Monday, 18 July 2011

Penang Free School revisited

It has been a good 39 years since I left the Penang Free School.and frankly, Alma Mater or no Alma Mater, there was very little reason for me to go back there. True, maybe I had paid some brief visits on three or four occasions but apart from those, the only other time I could remember going there was perhaps some 10 years ago. It was a Saturday - a mid-morning, I think - and my old classmate and I were wandering along the deserted corridors on the upper floor. A rude shock awaited us when we wanted to come down and found the metal gates firmly shut and padlocked. Luckily, one of their supervisors saw us and let us out. We were relieved. We weren't looking forward to spending the night at the school with whatever ghosts that were supposed to walk the corridors.

Anyway, I found myself briefly at the old school again last Friday to deliver about 30 new chess sets to them. At first I was debating whether to give them to the Penang Chess Association or the PFS Chess Club, but I was convinced that donating them to the school would be a much more meaningful gesture. The PCA is rich enough to acquire their stock of chess equipment whereas the school chess club would surely appreciate equipment that they can use for years to come.

So there I was, entering the school gate, going past the front porch then turning the corner to approach the canteen. The old basketball and volleyball courts are no longer there but at least, the old Gardening Club is still around. I wonder whether students are still tending to the plants or is there a full-time gardener?

Driving out, I had to go counter-clockwise round the school field. A pleasant enough drive, though still a bumpy one. After all these years, the road remains uneven. Nothing much has changed in this part of the grounds; it was like reliving the 1960s and 1970s!

The neat staff quarters are still there; so are the school library, the hostels and of course the bungalows in the far distance. But what's this I see?

The school pavillion, now painted in beige yellow and orange, instead of its original white. That came as quite a shock. The old headmaster's quarters is still standing but it is now no longer part of the school complex. Some other organisation had gotten possession of it, renovated it and made it commercial, which is a pity. A great loss to the school.

I saw a group of boys milling around the cricket pitch and I stopped to watch them throw a few balls. Nice to know that cricket is still being played at the school. Back then, the only times we held a cricket bat were during the afternoon PERA sessions. But the game never caught on in the country and the PFS remains one of the very few schools left that tolerate the game. The boys quickly came around me. "Sir, do you play cricket?" 'Are you an Old Boy here?" They told me that a school team had toured Australia earlier in the year and were beaten in all the games. No surprise there. And as quickly as they came to talk with me, they said goodbye. I'm now left alone again at the corner of the field but newly filled with memories that have now resurfaced.

1 comment:

Fakhrurrazi Hashim said...

Can I see photos of the hostel?