Those of you who ardently follow this online newsletter will recall that in October 2009 I wrote that I would not miss the 12th anniversary of KC’s Big Purple Session in 2010. I didn’t. After all it was held on my birthday - October 2nd. Young Old Boy Shaun Thompson, who was also at the Session shares this birthday and we had a beer together (Shaun is the son of Old Boy and engineer Peter Thompson). Throughout the night many others promised to buy me a beer to celebrate my birthday but I assume that dancing got in the way.
As usual, the Session lived up to its reputation as being a grand purple affair. Some say that it is the most anticipated Jamaican affair in South Florida in the fall. The reputation of this event is such that the Florida Chapter of the KCOBA is hard pressed to come up with innovative ways to maintain the high standard and keep the KC banner flying high for all to see. To my mind they have moved from the “if it isn’t broke don’t fix it” mantra to one of continuous improvement every year.
Although the crowd was mostly from the South Florida area there was a significant contingent from other states. The New York contingent was headed by Vice President of the KCOBA NY chapter Robert Rodney and the hard working Clinton ‘Fatman’ Clarke, who was busy selling tickets for the up-coming NY fundraiser. I was looking forward to having a chat and probably a beer with President of the NY Chapter Robert Kelly, but this year he was unavoidably absent. I met two colorful Old Boys from NY whom I had not seen since school. Both reminded me that I had saved them from suspension and probably expulsion several times by begging the then principal Rev. John McNab to be lenient with them for their many transgressions at North Street. I recall that they were in fourth form then. Being Dr McNab’s first headboy in 1975 these two gentlemen assumed that I had something to do with their regular pardons by the principal. Dr Patrick Dallas, who was also at the session, was also singled out as one of the prefects who stood by them and asked that they be given second and third chances to redeem themselves when they were going through their teenage angst and regular bouts of rebellion against all authority. Somehow, and inexplicably, most of the times Dallas and I had a calming effect on them. I can’t recall if they bought me a beer for my birthday or not but next year I will ensure that they do.
The Jamaican contingent was led, as usual, by Stratton Palmer. Churchill Neita, QC, was also present along with his son Mark and grandson Mark Jr. In the corridors, a small group of us had a lively and animated conversation with Neville Oxford and Richard Bowen. What was the topic of the conversation? Manning Cup, of course and the fact that KC has not won this competition since 1986! We debated the reasons for this anomaly and wondered why for two years in a row, arguably KC’s best footballer, had gone across the street to play for the Light Blues. And it was not as if the STGC’s team needed strengthening. In fact, The Light Blues are going for their third straight title this year.
Notable absentees this year were Professor Rainford Wilks and Dr Ray Fraser from Jamaica. The former did not make the trip because he was the guest speaker at a fund raising event put on by the KC Lodge in Kingston while one can assume that the latter had to be dealing with the effects of the flood rains on the Annatto Bay Hospital where he is in charge. I chatted with people like Christopher Hunt, Noel Gray, Dr Selbourne Goode, my second form headboy, as well as with many who were in my year at school including Dr Patrick Dallas, Dr Emanuel Grant, Antonio Wood, Audley Patterson and Richard Blackford. Richard and I joined the cadet together in first or second form. He now lives in Florida and much to my surprise is an artist. While in school I did not know that he had those talents. I have seen some of his art work which includes a brilliant piece showing KC boys playing money football, a game that we all played on the teachers’ tables or on the benches under the Lignum vitae trees back in the day. KC Old Boys and other members of the KC family should be aware that last year Richard made a presentation of his Usain Bolt painting to Ambassador Anthony Johnson; that painting now hangs in the Jamaican Embassy in Washington, DC. He has also done something that many of us dream of doing but never seem to accomplish – he has written and published a novel. The title of this his first novel is, “The girl from the lane”. I am hoping to get my copy soon. Visit his website at www.richardblackford.com.
From the Toronto Chapter I glimpsed President Lawrence ‘Tiger’ Prendergast and Dale Keizs. Dale, now happily retired, probably goes to every KC Old Boys event wherever in the world it is held. He told me that he had just returned from Australia and I wondered if by chance he had met any KC Old Boys there. Maybe he met KC Old Boy Paul Nash, father of current WI player Brendan Nash. I was told that Trevor Edwards, Nike’s Vice President of Global and Category Management, was at the Session along with his family as they celebrated their Mom’s 70th birthday. Trevor played basketball for KC in the early 80s. People who know these things tell me that the 1980 KC team is regarded as one of the best Jamaican schoolboy basketball team of all times and without doubt the best KC basketball team to date. Check out Trevor’s biography and his many achievements on the official Nike website then turn to the History of KC by Tony Johnson to see him as a lanky teenager in the all conquering 1980 basketball team.
I write about KC Old Boys but the ladies outnumbered the gentlemen at the Session. This is good if you were a single man in need of companionship or, simply, a dancing partner for the night.
Derek ‘Freddie’ Mills of the Florida Chapter presented me with twelve music CDs each representing a sample of the repertoire of music played at the event since 1999. I plan to play one of the CDs each Sunday as I enjoy my Sunday dinner. They are mostly oldies so quite appropriate for Jamaican style Sunday dinner. From the CD covers I learnt that Freddie McGregor was the guest artist in 2008 and Leroy Sibbles filled this spot last year. Now I will give ten points to the person who can recall who were the guest artists in 2005! This year it was the turn of Lovindeer to ‘sweet up de place’ with his lyrics. I found it unbelievable that Lovindeer who was at KC before my time does not have a single strand of gray hair; maybe one day he will tell us his secret, assuming that it is not some secret ingredient.
A few of us tried to estimate the size of the crowd this year. Was it more than in previous years? Was it more that the crowd in 2009? It was hard to tell, but it seemed a little less than last year’s crowd. If so, it probably was due to the economic depression gripping the USA and particularly Florida. For my part, I can accurately estimate the number of chickens in a coop or cows in a pasture but estimating the number of persons on a dance floor does not come easy. I noticed that Derrick Errar who was a member of the group collecting tickets at the door had a counter presumably to get a count of all who entered the hall, so maybe he will be able to confirm the size of the crowd later on.
We must congratulate the members of the Florida Chapter for organizing and putting on this wonderful event that so many of us look forward to attending year after year. Next year it will be on Saturday October 1st, a date that I have already marked in my calendar. See you there. So who were the guest artists in 2005? They were Keith and Tex Fiona. Remember them?