Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Telok Paku English School & Changi Village - by Ow Suek Yin


I have read your stuff regarding Telok Paku School. I'll pass the pics to you as soon as I can find time to visit my primary school teacher, Mr Laurie Chan. He taught me at Pr 6 and was the best teacher ever. When I first started teaching I met him again when he was the Senior Teacher at Jalan Eunos School. He was an avid photographer and took numerous pics of us, his pupils. He used to pack us all in his station wagon and drove us all around the island. Some of us were very poor and it was his way of broadening our horizon.

Telok Paku School had this beautiful school field and it was surrounded by cashew nut trees. Yes, we loved our field. As pupils, we also grew vegetables as part of our Science lessons. In those days, the servant's quarters were nearby and helped to look after our garden too. By the way, this was in the mid 1950s. Close to the school was also a marshy area - come to think of it, it was probably part of the river or creek. I remember us playing in the sandy area too. In those days we sang the British anthem, God save our Queen.

None of the teachers lived in Changi and all of them stayed in the Geylang or Katong area. The teachers were a dedicated lot. Imagine, the only road to Changi in the old days was long and winding - and very dark, cos there were no street lights for a major part of the road. And the bus from Capitol to Changi was No 1. And Changi Village was 14 miles (22.4km) from the city centre!

Coming back to Mr Laurie Chan. While he taught us in the day, he also taught night classes in Telok Paku. And my late father who was from China used to attend his night class. Yes, my father and I had the same teacher. One evening the night classes, LEMBAGA (?) held a Dinner and Dance and both my parents had a great time then.


Changi Village in the old days had its fair share of haves and have-nots. I belonged to the have-nots because my father worked for the RAF and was a fitter. At first we stayed in the protected area - up on the hill next to the huge building where the British soldiers stayed. The quarters were terraced quarters and very small. There were four families in each of the two terraced quarters. Each comprised only one room and we had a common toilet and bathroom some distance away from the quarters. My family stayed there till 1955 before we moved to another set of quarters just behind the Changi Village shophouses.

These quarters are still there today and I've brought my siblings and son and visitors to view. I can't imagine how my 4 siblings and my parents stayed in the one bedroom quarters. This time we did have our own bathroom and toilet. Separating our backyard from the shophouses was a huge drain (huge to me as a child). The shophouses in Changi in those days did not have modern sanitation. We often see our friends in the shophouses emptying their "urine pots" into the drain. We never thought about how unhygenic it was.

Who were the "haves"? The children of the shopowners in Changi Village. Us? We belonged to the working class - our fathers worked as mechanics or cooks in the RAF while my Indian neighbours' fathers worked as clerks (slightly better than my dad). My neighbours were either Indians or Malays. That is why to this day, my siblings and I are very conversant with the Malay language and we love Malay and Indian food. We ate mutton and beef and never thought of them as "smelly" unlike some of my Chinese friends.

I was about to talk about the shopowners' children who were my classmates in Telok Paku School. Perhaps because they had everything, they didn't work as hard at their studies. Many of them had to repeat school. I was considered young cos I was at least two years younger than them.

I was one of two girls who went to RGS. It was a first for Telok Paku. I had to thank Mr Laurie Chan who pleaded with my parents to put RGS as my first choice after PSLE. But RGS was a mighty long way. I left for school at 6 am and didn't come home till about 3 pm or 4 pm. To help out with the family's finances I gave tuition to some of the kids [mostly shopowners' children and some of the children of the clerks (they could afford to pay me)] so that I could carry on with my secondary school.

I have fond memories of Changi Beach. The old stone bridge that links the beach to the ferry terminal is still there. I remember the village boys and girls diving from the bridge into the creek. I didn't cos I didn't know how to swim then. Whenever I go to Changi now and look at the stone bridge I can't help remembering those kids diving from the bridge. No one thought about the danger or how dirty the creek was in those days.

The Civil Service Club at Changi used to be a transit centre for the English soldiers and families when they were scheduled to return home to England. Naturally they would board the air force planes at Changi airfield. After the British forces left, the place was occupied by the Red Cross Home for the Handicapped (in the old days it used to be called the Red Cross Home for the Crippled).

