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Archive for the ‘Ipoh’ Category

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by IpohBornKid

3

Photograph: 1958 (left to right teachers) Mr Ng Ah Fook, Mrs Lee, Mr Lee? Mr Low Choo Beng, Mr Ng Park Hing, Mr?, Mr Appaduray?, Mr Wong (art teacher) and Mr Robert Leong.

Mr Ng Ah Fook was a keen soccer fan. He was also the tuck shop master and his wife Mrs Ng also worked at the tuck shop selling noodle soup and soft drinks. Mr Ng commonly wore white shorts and shirt with long socks, a bit like Mr Moreira. He was one of our class teacher in the Primary School section of ACS Ipoh and was a kind hearted man with no mean streak for canning pupils like Lo Mo did. As a feverish soccer fan, he used to drive his car to Kuala Lumpur and watched the soccer matches. He would start in the morning and return in the evening. One interesting story which he told us which has imbedded in my mind permanently. was the night driving skills and tactics. One night as he was driving back from Kuala Lumpur to Ipoh (132 miles of winding roads in the old days), he was followed by a newer model car behind him with the high beam on. As the roads were winding and it was not easy to overtake any cars as you cannot see on-coming cars in a curve. Mr Ng was annoyed because the rude driver behind him did not dip his headlights to low beam and the bright headlights shined through his little car back window into the front windscreen of his car. He then took counter-offensive measures against the car behind him by adjusting his internal driving rear mirror to reflect the on-coming high beam back to the offending car behind him. It worked! When the driver saw his high beam reflected back to his eyes, he dipped his head lights and increased his distance from Mr Ng’s car. Well, if you think that is trivial, think again! Later when I was driving home one night, I encountered a similar rude driver who got close to my tail and with the headlight on high beam. I used the Mr Ng Ah Fook trick and reflected the high beam back on the car behind me. The driver behind was a bit rude and annoyed that I countered attacked on him. He blew his horn at me and I gave him an internationally recognised rude finger sign.

Mr Samuel Welch is another good story teller. He used to teach us poetry in class and made us memorize poems like “Oyzmandis”, “Yellow Daffodils” etc. To this day, I can still recite part of the poems even after more than 50 years had elapsed. Mr Welch forte was reading a “Post” type magazine and with stories about fighter pilots in WWII and landings in aircraft carriers. He bought the magazine to the classroom and showed us the illustration of the fighter planes and WWII aircraft carriers. I too was fascinated with the illustrations and begin to follow other publications that contained such stories. Obviously, my comprehension of English was not too good and I mainly relied on the “Beano” comics for stories about the boy and his remote control aeroplanes and later on, with war comics which belonged to my more affluent classmates. Mr Welch had an idiosyncrasy about dressing tidiness and I remembered that boy’s shorts with cloth fasteners which were not properly fastened. He had them cut off with a razor blade. I believe, Mr Welch and another teacher Mr Choy, later left the school and became commercial pilots, possibly with Malaya Airlines.

Mr Robert Leong was another wonderful story teller. He was characterised by his crew cut hairstyle and was slightly smaller than his brother Mr Leong Fu, the wrestler. Mr Leong loved everything about the United States and he would tell us stories about the US, the taxi drivers, the cinemas and even showed us the greenback (US dollars). For a young boy, such stories about a far off land like the America (US) was ever interesting and in 1950s, the US was the world leading military power and our school was founded by American missionaries. So anything American was welcomed. Merrill Leong is Mr Leong’s son and it is not surprising that he was named after an American General. Although Merrill said that his father had never been to US at that time, Mr Leong’s stories were too factual, credible and interesting. In those days, there were a few gangsters amongst our midst and Mr Leong reminded us to see him about these little thugs if they ever demanded money from us and he used to say “I will gang him to jail”. The statement gave comfort to a lot of boys in the class. At the gymnasium where he also taught us to sing, he put one of the “gangster” inside the cage of the chair and sat on the chair for the whole period.

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by IpohBornKid

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In the 1950s, all ACS Primary School pupils underwent a compulsory PT class every week which took place between Monday and Thursday but not on Friday morning because it was a Chapel period (that is another story). Most pupils did not have affluent parents and there were no sport gears to be worn including Track shirts and pants, shorts, shoes, or towels. Although there was one or two exceptions, every pupil came to school dressed in their white shirt and white shorts. Most of the pupils came in canvas shoes (the cheapest) with or without socks. These canvas shoes can be really “stinky poo” but it can be washed, dried, a white washed with some white liquid. At PE, every one took their shirts off and there was no towel to wipe your sweat nor did anyone had a shower after PE. You sweat and you dry up and you put your shirt back on and off you go to your classroom. The only comfort was the class ceiling fan which rotated at full speed, with the spindle gyrating and waiting to fly off the ceiling mount. (Aside: Some years later, some genius monkey put an unusual looking balloon on the fan blade!! LOL). On looking back, it was wise to have PT classes in the first period otherwise the heat would be unbearable. Interesting enough, when it rains after PE, one could catch a cold in the classroom under the ceiling fan.

Some PT masters were good and they were sportsman themselves. Others who were not sportsman and they went through the drill without much enthusiasm. There were no women PT instructors. Just imagine how the boys would react to a female teacher in shorts and T shirt! (Ask the boys who did the mirror in the shoe trick!!!)

