The Gatherings of
Sept. 26 and Oct. 3, 2008
Sydney and Melbourne
2008 VIOS SYDNEY- REUNION DINNER
Date: Friday, September 26, 2008
This year's reunions in Sydney and Melbourne had a special significance as they marked a special welcome for a Victorian who had come all the way from Canada. Chung Chee Min, one of the pagekeepers of the VI Web Page, is the glue that binds the V.I. past with the present, through his many articles, photographs and features on Victoriana over the years. He was accompanied by wife Meng Eng, also an ex-Victorian. They flew in from New Zealand where they had earlier met up with another Old Victorian, Donald Koh Swee Pheng, and his wife, Sai Harn, a former V.I. teacher. In Rotorua, of all places, the V.I. foursome met up with a V.I. legend - John Lever - and his wife. John, the immensely popular Scoutmaster of the V.I. First KL Troop in the early nineteen sixties, is now retired in Tauranga in the North Island. And in Auckland, the quartet met up with yet another V.I. echo from the past, Jane Luton, the daughter of the late Miss Joan Floyd who had taught biology in the school from 1956 to 1960.
L to R: Host Khoo Seow Hong, Chiew Ah Kim, Gan Kong Eng, Kenneth Chong; Australia's Chef Wan; Tasting his results
On Thusday, September 25, a day before the Sydney VIOS dinner, a warming-up barbeque party was hosted by Khoo Seow Hong and his gracious wife, Yin Loon, at their house. The ever hospitable Khoos have been welcoming many visiting Victorians from overseas over the years. The Chungs arrived to find a sumptious spread of food and drinks with chef Wan Kee Kio busy grilling even more goodies on the sizzling hot barbie. No doubt, the Khoos' envious neighbours were being treated to the free aroma of cooking meat. Ex-restaurateur Chong Kok Weng brought along a big plate of KL Hokkien mee, his restaurant's famous signature dish, and before anyone could utter "ho jiak!" it was all cleaned out. As the next day was a working day the gathering did not last too late; so goodnights but not goodbyes were said as all adjourned in anticipation of the following night.
Friday evening, the 26th, saw over eighty Victorians, spouses and friends converging at the Zilver Restaurant in Pitt Street, Haymarket. The reunion attracted many attendees from other parts of Australia. One Old Victorian actually flew in from Singapore.
L to R: Chan Chor Keen (Newcastle), David Yee (Melbourne), Ee Paik Lian (Perth), Krishna Rajaratnam (Wollonggong), Gan Kong Eng (Perth),
Venu Sarma (Adelaide), Isher Singh Sekhon (Canberra), Chiew Ah Kim (Brisbane), N. Ganesan (S'pore)
And what great personages this group of visitors included - one School Captain (Krishna, 1959), two School Vice-Captains (Isher Singh, 1957; Kong Eng, 1962) and the school's very first Head Girl (Paik Lian, 1956) who was also on the teaching staff from 1962 to 1965.
With their old teachers: Zen Loy, Wan Kee Yio and Ng Seng Thay with their physics teacher Mrs Ee Paik Lian;
Tham Sau Ling and Lim Foong Teng (right) with their biology teacher Mr Loh Kung Sing
All told there were 50 plus ex-Victorians and ex-teachers present with some of their spouses. Even before the function began many mini reunions were blossoming spontaneously on the dining room floor when old teachers like Ee Phaik Lian (née Tay), Mr Loh Kung Sing, Mrs Wong Pek Lin (née Chiew) and Mrs Yvonne Patel (née Stanley) were reunited with their former pupils.
The most senior Victorian that evening was Chong Ngee Hin, who had joined the school in 1941 and the most junior Old Boy was Rohit Kharbanda whose last year in VI was 1990, almost half a century after Mr Chong's. (Rohit's father is Old Boy and Old teacher, Dharam Prakash.)
While we tucked into the food and wine, the atmosphere was filled with a buzz of camaraderie as everyone shared their fond memories with each other.
Norman Foo, who knew our Guest-of-Honour in his school days, did a slide introduction to Chee Min, touching on his VI days and beyond. It was punctuated with Norman's quirky humour that eased a difficult technical situation caused by the incompatibility of his computer and the restaurant's projection system. Then Chee Min came on with his presentation entitled "VI: The Golden Years". Tracing the school's history to the present day, he revealed that the most of the school's greatest achievements happened in the years when most of us were there! At the conclusion of his presentation, each Victorian present was given a glossy colour photo souvenir of the school that our speaker had snapped way, way back during those Golden Years.
The driving force behind the evening's event was, as ever, our Sydney chapter president, Daniel Chan. With irrepressible energy and enthusiasm, Daniel presided over everything as Master of Ceremonies and led us all in singing the school song at the end of the evening. This time there was an innovation in the singing. In the words, actually. In addition to the three verses of school song, a fourth verse for overseas Victorians was sung, penned early by our VI Web pagekeeper, to reflect poignantly that although many of us now live far from the old School, the Victorian spirit still burns strongly in us:
Alma mater, fare thee well !
