Sunday, July 24, 2016


We who left St Thomas’ Preparatory School Bandarawela [STPSB] in 1966 having completed the Standard Five; the highest grade in the school then call ourselves the Class of 66.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of our stay at STPSB. The Class of 66 are to reunite at the school from the 12th to the 14th of August in line with the scheduled AGM of the Old Boys Association.

My memories of this institution have been noted from time to time in order to lift the spirits of the Class of 66 and to arouse the nostalgia of all who passed through this institution in the 1960’s.
This is the last of such a memorabilia before this once in a lifetime reunion.

This institution that had exceptional organizational skills conducted its annual events to a calendar that was planned and prepared at the beginning of the year. Ever since my friend Manilal de Mel posted the old events calendar for the year 1966 which was our last year at school in Bandarawela my memory ran down to the basic sub cultures that we had developed in line with this annual events calendar.

I had touched on the academia and its teachers on two previous write-ups and this last write up is all about sports and extra activities as I remember to this day.

First Term

Generally the First Term in school commenced from January and ended just in time for the Sinhala and Tamil New Year Holidays in April. The first term was dedicated for Cricket as the sport where we played interschool matches in the groups Under 8 and Under 11 with schools in Badulla and with STC Gurutalawa. Badulla had a number of good schools that took sports seriously then.

School cricket in the 60’s was far from what it is today. We had pads that needed to be buckled on to our calf muscle. Velcro was yet to be invented. It was a common sight to find batsmen adjusting their pads in the field holding up play as the buckle did not have a hole positioned to suit every calf size. Ultimately one ended up with two or more handkerchiefs securing the pad on your lower leg. The ground boy had a lot to do before a match. The bats we used needed to be seasoned. This was done by applying a generous coating of Linseed oil on the willow and kept exposed to sunlight for absorption. Then a leather ball was inserted in shoe sock that was suspended from a height and you went on hitting the ball will the bat until there was no vibration on the handle. The batsmen wore linen gloves with green coloured spikey rubber strips that were sewn on the outer fingers for protection against the ball. These are now replaced with the padded leather sausage glove. I would say it was the primitive stage of cricket paraphernalia then. There were no helmets, no arm guards, and no rib guards but there was the cup that guarded your testicles. But I’m sure none of them fitted the tiny bunch of the Under 11. They were not worn as there was hardly anyone at that age who could bowl you a bull's-eye then.

The height of the cricket season was not of a big match as today. It was the Fathers vs. Sons match played on the school grounds that had a big attraction from the adjoining village as well. I remember once when Hon. Dudley Senanayake played for the fathers and the ball as well as the bowler was not spared when he cleared the ropes several times until the ball was never to be found. The fathers won the match…..however there was a disqualification proposal brought in of Dudley’s participation as he did not qualify to be a father?……….a qualification that is best known only to Dudley himself.

Another finale and a pain to everyone in the first term was the Spelling Bee Contest that was conducted annually. This was something that was started by Mr. S L A Ratnayake and was not a favored activity for many. There was but one or two who was somewhat good at difficult words and did come forward to represent their houses. I for one was not good at it then neither am I now.

The first term therefore was dedicated for cricket and this was mainly in the form of two teams involving 30 players…..There was also a sub culture that went in line with the main sport at all times. If my memory is right it was in this term that we enjoyed playing Hopscotch. 

One needs to draw the Hopscotch pattern on the ground and throw a flat stone onto a square. The stone should not touch the sides of the square. Then the player needs to hop in the squares always having only one foot in a square. When you return to the square with the stone it should be picked up still being on one foot and making sure to clear that square clean. When you have gone through all the squares you get a handicap to own a square. This is by throwing the stone overhead standing on the semicircular sector at the top of the pattern. If the stone falls on a square clean you own that square and no other player could enter that square. This way towards the end of the game the hop turns into a long jump. It was to be such an interesting game then.

The term end always signified with the Prize giving for the previous year. This was a very glamorous event. In our junior days during Mr. Paul Raj’s period it was held on the small stage in the main building. The collapsible folding partitions that separated the classrooms were unbolted and folded to the sides creating the school hall. The stage was decorated with crape-paper and ample tinsels. The prize table with the prizes and the trophies were illuminated by Mr. Charles’s electrics and spot lighting.

The event commenced in the afternoon and went on till late evening. The long recitation of the Headmasters speech that was printed in the prize day report was turned on and on by the parents while the headmaster kept reading it. Then it was the speech of the Chief Guest and the giving away of the prizes commenced through his ladyship.

