Telok Kurau English School was the only English school in the eastern part of Singapore before 1950. It was situated at Lorong J Telok Kurau. I attended that school from 1945 to 1950. I still remember the two-storey timber building with many coconut trees in the vicinity. I understand the area was a coconut grove before the school was built in 1926. Further into Lorong J there was a cattle shed. Everyday the cowherd drove the cattle to graze outside the area and had to pass through the school. Needless to say, there were cowdung everywhere on the road. Walking to school had to be very careful. Anyway it was quite common to step onto the cowdung. The school had a large playground stretching from the school building to Lorong H Telok Kurau. The playground was used for morning physical exercise, footballs, games, athletic practices and annual school sports.
The school gardeners and caretakers lived in quarters within the school compound nearby the school hall. They were allowed to rear chickens but confined to the quarters area. There was a peon (office boy) whose name was Rosland. He was a good natured person, always smiling and obliging. School record stated that Mr Lim Lan San was the first teacher of the school in 1926. When I was there in 1945 he was the vice principal of the school. He lived at Joo Chiat Place and his son Lim Eng Hock was my school mate.
Typical Government primary school buildings in those days.
At background people watching the school sports from Lorong H Telok Kurau
Front sitting from left: Mrs Seow Peck Leng, Mrs Desker & Mr Lee Keng Yew. Mr Lim Lan San sitting fourth from right and the Principal Mr Retnam sitting next to Mr Lim. Back row standing were all trainee teachers posted to the school.
There were two teachers in the school who impressed me. There were:
Miss Boey: I forgot her name as all the school boys addressed her by her surname as Miss Boey. She was a spinster and a very dedicated teacher. She lived in a lane off Changi Road behind a block of building at Telok Kurau Road and Changi Road junction. I was in her class in Standard One. On one occasion a few of us went to her house to play. That was how I came to know where she lived. The narrow lane was not there anymore. It was a private road and the whole area is now replaced by new buildings. Once I saw her teaching a student lessons in the class. After some time she appeared frustrated and trying to control her emotion. Finally she broke down and cried. Later I came to know that no matter how she taught him, he still failed to understand her teaching. A year later, I was told she passed away from an illness. As the saying goes "the good die young".
L to R: Miss Boey & Miss Chia
Mr Lee Keng Yew: I remember him very well because our paths crossed a few times. The first was during the Japanese occupation. He was a school teacher at Koon Seng Road Choon Guan School teaching Japanese and I was in his class. He was tall and thin and had the habit of going straight to the wash-room to wash his hands after each lesson. I believed he wanted to wash away the chalk dusk on his hands. After the war, he was posted to teach at the Telok Kurau English School. During my time the primary school education was seven years, from Pr. I to II and Standard I to V. In 1948 he was teaching Standard III and I was promoted to his class. I remembered his good habit and observed that he was still the same. I also learned that he washed his hands after handling money. Teacher in class collected supplemetary fees from students but not in Japanese school. In fact, his good habit was also known to all his colleagues. During the school holidays he took the class on an excursion to the Botanical Garden. His family also came along. He drove a British made Austin car and parked at the void area near the staircase.
At Singapore Botanical Garden
Mr Lee Keng Yew sitting on the extreme right. His wife on the left and his son at the front turning to look at the camera.
Our paths crossed the third time when he was the Principal of Haig Boys School. I was courting my girl friend (now wife) who was his school clerk in 1957. He had good memory too. When he first saw me in his office, he remembered that I was his student at TKES. He was suprised when I told him that he also taught me Japanese too at Choon Guan School. My memory on the above lingers on and old photographs help to refresh my minds of the past.
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