Old Friends Renew Acquaintances 45 Years Later.
By Andre Taylor – Domville
Monday, November 7, 2022
Our shared journey commenced in September 1972, when Excelsior High School opened her gates to students new and old, for the beginning of another school year.
Those wide-eyed first formers were excited about their first exposure to high school life. For the next five years, we formed bonds that would last a lifetime. Leading more than sixty, of those now matured, Excelsorians to converge on the hallowed grounds of 137 Mountain View Avenue, in celebration of our 45th Anniversary Reunion, October 10th through 15th, 2022.
The Beginning – Getting Started
A planning committee including members of the six streams from the 1977 graduating class, met regularly to plan and organize the well-anticipated gathering. The mission statement was a memorable experience for all in attendance, as well as those who would hear about it later. It was important for us to keep our sibling relationship alive and well, and equally important for us to give back to the institution that shaped our lives, and prepared us to take our place as productive members of society. Satisfied with the arrangements, we set about preparing to host siblings from around the globe, at what we anticipated would be an unforgettable event.
Day One – Welcome Lyme
Monday evening, October 10, 2022, members of our group filtered into ’22 Jerk’ on Barbican Road in Liguanea. Excitement was palpable as we greeted beloved siblings. Some of us had not seen each other since our July 1977 graduation, forty-five years prior. The meet and greet lyme was now underway amidst an electric atmosphere. No amount of planning could have prepared us for the outpouring of love and unity that was now permeating this meeting place. We ate and drank while buzzing from place to place, catching up with old friends, and introducing spouses. Committee Chairperson, Althea Brown-Robinson, took a few minutes to address those in attendance; handing out our custom designed polo shirts and discussing the week’s activities. Everyone was raring to go.
Journey To St. Elizabeth – Day 2
Tuesday morning, October 11, 2022, before 6:00 a.m., we started arriving at the Excelsior campus, where a Knutsford Express Bus would pick up our group for a trip to St. Elizabeth. We had scheduled stops at Appleton Estate, Middle Quarters and the Black River Safari. As we traveled, a choice of raisin bread, cornbread or spice bun paired with a wedge of that favored cheddar cheese along with water a fruit punch or soda, reminded us of the palate tickling treats of our childhood.
We hit the ground running, as we accepted rum influenced cocktails upon arrival at the Appleton Estate, and then were whisked away to tour the grounds. The very informative tour included a session, where like connoisseurs, we learned how to identify rum aging and recognize ingredients that would influence the flavor of the products. A few of us chose the experience of bottling our own blend, through a process termed “Barrel to Bottle”, inclusive of wax sealing the cap and adding our own signature label.
We rolled into Middle Quarters in time for lunch, and because we called ahead with our meal orders, the wait time was significantly reduced. While waiting at roadside tables and enjoying the Jamaican countryside, we enjoyed a wide variety of snack choices, like the renowned pepper shrimps, fried green plantains and delicious stamp and go, as we watched a flow of animals, pedestrians and vehicles complete the landscape. Tasty seafood and chicken dishes were served, and our group ate, laughed and chatted with glee. Fed and satisfied, it was time to get back onboard Knutsford Express, and on to Black River.
The very entertaining captain of the boat commissioned to take us on the Black River Safari Tour, kept us in stitches. Between his humorous punch lines, we watched him feed a few crocodiles, as they swam up to the boat in response to his unique call. He guided us through Mangroves and surrounding areas where we saw and photographed beautiful birds and interesting vegetation. At the conclusion of the informative and interesting trip, some of us took the opportunity to hold baby crocs for photo ops, before boarding Knutsford Express for the return trip to Excelsior. Music, laughter and chatter were the order of the ride, while a few of us took a nap.
Back To The Alma Mater – Day 3
The morning of Wednesday, October 12, 2022, was the day that I most fondly anticipated. On this day the Class Of 1977 would lead worship, address the student body and conduct a Career Fair for 9th through 12th grade students. During the student body address, our group announced plans to adopt Computer Lab 2. This adoption entails painting and refurbishing of the room; refinishing desks/workstations; providing new chairs; installing a new air-conditioning system and large screen monitor as well as supplying thirty new Dell desk computers. The plan is to have this completed in time for the next Founder’s Day celebration.
For the Career Fair, we set up stations that focused on the following career paths:
- Banking & Finance
- Health & Wellness
- Information Technology
The well-attended event sparked active participation between students and presenters who brought a wealth of views and experience to the dialogue. This highlighted the need for our second project of a mentorship program for students. The planning committee will be meeting to put the finishing touches on this effort.
During the afternoon break, we enjoyed patties, cocoa bread and juices, reminiscent of our years as Excelsior students. An added treat was the beautiful and delicious Anniversary Cake, marking the reunion event, designed and produced by ‘Kelsey’s Kreations’. The company is owned and operated by Kelsey Girod, daughter of lass Os 1977 member, Andrew Girod.
