Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 18th 2013 Contents B2
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Monday, November 18, 2013
Cressy's love for T&T runs deep, as he
said he reads the online newspapers
everyday. During the interview Cressy
proved to be familiar with and amused
by the various political shenanigans
making headlines in the past two
months due to the recent St Joseph by-
election and local government election.
He has made life-long connections
with Hassanali and Manbodh, who both
speak highly of the man who developed
the fledgling YMCA and did not relent
until the Christmas trees touched down
"Gordon is a fantastic person. He
loved it here and the people loved him.
He was the one who really set up the Y,"
Hassanali said, laughing as she
rememberered him riding his bicycle
around the town.
He lived in Trinidad as a YMCA
volunteer until he was 21, then returned
for two summers in 1965 and 1967 to
help run a camp.
He said his stint here was "the most
powerful time in my life in terms of
"It's (T&T) the place that changed my
life," he said solemnly.
"Going into it, it just seemed like a
grand adventure." He explained that he
realised early on his purpose was to
listen and learn so he could truly help
Cressy still could not resist T&T after
he left in 1967. At present, Cressy is the
president of the George Brown College
Foundation, a storyteller and public
speaker in Toronto, and has a masters
degree in social work.
"Over the years, until 2008 I would
come down once a year for 35 years.
Whenever I could find a way to come
down I was there," saying no matter
what, his first stop would always be for
a hot doubles.
When asked what was his favourite
thing about T&T he said: "The people,
the music and the food. Those three."
He described Calypso Rose and Sparrow
as "fantastic" and the Signal Hill choir in
Tobago as "sensational."
The 19-year-old teenager may have
grown up, but he has never stopped
contributing to the country's
development. Since 2008 he has been
coming back about four times a year,
but not for a sand and sea vacation.
Cressy and his wife Joanne Campbell
were instrumental in building the YMCA
in Tobago near Turtle Beach from 2008
to 2011, as they were project managers
who helped raise funds.
"Mrs Hassanali was very helpful. We
recruited a very strong board of
directors. We talked to the government
(Tobago House of Assembly) and they
gave us three acres of land, which was
The project cost about $13 million,
and Cressy said the government
provided half of the funds, while the
group raised the remainder. Their team
of experts designed and built two
pools---an eight lane, 25 metre pool and
a smaller learning pool.
Operations director for the Tobago
YMCA Ainsley King said up to 1,200 pre-
school, primary and secondary school
students use the pool on a weekly basis
for swimming classes. The facility has
eight swim instructors.
"The THA subsidises that cost for
students. So they can learn to swim for
free," he said via telephone.
He said the facility was a "great
benefit" to Tobagonians---young and old.
"A lot of people don't know how to
swim. Some people come to the pool
and are ashamed to say they don't
know how to swim...It's also beneficial to
seniors, who exercise in our aqua
aerobics programme. Everyone is
thrilled to have this facility."
Manbodh was a young Customs
Officer, who rented a room from the
association, where he met Cressy. He
remembered the trip as one big adven-
"It was good fun! I never rode in an
aircraft before, I didn t even have a
passport," the 74-year-old retiree
Cressy added happily they sneaked
some rum onto the plane too.
They returned to Trinidad on the
evening of December 22, loaded the
trees onto a truck and drove to Port-
of-Spain for the grand sale.
Sold at $1 per foot, the YMCA was
able to buy table tennis and weight lift-
ing equipment with the proceeds.
Hassanali, who has become very
close friends with Cressy and his family,
spoke of the joy the trees brought to
people saying "it s really very, very
exciting to have a tree like that."
"People were delighted to have it, it
was a great idea. We didn t have a clue
about Christmas trees in those days.
It was very exciting to have a tree like
that," she said.
Cressy said despite all the obstacles,
their optimism and tenacity made it
"Good energy and good will can
make good things happen," Cressy said.
"It s always great to have grand
dreams. I believe in grand dreams."
He joked that in January 1964, he
got a raise in salary from the YMCA
from $10 to $12 a week.
Many Christians, Catholics, Hindus,
and Muslims gravitate toward this fes-
tive custom, regardless of understanding
where it came from or what it repre-
sents. That s where we keep the gifts.
But there s something about a lit
Christmas tree, artificial or real, big or
small, that makes you feel warm, peace-
ful and happy. Maybe it s the twinkling
lights. But Cressy s grand dream to
brighten the season with something
other than a coffee tree branch deco-
rated with cotton balls, was fresh and
exciting, and no doubt a welcomed
change in 1963.
Trees sold at $1 per foot
From Page B1
Paul Follett, a Canadian volunteer working with the Barbados YMCA, left, poses with Gordon Cressy in the
airport in December 1963, where they loaded the Trinidad-bound Christmas trees onto a BWIA aircraft.
PHOTOS COURTESY GORDON CRESSY
When Gordon Cressy was a 19-year-
old high school graduate who moved
from Canada to volunteer at the YMCA
had a vision for Christmas 1963, and
that was to import real scotch pine
trees from his home country and sell
them in Trinidad.
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