A Grand Reunion of 1961 Graduates in Toronto
Yung Tsi Leung, Hong Kong

It all started in early 2003.

My niece was studying at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and I promised to attend her graduation ceremony in 2004. I have been to Vancouver many times, every year or so from 1996 to 1999 when my son attended high school there. I even went to Toronto once in 1992. I had no idea at that time that so many classmates were residing in Vancouver and in Toronto until the address list of 1961 graduates was made up in 2000.

Taking the opportunity of my forthcoming trip to Vancouver, I mentioned to Au Kim Tung, Yeung Kwan Chiu, Doo Shing Tak and Li Yuk Sang my intention to visit Toronto and tour Montreal and Quebec City. There was a lot of e-mail exchanged among us on where to go, when to go and how to go about it. Doo Shing Tak gave a description of the beauty of Quebec City and the best time for a visit. Yeung Kwan Chiu collected information from a traveling agency on the bus tour to Montreal and Quebec City. Yet no plan had been finalized as there were still many months to go.

The final program of the reunion was fixed in early May this year. The main event was the BBQ at Yeung Kwan Chiu's backyard in Richmond Hill on 13 June. Other events included a cruise under the Niagara Falls, a 3-day bus tour of Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City, and some free time for city tour, eating, chatting and meeting friends.

Yung Pang Hung of Hong Kong was very interested in joining the party at the beginning but could not make it at the last minute because his employer would not release him. Doo Shing Tak of Rhode Island had been very enthusiastic about the reunion from the start and came, dragging Wong Man Sang out from New Jersey to Toronto.

As Yeung Kwan Chiu was out of town in May, the responsibility of informing the teachers and other classmates in Toronto of the coming event fell on the shoulder of Au Kim Tung who successfully amassed a group of more than 30 persons to the BBQ .

Li Yuk Sang, my wife Ai Ling and I flew from Vancouver to Toronto on 5 June.. The three of us missed the “Baggage Claim?sign inside the airport, reached the arrival hall and met Au Kim Tung without any baggage. We asked the security guards and got confusing answers. At last, an airline officer told us to go up one level to look for a passage to the “Baggage Claim?area. Au Kim Tung accompanied us and we finally got hold of our baggage. However, we wondered on our way out, why airport security was so loose that Au Kim Tung could go into the airport area without any problem. If this is the case, then any Tom, Dick or Harry could sneak into the “Baggage Claim?area and take out one or two pieces of baggage easily, without anybody knowing.

On 8 June, 7 of us set out for the Niagara Falls - Au Kim Tung and his wife Shirley, Leung Kang Man, my wife and I, Doo Shing Tak and Li Yuk Sang. It was a lovely day, sunny and breezy. We started the day by having breakfast at Leung Kang Man's house, enjoying the delicious congee and noodles prepared by Grace. At the Niagara Falls, we took the cruise and rode the Maid of the Mist into the mist of the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. Although we were each given a blue plastic raincoat (the tourists at the American side of the Falls are given yellow ones), the lower part of our trousers and our shoes were all wet when the vessel turned and the wind changed direction. But the sight of the Falls was magnificent and the thundering sound of the water fall was deafening.

On 9 June, 9 of us joined the 3-day bus tour to Ottawa, Montreal and Quebec City organized by Safeway Tours - Leung Kang Man and his wife Grace, Lee Kwok Hung and Ng Kum Kum, my wife and I, Li Yuk Sang, Au Kim Tung and Doo Shing Tak. At our first stop for lunch in Ottawa, Edward Cheung Yue Wing came to the restaurant to meet us, and told us that he would try to be in Toronto on 13 June. Edward came to Hong Kong on business a few times and is no longer a new face to me. When we checked into the Sheraton Hotel at Montreal for the first night, Patrick So Kwai Hop dropped by with his youngest son Brian. It was really good being with Patrick whom I have not see for 43 years though I see his sister Dorothy in Hong Kong very often. He is still a good-looking guy with a touch of gray in his hair. Patrick said that he would drive to Toronto the next day for the great party on 13 June.

We stayed at the Fairmont le Chateau Frontenac (the Castle) in Quebec City on the second night. After a feast of French cuisine with goose liver, crispy long bread and lobster, while we were chatting at the restaurant, someone suggested that each of us give an account of how we got to know our other half. The one given by Leung Kang Man was amazing, unbelievable and hilarious. (None of us will tell the story as we were threatened by Leung Kang Man to shut up or else,) We then went for an evening stroll down the alleys looking for ice cream as dessert. I told everybody that I was buying, but Grace stole the honor from me by jumping the line. What a dis-Grace!

