Interview with a treasured old girl - Ms. Frances Wong
On a heavy rainstorm morning in June 2005, Audrey and I went to DGJS to meet with Ms. Frances Wong, a delightful, elegant and lively lady in her eighties. Frances took us back to a bygone age, sharing with us the lifestyle of DGS girls in the 1930's and 1940's, the lifelong friendships that these girls formed amongst themselves and their respect for the School and their teachers even long after their graduation.
Audrey and I arrived at DGJS while Frances was giving a talk to the young girls at the assembly hall. Like most of the girls of DOGA (who are mainly from classes of 1960's onwards), the young girls at DGJS expressed keen interest in how DGS girls in the 1930's behaved, what kind of sports they played, what subjects they studied and where they went for lunch, etc. They raised many questions during and after Frances' talk that morning.
Mrs. Christine Chiang consulting Frances on the sketch of a DGS school uniform in the 1920's (in preparation for the musical performance for our 145th anniversary celebration).
Frances' impression of the young girls at DGJS today is that they are much more lively, energetic and willing to ask questions than girls in the old days. Frances said that all of her teachers were Westerners (as no Chinese was taught in the old days of DGS) and they were very strict and gave little allowance for any playfulness of the girls. The girls were not allowed to speak Chinese during class and would be penalized if they were caught doing so. They respected their teachers but were also scared of them.
Frances began her kindergarten years at DGS in 1928 and completed her matriculation in 1940 (the headmistress then was Ms. Sawyer). She then continued her study in Arts and Literature at Hong Kong University. Even though Frances has retired since 1986 and is now 82 years old, she has never given up learning. Now living at the campus of Jinan University in Guangzhou, P.R.C., Frances gives occasional lectures at various universities.
Frances is particularly thankful to DGS as this was the place where she has learnt almost everything. As she quoted from Plato, 'The direction in which education starts a man will determine his future life.' Summarized in her own words, 'DGS gave me everything, I owe everything to DGS'. This included her attitude towards life (always work hard), the building up of her independence, strong language skills, her strong faith in religion and even her delicate needlework skills in making clothes and accessories. Her advice to all of us are as follows:
- "Live till old, learn till old"
- Happiness does not come on its own, you have to look for it
- Strive for a rich living as well as a rich meaningful life
To Frances, faith in God has led her to have a meaningful life. Thanks to an early Christian school life, she is able to go through life's turmoil by putting her trust in God's hands.
Finally, she would like to encourage all the young girls to:
- Study hard but study independently; do not become over reliant on the assistance of parents, tutors and others
- Build up an analytical mind
Both Audrey and I were delighted and felt privileged to have had the opportunity to meet with Frances and to share with her the old days of DGS and her philosophy of life. We hope to see her again at our 2005 DOGA Annual Dinner which shall be held in early October.
Group photo of Frances with DOGA and Editorial sub-committee members.
Winnie Kong/Audrey Chen