Three friends reenact old pose, 60 years later

JOHOR BARU: When three teenage girls took a photograph 60 years ago, little did they realise they would meet again at the same spot where they sat for the photograph back in 1962.

The trio were former students of SMK Infant Jesus Convent.

Today, the three close friends who are now 76-years-old -- Khoo Lay King, Tan Chew Gek and Lee Swee Hong – returned to their alma mater to visit the same spot where they posed for a photograph while in Form Four.

While they were busy taking selfies and reminiscing about earlier times, the New Straits Times caught up with them.

All three completed Form 5 in 1963 and eventually became teachers.

They taught in different schools except for Lee, who returned to SMK Infant Jesus Convent, where she taught from 1964 until she retired in 2000 as a senior assistant in the afternoon session.

Meanwhile, Khoo began her teaching career in 1967 and retired as a teacher in 1991 at SK Pendidikan Khas Bandar Tinggi while Tan began her teaching career in 1967 and also retired in 1991 as a teacher for special needs students, also at SK Pendidikan Khas Bandar Tinggi.

Despite going their separate ways after school, the trio made sure they kept in touch with each other.

Lee said in the days before computers, handphones and the Internet, the best means of staying connected was through the telephone.

"The Convent had been a lovely place for us and it was like home to us, our meeting point where we chatted, gossiped and had had heart-to-heart talks," said Lee.

Lee said the canteen and the statue of the Immaculate Conception were their meeting points.

"It was at these places that we used to meet before the start of school, during recess, and after school," she remarked.

Lee said it was at the school field that they had a good time playing netball, volleyball and sometimes even hockey.

She recalled the good old days when mingling among the student population was smooth, with little or no racial sensitivity or other differences.

"In those days all races, Chinese, Indians and Malays mixed without any inhibitions. We cared for each other like one big family," she stated.

For Khoo, the school has held true to the distinctive brand of the Infant Jesus Convent tradition, one that is synonymous with high academic standards, moral values and strict discipline.

"We had the nuns teaching us and they were humble and always treated us like their own family.

"The school then had luminaries such as literary legend Adibah Amin, former international trade and industry minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz and the mother of Datuk Seri Najib Razak, the late Tun Rahah Mohd Noah," said Khoo.

According to Khoo, the students could relate well to their teachers and there were no communication barriers.

She stressed the teachers then neither used the cane nor force as the students were diligent and disobedience was rare.

The three friends were so close that even as they walked and chatted, oblivious to their surroundings, they would hold each others' hands.

Tan remembers Infant Jesus Convent as the oldest and first girl's school in Johor, having opened its doors in 1925.

She said after 97 years, thousands of young girls have walked through the passageways, with their tears and laughter reverberating within its walls.

She recalled the small chapel in the Convent, saying they would go inside and pray for "divine intervention" during examination periods.

"The Convent has groomed many leaders in government, politics, judiciary and in the corporate sector, who have lived up to the school's motto: Simple in Virtue, Steadfast in Duty," said Tan.

Sadly, she said she did not get to teach there back then as the positions were all taken up, but was glad to have been assigned to another Convent school, St. Joseph, not too far away.

As Tan aptly put it, there are three types of friends in life: friends for a reason, friends for a season and friends for a lifetime.

The three close friends were happy to mark the school's 97th anniversary this year, expressing their willingness to help out if a reunion dinner was in the cards.

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