Some Notes on
Brevity, Infinity, Infinitesimal,
Extraterritorialities, And Others

John Yeung '53

My years in F1 to F3 were formative years. The school had just started. People came from varied backgrounds and some were overage. Most of the teachers were much older than the students and from diverse social stratum. Some were stricter than others, while some showed a keen sense of humor. All and all, I consider those years interesting and important in laying a foundation and building character.

The notes below are intended to show the younger alumni what those early years were like. If some notes are construed as improper or obscene, they are either unintentional, or should be read by broad-minded alumni only.

In F1, Mr. Kwong taught us grammar . He was a fine gentleman, always well-dressed, rather tall and with a long square face. A pair of neat -looking glasses hung on his nose. He always spoke in a calm and steady voice. He taught us grammar with great seriousness. That was our first year in learning grammar. Our English training being so primitive, the addition of grammar lessons made it more complicated. Besides, Mr.Kwong emphasized the use of phonetic symbols. Every word he pronounced was strictly based on phonetics. The problem was, it was not even understood by Oxford scholars. But two phrases he taught us were well remembered, even to this day. He said there were no such things as "dancing shoes" and "dancing hall". But there were "dance shoes" and "dance hall".

He also reminded us of the ambiguous meaning of "half baked chicken". It should be "half-baked chicken" or "half a baked chicken".

In F2, Mr. CK Ng, our teacher in geometry and physics, was one of the most influential teachers in science. He once said geometry taught us to think logically. From him, we learned that no man had been able to divide an angle into three equal angles. Unfortunately, he left for St. Paul's Co-ed soon after, the first of several teachers who moved to greener pasture. After his transfer, he continued to teach us physics once a week on a part-time basis.

In F2, Dr.Tyau began teaching at St. Paul's. He was our history teacher and our history text- book was "European Pageantry". He explained the meaning of culture and civilization in the societies of European countries. The way they dined, the utensils they used, the toiletry they invented were part of their culture. When I first came across the more expansive new houses built for Hong Kong immigrants in Vancouver and Toronto over the last 10 years, I was reminded of Dr.Tyau's lecture. In these new houses, there is a separate quick- fry compartment within the kitchen. The use of this compartment is to isolate the odour of cooking, to keep it from getting into the kitchen. The smell is vented out by a powerful suction fan to the outside of the house. Also, in these houses, there is usually a 4pc or 5pc furnishing en suite in each bedroom. Are these not the apex of culture (or luxury)?

In F3, Dr.Tyau also taught us history. The text-book used was "Expansion of Europe Into the Far East". This book was about the aggression of European powers in China. The international politics and the many new words in every page made this book extremely challenging to us. Political terms like "extraterritorialities" were abundant, and our English skills being so infinitesimal, we could not even comprehend the exam questions, much less the answers.

In F3, Ms WC Lee was our teacher in geography. That year, the topic of our study was America. North America was my favorite subject. The names of places were easy to pronounce and remember. Names like Hudson Bay and British Columbia were so English-like, in contrast to the long non-English names in the Dark Continent of Africa. Anyway, thanks to Ms .Lee, one of her questions during the exam was so easy and the answer was so brief, if you knew it. It broke the record of brevity. Her question was "Why did the salmon swim up the Fraser River?" Only 2 words were needed for the answer. (Ms. Lee also left for St. Paul's Co-ed a year later).

F3 was the last year we had music appreciation. Mr. Chung, the Principal's younger brother, taught us many songs that I still enjoy listening to up to this day. His achievement was inspiring me in my future quest of western culture in music. Some of the songs he introduced to us included:
Home on the Range
Old Black Joe
Bless this House
I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen
Black Eyes
Hark, Hark the Lark
Now when I hear one of those songs, I remember the good old days at St. Paul's. As Francis Bacon put it : "Education is the preparation for a lifetime of enjoyment"

In F4, Mr. Chow was our math teacher. He had a Master's Degree in Civil Engineering from the U.S. His job at St. Paul's was temporary, for he was awaiting U.S. immigration. Two years later, he got his immigration paper, while I was about to set sail on the S.S. Cleveland for San Francisco and finally to Canada. We met after class to discuss our forthcoming journeys.

He kept a low profile, but liked to give us a lot of challenge in problem- solving. During the final exam, he set out 8 questions asking us to pick 6. Some of those questions had several parts. Some questions were so tough that even a genius would find them difficult. For example, one of the 3-part questions was: "What is Log 0?"

To provide a solution to this question, one really had to understand, in mathematical term, the meaning of infinity.

He commented after the exam that he intentionally set some tough questions to separate the good from the average students.

In F4, Mr. KL Chow, who taught us Chinese history, commented that China's fate seemed to be hinged on the foreign policy of the U.S.A. during the March of the Eight Nations into China. His insight was, if not for the protest of the U.S.A., China would have been partitioned. To this day, after six decades, China's fate still hinges on the foreign policy of the U.S.A..

In F4, Mr. WC Wong was our Chinese literature teacher who used to give low marks to all but a few of the students. We protested but to no avail. His explanation was, he saw us with great potential for improvement. If everyone had high marks he would have insulted us by indicating there was no room for improvement . Again, like many other good teachers, he left for St. Paul's Co-ed. Afterwards he only taught us an hour a week on a part-time basis.

In F5, Mr. Knot, resembling a scoutmaster , used to tell jokes during his tenure as our class teacher. One good one was the definition of a dance: "naval engagement with no loss of seamen". Read it aloud once more. Now change to this and read it aloud, "navel engagement with no loss of semen".

In later years, I discovered two more definitions of the same subject. But owing to political correctness, I had better not reveal them here. Interested readers, however, are welcome to contact me for these and the answers to the exam questions. My e-mail address is: