"A mind is a terrible thing to waste," Frank Jackson of the V.I. Chess Federation quoted Tuesday afternoon in describing his delight with the three chess tables gracing the Franklin E. Roosevelt Virgin Islands Veterans Park.
First lady Cecile deJongh could not agree more. The chess tables, which will be installed on all islands, represent the fruits of her Chess in the Parks initiative.
About eight months ago, deJongh approached Scott Bradley of My Brother’s Workshop with an idea for a community initiative, to see if his crew could come up with a chess table. Bradley, who thrives on challenges for his recruits, said "sure."
Before the ceremony on Tuesday, Bradley spoke about making the four-sided wooden tables. He said he got one of his new recruits, 19-year-old Wilson Williams, to work on the idea.
"I drew him a rough draft of what I thought a chess table would look like and he came up with it," Bradley said. My Brothers Workshop has now made 14 of the tables, which have four benches, two for competitors and two for observers.
DeJongh said Tuesday that she had initially contacted a company in the states. "They quoted me $2,500 a table, plus shipping," That was when it occurred to her to contact Bradley. "And the workshop did it for $250 each, plus they donated one to us," she said.
A small and happy audience greeted the handsome tables situated beneath shade trees in the park Tuesday, each eager to talk about their roles in the project.
DeJongh said the initiative couldn’t have been accomplished without the permission of the Department of Housing, Parks and Recreation. The department’s assistant commissioner, Stanley Smith, said the department was happy to contribute to the initiative. He said the tables are a "great way to get youngsters to use the islands’ parks."
Chess federation member Robert Collins was proud as a new dad, smiling all around while talking about his passion. He has taught chess in the public schools for that last 20 years, currently at Ulla Muller Elementary School, where he teaches third, fourth and fifth grades, "and they love it," he said.
Expressing his enthusiasm for the park tables, Collins said, "This has been a long time coming. And we will now have an outdoor place to hold tournaments," he added.
Jackson praised deJongh for the initiative. "These tables will be well used," he said. "I have been playing chess for more than 50 years. It is the oldest board game in the world." And he insisted "Anyone can play chess.”
On St. Thomas there are two tables at the Alvin McBean Recreation Complex in Anna’s Retreat, one in Emancipation Garden, and one in Lindbergh Bay Park in addition to those in Roosevelt Park.
The dedication ceremony for St. John is Wednesday at 3 p.m. at the Frank E. Powell Park in Cruz Bay; and for St. Croix, 3 p.m. on Thursday at Altona Lagoon in Christiansted, and proceeding from there to the Vincent Mason Coral Resort pool in Frederiksted.
Though most of the tables are from My Brother’s Workshop, on St. Croix four granite tables donated by Amrey/Gemini are to be installed at Limpritch Park in Christiansted before the end of the month.