Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Looking for Our Classmates

Nancy and I (me here striking a Moses' pose and looking rather silly-happy) recently made our way to AES  - currently located at the temporary premises of the former New Town Secondary in Commonwealth Avenue - to take a look at the old Master Class Register Books. They are huge accounts-like books that hold the name of students and their personal particulars. Each year, they record who has joined the AES cohort. If you had joined AES in 1976 as a Sec 1 student, your name would be there, as would your sibling if she/he had joined at Sec 2, 3, or 4. One book each for the boys and girls. The records in the books were dated till the years 1985/87.

I must say seeing my name there and all the other classmates' brought back memories of my first day in AES: 2nd Jan 1976. Such an innocent and carefree time it was before the exams, the stress of school life began. There were the names of classmates that I grew familiar with over the years, and before they each left for one reason or other. I did miss them then because as a prefect (on duty) I had more chances to interact with the students in school than most. AES then was a much smaller and cozier school. We were single session before many adopted the same practice.

Now, the population of AES is three times that.

Here are some concept pictures of how the new AES building will look like (yes, the 'relatively-new' AES Version 2 is being torn down for MOE's PERI upgrading). The front buildings will be rebuilt but the back classrooms will be retained (those next to the church).

Through the register books, Nancy and I discovered that some 36 girls and 81 boys joined AES in Sec 1 in 1976. Before, we could never count the cohort numbers properly because we never had proper class photos taken. Hence even the names of our cohort could not be recounted in some formal way. It was only in Sec 2 that proper class-portrait style photos were taken. But by then, some had left. Some of the students' reasons for leaving AES were recorded; some not, just a blank.

Some long lost names from the Boys' register:
- Toh Mok Sar, Chong Nyuk Chuan, Kow Chee Chong, Razali B Basiron, Tee Ong Bee;

From the Girls' register:
- Goh Siew Lin, Ng Swee Ngoh, Tee Bee Lian, Janet Woodman.

The addresses in the register books also brought back memories of the places classmates had stayed at: Chestnut Drive, Mandai Road, Choa Chu Kang, Bukit Panjang, Woodlands Road, Jalan Lengkok Saga, etc. These places have all been demolished, changed.

If I did not go to AES, I don't think I would have heard of or seen these places first hand. And it was always a joy and an eye-opener when visiting my classmates in their homes. Ming Yew in Jalan Gali Batu, Cedric in Jalan Lengkok Saga, Chris Fong/Alan Oliveiro along Woodlands Road, Anthony Lee/Henry Ng in Mandai Road, Boon Hong just outside Hillview, Maria in Hillview, Ignatius/Greg at Chestnut Drive, ... And of course, all those folks who stayed in Marsiling. There were quite a number of AESians who stayed there (an estate carved out of vegetable and pig farms) many no doubt relocated from elsewhere like me (I grew up in Jalan Sayang (Changi), Geylang and Rangoon Road).

And we boys had a blast playing in the Marsiling/Woodlands areas, especially one infamous jetty. Innocent times, carefree times? Fun times! New place, new friends. What more can an active teenager ask for back in 1976!!!

Chee Kong, Ahmad Zaidi, Rosli, Cedric at the Marsiling 'Ruthenia Oiling  Jetty' - our fave spot for fishing, crabbing, and swimming.