HE was disappointed, yet happy to again to be standing on "holy ground".
Alvin Plummer, a 52-year-old Vere Technical past student living in the United States, was on vacation in Montego Bay, Jamaica, when he got word that his alma mater would be hosting Manchester High in the final of the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) Headley Cup cricket competition in Hayes, Clarendon.
That same Thursday evening, Plummer, like a schoolboy bursting with excitement, set out on a journey from western Jamaica to the south-east of Clarendon to witness what he thought would have been a routine Vere Tech victory.
On Friday morning, the final day of the three-day rural area cricket final, he pulled up to the gates of Vere, just in time to reacquaint himself with the schoolyard where he used to roam as an exuberant teenager back in the '70s.
Plummer is a stocky, clean-shaven fellow of about 5ft 6 inches, sporting glasses and tidily dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and blue jeans pants. He walked over to me, politely introduced himself, before asking: "What's the status of the game?"
I told him, Vere, chasing 210 for victory, were 54-6.
Immediately, his countenance changed. I, the bearer of unpleasant news, had seemingly spoiled his day, and with a kiss of the teeth, he replied: "Dat mean di mach dun den."
Vere eventually lost the match by 90 runs in the morning session after losing their last four wickets for 65 runs. By that time, however, Plummer was in a happier mood. He had seen enough from the young Vere cricketers — who had earlier in the season beaten St Elizabeth Technical High School (STETHS) for the limited overs title — to be convinced that they could redeem themselves in the future.
"All I can seh, wait till next year," he murmured constantly, as Manchester High closed in on their first-ever Headley Cup title.
Being from an era when Vere students weren't used to losing, he was naturally disappointed with the outcome of the match. But, still, he felt a certain pride being back at the place where he first learnt to be a man.
"In my days," he recalled, "we had to eat with knife and fork. All simple things like yuh shoes had to be clean like a whistle."
Earlier, Plummer — born in Toll Gate in the south-west of Clarendon — was reliving those days. "The glory days", he called them.
His memory was razor-sharp and his knowledge of sports impressively wide. He spoke about a period in Vere Tech's history "when students wore the uniform with pride. When "girls actually liked bright boys" and when only "bitter rivals" Clarendon College could offer any form of challenge to Vere in daCosta Cup football.
He called names of "great high school athletes", most of whom I had never heard about, as he painted a picture of a school that simply had no equal in sports.
Legendary Jamaican footballer Alan 'Skill' Cole and Olympian Merlene Ottey are among his all-time favourite Vere Tech sports stars. But the person who had the greatest impact on him as a youngster at Vere, was former principal Ben Francis — the man after whom the rural area Ben Francis Knock-Out competition is named.
"Franco", he called him.
"He was like a god in these parts," Plummer told me. He was happy to have known the man who presided over Vere's most prosperous history in sports. "But he wasn't just into sports," he continued, "he also had a passion for discipline and that's the main reason why Vere was so successful."
Francis, a former ISSA president, was principal of Vere from its inception in 1960 to 1993, when he retired from the public education system.
"Franco was so influential," Alvin said. "He could get any runner, cricketer or footballer he wanted from any school in the country. If Rusea's, for instance, had a top player this season everybody knew he would be coming to Vere next season. And when you look at it, it's really a great achievement for a school that was founded in 1960. When we won nine D'Cups, Rusea's, which is a much older school, never even win one. But look at the stats now. Since Rusea's win their first title, Vere has not won any. The last time we won was 1980."
That was over 30 years ago. Things have changed much since then. For instance, to the average sports fan born in this era, Vere is pretty much the forgotten child of high school sports — sitting in the shadow of Holmwood Technical, Edwin Allen, STETHS, former "whipping boys" Glenmuir High, and Rusea's, who have won 10 daCosta Cups since 1984.
Plummer has hope, though. Hope that his beloved Vere Tech, which has produced more Olympic and World Championship athletes than any other Jamaican secondary school, will once again dominate with bat and ball, rekindle their daCosta Cup rivalry with Clarendon College and cross the finish line first at Girls' Champs, which they won a record 22 times.
"That's what Vere was known for: sports and agriculture. We used to have a big farm around that side," he said, pointing into the distant past.