Reminiscences of Queen's College Sports Day, 1968
It was the day King's College boys had all been waiting for. The much-anticipated, much talked-about Queen's College Sports Day had finally come. It seemed as if the entire boarding house had been preparing for this day: uniforms had been washed and bleached a dazzling white, and ironed crisp with the sharpest of creases. As a Form 1 boy, this would be my very first experience and I was full of excitement. I had been careful all week to avoid accumulating "impositions" which would have seen me banished to the Cleaning Squad and an afternoon of scrubbing the Harman's House toilets while my colleagues were having fun. I had queued up early at the Bursar's to collect a share of my allowance: I would need some money for transportation by LMTS bus to Onike, Yaba, where the premier girls' school was located.
The KC athletics team would be competing with our usual rivals, Gregs, Igbobi, Bariga, MBHS and others, and there were huge expectations for our team in all the events. Our sprinters were second-to-none and our relay team (Okwesa, Manuwa, Asuquo, Diyan) unbeatable. In the 880 yards and 1 mile distance events, Chris "KemBoZoo" Alaka was guaranteed to shatter all records. The KC track team was dominant at that time and was favored to bring in a haul of gold medals.
However, the reason for my excitement had little to do with the prowess of the KC track team. I really couldn't care less. My sole preoccupation on that hot, muggy day was to meet a QC girl. At 11years of age, I was by far the youngest in my class, and at 4 feet 9 inches, one of the shortest (I believe Tayo Salako was shorter). That didn't faze me one bit. As far as I was concerned, with a little determination and a KC badge on my chest, I had a chance. The older students in the boarding house had regaled us with exaggerated tales of scoring successes at the famed track meet, and we believed them. They gave us valuable tips that we filed away carefully and sought to apply diligently when the occasion demanded. Hakeem Belo-Osagie, who I resumed (erroneously as I was to discover much later) was an experienced Casanova, would admonish me to "speak with confidence; tell them you're a football star; don't let them know you're only in Form One."
3pm and it was time to go. The track team and a few other lucky students squashed into "Borsani" the school bus. The rest of us weren't so lucky and had to take a succession of buses to get to Onike. At 4:30 sharp the proceedings began amidst much pomp and pageantry. I surveyed the large sports grounds. I had never seen so many beautiful girls in my life, all dressed in carefully starched blue skirts and check blouses. They walked gracefully, with a casual elegance that, I now know, was just as contrived as the practiced swagger I walked with. They pretended not to be fazed by the hundreds of boys that had suddenly filled their school premises. I suspect they too were as excited as we were.
Most importantly, no-one had noticed me yet. It was already 6pm and I only had thirty minutes to work with. The last event of the day, the 4 X 110 yards relay was scheduled for 6:30, and with that my rare opportunity to meet a QC girl would go up in smoke. The problem was that all the girls were much bigger than I was. They towered over me when I stood next to them and they seemed to gaze at me with a look of amusement which irritated me. As I plucked up the courage to approach one of them, I would suddenly falter and walk right past her. This occurred five or six times that afternoon. I was desperate. Then just as I was beginning to give up, I came across a beautiful QC student with bright, shiny eyes and long hair bound in a ponytail whose diminutive size made her all the more attractive. Finally, someone my own size! Before long we were chatting easily and soon became instant soul mates. We traded contact information and promised to write each other. I had scored at last! I could imagine the stories I would have for the senior boys that evening. Their tips had worked and this young woman had fallen for me.
The KC track team had excelled again, and destroyed Igbobi and Gregs in the relay race to the sheer delight of the hundreds of KC boys cheering them on. We all headed back to school brimming with pride at the success of our athletes. There was one problem though: the sports event ended at 6:30 and supper was at 7:00. It was not humanly possible to make it back to school by public transportation in such a short time. A hundred KC boys ran to the bus terminus and poured into the crowded LMTS bus, urging the bus driver to move faster.
A few minutes after 7, the first group of boys made it back to the campus and raced to the dining room, hoping to make it for supper. To their horror, the six large doors of the dining hall had all been locked shut. Inside, they could hear the booming voice of the prefect declaring "clear all shares!" This was all the instruction the 20 or so boys in the dining room needed before descending on all the food that had been served for the entire boarding school of 300 students. They filled their plates with huge mounds of beans, dodo and fish and engorged themselves in a massive orgy of food. What they couldn't eat they filled with large quantities of salt or water so as to render it inedible.
This was like something out of the movie "Revenge of the Nerds." These boys resented the fact that they had missed out on the QC Sports Day festivities - perhaps because they were too broke to make the trip. Perhaps because they'd earned the dubious distinction of being in that week's Cleaning Squad, confined to toilet-cleaning or grass-cutting activities. Or perhaps they were just social misfits whose previous efforts at the legendary track meet had met with futility. Whatever their reasons, they relished this annual ritual, and savored the looks on the faces of their colleagues as they peered hungrily through the windows of the dining room, watching their meals being desecrated in increasingly creative ways by a bunch of jeering boys with crazed looks on their faces.
I went to bed hungry that day. The provisions I had brought from home at the beginning of the term and had packed neatly into my grub box in the lockers below Hyde Johnson's House were depleted. Whatever the Form 2 boys hadn't dispossessed me of within the first few days had been eaten by mice. I was happy, however. I had a friend in QC. I had a story to tell my seniors as they sat around my bed to learn how I had fared. I had earned a new respect from them - especially as my new friend, two years older than me, was in Form Three, and not in Form One. Of-course I hadn't mentioned this little detail to her and left her to presume I was her contemporary. I would cross that bridge when I got to it.
Harman's, 1968 to 1972