Now on distant shores we dwell;
Alma mater, fare thee well !
Halcyon days of youth still beckon;
New school bonds we'll forge and strengthen,
Shaw's great vision to enshrine
In us true Victorians.
The obligatory group photo showed many happy faces, proof positive that wherever they are, ex-Victorians will find time to have fun and to relive those Halcyon schooldays of so long ago. By the time the good-nights and good-byes were said, many connections between long lost fellow Victorians had been reforged as promised in that fourth verse, with email addresses exchanged as warranties to stay in contact again!
While most of the dinner attendees probably lazed in bed with a hangover the following Saturday, an intrepid band of Victorians with their spouses and family had risen early and was preparing to ascend the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge as part of the reunion programme. Organized months earlier by Krishna Rajaratnam, the V.I. team - Krishna, the Chungs, Daniel Chan, his brother Peter Chan and family and Wifrid Lazar and wife reported at 9:30 a.m. to the Bridge Climb Headquarters at Cumberland Street, The Rocks. Clad in special jump suits and safety harness the band were led by a guide up numerous ladders and along catwalks until they reached the upper span of the iconic bridge for an eye-popping view of the Sydney environs. Unfortunately all Bridge climbers are forbidden to bring any personal items along (can you imagine a watch or camera accidentally dropped from that height and landing on someone 134 metres below?), otherwise the group would have unfurled a small V.I. flag specially made for the occasion. Still the light blue-dark blue trim of the jump suits they were dressed in matched the school colours and that was close enough! Indeed, the many other groups in similar garb swarming all over the steel girders did make it look as if the Sydney Harbour Bridge had been overwhelmed by an ant army of Victorians.
The day's events didn't quite finish with the Bridge Climb as the Chungs hosted a coffee and cake afternoon at the Gloria Jeans cafe (run by VI alumnus Rohit) in Crows Nest (Northern Sydney) on the afternoon of 27 September. The party started at 3 p.m. and had to be shooed away around 5.30 p.m. for overstaying. It was a pleasant and relaxing postscript to the heavy dinner the night before. Norman Foo tells it in his own inimitable style:
"In attendance were the visitors-turned-hosts, reunion organizer Daniel Chan, (Dr) Lee Choong Keet and Chang Chee Lee (also an Old Girl), Lam Ah Lek and Keelah, Zen Loy, Michael Tan, (Dr) Indran Devadason and Joephine, Wan Kee Yio, Stephen Yap Moo Len, Khoo Seow Hong and Yin Loon, Foo Yeow Khean (Norman) and Yoke Lin.
"Our group commandeered one wall of the cafe by rearranging sofas, tables and chairs so as to seat all comfortably while affording ease of movement to facilitate interactions. Some had not seen one another for years,
and the renewal of ancient comradeship was visibly moving and joyous. Chee Min, armed with his phenomenal memory of names, faces and events from VI's history, filled in gaps in our accounts, putting names to faces in old photos brought along by Choong Keet and Chee Lee, and - gasp! - even volunteering to interpolate the publicly known events in the lives of some VI greats by supplying details too salacious for print! But our intrepid host was, for a brief period, outdone by Chee Lee who informed us that the boys, even the most inquisitive, were never privy to some gossip and secrets the VI girls of her time shared among themselves (especially in the girls' Cloak Room). When she disclosed tantalising morsels of that to others near her, one could almost sense a collective holding of breath and then sighs of relief that none of the morsels had impinged upon secrets of their own! However, soon after that our host again became the undisputed mobile VI encyclopedia for which he is rightly renowned, answering questions ranging from the arcane to the profound.
"In the meantime the spouses were engaged in conversation among themselves or with others. For some this was the first time they had attended a VI reunion. It is certain these long suffering wives would finally go home with a greater appreciation of why their spouses suffer from a malady common to VI alumni - a bonding with their VI cohorts, a loyalty to the memory of a great school modeled after the best in England, and sentimental recollections of the events that led to the bonding.
"Some of us had the bonuses of catching up with Zen and Indran. For instance, I had not met up with Zen for 15 years, nor with Indran for 25 years. Zen, Chee Min and I were New Zealand graduates, and indeed I was still in Canterbury when Zen arrived there fresh from the VI. As many of you know, Indran's mother Mrs Jeyasothie Devadason was a legendary VI teacher. She imparted to me an abiding love for Shakespeare, poetic rhythm and metaphor. Recently my classmate Ahmad Zaidee confessed to many that Mrs Devadason had the same effect on him - he still quotes Shakespeare, Grey, Wordsworth, Conrad, etc. at the drop of a hat. Surely, we are but representatives of a generation of VI alumni to whom she had so lovingly bestowed this gift. As a delightful surprise, Indran's wife Josephine presented us autographed copies of her autobiography! In it Indran's life story is, of course, intricately interwoven with hers. Oddly, in just this tiny group were two other freshly minted authors who, too, had proudly brought along copies of their oeuvres - Daniel with his very own autobiography, My King, My Life, and Michael Tan with his A Tribute to Mothers. (Is there some writing virus that's going around in V.I. circles these days?)
