Swansong reunion at Hua Yi school's Margaret Drive site

Former Hua Yi students (from left, back, standing) Tan Kok Boon, 45, and Kenny Sim, 44; (second row) Anston Tan, 39; Wang Xiang Qin (wearing a tie), 52, and Cai Yiren, 49; (on the ground) Michael Chia, 43, Huang Qing Yuan (in stripes), 68, and Benny
Former Hua Yi students (from left, back, standing) Tan Kok Boon, 45, and Kenny Sim, 44; (second row) Anston Tan, 39; Wang Xiang Qin (wearing a tie), 52, and Cai Yiren, 49; (on the ground) Michael Chia, 43, Huang Qing Yuan (in stripes), 68, and Benny Lee, 53, at the field of the former campus in Margaret Drive that will be the stage for the concert on March 29. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

Alumni organising concert at old school field before area is redeveloped

An abandoned track and field once used by Hua Yi Government Chinese Middle School will be the stage for a reunion concert for staff and students past and present before the area is redeveloped.

Around 2,000 people will fill the concrete seats on March 29 at the site, tucked away in a forgotten corner of Queenstown.

The two-hour-long concert will feature alumni such as veteran singers Huang Qing Yuan and Wu Gan, and former TV host Wang Xiang Qin.

The concert will be the swansong for the field at 801, Margaret Drive. The area and its surroundings will be replaced largely by residential development under the Urban Redevelopment Authority's masterplan. A spokesman said the timeline has yet to finalised.

The field is the last sign of the old school, which operated from 1958 to 1982 before moving to Jurong. The campus next door was demolished in 2012.

The impending development galvanised former students to set up an alumni society in 2012. The group is organising the concert - one last bash to celebrate the "end of an era", said vice-president Michael Chia, 43.

"We started the society with about a dozen members who wanted to champion and capture the school's legacy and history - before the developer's axe swung into action," said Mr Chia, a lawyer.

Hua Yi school was established in 1956 by Chinese philanthropists and clan leaders at an interim site. It moved to Margaret Drive in 1957, building a reputation as a premier Chinese school for its excellence in academics, Chinese arts and sports.

With growing intake, it moved from Margaret Drive to Depot Road in the early 1980s and became an English-medium school. In 2000, it moved again, to its current premises in Jurong West Street 42.

Mr Anston Tan, 39, the alumni society's secretary and a director of an engineering company, told The Straits Times: "The school's 22,000 graduates, from three different campuses, have three distinct cultures. We organised the reunion to get everyone together as one Hua Yi and to showcase the school's history to the current batch of students."

The reunion concert tickets are $35 each, with proceeds going to help defray the cost of the approximately $100,000 event.

Only 100 tickets are left. They can be bought by calling 9222-0329 until March 21.

There will also be a photography exhibition featuring old and new images collected from past and present students across the school's 58-year history.

The society will also launch a scholarship in honour of the late principal Huang Shu Fen, who served from 1964 to 1972, at the concert.

Details are still being worked out but it is aimed at current Hua Yi Secondary School students who excel. It is starting with a seed fund of $10,000.

Former students said they look forward to returning to the campus and reliving their carefree student days amid an area that is changing fast.

Many changes have swept the estate. Landmarks such as the Margaret Drive hawker centre and Queenstown cinema and bowling centre, which they frequented, have been demolished.

Former student Tan Kok Boon, 45, the director of a private investigation firm who is the alumni society's assistant treasurer, told The Straits Times that the school field is where many of them left their footprints. "If we don't do something to remember the school, we will regret it when it's gone."

melodyz@sph.com.sg

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