Where did Mychal Thompson first demonstrate his quality basketball talents?
The trivia answer is the Garfunkel Auditorium.
Thompson ended his meaningful pioneer professional career, playing in the 6,000 seats PalaMaggio Arena in Caserta, Italy during the 1991-1992 season. Prior to that he graced gyms all over South Florida when he evolved as the best center in the state. Later, he was a huge Big Ten Conference star and All-American while at the University of Minnesota.
Thompson’s performances led to him being the No. 1 selection in the 1978 National Basketball Association (NBA) Draft by the Portland Trail Blazers. He would play his home games in Portland and travel to the upscale arenas throughout the different NBA cities. Such was the case for his one season with the San Antonio Spurs and of course during his most glorious years as a Los Angeles Laker, playing with greats such as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy,
The Staples Center, always a venue of history, was further enhanced by the presence of the “Showtime” Lakers of which Thompson was a significant ingredient.
However, it was the Garfunkel Auditorium that unveiled his raw skills, which even then, around 1972, when he was 17, proved superior to all others locally at the center position, with one exception (at the time), Sterling Quant.
Joseph Garfunkel had donated the property to the Catholic Diocese and, it is said, either covered the cost to build Aquinas College’s Auditorium, or greatly assisted financially. In any event it was officially named Garfunkel Auditorium. Joseph Garfunkel is also credited with building the Palmdale Shopping Center, the nation’s first bowling alley and St. Cecelia Catholic Church.
Joseph Strachan, a historian in his own right, referred to St. Cecelia Church in his recent communication to me and said he thought Garfunkel’s wife name was Cecelia. Joe, it was in fact Kathryn Cecelia Boyle-Garfunkel.
So yes, the Garfunkel connection to The Bahamas through business, sports and other civic gestures is quite profound. Garfunkel Auditorium, for a very long time was synonymous with the excellent Broadway plays and Christmas shows produced by the musical and creative genius Andrew Curry.
I know firsthand of the era, having played the role of Sir Lancelot in Camelot, a production that had crowds streaming into Garfunkel Auditorium to view Curry’s young stage talents. Lorraine Mortimer, Freddie Munnings Jr. Rose Godet, Marco Joseph, Brian Gibson, Evan Lewis, Brenda Bostwick, Alfred Forbes, and Theresa Munnings are some of the young students Curry developed for the stage during the 1960s and early 1970s.
In a later era, though, Garfunkel Auditorium became known more because of the fierce basketball battles that took place there and for being the home court of, in my view, the greatest high school team in Bahamian history. I refer to the Jerry Harper players, Fred Laing, David Bastian, George Brennen, Charlie Robins, Noel Taylor and others.
The various events staged at Garfunkel Auditorium were in keeping with the high standards of the venerable benefactor named Garfunkel. Today, Joseph Garfunkel would be dismayed to see what has become of the building. It really sits as an atrocity on Madeira Street in Palmdale, New Providence, just across from another noted long-standing Catholic establishment, St. Thomas Moore Church/School.
The sorry state of Gaarfunkel Auditorium does not do justice to the legacy of that innovative contributor to nation building through business, sports, civics and charitable gestures.
Archbishop Patrick Pinder, head of the Catholic Church in The Bahamas, is challenged to address the matter. It is absolutely shameful that a building that housed so much of what was very special to this nation is allowed to sit in such a derelict condition.
Garfunkel Auditorium should be preserved in memory of Joseph Garfunkel.
(To respond to this column, kindly contact Fred Sturrup at Sturrup1504@gmail.com).
Published Tuesday, March 21, 2017