The Grenada Boys Secondary School Hostel: Reminiscing on a boarding school life in Grenada.
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All those who have benefited from a Caribbean boarding school education would enjoy this book. But it is a “must-read” for those dedicated educators in today’s world who are challenged by their calling to this noble vocation. Dr. Phillips, through his very personal reminiscing has shown and illuminated the fact that strong discipline and an ordered life seasoned by a kind and caring christian environment can nurture young boys into great men. He should be thanked for taking the time to share his transformational experiences at GBSS. K.W. Tx.
Dr. Winston Phillips has provided a book that every child from Beijing and Moscow to Nigeria and Jamaica would find beneficial … “The Grenada Boys Secondary School Hostel: Reminiscing on a Boarding School Life in Grenada” is more than a mere narrative of Phillip’s seven years while a student at the Grenada Boy’s Secondary School (GBSS). His book is addressed to a universal audience and it’s a must read for young people residing in any part of this rapidly changing digital world. The book outlines and encapsulates good qualities essential for a productive and enlightened life … Excerpts from EVERYBODY’S Magazine March 2010 issue.
Reading this book brought back many wonderful memories of my time at the GBSS and my only year (1962) at the Hostel, when I was a Prefect. The stories made me regret not having gone to the Hostel as a junior student, by I am glad that I had a taste of the “Hostel life” when Mr. Scoon was Hostel master and “Sticks” and “Soc” were fellow Prefects. I attribute my being a neurosurgeon to the influence of such great teachers as Sir Paul Scoon, Dr. Devere Pitt and Mr. Otto George in particular. Thanks Dr. Phillips, for a great piece of work and for the joy it has brought to me. Curtis S. Cox, M.D. FACIP
The book recaptures with great storytelling, a period of Grenada’s education system where boys from the countryside resided and schooled on the grounds of the Grenada Boys’ Secondary School on Tanteen at a time when transportation to and from the outskirts of town was very limited. Rather than a stoic historical account of facts and figures, this is a story told by your Father/Grandfather/Uncle/A Family Friend with warm recollection – of friendships, mischief, responsibilities and achievements in an environment away from home that was both thrilling and challenging with a high expectation of every youngster. I thank Dr. Phillips for having written this book about a Grenadian Education Experience those generations after his risk never really knowing about unless we read and talk about it with those who lived it. The stories made me reflect on my own unique, wonderful and challenging secondary school memories that I hold so dear.as do so many of us. It’s a good read for any one of any age.
“A breach of common sense is a breach of Hostel Rules”
Read the above and contemplate the effectiveness of the only written rule at the GBSS Hostel. I don’t think this reviewer will ever recover from the wisdom of the Hostel Rule.
The Grenada Boys Secondary School Hostel [GBSS Hostel] was the boarding arm of the Grenada Boys Secondary School. Dr. Winston Phillips was a Hostel member from 1953-1960. The book is his keen memory of a school environment that produced great scholars, great athletes and disciplined young men
Dr. Phillips estimates that 70% of the boarders were from rural areas, from parishes beyond St. George’s. They were known colloquially as `country bookies’. The `Cayak’ boarders were 28% from sister islands Carriacou and Petite Martinique. From the town of St. George came 2% of the boarders.
A friend and fellow classmate of Dr. Phillips, one Mr. Leon Wells said: “So many of us came to the Hostel as brash, crude, `ignorant’, unhewn base metals, and left as polished gems.”
The Hostel regulated itself, in effect, with structure, boundaries and limitations. There were penalties and one could dip into the lore of past punishments relayed from one’s fellows to imagine what was in store for your ignorant self. There was no written schedule; solely a consistent routine. A bell was the prompt for most activities except awakening. The prefects roused you out of bed at 5.30 a.m. for a half-hour of physical training. There was compulsory school, study periods, dress code, manners, church attendance, physical training and, bless the curriculum-makers, Latin.
Authority figures were the Headmaster who was school-based and the `final straw’ in discipline; the Hostel Master who was a young adult taking a father role, and the Prefects who were select fellow students chosen for peer guidance as examples and encouragement to do good. Prefects sometimes referred discipline infraction by fellows to the Hostel Master; most times advising their fellows. There was the Matron – `Ma Braf’ – whose role was to manage the kitchen and meals. She was responsible for teaching social graces, for example: “Ma Braf also encouraged the breaking of bread with the fingers rather than tearing it apart with the teeth like ravenous jackals over a dead carcass.”
The stories in this book are treasures. Two examples:
Dr. Phillips’ Headmaster was Mr. K.L.M. Smith, M.A., better known to the students as `Sarkies’. For example, “To a boy who brought a goat to school and into a classroom, he announced: `Take him right back where you found him; we have place here for only one goat, and that’s you!'” Known for his sarcastic remarks, `Sarkies’ was observed to have scrutinized GBSS boys at a table, “scrambling over the odd cake.”
