Bob, Camille, and Amy travel to Tema to visit Bob’s boyhood stomping grounds.
COMMUNITY SIX, TEMA 1970
Community 6 was built to hold the dozens of expatriate families that the Volta Aluminium Company (VALCO) brought over to Ghana to build and operate the aluminium smelter in Tema that Bob’s dad managed. In addition to the Community 6 housing, VALCO owned and maintained a school, a club, a hospital, and a commissary to serve its expatriate employees and their families. On the right is Bob (3rd from right in the white shirt) and his 7th grade class at VALCO school. The cement “animals” in the back were a fixture in the school yard and Bob got to climb on them again this day as you’ll see below.
Five foot tall Amy towers over the security guard we met after parking near the VALCO school site. We then walked along the familiar sidewalks towards Bob’s friend Dee Simmons’ old house. You can tell we’re in the middle of the dry season by the color of the grass. The apartment in the back of the photo on the right is where Bob’s teacher Mrs. Conley lived. She is the teacher on the left in the photo above. Bob used to stay in her guest room occasionally and her steward made the best brownies that he always kept in stock.
TRULY “MEMORY LANE”
This is the street where Bob’s best friend, personal adviser, and hang-out buddy lived. Dee and Bob and their friends spent many hours playing here. This included riding horses, motorcycles, getting bit by a monkey, and other numerous adventures. Dee’s house was the brown trimmed one second house down.
SIMMONS’ HOUSE AND VALCO SCHOOL
Here’s Bob in front of Dee’s house. Dee’s parents had six kids and so they bought a small “mammy lorry” when they came to Ghana in order to be able to haul them (and all their friends) around. Bob expected to see the green Datsun lorry in the drive when he walked up. On the right is the large college which now dominates the location of the old VALCO school, which a local told us still exists in the middle of the site although added onto considerably.
COMMUNITY SIX FLATS
Here’s a better look at the flat that Mrs. Conley lived in. The flats held four apartments each for smaller families while the houses were filled with larger families. On the right is the site of the VALCO school which now houses SOS-Hermann Gmeiner International College.
CARPORTS AND SCHOOL GROUNDS
Bob has fond memories of snake hunting, tag playing, and general hanging out at Community 6 with his boyhood friends.
KAISER FLATS THEN AND NOW
Kaiser Flats were built in Community 4 before Community 6 housing was built and was used as living quarters for the expats who built the smelter, school, and other infrastructure. It was also right next to the VALCO club where Bob and his buddies hung out when not running around somewhere else. The photo on the left was taken in 1970, the one on the right in 2013.
VALCO CLUB TIME CAPSULE
The VALCO club is currently mothballed and looks to be much as it was 40 years ago. The club offered kids and adults all kinds of amusement and recreation. Movies twice a week on the big screen, a swimming pool, tennis courts, mini-golf, burgers and beers, the club had it all. On the day we visited, Bob tried to talk the security guard into letting us in for a quick look – he was steadfast in his opposition, so we peered through the fence at the memories.
VALCO CLUB IN ITS HEYDAY – EARLY 1970′s
On the right, Bob’s mom Alice is in the clubhouse at a function talking with Bob’s teacher Mrs. Conley. Alice and Mrs. Conley were good friends who traveled all over West Africa in Mrs. Conley’s white VW Beetle from Tema to Timbuktu. On the right is a photo from about 1972 looking back from the clubhouse towards the exact spot that Bob took the photo through the fence 40 years later!
MINIATURE GOLF ANYONE?
Amazingly, the miniature golf course looks the same as it did 40 years ago, at least through the chain link fence!
THE ANIMALS OF VALCO SCHOOL
On the left is Bob at the club in about 1972, thinking he’s pretty bad with his switchblade and Boone’s Farm wife-beater.
On the right is the 5th Grade class of VALCO School in April 1971. You can see the giraffe and the “bug” in the background. These cement and terrazzo critters were the hit of our schoolyard and really icons of the school in general. When we visited Tema, the animals were no longer at the school site. While sticking our noses through the fence at the club, a local guy came up and it turned out he was friends with some former schoolmates of Bob’s. He then told us that the animals had been donated to another local Tema school and gave us directions. As the sun was setting, off we went to find them.
After heading off a mile or so south of the old school site and taking a right turn, the animals were spotted in the yard of Tema Secondary School! It was great to see that they were still popular with kids after all these years.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
It took a coordinated effort to get Bob up on the giraffe. Fortunately, there were a lot of willing helpers. After he made it up he was happy to give some of the other kids a hand up.
After helping up the last of the kids, Bob told the story of how the animals came to be and that he had scrambled up these very creatures 45 years ago as a young boy. At first the kids were skeptical but after a few more questions and answers they believed.
BUG OR TURTLE?
The “bug” was the first animal built at the VALCO School followed by the giraffe and then the snake. The bug was the favorite of most kids but in time the giraffe earned its place as it was only climbable by the bigger kids. The kids now call the bug the “turtle” and seem to think its pretty cool too.Camille got into the act with the snake, both of whom look ready to swallow something.
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