Naparima College staff of 1962
7 years at Naps (1954-61)
Richard Charan firstname.lastname@example.org Multimedia Editor
DURING the dark days of World War II (1939-1945), Edward Algoo packed his bags and emigrated from Guyana to Trinidad with wife Doris, after his oil company employer closed operations there.
Algoo found work at Trinidad Leaseholds Ltd (now Petrotrin) and the young couple would have seven children, who all went on to achieve success.
One of the Algoo offspring, Stanley, as a pupil of Naparima College, San Fernando, became only the second boy from South to win an Island Scholarship, breaking the North’s monopoly on the awards.
Stanley would obtain degrees at McGill University and the University of British Columbia, Canada, before returning to Trinidad to serve as head of Central Library Services (predecessor to Nalis) South, and head librarian at the Carnegie Library, San Fernando.
He returned to Canada, obtained a Master of Library Science degree and retired as a director at the Scarborough Public Library, Toronto.
However, Stanley Algoo never forgot his roots, or the school that educated him. He helped form the Naparima Alumni Association of Canada, which raised funds for various improvements at the Presbyterian school started at the turn of the 20th century, and returned to Trinidad frequently to join in activities there.
Algoo has since penned his recollection of his days at “Naps”, between the years 1954-1961.
His writing also chronicled the larger history, lost to many, of the final years before Trinidad and Tobago’s independence. What follows is part of Algoo’s story.
There are many things that influence an 11-year-old student entering secondary school which help to shape the experience with which he leaves upon graduation.
In January 1954, when I entered Naps, World War II had ended nine years ago. The Americans who, by the Destroyers for Bases Agreement September 1940 with the British, had been granted 99-year leases for areas in Trinidad—Chaguaramas, Wallerfield, Carlsen Field, Green Hill in Cedros, and Manzanilla Bay—had withdrawn to only Chaguaramas, from where their popular armed forces radio WVDI could be heard faintly throughout the island.
The hectic German U-boat activity around the Caribbean and Trinidad made Trinidad the hub of Allied air headquarters for South America.
At Tembladora, Trinidad was the trans-shipment point for bauxite (alumina) and at Pointe-a-Pierre (where my dad worked), was the largest oil refinery in the British Empire.
Both bauxite and oil were requisite for the Allied Forces.
During WWII, Wallerfield became the largest airfield in the world and at its height saw planes landing at the rate of one every three minutes.
So busy did Wallerfield become that the U-boat mission had to be moved to Carlsen Field in Couva.
Many sightings of Germans were reported in various coastal areas of Trinidad by older rustics who had no idea they were any different from the white colonials who ran the country. They reportedly bought provisions at good prices, which made them popular with country folk.
Their nemesis Americans were everywhere—barrelling down country roads on patrol; hailing kids out of airships (Zeppelins) while dropping gum and candy to them.
By 1954 the Americans in Trinidad were mainly a memory in the WWII calypso Rum and Coca Cola, which confirmed the rest and recreational function of Manzanilla beach, where injured and “de-mobbed” soldiers were sent before their return to the USA.
Much of this information disappeared from the Trinidadian memory because WWII was conducted with minimum information-sharing with the natives since Britain was their master and communication between the British and Americans was considered sufficient.
Additionally, with America downsizing its presence in Trinidad, contractors denuded the bases of saleable material and only the runways remained as witness to this history.
The other influential event in my life was the British expedition’s success on May 29, 1953 of reaching the summit of Mt Everest.
The news reached London in time to be released on the morning of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, June 2, 1953, after her accession to the throne on February 6, 1952 upon the death of her father George VI while she was on a tour of Kenya.
To my mind, this was devastating news, a kind of violation of the last mystery of planet Earth. This sacred site was in India, my ancestral home, and had always defied Imperial mankind but now was another European conquest that validated their claims to evolutionary superiority over the non-white world.
The post-WWII era saw the waning of the British Empire, to which our curriculum was yoked, and the ascending influence of American economic and cultural hegemony, which was disparaged as superficial compared to the heritage of England and Europe.
In Trinidad, this struggle for influence led many Trinidadians to choose migrating to Britain as the Mother Country, while others migrated to the USA, enthralled by the lifestyle they saw propagated in the movies.
Across Europe, Winston Churchill once more “marshalled the English language” and dropped an “Iron Curtain” that separated communist Russia from its once Western alliance.
The world ended a hot war and began a Cold War era of threatened mutual nuclear annihilation.
Once the Russians launched the space age with Sputnik1 on October 4, 1957, Trinidad and the rest of the world were locked in the battle of ideological supremacy between Capitalism and Communism.
In the rivalry between East and West, a classmate had a brother, Dr Randolph Teemul, who had obtained a Russian scholarship and was studying in Moscow. I discovered this bizarre event through intermittent enquiry of him about his brother by one of the masters.
Many Trinidad politicians and advocates supported Marxism in an effort to overthrow British Imperialism and gain Independence.
These were the global influences impacting a young boy’s experience at secondary school from 1954-1961.
Part II next Monday
Editor’s Note: Stanley Algoo lives in Markham, Ontario, Canada, with his wife, Imogen Foster-Algoo, and son Brendon, a film-maker whose work has been screened at more than 70 world film festivals, including the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, and secured 15 awards and nominations.
Algoo has helped edit and promote books by Trinidad writers, including Oswald Berkley (Your Stories Have Me So Bazodee), Fred Thornhill (Dsylexic: Different not Disabled), Kenneth Lalla (A Republic in Constitutional Transition (Trinidad and Tobago), Valerie Belgrave (Ti Marie) and Noor Hassanali (Teaching Words).