When ‘cutting’ was cool
Nothing like showing off to the classmates that you beat the dreaded cane of the Rector by sneaking off to Canal View for a quick punt and tea. Lawrence Machado writes
FOR scores of Peterites through the years, many hours were spent not studying diligently as our parents expected but in the splendid surrounds of the Savoy and Canal View restaurant.
Maybe the Savoy of today is not so impressive but it was to us those many moons ago when the type of movie did not matter but rather the chance to “cut” class and sneer at the poor sods left swotting back in college.
This cinema featured many of the United Artists film releases such as the James Bond series.
On an official side, the college had strong ties with Savoy, organising many benefit shows to raise funds to compensate for those who did not pay their school fees.
The best part was, of course, to pull a fag (when it was cool to call a cigarette a fag), eat some icy chocs, if we had a rich classmate with us, and then brag about it to our classmates the next day.
The Savoy was also home to numerous swindlers who prey on hapless schoolboys cutting classes. One of them was the omnipresent chap with a measuring tape wound tightly and he would double your money if you could find the centre with a pin. His golayas would easily find the centre and that would lull you into thinking it’s as easy as ABC. But that would be the last you see of your hard-got money as the trickster would pull the tape the other way, leaving you a dumb loser.
I’m sure the staff at the ticket counters knew we should have been in school but turned a blind eye specially since most of the tickets we purchased were for the gallery seats, where we mingled with the sarong johnnies and smoked cheap cigarettes fags or even beedis!
It was not uncommon to watch an adult movie via the bucks queue.
For a pukka tea and fag, there was nothing to beat the Canal View, though with the unique smell of the Wellawatte Canal its aura left much to be desired.
The Canal View was the most popular place for the boys, including leading sportsmen, and the staff thrived on our business. Some of them even had accounts there and were treated royally by the staff, which made the rest of us envious and wishing we also smoked more.
Of course, we had to dodge the ever-vigilant Prefect of Discipline and his cohorts, newly appointed prefects, and prepare to lie with a poker face, though that sometimes failed to trick our masters of interrogation, who would have made the Gestapo swell with pride.
Like the neighbouring Savoy, Canal View was deemed the number one public enemy of priests, masters and prefects, making it even more alluring
Nothing like showing off to the classmates that you beat the dreaded cane of the Rector by sneaking off to Canal View for a quick punt and tea and then getting back into class without your absence being noticed. Of course, guava leaves and other vegetation had to be used and chewed purposefully to nullify the smell of the tobacco.
Canal View was raided more times by Peterite masters and prefects than brothels were targeted by police but even that failed to dent its popularity. It was a typical café with malu paans, roast paans, buns, kimbula bunnies, in addition to traditional sweets such as the all-time favourite Gunasiri bulto.
Even though most of us can now afford more of life’s luxuries, nothing can compare to the precious plain tea and cigarette at Canal View, even though we always had to look over our shoulders for any member of the college administration.
Despite the threats of suspensions, caning and warnings to students, the Canal View never lost a single truant Peterite.