St. George's College
Good & True ...issue# 47...November, 2006
I pulled open the door and stepped into the ballroom. The brightness of the white table cloths covering 25 dinner tables was almost blinding, and if it were not for the 10 blue cloth napkins on each table, my eyes would not have been able to adjust to the beauty of the room. Ceiling lights illuminated the huge O'Hare mural on the wall behind the speaker's podium. It was quiet in the room, except for the tinkling of the knives and forks being adjusted on the dinner tables by a half dozen waiters and waitresses. "Sir, we are not ready to receive guests yet," came a voice from a waiter beside me, who seemed to have snuck up on me from nowhere. "I know", I said. "I just wanted to see what the room looked like quickly before we all sat down."
That said, I turned and pushed the door I came in through, and entered the lobby area outside the ballroom again. The noise from all the chatter going on between about 150 people was almost deafening. "Neilus, ma boy. You made it," shouted Paul Bitter over the chatter with hand outstretched for a shake. I shook his hand firmly and glanced to his left at his lovely wife Melanie whom I immediately leaned over and gave a quick peck on the cheek, for I had to outstretch my arms quickly to offer a big hug to Tony Wong who was next in line to greet me. I got an even bigger one from June, his wife. Up walked Fr. Hosie with his Fr. Hosie smile that seemed to tell me that all was well for today and will be for tomorrow too. Hugs were being given freely all over the room now. It was truly something to see.
The hug I got from Johnny Black was almost crushing while some of his white, neatly trimmed beard tickled my right ear. He was dressed smartly, with dreadlocks cut just a little below his shoulders, and tied in a ponytail. A far cry from the haired Johnny Black I saw a couple years ago at Cable Hut beach. 'Twas as if his mom dressed him for the occasion. "Yu looking good Dallyhouse," he said. "You too, Johnny B!" I shouted sharply over room chatter. I really meant it, as Johnny B is nearing the 70th wrung on his ladder.
More people were pouring in now, making the lobby a bit stuffy. Fr. Francis Ryan walked in, aided by a cane. "This 80 year old leg of mine is really starting to make me mad," he said "I have to drag it around with me wherever I go now." He smiled at his own joke. Many around him laughed at his comment, but deep down I felt he was in some awful pain. Archbishop Larry Burke was next to step into the frame of things, and while shaking his hand, I smiled and said, "Boy, you're looking good!" He replied, "Neil, I am getting a little concerned with that compliment, because there seems to be three phases in my life, youth, middle-age, and "Boy, you're looking good!"
It was also good to see Fr. Larkin whose smile was almost as good as Fr. Hosie's. His smile only seemed to assure me that all went well today, but that tomorrow was going to be doubtful. Then I was surprised to see Fr. Dziak on the island. I thought he had been grabbed by some unknown tribe during his world travels, as many of my emails to him went unanswered over the past year or so. He said he couldn't miss this event, and was now on his way to another assignment. I would have loved to have chatted with him a bit longer to hear of his recent exploits, but alas, there was no time to do this.
Now initially, I did feel kinda bad from time to time for not being a good host, as Len Crooks and his wife Debbie Hamilton were invited to accompany my son Jeffery and me to this event, and I had left them standing against the wall in the lobby while I selfishly greeted my old school comrades. Looking back at them every now and again however assured me not to worry, as I could see them chatting and laughing with a lot of people they also knew. Jeffery I kept in tow, as I tried to introduce him to as many people as I could, whispering some little experience I had had with each person during my childhood years.
At about 8:00pm, the doors opened, and people walked into the ballroom towards their tables. The distinguished looking Pokar Chandiram approached and we hugged. Next came Philip Samms walking in with a cane, followed by Aggrey Irons, also supporting a cane. (Canes seem to be quite fashionable on the island lately, it seemed.) Someone pointed out the oldest old boy in the room Noel Hall, class of 1938. It always moves me to see someone from those years show up at these events. There were others who didn't seem to change over the years, like Dynamite Lyn, who has no wrinkles in his face at all. Senator Dwight Nelson, another smiler, whose smile will light up any dark room during a blackout. Gerry Foster, whose white hair and beard reminded me of the comedian Foster Brooks, Michael Abrahams, David Phillipson, Ian Wong, and his wonderful sister Paulette (who volunteers, cooks for, and attends as many StGC functions as she can) were there too. If we had more like her around, the school would be in a class by itself. Then there was Petius Chang and his dear wife Janice. Looking around the room I saw Carl Chang, sitting proudly with friends at his table, wearing his Toronto StGC tie, which incidentally was the talk of the evening, as everyone wanted to find out how to get one. All the Canadian boys had one, and 2 or 3 Jamaica Chapter old boys sported one through the graciousness of Ray Chang, who doles them out very sparingly to those who have done a very good deed for the school lately. Donovan Chen See, big Bruce deSousa, Bollo Williams and a host of others were also in the room to cheer on the inductees. Of course, no event like this would be complete without the Skedron, who flew down to be there as well.
