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《Mini Reunion in Cabbage town》__ Yu Fong-ying (61)

Mini Reunion in Cabbage town– ﹙a personal account of a reunion that almost didn’t come about for me ﹚

 The following is a personal account of the mini reunion dinners that I had in Toronto in September, 2018. I write about them first for my personal record, and second for whoever might be interested in the reunion event which was first broached in 2014. These reminiscences are also written as a retirement hobby, one of my ways of exercising the dwindling grey matter. I hope no offence is taken of omissions or commissions herein. For statistics, I consulted Wong Hin Shings’s CDs on past reunions and the emails connected with the most recent one. Any errors that appear are mine.

There have been anniversary celebrations and reunions before of course. Formal meetings when efforts were made to include every classmate from all parts of the globe probably went back to the very successful one held in Toronto in 2005. It was well attended by 28 classmates and 4 teachers (Mr Ho, Mr Tam, Mr Hsueh and Mr Mui), not counting spouses. Three years later, another one took place in Vancouver, with 30 classmates present (some 4 earlier than ‘61), not counting spouses. It was warm and well organized too.  

Yu 1                                                                                             2005 Toronto Reunion - Gala Dinner 

Yu 2                                                                                                    2008 Vancouver Reunion (picture incomplete)

 In 2011, our 50th graduation anniversary and reunion was celebrated in Hong Kong, with 58 classmates, and 3 fathers (Fr Mallin, Fr Zee, and Fr Naylor), 3 teachers and the principal (Mr Ho, Mr Tam, Mr Wong and Principal Mr Tan) and several other guests, not counting spouses. Someone suggested that we should meet again in five years’ time. “No, no,” another protested, “we would be too old by then. Let’s do it again in three years’ time.” Kenneth Loo penned a humorous poem about future meetings, with the last two lines something like: “七十垂垂吾老矣, 問君能否帶菲傭。” (Then I should be 70 and aged. Can I bring a Filipino home help?)

Yu 3                                                                                                                  2011 Hong Kong Reunion

Yu 4                                                                                                               2014 San Francisco Reunion

Three years passed, and in 2014 there was indeed a 53rd anniversary reunion in San Francisco. It was attended by about 15 classmates, about 4 of them local. Again, we had a great time together. There it was decided to get classmates in Toronto to host the next reunion four years later, in 2018 (another three years hence and it would be 2021, the year of the 60th anniversary), since Toronto staged a very successful one in 2005 and has the largest number of classmates in one city outside Hong Kong (about a dozen). In 2016, however, on the occasion of the 55th graduation anniversary, the Hong Kong classmates hosted another reunion. It was well attended, with at least about 10 people from overseas, from as far as New Zealand, California and Toronto, not counting spouses. Hin Shing had collected some photos showing participants happily tucking into an outdoor buffet. So far then, we had formal reunions for our 44th anniversary (2005), 47th (2008), 50th (2011), 53th (2014), 55th (2016) – testimonies to the strong bond among us.

Yu 4a                                                                                       2016 Hong Kong Reunion - Sitting down to enjoy the food

 An announcement was sent out by Peter Wong in Toronto who was designated the organizer of the 2018 reunion: a programme outline with gala dinner and trips for three or four days in late October made up the reunion schedule. But the response was poor. Only York Chen and Robert Lee replied positively. Then followed a long period of time in which there was hardly any news about the event. It appeared it would fizzle out.

By late 2017, I decided NOT to attend the reunion even if it took place. The reason was that by then we had news that Mr Anthony Ho had a heavy fall back in Hong Kong and upon his return to Toronto had health problems. At the same time, Wong Hin Shing also experienced much body pain in his daily life. I decided to go to Toronto early in 2018 during the spring break when May can go with me. The purpose was mainly to meet Mr Ho and Hin Shing and other friends, but not for the reunion were it to take place later in the year.

But an illness in the family ruined my plan; and it was not until July 2018 that we could see ourselves book a flight to Toronto for September 13 to 22. Understandably, Mr Ho could not tell me in advance when he could meet me, and we left it till my arrival.

