SOME of them dyed their greying hair, some did not and a few were going bald.
But at least for the day, a gang of 55-year-old Xaverians gathering for a reunion were transported back to their schooldays.
These buddies from way back in Form Five were like schoolboys again, calling each other by their quirky childhood nicknames.
“I recognised my own ex-classmates right away. For those from different classes, I might remember the face but not the name. Or I remember the name but the face is different now,” said Khor Teong Beng from Form Five Social Sciences One of 1978, St Xavier’s Institution (SXI).
He was among the 182 SXI old boys at the reunion on Saturday in the school’s Heah Joo Seang Hall. For many, it was the first time in 38 years they were stepping foot on the school premises.
They fanned out on arrival to have their own walks down memory lane and many also crammed into a classroom and sat down for a dose of nostalgia.
Tan (front, centre) and fellow Xaverians of the Class of ‘78 singing the school anthem
Among the ‘big guns’ of this batch are Star Media Group chief executive officer Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai (Social Science One) and group editorial business development general manager Tommy Lee (Commerce Two), MCA central committee member Datuk Chew Kok Woh (Social Science Two), KPMG Shanghai audit partner Edmund Lim (Science Three), Penang social activist Anil Noel Netto or better known as Anilnetto (Science One) and the son of the first Penang Chief Minister Tan Sri Wong Pow Nee, James Wong (Science One).
They were all under the guidance of the late Datuk Brother Charles Levin.
The Class of ‘78 also demonstrated how much they loved their alma mater when they pooled RM63,402 in donations to the St Xavier’s Redevelopment Fund.
Form Six teacher Cheng Beng Lock had announced at the dinner that SXI needed RM1.5mil to turn the Brothers’ garage into a three-storey block of classrooms while SJK St Xavier’s in Pulau Tikus needed a school hall.
Choong Keng Hooi (Social Science Two) took the mike and used his sanguinity to stir his ex-classmates into donating generously.
In an interview, Cheng said those who donated at least RM1,000 would enjoy tax exemption and have their names engraved on the donors’ plaque of the new building.
“We appeal to all our old boys to come back to SXI to view the building plans and fill up the donation pledge forms. Your alma mater needs you,” he said.
Part of the reason the Class of ‘78 remains close-knit is due to Science One old boy Tee Joo Tatt who took the trouble a few years ago to digitise everyone’s adolescent mugshots alongside their recent photos in a Google group.
Reunion organising chairman Tan Lee Kee (Science Four) said their next bash would take place when they hit 60 and they had first gathered when they were 50.
Tan credited the strict discipline and hard work the school had required of them for their bond.
“Our school is a flagship Christian school. The La Sallian Brothers dedicated themselves to making sure we had the best education possible.
“We are what we are today thanks to them,” he added.
The reunion also included 10 of the old boys’ former teachers. They were honoured on stage and presented them with ang pow.