Mr. Cyril at his car with us.
To us the most attractive piece of interest in the prize giving was Mr. Cyril… the proprietor photographer of Cyril Studio Bandarawela. He was one piece of a machine. Unlike today technology was yet to be miniaturized. He held a fairly large battery pack in a leather case on his right shoulder hanging down to his waist that gave power to his camera. His best and the most expensive camera was used for the event. No extension lenses were available then but the camera lens that could be folded out of the camera-body gave him the extra focal length that was required. The light path from the lens to the celluloid light recorder in the camera was covered with an accordion type folds of thick black paper that folded in and out when the lens was packed into the camera-body. It was more like the cameras used by the cartoon characters today.

There were no flash guns as today but a long aluminium ‘L’ shaped attachment which was fixed to the camera that held an aluminium silver reflector with a bulb holder was the flash mechanism. Mr. Cyril wore a waist belt that could hold a pack of these bulbs that went into the reflector. Each time an indoor photograph is taken a flash bulb would go off with a funny ‘POP’ sound and a bit of smoke ………illuminating the stage like when lightning strikes before thunder. After the photo is taken and the used bulb with shattered glass held behind a plastic cover popped out of the reflector automatically saving time for him to plant a new bulb from his waist belt into the reflector.

One bulb per photograph; as the prize list was read at a slow pace keeping time for Mr. Cyril to get ready for the next shot. At the end we scavengers went about looking for the used bulbs that were collected for what reason I am yet to know.

The first term holidays in our school was to be the longest in the year. It generally covered the Sinhala Tamil New Year and the Vesak Festival in May, if it fell within the first fifteen days of the month.

Second Term

The second term was a busy term in relation to sports and other activities. At the beginning of the term we always had the school excursion for the standard five class. I remember we were taken in a reserved compartment in the late night mail train from Bandarawela to Colombo for an excursion that lasted two nights in Colombo. We reached Colombo in the early morning hours and there was a CTB bus that picked us up at the Fort railway station. This was arranged by our classmate Ajith Wanigasekara’s father who happened to be in a Managerial position in the CTB then. It was in this bus that we went over to the Harbour, the Dehiwala Zoo, the Lever Brothers factory, the Museum etc. In the Harbour everyone was taken on to a ship and explained of how a ship would set about in the high seas… it was Greek to us then. I am sure we all could remember the depths of the dry docks and the thrilling cruise in the Police Launch within the harbour breakwaters. This was again through the courtesies of a parent who was the Inspector of the Harbour Police then.

The Zoo and Museum were a general walk through at that age but for the elephant antic and pranks in the evening at the zoo was enjoyed by all. I very well remember the famous meal stops then. It was at ‘Pudding House’ outlets…. the renowned eatery then where we took in packeted meals to be had on the way. Pudding House and Pagoda Restaurants were the famous eateries then in Colombo. Pudding House is no more and the Pagoda Restaurant is limited to the Green Cabin in Kollupitiya today. The last Pudding House I still remember was close to Siripala Road on Galle Road Mt Lavinia, where I said goodbye to the last Thomian institution in the early 70’s.

At Lever Brothers we all got a pack of their products from soaps to toothpaste but some of us were not permitted in the factory on safety reasons for us being so tiny and small. I happened to be one of the unfortunates. On the third day we came back to school in the Udarata Menike train from Colombo. As always in any school even today the following week we had to write an essay of our excursion to Colombo.

Next in line for this term was the drama festival. STPSB was famous for drama and it was of very high standard then. We had the blessings of the eminent dramatist Mrs. Aileen Sarathchandra and I remember there were cupboards full of costumes of all sorts. We never had to tax our parents for costumes unlike school kids do today. The nativity play for Christmas was always an event with any boy selected from any faith. I remember some dramas that were played…. Ali Baba & the 40 Thieves, The Enchanted Shirt, King Midas and his Golden Touch, Elowa gihin melowa Aawa………etc. There was always dance and song items before a drama commenced. Initially they were played on the school hall and when Mr. S L A Ratnayake came in he had them in the Bandarawela Town Hall as Public Shows knowing that they were of very high standard. My friend Arawandy Muralitharan who is scheduled to come over from Aussi will remember his role as the beggar in the drama Enchanted Shirt. He was to be the happiest man that day and his long shirt was taken away to the King. Guess he is the same happy man to this day down in Australia.

