Residents of Hong Kong's first public housing estate yesterday held a farewell photo party in Shek Kip Mei before the area is closed for redevelopment. About 90 former pupils of Shek Kip Mei Government Primary School gathered at the city's oldest subsidised housing estate to talk about the good old days. 'I lived here from 1954 to 1964 and I went to Shek Kip Mei primary school which was just near the estate, and my friends used to visit each other at different blocks and play together,' Sonia Suen said. 'We have known each other for nearly 50 years and we studied in the same class since Primary Two,' her former classmates, Grace Yuen, said. Lots of hawkers sold noodles, snacks and fruit outside the school and inside the estate, and the food only cost about five cents, they said. The party was organised by former student Lai Wai-lun, whose friends graduated from the school in the 1960s and 1970s. 'I'm glad we were able to all get together before all these blocks were demolished, as we all have fond memories of this place,' he said. The government school closed after the last batch of students graduated in 1977. It is now the site of the St Francis of Assisi's Caritas School. Another graduate who took her son to the party was Chan Lam Wai-ling. 'I miss this place very much. Though living conditions were poor, we were very happy. 'Every family knew each other very well, and neighbours had very close relationships,' Mrs Chan said. Apart from former estate residents, amateur photographer Gary Cheng took pictures of the seven-storey housing blocks yesterday. 'I like the blocks' colours and design. You can see public corridors on the outside in this estate, but most public estates do not have this anymore,' he said. Assistant director of housing (estate management) Lee Cert-quinn said the demolition was part of a four-phased redevelopment programme to clear the old resettlement. A total of 15 blocks are included in the redevelopment project, and Mei Ho House will be preserved as a museum. A second building will be turned into an artists' village. Subsidised rental high-rises will be built on the remainder of the site. Three days before demolition starts on Hong Kong's oldest public housing estate, the few residents still living there are lamenting the loss of a close neighbourhood. The once noisy seven-storey housing blocks in the Shek Kip Mei Estate are now largely empty and quiet, with most people having moved to public housing nearby. Only a few families have chosen to remain in the 50-year-old estate, awaiting the Tuesday deadline. Among them are Wong Woo, 78, and his family, who were burning paper offerings to thank the gods for their protection during 23 years of residence. Mr Wong said he had no choice at the time but to cram his three children, wife and himself into a flat of little more than 300 sq ft because he could not afford anything bigger. Two grown-up daughters still live with them in the ground-floor apartment. Mr Wong said children used to run around in the open area and neighbours always left their doors open. 'People greeted each other when they passed by your unit and you knew everyone living in your block even though they were not living on your floor,' he recalled. 'But you can hardly expect anything like that in the new flats.' The family has already been given a flat of a similar size in a new public housing block - also known as Shek Kip Mei Estate. But the long-time resident said he would miss the fresh air and space when he left. 'I have asked all the family members, including my daughters, son, daughter-in-law and grandsons to gather at the old flat on October 17 to take a picture. After all, it is where many of our memories come from.' Choi Wai-yu, whose store is the only shop still in business on the estate, said it would be hard to see the old neighbourhood disappear, along with the shop 'around the corner'. 'Although I don't live in Shek Kip Mei Estate myself, I can recognise the people in the neighbourhood - sometimes we have a casual chat,' she said. Her 100 sq ft store, selling mainly soft drinks and snacks, is popular with students. Ms Choi said they had received special permission to operate until the end of the month, hoping to sell all goods in the shop. But it was difficult to say goodbye to a place where she and her husband had been for 24 years, she said. 'The store raised my three children who are all adults now. I feel upset but it is hopeless trying to change reality,' Ms Choi said. Both stories, by Agnes Lam and Helen Wu, appeared in the South China Morning Post yesterday.