Behold, I bring you a centurion’s message.
Three score and ten – 70 years – is the projected Biblical life span. Sometimes, folklore describes the milestone another way, and, a person who is alive at 80 years is said to be “batting well”.
Interestingly, a few Sundays ago, former New York Council woman Dr. Una Clarke publicly said:
“I am 78 years old. My father lived to 107 years. So, you will have to put up with me for many more years to come.”
So, have you ever considered living to 100 years? Seriously, can you see yourself in a rocking chair telling stories to your great, great grandchildren about life in Barbados – and America – in 1930s, 1950s or 1970s etc. and as you look over the frames of your old fashioned glasses, listen to their disbelief, watch their smiles?
Can you just imagine yourself helping young adults etch their timelines in clay or on oil canvass, if only for their children’s sake? No. That is okay.
So, if you are the type of person, who in your old age does not want to burden on anyone that is okay too?
Well, then, here is another what if. What if your last name was Hawkins? Historical, but not a popular or common Bajan name, but sounds British, and, the kind of title one would find among the Polo enthusiasts who could be introducing Prince William, the future king of England, maybe, to the Barbadian public at a Holders Hill Gala.
No. So here’s another what if. What if you are a renowned medical practitioner in New York, at the end of a long winter’s day, would you personally take medication for a fellow alumni and countryman, or would you wrap it carefully and ask an office worker to drop it off for you?
Now suppose, I add a bit of personal trivia in order to persuade you that I am deliberately creating a setting for a fictional story. So here it is – according to the ancient Pythagorean numerology method, analysis of my date of birth, charts me as writer.
If truth be told, the expressed setting is based on fact. If it is a story, at all, its genesis is a conversation which took place sometime, last year, when, Dr. O’Neal Parris, Chairman of BACA, while speaking to me about an upcoming programme of the Cancer Association broke off our conversation, when he said:
“Let me call you back in a few minutes. I am on my way home, and, I am dropping off medication for an elderly man. By the way, he went to school at Foundation.”
The elder of whom he spoke is 99-year-old Arthur Hawkins, born October 3, 1903, and who is father of Dr. Lyn Hawkins-Migliore, a medical partner in the group with whom Parris works.
Last year, when they reminisced about Foundation, he told Parris that he left
Foundation School in 1929, and worked at SP Musson and, Western Telegraph for two years before relocating to the US in 1931. In the US he worked for Western union, and then, NANISCO for 43 years.
Arthur, told Parris that he grew up near the Garrison and then St. Lawrence Gap and often hitched a ride to school on a donkey drawn buggy. He credits Foundation and the fair share of licks he received as being responsible for his success in life.
On the other hand, Arthur’s daughter says that her father was born in Georgetown, British Guyana, and he came to Barbados when his father was appointed Superintendent of the railroad, in Barbados. She also notes that her father enjoyed the weather, and was a sportsman playing most games (including fishing) and swimming, and was also a member of the Sea Scouts.
She also gave an interesting piece of trivia: Arthur recalls that though Foundation was an all boy’s school at that time, because the headmaster, Mr. Carter had the final say on who attended the school, his two daughters went to school at Foundation.
She also confirmed that he often speaks of the strict disciplinary code, applied for the smallest infringement like inattention in class and which almost always had bamboo caning as the consequence. Arthur, who retired in 1975, was married for 60 years, has five grand children and many great grandchildren.
If Arthur Hawkins’ life is spared, in a matter of months he would be a proud centenarian. No doubt his family will have a grand celebration. But this life story contains many sub plots that I will argue that Barbadians unknowingly ignore and therefore refuse to celebrate or use as guiding success principles. However, we feel about Guyana today, there are the Sir Clyde Walcott, the Rihanna Fenty, and the Ellsworth Young stories, and more recently, Kyffin Sympson’s new venture. Add the sugar boilers and cricket. Here in the Diaspora where many, many Guyanese often admit of some blood connection with Barbados, we fail to understand the role which Barbados played in Caribbean development and include them in our planning.
But here is the diamond. According to Arthur Hawkins, in the 1920s the headmaster, Mr. Carter, had the final say on who attended the school. So will it take another century before the politicians give back to the principles and teachers the power which was taken from them? As I have said before, if we truly despise slavery or colonialism, we must free our children – and that means our schools.