28 November 2011

Selegie Integrated School - My Primary School Days (1)

How Selegie Integrated School Looks Like Today
In February this year, Sunday Times reporter Kon Xin Hua requested me for an email interview as the newspaper would be publishing an article on old buildings and Selegie Integrated School was one of them. Her questions and my answers are reproduced below:

Q1. What was the reason that saw you studying at Selegie Integrated School?

A1. Our family lived quite near to the school then. We were staying in Cheng Yan Place, a mere 15-minute leisurely stroll to the school which was less than one kilometre away. Of course, in those days, there was no such thing as priority for registration if you lived within one kilometre of the school. Even if there was, we would have no problem with it. As my family was not very financially well off, we could save on transportation costs if the school was nearby. The school was also brand new. I went to Primary One in 1963 which was year when the school was opened. (The then DPM Dr Toh Chin Chye officially opened the school on 19 Jan 1963.)

Dr Toh Chin Chye, Deputy Prime Minister and Assemblyman for Rochore Declaring the School Open on 19 Jan 1963 - Photo Courtesy of the National Archives
Q2. What were your initial thoughts on the 10-storey tall building?

A2. Having attended one or two years of kindergarten classes on the 2nd storey of a 4-storey SIT residential block in Prinsep Street, the 10-storey building certainly looked huge and imposing. (The SIT blocks are still in Prinsep Street. They have been conserved and possibly been converted into dormitories.) I had not seen such big lifts before. The only times when I took a lift was when my family visited my uncle's flat in a 9-storey SIT red-brick resident block (Blk 1) on Upper Pickering Street.

Q3. I'm sure there was more than one memorable feature of the school for you, would you be able to share with me a few features of the school that strike you the most? I read on your blog about the two canteens and lifts? :)

A3. Other than the 2 canteens, 2 lifts and the dental clinic which I mentioned in my blog, I remember part of the school ground was covered with coloured rectangular tiles of size about 1-foot by 2-foot. They were of yellow, red and green colours. I used to walk on them while trying to avoid all the lines in between the tiles. To me, it was a giant hopscotch.

Q4. What was life like as a student there? Any particularly striking events that happened in that school that come to mind?

A4. School life was quite routine. I remember one incident when due to a misunderstanding, a schoolmate punched me in the stomach. We were both brought to the principal's office. When the principal found out that I did not retaliate to the boy's attack, I was released. I didn't know what happened to the boy who punched me. There was another incident when a boy disturbed some female classmates and was punished in a unique way. The teacher put an unstrung badminton racket to rest at the neck of the boy and then pulled the racket back and forth. If this were to happen today and the boy's parents were to lodge a complaint to MOE, I am sure the teacher would be in serious trouble.

Q5. Do you recall the reason why they built a 10-storey high school?

A5. I don't recall the reason why they built a 10-storey high school. However, I believe that the land within the city area is scarce and expensive and hence the government had to fully utilise the land area by constructing a tall building.

Selegie Integrated School in 1963 - Photo Courtesy of the National Archives
Q6. What do you think of the building today, having been left abandoned for some time? (Is it a waste etc)

A6. I think it is a waste to leave it abandoned and in a derelict state. It should have been used to generate some revenue for the government's coffers, e.g renting it out to commercial schools or organisations.

Q7. What would you like to see happen to the building in the future?

A7. I would like to see the school converted to a hotel. This has been done for Pearl's Hill School which is now Hotel Re!. By the way, Pearl's Hill School was a 12-storey building and in 1971, it took over the unofficial title of the "tallest school in Singapore" from Selegie Integrated School.

Q8. Is it correct if I say you were fascinated by the big lifts in the school as you rarely took lifts unless you were visiting your uncle? Do you regularly take the lifts in your primary school? Which floor did you study on?

A8. Yes, I rarely took lifts then except when visiting my uncle. I was in the school for 6 years so I must have been on various floors before in different years. I think the classrooms I was in didn't go above 7th floor though. From the windows of the higher floors you could see quite far as there were not many tall buildings around to block the view then. I had to take the lifts several times a day - when reporting for school, going for and returning from recess breaks, going for and returning from PE classes, returning home as well as when I was "summoned" by the school dentist (which was quite often as my teeth were not very well-kept)

Q9. I would also like to ask you if you know anything about why the building was abandoned, and when it was abandoned?

A9. Sorry, I am not sure when Selegie School last operated in the building or when NAFA took over and when it abandoned it.

