Saturday, July 07, 2012
The Day When We Have Silver Hair, Little Hair and Dyed Hair – By Peter Chan
This Sec 2 class reunion came about because BT Khoo had difficulty using Picasa3 software which has Face Tag recognition facility. Remarked BT, “It allows one to name the faces it picks in your photos. I cannot remember some of the names of our classmates and wonder if you can”. Being the person who is supposedly to have good memory (when given sufficient time) for names I made a go for it and was amazed at the results.
Photo 1: Then & Now – [Top] Class photo taken facing the Cenotaph. Not the top academic class but we still produced a State swimmer and a President Scholar (c 1968). [Bottom] At St. James Power Station. Can you recognise anyone? (c 2012)
Now we all know what it is like to have a school or class reunion function – interactions between individuals are short because size becomes a problem. You want to meet as many people as possible but the occasion ends up looking like a political party convention. That means, it’s just hand-shakes or a question that begins with “So, what are you doing now”. Worse to come is when you are confronted with the question, “Are you who I think you are”. So, there’s some good benefits to having the right size.
Finally we got together 14 classmates out of a class size of 38. One flew in from Sydney and the other driving down from Perak, Malaysia (more on him shortly). Some sent their regrets - because they were travelling, permanently overseas residents - or simply could not be reached.
Boss of St. James Power Station, Denise Foo, one of our classmates got us a long table and arranged for free-flowing bottles of the best 1968 white wine and Carlsberg at Food Junction. The rest of us individually chipped in to buy local hawker food.
Photo 2: Raja Noor from Perak (center) speaks to “Mr. Dental”. His Excellency is from the royal family (c 2012).
Our memory recollections at times are not for everybody as this risk offending those with a more sensitive nature. But we were certain we took it with a sense of humour often punctuated by bouts of laugher and frequent coughing. That 1968 was a great year made it a very entertaining evening.
There was the National Defense Fund (NDF) Carnival to raise money for National Service. Being at that tender age, we were easily seduced by adults to be loyal and nationalistic during the post-independence period from Malaysia. On a weekly basis, we collected from each classmate a minimum of 5 cents which went towards the cost of the stall construction. Mind you we were not funded at all by the school. There was also the collection for donated canned food stuff which went towards as prizes. For those who came from less fortunate background, there was exemption in exchange for hard labour to build the stall at the carnival (Refer to this story).
That year Singapore emphasised on “Building a Rugged Singapore Society” and we were all put through a revised P.E. syllabus of twice a week periods of P.E. and having to pass a Physical Fitness Test. Oh how we loved to escape P.E. by hiding in the toilet and ran for alternative cover when Lee Fong Seng (former RJC principal, then the Senior Assistant and Chemistry teacher) headed for the same place.
Photo 3: 1968 NDF Carnival at the Bras Basah school grounds. It was opened by the MP for Stamford Constituency, Mr. Ho See Beng.
At the reunion, someone remembered the Christmas party organized by the form teacher where we met the opposite sex for the first time (Refer to this story). In those days, RI students were considered “squares” and shy by the Convent/MGS girls, unlike those from the Christian Brothers School and Anglo-Chinese School. We were considered “top heavy” and nothing else. Yes we were late developers but how little these school girls knew that we carried “pistols with bullets” and were “Great Bedroom Olympians” after we left school. Though we were “top heavy”, we were certainly no angels when it came to speech. “Muchi Kotek and Parang Kotek” have a bad racial connotation by today’s standard but coming just after the Arab-Israeli War of 1967 where we had Jews, Muslims, Ceylonese and (North and South) Indians in the same class, nothing of that sort happened.
We trembled when Paul Hing took us for Elementary Mathematics. His teaching method was to ask the class solve problems on the blackboard. We often held our heads down, sat next to someone who was good at numbers or pretended to look intelligent but silently praying that the teacher would never pick us.
Then there were the usual pranks we did during Science Practical in the laboratory because Benny turned on/off the gas supply when there was no necessity to do so. When confronted by David Paul, he explained that he was learning the significant differences between flatulence, stink bomb and gas. Big crab! The class laughed but teacher was far from amused.
Photo 4: Looking at the old class-photo. The backdrop is the open-air carpark filled with hawkers, something which reminded Dennis of the former Orchard Road of the 1970s (c 2012).
There were two unique features about our classroom on the second level. First we were next to the staircase and the Hullett Library. It meant we would be the first at the Main Tuckshop during the afternoon session recess-break or read the latest comics in the library before teacher came into the classroom. Secondly we shared the same entrance/exit door with another class but separated by a wooden wall panel. When the other class was getting noisy, those seated at the back row in our class would use their fists to bang the panel.
After 1968, we were separated because of streaming into Science and Arts but reunited again in our senior school years or at the university.
Someone remembered the year when we didn’t quite get the high quality pretty girls we were expecting at JC1. I explained to one of the wives (who turned up to check on hubby) that we were then “living in a monastery” for 4 years. Surely there was justification to be disappointed, right? That JC1 year was 1971. Nevertheless one of us later married the winner of the “Miss Singapore” beauty pageant.
Photo 5: Inside St. James, a Filipina trio belting out a hot number which was good for the younger crowd but not for our ears (c 2012).
Beside stories, there were also quizzes. Who was the senior girl who was kissed by one of our classmates in 1971 under the banyan tree instead of under the mistletoe? Which girl had the biggest pair of “knockers” in school? The answers were unanimous; very much the same answers as 40+ years ago. You see, memories never fade away.
To complete the evening activities, Denise brought us on a tour of St. James Power Station. The high note was when a Filipina trio did a special item for us. By the time we left for home, it was way past midnight. We were too tired to watch the UEFA Euro 2012 beamed “live” during this season. Anyway many of us lost our voices, perhaps drowned by the loud music inside St. James Power Station.
One of the good things about our friendship over the years was firstly, we didn’t need to hide dark secrets and secondly avoid classmates who had fallen on bad times or from grace. I think this is the most important test for a real meaning of the word “Friends” because everybody else we meet in our life journey are simply acquaintances.
Now dear younger readers, why not ask your father what he did during his school days. Did he do the many things like I described? You might be surprise that your father might have been quite hip in his younger days.