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IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Schooldays were happy days

ROY R. MORRIS, [email protected]

IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: Schooldays were happy days

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THANKS TO FORMER journalist and veteran public relations practitioner Marcelle Greenidge, over the last few weeks I have been reminiscing about my days at primary school.

Every person who knows me knows that I am a proud old scholar of Coleridge Parry School, but not nearly as many would know that I also attended St James Mixed School, now known as St James Primary and before that St James Composite.

That was way back before the days of school meals, when the morning break came with a glass of [powdered] milk and two crispy Eclipse biscuits that came in squares of four in a “tin-in” container that was reused even after it turned rusty.

That was a time before there was a St James Secondary, now Frederick Smith Secondary, blocking the wind that blew freely from the direction of Trents Plantation House and kept the building cool, when the perfect afternoon treat was classes held under the “evergreen” trees.

Today I look back and recognise that our teachers back them must have been exceptionally talented because for all my years there at least four classes were conducted simultaneously all day long in the “hall” where the only thing separating them was the walkway of just a few feet and the place where the board and easel stood. Yet one class did not interrupt the next.

Back then the head teacher (not principal) and his or her strap were never separated, so hard ears little boys like me were never in any doubt about the consequences of our misdeeds – and punishment was never delayed.

I recall the time when the sole janitor/custodian was Ms Butcher, and she kept St James Mixed spick and span. You did not dare drop a sweetie paper and then declare “My mother din send me school to pick up garbage!” When she opened the doors around 7 a.m. and students started arriving, she was often the only adult there and she was treated with as much regard as any teacher. In fact, the only thing she didn’t do was share “licks”.

My fondest memory of this firm but gentle lady dates back to a time when there was nothing else for lunch in the Morris household but the bakes we took to school. Recognising that we were “shame” to be seen with our bakes in greasy brown paper, she offered us the obscurity of the milk room to eat and then wipe the grease from our faces.

On another occasion, I was foolish enough to get into a fight with one of my sisters at school and be seen by Ms Butcher, who called my mother at work at the nearby Sandy Lane Hotel. I don’t know how she got there so fast, but in a hurry she administered some serious licks and disappeared back through the gate as quickly as she had appeared.

But Ms Butcher was also our caretaker away from home. In our household my mother had a rule from which no one dared deviate. She had to be at work at Sandy Lane for 7 o’clock and “not a fella” left the house after her, which meant we were at school every morning by 7 and under the care of Ms Butcher.

I cannot reflect on St James Mixed, however, without mentioning the late Mrs Enid Reid, my class teacher. She was an angel, always polite, never raising her voice, and she commanded the absolute respect of every child, whether in Infants “A” or Class 7, as existed at the time.

Long after I moved on to Coleridge Parry, Mrs Reid continued to keep tabs on me and others she had taught, and entertained us in her home for years just to make sure we were not letting her down by our conduct.

So if you are a past student of this institution at Trents in St James, now would be a good time to connect with and join the fledgling Friends of St James Primary School organisation, which has planned an alumni week for later this month.

It will begin with Family Volunteer Day at the school on Saturday November 26, followed by a service at St James Parish Church the following day at 9 a.m. On November 28 there will be a parenting workshop at the Holetown Methodist Church at 6:30 p.m., led by retired educator Marcia Graham, who was a young teacher there when I wasa student.

Well known historian Morris Greenidge, the son of Ms Butcher, will lead an event titled Talk Tour: Our School On History’s Page on November 29 starting at 9 a.m., and there will be a fun day at the neighbouring Trents Playing Field on December 1.

A grand reunion has been planned for Friday December 2 at the school hall, and an old-time bus excursion to Barclays Park and Bath the following day. Buses will depart Trents at 9 a.m.

And be sure to join the group on Facebook.

Safety the priority

The decision of the Ministry of Health to condemn the Constitution River Van Stand because of the awful conditions existing there has left a nasty taste in my mouth – and not because I disagree with the decision, because I don’t.

In fact, I believe it should have been done long ago and that the facility should now be ordered closed until corrective action is taken. It ought to be an arrestable offence to prepare food for public consumption in a facility that has no running water. Worse than that is how a patron can actually purchase and consume food prepared in such circumstances.

I have nothing against the operators, but they must operate in a manner that does not place the health of their patrons at risk, which brings me to the coconut vendors that line our streets. I will continue to buy from them, but never by the bottle. I’m happy to punch and pour myself.

Here’s my problem. When a fellow sets up at 7 in the morning and is at the side of the road all day, where does he go to relieve himself? Where does he wash his hand afterwards? What does he do when he blows his nose? Does he dip from the same container that he uses to keep his cutlass clean?

I’m sorry, but we tolerate too many unhealthy practices on the premise of giving the small man a chance.

Airport upgrade necessary

Facebook has been hot with criticism of the Government since it was announced this week that we are about to spend $240 million on upgrades to the Grantley Adams International Airport. Many are apparently angry, complaining that it was not so long ago that the airport was upgraded at considerable cost.

They want to know why the country would spend so much on an airport when the hospital needs help and taxpayers can’t get their income tax refunds.

I respect everyone’s right to have and voice his or her opinion and I certainly have no inclination to defend this Government, but we have to be fair. GAIA presents the first impression of our country, and in addition to looking good it has to be functional and efficient.

We cannot continue to operate an airport with drive-up stairs when everyone arriving boarded via safe, comfortable air bridges. We cannot land a plane and keep people on board for half an hour because it is raining heavily. We cannot make people in wheelchairs feel welcome when we greet them with an elevator truck as if they are cargo.

Look at Miami International Airport, JFK, Hartsfield in Atlanta, LAX in Los Angeles, Reagan International on the outskirts of Washington DC, or Heathrow or Gatwick in London and tell me if you have ever entered any one of these and there was not some building or upgrading project going on. Airports are always an expensive work in progress.

Yes, we have to look after the hospital. Yes, we have to prioritise our project. Yes, the Government has to ensure that it awards contracts to the best tender and not its best friend’s tender. But at the end of the day if we want to stimulate our economy and make money to fill our needs, then we have to be prepared to spend money.

And since GAIA was not designed for air bridges then we have to redesign it to accommodate them.

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