Further reading:

1. 4 Nov 2005 Vanishing Scenes of Singapore - Part 5 (My Primary School Days)

2. 5 Aug 2006 Hello Again 38 Years After "Eating Fishball"

3. 13 Aug 2006 Class of 1968 (Pr 6J of Selegie Integrated School)


Icemoon said...

Wow you are back!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Yeah, King Koo is back. Hey there was a teacher called Mrs Violet Yan who taught there. Remember her? A pretty, quiet and sweet lady in the late 60s and 70s.
(Just called you).

Lam Chun See said...

You mean Tan Koo?

Thimbuktu said...
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Thimbuktu said...
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Thimbuktu said...

Arnold Schwarzenegger said:

"You can scream at me,
call me for a shoot at midnight,
keep me waiting for hours -
as long as what ends up on the screen is perfect".

Thimbuktu said...

Excerpt from "Singapore Then and Now" by Ray Tyers:

Selegie Road sits at the foot of Mount Sophia, bridging Dhoby Ghaut and Serangoon Road. "Selegie" in Malay refers to a wooden spear sharpened and hardened by fire. Legend has it that battles were fought here in the 14th century. This area used to be an Indian enclave and many of the old shophouses were even built by Indian convicts. The few of these that remain are easily recognised: simple 2-storey structures with timber beams and bas-relief mouldings on the pediments over the windows.

The 1928 David Elias Building on the corner where Short Street and Middle Road meet Selegie Road was built by a prominent Jewish settler.

Anonymous said...

great post!

Anonymous said...

If I can ask you, in accord with which your parents have told you -I suppose- what was the relationship between Singaporeans and British Authorities? Have you some anecdote?
Thanks in advance.

Victor said...

Hi Giovanni,

Thanks for your comment. Suggest that you read my articles on British Legacies Part 1 and Part 2.

Anonymous said...

thank you for your interesting articles. Waiting for the nexts.
best regards. giovanni

Evelyn said...

I'm glad to find your blog. Sure brought back memories. I was in this school from '63 to 68 too. One of the dental nurses was my neighbour. In '68, I became very close to the principal. He encouraged me and treated my friend and I to a lunch after our PSLE. One of our teachers came along too. The big lifts were what I was proud of. No other schools had those then. We were scheduled to use the 2 canteens. I always look forward to going to the upper level canteen. I'll buy the big prawn crackers and spread it with chilli sauce from the noodle stall.

Victor said...

Hi Evelyn, thank you for your interesting comment. Now that you talk about it, I remember I did the exact same thing, i.e. spread chilli sauce on the big prawn crackers and eating it. You really jog my memory with that. :)

Monica said...

Happen to see yr blog. I was from the same period as you(6C). Born 1956,stayed in Manila St but time flies. All new buildings in that area now though our pri school still stands as the old dame. The principal was Mr Oei who was always carrying a thick cane. Heard he passed away many years ago(his daughter is one pamela oei from mediacorp if i remember correctly) .Wonder u will think of setting up an alumni where we can connect for old time sake.

Victor said...

Hi Monica,

Thank you for your comments. Sorry for the late reply as I just came back from the US on 13 Jan 12.

I didn't know that Pamela Oei (of Dim Sum Dollies fame) is the daughter of Mr Oei, the principal of Selegie Integrated School then.

Thanks for the suggestion to create a Facebook Group for Ex-staff and Alumni of Singapore Selegie Integrated School. I have done so. Please feel free to sign up as a member. You may also visit the link provided here:


Anonymous said...
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Alex Ang KT said...

Thank you for sharing information on Selegie Integrated School and its history. It is precious to many of us who are in our 50 or 60's and we still keeping in touch with some teachers and classmates till today.
My family of 5 brothers and sisters were graduated from same Selegie while they were at Short St.
The same mini bus driver Uncle took care of our transport from Primary 1 to 6 and he was a fatherly figure to us and we were scared of him as young children.
Good memories of the two Fish shops opposite the schools and porridge stalls along Short Street.
The Teachers were so caring and strict with us. Remembered learning the habit of brushing our teeth along the drain near the gates inside the school compound. Do not throw rubbish on the floor if you cannot find a bin as part go "Keep Singapore Clean" campaign. A habit formed till today. So much for now.

Victor said...

Thank you for your comment, Alex. During my primary school days, we didn’t have teeth-brushing sessions in school. That explains why I was always called up by the school dentist. You must be several years younger than me.