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Oct 18, 2012

Ways Done in the Past - School Canteens

Gan Eng Seng School canteen  in 1986

Every school has a canteen where the students need to buy food, drinks, tid-bits during recess time. We also remember them in the early days as "tuckshop", a place for us to tuck in food into our stomach at recess time when we were hungry.  Not the same as Burger King fast-food reached our shore and started the advertising slogan campaign:  "Are you hungry?"

Bon-Food has been a Burger King franchisee in Singapore since 1983 when it opened the first Burger King restaurant at Holland Village.

There were not many canteen stalls in the schools during the early days where I attend secondary school in the 1960s.

Raffles Institution, the best school in Singapore, the school canteen in the 1950s look like the archived photos posted on this blog with credit to National Archives of Singapore with thanks and acknowledgement.

When first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew studied at Raffles Instituion from 1942 to 1945; and later our second Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong from 1955 to 1960, would their school canteen look like the photos (above and below)?

These tuckshops were built in 1888

These Raffles Institution canteen were built in 1888 and renovated in 1970s, with ceiling fans, flourescent lights and tiled roofs with metal framework to support it.
Best schools in Singapore do not need to have the best canteen with the best nutritious food to produce the best students ....the best education system does!

Anyone remember the top student in the Primary School Leaving Examination and his favorite meal is the  "fast to cook and good to eat" instant noodles cooked by his grandmother for him every day?

Any answers to this quiz?

Since Singapore became independent in 1965, the best students educated at every school are not labelled as an "elite school" to produce the best scholars with the best school examination results.

Recently, the Education Ministry has scrapped the secondary school banding system, as part of efforts to ensure that "every school is a good school".

Would then parents also look for the best school canteens with the best food in a school with best examination results too?  It would be puzzling and confusing to combine unrelated issues on education matters in schools. This issue is off-topic and out of focus on this blog about school canteens and ways done in the past and how different are the school canteens in Singapore today.

Lee Teck Public School tuckshop at Ulu Sembawang c 1970

Dorset School canteen in 1971

Everyone are welcome to share schooldays memories and experiences about the school canteens or "tuckshops" over the decades at  Singapore Memory Portal .

In 1954, I attended Kai Kok Public School in Bukit Ho Swee kampong. The school had a canteen in a wooden building with zinc roof.  Like the photos in other schools at that time, there were rows of wooden tables and wooden benches with the canteen stalls on one side or both sides of the seats in the center.

For the first few months when I went to school, my mother would then bring cooked food to the school during recess time.  My favorite meal is dark sauce shrimps with rice and a few saliva of green vegetable.

Although the school was on the top of the hill near Beo Lane and not very far away from the house we rented, my mother had lots of chore to do at home for cooking, washing, ironing the clothing for the family, feeding a few ducks, watering the flowers and pots of plants to grow chillie, bitter-gourd and lime for our daily meals to be more tasty as required depending on the menu which changes every day.  My elder sisters often told her "Mother, don't cook the same food every day with would better appetite for us to have a daily change of menu".

I was not a fussy eater since young...but rice was a staple at every meal just like a typical "long man" ("tng lang" or Chinaman in Hokkien".

About several months after attending school at Kai Kok, my mother told me to buy food at the school canteen during recess time.

I was given pocket money of 10 cents every schoolday in the morning session. (in those days only a half-day  from 7 or 8 am and return home at at 12.30 pm). A bowl of beehoon soup with some "kang he kia" (ikan bilis) was sufficient to fill my hunger pang in school.

In the 1950s, under-nourished schoolchildren were distributed each a cup of skimmed milk during recess time, free of charge.  I was qualified to be registered as an under-weight child drink more milk in school.

My father decided to switch me from a Chinese-medium school at Kai Kok after 2 years and I was transferred to Delta Primary School, an English medium school at Brahmaputra Road in mid-1956.

I was selected as one of the under-nourished schoolchildren at Delta School like the photos shown above.

The skimmed milk I once drank at the school wasn't done for the purpose of photo-taking in such a way.

During recess time, a big aluminium or stainless steel pot of hot milk powder with boiling water was prepared at the tuckshop kitchen and given each child a mug of the nourishing milk to improve the energy of the kids and make them healthy and strong...make our brains to grow bigger, some of my primary classmates told me.  I did not know whether the size of a  brain, or the size one one's head, makes any difference.

Each schoolday,  I brought a small bun and that's all I needed for each recess time.  There was no need to go hungry or to buy food at the tuckshop.  Ways done in the past at the school canteen for schoolchildren like me...but healthy children were not selected for free skimmed milk scheme though.



Blogger Lam Chun See said...

This blog also brings back a different sort of memories of canteeens; namely those that we parents recall of the canteens of our children's schools.

Do you remember waiting in the school tuckshop of your son or daughter when you went to fetch them?

October 18, 2012 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger FL said...

Thanks for the photos of my former school canteen (GESS)in 1986. I had eaten at the said tuckshop for four years during the early sixties when were part of Malaysia ! I also remember one of my classmate's father was a stallholder selling cut-fruits at the in our school tuckshop ! My favourite stall during recess then was the uncle/aunty team selling the fried kway teow which I paid for 20 cents a plate then. Those years school tuckshops were small and clamp unlike today ones. Well, today's generation of students is always ahead of us ! I'm not complaining, anyway.

October 18, 2012 at 11:17 PM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Hi FL, I remember Gan Eng Seng School at Anson Road where I attended Junior Red Cross training on weekends during my secondary school days. There were a variety of food stalls at the school canteen at that time.

October 19, 2012 at 10:33 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Chun See, when my daughter first attended primary school, I did not worry about taking food in the school canteen. The school arranged for buddies of older classes to guide the "newbie" schoolmates and had recess in a orderly queue to join new students. No worries for parents at school canteens today.

October 19, 2012 at 6:29 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear all, well done on your thorough research in Singapore Heritage! I am currently doing a project on Singapore Heritage too. May I ask for permission to use information(text and pictures) you have gathered to be used for my project? Your work will be acknowledged in my project.

October 21, 2012 at 11:04 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Hi Esther. Thank you for the courtesy of your kind comments and to know that you are working on a meaningful project on Singapore heritage.

Please go ahead to use the blogs. It is my pleasure to share these heritage and memories from personal experiences as I remember growing up in Singapore.

All nostalgia friends are invited to share their heritage memories for posterity. Best Regards.

October 21, 2012 at 11:51 AM  
Blogger lim said...

The tuckshop brings back so many memories of my school days, some embarrassing moments and some happy ones. It's unavoidable, I guess, because the tuckshop is really a part of one's school life.

October 22, 2012 at 8:55 PM  
Blogger FL said...

Lim, you said that tuckshop brought you some embarrassing moments and some happy ones, too. Perhaps if you would like to share with all of us of what you mentioned by elaborating a bit more of the embarrassed times and the happy ones. I'm sure everyone can learn from you. Thank u,

October 22, 2012 at 11:44 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Hi, thank u for allowing the use of the information. I will acknowledge the info taken from your blog. Let you know when the project is completed:)

December 2, 2012 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Thimbuktu said...

Thank you, Esther. My pleasure to be able to help. Hope to hear the completion of your project. Best wishes. Regards.

December 2, 2012 at 11:21 AM  

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