Twelve boys, including the author, plus the Hostel Master Mr. Bertram Callender and Matron Ma Braf spent the night under the strong, oak dining tables in the Middle building the evening of 25-26 September 1955 during Hurricane Janet. The roof peeled away, nearby St. George’s Pier sank and the warship docked there sent up flares causing a scare of a fire burning. “We told jokes, sang songs, prayed for the safety of all, and lapsed into long periods of quiet.”
Guidelines for giving young boys [and girls] room to grow to young adults is the concern of educators of our present day. During their formative years, it was authority, regulations, responsibility, creativity, engagement, learning, enjoyment of learning, and expectations for achievement which helped the hostel boy grow into confident, courteous, knowledgeable adults.
A former GBSS Hostel boy, Hostel Master, and later Governor-General Sir Paul G. Scoon would say: “Please and thank you cost you nothing”.
Relationships and interactions of hostel boys, according to Dr. Phillips, was based on a structure that enhanced the continuity of friendships. “A substantial part of the solidifying ethos of the Hostel was the dynamics of relationships as groups of boys transitioned from small boys to seniors,” according to the author.
The physical environment of the school and hostel is described; a glossary provided; seven endearing class photos identify students, and a partial list of Hostel Boys 1940-1970; all are included.
“So is there a Hostel thing?”
Believe it. `The Hostel thing’ will draw you to renew old friendships, to want to know more about the process that causes the strong bond to Grenada Boys Secondary School. Recommended for educators, librarians, Grenadians, non-Grenadians and GBSS alumni of all years.
I was absolutely enthralled and enchanted by your book. It allowed me as a mature woman to become a small country boy, totally involved in the experience, sights, sounds, smells and even tastes of life at the G.B.S.S. Hostel . You have captured exactly the atmosphere of the hostel, and also the essence of life in Grenada at the time so that the reader is properly situated in era in which all these things took place. I loved the vignette of parents sending goodies for their sons on the country busses, and the measures the boys had to take to protect their edibles! The experience was unique and the book is a “must read” for all who went to the G.B.S.S. as well as those who wondered what it was like.
Although essentially reminiscences, the book also provides a colourful history of the school, its environment, real life sketches of its masters and students, and even a bit of the history of Grenada. A Eureka moment for me in my reflections on the book was that what you described happening at the GBSS was actually the working out of an educational theory popular at the time whereby an underdeveloped country could build an educated elite. Bright children were taken from the remote areas and put in a boarding school where they were educated in manners and societal skills as well as the subjects they would need to further their education. Abilities they would need, such as public speaking and debating , to allow them to be heard in the world they were preparing to enter were introduces and honed to perfection. A review of what the “Hostel Boys” later achieved, and how the alumni conducted themselves in their adult life, and the very useful network among the alumni should point to how necessary it is to include some element of “Hostel Life” in schools today particularly the imparting of good manners, seemly deportment, the love of learning, sportsmanship, community building, caring for others and gentle patriotism. I was enriched by reading your book.
Beverly A. Steele, author of: Grenada, A History of its Peoples (Island Histories)– Macmillan Caribbean.
Dr . Winston Phillips’ book “The Grenada Boys Secondary School Hostel”, published Dec 2009, is a personal and professional memoir of distinctive quality and significance.
The absorbing details of almost a decade at the “Spice Island’s ” premier boarding school, back in the 1950’s, have been delineated with thoughtful care and comprehensive story-telling skills by someone whose appreciation of the ‘Concept and Sense of Place’ is evident in every intriguing page of his teenage memories.
Dr. Phillips, an Arizona-based Grenadian economist of international reputation, captures the wide-ranging palette not to mention flavor, tone and nuance of his carefully-documented years of lively Hostel life with a broad and revealing brush.
This is looking ‘back to the future’ with a well-trained eye for legacy, and explaining that legacy today with a turn of phrase that satisfies.
However, he also simultaneously digs deep into the social philosophy and group-dynamic intricacies of a successful experiment in commonsensical communal living for impressionable Caribbean high school boys – while regaling the delighted reader with welcome stories, pen portraits, and personality oddities of a singularly unique institution.
This Hostel had its own character – and oh, what characters….
Upon completion of this engaging, witty reminiscence, the reader will have discovered that one does not have to be of – or from – that time or place to understand, appreciate or even revel in the marvellous documented tales of Life at the G.B.S.S. hostel.
It’s clear as the shining views across “the Mang” and “the Spout” that the ” Hostel Thing” is a real and binding ‘abrazo’ indeed…
Bravo, Bobby !
Gary Protain, GBSS Alumnus, and Poet of the Piano (Micestro)