Transfer to Kowloon
Philip, my elder brother, who had spent some three years in the Diocese's Holy Spirit Seminary hoping to become a priest, found that he could not continue. So he too joined Mark and myself, to be enrolled in the Kowloon Branch of Wah Yan College as from September, 1931. Philip was placed in Class 4, Mark in Class 6, and myself in Class 5.
The Eventful 1931
1931 was an indeed an eventful year. The Japanese Army invaded Machuria on 18th of September in that year. They subsequently occupied that part of China for some 14 years, right up to 1945. The Hongkong people responded to the "Mukden Incident" (of Japanese Invasion) with a " Riot", mounted in Kowloon. The "Riots" were confined, mainly through Shanghai Street from Yaumati to Mongkok. British troops, with bayonets up on their rifles, were mobilized to help the police in suppressing the "Riots". It lasted for just a little over one day. At that time, we lived in our house in Fanling, New Territories. Besides walking a mile from home to the railway station, we had to travel more than 18 miles, by train, to school in Mongkok every morning, and vise versa in the afternoon. There were only 5 Up-trains and 5 Down- trains running per day. Thus we did not have the time nor the opportunity to witness the actaul "Riots" of that year. There was no such thing as T.V. in those days; even a radio receiving set was quite a luxury which only a few rich family could afford. We relied mainly on the newspapers for report on what might actually have happened. We did, however, witnessed the scavengers taking several days to clear the debris from the streets.
Commencement of a New Era
Following soon after the "Riots", there suddenly developed a craze for spontaneous singing of "Patriotic Songs" in the schools; not only in our own school, but in other schools as well. Out of the Blue, came several new songs which we had never heard before. Amongst them was one, known as the "March of the Volunteers" (义勇军进行曲) It was the same song, which, some 20 years thereafter, was adopted by the Peoples' Republic of China as the National Antham of China. We hardly realized then that we were singing what was to be the National Antham of the Fatherland. It was a mystry then, and it is still a mystry to me even to these days, as who was instrumental to introducing these "patriotic songs" to be sung in the schools, by youngsters like my brother and myself. I was quite certain it was not one of our own teachers in the school, who taught us how to sing these songs. The tunes were so easy to pick up, that we needed no teaching. All that was necessary was to have some one to take the lead, the rest of us would simply followed as in a way we do when participating a communal singing. We sang these songs at Recess times as well as after school.
Going to School by Trains - Travelling First Class
Travelling daily by train to and from school, was a new experience for me. The train journey took 45 minutes from Fanling to Yaumati. But we had the distance of a mile to cover from home to the railway station, which we initially walked, but later used bicycles. For the first Term, (i.e., Sept to Dec 1931), probably for prestige reasons, when my father was still norminally the Director of a well known secondary school, which had "European" teachers on his staff, we were allowed to travelled First Class, on students season tickets. It cost only $3-per month, or $18. for half a year. We travelled daily, with "European" senior government officers in the same cabin, and my father took pains to teach us how to behave in such company - the Do's and the Don'ts. For the first time in my life, I had a taste of being a sort of a "snob". I felt proud to be a First Class Passenger, when a few others travelled 2nd Class, with the majority were travelling 3rd Class. I learnt to greet the "Ticket Inspectors" as "socially equals", but not the train's "coolie attendants". I walked through the Ticket Collector's Gate with my nose raised. In the Stations, I would only speak to the Station Master, and not the juniors. On Saturdays, when the Railway operated a special Single carriage Express "Disiel Coach" for the "Golfers", who travelled First Class to play golf at the Golf Club in Sheungshui, more than once‚ I exercised my "rights" as a First Class Passenger, by requesting the Station Master at Yaumati Station to use his Red Flag to stop the "Express" Coach just for me, to board on the Coach, and then requested the "Guard" (in charge of the "Express Coach") to stop the Coach for me to get off at Fanling Staton. To think of it now,it was childish of me to have done this.
