After five months of planning and construction, the St. Nick’s girls are back with their National Day tribute SuperbaG50! Along with their finished artwork are their memories of their time as students of CHIJ. Scroll down for their individual memories below!
Completed over 20 consecutive Saturday mornings by a core group of alumnae volunteers, the big bag structure and accessories such as water bottle and umbrella were constructed using recyclable materials such as styrofoam and cardboard boxes, plastic bottles and lots of newspapers collected by current CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School students. The entire structure was coated with white paint before individual artworks were installed on the bag.
In this final installment of our blog posts on SuperbaG50, we feature some of the memories shared by artists who contributed to this art installation project about their school life and growing up in Singapore.
My earliest memories of my school life was at Victoria Street, where I was greeted daily by the steeple of our chapel whenever my school bus drove in through the wrought iron gates below the words ‘Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus’.
We had our flag-raising ceremony in the mornings and flag-lowering ceremony in the evenings. Before the days of sophisticated public address systems, our Principal, Mrs Hwang–Lee Poh See, could only rely on the loud hailer to address us. During our final year on the Victoria Street premises in 1983, I remember watching the construction of Raffles City just behind our school. I used to marvel at how they built at least two new storeys each day, and I kept track of the new building’s height daily during our flag-lowering ceremony.
My childhood memories were primarily of the times I spent playing with my friends before school and during recess. We played Five Stones, Hopscotch, Zero Point, and hung upside down from the monkey bars or chin-up bars. Some of us would even swing ourselves 360o on the flying rings like professional gymnasts. Along the red gallery were rows of wooden bleachers where we used to play “Crocodile, Crocodile, may we cross the river?”; to which the Crocodile had to reply: “Yes, if you are wearing spectacles (or a watch or hairclip).” Those who were safe could cross the river while the rest had to attempt to run across without getting caught by the Crocodile.
My eldest sister was in the school brass band. They used to do foot drills at the gallery and on the basketball court next to the chapel. I remember I was always very impressed by the drum major who was able to throw the mace into the air and catch it. I almost always want to clap when she does a good throw.”
In Emelia’s words:
“This artwork was inspired by my friends in St Nicks who I miss very much. I remember those times when we would chat about almost anything, from sports to art to TV shows. Many of our conversations ended in hysterical laugher or abruptly because a teacher had entered our classroom and it was time for the next lesson. Conversations like that were the happiest.”
Dr Ho Yok Kum, a CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School alumna who went on to teach in our old school for more than five decades, contributed a drawing depicting two school girls — one brushing her teeth and another with a mug of hot steaming milk.
During her memory sharing, Dr Ho talked about two nation-building projects introduced by the Ministry of Education when she was a young teacher.
“We may not have natural resources in Singapore but we were certainly not weak, as we had human resources.
To grow into a strong nation, our people needed to be healthy. So in our early years of nation building, MOE decided to boost the nutrition intake of needy students by providing free milk in every school. Every day, we had a school custodian we affectionately called “Milk Nanny” who would prepare the milk formula. When it was time for the students to drink the milk, we would notify them via the public address system.
Good dental hygiene was also important. At the close of recess every day, the students would line up in rows to brush their teeth, and the teachers stood by to ensure they brushed their teeth the proper way.
While these were just short anecdotes from my time as a young teacher, they revealed the wisdom of our pioneer leaders and the care they put into the stewardship of our fledgling nation.”
Chng Woei’s sharing:
”The first day of school is always memorable. I remembered mum tying my hair nicely with blue ribbons, bringing me to the hall, walking down the corridor happily. Of course, there were others crying on their first day but I was most happy.
My most common pastime in school was walking along the stone curb next to the grass, be it during recess or waiting for my older sister. Playing hopscotch on the sand next to school field was also a favourite. If I could the nicest and flattest stone – sure win! I was also really good with five stones. Never told anyone the secret was in my handmade stones – use less rice and the stones literally “stick” to each other.
Recess time to me was going to the tuckshop for my precious chicken wings; and once a week, I would queue outside the bookshop for my much-awaited copy of 小叮当. When I finally got my copy, I would try not to squeal too loudly as the bookshop was next to the Principal’s office.
I remembered the numerous times we had to go to the chapel for mass. I always felt tranquil when I looked at the holy water. Especially after I was reprimanded for doing something naughty or when I wanted to be alone.
I had quite a few ECAs in primary school, but Choir was a huge part of me. I did not have a fantastic voice, but my choir teacher and music teachers made us believe we were singing superstars. Singing kept me company whenever I was excited or feeling down. I still sing the songs I learnt then.”
In the extended CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School family, Uncle Mobeen’s name brings back a lot of memories. During Azeem’s sharing, he talked about how pioneers like Uncle Mobeen carried out their work responsibly and how he was inspired by the anecdotes about life in St Nicks, shared by the seniors in his family who have worked in our school for more than three decades.
Our SuperbaG50 was presented to wows and cheers of more than 3,000 students and staff members during the school’s National Day Observance Ceremony on 6 August 2015. The crowd settled into a hush during our memory-sharing segment, where our Principal, teachers and a canteen vendor talked about the memories behind their respective artworks. The sharing evoked sweet nostalgia, especially with the tune of “Home” played by our violinist and pianist in the background.
We rounded up our sharing with a “Thank You Pioneers” segment, recalling the blood, sweat and tears put into building our nation and our 82-year-old school.
Wonderful memories of Singapore school life will continue to be created for alumnae who remain active volunteers in our alma mater. We are delighted to have contributed to recording some memories of Singaporeans on our country’s collective memory portal and we look forward to celebrating SG100.
Words and Photographs from Diana, Teen Yen and the other St Nicholas alumni
Published by irememberSG blog