September 2011 Volume 8

Profile of one of the oldest living KCOBs - Ken Richardson

Dr. Cedric Lazarus
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Ken Richardson is without a doubt one of the oldest living KC old boys. He was born on the 6th of November 1914 in Duckenfield, St. Thomas and so is now 97 years old. He was among the fourth cohort of boys to attend KC as he started in 1928 and graduated in 1932. I recently chatted with him by telephone from his home in California where he lives with his daughter and other family members. Amazingly, he still possesses a sharp and remarkable memory and remembers a lot about the early days of KC. He recalls the struggles to compete with the already established schools, both academically and on the sports field, and the visionary and exemplary leadership of Rev. Gibson and his senior teachers.

In his pre-KC days, Ken often attended the St Georges Anglican Church where he first met the dynamic Rev. Gibson who was the preacher at that church. He was impressed by the brilliance and oratory of the young Gibson and aspired to attend the new school which Rev. Gibson had founded in 1925. So in 1928 at age 14 Ken entered the gates of KC at the corner of East and North Streets to commence his secondary school education.

The teachers who made the most impression on him were the headmaster himself and George Clough. Ken was not very athletic and did not excel in any sports but he was impressed, as was the entire school, by the talent and raw speed of the school’s lone star athlete at the time a boy named A.F. Brown. In 1929, the year KC first entered Boys Champs, Brown showed his class by gaining 14 of KC’s 14.5 points! In a superb sprinting and jumping display at Sabina Park, he won the class two 100 and 220 yards, came second in the 440 yards and won the long jump as well as the high jump to be crowned the undisputed class two champion and in the process upsetting Russell from Wolmer’s who, based on his previous performances at Champs, was the overwhelming favorite. This was a truly outstanding feat for young Brown who was competing at Champs for the first time. Incidentally no-one, including Ken, can remember who won the half a point for KC that year!

As a student Ken studied every subject offered, including Latin, while mathematics, physics and chemistry were his favorite. After graduating in 1932 he taught for a while before securing a job in the sugar industry. In those days sugar was still king in Jamaica but he recalls that of the scores of sugar factories across the island many were in dire financial trouble. He first worked as a junior chemist at the Jamaica Sugar Estate in St Thomas and when his boss moved west to another factory in Hanover he went with him. Such was his love for chemistry that he eventually ended up working as the chief sugar chemist in the labs of several sugar factories across the island. Many of these factories no longer exist but he remembers their names well. They include, Vale Royal Sugar Factory in Trelawny, Barnett’s and Iron Shore Estates in St James and Llandovery and Richmond Estates in St Ann. He also recalls that by the time of Jamaica’s Independence in 1962 most of the smaller factories had either been acquired by the larger factories or had ceased operations entirely because of low productivity and lack of competitiveness.

In 1944 while working in Hanover he got married but, unfortunately his wife died 10 years after. He remarried in 1974 and has seven children from both unions. Ken left the sugar industry in the 1960s and worked for many years in the manufacturing sector in Hanover. In 1996 he migrated to the USA to be with his children and grand children in the twilight of his life. He now lives in Artesia, Los Angeles County, California.

To what does he owe his longevity, relatively good health and sharp intellect? He thinks that healthy eating is very important and so he tries to eat breakfast every morning and he avoids altered foods including anything that is genetically modified. To keep his intellect sharp he challenges his brain daily by trying to recall key and important historical events and keeping abreast of current world events. It is obvious that these habits have served and continue to serve him well and we look forward to him celebrating his 100th birthday in 2014.

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