Class of ‘77 ‘shoots the breeze’
The reunion was a long time coming.
Graduates of the first air-conditioning and refrigeration course offered by the Bermuda College met on Saturday for lunch at The Lobster Pot.
Having last gathered as a group in 1977, they decided it “was about time” they made an effort to sit and “shoot the breeze”.
“We were the first class at the Bermuda College and it’s been 45 years since we graduated from the college,” Vance Hollis said.
“It’s the first time we've had the chance. We've been talking about it for several years but we haven't gotten together since we graduated from the college.”
The three-year course started under the instruction of Garth Harding in 1974 with Mr Hollis, Kevin Bailey, Coolridge Bell, Wayne Ball, Kenneth Simmons, Kenneth Wilson, Derrick Lowe, William Grant, Edward Hypolite, Derrick Smith, Sandy Benevides, Kevin Hart and Ricky Flood, who suggested they call themselves “Garth’s Angels”.
Mr Hollis enrolled immediately after he graduated from Robert Crawford, the former vocational school for boys in Devonshire.
“I got into the programme out of high school,” he said. “In high school you used to have day release; one day a week you would go and work for a company. I was doing electrics at Robert Crawford school and I was seconded to go to Bermuda Air Conditioning one day a week and I just fell in love with the trade. From there I’ve never turned back. It’s the only thing I've done. I've never even had to do a job application.”
The 63-year-old, who plans to retire next year, joined the staff of BAC immediately after his Bermuda College graduation.
The transition from student to full-time worker was “a bit scary” for the tradesman, who is now the company’s longest-serving employee.
“But after we got the experience it wasn't scary at all,” said Mr Hollis, who has undertaken further study to ensure he has stayed ahead of the curve.
“When I started at BAC they had a shortage of technicians so they put myself and one other graduate in a van together, a person named Derrick Lowe, and sent us out there to work. We jumped right into it. We were apprentices but we were out there doing the work, feeding off each other.”
Massive change has taken place in the industry over the past four decades, he said.
“They used to fix stuff when we started out, now you just throw away. The technology out there is truly digital now and I'm more of an analogue person. You can’t fix anything. You just pull out a board and push one back in. When I came through we had a process. Today, unless you have the equipment to protect [the machinery], it will take you for ever to fix the actual unit.”
When he joined the workforce there were far fewer homes and offices with air conditioners, he said.
“When I started, everybody was just starting to get air conditioning. We had a lot of the room air conditioners and they're pretty well played out now — everybody's gone to mini splits. We had a lot of [direct expansion cooling] systems. I like those better because you can always put in some fresh air and mix it in with the system. But now what you have are these [mini units] all around the offices; the offices are all closed up and all they’re doing is circulating the same air.”
He recommended that when buying, people think about how their health might be impacted at some point down the road.
“If you do that, in the long term you're better off. The initial cost might be a little bit more but as you go on then it will balance itself out.
“The [cheaper way] you only get about six years out of it and then if you put a DX system in, you won't have to do anything on the inside for at least ten years. And you might get ten years on the outside. In my view it’s best to invest in the beginning.”
Mr Hollis is looking forward to his retirement next year.
“I’ll do something but it’s not going to be getting up early every morning to do it,” he laughed. “I'll stay busy. If I work for the church, or whatever the case might be I’ll do something.”
Apart from any help he is called on to provide for St John's Church, Mr Hollis is planning that his taxi licence and heavy truck licence will be enough to keep him occupied should he decide to do some work.
And 45 years later, he is happy with the career choice he made.
“I wouldn't change it. The way how it was back then, I wouldn’t change it.
“I enjoyed being able to work through [problems]. There was a system that I enjoyed, of getting through one stage to the next to fix the issue.”