Thursday, December 28, 2006

More On Bartley Secondary School - Lam Chun Chew


Before I enrolled in Bartley, the school had a gangster problem. When I started study in the school, this problem seemed to have dissipated, thanks to the enforcement of discipline by our fierce principal Mr Jesu. He would not hesitate to call for the police if he knew any of his students took part in this nefarious activity.

A case in point. One of my primary school mates named Ah Leng, a Hainanese boy, whose father owned a coffee stall in our kampong, was misguided into a secret society. In fact he was a smart boy doing well in the primary school and when posted to Bartley, things changed. He was caught by the principal for taking part in a gang fight outside school and was referred to the police, ending his school career in a most unfortunate way. Later on, when I was working in the port, one day a stevedore called me: “Lam – how are you?” I turned around, and to my surprise, I found my long-lost friend, Ah Leng calling me. Imagine; a bright kid with a good future before him had turned into a hardened labourer, eking out for a living .. to hell with organised crime!

Me (extreme left) and some of my buddies trying our best to look 'cool' and macho.


One of our most colourful Indian graduate teachers was my Physics teacher, Mr Chettiar. He graduated from Travancore U, southern India, with a science degree. A tall, bespectacled and skinny guy with a moustache, he had a very boring dress sense. He liked to wear white long sleeve shirts, with white pants to match, throughout the year, with an occasional switch to grey trousers.

Mr Chettiar, I must say, was a benign teacher. When he got angry with naughty students, he would grimace, raising his right hand high, pretending to execute a karate chop, not quite reaching the culprit’s neck, causing a ruckus in the process. When coming to his lesson, he was like being charged with a megawatt of energy, moving swiftly from one end of the black board to the other. Just to quote one incident during his physic lesson, acting like an Indian Enstein explaining a theory of the universe, he would enthusiastically expound with a heavy Indian accent : “angalar aaxe + angalar wwhy (angle x + angle y) ….and so on and so forth…One board of calculation not enough, he rubbed off, starting another full black-board of calculations, and finally the answer. Meanwhile, I was in twilight zone. One of my class’ smartest chaps, P Chiew sprang up and said: “Mr Chettiar, I think there is a shorter cut to find the answer!” Mr Chettiar: “Oh, is it. Come and do it on the board”. P Chiew went to the black board and wrote out all the calculations and out popped the answer, done only with half a black board. Mr Chettiar felt embarrassed, and unsmilingly said: “Well the calculation is short, but still quite misleading; and worse not clear!” The class became very quiet after this.

Another lady bespectacled Indian teacher named Mrs Bess, was really a beauty, as pretty as a Bollywood star. She taught us English in the lower form. A very quiet, dignified, composed person who drew plenty of unwanted attention from the male population, especially from the Indian teachers. There was another short, very good looking lady teacher (Chinese) who drove a sport car to work (forgot her name), who one day requested a mini library behind the class-room, so as to improve our English. At once Mr Jesu granted her wish without much query. It was rumoured that this lady was from Penang and was formerly working in an airline. To the disappointment of everyone, she taught only for a short period and left the school.

Indeed there were many stories of my school, but I would like to stop here, and for further inputs, I would like to fill them up in the comments section.


Victor said...

Not bad at all. Of the three qualities of an ideal man - tall, dark and handsome - you had one, which is very tall. Haha.

Anonymous said...

Victor- Thank you for your compliments, but my wife said, not in a jest, that had she known me for being that skinny, she wouldn't have married me. You would have notice even school boy at that time like to wear drain-pipe trousers and spotted a Elvis Presley hair style if possible. To think of it, our principal was pretty liberal. He even allowed a some-kind of a 'rock concert', where the school best rockers cum singers belted out famous songs,accompanied by guitar in hands, sung by Paul Anka, Elvis, Cliff Richard and so on. One student swung his legs, like Elvis so vigourously, singing 'Jail House Rock', that all the teachers, including the principal, found his presentation quite offensive. The concert ended with everyong feeling highly elated.

eastcoastlife said...

Nice photo leh!

Happy New Year!!!

Anonymous said...

Notice that the kids of our days tend to be very thin?

Anonymous said...

Though there were no fast food in those days, contrary to what most people think, kampong folks ate a fair share of unhealthy food all pork lard based. The reason was simple. In those days when you brought pork from the butcher, he would generously give you a sizeable piece of pure pork fat free which thrifty house-wives would turn them into frying oil, the residues as 'oil pok', all stored into a pot with lid on. The ladies would hang it just above the stove for instant cooking, ready to fry all dishes with the lard which contained also the 'oil pok' making it very delicious -especially when stirred in mee pok. When the topic of food is discussed, many stories would surface.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zen(or whatever your real name is), if my memory serves me well, I think the 2 guys (squatting) are Toh TL (left) and Tay SG(our maths. wizard)Of course I remember their full names, just that they may not like me to post them here. I just can't recall the rest of you although you all certainly look very familiar.
Yes, it's certainly nice to remember those days and the teachers and the principal Mr. Jesudason. Remember also Mr. Victor Seah and our maths teacher who was also a great magician.

Anonymous said...

Chng - I too cannot remember much. I think you are right on the names of the students in the squatting position, except Teh SG should be Kay SG. Now it is confirmed that you were with me in higher form (class).

Anonymous said...

You're right zen. Immediately after posting my comment, it suddenly hit me that it's NOT Tay SG but Kay SG.

Anonymous said...

I am the few batch of Bartley Boys graduate. Because after that, Bartley turned into a mixed school. I enter in 1989 and left in 1992. First three years in the Old Bartley compound and the final year in Mt Vernon secondary compound after Mt Vernon closed down in 1991. Bartley used that compound because the old compound was being demolish together with the primary school to make way for the current Bartley Secondary School.

Bartley always have strong football tradition. I remember being C division champions in the North zone.

I was rather sad Bartley no longer a Boys school and they changed the all white uniform to a light brownish top and blue bottom. What were them thinking of? Argh....... What wrong with white? We even can play football in the field in those white pants. The traditions of Bartley were lost.

Facta Non Verba.

Walter Jayandran said...

Hi guys,
I am trying to get a picture of the Old Bartley Sec School of the early 60s. I studied there in 61 and 62. Jesudason left for the MOE and Andrew Yeoh took over. If any of you have a photo, I would love to have a soft copy. My email address is
Thanks & Best Regards