50 years for Rangers
By Gercine Carter | Sun, September 09, 2012 - 12:04 AM
in the 1960s, the young Clevedon Mayers took the initiative and transported the idea of a social club for young people from his native St Lucia to Barbados.
The result is an enduring legacy of friendship and the well rounded development of a generation of Barbadians who today reflect with nostalgia on Bristol Rangers Club.
Over 100 current and former members of the organization will join together next week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of its founding. Last week, four of them took time out from planning for the four days of celebrations to talk to the Sunday Sun about an organization of young people from the 1960s of whom Mayers today remarks: “We were before our time.”
It is a sentiment shared by Harold Hoyte, who said: “Like so many others, it gave me self-confidence because of the nature of the meetings, because of the debates, because of the educational programmes, the influence of people like Clyde Gollop and Marvo Manning . . . . The structure of the club allowed leadership skills to come to the fore and it taught me self-confidence, leadership and discipline.”
The club which Mayers started with just a few friends in School Road, Hindsbury Road, would go on to have several other homes such as the National High School on Pinfold Street, the Federal High School on Collymore Rock, the Barbados Labour Party headquarters for a brief period, and finally, its last home Edwards House in Bank Hall, all in St Michael.
Word spread quickly, and friends brought other friends to join, resulting in a meteoric jump in membership from four to over 100.
There were other vibrant clubs such as Carib Rovers, Little Caribs, the Bluebirds Cultural Society, as well as old scholar associations at that time. But Bristol Rangers proved to be a particular attraction to young people from the St Michael districts of Bay Land, Carrington Village and Bush Hall, though some members were from farther away.
Today, Vanlair Inniss, who lived in St James, acknowledges: “Bristol Rangers was a big part in shaping my life. It formed part of who I am.”
Poring over a scrapbook with Hoyte and the club’s longest serving treasurer, Ivan Straker, Inniss’ memories came flooding back.
“I went there to play netball, but I got more than that. I was still at secondary school (Community High School) and we were given training in the Charm Course conducted by Marvo Manning. We were sent to public speaking courses and then we had the benefit of the older members of the club like Harold Hoyte, Clevedon Mayers, Ivan Straker, and we were able to travel the Caribbean.”
She was a Bristol Rangers netballer, the sport through which the club’s legacy is perpetuated through the well known C.O.Williams Rangers netball club.
“What was the alternative for young people?” asked Mayers, as he reflected on the impact of the club on the community.
The wide range of activities offered ensured rounded development of members. They played cricket, football, table tennis, basketball and netball. They learnt parliamentary procedure through their well-ordered meetings; there were debates and creative fund-raising activities that provided the money for overseas travel, and for assistance to members of the community, especially in Bank Hall, where the club often reached out to residents in need.
Discipline was the hallmark, and in turn, Bristol Rangers earned the respect and trust of the adults who allowed their children to join.
As the three friends reminisced, Straker recalled: “You had to go the parents’ house to get permission for their daughters to come to club and then you had to see them back to the door and you could not leave until we were sure you were inside the house because the parents expected it from us.”
It was the club that Straker said “taught me how to plan, organize, execute. It helped to develop me in my working life”.
He spoke about his first encounter with the club when along with Glyne Murray, Ivan and Tony Waterman, he “went down to National High School and we got swept off our feet”.
“We were able to do so many things – organize dances and parties, which were necessary for us to raise funds. Fund-raising was done through jumble sales, bingo drives, Dutch parties, Chinese auctions.”
And Mayers confirmed: “One of the things that was very important to Bristol Rangers is that we never used club funds for any social activity. You contributed what you could and we accepted it.
“Bristol Rangers was based on that concept of working together and not on the concept of using up what little we raised. We worked together to help one another. That was the strength of Bristol Rangers.”
The legendary Old Year’s Night dance at the Marine Hotel with three of the island’s top bands playing every year was a major fund-raiser and an event high on the social calendar of many Barbadians.
The club also reached out to the Caribbean, organizing the Miss Caribbean Youth Club pageant after successfully staging a similar contest in Barbados annually.
Martinique, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, St Vincent and Guyana participated in that show through which relationships were built beyond Barbados, and the kind of fellowship shared by members here was extended beyond these shores.
Bristol Rangers thrived in an era that was far different from today, responding to the needs of yesterday’s youth. And Mayers said there was still that need for the youth to get together, though “not necessarily doing the things we were doing at the time”.
In his view, today’s generation has different motivations and the Bristol Rangers model has served its time.
Fifty years on, Mayers said: “We have tried to find out what made us do all that we did, and all we can say is we were before our time.”
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