When bronze bells used to ring at Henry Park

Primary 5 pupil Ryan Tan displays two plush toys dressed in uniforms worn by pupils between 1986 and 2002, while Primary 6 pupil Benjamin Lilley shows off an old school bell.
Primary 5 pupil Ryan Tan displays two plush toys dressed in uniforms worn by pupils between 1986 and 2002, while Primary 6 pupil Benjamin Lilley shows off an old school bell. PHOTOS: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES
Ryan Tan with a display of past school principals of Henry Park Primary School. The 10-year-old has been trained to conduct tours for visitors at the school's heritage exhibition, which opened in April.
Ryan Tan with a display of past school principals of Henry Park Primary School. The 10-year-old has been trained to conduct tours for visitors at the school's heritage exhibition, which opened in April.PHOTOS: DIOS VINCOY JR FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

During a fire drill, a bell would ring loud and clear through the school. However, it was not a fire alarm played through a modern public address system.

Instead, in the 1980s, school attendants would walk the grounds at Henry Park Primary School ringing bronze bells, calling pupils and teachers to assemble in the school grounds.

Up till the 1990s, these bells were used to alert children and teachers in classrooms housed in a block some distance from the school's main building.

The school has kept one of these bells and showcased this in its permanent heritage exhibition, which opened in April.

The school in Holland Grove Road, which opened in 1978 with 287 pupils and 13 teachers, now has nearly 2,000 children and 130 teachers, and is one of the more popular primary schools in the area.

IMPORTANT ASPECT

If students cannot articulate where their schools come from and what programmes they have, it's a pity.

MRS VIJAYA GANESH, vice-principal (administration) at Henry Park Primary School, on its heritage exhibition

INTERESTING INFO

It's interesting to also know that Ulu Pandan, the area around my school, used to be swampy.

BENJAMIN LILLEY, a Primary 6 pupil

Mrs Vijaya Ganesh, its vice-principal (administration), said the school was upgraded in 2012 and one of its plans was to set up a space to chronicle its past.

"If students cannot articulate where their schools come from and what programmes they have, it's a pity," she said.

The research process started three years ago with about 10 pupils and teachers unearthing information on the school's history at the National Archives office.

Families from the school's alumni association also pitched in to construct a 1.7m-tall, 1.7m-wide school badge made out of Lego bricks.

The $69,000 gallery is spread across the walls of the school and adopts the theme of a train journey in a homage to how it is situated near the old Malayan Railway line.

Primary 5 pupil Ryan Tan, 10, who has been trained to conduct tours for visitors, said: "At first I was anxious because I wasn't used to talking to a big group of people, but now I'm better."

Primary 6 pupil Benjamin Lilley said: "Some people don't like history but I like it.

"I like reading history books, especially those on war."

The 12-year-old added: "It's interesting to also know that Ulu Pandan, the area around my school, used to be swampy."

Amelia Teng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 07, 2015, with the headline 'When bronze bells used to ring at Henry Park'. Print Edition | Subscribe