I Have Old Stuff From My Dad’s Office Too: Part 1

The picture above is of former Minister of Culture Mr Jek Yuen Thong giving a speech at the opening of the Oriental Development Corporation Limited (Marble And Plastic Factories) in 1972. My father is seated at the extreme left in the photo.

28 October 1972: Check out the hand-painted banner

Since PM Lee Hsien Loong is slowly going through his family’s treasure trove of historical artefacts, I thought I might join in with mine.

The picture above is of former Minister of Culture Mr Jek Yeun Thong giving a speech at the opening of the Oriental Development Corporation Limited (Marble And Plastic Factories) in 1972. My father is seated at the extreme left in the photo.

I was really excited as a three year old when my father told me he was helping to set up a marble factory, and was very, very disappointed to learn that it actually made ornamental marble slabs and vases and not the kind of marbles one could bring to marble battles with the other kids in the neighbourhood, with the other kids protesting, “Wah lao, liddat he sure win one lah, his father open marble factory one leh!”

Merely A Near Namesake

I remember him telling me how in 1965 when he watched the televised announcement of Separation, that he was sure “we were finished”, and how he had expected to have to knuckle down and prepare for hard times.

Mr & Mrs Lee Kuan Yew in 1969

I’ve just realised how much my father was affected and impressed by Lee Kuan Yew.

I remember him telling me how in 1965 when he watched the televised announcement of Separation, that he was sure “we were finished”, and how he had expected to have to knuckle down and prepare for hard times.

Things turned out very differently, and by 1969 it looked and felt like we were put on the road to economic prosperity. And so when I was born that year, he decided that I should be named in honour of the Prime Minister, but with a slight enough difference that I wouldn’t be forever ridiculed in school.

And so my Chinese name is just a couple of strokes off Lee Kuan Yew’s (whose hanyu pinyin name was Li Guangyao, and mine is Li Shiyao), but close enough to retain some of the same meaning.

My father didn’t stop there. Because the Prime Minister’s sons attended primary school at Catholic High, he decided that my brother and I would both have the same quality Chinese education as the PM’s boys. It didn’t quite work out, of course, as we both went to ACS after dragging the CL1 standard of that vaunted SAP school to abysmal lows.