Thursday, December 14, 2006

Bartley Secondary School – Lam Chun Chew

Many schools in Singapore are named after the place in which they are located. Whitley Secondary, River Valley, Dunearn, Naval Base, Bukit Merah are just a few examples. The strange thing is that, many of these schools have been relocated to other places, so much so that their names no longer reflect their geographical locations. Whitley Secondary School is a good example. It used to be located at the junction of Whitley Road and Dunearn Road. However, it was shifted to Bishan some years back and the land is now occupied by the Singapore Chinese Girls School. Another example is its neighbour, Swiss Cottage Secondary School which was shifted to Bukit Batok.

Recently I passed by Bartley Road and found that a great deal of construction was taking place at the location where my alma mater, Bartley Secondary School used to stand. They are constructing a new MRT station there. I thought to myself - Bartley is probably going to suffer the same fate as Whitley and Swiss Cottage, by being relocated to one of the HDB housing estates and thus losing its historical character. Later, I was relieved to learn that Bartley was only shifted ‘next door’ to Jalan Bunga Rampai.

I take this opportunity to share with you about my days in this school.



Bartley1960-A

This is a 1960 photo of our class, Sec 4A. I am standing on the extreme right. Behind us is the Gurkha camp at Mt Vernon. To see a clearer version, please click on it to go to the Flickr.


Bartley Secondary School was born in the same year as my younger brother Chun See; 1952. It was named after a British Government Official, and started as a co-ed school with 81 boys and 10 girls. The girls left in 1956 to join the all-girls Cedar Secondary School a stone’s throw away. My sister Pat is from Cedar, incidentally.

Like the rest of my siblings, I went to Braddell Rise School in my primary school. But from 1957 to 1960, I attended Bartley Secondary School. Although my father was an old boy of ACS, he did not send me there. I do not know why. But all my 3 younger brothers went to ACS in secondary school. Maybe it was too far, and thus transport cost was too high at that time.

The first two years I spent in Bartley were my happiest because most of the time I indulged in seeing my school soccer team, led by Quah Kim Siak (Quah Kim Song’s elder brother) beat the daylights out of other secondary schools. The school also had a very dedicated gymnastics teacher – Mr Loo. Even weaker students under his charge could perform simple basic gymnastics such as head-stand, parallel bars swings, jumping over the vault-horse, whilst stronger students were able to perform advanced gymnastics.

Our school also pioneered the National Police Cadet Corps with the first unit being established in 1959. It was founded by a teacher by the name of Bobby Kway, who later joined PSA, the Port of Singapore Authority as a senior officer. (Any young people below 30 can tell me the old name of PSA?)

The school had many Indian graduate teachers with colourful personalities, including the principal. Among the teachers, we had a Chinese maths teacher who was an expert magician (more about him later), a Caucasian Geography teacher, a motherly Chinese language teacher and others. This school also had a fair share of naughty boy students with girls confined only in the two Pre-U classes.

My main idea of writing this article is to encourage other senior bloggers to share their nostalgic experience of their alma maters.

……. to be continued.

22 comments:

Victor said...

Chun Chew, your photo is so small, I can't see your face clearly leh. But one thing is for sure - you are taller than Chun See.

Lam Chun See said...

Sorry. Rushing this morning. I will upload the photo to Flickr later.

Chris said...

Yalor... in one of my army posts, your brother complained that my army platoon foto was too small to tell how Chris Sim look like. And here you go, uploading a foto even smaller then the one I put up! Sigh.

Bet you were one of the naughty boys, right? I think your Dad must have his reason for not sending you to a mission school. Just like my mum. Among the four kids, my kid brother was the only one who attended a Chinese school. And it was during the time when English-medium school was all the rage and the Chinese school was losing its shine. My mum tot her Chinese educated junior would be an asset to the family of potato-eating kids. How wrong she was! My brother suffered in school and subsequently my mum had him switched to an English stream school....

Lam Chun See said...

Aha. That reminds me I should go back and look at that army foto of Chris'. See if I can spot him now.

peter said...

My cousins were from that school and during my school holiday stay with them at Paya Lebar Street, we went over to the school field to play football. But the monsoon came and we played in the mud. I recalled there was a school next to Bartley called Eling School (spelling?). Behind Barltey School was Lorong Kuchai, notorious for its gangsters in the early 60s. Becasue Englsih-medium schools played football, I picked up basketball from a Chinese school in Paya Lebar Street. Chinese schools seem to have basket ball courts rather than football pitches.

peter said...

Chris
Somehwere I read that you were from Chestnut Drive School. I lived in the vicinity. The school was delayed from opening in 1966 because it was turned into a court house (in 1966), did you know? It was one the property of the Catholic St. Joseph church before it was sold to the government in 1964.

A number of Barisan Socialis party members were detained and tried in court and unfortunately the District Court in town were not capable of hosting so many detainees. So Chestnut Drive Sec School was turned into a court. There were several Reserve Units guarding the school and on my way hom from school, I could hear TT Rajah's voice shourting at the prosecution. TT Rajah was defending the Barisan Socialis members.

zen said...

A correction here, I actually attended Bartley in 1958, class form 2A and left in 1961, form 5A. The classification of classes were different from the present equivalent which is like Sec 1, Sec 2....upto Sec 4. My class form 5A was a pure-science class, supposed to be the top class of the whole school. One of the colourful teachers, was by the name of Mr H C Tan, a grandson of the illustrious Tan Tock Seng. In fact he was a student teacher of ACS during my father's time. Mr Tan was working in a Bank for some time before coming to Bartley to teach Maths. On one occasion we asked him why he did not continue to work in the bank. His replied: "I do not want to count other people's money !". He was also a famous amateur magician, and a member of the Int.cirle of magicians. He was a short, rounded and benign person, with a great sense of humour. Once while teaching us Maths, some naughty students were making a lot of noise, he turned around and said: "Do you want me to apply some 'knockerlogy' on your heads", meanwhile the chalk he was writing stuck onto the black-board suddenly, with all the students looking amazed by the magical act. During lunch time when we were playing Ping Pong, Mr Tan would walk past us, snatching away the ball. When we asked him to return it, he would show us his both his hands - empty !

zen said...

Victor - Lucky you could not see me clearly in the photo. I was nicknamed by my primary school mates as 'skeleton' - in a skinny frame of 5ft 10 ins. Wait still you see me in a group photo (to be released soon by Chun See). Not-so-nice comments may follow. Of course after a lapse of 40 plus years, I am now an old man with a different look.

Chris - Contrary to what you say, I was actually a introvert, so quiet in class, that should I faint on my desk area, no one would notice it. In short, I was a loner, even now.

Peter - The lorong kuchai you mentioned, was also known as kuchai keng in those days. Incidentally in our tuckshop there was a char kway teow stall which fried up delicious plates, using ku chai, 'see hum' and half a egg (one egg shared among two plates). Each plate costed 35 cents (concession to students).

Chris said...

Zen - Your maths teacher sounded like lots of fun. Lucky he was a kind soul. Other magician cum teacher would have juz used the magic wand, and poooff, all the irriting school kids were have disappeared from the face of earth! LOL. And how could say you're a loner when you have so many blogofriends keeping you company ah?

Peter - Er... sorry I was never from Chestnut Drive School. I enterd P1 in 1971.... so I guess maybe we're talking about a different era hor ... :))

Chun See - I dun think you could spot me. And I dun think you could still recall how I look juz having met me once. No? Ok, proof me wrong.... Hee.

Victor said...

Chun See, let me warn you first that you will have a hard time spotting Chris just like I had. Despite sitting next to him and seeing his (not so pleasant) face everyday for the past 2 years or so, I had extreme difficulty spotting him in the photo. That only says one thing - not my poor eyesight or power of recognition but Chris has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts in the last 20 odd years.

I still think that the wrong guy whom I identified looked more like him now that who he claimed was really him. See if you agree with me. Decide for yourself, if you can, after meeting Chris only once.

Lam Chun See said...

I give up totally. Not even 1 face looks slighty familiar.

zen said...

A correction to my earlier comment ku chai keng, should be ku chai pa, meaning ku chai farm. Ku chai vegetable) was popularly used to fry kway teow in earlier years. Sometimes, even Mr Tan could not stand those naughty boys, from various classes he taught. From time to time, we could hear a loud yell from him in anger, when those notorious students crossed the limit. When in happier mood, Mr Tan would chase a naughty boy around the class, mockingly trying to apply his 'knock-co-logy' on the culprit's head. He had two sons, one 39 yrs residing in Australia, and one only 11 yrs old. When asked why the two had such a great different in ages. He replied: "It is by accident, stupid", again trying to apply 'knock-co-logy' on the questioner's head.

