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Saturday, March 15, 2008

Back to school

Form teacher Low Kee Pow (front row 4th from right)
Class 9Y of 1954 Raffles Institution

When law and order were established we returned to live in Joo Chiat. I attended Choon Guan School at Koon Seng Road to learn Japanese language and writing. I studied Hiragana which was the easier version of Japanese script. The other script, Kata Kana with Kanji was for higher classes. I also learned to sing some Japanese songs. The first song was Kimi Gayo, Japanese National Anthem. Then came 'arukay arukay'. I am not sure of its meaning. It could mean 'walking' as the song was sang when the class walked round and round the playground. There were many other songs such as 'Heitai San Konichiwa' (greeting Japanese soldiers), Kutsu gu Naru and Momo Taro San. My favourite song was 'Momo Taro San'. It was from a Japanese Folklore. There were four characters in the story. Momo Taro San, the little boy and his three friends, a bird, a monkey and a dog. They fought the demons and won. The moral of the story was good over evil. For non school song, I can only remember 'Sinanoyorau', a Japanese love song.

When the British returned to Singaopore, I was registered in the Telok Kurau English School for my primary education. In 1951, I was promoted to secondary school at Raffles Institution It was situated at the junction of Bras Basah Road and North Bridge Road. The school had a very good reputation and I felt elated putting on the school's badge and the white uniform. Wearing long trousers to school also helped my ego that I was an adolescent. I went to school by Singapore Traction Company bus No. 22. It was always crowded and very often I had to stand all the way to school. There were uniformed groups in the school such as cadets, scouts and St John ambulance. I signed up for the cadet corps. During the drill at the school field, I found the world war two .303 rifle was too heavy for me. I must admit that I was a weakling then. I paid $10 to the school to get out of it. It was a lot of money at that time. There were two scout groups in the school, the 2nd Raffles Group and the 32nd Raffles Group. I signed up with the latter until I left the school in 1954.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Chinese New Year At Chai Chee

Chinese New Year then was subdued. There was no fire crackers to welcome the new year. Children and adults had no new clothes and shoes to put on as time was hard.
Re-union dinner was confined to family members within the house. There was no visitors as public transport was scarce. Furthermore, our friends and relatives were scattered in different parts of the island. There was no ang pow for the children. We lived in fear as there was rumour of Japanese atrocities in other parts of Singapore.

Chinese New Year In Early
Post War Years

Preparation started in earnest a few days before the Chinese New Year. Children and adults had their hair cut. Parents bought new shoes for the children to visit relatives and friends. Fire crackers came in two sizes. The big ones, red in colour came in a square packet. The small ones, red and green in colours came in a rectangular box. The noise of fire crackers could be heard a few days before the new year. It became more intense as the festival drew nearer. The din of the crackers continued to the end of the festival. On the last day, just before midnight there was heavy firing of crackers on the road. Shops in the neighbourhood challenged one another to show off. The road was filled with thick smoke caused by the fire crackers and motor vehicles had to move very slowly to avoid accident and fires. When the firing of crackers stopped, the neighbourhood was extremely quiet. The road was carpeted with red papers from the crackers. But, the festivity went on with friends and neighbours gathering inside the house to gamble.