In junior school in the early 1980s, we were assigned to either of the two clubs, Sparrows and Magpies. But on Sports Day and for inter-house games, we were free to align (mentally) with one of the four Houses of the senior boys.
When I was a very young Loyolite, I chose SS House. There were three weighty reasons: the attractive red flag of Sputnik Spacemen; the logo with a prominent Superman-like ‘S’; and that the House Captain commuted along with us in Bus Number 3.
Ten days ago, I met the man behind the red flag and the super logo.
Giles Francis, son of an army officer, was schooled for the most part in northern India. In 1963, he returned to Trivandrum and joined Mar Ivanios College to study Economics. While there, Giles did not merely draw demand-supply curves as I was to do thirty years later; he enrolled in a correspondence course in art. By the time he graduated in economics, Giles had also become a qualified commercial artist.
In the early 1970s, he drew greeting cards (bought by USIS staff in Trivandrum), designed textiles for firms in Madurai and Coimbatore, and in his spare time, privately tutored schoolboys in Hindi. Among his students were Loyolites.
One day (in 1973 or 1974), a Loyola student of his took the artistic Hindi teacher to Fr C.P. Varkey. The four Houses in school — Green, Yellow, Blue and Red — had recently been rechristened Apollo Pioneers, Gemini Giants, Jupiter Jetsetters, and Sputnik Spacemen. Giles was asked to design the logos of the four Houses and make a flag for each House.
Giles Francis in front of the building where he painted the House flags in the 1970s – Photo: Ashok R Chandran
In going about the task, was he influenced by the Houses in his own school, the Jesuit institution St Xavier’s, Hazaribagh? “No. The Houses there were Britto, Gonzaga, Loyola and Xavier”, Jesuit saints light years away from the space age names he encountered in Sreekariyam.
“I was interested in calligraphy. For Apollo Pioneers, I used a monogram with the letters A and P joining together,” Giles revealed. “Sputnik Spacemen…the House colour was red. For the logo to be prominent on red background, I chose white. The ‘S’ with an orbit just struck me.”
I told Giles that I found the Gemini Giants logo quite complicated. I mean, AP had the spacecraft and SS had the orbit, but GG was bewildering. He asked, “Isn’t that the Gemini twins?” Even as I wondered whether it was he or me who had a memory lapse, I quickly drew a crude version of the logo. He took one look at it and said “Yes. That’s the astrology symbol for Gemini.” In less than a minute, by pointing to the stylised symbol for Gemini, Giles had snatched my admiration from the SS camp and placed it in GG.
As a kid I could barely say Jetsetters and the dark blue House vest is as unappealing now as it was then. Thankfully, I was in Jupiter Jetsetters only for one year. Yet, that’s where my loyalty lies. Because I led JJ House in my final year of school. And when you are house captain, you don’t fail to notice that on Sports Day, you carry a light blue flag but wear a dark blue vest. Giles unravelled the puzzle. “On a flag, from a distance, dark blue can look like black. That’s why light blue was chosen,” he explained.
Giles should know because he was the one who went to Chalai and selected the cloth for each flag. “The cloth is crape, not satin,” he said. That’s another Loyola myth broken. How little we know about the objects we worshipped in school! Giles tells me the benefit of silk,”Satin is heavy. A flag has to flutter. Crape is best.”
Giles used fabric paint to paint the logos on the flags of Houses. He then made badges for the House Captains, the School Leader, the Assistant School Leader, and the General Captain.
Giles’ artwork for Loyola was not limited to the logos of Houses. Fr Kuruvila Cherian was a man of ideas. He had worked with Giles on the design of logos, and as Vice-Principal he commissioned a series of paintings on Jesus Christ (Jesus as a toddler, a young boy, and so on), one to be hung in each classroom.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Giles drew a school map on a wooden panel, designed a school magazine cover, and served as a judge at La Fest. His other connection with Loyola is that Giles is a cousin of the former Rector Fr Dominic George.
When Giles’ father retired from the army, he had settled in Trivandrum and set up a foreign languages institute. But it did not take off. Today, on request, Giles takes language classes in German, Russian, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and spoken English. His students include Japanese computer professionals visiting India, and Indian doctors wishing to learn Chinese.
After retiring from Keltron (where he worked in the advertising and public relations department), Giles has also been running a homestay for tourists. It was at Graceful Homestay, with a glass of pineapple juice in one hand and an afternoon breeze in the face, that I heard the story of Loyola’s logos. “You are the first to ask me about it,” said Giles.
As I took leave, it was his turn to quiz me, “Do you know who designed the emblem of Loyola School?” I began hesitatingly “Er…you did that one too?” “No,” he replied, “Laurie Baker designed it.”
Acknowledgement: The tipster wishes to remain anonymous. Fr Edassery and Madhu uncle helped me take the photo of the new JJ flag.