YOUR VIEW: Relationships, not material possessions, matter most in life

The 1962 class of Margaret Drive Primary School at their Golden Jubilee.

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Thank you Yahoo! for publishing the article on the Golden Jubilee celebration on Nov 12.
Many Yahoo! News readers wrote encouraging comments of the upcoming event. There were many who expressed fond recollections of those "carefree" times where children had real childhood without being overly stressed by the education system.

Indeed at our gathering on 1 December, the 36 ex-schoolmates plus a couple of spouses were more interested in catching up with each other than the spread of food served at the all-you-can-eat steamboat buffet. There were so many conversations going on at one time, interspersed by much ‘girlie’ laughter. At one point, the restaurant staff had to politely remind us to lower our volume of noise for the sake of other diners.

All the boys and girls have since been elevated to "senior citizen" status. Most of us are parents of grown up children. Only a couple are grandparents with up to four grandchildren. Many lamented that in the 1950s, we would have all been grandparents at sixty. But in present day Singapore, many of our married children have chosen to delay having babies of their own while several others have opted to remain single.

I discovered that most of us live in public housing spread all over Singapore from Jurong to Bt. Panjang, to Ang Mo Kio and Changi. No one talked about the number of properties each owned or the type of cars we drive. There was nothing to suggest that we were trying to compare how materially successful each has become. In the 1950s, we never compared what we had or did not have and this healthy ethos was obvious at the gathering. We accepted each other as we were.

We were instead more interested to find out which street in Queenstown we lived in while studying at Margaret Drive. We talked about the teachers that left a lasting impression in our minds and those nasty ones that meted out punishments that would have got them terminated by MOE today. 

Sadly, the thought of some schoolmates who have passed on prematurely due either to illness or accidents made us realize that time is not on our side. We reminded ourselves to treasure the good times and the friendships developed over the years. If we continue to live healthily and free ourselves from unnecessary stress, we may be able to continue meeting for the next 20 years or more!

I also found out that there was no smoker in our midst. This is surprising since we grew up in an environment where smoking was part and parcel of the working class culture. Maybe our parents and the education system then have a big part to play in instilling a sense of personal character and virtuous living that we have held on to.

After the cutting of the Golden Jubilee cake, both the teachers commented that they were proud to have played a part in our lives. They pointed out that schools today are equipped with so many amenities and modern day facilities and yet the students and their parents are so unhappy. On the other hand, we only had a large field and a basketball court and the school had produced such happy and successful students.

This is so true. We may not have risen into the stratosphere in social status, but judging from the amount of laughter that evening and the genuine demonstration of friendship, we have certainly achieved a commendable level of fulfilment and contentment in life.

When compared with children today, we all agreed that life and education in the 50s and 60s was so much simpler and fun. We lacked much but we lived a richer life.

Wong Kok Leong, 62, former banking consultant