23 January 2006

Cambridge Primary School

“Sekolah Cambridge Sekolah Kami
Tempat yang mana kami sanjungi…”

It’s 1.17 am in the morning and I can’t sleep. Like a broken record, these two lines of my primary school song kept playing in my head. It’s probably one of the few schools to have their school song in Malay. Pictures of my primary school trial and tribulations flashed across my eyes and I cannot help but think I should commit them down here before they are filed away again.

Primary school started with the most embarrassing situation for me – with the words from my very fierce grandma “Stay with your friend! Stay with Norliah” ringing in my ears, I sat with her in Class IB. Well, I was supposed to be in Class 1C. For all you know, there was a manhunt going through the school at the moment looking for a missing 7 year old! The teacher of Class 1B went through her charge one and one and finally came to me “Aiyah! You are supposed to be in Class 1C!” and dragged me along to classroom next door. Well, with such a start, it can only get better I supposed.

It was not until Primary 2 when I met Lat - although she was in the hospital for very much of Primary 1 due to her heart condition, clever girl that she is, she still made it to Pri 2A. We only really get on together in Pri 3 when we played a silly game of marching under the hot sun in the playing field with Roslinda, with a wooden ruler tucked under our arms.

Of course, recess is no fun without playing hopscotch, batu serembat where somehow one stone would land up inside our pinafore or Zero point. That took some gymnastics, I tell you and I can safely vouch I cannot do them again. I used to catch grasshoppers which were prolific near the school fences but when this humongous beast of a grasshopper suddenly landed on my chest with its beady eyes staring at me, I lost interest somewhat. Hahahaha!

Food was either mee rebus or nasi lemak served in bright orange plastic plates. It was very much a free for all – none of this senior holding your hand or maid sitting in the canteen waiting for you. The counter was very high and there is this metal mesh in between you and the delicious delights that will be your lunch. My lunch money (all glorious 40cts in Pri 1 to increase to 50cts in Pri 2) were knotted very tightly in the corner of my hanky.

You can buy sweet cordial drinks from the apek at the drinks stall. For a seven year old, he seemed incredibly old with his balding hair, fixed lips that never cracked into a smile and huge round thick glasses. He reigned supreme over the large square plastic container with its sticky colourful drink (pineapple, chin chow, bandung) and it is always a thrill for me if I can spot the ladle flashing like a fish in the watery depths. I remember giving him a 50cts piece once – he took it, turned it around a few times and bounced it up and down the counter a few times. Apparently satisfied that that 50cts. is genuine, he ladled out a pineapple drink into a plastic cup and pushed it across the counter. Somehow thirteen years later when I was asked by this very unpleasant apek at Hollywood desert stall at Bedok to show that I can pay $1.50 for his ice jelly, I remembered that apek in primary school.

If there is extra money, there was always the desert stall with its myriad cakes and pastries. My favourite was that horn shaped pastry with cream piped in and the sight of that nowadays always transport me back. There was also the cream roll with peanuts on the outside. Of course, there were ice-creams. I had a particularly sweet creamy pink one which I shared with Lat, proceed to play some sort of game which involved spinning around really fast (probably imitating Wonder Woman) and yes, you guess it… half an hour later, I threw up all over my dark blue bag in class. I distinctly remembered it (the vomit) was very pink and I have an aversion for creamy strawberry ice cream till now.

Megawati’s mum featured largely in my later years in primary school since she always looked out for me. She would be there for her kids during recess with warm roti prata all readily cut up. We lived in the same block so she ended up as my surrogate mum – in fact she was the only one who noticed my black eye (courtesy of my fierce grandmom) and asked what happened. In my child-like wiseness, I told her that I “terlanggar tembok” (walked into a wall) although since I was still a child, I cannot contained the tears that sprang into my eyes.

Recess is not complete without the obligatory “brush teeth”. You get a special mug which is like a plastic cup with a clear cover (which tend to end up filled with Ribena anyway) and toothbrush. The teacher will tell us to line up along the shallow drain, squat down and one two three brush, one two three brush. Oh dear, the sight of thirty or forty young kids squatting by the drains earnestly brushing their teeth!

I can never forget the horrible powdery sweet free milk that you get. Everyone queued up with their mugs and the school caretaker will hand over that awful cereal-like thing. And it’s piping hot too. I always give my share to someone else. Can’t stomach the stuff. So perhaps I wasn’t too displeased that they stopped that and they launched a carton milk drive where you have to pay about 30cts. for a carton. Too expensive for my family – didn’t really missed the milk although I thought that I could probably drew better than the illustrations they have on the cartons. Hahahaha! not modest!