When the trip ended in the evening of 11 June in Toronto, we were pleased to find that Wong Man Sang was in town to join us for dinner. To me, it was another new face, an old friend not seen in the past 43 years since graduation from school. As usual, there was a lot of talking about those good old days at school, and what one had gone through over the years. Like old people (in deed we are,) everyone was reminiscent.

The grand finale of the program came on 13 June. Around 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon, people started gathering at the backyard of Yeung Kwan Chiu's house in Richmond Hill. Yeung Kwan Chiu was busy with the grill at the patio cooking chicken wings and ribs. Leona, the hostess, was busy in the kitchen. Ms Liu Kwai Sum, now aged 88, came with her mango pudding, a dessert for 40 persons. Ms Betty Li Su Su, the former teacher of Domestic Science, brought a few of her Chinese paintings for the lucky draw. Mok Yan Wah brought a fruit salad for all. Mr Joseph Whitney who has just passed his 75th birthday, came with his wife Diana and daughter Dieu Linh. Others came either by themselves or with their spouse and a bottle of wine. As for me, I brought my wife, a “bunch of bananas?and an empty stomach.

There was a lot of handshakes and hugging when classmates met. Besides the ones I met on the day we arrived in Toronto, and in Ottawa and Montreal, there were quite a few classmates (mostly girls) I have not seen since graduation, viz. Hung Fung Kuen, Kwong Yuen Man, Lau Yee Lin, Li Oi Lan, Mak Fung Kam, Mok Yan Wah and Wong Bing Wing, though I often see their faces in the photos sent to me by e-mails.

The party went on as people gathered in small groups talking, drinking and eating. The men were standing and the ladies were sitting, each listening to the others, touching on various subjects, their job (if they were still working), their retirement , their children and grandchildren. We also took a lot of photographs, in small groups or all together. When the sunlight faded away and darkness gradually enveloped the backyard, candles were lighted and placed at various spots of the lawn. Cheung Yue Wing apologized to the group as he had to leave for the long drive back home to Ottawa. Mr Whitney and his family were the next to leave the party.

Wong Man Sang, the former house captain of Venus, showed his leadership by asking everybody to sit in a circle. However, may be because of old age or lack of practice, he could not specifically state what he wanted all of us to do next. After being repeatedly reminded by Au Kim Tung, Wong drove home the point that he wished each of us to say a few words about our past, present and future. It was a good idea so that everybody could have a chance to speak though not necessarily according to the subjects mentioned by Wong. I was the first person to speak, expressing my sincere thanks to Yeung Kwan Chiu and his wife Leona, Au Kim Tung, Leung Kang Man and his wife Grace, Ng Kum Kum and the others for their generous hospitality in taking care of Li Yuk Sang, my wife and me during our 10-day stay in Toronto, and in organizing such a wonderful party so that all of us could have a chance to get together. The others took turns to say a few words, mostly about what they did after graduation from St Mark's, and when they immigrated to Canada.

The party ended at 11:00 p.m. in the kitchen after Ms Liu Kwai Sum served each one of those remaining a piece of chocolate cream cake. Au Kim Tung drove us back to our temporary residence at the Empress Building at Hillcrest Avenue. Half an hour later, the storm struck with thunder and heavy rain. We were fortunate that the party ended in time.

For the record, the following are the 37 present at the party:

Teachers -Ms Pauline Au, Ms Betty Li Su Su, Ms Liu Kwai Sum, and Mr Whitney and family.

Classmates and schoolmates - Au Kim Tung, Chan Anna, Chan Kwai Chun and husband, Cheung Yue Wing and wife, Doo Shing Tak, Fung Kenneth, Hung Fung Kuen, Kwong Yuen Man, Lau Yee Lin, Lee Kwok Hung, Leung Kang Man and wife, Li Yuk sang, Li Oi Lan, Lo Sai Kak, Mak Fung Kam, Mok Yan Wah, Ng Kum Kum, So Kwai Hop and wife, Tsang Hing Shu, Wong Bing Wing, Wong Man Sang, Wu Hung Sing, Yeung Kwan Chiu and family, and Yung Tsi Leung and wife.

As an afterthought, the party could have been better if we had started early in the afternoon by showing the CD of the 40th anniversary of the 1961 graduates. The family theatre with a big TV screen in the basement of Yeung's house was an ideal location for the show. We will keep this in mind in our next grand reunion in Vancouver in 2006 on our 45th anniversary.

Written by Yung Tsi Leung
(1961 graduate, Hong Kong)
17 June 2004