When Changi Airfield was in existence, the buses had to stop for planes to "cross". A long long time ago my teacher friends and I used to sit on the slopes overlooking the airfield and gaze at the stars and planes. No hanky panky - just enjoying the stars!

Incidentally, when we were studying in Telok Paku School, my teachers used to threaten the boys that if they didn't work hard they might land up in Changi Prison. I can't believe that we actually believed the story. Our lessons were also often interrupted by the aeroplanes which used the Changi Airfield.


yg said...

an appropriate time to mention your teacher mr laurie chan as teacher's day was celebrated yesterday.

Victor said...

Thanks to Madam Ow for a very nice heartwarming story.

Wishing all teachers and ex-teachers here a Happy Teacher's Day too.

JollyGreenP said...

Yes, what an interesting piece. I was one the "have" children there in 1957/58. The concrete bridge leading over to Changi Point across Changi Creek is also full of memories for me. We lived in Wittering Road overlooking a part of the golf course and it was just a short five minute walk down to Changi village and down the side of the Transit to the bridge.

One small correction though, families from the Transit would not embark planes at Changi but were bussed out to Paya Lebar to fly back to the UK on chartered civilian aircraft or be bussed to the docks to catch chartered ships.

The monsoon drains were big and deep in Changi village, even to an eleven year old like I was at the time.

Thank you for your insight into "life next door" so to speak, slightly less comfortable than our life which even by our standards was more comfortable than living in England at that time. It was very much a paradise posting for most.

Icemoon said...

The article mentions bus stopping for planes to cross. May I know whether that was the dispersal area?

Oddly, oldies shun from the paranormal. I read that the concrete bridge is haunted. Maybe the oldies will like to verify this rumor. Haha.

yg said...

hello icemoon, i think the prohition of riding the bicycle across the stone bridge has nothing to do with the curse on the japanese commander who appeared unexpectedly on his bicycle.

i was born after the war, so i don't really know much about the sook ching massacre.

as for the first question, maybe john harper has helped with the answer.

yg said...

sorry, the last sentence should read: as for the first question, maybe john harper can help with the answer.

Lam Chun See said...

Thanks for this interesting and informative story. Perhaps it would be more helpful if you added a map of the area. I have sent YG a scan of the 1963 street directory of that area.

I am not too familiar with this area actually, but I remember visiting my younger brother who did his BMT (Basic Military Training) at the Telok Paku Camp.

For us in those days, passing by the RAF airbase and seeing the planes from Upp Changi Road was aways a thrill.

The Bakerwoman said...

Hi YG, I enjoyed reading your blog, it brings back the wonderful memories of old Singapore...

Can you please tell me what was Blk 1 Changi Village like in the 60's? The block opposite d former Europa?

I heard that it was a village and would like to know if there was any fire mishap in the 60's?

What was the particular area like? I was told that the block 1 was constructed in the 70's....any photos that I can review in that particular area?

Thanks Much!

yg said...

hi bakerwoman, that particular posting on telok paku school was written by a friend who used to live in changi village. i will check with her about blk 1 and the fire, and then get back to you.

Anonymous said...

Stumbled upon this posting when I searched for 'telok paku'.

My first thought was "I don't remember a Mr Laurie Chan". Got my answer after reading the whole post - I studied at Telok Paku School only in the 70s, right until the day it was closed. That last day was a very sad day. The last line of the school song was changed to "Remember Telok Paku School".

I don't remember any cashew nut trees though. Only casuarina trees.

Changi Village...my hometown. :-)

This is a lovely piece. Thanks very much for sharing.

ps. Bakerwoman - those blocks 1-5 were built only later, probably in the 70s as you mentioned. Those of us who stayed in the quarters used to refer to them as "blok baru" (new blocks).


yg said...

anonymous, if you lived in those quarters - which are still around today - you would probably know the guest blogger, ow suek yin. her late father was a fitter in the royal air force and their enterprising family used to sell drinks and snacks to the golfers.

Anonymous said...

My block's one of those near the "pokok besar" (big tree). Madam Ow's block could be slightly further to the right end, I think, where I seldom walked past. I didn't know the quarters are still around; have not been back since my family moved out.

Some of the Malay boys who used to be caddy boys at the golf club would probably remember her family. "Main kedi" they always said when one asked them where they're off to. : )


yg said...

aj, you may know her brother, philip. mdm ow took me to see the block in which they lived. it was somewhere in the middle and she also mentioned the big tree.

Anonymous said...

YG, I'm afraid the name doesn't ring a bell. Somewhere in the middle - near the playground, perhaps? She must remember Makcik Temah who used to sell nasi lemak.

Serene said...

hi, i live in the quarter behind the shophouse blk 5, which you had taken an image of.

it has been transformed into a studio, and another 15 sqm had been slabbed on.

Thanks for posting this article, it's very informative as I've been trying to confirm the terraces were to accommodate local officers.

Tew Meng said...

hi i was from Telok Paku School from 1961 to 1966. My day work in Changi Golf Club during the 60's. I stay opposite the Changi Prison.
I love Changi village. I do remember that during those day, on every Wednesday of every week, there was this "Pasa Malam" so call the night market. Plenty foods to eat.

Fanny said...

I was one of the kids that stayed in the shophouses. My late father's shop was at 376-H and later change to 1352, under the name of 'Mei Long Departmental Store'. He sold antiques, silver-wears, toys, cosmetics...you name it. He was also the managing director of Chong Seng Primary School, a Chinese school near the stone bridge where all his six children studied. Bus fare to Capitol was 15 cents and Mee Robus at the wet market was 20 cents. Those were the good old days.

viji said...

Hi! Are you Ow Li Yuen's sister?I was at telok paku from 1961 to 1966.I am her classmate .I am Vijaya lekshmi.My friends call me jaya.My father worked in the RAF Changi as a krani.I stayed at BLK A6 near the Sri Rama Temple.Would like to get in touch with old friends.

gerilim said...

My father, Soh Chuan Lam, used to teach at Telok Paku School in the 1950s.

viji said...

Geri Lim ,Is it Soh Chuan Seng?In the fifties and sixties .He taught the three of us,my two brothers and myself.

jaya 8/10/2012

Liyen said...

Wow, reading my sister's blog brings tears to my eyes! Yes, she writes beautifully, pardon the bias. I was the little sister, Liyen, and yes, I studied at Telok Paku Primary too; together with Yew Meng and Viji, I was there from 1961-1966 until I went to Tanjong Katong Girls. My sister wanted me to go RGS, of which I qualified, but refused - the rebellious me! Telok Paku had good teachers - I remember Paul Wee - who brought us to church every Sunday, Jeffrey Goh with his wonderful sense of humor, and a chinese teacher who also brought us everywhere to show village girls and boys a bit of Singapore we didn't know existed - apart from Changi Village!
Yes, we were poor - my sister Lily and I had to make ice-drinks to sell, my brother Philip and I manned the canteen where we sold drinks and sweets, and where I spent all my time reading - thus giving me the ability to read English at uni. We used to envy the shopkeepers' children, and looked jealously as the "ang-moh" would come out of the "cold storage" grocery store that sold butter and English cookies that we could never afford!
I loved the lontong store - still the best in my memory, and the wanton noodles that my classmate sold with her mother.
Where are my classmates - Poh Choo, Maimon, Soon Buay, and yes, Viji? We should meet up one day!

Jeff Mudaliar said...

Hi YG,

I stumbled upon your blog and read the interesting write-ups. I lived in Changi Village from 1958 - 1970 in the civilian quarters. My late father worked for the RAF. I lived first at Blk 9, and we shifted to Blk C4. Blk 9 was directly opposite the huge rain tree. I have fond memories of my life in Changi, the Changi Cinema,the foodstalls, the stone bridge where I enjoyed diving and most of all, Telok Paku English Schools. I remember Mr. Laurie Chan, although he was not my Form Teacher, Mr. Soh Chuan Seng, Mrs. Rozario, Mr. Danny Khoo, Mr. David Ler, Mr. Tan Hock Soon. Also Mr. Mohd Ali - the Tamil Teacher, and of course the principals, R.S Bath (I am not sure of the spelling) Mr. Singh, and Mdm SS Quek. Wow memories.

Chong said...

