Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A nostalgic slice of Geylang English School in1956

Last weekend's informal lunch meet up with these 5 blogger friends whom I've described in my previous post has led me to this topic today. We were there for nearly 2 hours! And in that time much news, tidbits and info were surfaced during our warm chats.
For me personally, it was a rather pleasant surprise to have discovered that Victor Koo ( 3rd from right ) is a fellow Victorian, from an even earlier bloggers' meet up. Then when I happened to talk about Geylang English School, after listening for a while, Wee Kiat ( 2nd from right ) interjected..." I was also from GES. What year were you there, Dick ?"

It was such a pleasant surprise to know someone who had studied in the same school before me.
For those who may not understand this nostalgic and sentimental feeling...let me confirm this fact; GES (Primary ) does not exist anymore as a school. The building is still there at the junction of Lorong 23, Geylang Road, converted for other uses.
Since the school had closed down decades ago, the number of former students would naturally dwindle year by year, making it harder to find former students as time passes.

[ Dicko's archives: Bloggers meet - 4 Sept 2010 , Siglap Road ]

Unk Dicko entered Geylang English School as a Primary One pupil in 1955.
My eldest brother John and 2nd elder brother Peter were also pupils of the school, before me.
Both were much, much older than me. By the time I stepped into the school grounds, my brothers had both left the school. Thus from 1955 to 1960, I learnt to fend for myself and was quite independent, going to school on my own and returning home in similar fashion...a journey by walking from Lorong 40 to Lorong 23 ( and vice-versa), rain or shine!

I'm pretty certain if today, you ask the average boy or girl of my age back then ( 7 - 11 yrs) or even some adults, to walk the same walk as many of us had done daily...they will say you
are "NUTS !". I may not agree with their response but I will not blame them.
The world we lived in has changed tremendously... in many ways for the better, in others for
the worse.

[ Front cover of my 1956 GES I School Magazine ]

Geylang English School I was founded in 1923. It was the only English primary school along the
main Geylang Road that catered to boys only. For the girls in Geylang area, the only English primary school in those days was the Geylang Methodist Girls' School situated at Aljunied Road
junction of Sim's Avenue. My elder sister Jenny studied there.

Every year, I would bring back the Annual School Magazine and my parents and family members
would check it out eagerly. My 6 years in the school would mean a collection of 6 magazines or more, if I include those under my brothers' time.
Somehow, to my utter disappointment, when I finally moved off from my family home, after marriage, into my own home, I could only find 3 surviving copies of GES magazines.
These 3 very fragile, somewhat tattered copies are now in my prized possession.
They are the 1954, 1956 and 1960 copies. Some pages are missing from here and there.
Otherwise, they hold a treasure trove of the sweetest memories of the innocence of youth
and the days of yore.

As an example, I have thousands of pictures in my archives and albums. When I got down to re-organise my photos and whatnots, I could only find ONE ...yes, just one single photo of myself
before the age 12. And that picture of me, as a 3 month old baby being cradled in the safe arms
of my late mother is presently with my younger sister.
I have it saved and uploaded to my early blogpost.

Click HERE to see that RARE picture.
It is therefore good fortune and a blessing when I found some pictures of myself still recognisable in this 1956 GES magazine which I have placed below.
[ This is the Back Cover of the 1956 Magazine ]

Sheaffer's and Parker were two of the most notable brands for fountain
pen and ink.
Most of us poor kids use ordinary cheap pens made in China or Hong Kong.
In the lower primary, we used pencils mostly. But proper writing with a pen
was taught especially at the upper primary level.

[ The Foreward message in the 1956 Magazine ]

Any old timer remember this Dy Director of Education, Mr R E Ince?
The content of his message confirmed that GES was then one of the very well-known
English primary schools in Singapore. It held a high reputation in many sports especially
the sport of Badminton..where GES was the National Schools' Champion for many years
overtaking the traditional power houses.

