park. After

the game, I sneaked out through Middle Street to prevent any ‘panning’.

In sixth form, we had to go to the Girls’ High School for history and English; history was taught by Mrs Norma Keizer and English literature by Miss Heddle, a British woman. Students from the Girls’ High School, on the other hand, used the lab facilities of the Grammar School. We had some strange teachers. The one who stands out is Gill, the Latin teacher. Gill loved cricket and told me he was arranging for me to play cricket in England. This is certainly not what made him strange. He was still on staff when I started teaching. He was cheap and secretive. His best friend was Squires, a French teacher, also from Barbados. One day, Gill sent to buy some body-line and crust cakes. Not wanting to share them with his friend Squires, he went into the toilet to eat them. Cricket and football on the lawn, Debating Society on Friday nights and staring at the girls as they crossed to go to the GHS: those were indeed fun times.

(To be continued)

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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