I was initiated to the wonderful world of the stage at Pri 4 when I was roped in for a fashion show. Of all the costumes I had to wear, it had to be a Chinese Costume! Me? Yang black sweet ni trying to pass off as a Chinese whereas Lat who is as fair as they come had to wear a baju kurung. Rocky III was very big then and we had “Eye of the Tiger” as an accompaniment. Since then, I was hooked on the stage so each year from there on till I graduated from uni, I am always involved in some performance or other. When I am on that stage, it seems that my life transcends from the humdrum and elevated to another sublime level (will talk about this later!).

The school bus fetched us from the void deck. The nyonya who guarded the door grabbed and hauled us up the stairs and we rushed to find seats. At the end of the month, she would wave a thin booklet and asked us to give it to our parents. What else? Bus money! And we still have to pay for school holidays too. The bus became so familiar because we took the same one for our excursions to the zoo and Jurong Bird Park too. Someone tried to write No Smoking on the roof, just above the windows but was unsuccessful. It came out as “No Somo” and I think he’d probably realised his mistake and didn’t continue.

There were two huge Angsana trees on the playing field, just opposite the school gate and at certain times of the year, the ground would be covered in red and yellow from the shedding blooms. I think they contributed to my first initiations to science lessons – the teacher would quote them as an example when she tried to explain evergreen tree and umbrella shaped trees. We just need to go there to see what she means and find the funny angsana seed which looked incredibly like a flattened assam masin.

I wonder whether the trees are still there now or like Cambridge Primary, they would probably been bulldozed over. I felt a twinge when I found out that they were tearing down the school. Just like when they tore down the playground in front of my block of flats to make way for the ECP. Like my friend, NYF said, I should protest to the gahmen – they are eradicating all my memories! but I know that they are somehow filed away in a compartment in my brain and I know they cannot bulldoze them there.


yuRa said...

today i was asked if i wanted to send my children to my old school for primary education.

arggh! i am still not quite over the huge dilemma. no need to add to the guilt.

sentimental sentimental. *sigh*

melayudilondon said...

eh Henry Park is good what! but then i understand your dilemma lah. I thought it was decided already?

yuRa said...

yes decided insyaAllah.

the sentiments still tugging at the conscience for a bit lah.

yuRa said...

eh! you remember i was from henry park eh? wow!

i've always thought i was good at digging the memory bank but i guess i've found my match! hahah

anyways, henry park is too far from home. don't think it's fair to burden the kids with travel.

melayudilondon said...

yep! pat tu i ingat. hahaah. so was yani from henry park. ahaks! alah darling, we complete each other's memories lah.

Nani said...

Dia dari RGPlah

yuRa said...

whoa! jangan samakan aku dengannya!

dia lain, aku lain! hahahah. drama mama.

like nani said, she's from rgp. liz, naz and i were the henriettas. : )

anyway, aku tak anti yani lagi lah shikin. tapi aku tetap sayang padamu.

semua kisah lama. i don't have anything against the yani anymore. in fact, i didn't really have anything against her laa. apa da?

cuma time kanok kanok dulu, biasa la.. ada certain things/people you prefer, others you don't really fancy. heh. jahat aku! mesti minta maaf dengan siapa lagi eh? *mentally calculates* waah! banyaak! hahahah

Anonymous said...

hi, cant help checking your blog. I am from Cambridge Primary School yr 1971-1976. My name is Mariani Mohd Haniffa. U may reach me at warmjelly@hotmail.com or my hp no 65 90693091. Remember our principal Mr Nathan, than Mr Dragon. Mr Tang the table tennis pro, Ms Wong the most beautiful teacher, Mrs Menon the fat teacher wearing saree all the time, Mr See the chinese ad teacher and many more.

Anonymous said...

Read with interest this post. Brought back fond memories of life at Cambridge Primary. Feeling nostalgic as I'm also living overseas now - in Canada. I was there from 1980 - 1985. Were we from the same batch? There's an alumni group in Facebook for Cambridge Primary School Singapore, but with only 9 members :(.

Anonymous said...

I posted the earlier anon comment. I read your other posts and from what I gathered (photos etc) - you must have been my senior. I was in the same year as your sister if I'm not wrong. I went on to Cedar Girls School and remember the photo you took of the dikir barat competition. It's a small world :). I'm cautious about leaving my name and email here, and I'm not quite sure how to send you a private message. It's been great reading your posts as we share similar memories of growing up. :)

Anonymous said...

I can still remember vividly the disciplinary teacher, Mr. Chan if I can still recall his surname right. He had no second thought in metting out canning. On a particular occassion, it was so obvious that he practised double standard by letting go a colleague's son but not the rest of us when all were caught playing with paper bullet. Guess we were too young to protest but knew it was wrong of him.

Whenever I drive by the Pek Kio area, old memories of this school comes flooding in. I wonder how have all my ex-classmates in class 6A are doing now.

Anonymous said...

Hi all Im from Cambridge Primary School from 1972-1978.Anyone remember Cikgu Kasmuri,Cikgu Zainab.

Unknown said...

Wow, so good to see this page, i was in this school from 1964-1969