While Mr Chan Sig Yam was running some banking errands at Raffles Place earlier this year, he heard someone call his name.
It was his former secondary school classmate, Mr Yee Kee Seng, now a financial services adviser.
The duo, both 72, had not seen each other for years. They got talking and came up with the idea of creating a WhatsApp group chat to gather their former Naval Base Secondary School classmates for a reunion dinner on Sept 27.
The dinner at Square 2 in Novena was attended by 21 of 30 students in their former Secondary 4 class - the rest either could not make it or had died. The former schoolmates, from the class of 1963, were joined by six others from other classes in their cohort. The school, started in 1957 in Bah Tan Road at the British Naval Base in Sembawang, is in Yishun today.
A number of Mr Chan's former classmates said they were pleasantly surprised to hear from him, as he used to be a "quiet, reserved and even nerdy" student.
Mr Chan, who was Naval Base's first student to score seven distinctions at the O levels, joined Singapore Airlines as an apprentice maintenance engineer and later became an assistant manager in engineering supplies, which entailed material planning and buying aircraft spare parts. He retired in 2008.
Another surprise was when they learnt another classmate, Mr Wong Kim Tok, who used to be noisy and a troublemaker, went on to become a pastor after he left school.
Mr Wong, 72, who is currently with a church in Geylang, said: "My family background wasn't very good. My mother wanted to commit suicide twice, and there was a lot of frustration and sadness."
He worked as a university administrator for three years after studying economics and law in what is now the National University of Singapore. He left to become a missionary, once spending 10 years in India with his wife to perform missionary work, and later took up pastoral duties as well.
For Dr Wong Sen Chow and Ms See Lian Kui, both 72, the reunion had added significance. It was at a class gathering years ago that they began to be interested in each other.
Ms See, a former primary school teacher, and Dr Wong, a consultant surgeon at Mount Alvernia Medical Centre, now have two sons and two grandchildren. Dr Wong said he chose to attend Naval Base as his home was within walking distance of the school. "There were really good times there... We all came from humble homes and we're all (of) different races," he said.
Including Ms See, the class of 30 produced seven teachers in total.
One of these teachers is Ms Soumini Nair, 72, who is in her 53rd year as a mathematics and English teacher and working on an adjunct basis in Jiemin Primary School.
She said she finds fulfilment in teaching weaker pupils, and her reward is when pupils and their parents thank her when they see improvement in their results.
She once had a primary school pupil who was consistently doing poorly in his exams - especially in mathematics. When the results of the Primary School Leaving Examination were released, she saw he had managed to pass.
The pupil's mother was not intending to accompany him to collect his results as she was expecting him to fail. But when Ms Soumini phoned her to let her know the good news, she made the trip down to the school to personally thank her.
Ms Soumini said: "Even receiving a President's Award (for Teachers) would be nothing, compared with that feeling."
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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