Nostalgia from: A City Set Upon a Hill
ISBN: 9781514628928 is an e-book by Garfield “Garry” Whyte describing: “Memories of boarding school. It was Seven years…Seven damn good years (1977 – 1984).”
The reader first is presented with a quote from Isabel Waxman: “It is indeed ironic that we spend our school days yearning to graduate and our remaining days waxing nostalgic about our school days.” The author’s ‘disclaimer’ follows: “The book was written with the primary purpose of encouraging all Munronians (School graduates) to keep their memories of this great institution alive. It is not intended to be the be-all and end-all about Munro. It is simply my chapter in the history of this great institution.” Historically the school was established in 1856 as a school for poor boys of St. Elizabeth but “evolved into a cauldron in which boys from all backgrounds converged” There were rich, poor, black, white, local and foreigners, as well as those who were motherless or fatherless. Munro College is “Perched 2,560 feet on the peak of the Santa Cruz Mountains in one of the remotest sections of Jamaica and is the oldest all-boys boarding school in the Caribbean with a commanding view of the horizon and the Caribbean Sea…”. Also provided are a description of all aspects of the college – acreage and sports fields, Barbecue (main quadrangle); building descriptions, several with pictures, and their designation, e.g. Chapel, Boarding House, Bus Garage; sustaining employees; and faculty with descriptions of individual idiosyncrasies that contributed to the school’s “..enviable reputation of being one of Jamaica’s most prestigious citadels of learning.” And: “It is the alma mater of several Jamaican icons and dignitaries…” including Jamaican Prime ministers, Rhodes scholars, lawyers, physicians and others. The tale further, as would be expected, is replete with stories of individual boyish antics and their sequelae, and here the author himself perhaps best describes his story: “The pranks; the outlandish vocabulary; the innovative ways of dealing with what could be considered a boring life void of modern-day technologies; the camaraderie; the lack of modern amenities; the fights today and the making-up tomorrow; the acceptance of discipline as a way of life; the making the most of an environment that we had no control over, but following in the path laid out by our predecessors.” This ‘is the stuff that memories are made of.’ There is a glossary at the end of each chapter and again at the end of the book to explain local terms and some of the patois that is used.
Discussion: The author has provided an interesting picture of what most people think of as an island tourist attraction. It is a presentation of Jamaica that few of the many visitors to the island even know existed. It is a memoir written by a man who obviously retains great love for his home and his alma mater. A well-educated person who knowingly has provided a rambling narrative setting forth enjoyable thoughts as they arose with a main intention of providing himself and others poignant and other remembrances ‘of another time, another place’. Thus, my only criticism, per se is the redundancy of the glossaries.
Summary: Perhaps the best summary of this book and this review is to use the author’s own provision of the most charming quote from Mary Lou Retton. “A trophy caries dust. Memories last forever.”
3* 5* memoir for target group; 3* for general readership.