Aggrey was a fantastic MC as usual, insuring he had a funny quip following every serious statement he made. He truly is a master at the MC role. He began the evening by introducing Fr. Peter McIsaac, Regional Superior - Society of Jesus and Chairman, Board of Management to say Grace. (I later learned Fr. Peter is from Winnipeg). Then when Aggrey introduced Mrs. Margaret Campbell, Principal, StGC, I perked up. I knew nothing of this lovely lady before the event, and was dying to see what she was made of. She began by joking about the fact that she didn't have the privilege of attending the school, but that her grandfather, her father, her uncles, husband, cousins, brothers and sons all did, and that somehow she felt she did go herself. I found her to be highly educated, well spoken, charming, very respected within the community, and most of all, dedicated to the betterment of the school and its 1420 boy and 84 girl students attending 2 North Street today. If anyone currently has the slightest doubt in their minds about her ability to get the job done, take it from me, "Forget it!"
Fr. Leo Quinlan wasn't able to make it that evening, and I know he certainly would have enjoyed himself. Many old boys would have loved to have shared the evening with him, but unfortunately, he was unable to attend. Each table however, had a few copies of a little red booklet that contained 8 pages of an interview with him about his life and times in Jamaica and with the school. The interview was conducted by Fr. Thomas J. Sheehan. Apparently, there were only 40 copies made, but I was able to skank one before I left the building.
Ray, our main man from Toronto sat proudly with his other half, Donette, both intently listening to our Ontario president Danny Ho Lung, as he brought greetings from Toronto. The room broke into loud cheer when Danny announced that the Ontario Old Boys Chapter was donating two cheques, totaling $204,000 Canadian, from the Ontario Chapter and from donations received by the Canadian Old Boys membership.
Then the presentations were made to Claude McMorris, Class of 1944 (Sports), Fr. Leo Quinlan, S.J. (Education), Dr. Ralph C. Thompson, Class of 1944 (Education), Fr. Francis Ryan (Education). When Ray's name was called, he received a loud cheer from the small Toronto contingent whose clapping and cheering drowned out that of the rest of the room. It was a great moment for me to have been there to witness him receiving his award. Ray deserves a place in the Hall of Fame, as he has certainly done more than his share for the school he loves so dearly.
After the awards, Dr. Ralph Thompson gave a reply on behalf of the Inductees, followed by Closing Remarks from Courtney Currie, current Jamaica Chapter Old Boys President, and closing prayer by Fr. Dziak. Then great music was offered, free of charge, by a mixed bag of great musicians Wayne Armond, Aggrey Irons, and Bentley Ray. Keith Lyn sang a set, and included "Empty Chairs", and so did Pluto Shervington, singing "Ram Goat Liver" both timeless songs. People danced and chatted the night away until the evening ended with a call for the StGC cheers "StGC Good & True" and "Nil mortalibus ardui est" led by Paul Bitter and Gerry Foster. The room rumbled with the powerful voices of over 100 men for about 60 seconds. Then it got quiet as the guys all looked at each other as if to say, "Heck, we can still do it, can't we?"
Another historic night went down in the history books of StGC. I haven't been to many of them, but was sure pleased to be at this one.
Many say they are afraid, afraid to visit the island of their birth because of the violence. Nonsense! Jamaica is not a ghetto controlled by the likes of the merciless Mau-Mau of the 1950s that terrorized the Nakuru District of Kenya.
Jamaica remains an island of beauty, second to none in the Caribbean, with a fun-loving people, who have a great time, when it's time to have a good time. They are able to move about freely, as people do in other countries. They don't walk about, fearing for their lives.
Now don't get me wrong. I am not saying there is no violence, as all you have read about the violence happening there is just about as true as it gets. But statistics indicate that 70% of the violence is all gang related. This gang dissing the other gang, or infringing on each other's territories, killing each other by the hundreds. So what about the other 30% of violence that affects the welfare of the general Jamaican population, you ask? To be truthful, it's no worse than when those of us who migrated to other countries back in the 70's lived there.
Heck! I have been to Jamaica twice this year and had nothing but a great time with a people who know how to have a good time when it's time to do so. So call up Air Jamaica when next you get the urge for a vacation. Tell them "yu waan go home," and be prepared to have a great time, as I can assure you, a good time happens as soon as you step off the plane's gang-plank, and on to the tarmac.
When I got there a few weeks ago and stepped off the plane, the fresh sea smell, the dialect, and an empty Red Stripe bottle assured me that I had arrived at a place I was going to enjoy once again. This was also the beginning of a memorable experience for my youngest son, Jeffery, (30) who set foot on the island for the first time in his life.
