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RULER   :  Archive   :  1996   :  SG Schools Jun 1996


School CP - June 1996

Corpun file 0032 at


The Straits Times, Singapore, 12 June 1996

Schoolday memories bind Tao Nan's ex-pupils together

by Tan Hsueh Yun

IT WAS a time of catching spiders, nicknaming teachers and eating 10-cent plates of chao guotiao. These memories are relived regularly by about 100 ex-pupils of Tao Nan School, who still gather three times a year for dinner, decades after leaving their primary school in Armenian Street.

The thrice-yearly alumni gatherings have become a tradition, said Mr Tan Yock Leng, 56, the school's principal since 1973.

Even old teachers are invited to these functions, held usually on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, the Mid-Autumn festival and the school's anniversary in November.

One ex-pupil who goes to these functions is businessman Teo Kim Chuan, 53, who completed Primary 6 in 1954.

He said the alumni had always been active, organising weekend folk dancing, drama, table tennis and basketball sessions for ex-pupils earlier on.

They continued to meet regularly, even after the association was dissolved in the 1970s. It was revived in 1991.

He said: "Almost all the old students, even non-members, know about the gatherings. They will try to attend. A lot of them are more than 50 years old."

Memories of their old school days flowed easily when The Straits Times spoke to some of the ex-pupils and teachers.

Many said the teachers were very strict. Mr Tan Koon Jin, 56, a clerk who completed Primary 6 in 1955, said: "They used canes to hit our palms or buttocks. We used to wear shorts, and you could sometimes see the cane marks."

Madam Chan Keng Tong, 81, who taught English during 1949-1976, said: "Some still come and ask, 'Remember you beat me last time?' I tell them it was for their own good!"

Added Mr Tong Pui Hing, 63, businessman: "The teachers were very strict, but we respected them."

They especially remembered their physical education teacher, Mr Lim Hoon, now in his 70s.

Said Mr Ng Siow Kee, 48, deputy chairman of a travel company: "If you were caught talking while he was explaining how to play basketball, he would throw the ball at you. We all behaved ourselves."

Mr Lim became wheelchair-bound after a stroke, but still comes to the gatherings, with the help of an ex-pupil.

Madam Chan drew much laughter from the ex-pupils when she reminded them how the pupils would give their teachers nicknames.

There was Black Eye, a nickname given to a teacher who always wore sunglasses in class, and Tiger Hunter, for another who had the same name as a Malaysian hunter.

Madam Teo Geok Beng, 38, a housewife who was a pupil from 1965 to 1970, said: "We were proud of our school. We didn't have kindergartens then, so for most of us, Tao Nan was the first school we attended."

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