The Naparima College football team of 1953
Happy days at Naps in the fifties
Richard Charan email@example.com
THERE was a time when the southern border of the then-town of San Fernando ended before Cipero River, which empties into the Gulf of Paria near the Embacadere Housing Development.
What existed further south were the plantations that would end up becoming the most expensive real estate in South Trinidad (Bel Air, Palmiste, Gulf View, Green Acres).
It is near this old town limit that Naparima College would be erected. The school had been founded in the churchyard of Susamachar Presbyterian Church at Coffee Street in 1894, and recognised as a secondary school in 1900, allowing it to receive State funding.
Originally named the Canadian Mission Indian School, it was relocated in 1917 to Paradise Hill, overlooking the Gulf on Trinidad’s west coast. And it is here that countless boys, and some girls, got an education of such quality that many would go on to be leaders in their field, and influence the course of Trinidad and Tobago’s history.
Among the students was Stanley Algoo, who attended the college between 1954-1961 and would become only the second male student from the school to win a coveted Island Scholarship.
Algoo recently penned his recollections of his time at “Naps”, recording along the way some of Trinidad’s little known past.
The following is part of his story:
Life on the Hill
The hill overlooked the serene, cloud-changing pelagic colours of the Gulf of Paria in the west, where flocks of seabirds such as pouch-billed pelicans circled, plunged and bobbed with their prey.
The verdant rolling sugar cane fields of Phillipine lay to the south; San Fernando and the adjacent Paradise Pasture, which would be the site of the unique Naparima Bowl with its Greek-styled open-air amphitheatre and indoor auditorium, extended to the north.
The exclusive whites-only Naparima Club, where we were shooed away by a stern-faced white woman when we wandered on to their property in search of dongs during lunch, was only a hedge away.
The less-exclusive Promenade tennis club was past a short cut through “The Tray”, used by boys hustling to catch their buses at the King’s wharf.
In those days the hill was a community of schools and missionary family compound which included the Lutes, Newcombes, Newberrys, Thompsons and later Purdys and Dayfoots.
Besides Naps, there were the co-ed Naparima Teachers Training College, Theological College, and three dormitories (one for the male teachers, another for theological students and one for Naps boys).
When everything was in session the population on the hill was a hubbub of joyful humanity of rambunctious boys and aloof females in swinging skirts, buxom blouses and dangling pony tails moving between classes and their exclusive female restrooms.
Among the female parade were two golden-haired daughters of missionaries. During school days, dressed in Naparima Girls High School (NGHS) uniforms, they wended their way with stoic purpose among 500 appreciative boys to the parent whose car would take them to NGHS at La Pique.
On weekends, a tranquillity descended on the depopulated hill as the sun set in a kaleidoscope of colours shadowing the isolated Gittens house on Farallon Rock in the Gulf, to which a few adventurous guys might swim.
In the courtyard of the Training College, an unattended Rediffusion set echoed nostalgic music and unlistened DJ soliloquies. Some dormitory boys who remained over the weekend would be engaged in meditative study or plans for a movie evening from among the cinemas located near the market with its redolent smells of fresh and decomposing vendibles.
On Sundays, some might find themselves at evening service at Susamachar church assessing the NGHS dorm girls who were compelled to attend.
On a cycling trip around the island with Brinsley Samaroo, I discovered that the Naps dormitory boys (at whom we stopped over) came from distant points of the island and their fraternity added a unifying identity to the college as day students hung out after hours with dormitory classmates, bonding with stories of their home locality and current school experiences which made for life-long friendships.
Many country boys would be introduced to urban experiences like electricity and plumbing, town commerce and health services, and social activities absent from rural areas and which would prime them for study and living abroad as many ended up doing.
Teenage boys are always hungry and dorm food at $6 per month was sparse and unappetising, consisting of bread each morning and evening in combination with some of the following: cheese, sardines, jam, butter, scrambled eggs, corned beef, saltfish-choka and bhajee.
Stewed chicken/beef/fish with talkari such as bodi, ochro, pumpkin, moko, curried channa, chataigne or aloo might appear at lunch with dhal and rice. Tea at 3.30 p.m. was juices, cocoa “tea”, currant rolls, biscuit or coconut sweetbread.
Those who stayed on the weekends had “fat soup” on Saturday, chicken on Sundays. The chickens were sometimes handicapped and missing the choice parts.
Food was prepared over wood fire or gas cookers, but the hunt for food was always on.
Under colonialism Trinidad was run by British functionaries and a white elite Roman Catholic class based in Port of Spain, who controlled the economy. It included anybody who was not black or brown e.g. French creole, Spanish, Lebanese, Syrian, Jews, Portuguese, Chinese or missionaries and expatriates. Two northern schools propagated this power structure. One was Queen’s Royal College (QRC) founded to inculcate Imperial values and colonial compliance and to which Naparima College (Naps) had to be affiliated for government recognition. The other was St. Mary’s College (CIC) the school of choice for the catholic elite. The catholic schools were run with Roman military discipline and focussed on examinations success which made Nap’s default-democracy-character seem chaotic but creative. Protestant Naps with its brown and black student population had just beaten arch rival, mainly white and black Roman Catholic Presentation College, at soccer inter col in October 1953, after three thrilling drawn matches. They were crowned South college champs and went on to face catholic St. Mary’s College, in Port of Spain, for the island championship. Unfortunately both teams used the same colors, vertical striped blue and white jerseys and white shorts. As the host team, protocol demanded that St. Mary’s should switch uniforms which they adamantly refused to do whereupon a biased football official threatened that if Naps did not switch they would forfeit the match. Naps under their benign football captain, the giant Carl Osborne, had no choice but to switch. The uniforms provided by the officials were ill-fitting and impeded some of the smaller Naps players not to mention their confusion in picking out team mates wearing motley colours. The result was a disappointing 6-0 defeat. This Port of Spain bias would prevail throughout my Naps career and would make my final graduation a satisfying triumph over this bias. One of the offsetting influences of this second rate psychology inflicted on south schools was the triumph in 1954 of Alma Lum Ser who won the girls open island scholarship from Naps. There were five open island scholarships which enabled winners to study at any University in the world at government’s expense and carried no national service obligation upon completion. Since 1931 girls from Naparima Girls High School (NGHS) attended Naps for classes unavailable at NGHS. So 1953-4 saw Naps triumph as south soccer champs and winner of one of the coveted five scholarships open to all the schools in the island. - Stanley Algoo
NOTE - If you want to know more about the history of San Fernando, you can read Michael Anthony’s book Anaparima