The St Michael's spirit lives on

Their primary school may now bear a different name, but the spirit of St Michael's School remains as strong as ever.

Yesterday, more than 200 old boys as well as their families turned out in force at the school hall of the former St Michael's School near Novena - now St Joseph's Institution Junior (SJI Junior) - for the first official alumni reunion.

They sang the school song, viewed a slideshow of snapshots three decades old or more, and chatted with teachers and principals whom they once feared.

The official St Michael's School Alumni Association was registered in April this year and has about 500 members now. But old boys have been active for some years.

The all-boys primary school was started in 1954 to accommodate the growing Christian Brothers Catholic school community, which today includes SJI Junior, St Joseph's Institution, De La Salle, St Anthony's Primary School, and three other Catholic schools.

Among its alumni are Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean (class of 1966), who was guest of honour at yesterday's reunion, event host and polytechnic deputy director Darryl David, and Tampines GRC MP and former national development minister Mah Bow Tan.

In a contentious move, it was renamed St Joseph's Institution Junior in 2007 as part of a major revamp, to much outcry from its alumni.

Just before that, some of them had formed a temporary committee to raise funds to help needy students.

The $40,000 or so raised each year helps 35 to 40 students pay for school activities.

Alumni also contributed $200,000 to refurbish the school and build a new sports hall.

Tomorrow, pupils will return to SJI Junior's original Essex Road location after a year and a half at a holding school in Geylang Bahru.

At yesterday's reunion, alumni fathers took their sons round the campus to find their new classrooms, and recalled catching spiders, kicking a football around, or playing hantam bola (trying to hit each other with a tennis ball).

"My shirt had a round mark on it, and when I took off my shirt to wash, my back had a round mark on it too," recounted Mr Kelvin Monteiro, 49, an entrepreneur.

At the reunion, DPM Teo recounted an anecdote about then principal Brother Basil Voon, who had all the school dustbins painted red - so no pupil could say he could not find a dustbin - and other tales from "six happy years".

"For those of us who came through the school as St Michael's it will always be St Michael's," he said to loud applause.

"To those of us who came through the school as SJI Junior, it will always be SJI Junior," he said.

"(But) the DNA is the same... the heart, the values are the same."

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