Drill competition

Towards midterm we all get ready for the inter-house drill competitions and the inter-house sports meet and the cross country race. Unlike the 30 students who played cricket in the first term we all had to take part in the inter-house sports meet. It was a tough time for the house masters as lists had to be drawn up for every event and boys selected through their skills and competence for these events. The field events took place before the real sports meet which was the finale of the end of the second term. One special event in this school was the inter-house drill parade that was held in line with the field events for athletics. The squads were clad in white shorts and sleeveless vests with a ribbon across your breast stitched bearing the colour of the house. We wore brand new canvas shoes and white socks. Every parent of the squads’ kids had the cost of the white canvas shoes socks and the vest in the following month’s school fees. The current Rin washing powder advertisement on TV today reminds me of this drill parade …..New clothes were needed then as white material turned a pale yellow those days with multiple washing.

The drill squads were exercised to the command of the house captain who led the three lines of the squad formation. The overall marching orders were given to all the squads of the four houses by the school captain. Points were given for neatness and the timing and the uniformity of the exercises. This was by the staff and the Chief Guest who was generally someone form the Tri-Forces in Diyatalawa or the Police. The best house was announced and the trophy was presented on the Sports Meet Day.

There were two very peculiar field events in this school further to the long jump and the high jump events. It was hockey dribbling and kicking the football. We did not have the javelin throw and the discus throw but the Put-Shot. The Put Shot was favoured for the Billy Bunter types; and it was Siri Silva who managed to throw the furthest in our class.

Hockey dribbling was to take the hockey ball between equally placed 10 bottles without knocking any bottle either by the ball, stick or man. The fastest with least bottles knocked was the winner. This probably was with the hopes of getting us prepared for the game in the senior schools.

Kicking the football of course was to select the winner who could place kick a football to the furthest distance. The ball had to travel in a projectile. We did not know our Applied Mathematics then, where a projectile needed to leave the station at an angle of 45 degree to gain the maximum displacement.

Keble House and Hulugalla House tents

Finally the term end day comes and it is the Sports Meet Day. On the day before the school carpenter will put up four sheds of aluminium roof on timber approximately 8 feet X 10 feet which would be our house tent. The teachers with our help will decorate these houses and the best decorated house was selected for an award. It was almost always the house of Ms. Ellepola that won the best decorated house. We had four houses dedicated to the benefactors. The Keble House, De Saram House, Hulugalla House, and Hayman House.

The action station headed by Mr. Godfrey Peiris at the Sports Meet

The grand finale of the sport meet was the lighting of the large torch depicting the Olympic principles. The torch itself was built by the school carpenter. A large timber frame done to the shape of an extra-large ice-cream cone cladded in a galvanized sheet and painted in Dark Blue, Light Blue and Gleaming White, was erected in the center of the grounds. The inside was stuffed with jute gunnies and cotton waste soaked in kerosene and coconut oil. The four house captains would stand at quarter distance of the running track when the first runner would light the torch of the second then the third and the fourth…and once the four torches are lit all four would run the full track and come to the main torch in the center and go up four ladders and aim the four flames to the top of the main torch. The stuffed gunnies would then catch fire but eventually give out a heavy smoke till the end of the meet. This was the beginning of our sport meet.

Athletes and staff during our period - Sarath Weerasekara, Michael Goonawardane,
AHM Thowfeek, Ediriweera, Nalin Abeyratne, P Warhuhewa with Mr Mithra Edirisinghe
Ms Ellepola, Ms Karunaratne, Ms Senaratne and Ms Nadarajah 

If I remember the words right the games captain would then announce over the microphone the commencement of the meet thus…….

“we swear that we shall take part in the schools’ sport meet….respecting the rules that govern the sport…… the honour of our school …..and for the glory of sport ”

The track events would now commence and the funniest events would be the teacher’s race and the gunny bag race.

Towards dusk with the lights fading the event would come to an end with the awards distribution and it was time to go home for the August vacation.

Third Term

The third term in Badarawela is generally a wet and gloomy one. The north-east monsoon is already active when we come to school in September. The main sporting event in this term is Football. This was basically played at inter-house level and the term was with less outdoor activity due to the inclement weather and Football being the only permitted play in the rain.

Football itself was so different from what it is today. The ball was of leather sectors cut to equal shape and sewn together with a laced opening for a bladder type inflatable tube to be inserted. The tube had a long dangling narrow tube like an artery that would hold the nozzle of the brass hand pump with which the tube was inflated. Once inflated the leather covering turns hard and stiff. Then the artery is tied tight with twine, folded and tied again to retain the air within. It is then tucked into the leather covering and the opening sewed at the eyelets with a lace and the ball is ready for play after a thorough application of a greasy compound known as Dubbin.