I had a few words with my wife the other day, and she had a few paragraphs with me.
That aside, I must extend sincere thanks to Don Wehby and his dear wife for inviting Jeffery and me to attend a great evening at their beautiful home. We were part of a small contingent of members of the Canadian Chapter who went to Jamaica to witness Ray Chang's induction into the StGC Hall of Fame. Fathers Hosie, Ryan and Archbishop Burke were also present. A great time was had by all.
Jack Nicholson's memorable movie line "You Can't Handle the Truth" raises the question "What is Truth?" Truth is that which is. It is all that is. As there cannot be something and nothing, so the Truth, being that which is, must at the same time be all that there is.
If you were not at the 10th Anniversary StGC Ontario Summer Ball this year, you missed the best Summer Ball yet. Over 1,100 people were in attendance. They came from England, New York, Jamaica, Florida, Maryland, LA and boogied their feet off to the sounds of musical ambassadors, Fab 5 from Jamaica.
The 5 backed the fabulous David Rudder from Trinidad and Toronto's own Jay Douglas. These two sang their way into the very souls of the audience. Many going home that night asked how we would top this event next year. Good question! But haven't we always come through?
Two Irish engineers, Patrick and Seamus, were standing at the base of a flagpole looking up. A woman walked by and asked what they were doing. "We are supposed to find the height of the pole, but we don't have a ladder," said Patrick. The woman took a wrench from her purse, unscrewed the bolts at the base of the pole, laid the pole down, grabbed their tape measure and announced "5 Metres" and walked away. Seamus shook his head and said "Typical woman know-it-all. We ask for the height and she gives us the length."
The organizing committee of the 2006 Hall of Fame banquet in Jamaica is to be congratulated on a truly great event. Messrs Pokar Chandiram (Chairman), Donovan Chen See, Bruce deSousa, Dr. Aggrey Irons, Keith Lyn and Phillip Samms put together a memorable night for all those who attended. It was truly unfortunate that Fr. Leo Quinlan was unable to attend, as his presence there would have truly rounded out a perfect evening.
I did manage to grab one of about 40 copies of a printed interview with Fr. Q, and read it with interest. In it, he said that in his youth his mother supported the idea of him joining the priesthood, but that his father wasn't fully for it.
Fr. Q. said, "being stubborn, I entered anyway." What? Him? Fr. Q stubborn? Naah! And he also said his studies at Weston were pretty dull and heavy, that playing sports like baseball and basketball saved life for him there. What? Him? play sports? Naah! Back in school, many of us thought he never liked sports because he seemed to push academics more than anything else.
"Education is learning what you didn't even know you didn't know." Right, Fr. Q? The interview (done by Fr. Thomas Sheehan) went on to state that Fr. Q's first assignment in 1949 in Jamaica was Holy Rosary Church as assistant pastor. Then he worked at the Holy Cross Mission at Half Way Tree. Next he spent 29 years at StGC.
Interestingly enough, he said that StGC was called the Chinese School, as many Chinese sent their sons there. In the first class he taught, 28 out of 30 boys there were Chinese. He said that the superiority of the school, both academically and athletically amongst other schools, did influence some young boys into becoming Catholic. That, I truly believe, because accomplishments during the "Glory Years" of the 1950s would certainly have that effect on many children back then.
After StGC, Fr. Q went to St Ignatius in Brown's Town, then to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in St. Ann's Bay, then Our Lady of Fatima Church in Ocho Rios. He kept up a hectic pace there that sapped his strength so much that, even though he wasn't ready, he seriously gave thought about retiring. His thought was averted when he was assigned to an easier position as parish priest in Point Richey, Florida, where he worked for two years.
After that, I am sure he was pleased to have been re-assigned to Jamaica, and was sent to Above Rocks. He did a short stint there and went back to the north coast for a bit. Then in 1998 went to Campion Centre in Boston after 50 great years of service in Jamaica. I enjoyed reading the contents of the interview, but would have certainly preferred to have seen Fr. Q at the event.
Ah, but the good Lord works in mysterious ways sometimes. Fr. Q keeps saying he is old now. Well Fr Q, I have news for you. Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter. God bless you for all you did for us as a teacher way back when, Fr.Quinlan. "Walk Good!"
Incidentally, heartiest congratulations to two of my good Jamaica College compadres, David Taylor and Chris Wynter. David was recently elected President of the JC O/Bs‚ Chapter here in Ontario, and Chris, elected as Vice president. Please join me in wishing them all the very best.
Do try to get out and support the 2007 JC annual fund-raising dance, to be held at:
The Pearson Convention Centre,
A great wife always forgives her husband when she’s wrong!
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