Time really flies! Yet still, the memories of the great times of the past tend to remain in our hearts and minds. Thank God for allowing us the capacity to retain such exciting moments in our lives, and also to forget the trials and tribulations which attempted to obscure our vision or scar our reputations.
For those who knew me when I was just a kid playing sport in the streets and under the grapefruit trees at my home in San Juan, they all have some quaint stories to tell.
I have often heard of my guardians, Gramsie and Daddy John, two of the most wonderful people I have ever met, and the major sacrifices which they made to see me through Fatima College.
Daddy John was the President of the popular Strollers Club and a fanatical lover of all Sports, although he never came close to being a master of any of them.
Needless to say, his joy was to see me play all sports, regardless of the expenses which he could hardly afford.
I distinctly recall the day that I went home to seek permission to sign a form to play for the Maple Club, at the request of the late Hugh Sealey and the great Maple icon Alan Joseph, who coached Fatima College in my last two years at school.
Clearly, the apprehension was demonstrated by Dad’s body language, much to my surprise, seeing that he supported Football in the POSFL so diligently and was a big fan of Colts Football Club.
And in a most casual mode, he turned and asked me: “Why do you want to join Maple club? “. He followed it quickly by offering alternates like Colts and Malvern and also bemoaned the thought of me not playing for Strollers, for which he was President.
The Trauma and drama lasted about two minutes, especially when I called the name of Hugh Sealey, whose father, the affable and talented sportsman Ben Sealey, was one of his best friends.
And as an afterthought, he mentioned something about my being a country boy and alluded to that fact as though Maple Club was for the “well to do” blacks of Woodbrook, Belmont, and environs, persons who worked for, or were related to people who were attached to the Government of the day.
My naivety did not allow me to understand his trend of thought, neither did I expose my inner thoughts with regards to joining the then prestigious Club.
Nevertheless, the two persons who helped me to make the decision to play for Maple, probably do not know up to this day how they were instrumental in the final choice.
A schoolmate of mine, Alvin “Couche’ Holder, left school the year before me, and joined Maple. He played in the Intercols at Fatima with me and also in the Cricket team.
His bland, but humourous comment, “Boy, come and play with people who know what they doing”.
The other was Edgar Vidale, who played for a Barataria team called “REBELS”, a team which competed with my Dad’s club “STROLLERS” for being the best in the San Juan districts.
After a number of years playing against Edgar, he went on to play for Maple and my appreciation for his ability encouraged me to join the same club.
That was my introduction to the “Government Club”, which seemed to be an entry into the who’s who in Football and cricket.
From the year 1956 to 1960, the sporting events of my life, took me to the scenic Palo Seco for four years playing with Trinidad Petroleum Development where I was offered a scholarship to study Drilling, but truly to play Cricket and Football for the Company, which was run by the sport loving ex patriots..
I returned to Maple in 1960, after having left the oilfields to travel to England with the first ever West Indies Football team in 1959, an honour which the Oil Company wished that I had rejected.
The years when I represented the Club in Cricket, Football, and Hockey (occasionally), were enjoyable and self satisfying, where I earned selection on national teams for many years concurrently.
But I was also reminded of the much talked about unusual policies and regulations which governed this great Club.
The late Eric James, the former General secretary of the TTFA in the days when I played, was also a member of the Maple club, and my many discussions with him gave me an insight into the history and reputation, positive and negative, about life among the High Profile Government Ministers, one Prime Minister,Members of Parliament, Civil and eventually Public servants, Governors of Central Bank, Surveyors, store clerk Supervisors, Doctors and business magnates in the local community.
I often chose to be guided by words and advice of people like Dr. Aldwyn Francis, the President of the club when I joined, Mr. Harold Duprey, a no nonsense, but likeable gentleman, whose love for the club was immeasurable, The brothers Andrew and Cecil Annissette, Mr. Victor Bruce, Governor of the Central Bank and president of the club later on, Member of Parliament Roland Jay Williams, an ardent poker player, who found time to pay attention to club affairs.
Mr. Austin Joseph, a dedicated member and friend of every other member, was a man with a heart of gold, whose love for people was amazing, and you did not have to be from a special level of society to be his friend.
They were not the only ones, but they would be the forgotten icons of an institution which could hardly have existed without the input of their presence.
Like most clubs, there were bits and pieces of rancour, Jealousy, mauve lange, and antagonism, all of which were surpassed by the camaraderie which made the Football program one of the most successful for the longest period.
The Cricket field was also a haven for the Mapleites and it was never out of their reach to win the league of the WITCO knockout competitions.
In many ways, I found great enjoyment in seeing and playing with some fine players, whose extraordinary ability amazed me when I was just a kid. I shall never forget the magical dribbling skills of Matthew Nunes, Squeakie Hinds, whom I idolized, and to a lesser extent Shay Seymour, Rocke Ribeiro,.Chalkie Hamelsmith and Harold Cox.
As I grew into that Savannah Football environment where the sport was supported by fanatics who were passionate about the clubs which they followed diligently, I developed a great connect with fans from everywhere, some of whom still remind me about the good old days and about sensational goals and matches.
It was not surprising to see a number of Maple fans attend practice sessions for both Cricket and football.
My love and appreciation for the Maple fans tended to drive our entire team towards full commitment and eventual success. While I am not an accumulator of statistics, it was not difficult to remember the number of titles which Maple won over the years.
My greater joy was the exposure which I had to my opponents, many of whom became great friends. I could think of people like the General Carlton Franco, Son Baptiste, Willie Rodriguez, The late Jap Brown, Dennis Turton, Gerry Browne, Kelvin Berrassa, Rolly Forde. These great players of yesteryear never compromised their friendship and remained as pleasant throughout our lives. Strangely, those of us who are still alive, hardly see each other often, but the depth of friendship still remains.
My friends from the cricket fields may have strengthened because of the picong we gave each other after some intense cricket matches. Who would ever wish to have players like Prince Bartholomew, Pascall Roberts, Selwyn Caesar, Philo Ferguson, Joey Carew, and Leo John, upend them in a match. The fatigue in the dressing rooms afterwards was more painful than just being bowled for a duck or hit for a few sixes. But it was fun and I always thank them for the great times in my sporting life.
Today, my joy has been reduced to sadness when I see that this great club, with all their high profile citizens, has dwindled into literal nothingness, where only a diehard Rolf Bartolo and a few others are trying to rebuild the institution that it once was.
There is not much of a legacy left for our children and grandchildren, while our failure to recognize history will deprive the modern generation the dream of a rejuvenation of such an outstanding institution
Continuity has failed the Maroon and old Gold, and what was great yesterday is simply forgotten, all because of our own fault.
Ninety years sound excellent, but too little happened in the recent past twenty years for which we could be proud.
Oh, how I wish that some of us could take sometime from our busy and more glamorous schedules to revamp the image of this great sporting institution, one which had brought a level of sporting success, educational prowess, magnificent icons, all of which were able to set examples in their own way to a more responsible lifestyle. I await the ninety first year and look forward to evidence of the love for one of the country’s most respected sporting clubs.