Bassy - Love Vine
February 8, 2013

Back to school after 60 years

Ah wrote before about Dr David Joyette, my former villager and near-bah now ah Canadian citizen, who came up wid ah niche I-dare of giving-back a lasting gift to his homeland. “Books, just get dem to read,” he says, holds de key to success. Having been in de education system both at home and abroad, he believes dat no school is complete without its own Library.{{more}} So he has embarked on correcting ah his-terror-call wrong, he shops foh books every and any way he hear dey’s ah sale; he stockpiles dem in his garage, den he thinks of ah school back home and its particular needs, primary, secondary, tertiary etc, pack about five hundred in boxes and barrels and ship dem home. He has been doing remarkable so far: Grammar School, GHS, Covent Kingstown, Community College; his Alma Mater, Kingstown Anglican, and Tommy Saunders Secondary.

Last Monday was Tommy Saunders Secondary moment, and ah got ah reminder call from principal, John Renton to stand in for Dr Joyette. In ah way Tommy Saunders Secondary is my Alma Mater, except dat when ah went dey, it was a Primary School, Richmond Hill Government School (RHGS).

Immediately ah began to nostalgia-lies: ah ‘member dem Easter and Christmas concerts, in sports how RHGS was primary school winner in cricket and football; ah remember wen ah Magician from South America came to de school, like he knew only card tricks, he got boring, and when we started to mek noise he went to his bag an’ took out ah rope, he wrapped de rope all over his body, from neck to crutch, den he called foh de two strongest boys in de school to pull de rope, we had dat foh sure, Steve Joshua and Big Bull Simmonds. Pan-de-mourn-yum broke loose, de Magician began to choke, he was gasping foh breath and his eyes bulging, school-children screaming foh joy; but craw-poo right when it say “what is joke foh school pickney is death foh craw-poo.” Tommy Saunders saw danger, possible death, he pulled out his leather strap, ran on de stage and pelt lashes at Steve and Big Bull, den he turned pon de Magician and gave him ah real cut-R’ce, no fake! no magic. Dat’s de kind ah School Days I had.

So bright and early Monday morning ah was at Tommy Saunders Secondary, de top gate was closed wid ah dozen students waiting outside, we got locked-out! Back in my time, if yuh late yuh hide because was licks. Assembly was in full swing, so ah entered from de Peace Mo end. Dey were in orderly formation, just like in my day; except we had exercise and inspection: “hands up, down, out and in, roll hands, stretch out hands and grin yuh teeth!” De teacher den inspected our nails, check out teeth, push ah pencil thru our hair to mek sure it was combed.

Dey sang de National Anthem and said de Pledge. Ah heard some beautiful voices singing, and ah told dem so. Dey were extremely quiet thru-out Assembly, and ah don’t think it is because of my presence. My wife and Principal, John Renton worked together at Mespo Convent, she told me dat John ah great leader, ah stiff disciplinarian, He spoke to dem in stern language, so too did PE Teacher, Fuzzy Harry. Den it was time foh de interesting announcements.

Tommy Saunders is strong in Sports and Athletics, and dey preparing foh dis year’s Inter Schools Championship. Ah 15 member team goes to de Bo-bid-us Relay Fair later dis month, as dey prepare for de Inter School Sports and de Penn State Championship in de USA. It was announced also dat three of the school’s athletes, Shafiqua Maloney, Kerina Hooper and Nick-Ann Stapleton the junior, Intermediate and senior girls champions at de 2012 Interschool Champs, were awarded last weekend by Team Athletics SVG for dey performances.

However, de announcement dat woke me up was de “Cafene Typing Speed Award” de school won at de School’s National Science Fair. De gist ah de project is dat if ah typist drinks coffee, his/her typing speed is likely to increase as ah result ah de Cafene. Lie-Za says, no Cafene could beat de good ole salary increase.

Finally it was my big moment, time to tek centre stage and mek de presentation. Needless to say de students took de opportunity to mek noise, giving me ah warm welcome, but ah was flattered. Ah couldn’t just go dey and hand over books and nah tell dem how it was exactly sixty years ago in 1953, RHGS headed by Tommy Saunders had launched ah Harmonica Band at Assembly, dey were twelve Har and Her-Monicas some ah dem had to be females; four sections: treble, tenor, alto and Bass played by Mighty Sheller.

Ah even remembered de marching song “White coral bells upon a slender stalk.” And to prove ah was not lie-in and pulled my Her-monica from my pocket and started to play, ah youngster on the key-boards picked up de lively rhythm’n’ tempo, and foh once ah was sounding good. Bud de students broke into ah laughter dat got increasingly louder; “yuh making ah ass ah yuh-self Bassy” ah said to me-self. Ah saw like ah shadow moving in de corner ah me eye, when ah glance across, it was Principal Renton, dancing away, he is de “not he bwoy” from Scotland, cork-here-shun naturally, so he was nice-in up de session wid his movements, head moving one way, hand another and feet and waist trying to get to gather. De tune went flat because ah had to join in de laughter too. It was ah good mission, de students promised to read just one ah dem 500 books and mek Dr Joyette’s dream come true.

And wid dat is gone ah gone again,

One Love Bassy

Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.