C.H.I.J. Opera Estate

Clown & i went to a very special place just now. I was from C.H.I.J Opera Estate Primary School… from Primary 1 to Primary 5, then my school merged with the then Katong Convent Primary School to become C.H.I.J Katong Primary School.

My old school (we used to refer to it as OE – short for Opera Estate) is now a Red Cross Campsite. It’s located at the top of this hilly area in Opera Estate. I think the road name is Jln Khairrudin. Clown & i drove up to the school just now and seeing that the gate was opened, we drove in & stopped at the driveway.

I didn’t really dare to get out of the car ‘cos we were sort of like trespassing but it was nice to see my old school again. I’ve always wanted to go back ‘cos i really really love that building. (I have a very soft spot for old old buildings). The garden was pretty much the same except that the roundabout was removed to create more road & parking space in front of the building.

The most amazing thing was that the fish tank that stood outside what used to be the school office was still there! And it was lighted up so i’m pretty sure there were still fish inside! I can still remember how the classrooms, music rooms, canteen, the field & even the toilets look like but i didn’t dare go into the building to see how much of it remains the same.

I like my primary school a lot. I’ve had this dream a couple of times – that i went back to the school and there were a lot of ghosts of past students haunting it. They didn’t mean any harm but they would all float about & i would see classrooms full of ghosts, all attending classes… as in i would see the classrooms full of students but i knew they were ghosts? It was strange.

But i was happy to be back. I’ve always told myself that i must go back some day but in the 16 years since i left the school, i never had the opportunity. (The school is located such that it was quite difficult to access unless u drove.) I wonder if the building is under conservation ‘cos it’s really old and sometimes it might not make much economical sense to keep it? But i’m glad the Red Cross kept it in pretty much the original state it was in. The external colours are more or less the same beige & brown as when i was studying there. The windows are still using shutter windows (and they still break darn often). If you’re taking the MRT from Bedok to Kembangan, u’ll see this Red Cross building atop a hill – that’s my school. 🙂

There used to be a lot of stories about the school being haunted and sometimes when i was alone in school, i would be a little afraid to go up to the upper floors by myself. But i’ve never seen anything spooky there. Anyway, i figured that given how much i like & appreciate the school, any ghost haunting it should respect me for that.

There used to be a picture of a ballerina in the music room that was said to be haunted. Rumour was that if u stared at the picture long enough, u’ll see the hands of the ballerina move. It was also said that some teachers tried to burn the painting before but it kept returning to its place in the music room. Well, my class helped throw out the picture when we shifted to the new school and i don’t think there was any hauntings.

If i have the opportunity, i’ll return to the school again during daytime & snap a few pictures. I love my old primary school!

13 Responses to “C.H.I.J. Opera Estate”

  1. 1 Jukebox

    Yeah, I remember the ballerina.. and the drain which we had to squat alongside to brush our teeth after drinking our strawberry milk.. gross.. plus, the circular coloured tiles at the entrance of the school..

  2. 2 UptownGal

    Jukebox, u are so right! I rem. playing games on the coloured tiles… i dunno the name of the game but it’s like we have to step on the colour called out & then see who can make it to the end of the row fastest. Hehe.

  3. 3 ijgirl

    omg, this is so awesome! my teacher, miss netty, told us about that ballerina story! oh my gosh, so awesome?

  4. 4 Anonymous

    Hi, I’m an old girl from CHIJ Opera Estate too. I left school in the ’70s and no longer live in Singapore, so I’m very glad to hear that the building is still standing. I hated the upper floors where the music room and one of the classrooms was located… rumors of hauntings abounded back then too! And we played the same game on those colored tiles as well. I guess some things don’t change. 🙂

  5. 5 Lena

    I was doing a search for CHIJ Opera Estate because I was there in the 1970s and the comments brought lots of memories back…so big thanks for them!
    I remember brushing my teeth by the drain too! Also does anyone remember the noodle soup that was sold in the canteen and everyone used to add lots of bright red chilli sauce in the soup to make it taste ‘better’?
    The view from the classrooms was amazing…we could see Chai Chee and the camera factory and it was always windy there especially on the top floor.
    My favourite teacher was Mrs Ching. She had a lovely smile and was very kind unlike the very fierce Chinese language teacher who used to throw our books across the room.
    I’m so glad you went to visit the building. I live abroad now but I too, used to dream about the school especially standing in the creepy toilets! LOL

  6. 6 Lily

    I’m not a blogging freak. But have to leave this comment. I appreciate your article about OEC. I started school in 1959 and was admitted to OEC although my older sister attended KC. There were two Pr. I classes and one Pr. II. I can’t remember who my teacher was, but a Mrs Boudewyn taught Pr. II and was v. strict.
    I lived in Opera Estate 1960-1966 and I walked to and from school everyday.
    I love reading fairy tales and later read Enid Blyton during primary school days. I fantasized fairy tales in the Enid Blyton stories and set the scene at the hillside which I walked by twice a day. I used to dream that I played with Tom Thumb and he lives in one of the holes/cracks on the yellow clay hill near the school. Strange enough my occasional dream of school days would take me back to the “ghost-filled” building. I would wake up breathless as I flee via the hills, out the back gate and down the steps.
    Like Lena I love the view from the top floor, in the hall where the yearly year end exhibition was held.
    The most important event I can remember is when Mr. Lee Kuan Yew visited Opera Estate in 1963, and I got to shake his hand on the premises of Opera Estate Primary School.
    I am living abroad the last 33 years, but return to Singapore at least 1-2 times a year. I would point out the building on the hill to my husband each time we see it from the MRT. Let me know if you know of anyone who was in OE from 1959-1964. We could connect 🙂

  7. 7 UptownGal

    Just wanted to say THANK YOU to all the ex-students who posted comments. Glad to know that thru the decades, so many of us still hold fond memories of OE.

  8. 8 Lena

    Just dropping by again because I’ve found a CHIJ Opera Estate group on Facebook and it has about 500 members and lots of old photos. Could be worth joining to see if your old classmates are there!

  9. 9 Rosie

    I’m the younger girl of Mrs. Ching who taught at CHIJ Opera Estate. Thank you Lena for your post about her, she’d be really thrilled to hear she was your favourite teacher!

  10. 10 UptownGal

    This has got to be one of my favourite posts ‘cos even though all of us were in OE at different times, it seems like I share common memories with all of u..

    I loved adding the sambal chilli to my fish cake soup…

    I loved playing on the colorued tiles…

    I loved playing on the monkey bars in the school field…

    I loved playing “yeh yeh” (I can’t even begin to describe that) in the assembly ground…

    I loved the library and the classics it had – Enid Blyton, Nancy Drew, Dana Sisters, Hardy Boys…

    Anyone else remembers the pond in the school field? The pond that was made of a bath tub… hahaha. Hated the toads that lived around it though!!


  11. 11 UptownGal

    Forgot to add, I was in OE from 1986 – 1990 (when OE merged with KC Primary).

  12. 12 Lily

    Hello there!
    How are you? It’s been 4+ years since someone wrote. I looked for the CHIJ Opera Estate site on fb as mentioned by Lena but can’t find it. Has anyone some luck to access the site.
    Best wishes from sunny EU.

  13. 13 Lena

    Hello Lily,

    Here’s the FB group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/4954705698/

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February 2006