By Lennox Grant
More than half a century later, the shield-shaped monogram
on the left breast of their uniform shirts remains a virtual
brand on their hearts.
The monogram says CTC. Those wearing it were 21
women from north, south and central Trinidad who had arrived
with their suitcases in early 1957 for a two-year residency
at the Catholic Teachers College.
The CTC was then based at St Josephs Convent on Pembroke
Street, Port-of-Spain. Though run separate from the nunnery
and the secondary school of that name, a parallel regime of
Catholic devoutness and disciplined order applied to the trainee
It was all meant to last, and the religious and personal culture
developed at CTC survives past the teaching careers of the
class of 57-58, to be held in common and celebrated by those
A Trinpad exercise book, lovingly preserved with a hard cover
against dog-ears, records the reunions annually held for 32
years including October 28.
Events are documented in the cursive handwriting taught today
only in some Montessori pre-schools. One report is in narrative
form, but the rest are in ruled columns with a roll-call listing
names and addresses of those attending, under headings stating
dates and places.
A more compelling historical object is the eight-by-ten photo
for which 19 members of the class of 57-58 posed in three
rows, hands clasped at their waists.
The fresh faces of women, average age 21, wearing period hairstyles
and shoes, are captured by the camera for the black-and-white
print. On all uniform shirts stuffed into dark, belted skirts
reaching past the knees, the CTC monogram stands out.
It would be 20 years before they inaugurated their annual
reunion on the Divali public holiday which appeared to be
the most convenient for attendance.
The first, attended by 11 graduates, is recorded at the home
of Evadne Ferdinand in Arouca. She had stood exactly in the
middle of the 1957 photo, but from that first reunion she
and her classmates have welcomed CTC teachers from other years.
Over three pages of the Trinpad copy book, an unidentified
hand jotted a wrap-up of the first 13 reunions.
After Evadnes in Arouca, they met at Monicas in
Phillipine, then at Joans in Santa Cruz, then at Janets
in St Clair.
In 1981, they went to Tobago; thereafter to the heights of
Lopinot; Asa Wright Centre; Caratal; and Diamond Vale.
Guayaguayare in 1987. What a lovely day, said
the report, recounting Sylvias menu of chip-chip curry
and greenfig pie.
we go next is anybodys guess, the report concludes
in 1989. But the roll-call from 1990 discloses trips to environmental
and tourist sites, such as Buccoo Reef, Wild Fowl Trust, Staubles
Bay, and Knollys Tunnel, but also a clear focus on Catholic
Venues for Divali get-togethers, expressing and keeping alive
faith and friendship, include Our Lady of Victory Church;
Mount St Benedict; Emmaus Centre; Credo House; La Brea Presbytery;
Point Fortin Charismatic Prayer Centre; Caroni Prayer Centre;
La Gloria de Jesus in Talparo; Infant Jesus of Prague in Matura.
Last October, a 23-member CTC group met at Lourdes House in
This far from their student-teacher days, reunited classmates
and friends seldom look back nostalgically on the CTC experience.
Like Sangre Grande-born Rita Rodney Rigault, present keeper
of the Trinpad record book, they recall, when asked, the old
days when the training of a teacher could take eight years,
starting at age 14.
In the 1950s, opportunities for secondary education were still
narrow. Promising early-teen students still in primary school
were selected for a vocational path that began as unpaid monitors,
or teaching assistants.
After taking and passing increasingly rigorous annual exams,
practical and theoretical, monitors gained promotion to pupil
teachers, and then certificated teachers.
Two years yet remained for the finishing-school refinement
in training colleges like CTC whose graduates will have attained
the ultimate trained teacher status.
Competition for entry was keen.
For Catholic women, resident in a convent setting, training
college meant immersion into a restrictive campus life.
They took turns to use a single bathroom, and the day began
with 5 am mass. Instruction starting at 8 am included mathematics,
English, English history, psychology, handicraft, music, choir,
art, home economics, and teaching methods.
Students werent free to run downstairs to the iced lollies
vendor; they threw and he caught the money; then he tossed
up his products to the hands at the windows.
Lights went off by 10 pm, and any study after that was by
flashlight or candle. In the pre-TV days, they also lacked
No young men were anywhere in the picture, at least not on
had no distractions, Monica Rivers recalled last week.
At 6.30 pm, curfew time, the doors were locked. It took pre-arrangement
and string pulling with the prefect for the key to be lowered
to admit a student returning late from a date.
Carnival, a passing parade in the streets outside, didnt
figure in their focus. To go dancing, a student had to take
the weekend off and stay elsewhere.
Still, the women found ways to have fun in class and in the
dormitory, gossipping, sharing jokes and home-made treats,
making practical jokes, and secret outings to buy roti in
Still, what followed was a teaching career in which they were
legally obliged to remain unmarried. A woman risen to Headmistress
rank was still to be called Miss.
Colonial norms receded, and that rule eventually changed.
Asked for her recollections about rebelliousness or deviant
behaviour among her classmates, Monica Rivers said, I
dont know about deviant. In those days,
you followed, or didnt question. You didnt protest.