07 November 2005
Vanishing Scenes of Singapore - Part 6 (My Secondary School Days)
After writing about my primary school days, it is only natural to proceed to write about my secondary school days. I attended Victoria School from Sec 1 to Pre-U 2 (1969 - 1974).
The school building is more than a century old - you can tell from its architecture from the above photo which was also taken on 9 Sep 05 (Fri). There are at least 8 (2-leave) wooden doors to each classroom (4 on each side). When all the doors are opened, the classroom is very airy even on a hot day. Each leave of door has 8 square pieces of green-coloured glass in the top half of the door.
I remembered a few of the staff, in particular the Discipline Master Mr Mok Khoon Yam. He could often be seen pacing the corridors of the building with a cane behind his back. Coupled with his stern look which was enhanced by his moustache, it was surely more than enough to make us behave ourselves. A few years ago, I saw his obituary in the newspapers. Somehow, he didn't look that stern in that photo.
Then there was the Maths teacher Mr Wee. Because of his somewhat drooping cheeks and stern look, the students nicknamed him 'bulldog'. (Come to think of it, the students can be quite creative in this respect.) Mr Wee himself probably didn't know that he had such a terrible nickname.
The field in the foreground was where we had our PE lessons during fine weather. During bad weather, we used the hall. One of the most unforgetable incidents for me happened in one of the PE lessons when we played football. During the game, I did a very bad tackle on a friend, Mr Lee L C. He fell and broke his wrist. To make matters worse, this incident happened very near the period of a very important examination (I think it was the A levels). A blessing in disguise, if I could call it that, was that Mr Lee's left wrist was broken and he was right-handed. I remembered that he sat through the exam with his left arm in a sling. I was wrecked with guilt for a long time after that. That incident was probably the reason why I never played any contact sport after that.
Chun See, my new-found friend, might be glad to know this - after getting my results for the Sec 4 preliminary exam in 1972, a group of my friends applied to NJC (National Junior College) to continue their Pre-U studies. I didn't get very good results, I think about 13 points aggregate for the best 5 subjects in my prelim exam but nevertheless I followed suit. At that time, NJC was the premier junior college. Only the creme de la creme could gain admission (that's a compliment to Chun See). I was shortlisted for an interview. When I turned up for the interview, I was quite shocked to find that there was a panel of 4 interviewers waiting to assess me. I remembered a few questions which the interviewers asked that stumped me:
Interviewer A: What is the reason for your application to this college?
Me: Because most of my friends also applied to this college.
Interviewer A: So if your friends didn't apply to this college, you won't too?
Me (Stumped): ???
Interviewer B: Do you know where is our PM now? (At that time the PM was visiting the European Community.)
Me (who didn't have a habit of following the news then but yet always willing to risk an intelligent guess): Er... overseas?
Interviewer B (saying to himself, 'This one we definitely will not take.'): Ok, we will inform you of the results soon. Thank you.
With all due respect to NJC and Chun See, considering that such a selection process was in place, it was little wonder that they had all the brightest students.
When my 'O' level results were released, I got an aggregate of 8 points. I received another letter from NJC inviting me to apply again. But once beaten twice shy, I guess my ego was bruised. I went back to Victoria School. The principal Mr Naidu asked 'Why so late? Applied for NJC is it?'. I replied sheepishly, 'No lah, not quite decided whether want to continue study or not mah.'
So that was why I was stuck in Victoria for 6 years. When I visited the school a few years ago, it was occupied by Christchurch Secondary School. But when I visited the school on 9 Sep 05, coincidentally the situation was exactly the same as that of my primary school - the school was deserted and an Indian watchman stood guard. I asked him if I could take some photos. He said 'No, but outside can.' He then said that I should not be in the school compound and asked me to leave. That's why the above photo was taken from the 2nd storey of Jalan Besar Stadium where during my Victoria school days, I attended several football matches played between my school team and SJI, RI and I am sure NJC as well.