Duster War Trilogy

Duster Blackboard 3

Reflections on the ‘Holy Cane’

By Gabriel Lam Chun Kong

Due to upcoming final examination, the 1967 F3B boys were granted permission to stay and study in their classroom after lessons. Curious at how these F3B boys were doing, a few nosy F3A boys paid a surprise visit to the F3B classroom. The original saintly quiet reading moment erupted into a Duster War upon the arrival of these “devil visitors.”

The duster, used to clean the blackboard during classes in the good old days, was thrown here, there and everywhere, hitting or missing someone somehow in the room. Fun and laughter escalated, order and composure vanished.

Suddenly, the duster was thrown past someone and flew out of the classroom window.  Someone looked out of the window and cried loudly: “It landed on Father Carra’s head! Run for your life!”

Immediately, I disappeared from the scene without the slightest care for others, in a manner typical of a devil visitor for which I am relying on the indulgence of our fellow Raimondians.

I did not know if anyone involved in the Duster War had ever been caught by Father Carra.  The answer was finally unveiled during one of our Raimondian ‘69 lunch gatherings on Dec. 6, 2017, 50 years after the incident.

Peter Wu, one of the ex-F3A devil visitors, confessed that he was the only one caned by Father Carra because of the flying duster.

According to a later account by James Wong Hon Kun, Peter was not the only one who poked his head out of the window. James claimed that he was the first to stick his head out but he pulled back quickly enough and yelled that life-saving warning to us all.

Patching together the various recollections, the moment Peter poked out his head was likely synchronous with the yelling of James, who had already pulled back his head. Peter’s eyes and Father Carra’s were thus the only two pairs of eyes that met. It might not be mutual magnetism or love at first sight, but it could explain why Peter had no choice but to wait patiently for the kiss of the cane, in much the same way as Juliet for Romeo.

So thank you Peter, for your generous sacrifice for us all!

Most of us have been caned by Father Carra at least once during our school days. In commemoration, we now call it his “Holy Cane.”

Students nowadays would find it hard to appreciate why the cane was not considered child abuse and hence prohibited. They may not even know that in those days our moms used to have feathered brushes 雞毛掃 skillfully exercised to cane kids for not behaving properly. But corporal punishment did not appear to have adversely affected our self-esteem or caused us to have violent tendency towards other people, as suggested by many present-day education experts. That was probably due to the heartfelt follow-up conversations we had with teachers, parents and peers. In any case, experiencing corporal punishment was just the norm among students in those days. Some even think that corporal punishment made us much tougher than present-day kids.

I am no psychology expert but can be sure that my past has helped to shape my present.  Satisfied at what I am today, I feel grateful to the Holy Cane, along with other canes and past Raimondi encounters, not the least the Duster War.

In a more progressive society now, I am no longer in favour of caning students. But all things have their pros and cons, as God has not made anything perfect for the purpose of our sanctification. Even though the Holy Cane has become history, its valuable legacy remains as witnessed by the lives of its deliverables. As one of its deliverables, I am confident to continue my singing along in this imperfect world, waiting until one day in Heaven to say I’m perfect.

The One Who Got It

By Peter Wu

I was just a nosy body from 3A.

In my recollection, the trigger for the duster-tossing was an animated discussion on how teachers (probably 龍佬) were trying to surprise us with their chalk and duster shots during class.

Someone – now I know it was Eddie Chiu Sin Po – was trying to hit someone else standing on the teacher’s podium with the duster. Years later, I heard that Edwin Chan Kwai Leung 陳桂良 (1969-F5), who now lives in Los Angeles, had thrown the duster at Eddie first. “I vaguely recall that there were five or six of us,” Eddie said. “Maybe I threw the duster but someone brushed it off …?”

The duster missed the target, bounced off the blackboard and flew out the window.

I was sitting by the window. My natural reaction was to stand up, poke my head out the window and see where the duster had landed.

What I saw was the duster and a bald head, and that bald head was tilting backward.

Then our eyes locked. I knew then it was pointless to run. I had the cane coming.

Call it “The Kiss of the Holy Cane.”

The One Who Got Away

By James H.K. Wong

I must have been close to the window too and immediately peeked out to see where the duster had landed.

I saw it bounce off Father Carra’s head.

I still have this vivid picture in my mind of him being stunned, pausing at the middle of the curved stairway in his pure-white priest robe. He appeared in shock, with the white chalk stamp mark on his bald head and the cane in his hand.

Before he could react, I had already pulled my head inside the room.

I yelled to the group: “It landed on Father Carra’s head. Run for your life!”

I’ll bet Peter Wu was just a split second slower than me. He became the scapegoat.

What happened next, I no longer have any memory of it except one thing is for sure: I did not get caught.

Photo Duster Eddie in hand

Some of the duster war gang members met on Nov. 5, 2017, thinking that all had escaped The Holy Cane until the confession on Dec. 6, 2017, from Peter Wu. Eddie Chiu, holding a duster in the picture, said he fired the duster shot missing the target in the classroom but hitting the unintended target outside. Also in the picture from left to right are Francis Wong Wai Ping, Simon Cheng Yuk Ping, and Gabriel Lam Chun Kong. The author was scolded by different shopkeepers while trying to shop for a vintage old duster for the photo.

Photo Duster Ko

Other Duster War participants met on Jan. 26, 2018. Left to right: Alfred Wong Pui Fei, Gabriel Lam Chun Kong and Ko Wah. Alfred said he was studying hard before onset of the Duster War. Ko Wah was hit at least once by the duster and was trying to hit someone with it. Ko Wah, who had chalk dust on his head, and Alfred were caught when they were trying to escape but mercifully let go by a teacher for the sake of their exam preparation.