On that January day in 1963 when I stepped onto the campus of 2a North Street, in khaki short pants and purple-and-white cotton tie, classically knotted in the 'candy bump' style, I was convinced that I had arrived in paradise, or so it seems now.
The November the year before I had turned 11 and two years prior to that I had been at a country Primary School, getting significantly less quality teaching that I received at Jones Town Primary school. Jones Town 'brightened' me up and allowed me to be one of the 2,000 gaining free places at the first try in 1962.
In those days the school term enjoyed a certain logical time line. It began in January. So, there I was in One Delta. Stars were in my eyes and being the third child (first boy) I am certain that my parents must have seen themselves doing good as my two elder sisters were at Ardenne, a high school that I saw as a 'girls school' for my entire six years at KC where losing was never a part of our lexicon.
He was then Rev. Ramsay and he taught me Latin and, the very boring (to me)BK- Bible Knowledge. But he was also the complete teacher.
One day during one of Rev. Ramsay's Latin classes, a student sought and was granted permission to leave for a bathroom break. A few minutes later he returned to the door and, as was the norm, sought permission to reenter the class. He stood there with a finger in the air, hoping to catch the attention of the stern Latin teacher. Rev. Ramsay saw him, turned and somewhat disdainfully said, 'Yes?'
The boy said, by way of permission, 'Can I come in sir?'
I cannot recall the look on Rev. Ramsay's face but the disdain showed must have increased as he answered, 'I don't know.'
A few of us boys in the class snickered. What was the 'small islander' clergyman up to? The boy thought that he had erred in some minor way so he then said, 'Sir, please sir, can I come in?'
Rev. Ramsay peered over his spectacles and became more expressive with his hands. He gesticulated and said, 'I really do not know. I have no idea whether you are capable or not of coming in!'
We snickered again as a few of us got it. Then it also dawned on the boy too. 'Sir, may I come in?''Yes, you certainly may,' answered Rev. Ramsay and from that that day we all learned the highly underrated difference between 'can' and 'may.' 'Can I' implied self doubt. 'May I' simply sought permission.
Each morning at PE we would have 'Youngster' Goldsmith. Short, bald-headed and mucho muscular- expressive biceps and pectorals. We began with just jumping- feet apart-together, arms up and at the sides in tandem. After minutes of that, it was alternate bending to the sides, then forward- knees unbent, hands to the ground and backwards.
After that we went to the grass, drawing out feet up towards our arms then with repeated pushes, out full-stretched. By this time, we were sweating. We would then trot in place, all the while hearing Mr. Goldsmith exhorting us, 'Up with the knees, up with those knees!'
Rev. Ramsay I never liked 'Chapel', not the daily, general one or the double period on Wednesdays. But you made me know the real difference between 'can I' and 'may I'. Many others things that I am today at 62 must be laid at your feet, the good stuff, that is.
Mr. Goldsmith, I never became the good runner or footballer as many of the colleagues of mine you molded into world-class athletes. Many other things that I am today at 62 must be laid at your feet, the good stuff, that is.
These men along with Bishop Gibson, 'Dougs' and Wally Johnson built 'citizens' while other schools were trying to transform boys into men. Their passing pulls me back to that January morning in 1962.