However, on my second day in Toronto, September 14, Mr Ho informed me that he could come to the hotel we’re staying in to have afternoon tea with us. I was overjoyed. Hin Shing joined us, as well as May and Madam Chan (who was my colleague in the Language Centre at HKU for two years). We did not want to tire Mr Ho and did not involve other classmates. Mr Ho had taken medicine in the morning and looked fine. He said he had a good appetite, and took coffee and a cheese cake. We spent an hour in pleasant leisurely reminiscences of the good old days. Then Madam Chan drove him away, but not before Mr Ho told us that he would take part in the Terry Fox Run the coming Sunday, just as in decades past . 

Yu 5                                                                           2018 Toronto - Coffee with Jacob and Hin Shing at McDonald’s

Yu 6                                                                      2018 Toronto - Gathering with Ho Sir and Chan Madam at Monte Carlo Inn, Warden

Yu 7                                                                   2018 Toronto - Accompanying Ho Sir at the Terry Fox Run with Sing Ling on the left side

Hin Shing and I decided to have dinner together, and on the spur of the moment, he made a few phone calls. That resulted in a mini reunion of five with Martin Lee, David Chan, Stephen Lam, Hin Shing, me and May, at Congee Queen east of McCowan. Hin Shing asked if he should send out a general invitation for another dinner, but I was shy of being the centre of attention again and there were friends of May’s and mine and relatives to look up and things to do: yet another sick friend to visit, and a tomb of a college mate to sweep. So I said no.

On Sunday, I went to the starting point of the Terry Fox Run to cheer Mr Ho. Sitting in his walker, he led the group of participants from WYKAAO (Wah Yan Kowloon Alumni Association of Ontario) including Jeffrey Mah, Andrew Tang and Chan Sui Man. We took a group photo. There was one old WYK-er who came, a Mr Tang. Then suddenly, someone appeared close to me and said, “Do you recognize me?” In the first flush of the moment, I did not, but auditory memory came to my aid. For some reason, I recognized the voice. He beat me to it. “I’m Chu Sing Ling, Hilary.” O boy, I hadn’t seen him since graduation, and he was supposed to be in LA! It happened that he was in Toronto and learned about Mr Ho taking part in the Terry Fox Run, and he came. When the team began to do the 1 km sprint, Sing Ling and I accompanied Mr Ho who, pushing a walker, walked step by step over the length of a block and back. We were so happy and privileged to have been witness to his honoring the spirit of Terry Fox.

When Hin Shing learned about the presence of Hilary, he was excited and sent out a general notice to classmates in Toronto to meet for a dinner together. But I had a problem -- May’s classmates had fixed a reunion lunch, exactly on the day and at the time decided by Hin Shing and others.

In the evening of Hin Shing’s general invitation, it appeared that the suggested dinner might be taken just between him and Hilary. Then Stephen Lam and Martin Lee replied positively a little later; others too. Unexpectedly, Jacob Chow agreed to come; he had seldom joined such dinners before because of health reasons. Then I asked and obtained May’s permission not to accompany her to her get-together though her schoolmates and we had taken a reunion cruise together last year. We agreed to go our separate ways.

So it was that the mini reunion took place on September 20, 2018 in a grand Chinese restaurant, with 8 WYK-ers present: David Chan, Michael Chan, Jacob Chow, Stephen Lam, Martin Lee, Wong Hin Shing, Hilary Chu and his friend May, and me -– 8 classmates from three different cities. Peter Wong booked a table for us in a restaurant he frequents, the Crown Prince Fine Dining and Banquet (紫京盛宴) on Victoria Park Avenue, but in the last minute urgent business prevented him from coming. Bernard Wong was out of town. Peter Chang and Clement Ching had engagements made previously. Mr Ho was invited but he felt it would be too tiring for him and declined. 

Yu 8                                                         2018 Toronto - Lunch Gathering with Hilary & May and Fong-ying at 紫京盛宴. May took the photo. 