Fun in Travelling 3rd Class
Then came the year 1932. My father retired from the headship of Wah Yan College. With it, I was "demoted" to travel 3rd Class instead, on the train to and from school. My pride, my snobishness, and my "rights" as a Frist Class passenger went with it. It took me a bit of time to get adjusted to the social "demotion". I was by then a 15 going on to 16 year old. I developed a new interest in girls of my approximate my age. There were quite a number of them travelling 3rd Class on board the same train that year. Some were quite attractive but rather unapproachable or otherwise aloof, others were more approachable but were to closely related to me (my close cousins), yet others were too old or too young for me or othewise less attactive. I targetted one for my pursuit. As frequently as I could, I would try to take a seat (in the 3rd Class Carriage) which I anticipated would be either right next to her or directly oppossite to her, so that I could either gaze at her across the train cabin, or better still sitting quite close if not right next to her on the same bench, during the half an hours train journey to or from school. When feeling more bold, I would try to concentrate my attention and seized every opportunity to find an excuse to greet her, hoping to seize a chance to speak to her. However, Seldom had such "mounted" anticipation worked out as desired. Nevertheless, these were innocent funs of my teen age days.
The Most Exciting Year in School
Perhaps the most exciting year of my school life was in the year 1932, the year when I was placed in Class 4 (the equivalent of Form III of these days). I like all the five teachers. Heading the list was the kindly and soft spoken Mr. Pun Yau Pang, our Form Master, who taught us English Literature, Mathematics, History and Georgraphy. He was friendly but firm, he was painstaking and sincere. He commented on rather than criticised my many mistakes. He advised rather than punished, when I did wrong. We remained freinds for many years to come. It was in that year I first found reciting a good English poem quite enjoyable; reading a chapter about the City of Bombay in India in the text book: "A Human Geography of the World", fascinating; reading about King John and the Magna Carta, revealing; proving a Theorum in Geormetry, challenging. The other teacher was Mr. Wai Chung Yee, who taught us English Grammer, Essay writing and Translation. He had a dry sense of humour peculiar of his own, and we always found him entertaining. There were the two Chinese Master, Mesrrs Liu Ki Ming and Mr. Cheung To Ning (the former was previously my primary school teacher who taught me in the Village School, the latter later married my sister to become my brother in law). Mr. Liu taught us Chinese Prose from the Text Books, but Mr. Chueng, who had taken a special course in Beijing, so that he could teach us Mandarin more accurately and effectivly, did a lot to promote extra curricular essay-writing in Chinese. He was the one who encouraged me to venture into creative writing.
My Best Essay
I recalled he once set as subject for competitive Essay writing: "Advancement in Material (Technology) and Happiness of Mankind", which I participated. I started my esssay by drawing attention to the fact which happened only a week ago, that my parents who travelled by motor bus from Hongkong visiting our ancestral village in north east Kwangtung, took only One day to complete journey, which previously took them ten days when they covered the whole journey on foot. I then went on to compare the relative speeds of trains with hand carts or horse drawn carriages, of Steam ships as aginst sailing ships, and also commented on the potentials of aeroplanes as a possible future means of transportation. I compared the production efficeincy of knitting machines in the Factory next to our school, with the hand work of my mother. And then I wemt on to touch upon the fearful efficiency of modern weapons of war, including firearms, machine-guns, artilary, warships, and even bombs dropping down from aircrafts, but counter balanced it with comments on advancement in food hygiene, in medical technology, in bridge builing, railways and roads construction, in supply of electricity as soource of Light and of Power. I concluded by saying that while advancement in technology for use of materials might indeed have its intrinsic dangers and shortcomings, but if we were to exercise due care and consideration in terms of human well being, mankind would certainly receive more benefit than harm, thus bringing immense happiness to mankind. Mr. Cheung was so impressed by my exposition, that he gave me a Double A, and had my Essay pasted on the Exhibition Board for other to see, with his personal written commendation on the side to the effect that mine was an outstanding Esssay, so outstanding that with further efforts in the necessary back up research and a little polishing of the language here and there, the quality of the Esssay was comparable to a Dissertation of a Great Scholar or a Great Thinkers. I was somewhat surprised by the commendation. To be honest, I did not know what had inspired me to have written such an essay. As I was writing it, I only jotted down what occurred to my mind at that time. It had never occurred to me that I had discovered any thing new, or I was saying anything unusual.
My Study of Chinese Classics
It was in that year, when my mother insisted that I should made a special effort to improve my Chinese. With the concurrence of both Mr Liu and Mr. Cheung, we worked out a systematic programme of studying, the famous Chinese Classics of "Chor Chuen" (左传) and the "Ku Man" (古文 ). My brother Mark and Myself were to have private lessons twice a week, in the afternoons of Wednesdays and of Saturdays. We were to be explained the back ground story of each of the particular essay first, so that we would understand why certain words were used to illustrate certain points in the context. Thereafter, we were to learn the essay by heart, so that we could recite the whole text within an hour in the same afternoon. The "Chor Chuen" (左传), contained the most famous of all historical Essays, recording and commenting on the Events of the Waring Kingdoms in mid Chow Dynasty (周朝 ), and (b) the "Ku Man" (古文 ) included Selected Essays of Great Masters, which survived the several Dynasties over the thousands of years of Chinese History . The two good teachers took pains to explain clearly and interestingly to us, the stories behind each such Essays. All the Essays selected wer noted for brevity and precision in the structure of the essay as well as in the choice of words. These thorough and painstaking exercises gave me, a really good foundation for my knowledge in Chinese Literature and in the usuage of the Chinese Language.