"Our host has this marvelous charisma that triggers off VI reunions wherever he goes, rewarding the gathered alumni with periodic renewal of bonds initiated decades ago in the hallowed grounds, labs, fields, halls, and classrooms of the old school. Thanks to the Chungs for visiting Sydney and thanks to Daniel for the efficient organization of our many Sydney VIOS gatherings."
2008 VIOS MELBOURNE - REUNION DINNER
Date: Friday, October 3rd, 2008
The day before the big dinner, Thursday 2 October 2008, several Old Victorians and friends met for afternoon tea at the La Camera Restaurant, Southgate, Melbourne. This was a mini get-together organised by Chooi Hon and Yik Chee Ho in the interest of some former classmates who would not be able to attend the Dinner the following evening.
Attending were the Chungs (who had arrived, courtesy of Daniel Chan, by road from Sydney), Susie Lim (Perth), Ivy Ponniah and Jimmy Thomas, Yee Sek Kum, Choo Min Hsiung and Irene Ma Sau Peng, Ho Yik Chee, Quah Chooi Hon and some non-Victorian friends.
La Camera Restaurant; (L. to R.) Susie Lim, Ivy Ponniah, Lim Meng Eng, Quah Chooi Hon (all from the class of '62), Irene Ma Sau Peng ('60)
Everyone present tried to catchup with four decades backlog of news - the noise level was incredible for such a small group of people. Little wonder that some of us barely managed to finish our drinks. Many photo opportunities later, the group finally adjourned to their respective evening commitments.
The following evening, in spite of the wet and windy weather - the long drought had briefly broken for the city of Melbourne - 111 past students and teachers of Victoria Institution and their spouses/partners gathered at the Treasure Restaurant, at Forest Hill, Victoria. Greetings and shrieks of laughter filled the room as the past students arrived. Some have not seen each other for 46 years. The warmth generated in the hall more than made up for the cold outside. One participant, Roger Lau (VI 1967), had flown in from Singapore, arriving scant hours before the event!
Tony Ong, George Chin, Charles Mok, Richard Mok, John Quay, Phua Juay Chee, Alex Quan, Ho Yik Chee, Lee Ban Yew, Choo Min Hsiung,
Chang Sow Khong, Peter lee, Don Lim, Rex Lai, Kuan Beng Teik, Mariam Hagerty (née Manof)
Daniel Chan, David Yee, Paul Yee, Roger Lau, Jeanne Koetsier, Wong Kim Loy, Sieh Kok Ying, Eric Keong, Peter Tan, Ma Sau Kwan,
Chin Kui Yin, Wong Wai Yew, Lim Ked, Chong Sun Yeh, Lawrence Chee, Baharum bin Baba
Kuan Beng Teik, Chairperson of the Organising Committee, welcomed the guests, and acknowledged those who had come from interstate, in particular the Chungs who had come from the Reunion dinner in Sydney held exactly a week ago. We were delighted, too, that Mr. Chang Sow Khong (our "Accidental Soldier" whose exploits are celebrated in the VI Web Page), probably the oldest VI Old Boy in Australia, was able to join us. The baby of that evening was Paul Yee, son of David Yee, whose last year at the Old School was 1988.
Singing of the School Song
In accordance with tradition, everyone stood up and gave a lusty rendition of the VI School Song. The volume and enthusiasm more than made up for the lack of, um, musical finesse.
The highlight of the evening was Chee Min's repeat slide presentation of the “Golden Years of VI”. In a carefully scripted account of VI from its earliest days, he brought back memories of our days at the VI. Past students and staff relived the best years of their school life. Non-VI guests could not help but be impressed by the outstanding achievements of the School. Finally, the long suffering spouses of Old Victorians could understand why their partners had been babbling ad nauseum all those decades about their old school and how great it was. Here - at last - was incontrovertible proof that they were not delusional and, indeed, had been telling the truth all the while!
When it ended, all VI students/staff were each rewarded - as in Sydney - with a beautiful vintage photo of the old School in all its coloured splendour. Our speaker deliberately left one last slide projected on the screen for the rest of the evening. It was a collage of photos of many of the Melbourne Victorians present - all snapped during their school days! This became a magnet to the attendees who flocked around the screen to gape at the gallery of seemingly unrecognizable young boys and girls from a different era. Recording the collage with their cameras, they excitedly pointed themselves out to their bemused spouses and schoolmates.
One for my album, Wong Cheng Lim seems to say ; "...Yes, yes, I'm sure it's him. He had more hair then."
Chong Sun Yeh browses through a 1967 Seladang while Wong Cheng Lim examines old school photos
The Organising Committee donated prizes for the lucky draw. Acknowledgements of their contribution to this successful reunion should be made to the following:
· Tony Ong and Don Lim (photography)
There was a constant buzz of conversation all evening and it was clear that every one had a great time. We all had to be gently eased out at 11 p.m. by the restaurant staff. It looks like we shall have to meet again in another two years.
Reports by Wan Kee Yio, Norman Foo Yeow Khean, Quah Chooi Hon and others
Created: November 30, 2008.