Sunday, January 15, 2012

St. John's Turns 108! (1904-2012) Getting To Know Her Illustrious Years (Part 2)

St. John's Turns 108! (1904-2012) 
Getting To Know Her Illustrious Years (Part 2)
BY NIZHAN FARAZ UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO CANADA


The Directorship of St. John's was passed to Bro. Amor Matthias after Bro. Cornelius's retirement. Bro. Matthias made every attempt to restore the education dial of St. John's back on track after the disruptions caused by the Japanese occupation of Malaya. In 1948, Bro. Matthias was replaced by Bro. Dositheus Joseph Brophy (known as Bro. D'Joseph).

Under the directorship of Bro. D'Joseph, St. John's expanded physically once more. Through the generous contribution of Mr. Liew Kwong Hon, Bro. Cornelius's proposed Science Wing above the hall came into existence. The next daring task Bro. D'Joseph undertook was the expansion of the school field in 1954. The M$ 60, 000 project involved cutting and leveling part of Bukit Nanas, and constructing an access road from Jalan Bukit Nanas to Jalan Raja Chulan (which still exists till today). That was also the year St. John's celebrated her Golden Jubilee, and a souvenir book was made to commemorate that year, which included the list of activities in 1954, the visits by various dignitaries etc. (I am proud to own a copy of this historic book).

After 7 years, Bro. D'Joseph was transferred to Kuching and his place was taken up by St. John's most well-known Director, Bro. Tibertius Lawrence Spitzig. Bro. Lawrence is the person who penned down our beloved School Rally and the "Loyalty Song" (sadly this other song is not played as often as the School Rally). Bro. Lawrence also saw the need to expand the classrooms due to the drastic increase in student enrollment post World War 2. In 1956, with the generous contributions of a number of benefactors, a staggering M$ 90, 000 was raised and used to seal the north veranda of the Main Block and extend the existing classrooms. The original wooden flooring and staircases were done away and replaced with concrete flooring. In 1958, Bro. Lawrence went on study leave to his homeland, Canada, and Bro. Celestine Jennings was put in-charge of St. John's for the entire duration of Bro. Lawrence's absence. Bro. Lawrence came back in 1959 and began construction of the new St. John's primary school block, which was completed and officiated by Bro. Fintan Blake a year later. It was also the same year the school chapel completed renovations and reopened.

Brother Lawrence Spitzig (photo taken from www.lasalle2.org)
                 St. John's most well-known Director, Bro. Tibertius Lawrence Spitzig.

Towards the end of 1961, Bro. Lawrence was transferred to head St. Xavier's Institution in Penang, and he was replaced by Bro. Ignatius Barry in 1962. However, due to deteriorating health conditions, Bro. Ignatius was sent back to Ireland to recuperate and his vacated position is filled by Bro. Joseph McNally, nicknamed The Artist.

Bro. Joseph's administration saw the emergence of artistic details in St. John's, as he is an expert in art. Bro. Joseph decided to give St. John's an all-white exterior paint finish during his tenure. The present school badge was introduced by him to replace the earlier design introduced by Bro. Cornelius. The Arts Block (now houses the Form Five students) and the primary school hall were completed under his directorship. The reason all of these were made possible was due to the presence of the late Tun Dr. Ismail, who was the Development Committee Chairman. In recognition of Tun Dr. Ismail's involvement in the development of St. John's, the primary school hall was named in honour of him.

Bro. Joseph McNally was transferred in 1967, and was replaced by Bro. Basillian Wong. For the next two years, Bro. Basillian's task was to clear the immense debts incurred during Bro. Joseph's development era. With his shrewd business acumen, all debts were successfully cleared, and St. John's was in the greens.

January 1969 saw a new beginning in St. John's, with the appointment of Bro. Joseph Yeoh as Director. Bro. Joseph was no stranger to the school. He completed his primary and secondary education in St. John's, and his father, Mr. Yeoh Teck Soo, was a member of the teaching staff. Bro. Joseph had very high hopes and expectations in his alma mater, and he was very determined and adamant to see her outstandingly excel in all fields. Many people I spoke to that came from that era remembered how St. John's was at the top of the league during the days of Bro. Joseph. They also recalled the terror of seeing the man from the other end of the corridor, with a cane in one hand and a very stern and serious expression on his face. Despite the terrifying appearance, Bro. Joseph was actually a wonderful figure. His undying passion for the school was remarkable. Over the years, he saw the increased contributions of other students in non-competition based events. As a token of appreciation, in 1972, Bro. Joseph introduced Awards Day as a way to recognize the efforts of these students who have made their share of contributions to St. John's. Late 1978, Bro. Joseph was promoted as Auxiliary Bro. Visitor of Peninsular Malaysia and had to surrender his post as Director of St. John's.

** Part 3 will continue from 1979 to the present day, and will be posted in a few days time.

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