Mongkok in 1931 - 3
The custom-built Kowloon Branch of Wah Yan College was located at the corner of Tung Choy Street and Nelson Street - Two blocks away to the east of Nathan Road, and One block away to the south of Argyle Street in Mongkok. blocks away from Nathan Road. When the school was built, it faced a wide open space in front, as by then none of the buildings which now stand to the east of Tung Choy Street up to the railway, and none of those buildings to the north of Nelson Street up to Argyle street had yet been built. Even the north side of Argyle Street was partly built. The was a nullah running right down the middle of Argyle Street, originating from Lion Rock along the upper part of Waterloo Road. I recalled making a trip form Mongkok, visiting a relative at To Kwa Wan, by way of a route across the hills at Homantin. We started from Tung Choy Street, via Argyle Street which stopped short, one block to the east of the railway bridge. Access to the site where the junction of Princess Margaret/Waterloo Road/Argyle Street, now fronting the China and Power Buildings, could only be by way of a foot path along the bank of a nullah, from under the railway bridge. A greater part hilly areas of Homantin District were mainly burial grounds for the Dead, with the odd stone- cutters working here and there. The Diocesan Boys' School was already there, at the top of the hill, which was then regarded to be "somewhere in the wilderness".
Nathan Road and Around
The south/east corner house at the junction of Nathan Raod and Argyle Street was the Mogkok Fire-Brigade Sub station, housed in a tenament building huild by the late Lee Ping. Across the Argyle Street, the north-east corner house was the Hom Mung Tin Cafe', owned and ran by the father of one of my class mates. There were rows of "Soya Sauces Maturing Yards" ( 醬园) on both side along the Natan Road, including one making "Fish Sauce" (大生鱼露 ), occupying the site where the "Bank Centre", now housing the Chartered Bank and the Wing Lung Bank. Behind the rows of soya sauce yards were a variety of factories; maingly but not exclusively knitting factories. One of them, closed by our school, burnt coal, which produced plenty of soots dirtying our floors, desks, chairs, books, clothings and consequently our limbs, faces, particularly our nostrils rapidly. Their machines produced very loud and continuous noises. One took- bush factory was using animal bones for its tooth-brushes. It produced such a stench that we had to used our handkercheives to block our noses every time we passed by the factory. There was then no such concept as "polution", let alone "anti-polution", lesser still "noise polution". The factory owners were proud of their possession, boasting their creation of jobs for the poor, and productivity of their machine. They were heroes of the age of "industrial revolution". We simply accepted the "noise" and the "dirt" and the "stench" as a reality of life, however resentful we might have felt in our own minds.
Traffic in 1931 - 33
There were then 3 bus companies operating bus services in Kowloon; namely the Kai Tak Bus Co. which operated the eastern routes to Kowloon City, the China Bus Co which operated the western routes to Shamhuipo, and the Kowloon Bus Co. which operated the Route via Nathan Road and Prince Edward Road to Kowloon City. It was not until 1933, when the system of separate franchises, one for Kowloon (awarded to the K.M.B., and one for Hongkong (awarded to the C.M.B.), was introduced and legalized by statutes. There were no Taxi Service for Kowloon then; only a small number of "Public Vehicles" for hire, available at a few "garages" located at the Tsim Sha Tsui end of Canton Road. We could more or less count the number and identify the owners of the limited number of buildings standing on both sides down the whole length of Nathan Road, which were characterized by the beautiful trees planted. To stretch our legs or to kill our time, we used to walk the whole way from Mongkok to Tsim Sha Tsui, to board our train at the Kowloon Terminal. We could certainly walked , four abreast, most of the way. Riding a bicycle along the Nathan Road was quite leisury and enjoyable. Rickshaws could be hired at Tsim Sha Tsui, but not frequently seen in Mongkok. Hand-pushed carts were still used for removing cargoes. There were no necessity for "One Way" traffic arrangement.
Richmond B.C. : 1 Sep 1989
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