It was really painful to get the laced part on your leg. Playing in the field was limited to the better days.

However the excess play time available in this term was used for another sub culture that developed. It was the time to play marbles. Marbles were brought from home or bought with the saved pocket money given to the day boys who brought them to school. There were to be marble gangs teamed together in order to collect all the marbles in school. In fact the team headed by ALPD Perera managed to collect tin loads of marbles having harbored the best sharp eyed members to his gang.

The game is played on ground where a square of about 1’ 6” is drawn with a hole created in the center about the size of a marble. Each player then sends a marble to the square from a marked crease a distance of about 4 feet from the square. The marble that is closest to the hole decides the playing order. The player whose marble is closest to the hole then collects all the marbles and throws them into the square.

No sooner this happens there is a set of words that come in unison “adi first putting last” adi a Tamil word for hitting or playing and the rest is English what this meant for I cannot remember now. I get the feeling once the marbles are all in the square one has to take turns to hit one marble in the square with another marble so that it does not strike the others and the one struck clean have to go out of the square. For this accuracy one has to have a good aiming eye. When this is done all the marbles in the square are his. Failing a clean strike the next player gets to play. Larger the number of players the time spent becomes longer large and we did not feel the time pass.

However playing marbles was not that welcome from the school authorities. There were instances when marbles were swallowed by younger students. Very many were to be punished in class when the occasional marble would fall in the silent classroom. This happened when one would occasionally pull a handkerchief out of his pocket. I remember Mr. Peiris teasing Kotagama for having dropped a marble….. ‘eta bolle’ ……. that went tick ….tick ….tick….ticking on the cement floor. One never dared to go collect it and be punished for owning it.

Come November / December it is the time for ‘katchan winds’ in the hills. At the end of the monsoon the dry winds takeover. One could hear from the villages close by the sound of the whistling wind fans that the village boys tie up on the tall “Fishtail Palms”; [Kithul in Sinhala]. The bamboo whistles tied to the single propeller ends give out a woooooo…..wooooooo sound day and night. We then begin to run about with paper fans made out of exercise book leaves and old toothpaste packs etc. It was a never ending pastime that we created of our own to suit the climate and time.

December has already come. It was time to say goodbye to STPSB to us in the Class of 66. The entrance test for Gurutalawa was held and our parents were notified of our success. At the end it was Manilal de Mel, L S Perera, Sidath Perera and Michael Goonawardane who were selected to enter STC Mt Lavinia. Generally the one with the highest academic average in the last year is offered STC Mt Lavinia. We are still to know which one of them qualified to this requirement. All the rest was to be seen in Gurulatawa the following year. Asoka Ranasinghe and Ajith Wanigasekara had entered Trinity Collage Kandy.

The last event before Christmas holidays was the Christmas Dinner for the Standard Five Boys who will not be back in school the following year. It was more like the Last Supper. The event was special and there was always about five chickens brought in to be dresses by Veeran the sanitary assistant .......

Evening came and there was chapel service for all. Then we marched into the dinning hall clad in tie and blazer. The dinner was served and we all had a Bon-Bon each place at the table. Grace said, we have dinner. This was the only occasion when a boy would have chicken curry in this boarding house. Chicken in the 60's was a luxury. Beef was in plentiful.

The Bon-Bons were pulled apart and would burst out with a loud noise. Within was a tiny toy and each boy would carry it home the following day as a memory from this great institution.

We were yet to come into our teens then. Our testosterone levels were still low and grouping for different reasons was yet to happen. Over at Bandarawela we were just innocent children being brought up by a set of dedicated teachers and matrons. And I am sure we all enjoyed life here in a common setting ……..However when we meet after 50 years we will definitely be a naughty set of grandparents just clearing the age of 60 years ……….

Photographs Courtesy Ms Erangany Selavadorai nee Karunaratne


  1. Great narration Uditha. Until we meet next month this is definitely worth sharing. Thank You.

  2. Great stuff,think am 5 years Jr to u guys,can think of lot more than marbles, during our time,gudu,kutty cricket,French cricket,etc:

  3. Great compilation of those glory days...Congrats Uditha........We were in Grade 111B in 1966......

  4. You have a fantastic memory
    I must say I was very sad to see the state of the play ground, it is in terrible shape
    Look forward to seeing everyone in a few weeks
    Best regards