Reprinted from Toronto Chapter’s 39th Annual Magazine
I can never forget that first day at the Institute of North Street. A shy 12-year-old who shared his time between relatives in Kingston and family in various parts of the country, it was with some trepidation that I walked into Clovelly Park on that first Monday of 1954. The first thing that struck me was a sea of khaki-clad figures, many of them around the same size and age as me, but the majority was bigger and older. The school at that time had 600-odd boys, much more than I had ever seen at the elementary schools I attended in Kingston and in Duncans, Trelawny.
Our batch that year was, I later gathered, larger than ever before and consequently we had three A-stream second forms -- 2A1, 2A2 and 2A3. I was assigned to 2A3, occupying a classroom on the ground floor of the main building not far from the entry hallway. Our form-master was a fellow called Kirkpatrick, a recent Sixth Form graduate. He taught English, and introduced us to Rudyard Kipling. We relished the Jungle Book with its cast of fascinating characters -- Baloo the bear, Bagheera the panther, Kaa the rock python and the lawless squadron of monkeys he dubbed The Bandar Log.
Many, many years later, when I had settled in Canada and worked with the CBC news service, this name sprang to mind one afternoon as I staked out the Prime Minister's residence in Ottawa along with a large group of fellow reporters, and photographers. The PM and the provincial premiers were having a working lunch at 24 Sussex Drive to crack some particularly difficult nut in the interminable federal-provincial meetings of those years. Every time a car rolled up to the gate we rushed up en masse to try to get a quote from the occupant. And I remarked to a colleague that we were acting just like the Bandar Log!
Several of our teachers were like Kirkpatrick -- recent graduates awaiting placement for higher learning, mostly abroad. There was Donald Jones, who taught mathematics and physics; Earl 'Ratty' Roberts, who taught Latin; and Edward 'Bumpy' Clarke, who earned a Jamaica
Scholarship and who, tragically, decided to go for a swim in the river after completing his final exams at Oxford. That swim proved fatal. Second form was my introduction to the redoubtable Mr. Crick, who had a mantra he would recite: "Ut with the subjunctive positive, ne with the subjunctive negative, except after ubeo and uetto, which take the present" ... to which we were obliged to chime in with "infinitive!" That was where I also met the unflappable Skipper T -- Mr. Taylor, whose classes required us to traipse over to the next building to his pride and joy, the adjoining Chemistry and Physics Labs.
Upstairs that building is where Carlton Bruce resided in his geography Room, which we were also obliged to visit for our classes. For some reason, which we were never able to discover, our class had acquired a reputation as 'difficult', so when we were promoted, with a few deletions and additions, to 3A, they assigned Ross Murray to be our form master, and he stayed with us for the next three years, right up to SA.
The school continued to grow by leaps and bounds, so much so that they had to add another stream. Whereas before we had A, B and C streams, we now had a D stream, dubbed Delta for clarity. We now had a pavilion from which we could observe sporting and dramatic events, and, as a practical measure, its downstairs acted as a well-needed cafeteria run by the formidable Ms.
Amy Bailey. It certainly was a welcome substitute for the tacky little Tuck Shop which operated out of Hardie House when I first got there.
The list of teachers who came through was long and varied. We had a dour Englishman called Fernyhough, a couple of Anglican deaconesses from England and a German lady, Mrs. Simms, who taught history for a short spell. A perennial favorite was Madame Power, who taught oral French -- a relief from the string of declensions and conjugations we were obliged to undergo in the grammar classes taught by Probyn Marsh, Clem Mullings and, occasionally, the deputy Headmaster and later, full head of the school, Douglas Forrest himself. Taking care of mathematics was John Burrow, who grudgingly endured the stifling dress and discipline regulations but earned the trust and respect of the boys. We became guinea pigs for a new approach to history taught by Noel Whyte, a recent graduate from Mico College who brought with him a poorly-bound but fascinating book on Caribbean history. Perhaps our favorite teacher was Eric Frater, who liked to hold court in his Biology Lab upstairs the Physics Lab.
A couple of the boys in my group -- Patrick O'Sullivan and Tony Stines -- had been classmates from our days at Windward Road Government School. One classmate for a couple of years was the late Barry Huie, and we had some real characters -- Alston Bair, who graduated from his father's curio shop in Fletcher's Land to a career in entertainment; his buddy Linky Wilson, who became a photographer; Phil Clarke, who went off to England to rub shoulders with music stars at famous recording studios before returning home to do the same thing at the JBC before dying in an awful car crash one night. Steve Shelton, now a prominent lawyer, was one of Mr. Crick's favorite foils; then there was Earl Delisser, most recently known for his efforts in helping to launch the unsuccessful National Democratic Movement; the math and physics brain Frank Subaran; Basil Robinson, now a respected physician in Mandeville; Duggy Morais, who used to impress us with his prowess with the electric soldering gun as he made rudimentary radios; and the class wit, Owen Bennett, of the swimming family.
It was at KC that I began dabbling in the activity which became my career. I wrote articles for a science journal that Mr. Frater had started, and for a period edited the Chronicle. Unlike today with our computers equipped with publishing programs allowing us to indulge in all kinds of make-up wizardry, we had a hand-cranked Gestetner duplicating machine with its fragile stencils and an old Smith-Corona portable typewriter. It was on that machine that I taught myself to type, hunting and pecking with just two fingers. I still use two fingers, but can go considerably faster than I did in those hunt-and peck days!