06 March 1999

Memories of the prep school - of growing up before moving on to the imposing Big School across Jalan Station have stayed and will have to be recounted someday.

Fifty-one years on, I have mourned the deaths of many school friends and classmates, associates and contemporaries, felt sad for those who floundered, and happy for those who succeeded.

I have always been saying good-bye to people and it has not been easy for me.

Malaya, now Malaysia, has greatly changed. Even more so, my alma mater. It is no longer the school I knew, though still an excellent institution given the present setting.

The prep school has been the cradle of the college ethos, yet it is hardly celebrated. It is always the Big School which is written about and glorified.

What I missed most at prep school was a library even a reading room, and yet that was the time when most of us between the ages of nine and during my time - wanted to know the entire history of the people who populated the earth.

I would hope by now it has a small library at least, if not computers and a cyber library. If I am only marginally literate and lacking intellectual curiosity I can always blame my prep school days.

At the most intellectually curious age or stage of our lives, eating, games, being mischievous, classes, sleep and no reading other than text books were the only activities which occupied our time.

I recall a most exciting time I had at prep school, a perfect time, completely fascinated with school life, inventing, reinventing and always improvising.

That was why I was never bored or had troubles with the teachers and prefects.

I sent all my three children to prep schools and boarding schools in England.

They enjoyed boarding school. They told me they would also send their children to public schools.

I first learned to write for publication at my prep school when I was chosen to write about a class trip to Taiping.

It was published in the 1949 MCKK Magazine. That was the first and the last successful attempt until I started work at The Straits Times eight years later.