Friday, March 16, 2012

Sliding downhill after school.

Today's generation of school children are so hothoused that by the time they are admitted to Primary One, they would have already had at least a year of nursery school and 2 years of kindergarten. All of them would already be well versed in their ABCs and 123s. All can read and write the alphabet.

Like most of my peers during my time in the 1960s, I learned my ABCs and 123s in Primary One.
Only a few more enlightened or privileged children went to kindergarten.

I can still recall the first time going to school in Primary One, feeling lost in that strange environment and yearning for my mother, who with the other mothers would be peering from outside the classroom windows. My class teacher at Princess Elizabeth Estate School in Primary 1C was Miss Tan Gek Eng.

In the beginning, all the primary one pupils did not have any books.
What we had was a personal blackboard and duster, which we would carry each day to school.
It was on this tablet, that we were introduced to A for Apple, B for Boy and C for Cat.

Our personal blackboard was similar to this with alphabets and numbers printed on the edges.
It was only after we could manage our ABCs on the blackboard that we were given sheets of paper and pencils to begin writing.

However, the blackboard, which was actually green in colour, was not redundant for us.
We had other uses for it outside of school, the most common of which was to use it as a slide board.

As Princess Elizabeth Est was built on a hillside there were lots of slopes which became our sliding grounds. The best slope was in front of block 20 as it was the longest and had the best angle for sliding downhill. Children could always be seen each evening playing with their old blackboards sliding downhill.

The slope at Block 22 was too flat while the slopes in front of blocks 21 and  23 were too steep and dangerous, which didn't stop the foolhardy anyway.

Occasionally, some children would find cardboard boxes but these were quite rare as the shopkeepers  were reluctant to give it away. Those riding the cardboard boxes always pretended they were 'driving' down the hill.

The best slide slope, in front of block 20.


  1. I couldn't agree much more than you James in your observations.

    Appears that there was plenty of time to do lots of things - inside and outside the classroom.

    When my kids were at that age (pre-school but in kindergarten) I often wondered how can the brain absorb any thing and that much. I compared it to our era and now realised that a child's brain is a sponge and very capable to handle "complex things". hat explains why children can get hooked to iphones/tablets/lifestyle and once hooked will be difficult to weave away.

    When you touched on writing paper, some memories come alive. For example , a) Exercise books were always kept in the classroom cupboard and not allowed to be brought home until at least Primary 2. b) Before the introduction of exercise books, we wrote on blank papers which were handed out at the beginning of each lesson. c) There was a subject called Arts & Craft where boys were taught how to do things which were a part of every woman - sewing buttons/raffia on to stiff nylon nets or producing glue from white powder and water. I realised these were "concepts" taught to boys which would become very useful in our adult life. Sewing lost buttons on shirts and baking/pounding chillies in a mortar. Obviously doing it looked silly but there is a principle behind it.

  2. I think this must be the spot that my friend Chuck, who grew up in PEE, blogged about here.

  3. Hi Chun See, you are right. This field is just behind Chuck's house.

  4. Oh I remember sliding down the slope in between blocks 19 & 20 just next to the steps leading to the car park on top of the slope.
    I used to live at blk. 19. Moved out in 1968 after completing my PSLE at Princess Elizabeth Sch.