Some members of the Class Of 1977 toured the campus, visiting classrooms and interacting with students. We also had the pleasure of watching the Excelsior Manning Cup team in action, at the Courtney Walsh Oval. Wednesday was capped by a trip to Port Royal, where we feasted on a smorgasbord of Jamaican seafood dishes, at the famous Gloria’s restaurant, again socializing with siblings and memorializing the experience with photos.
A Trip To Portland – Day 4
Like Willie Nelson’s tune, we were ‘on the road again’, Thursday, October 13, 2022, arriving at Excelsior by 6:00 a.m., for a date with our Knutsford Express bus. On that day we headed east, to Portland. First stop was Boston Jerk Center, the famed home of ‘Jerk’ cooking. Dishes of chicken, fish and pork, for those who dared, were in the offering; along with June plum, sorrel and roots drinks to wash it down.
We sat comfortably in air-conditioned comfort with satisfied stomachs, as our driver navigated toward where some claim to be the most beautiful beach on the island, the renowned Frenchman’s Cove Beach and Resort. On arrival, classmates shed their garb in favor of swimwear, and proceeded to immerse themselves where cool crystal clear river water from the Blue Mountains meet the warm and inviting Caribbean Sea, for that unique mix of fresh and salty waters. Whilst frolicking in the sea, or laid out on lounge chairs soaking up the sun, most imbibed on available alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Time flew by in a hurry it seems, and we were back onboard, for the long, albeit comfortable ride back to Excelsior, to retrieve our cars.
A Somber Celebration Of Life – Day 5
Friday, October 14, 2022, was a holiday for Excelsior students. However, Class Of 1977 members and other guests attended a memorial service for our beloved classmate, Paulette Mullings-Bradnock, in the Excelsior Auditorium. Paulette died while on a trip to Jamaica, one month earlier, on Thursday, September 15, 2022, at the Kingston Public Hospital. She was transported there by ambulance, after falling ill on a flight to Kingston. Eerily coincidental was the fact that Paulette was born on Thursday, September 15, 1960, in the same Kingston Public Hospital (Victoria Jubilee). A riveting service inclusive of touching tributes in verses and songs marked the ‘Celebration Of Life’. A sea of bright colors highlighted the occasion, as everyone in attendance honored Paulette’s zest for life, by dressing fashion appropriate for our fallen Empress.
Friday evening, a few members of the planning committee traveled to The Jamaica Pegasus, to decorate the ‘Talk Of The Town’, in preparation for Saturday’s Grande Gala.
Saturday, October 15, 2022, found a number of classmates making an early morning trip to Montego Bay, where we would meet Paulette’s family, and board a catamaran that would take us out to sea, where Paulette’s ashes would be released. With music, drinks, food and a festive vibe in the air, the catamaran set sail, while bright sunshine and fantastic Jamaican weather dominated the day. We were soon at the spot, Paulette’s ‘Happy Place’, where the ashes ceremony would occur.
The mood suddenly turned somber, and emotions oozed from all aboard, like the rays from the Caribbean sun. We struggled to deliver tributes, while fighting back tears, some crying unashamedly. Then it was time for Paulette’s ashes to be placed on the gentle waters of the surrounding sea. Like a motorized vessel, the ashes in its container, just moved away from us carried by the ripples. We watched, transfixed, as our beloved Paulette floated away from us, saying that final goodbye. For a while, no one said a word. Hugs were exchanged, and we tried to comfort each other, as the vessel started to move. We stopped at Paulette’s favorite snorkeling spot, where a few people summed up enough energy to jump into the sea.
The Grand Finale – Reunion Banquet
It was now early afternoon, and some of us had to travel back to Kingston, for the Grand Gala, scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. Nuff fun and laughter was the order of the night, as members of the graduating class delivered some stellar performances. Smooth vocals, gut busting stand-up and some riveting stories delivered during our ‘Lignumvitae Chat’ chronicled some of the noteworthy events from our era at Excelsior.
Planning Committee Chairperson, Althea Brown-Robinson closed out the formal portion of the evening with a vote of thanks and closing remarks, and then dancing took center stage. Fred & Ginger would have been impressed by some of the slick dance moves, when couples graced the floor, as the DJ took us back to the 1970s with some of our favorite selections.
We again found ourselves saying so long, just like we did, forty-five years ago at the very same Jamaica Pegasus. A week that did justice to the significance of our relationship and the 45th milestone was now at a close. Armed with some wonderful memories and photos, we took our leave, fondly anticipating doing this again in 2027, when we will celebrate our Golden 50th Anniversary.
REUNION PLANNING COMMITTEE
L-R Andre Taylor- Domville, Annette Campbell -Harper, Drexel Lue, Olive James, Owen ( Blakka) Ellis, Gaynor Downer, Yeheda Yeduda( the former Christine Fairweather) Ingrid Needham, Andrew Girod and Althea Brown – Robinson