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Half-Way-Tree Elementary School

I went to Half-Way-Tree Elementary School when it was located on Hope Road next door to Bethel Baptist Church. Nelson Mandela Park was the playfield of the school although it did not belong to the school. We played our cricket matches at Nashton, which is now Melbourne Cricket Club. I represented the school at cricket and was the wicket-keeper/batsman on the team.

Mr. Spencer James was the head-teacher. His wife was the fabulous and famous Mrs. Edit Dalton-James. Mr. James was a disciplinarian. He kept the school in strict order. He walked around with a leather strap, coiled. Behind his back, students called him ‘Jimmy’. One day he came into my class and the boy sitting on the bench in front of me called out: ‘Jimmy’. Mr. James threw the coiled strap in the direction of the sound. The boy in front of me, who had called out ‘Jimmy’, ducked. The strap fell in my lap. Mr. James said: “The boy with the strap, bring it to me”. I got six strokes of the strap. I could not tell my parents what happened because I would have gotten another beating at home if my father knew that the head-teacher had given me six of the best.

The school was organized on Standards: 1 to 6 and then Senior Six. You were promoted from one Standard to the next if you passed the tests of the Standard you were in. The teachers I remember are Mrs. Morris who taught Senior Six, Miss McCalla who was petite but a tower of strength, Mrs. Daley mother of Rene Daley, Mrs. Soas who was nearly as  strict as Mr. James, and Mrs. Lilly Brown. I have particularly fond memories of Mrs. Lilly Brown. She taught me in Standard Four and also coached me to win the All-Island Elocution Contest, reciting a poem titled: Godfrey Gordon Gustavus Gore a boy who would never shut the door.

We got a very sound education at Half-Way-Tree Elementary School. My sister Marjorie and younger brothers Keith and Percy all attended the school at the same time. My sister passed the entrance examinations and went to Merl Grove High School. I took and passed the entrance examinations for both Jamaica College and Calabar High School. My parents decided on Calabar. My brothers, Keith and Percy also passed entrance examinations and were also sent to Calabar. My sister went to England and became a registered nurse. Having returned to Jamaica she became the Matron and later Administrator of St Joseph’s Hospital in Kingston. Keith having earned the Masters Degree in Economics later became the Town Clerk of the City of Kingston. Percy having earned the Ph.D. in Agriculture later became the Managing Director of the Citrus Growers’ Association of Jamaica. I earned the Ph. D in Education and later became Professor of Teacher Education at the University of the West Indies and head of the Institute of Education.

Pablo McNeil was a student at Half-Way-Tree in my time. He was a good athlete. He went on to represent Jamaica in athletics. He was a sprinter. Most significantly, he is the one that discovered and mentored Usain Bolt in his early days up to the time Usain set the World Junior Games record in the 200 metres at the National Stadium.

I am sure that all past students of Half-Way-Tree salute the school joining in the celebration of its 90th Anniversary and expect that Half-Way-Tree Primary will continue to maintain the high standards of the past.