[ The Staff of GES I, headed by Principal Liow Tiow Kee ]

Who was Unk Dicko's form-teacher in Pri 2 A ?
That rugged looking young man at the extreme left ( Top Row ) was my form teacher.
His name...Mr Neo Yam Koon. He lived quite near us then, along Geylang Road, close to
the former Queens Theatre.
Even as a tiny Pri 2 kid, I can still remember that I got on very well with him.
He was very gentle, kind and most approachable as a teacher.
Unk Dicko's work was not always tidy. And teachers then were very particular
about tidiness and worse; any signs of tardiness!

When I think of patience, I always recall Neo Yam Koon.
He was a teacher I truly liked and respected. I think the feeling was mutual.
I mentioned him in a previous blogpost on Siang Lim Park, my kampong. HERE.

[ My class photo: Pri 2 A 1956 - Form Teacher Mr Neo Yam Koon ]
[ Asst : Mr Soh ]

Now question is where on earth could Unk Dicko be in this old photo, 56 years ago?
There were 40 of us in the class, including this Old Owl ( young then ).
Spotted him yet?
If not, the next photo would certainly help.

[ Group photo of the 19th " OWL" Pack ]

Now I did not put the "Owl" in the subheading for fun. Back in the good old scouting
days, most cub or scout groups had such identifying logos or names beside their unit
number. Victoria was known as the " Sixth Arrow " group. Tg Katong was "Seladang".
St Andrew's was the 94th "Orion"...etc.
The 19th "Owl" Pack/Troop was one of the earliest known, oldest cub packs in Singapore.
And I was truly privileged to havebeen a member and a significant part of its history.
Though I was only in Pri 2, I had already been yearning for the outdoors...to be a cub scout.
It was also on my mother's urging. She thought I would make a good scout one day.
None of my siblings were involved.
I was the only one in the family with scouting in my blood and soul

The once young Owl in this photo, is in the middle row, 4th from the right.
Sitting on the front row, extreme right was Toh Hong Seng ( Pri 2 B ). In later
years he would be in my same class..the "A" class, based on promotion.
Who was he?
Heard of the QUESTS a top local band of the late 60's and 70's?
Well, my former classmate and cub mate Hong Seng was a key member of that successful band.

Page 55 of the magazine has 5 photos of different classes engaged in class
The top right picture showed my Primary 2 A class during our Art and Handwork
under the gentle supervision of our form teacher Neo Yam Koon.
Clockwise from the bottom left... unk Dicko can be partially seen 3rd from left,
opposite our teacher.


Anonymous said...

Hi Mr Yap
Would you and your friends like to join Geylang Methodist schools alumni?
We will be celebrating our sch's 90th anniversary in 2014!
Pls email us at molly_soong@moe.gov.sg
Have a blessed week ahead!

misakichi said...

Hi there, am trying to find out more about my grand father Yeo Hock Seng. Not too sure if you know about him? He was active during 1953 to 1957. And he was part of the Parent-Teacher Association then.

CheeKiang said...

Hi Mr Yip. I was GES 51 thru 57. My class boys are still meeting ea other at least once a month. Thank you for the blog. I was in one of the pics. Thanks for the memories

Unk Dicko said...

Hi Chee Kiang, you are my senior! Glad that you are all still in touch. I know of one group that is still meeting regularly with Mr Howe Soo Chye. Could you be in that group ? Lee Choy Chim, Yap Yew San, Cheong Cheng San and company. Are you on Facebook? Can connect with me there too.

CheeKiang said...

Yes I am a member of that group you wrote about. I am not so active on FB but others are. I am on email CheeKiang.foo@gmail.com
Let's meet up with our group and Mr Howe. He's 90 years come Jan

Unk Dicko said...

Sure. Glad you are in that batch as I know some of them. Lee Choy Chim has joined my ukulele jamming group for several years. There are 2 other more senior GES old boys now nearing 80..in my group too. Ong Teong Wan and Looi Fok Chow.