Thursday, May 05, 2005


Memories are strange things aren't they? Recollections of things and thoughts that could have happened years and years ago, but then suddenly they could come back to you as fresh as though it has just happened.

That's why I believe that time isn't real, because by the presence of memories our consciousness does transcend time in that sense.

Memories seem to require certain triggers, and could come voluntarily or otherwise. Also, memories have to be recalled in thoughts rather than in timeframes, like "my first holiday" or something like that.

Blk 106
The earliest I could ever recall of childhood is staying in my grandmother's house in Bedok Reservoir Rd Blk 106. I stayed there with my slightly younger cousin Charles, better known as Wei-wei then. That's because both our parents were working and our grandparents looked after us during the daytime. In the evening our parents would come and take us home, though Charles' parents usually came later. Sometimes I'd insist on staying overnight at grandma's.

It's a pretty rare thing now, that grandparents would look after their grandchildren. I remember eating grandma's macaroni with meat and I'd always eat faster than my cousin in order to win the grand trophy prize of the empty 7-11 cup we finished drinking yesterday. ("Kam pui" in Cantonese) I also remember how grandpa once had a terrible accident by stepping and tripping on the "bundle" - of which I can't remember its proper name. Its basically a cloth bundle to put a baby inside that's attached to the ceiling by a spring and grandma would gently bounce it up and down with the spring to bring baby to sleep. Long time back, I don't know how but there were at least 5 unmarried uncles and aunts staying there together with my grandparents in the 3-room place, though they were rarely around in the day-time. And strangely enough, I don't remember much of Charles, but probably because after a while he stayed at home with the maid instead.

I remember aunt Mary as "lao yen ku cheh" (scold people auntie) because she was a really fierce teacher. My aunt Linying was a teacher too but I only remember her usually hogging the phone late at night. Aunt Kathy worked in a church and had certain weekdays at home and she and aunt Janet (who works in some nice office which is a bank) like to buy me stuff.

So for much of my later memories there I was usually alone at the house with grandma and grandpa, and remember spending my time doing silly stuff. One of them was climbing up my grandpa's dressing table to reach the top shelf and stick my hand into the mysterious secret drawer, which contained lots of my aunt's ancient children's story books. It was fun to see what story book you'd end up taking out to read. These were very old Enid Blyton stuff, like Marilyn Towers, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. And they were the complete unabridged versions too with terribly small print. I would spend as many hours as my tired eyes could take me into all the adventures, places, and investigations that the books took me to. I dare say the entire series was almost intact in those drawers!

Of course, I spent a lot of time watching TV too. A typical day of TV after school and homework would be 2 consecutive episodes of some silly SBC8 chinese drama serial rerun from 3.30 till about 5.30, after which there'll be cartoons and Sesame Street on SBC5

The school-bus man
I remember taking the school bus to school, which was ChongZheng Primary School in Tampines. It was white with a green stripe and had our school name painted on it and had no aircon. In those days it was quite special to see a bus with aircon and for SBS buses you'd see a nice sticker on the front of the windshield saying "AIRCON" and we'd be very happy to get in.

My stop was the furthest away from the school hence the Malay uncle who drives the bus would always come to my grandma's place to pick me up first and drop me off last. He was a nice friendly chap with whom I liked to play cards with. I'd always have those silly little cards containing pictures of cars, tanks, rockets, trains and ships which would show their weight, horsepower, speed and all that and we'd state a category and compete to see which of the next drawn card was higher. Because of that, I always stood in the front with him next to this huge stump of an engine block from which the gearstick protruded. Come to think of it now, I wonder how he managed to drive the bus while playing cards with me at the same time...

Primary School
There were a weird assortment of teachers there, and interesting too. Our principal was a Mr B. R. Sethi, a kindly old man whom I once saw again many many years later in Hougang loading up his groceries in his same old car, a grey Ford Laser. I always liked to take note of which teacher drove what car because it was an indicator of his or her presence in school. Ha! It was always fun to speculate that a particular teacher wasn't in school for the day, although it was exceedingly rare. A few years later a Miss Chan, driving a cute newer Toyota Starlet became our V-P and she was a very fierce woman. Very fierce indeed. Always scolding and terrorising the kids.

Oh but the real terrors in school back then were discipline masters. Our first one was this Mdm Cheong, a white-faced woman with permed hair who was plump and yet had this extremely fierce demeanor and always talked in a booming, terrifying voice. Her favourite phrase was "you watch out!" and we tried our best to avoid her, but if you couldn't you'd best greet her as you walk by and hope she doesn't think your hair too long and your uniform too untidy. She retired not so long after and rumors abound that she became a florist.

The next discipline master was "sen lao shi" (Mr Sim, I think) who was a very big-sized old man with a very dark complexion. He certainly had this grand old man father figure and rarely went about shouting and screaming, but when he was angry he spoke forcefully and we were all petrified too, but typically more out of guilt than fear. But mostly he was a kindly old man although I hardly spoke to him because my Mandarin was terrible. We know he smoked outside but he'd always put it out if he saw any pupils approaching.

I'm getting lazy now so I'll continue this another day :)


Anonymous said...

Hey! I must have been in Chongzheng Primary school around the same time because I also remember Mr Sethi as the principle and Mdm Cheong as the really really strict disciplinary head mistress... she was scary back then when I was a kid! I also remember Mr Jaffar as my Primary 3 teacher... he was so neat and tidy. Miss Cheong was my Primary 4 teacher... among many others. Brings back memories indeed!

acuransx said...

Hey, nice to hear from a fellow ex-Chongzheng pupil! I saw some Chongzheng Pri sch students at an exhibition in Suntec as part of ExcelFest. Very polite, independent and well-spoken. There was an embarrassed laugh from her when I sang the school song as proof I was from there too :) I think Miss Cheong is in Manjusri Secondary now.