by Conrad Savariau
When I began attending Manning's in January 1958, I was placed in Form 2C. I wasn't aware if Forms 2A, or 2B were overcrowded, didn't have the stuff to be in either, or simply a misfit. I opined then, that even if I were to be placed in First form, I'd just be as exuberant to be a student. It was an aspiration of mine, and I’m certain it were of others.
I considered myself an all-rounder, capable of participating, and performing well in various activities. First, I started with high jump, but only managed to scale the height where guys like Manzie Linton and Victor Brooks started.
I tried long jump, but it was more like diving as after hitting the springboard I descended to the sand pit touching down hands first often prostrated and getting sand in my mouth. Yes, the Track, I thought, was a better idea, especially the appeal of the 220 yards so; I practiced to master this distance. The 100 yards was beyond my scope, given the wide array of sprinters, and the 440 was definitely not my choice. I would regularly mingle in the general area where fellow athletes mingled hoping to run with a group to outrun someone. I specifically remember these three known runners, Alfred Buchanan, Leslie Franklin and George Delisser (my classmate). I remember running the 220 with these three and about five others. It was not an organized, but rather an impromptu race, and I was placed….ninth, or last. I was relentless as I had been resolute about qualifying for this particular distance. But I relentlessly......chased the other athletes so; I gave up track and field.
I was assigned to Morris House, and attempted to exhibit my batting skills representing my House against Clark House. It was my time to bat, and with bat under my arm I headed onto the field to ensure victory. I could hear the chanting of the spectators saying, go Stedger, and I felt good. I believe the bowler was Clarence Clarke, a pace bowler (if I'm mistaken, I have every right to as I was truly ridiculed).
Confidently, I slowly looked around where I should hit the first ball... for six, I took a swing as he released the ball, and two wickets were uprooted. I was .......embarrassed as the chanting greeted me on my rapid return with a first ball duck.
Next I decided I'd try soccer, but even before I could take it seriously I became cognizant of how dwarfed I was. I was being greatly overshadowed by Anton Tomlinson and the young stalwart, Ansel Philp and other protégés so; I obligingly gave up the effort, and resorted to spectating.
It's noteworthy, that Manning's had a vibrant swimming team. For those who are not aware, this is how it began. In early February 1958, I heard that Mr. King (he's from Barbados), was recruiting swimmers, I quickly enrolled, and so did others. I must also mention here, that we also practiced and played water polo, including the girls. It was Mr. King’s desire to incorporate both in our annual sport events in the near future, given their popularity among both male and female swimmers.
Mr. King told us about the impending competition in Kingston of the All Island High School Swimming Championship to be held at Bournemouth Bath, that we had a time constraint issue, thus our training time will be limited to only four weeks, and that we should also practice as much as we can over the weekends.
He scheduled the practice at the Fort to begin the first week of March for two evenings each week. About ten of us showed up. Some, it would appear came learning to swim.
Our bi-weekly training at the Fort afforded us "privilege" as others were discouraged to be in the water with us. I can only attribute this treatment to the presence of about five girls that regularly trained with us.
By the second week Mr. King selected the team members. We began practicing the flip overs for the breast and backstrokes, butterfly and freestyle. We marked a measured distance of 50 yards beyond the Fort's wood enclosure learning to swim in lanes to and from this mark.
He was satisfied with our fitness and we were prepared to take on the speedsters of vaunted and highly touted leading Kingston High Schools including KC, JC, St George's, Calabar, Excelsior, Wolmer's and others that dared to challenge us.
We were now ready to make our debut in the 1958 All Island High School Swimming Championship at the Bournemouth Bath, in late spring.
The team members were: Victor Brooks, Captain, Karl McGregor, Cosmond Vaughn, Victor Ferguson and I. We didn't win, but did well placing 7th. There were about 12-13 competing teams. We could've done much better had we had previous experience in a swimming pool.
It is common knowledge, that is, it was rumored that the stage was deliberately set for Victor not to win the 100 meters after defeating the favorite Nash in the heats. Nash was being hyped to represent Jamaica at the Olympics.
I remember there had been a commotion after the heat, but we were oblivious to why, but the following day when we arrived the 100 meters race had already been completed without Victor. We were profoundly disappointed, but we were grateful for the experience as we left our mark at Bournemouth.
It’s highly probable we could win the championship in 1959 given our performance, but the rude awakening, I assume, was just too much for our Coach to remain motivated.
Unfortunately, that was the only year Manning's competed in the event.
To sustain this new sport momentum, Manning's staged a Swimming Championship amongst its swimmers, I believe late May 1958. I won all events (only because Victor was absent) and thereby lauded as swimming champion.
I'm indebted to Mannings High, and so should every student that walked through its gates. The knowledge I obtained was second to none. The solid foundation it facilitated was a corollary to providing me a platform for further growth. This growth has greatly contributed to my successful Tertiary Education, Certifications, and rapid ascension on the corporate ladder functioning in leadership roles of different Corporations both in Jamaica and the United States.
Manning’s High School, that's what's it all about!