Memories are made of these
It’s been 20 years since Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China. Needless to say, many things have changed throughout these decades. To get a glimpse of colonial Hong Kong, we’ve asked Hong Kongers to recall the best parts of their school days and what they find most different then and now.
Gemma King, former Boundary Junior School pupil, 1980s
My dad was born in Hong Kong – he and my grandfather both worked for Cathay. I went to Boundary Junior School on Rose Street, Yau Yat Chuen from 1983 to 1989 and then to King George V until 1996.
Most remarkable memories of Boundary Junior School include our Beijing trip being cancelled due to the Tiananmen Square massacre. As well as loud aeroplanes flying in and out of Kai Tak airport that would stop school assembly until they’d flown over.
Tuck shop treats included ice creams from the man outside the primary school and Hot Dog Day. At KGV I remember enjoying sour lemons, fizzy strawberry liquorice and cola sweets.
Jal Shroff, co-founder of Fossil and former King George V pupil, 1950s
I was born in Shanghai and arrived in Hong Kong in 1949 as a refugee. I’ll never forget how KGV took me under its wing. In those days, there were lots of rules. Girls and boys sat separately in school assemblies and lessons; the students were not permitted to use the main entrace etc. It was certainly a very different time. The student body was mainly European, with a handful of Asian and Eurasian students like myself. The teachers were incredible and there was a close-knit community among pupils. My father almost lost everything when he fled Shanghai to come to Hong Kong with me, but KGV helped us get through a difficult period.
Brian King, former Kowloon Junior School pupil, 1950s & ‘60s
I attended Kowloon Junior School on Perth Street, just below King George V school from 1959 to 1965.
There was no air conditioning in the classrooms so during the summer the school shut in the afternoon. I think we may have had Saturday school to make up the time.
The students were predominantly expat as it was an English language school – there was an English test you had to pass to get in. However there was more of a mix later on in the 1960s when the government changed the requirements. Friends I remember include Eric Wen who was the son of an American/Chinese businessman. And Aslo Shroff, who came from an Indian family with parents working for the government. And an American family – their father was station manager for Pan American Airways and they were driven to school by a chauffeur in a left-hand
drive 1960 Chevy Impala. It certainly stood out amongst all the British cars.
Louise Buckley, former Boundary Junior School pupil, 1980s
I moved to Hong Kong as a baby in 1979 and lived in government quarters in Sai Kung called Man Kei Toi (now The Giverny private residential complex). The traffic getting out of Sai Kung was epic in those days. Kai Tak airport was on the other side of Choi Hung and there was only one road in and out.
I loved living in Sai Kung – we were surrounded by woods and we used to roam around in a big gang with roller skates, bikes and skateboards. Sometimes the dads would set up a zipwire for us. I loved all my teachers and enjoyed a lemon tea and a Mars bar from the tuck shop at break.
We played British bulldog, down ball and kiss chase in the playground. My one regret is not
We share Louise’s love for Sai Kung. Find out what more to do in Sai Kung in our top 10 Sai Kung day trips guide here: saikung.com/top-10-day-trips/
Richard Bush, former King George V student, 1960s
My parents were American missionaries and headed for Burma in 1960. But visa issues prompted my father to relocate to Hong Kong. I initially found the British-style of education at KGV quite daunting, but I felt like I got a very good education which gave me much better preparation for American universities.
A striking feature was the wide diversity of students – almost 50% of the student body was comprised of international students, which mixed in with the local Chinese students made for a remarkably international atmosphere. The more multicultural you can become the better – living in Hong Kong gives young people a good start on that.
Christine Smith Mann, former Beacon Hill Primary School pupil, 1980s
My family lived just up the hill from the school and I used to run down to school every morning, until my dad couldn’t bear watching my skinny limbs flailing around and ending in a heap on the floor when I inevitably tripped over at the bottom. So he insisted on driving me the 100m down the hill.
Having been born and raised in Hong Kong, many people are surprised I don’t speak Chinese. But at that time Chinese in school was forbidden – even by native Chinese speakers. Our only foreign language options were French or German so unless you had private tutoring, it was difficult to learn Chinese or get any decent practice. Very different from today.
Learn more about Beacon Hill School in our interview with Principal Mr. James Harrison: