The 1961 class visits our alma mater.
Fifty years is half a century. It was about this time, half a century ago, that we received the Hong Kong School Certificates – all 127 of us, constituting the class of 1961 (FA61), Queen Elizabeth School. We had reached a major turning point in our lives. Less than half would stay on for two more matriculation years leading to university. Others would go on to vocational or professional training, before joining the work force. Still others would start working right away. That was a time when send offs at the Kai Tak Airport, for the lucky few embarking on studies overseas, were fairly frequent events. The farewell scenes on board the S.S. President Cleveland and S.S. President Wilson were most unforgettable. The romance of friends sailing across the Atlantic, to the far away New World, cast lasting memories on our impressionable young minds.
The Class of 61 are now mostly retired grandparents. They have left their marks in life-long professional careers, as academics, and as leaders of business, industry, and government services. They are scattered all over the world. Sadly, a few have passed away. For ten days in November 2011, some of us gathered in Hong Kong for our fiftieth anniversary reunion. It was an experience of a life time. It certainly warrants a brief account for all, especially for those who were not able to attend all or part of the
The Reunion Week kicked off on November 2, with a lunch at the New Century Plaza, right next to QES. There was a good attendance of about 40, in an electrified atmosphere filled with excitements of lost friends seeing each other again for the first time since school, and of old friends simply not seeing each other frequently enough. Yelling of old nicknames filled the room; there was so much catching up on the times past.
A short walk to QES, through the soccer field back-gate, followed. Camera clicking intensified on the way, as we tried to capture the look of our school today. Memories of our youth of yesteryears gradually emerged. The two Assistant Principals, Mr. Tam and Mr. Tse, and the Career Mistress, Mrs. Liu, together with other staffs, gave us a welcome with the full treatment, which included a commentated video of today’s QES, as well as archived pictures featuring most of us. Shouts like “THAT’S ME, third one left on the
second row!” were repeatedly yelled out many times, with the same teenage passion and enthusiasm of fifty years ago. Look at those handsome lads with their full heads of hair, and the pretty girls with not a blemish on their faces. Yes indeed, memories are made of these. The visit was concluded with a fully guided tour of the school, the new wing, the new facilities, the whole works ……
In the evening, small groups gathered for intimate dinners. These were precious moments, especially for those who would not be able to attend the main event coming up on November 4.
Thursday November 3 greeted us with beautiful weather, giving us a perfect day for our outing to Lamma Island. Most of the 30 of us made the two-hour walking tour from Yung Shue Wan to Sok Ku Wan, where we had an excellent seafood lunch at the famous Rainbow Restaurant. While the majority stayed for a tour of the Lamma Fisherfolk’s Village, which is highly interesting and educational, a few rushed back to town for a “mahjong tournament”.
The big day finally came. Friday November 4 started with a Yaumati Form 1 Reunion Lunch at the Commissioners Club of the Scout Association of Hong Kong. There
were only a few new faces, as most had gone on to QES after Yaumati. The 35 in attendance pretty much had an encore of the lunch two days ago, with the same excitement and enthusiasm.
Soon after the lunch, people started moving straight to the Shatin Jockey Club. It didn’t take long for the mahjong tables to fill up. The video and slide shows ran non-stop. The wine started to flow. Music of the early sixties filled the rooms, only to be interrupted by the karaoke songbirds. The evening was informal but elegant, structured yet congenial. The resolution to make a commemorative video was quickly adopted. The speeches were short and heartfelt. After fifty years, 50 of us had a hell of a party.
As the cliché goes: Never in the history of QES FA61 have so many owe so much to so few. These so few are: Brenda Cheng, Y.K. Chan, Robert Ho, Robin Luk, Ko Yuk Yee, Nancy Lau, Susan Leung, Diana Chan, Wong Wah Kay, and others whom we might have missed or who simply worked behind the scenes.
Y.K. and Mimi Chan enriched the reunion program by arranging a 52 ft. yacht for a boat ride on Sunday, retracing our canoe trip in the summer of 1961. The veterans of that pioneering excursion of so long ago, and the people taking the upcoming Sanya-Vietnam cruise, were invited to the Chans’ residence Saturday evening, for dinner and pre-trip warm-ups and planning. No more needs to be said about their extraordinary hospitality.
The half-day boat trip was every bit as adventurous as our seven-day canoe trip in the summer of 1961. The open sea was rough, and it was probably the last chance of the season for such a trip. Dr. Muk Noong Cheng provided the most helpful and important tips on sea-sickness. Passing through the Geopark rock formations was an eye-opener – something we had missed while struggling to manoeuver our 12 foot canoes back then.
For several months before the sail-date, the Sanya-Vietnam cruise had also run into rough
waters. The local travel agency was incredibly incompetent, uncooperative and bordering on unethical. But then, all it takes is for none other than our own 7-distinction girl Brenda Cheng to arrive Hong Kong a little earlier to team up with Mimi Chan, add a few spoonfuls of the old QES spirit, and sort things out nicely for everyone.
The day in Sanya was rainy. But by then a few drops of water wouldn’t have been an issue anymore. The sea was rough as usual, and the port visit at Hue/Danang was cancelled. As it turned out, it was a blessing in disguise. That day was formal night, and everyone got to rest up, dress up and had a wonderful evening at the Captain’s reception and formal dinner.
Halong Bay was the last port-of-call. Instead of an 11-hour excursion to Hanoi, the group opted for a scenic boat ride, or a countryside visit of local rural family, regrouping at a local restaurant for some excellent and inexpensive seafood. After the meal, we walked back to the cruise ship along the seashore.
Looking at the cruise ship alone, the Royal Caribbean Legend of the Seas offers nothing to write home about. Compared to other ships in the Carnival, Princess, Norwegian fleets, and not to mention the mega Royal Caribbean Oasis, one could easily enumerate a dozen shortcomings. Yet this cruise could be ranked the best I have ever had. I know, deep down, my travel companions made the entire difference.
Any 50th anniversary would likely be a once in a life time affair. Ours has been so memorable and eventful in so many ways, it simply cannot possibly be duplicated. Yet everyone is now all worked up on future reunions, annual and five-year smaller affairs of course. To lead the way, and to assure success, Brenda and Muk Noong agreed to look into hosting the next one, possibly a Panama City/Caribbean Cruise combo in January of 2013. Southern Ontario and California may also be good hosting sites. Now that the story is
told, would future reunion hosts and excursion organizers please stand up and be counted?