Mr Sir handed out a card to all the children. It bore the logo of the Singapore Post Office Services and we were encouraged (more like forced) to start our first savings account. Stamps were stuck on the little boxes in the card. When filled, we are to hand in the card and receive our very first ‘bank’ book.

My brother laboured at the naval dockyards and received a weekly salary on Friday. His income supplemented my mother’s efforts as a dhobi (laundry woman).

On Fridays, the family had money and as a treat, I received ten cents on Saturday. Five cents went towards buying a stamp. Sunday – no school, no pocket-money.

Very early in life, I learnt about cause and effect. Be ’cause’ there was no school on Sunday, the ‘effect’ was I had no money to spend. But I learnt to amuse myself in other ways – that is another story.

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*** Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2011 ***


  1. My teachers were never cruel, that I can recall, but many of them were unkind and nearly all of them were uninteresting. I learned in spite of them, but only when I was 11 did I have a truly good teacher. She was kind and pushed us to do our best.
    But the subject that was ruined for me was history. That, as you say, is another story, one that is too long to go into here. Fortunately I have recovered from that dislike.
    When I was a child it was the adults who saved stamps. They were called S & H Green stamps. They were a sales gimmick that the chain stores used to drum up more sales. You received these green stamps (green because they stood for money) in proportion to the amount you bought. You would save them in little books that the store provided and when you filled them you could exchange them for things like lamps or a set of dishes or something, the more books you had to exchange the more expensive thing you could get. My mother carefully saved those stamps to get things she wanted for the house. As a sales gimmick, I think it probably worked. People still had not learned to buy more than they could afford, but that was the first step toward that addiction.
    I don’t remember anyone being punished for being poor, but there are subtle ways it could have been done.

    1. Sometimes I get the feeling many of the teachers in my school Naval Base (1962 to 68) were especially cruel and unkind. Matters got better after 1968 as we boys had grown big and were quite often taller than the adults. I run into a few of them now and then – many still remain the bullies they had always been…though they are very careful how they speak to me now.

      I can understand about that history teacher. My youngest daughter has a natural flair for art (sketching/painting) but after one year in art class, she dropped off > the male teacher who knew all the theory but couldn’t draw for nuts, ruined her love in that subject. Now she refuses to pick up a scratch pad or paintbrush. I sorely wanted to pay that idiotic man a visit if not for my wife stopping me.

      Teachers punished us for ‘being poor’ because they assumed we kids squandered whatever money we had on frivolous stuff – such as sweets, etc. These teachers, who were middle class wage earners, simply could not understand that we children from the villages were dirt poor and most times could not even get a decent meal at home.

      1. There are children now in the US who only eat what is provided in the schools. Whether that is the fault of their parent who squander their money and neglect their children, or just because so many people have no jobs, it is still a terrible thing. Until recently there was a program which provided lunches free to children who were poor, but now there are so many that one political party here wants to do away with the free lunches. They assume that whenever anyone is poor it is because they are lazy. It is strange logic: only provide help until the need becomes great, then blame it on them to soothe your conscience.

  2. My maths teacher threw a piece of chalk at me when I was asking my classmate who was sitting beside me to explain how to do a sum which I did not know. Since then I dislike maths. I now know that he considered that as talking in class.
    I hope there are teachers following your blog. I was trying very hard to learn but that action has destroyed my love for maths.

    1. Sad but true that some so-called teachers succeeded in destroying instead of nurturing our interests in some subjects.

      I recall my daughter Amelia, who loves to draw and paint. In her lower secondary, her arts teacher insisted that she write a report with every painting she submitted: the theme, how she came to select a particular presentation, what she hoped to convey and so forth – effectively killing her interest in art. She has not done a single art work since that time – almost 6 years now!

      That teacher was an arts graduate but I am convinvced he can’t paint for nuts!

      1. My sympathies. That would kill her interest without doubt. To insist that she submit a report with the painting at her age is preposterous. She wasn’t pursuing an art course in college!

  3. Yes, some of the teachers back then were heartless brutes. I recently met a couple, both teachers, from my former school. I recalled my schoolmates who said the woman was notorious for slapping her students. I called the man by name and both he and his wife bristled. They actually said that I should show respect and address them as Mr and Mrs !!! I am 56. They are in their seventies, retired, but yet to grow up.

  4. It’s humorous the way the author puts in now but it was not a single bit funny when you were punished at that time for being poor. Even when I laugh at this short episode, a tinge of sadness crept within.

  5. Great post today thanks. I really enjoyed reading it very much. You have an excellent blog here. Thanks again for sharing this.

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