The lunch was sumptuous, the conversations animated. Stephen ordered over-abundantly dim sum of different varieties and tastes, enough for 10 strongmen. May brought to the restaurant a 3-lb pearl grouper which she caught in Boston, to be steamed and served on the spot! It was like dotting the eye of the dragon on the auspicious occasion of our 57th graduation anniversary mini reunion. Hilary was quite emotional since he had not met so many classmates for such a long time. He was very appreciative of Jacob’s presence. Hilary and Michael Chan looked back on their Kowloon Tong Primary School days and fondly counted others who joined WYK from the same school. Michael had now slowed down somewhat in his community involvements. Stephen had just retired earlier this year. A fishing enthusiastic, he and May traded angling experiences and tips. David Chan also had a number of fish and other stories up his sleeve. We talked about families, health issues, news of other friends, with Hin Shing providing archival information about classes, years and friends. Martin had his hands full looking after his granddaughter. I told everyone briefly about the friends in Vancouver. Hilary Chu passed word to us that if we met Chu Sing On, we should tell him, “Your Big Brother wants to see you.” For in the past, Hilary said, Sing On used to call him “Big Brother.” (大佬) We also talked about Mr Ho’s health conditions, worried about it but wished him the best.

Stephen had some wise words for Hin Shing and us. If something is planned, and comes about, good. If few respond, that’s all right; there is no need to get despondent. What will come will come. He also counted the years we’re together as school pals – 63 years from primary 6 in 1955, and counting. Surely that is something to be treasured and celebrated.

I agreed, and would add that if it were not for Hin Shing’s persistence, this reunion would not have taken place, a gathering that I could have missed so easily .

Two hours quietly elapsed, and the call of family duties, medical appointments and other schedules put an end to a very enjoyable dinner. Hilary and May surprised us by settling the bill unbeknown to all; they met with protests and cries of breaking the honorable Canadian tradition of treating classmates from out of town.

I wrote some 7-character lines about the occasion afterward:    

五十七年知多少
一生起伏在其時
猶記初進九華校
路斜遙上綠茵旁

轉瞬已屆離校日
八年烙印豈能忘
春風化雨潤人格
母校教誨心永存

人生聚散尋常事
甘受苦甜心安寧
不羡不妒他人業
牢記同窗攜手時

歡聚多城八友會 (多城 Toronto, 八人如上 列 )
三地同源香港人(八人來自羅省、多倫多、溫哥華)
遙祝好友師長健
默念已往父師同 (神父老師同學)

甲子只餘三年近 (2021 畢業六 十週年)
他城可望再團圓?

 Thoughts on the Mini Reunion in Toronto on the 57th Graduation Anniversary 

 What happened in fifty seven years’ time?
All the ups and downs of a life!
Fresh in memory was the day we entered Wah Yan Kowloon;
The uphill road long and steep, the green field beside.

In the wink of an eye, it was graduation day.
On us, our school’s branding will be clearly seen.
Like spring rain and wind, her teaching moulds our character,
And forever becomes a part of us.

What though we meet and disperse, then meet and disperse? 
To endure the bitter as well as the sweet is all part of life.
Our equanimity stays.
Friends struck out in different ways 

But we retain firmly our schoolmateship,
Mates who looked out of the same class windows, played together.
Today, eight of us met joyfully in Toronto.
From three places, we all originated from Hong Kong. (“three places”: Los Angeles, Toronto, Vancouver)

We thought of teachers, classmates who were not present — wishing all well,
And harbored thoughts of those who alas passed away — 
Fathers, teachers and pals.
Another three years,

Graduation would be marked by sixty summers.
Will there be a Happy Reunion in another city?

York Chen quickly responded with a 7-character quatrain from Mr Ko, a WYK schoolmate of 1957.


八載同窗熱情濃

赤子之心九華同

五十七載誼仍在

猶待甲子再重逢

(“The ties are fervent and deep among the schoolmates of eight years’ long,

Innocent alike all the hearts of Kowloon Wah Yan boys.

Their friendship remains after fifty-seven years,

And eagerly await renewal on the sixtieth anniversary.”

--- my translation)

 

(Note: Cabbagetown is a nick name for Toronto.)

 Acknowledgements – I sent the first draft to Wong Hin Shing for checking. He pointed out some errors and filled in some names for me. He also suggested adding photos, and out of his archive he inserted ALL the well-selected ones that appear above. Thanks to his driving, the two of us were able to have coffee with Jacob and lunch with Martin on separate occasions. Thanks, Jacob, Martin, and all those who came to the lunch gathering. Above all, Hin Shing.

September 30, 2018

Vancouver

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