Saturday, August 11, 2018
FOR THE GOOD TIMES
(The Fifties and Sixties Remembered)
An interesting and nostalgic moment at Monte was being fascinated by the pump house next to the old football field at ground level and the large rectangular well below it. The Blackstone engine turned a broad v-belt that in turn pumped the water to the storage tank on the hill. It was a remarkable and impressive engineering feat for its time. We would often rest our ears on the exposed part of the water pipe in order to hear the faint murmur of the engine and the water gushing through it.
The electrical work and water supply system was maintained by the dedicated and hard-working Bro.Titus who did most of the work himself. He was an unassuming technical wizard and an unsung genius. He knew the power generator, everything electrical, mechanical and the water-pump system inside out. Tube lights were first installed in the chapel in the late fifties - a great novelty of the time. The generator, or dynamo as it was popularly known then, was used only in the night up to 11 pm. and sometimes in the daytime when the skies darkened during the rainy season. A new “dynamo” with more wattage was installed in the late fifties to cater to the additional demand created by newly added classrooms and other buildings. The old generator, being no longer able to generate enough power for the growing school, was then put on stand-by in case of an emergency.
The school also had a lightning conductor installed on the side of the steeple of the chapel in the early 1950's. This provided safety and protection from lightning strikes not only for the school premises, but also for a 2 mile radius of surrounding villages.
The Fathers saw that the students were physically fit and healthy. Periodic compulsory inoculations were done and records of height, weight and general health of students were strictly kept. General hygiene and cleanliness was maintained to the highest possible level. Inspectors from from the SSCE Board were very pleased with the overall standard of the school and met their criteria and expectations on their annual inspections. The boys were well instructed, well looked after, well-fed and passed as being robust and in general good health. Students lined up for the “drill” for physical training exercise under the giant nunerca tree. This tree was a wonder and a legend in its life time. It was like a mother that sheltered, shouldered and protected her children under her huge arms from the hot sun and rain covering a large shaded area. Its own hanging branch roots were very cleverly nurtured back into the earth with soil around it in tin pipes, thereby providing support for itself. This was another fine and unique Monte innovation. However, though botanists tried their best to save it, the good old tree did not survive. In its memory a new one that was immediately planted in its place soon grew to its full size and provided a nostalgic reminiscence to the visiting scholar of the previous years.
Some Inter-School Football Tournament matches were held at the school grounds. Students who watched the games cheered their chosen sides. Although the years seem to have drifted away I do still remember the bathing time for some boarders after playing on the western side of the hill in the evening of a full school day. The “Boarding Father” (Fr. Ephrem) assisted by volunteer senior students would shower the boys with buckets of water drawn from the rectangular reservoir near the grounds. This was more akin to accepting several modern day splash bucket challenges all in one go. Additional showers were provided up on the hill. Then upwards on the winding path through the clusters of cashew fruit trees the boarders trudged again after a busy day.. This went on for days, months and years on end during the schooling years. Though life might not have been easy the students took it in stride during difficult situations. Nevertheless, we miss those days.
Nearby in the fields, village folks tended to their vegetable patches and other crops in the fields till late in the evening. The sun cast its twilight glow over the Parra/Arpora hills. Bringing to an end of yet another school day, it was time for Felicio the day-scholar to head for home as it would soon get dark. It was late than usual, he thought. And mother would get worried! Walking home alone through other wards between some houses, and somewhere in the vicinity of the winding path, the voice of Pat Boone singing 'Speedy Gonsales' - a great hit of the time - pierced through the evening air on the once popular evening request program of English songs broadcast from Radio Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
Fond memories of our days at Monte willl ever remain in our minds and hearts. Till we meet again.
Incidentally, the vast and sprawling football and hockey grounds, proved to be a very convenient place for the Indian Army soldiers to pitch their tents for a period of about one month, during takeover from the Portuguese in 1961, complete with the added benefit of water facilities et al, all on the house while the school had no option but to remain closed during that time.