Lam Chun See said...

When I went to NJC, I met many students from other schools. I became friends very quickly with a group of Bartley boys; one of them I am still in regular contact with today, almost 4 decades later. I think the reason I was able to connect with them so quickly was because my brother Chun Chew and my cousins were all from Bartley.

zen said...

I would like to relate some small humourous incidents. Here was one. When I was in the lower form, one day a fat Indian muslim class-mate Rashid (not his real name) was caught by me eating wanton mee. I disturbed him: "Ah - I see, caught you eating pork ha!" You know how he replied: " Not pork lah, only char siew!"

Another incident, a silly student addressed the lady assistant (an unmarried pretty lady aged around 30) of the mee stall, as 'ah soh'. I literally saw her face changed colour, stared angrily at the silly boy, wanting to 'eat' him up.

zen said...

The Gurkha police contingent stayed just behind our school, and from time to time allowed a small party of students to watch them showing off their expertize which included riot control, baton charging, arrest of rioters (mock demo), and the use of tear gas, not shown was machine gun shootings (blanks) which we frequently heard during our school lessons. Frankly speaking what was the difference between these Nepalese warriors from the others? Just the display of control effectiveness during racial riots (in the sixties) justified their service to the security of our country. When riots broke out, these battle hardened Gurkha police acted in such a shift way that sent total fear into the rioters' spines. How ? Batoning, manhandling, gun butting in a ruthless manner, without any racial prejudice, were the Gurkha specialties. These action was justified because unnecessay loss of lives called for extreme measures to be taken. It was reported that Gurkha police broke down doors (by heavy gun buttings) with relentless pursuit of the rioters, and together with their bicycles, were thrown onto police vans. Not to forget, if Gurkha were forced to draw out their kudtri (a curved knife), blood must be drawn from their opponents - that was their tradition. The Chinese has saying: "Soldiers are trained for a thousand days just to be used for a moment) which really applies to these professional Nepalese warriors.

fuzzoo said...

My father was from Bartley from around 1956. I think he was the anchor man of both the English as well as the Chinese debating teams. Wonder if any of you know him - Steven Chng Peng Ton.

zen said...

fuzzoo - Good to know that your dad was from my school. When talking about Chng, I did have a class-mate surnamed Chng. I would like to relate a humourous incident. One day our class teacher (lower form) asked us various questions individually, and when come to Chng, he asked: "what is your father's occupation?" Chng felt shy, did not reply, but quietly moved towards the teacher's direction, as he was near the teacher, he replied softly and modestly : "my father owns a gold smith shop!" My friend Chng was quite short and mascular because he was a body-builder. Body building was quite a fad at that time. By the way, your father name sounds very familiar to me. He could be my class-mate after all. If I am not wrong, after the lower form, we went to different classes. Hence we were in a way lost contact when moving to the higher forms (classes),during which he might have took part in the debating teams. Please verify with him. If he was really my class-mate (most likely) the date he joined Bartley should be 1958 not 1956.

fuzzoo said...

Hi Zen. Yes, that is defnitely my dad!!! My grandfather/great grandfather were goldsmiths and my dad was into body building and he was (and still is) short. Yes it's him!!!

zen said...

fuzoo - Please give him my best regards.

Wei Fen said...

Hi, I'm a student from NUS doing a project on Gurkha guards, i googled 'Singapore Gurkha Camp' and found this page-- would it be alright with you if i did an email interview with you, nothing very personal, just questions about what it was like studying so near the Gurkha camp, and other incidental interactions with the nepalese? If it's alright with you, could you drop me a mail at midnightbell@gmail.com? Thanks so much :]

Roger said...

Forever etched in my memory - when the Gurkhas fired tear gas during training, we made a mad scramble for the toilets to seek relief. Looking back I think it was hilarious.

Sajjad Hussain said...

I studied at Bartley Secondary School upto Secondary 2A and after promotion to Secondary 3A left for Pakistan in Jan 1966 following retirement of my father.My father served in the Singapore Police and we stayed at Mount Vernon Barracks just behind the school.It has been 47 years now but I still remember the school, the teacners and my friends and classfellows.I have studied in other schools and colleges but Bartley Secondary School is the school which Ican never forget. Dr Sajjad Hussain, Pakistan.