During my teens year, I spent a lot of time in the Outram area, especially in my secondary school, Outram Secondary School. Those were probably the most memorable years of my life, where I made a lot of goods friends, some of which still remains today. It was where I accepted Christ, where I attended and served in my first church, had my first brush with the law and of course as any true blue teenager, had my first crush.
The area around the school, namely Jalan Kukoh and York Hill unlike Margaret Drive had not changed that much – if it had, it was for the better.
The first thing we see on my way to school was this long flight of staircase.
We used to race up and down the staircase on our way to and from school. Now, on my way down to take this photo, I had to walk gingerly and panted badly while going up. Where have all the leg power and energy gone to?
This block of rental flat is typical of the flats in the area.
The residents who stayed there are mainly in the lower income group and they lived in a dingy small little flat most of which do not come with a bedroom. For privacy, there is a small curtain or for those who can afford it, a simple plywood wall but most time, it is just a bed next to the dining table and all the children sleep on the floor. All the doors opened out to a common corridor where the lights are switched on only at night and made the whole place looked dark and scary. Yet despite the living condition and poverty, I never hear any complaints from my classmates.
Further down or rather up the road, are slightly bigger flats.
These are predominately 3 rooms flats. I remembered that we used to play football with a small plastic ball on the top of the multi-storey carpark which was between the blocks of flats. Back then, it was just a big bare piece of concrete. Look at what it has transformed into!
Looking down on Havelock Road was this row of flats.
In design wise it was similar to the flat I stayed in Margaret Drive. I remembered one time I was in this classmate’s place and her dad continued walking around the house in his crocodile brief as if there was no guests there!
And while the area was supposed to be an area of gangsters, during my 4 years there, I never had any bad experience with gangs or even know anybody who were part of a gang!
The main entrance used to be right at the end of the road but it has now been moved down to the main York Hill road. School was where I spent a lot of happy time there especially during the upper secondary school years.
Back when there was still such thing as morning and afternoon session, I could go to school in the morning and evening. At around 7pm, those who lived around the neighbourhood were allowed to go back to school to self study. Even though I didn’t live so near, still I made my way back. Of course, study was actually just an excuse and most of us was just there to hang out. And to make things worse, instead of sharing the few opened classrooms, we would climb up and go to the upper floors leaving the school caretaker fuming mad!
We had a swimming pool in the school – in fact we enjoyed the fruits of our seniors; they raised the money to build the pool but it was completed when we were there. I learnt how to swim there from classmates. My brother who also studied there told me that his classmates used to go skinny dippy after their ‘night study’. I wondered what type of study they actually did! Our class was more ‘kua’. There was one time the PE teacher was too lazy to conduct PE and told us to ‘self study’. The minute she left the class, all of us boys grabbed our trunks and rushed to the pool. Sadly, within a few minutes, the class monitoress was sent to catch us all back and in our haste we just put on our uniforms over the trunks and went back to class with a trail of water behind us and of course our pants soaking wet!
In Sec 2, we were occupying the ETV room (if anybody can remember what ETV was) as our classroom. The room was located on the ground floor and behind it was a small piece of empty land. Somehow we discovered a loose piece of glass wall at the back of the class and we used it as a secret entrance to the classroom. Of course, nobody told the teachers about it. One morning we came back only to be hauled up before the Principal. Apparently in the middle of the night, there was a break in and items in the room were stolen. A few of us, me included were asked to go to the Central Police Station to give statements. It was most unnerving sitting for hours in the cold hard atmosphere of the Central Police Station. But to this day, we didn’t know what was stolen or who took it.
Up on higher ground, in the technical room overlooking the pool, we would hold our weekly lunch time prayer session. Somehow the school must have known about it but choose to close a blind eye but in my sec 4 years when we had a new Principal, the prayer sessions finally came to an end after he banned it.
Talking about the new Principal, I had the ‘honour’ of being the very first student in the entire school to be scolded by him on his very first day in our school! I still remember it clearly. As usual, a few of us were in the carpark kicking a ball around when he drove up in this old souped up car. When he stepped out of the car, the first thing he did was called me over and he went: “Boy, why are you wearing coloured shoes?” I was stunned monetarily before I went meekly: “Cannot meh?” And that was the biggest mistake I made. While my classmates who had retreated to a safe distance were laughing their head off at my plight, I stood there and was lectured by him for 10 minutes on the sins of wearing coloured shoes (I was wearing a pair of bright red Panther shoes) and not to talk back to teachers blah blah blah. But this new Principal really got on everybody nerve. He claimed discipline was lacking under dear old Mr Chan, the ex Principal, and started to clean things up. One morning during assembly we saw a group of bald Pre-U boys. All of us were wondering why they had cut their hair bald. Our curiosity was answered when the Principal came and he saw the bald heads. He went ballastic and went up to the corridor of the hall which faced the car park that was our morning assembly area and began lecturing the whole school on respect (or rather lack of). Turned out he had caught the boys for having long hair and asked them to cut it short but the boys as a protest went all the way instead.
Sighed so much memories, so much things to write. Those were the years. Now if only I had not throw away the Year book!