I got a surprise email in my in-basket this morning – so unexpected that it was a bit of a shock. It was a message from an Australian scholar. And it evoked memories of long, long ago, when I was very young and so very full of hope. Here it is:
Dear George Graham
I am a historian in Australia – researching the daily mail and NY herald tribune youth forums – am I right in thinking that you are the GG who represented Jamaica in London in 1951? Or have my google-searches failed me utterly and you are someone entirely different? I would very much appreciate if you could let me know! 🙂
My aunt was actually the New Zealand representative in 1949 in London and this personal connection has snowballed into a research project.
I thought some of this blog’s readers might be interested in my reply:
I was indeed the Jamaican representative to the 1951 World Youth Forum. It was a wonderful experience. As I recall, there were 26 of us – 16 to 19 years old – from all over the world, and we assembled in a London youth hostel, near Baker Street (Sherlock Holmes’ Baker Street!).
We were there from the end of winter to the beginning of summer, I believe. We visited all the historic sites and watched the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
We stayed with British families, attended British schools, watched Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspurs, and participated in Brains Trusts. The final Brains Trust was held in the Albert Hall and I understand thousands attended. I also played on a Colts cricket team while in Yorkshire, attending Acklam Hall Grammar school. And I saw snow for the first time, while playing a pickup soccer match.
We met Prime Minister Atlee and Sir Anthony Eden, and I seem to have a memory (which might be apocryphal) of being presented to the then Queen at the English Festival. (It may be that I just knew she was there while I was. At 80 years old, my memory is somewhat tricky.)
You can imagine the impact on a 16-to-17-year-old boy who had grown up in rural Jamaica! I had never even seen an airplane up close before, and there I was droning across the Atlantic in a BOAC airliner. We were in the air all night, and the vibration of the engines made it hard to sleep. We made a refueling stop in the Azores and stayed overnight in Estoril, Portugal, where I saw a casino for the first time (but naturally did not try my luck).
In London, I saw ballet for the first time and what a revelation it was! I had never imagined such ethereal beauty could be possible. I also experienced live opera and live theater.
The topic of our essay competition that year was “Our Way to Peace.” and I based my essay on the topic in which I was most conversant at that time – the Gospels.
I am afraid this is more information than you bargained for, but you revived a treasured memory, and I could not resist sharing it with you.
Good luck with your project!
P.S. I am sending you a picture of me addressing the final forum at the Albert Hall – if I scan it successfully :-).
I guess our memories are our most precious assets after all. We may lose material possessions but memories are forever. As the old song reminds us – they can’t take that away from you.