I attended Telok Paku from '57 to 59 and have fond memories of those days. My favorite teacher was John WD whom I kept in touch until recently. Unfortunately, I have lost contact with a couple of my "best friends", particularly Tan Kit Heng and Poh Ai Lin ( yellow was her favorite color). I would very much like to met them again when I visit Singapore in Oct 2013. Can someone help ? Chan3sons@yahoo.com

Fanny said...

Dear all, I have published a graphic novel 'Nini in Changi Village' illustrating my growing up experience in Changi Village. You may like to check it out and/or contact me at my facebook 'Nini and Polah Cartoon' or my website fannylai.com I look forward to receive your feedbacks.

gerilah said...

Viji, sorry I did not get a notification on your reply. My father Soh Chuan Lam is now in his mid-80s and taught at Telok Paku from day one in 1951 to December 1959. I saw mention of Soh Chuan Seng, who is my father's younger brother. I remember Mr. Laurie Chan as well.


Unknown said...

Joint fb Telok Paku club

Unknown said...

Guys if you like to know more about Telok Paku and Changi Village check fb.
Telok Paku Primary school club

Kursheed (Korchit) said...

Hi, I am Kursheed (Korchit) also from Telok Paku Pri, from 1967 - 1972. New to Facebook and by chance saw Telok Paku Club. I am so excited and happy to find "Down Memory Lane of old Changi Village". Have been wanting to meet old friends of my village. Used to stay at 37 Lorong Bekukong, opposite the shop houses. My principal those days was Mrs Quek.

Unknown said...

Hi kursheed
Im Veera from changi village you are welcome. Ive posted many photos of changi village you can see on TPPS CLUB.

Mohd Bin Osman said...

Mohd Bin Osman in 1970 i was pr 1 my teacher is mrs hamid and my pricipal is mrs quek my sport teacher was mr bala and i stay at kampong changi. until today i still remember the school sometime i have dream at telok paku school is a same similar school in my dream .i love telok paku school so much anybody have a telok paku school photo please @ in the website thanks for all member of telok paku pr school we are all family thank you once again my email glidersdrm@yahoo.com.sg

Unknown said...

My name is Anantha. I was a student at Telok Paku Primary School from 1958 (Primary 1) to 1962 (Primary 6) and lived at Changi Village, Block A2, House No 4. Have very fond memories of childhood days at Changi Village and at Telok Paku Primary. My teachers were Mr WD John (Pr 1), Ms Caroline Chia (Pr 2), Mr Danny Koh (Pr 3), Mr VF Spykerman (Pr 5) and Mr Soh Chuan Seng (Pr 6). Tamil teachers were Mr Maniam (Pr 5) and Mr Mohd Ali (Pr 6). If I remember correctly, the School Principals then were Mr Bakshis Singh (1958), Mr RS Barth (1959-61) and Mr Alex Abisheganathan (1962). Left Changi Village in Jan 1963. Still staying in Singapore in the Yio Chu Kang Area.

Unknown said...

I was there from 1966 - 1970. I stayed at the RAF police Quarters. My hse was near de golf field where l used to see Mr..Lee Kuan Yew took his whack there. My principle was Mrs Quek. I still remembered my teachers..Miss Siti, Miss Ang, Mr. Roland, Mrs Bong. My bestfriend was a chinese girl named Chong Pek Hiew. By the way my name is Noriah. I left de school early 1971. I moved to Malaysia. Now l m in Seremban capital city of Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

Changiboy said...

Thanks to this blog, I hooked up with an old classmate from the late 50's.


Anonymous said...

Hi was student of TPPS from 1963 to 1972 played softball under Mr Paul Wee stayed in BLK B8 RAF Qrts form teacher Mr tan Tamil teacher Mr Mohd Ali my name murugasu still go back to Changi once in a while was working in changi golf club sure like to get in touch with all my schoolmates who knows me sure miss those sarbat stalls and old friends.

Anonymous said...

Sorry guys murugasu here old schoolmates and Changi friends who like to catch up with me plse mail me lalamuru@yahoo.com.sg hope to hear from you guy thanks god bless you

Harjinder Kaur said...

Hi Noriah,I remember you and Chong Pek Hiew.We had Dalip, Liang Foong,Shakila and Prakash in P5A under Mr Roland Quek.Good to hear from you.