The PT equipment was very simple and they were stored under the staircase office (ground floor, southern block, Main Building) of the Discipline Master, Mr Aw Boon Jin. Lo Mo was his counterpart in the high school. I was never canned by Mr Aw because he told me he knew my father as an old boy in ACS Ipoh. The PT equipment was mainly made of rattan, and two popular items were requisition from the office, ie. A rattan ball or two, (smaller than an average soccer ball), several hula hoops (a circular hoop made of rattan) and some skipping ropes. I often volunteered to bring those equipment for the class for a good reason. After the PT class, I would have the opportunity to roam around the school before returning to the classroom and the teacher in the next period would never question where I have been. Or perhaps they knew and kept a blind eye.
On the main field, surrounded by Tembusu trees along the west side, palm trees on the south side, main building on the east side and the “new” building on the north, several classes would have their 45 mins PT period at the same time. It was one hour after sunrise and the air was still cool. The PT class usually began with simple exercise of the neck and the arms with counting of 1, 2, 3 & 4. Leg exercise usually “running on the spot” or freelance running on the field. The next exercise would involving bending down and touching your legs with your fingers and then swinging your hips to allow the right fingers to touch your left foot and vice-versa. This was a strenuous exercise and one can cheat by bending your knees! This only worked if you were positioned at the back of the pack. More strenuous exercise like doing push ups were the forte of the physically stronger boys but not the author.

After the physical exercise, we were allowed to play games with the rattan equipment. The rattan hoops were used to practice gyrations of the hips (doing a hula hoop, Hawaiian style). It was amazing that one could keep the gyration for a long period. I used to be able to do that and in trying to teach my grandchildren how to do it. I failed miserably as the hoop stayed for two revolutions!

The most exciting game played was the passing of the ball. Each side had a person inside the rattan hoop and his job was to receive the ball from his team in order to score. The class was divided into two sides, and the teacher picked the members of each side. The game began in the middle with the teacher throwing up the rattan ball and two boys would attempt to capture it. As you cannot run with the ball, you had to pass it to your team members. The idea is to get the ball near your team member in the rattan hoop. Of course, each player was marked by the other team member and they can block and take the ball away. This game is very close to the ladies net ball game. In netball, the ball is placed in the net (hoop) to score whilst this game would require your team member in the hoop to catch the ball. No one knew that the game was a “kind” of netball otherwise it would have been labelled a “sissy” game and no one would play it. Ignorance is bliss and we enjoyed the game! Of course, there was no kicking allowed.

In retrospect, we were fortunate to have physical education embedded in our minds during our younger days and the proverb “All study and no play, makes Jack a dull boy”. The PT classes of ACS had its humble beginnings but its effect on its pupils who benefitted from this education have lasted a life-time. Thank you to those PT teachers. You did your best with the minimal material support and your improvisations to make it enjoyable for us to remember it for the rest of our lives.

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by IpohBornKid

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After one year in ACS Primary, about 10 of us in Std I were moved in Std IIID. I believe they were Wong Peng Yan, Chin Kim Chen, Leong Hoi Siew, Too Kuei Fah, Oh Hock Phing, Chin Lee Tai, Siew Chuan, Yee Voon Chee, and Chin Yin Keong. Unfortunately, I lost my Std 1 B class photo of 1953. Anyone who has one, please post it to this blog.

I still have some memories of my first day in school in ACS Primary in Ipoh. I was only six years old. A week or two before the school started, I was taunted by my family members about bringing a portable toilet to school (in those days, it was equivalent to the spittoon found in coffee shops). The feeling was mixed, yes, I want to go to school and mix with other boys and yet the fear of being put into an unfamiliar environment really frightened me.

The day came and being awoken up at 6.30 am, I dressed up and ate breakfast. There was no school uniform then. My mother accompanied me to the school for the first day. I was taken to the place where the old primary classroom shed was, composed of 4 class rooms. Two were upstairs and two were downstairs. I was very apprehensive and I asked my mother to stay with me, at least be in the tuck shop until recess time. There were two or three amahs in the tuck shop waiting for other first year pupils,

In the primary school shed, I was in Standard I B on the ground floor (north side) and Lim Jit Teng (Civil Engineer) and Yee Voon Chee (Prof of Medicine) whilst Chin Yin Keong (a son Mrs Chin, Std IA teacher) was upstairs (south side). Someone told me later that A or B class was not based on merit but on alphabetical order of your surname. Later in years, I also found out that the house (Aziz-yellow, Horley-green, Tagore-Blue, EuTongSen-purple, and Oldham-Red) you belong to is related to number of your address. It took a few days to settle down and I had totally forgotten about being in an unfamiliar environment. It was fun to make new friends and play with them during recess with the available playground structures particularly, the “witches hat”, the wooden see-saw and the notorious wooden slippery dip where you climbed the stairs on the field side and slide down to the road (as described by Valiant Knight in your blog). My friend Chin Yin Keong always arrive with his mother in a Ford Consul AA5522 to school.

Going to school became an adventure not to be missed. I had the recent experience of taking my grandson to kindergarten in a Sydney Public School and his initial fear, sometime reduced to tears, and his subsequent interest in going to school were as expected and were not very much different from mine.

In 1953, it was the coronation of HM Queen II and the classroom was well decorated with the strings diagonally stretched from the ceiling corners of the classroom where a number of small flags, the Union Jack (British Flag) were tied to it. The buntings (flags on the string) crossed each other diagonally. We were taught to sing the “National Anthem” (as a British Colony) God Save the Queen. It was an exciting event.

Our class teacher was Ms Ling Siok Ting, a beautiful lady who wore mostly “SamFoo” instead of the Western dress/frock attire. To me, she is a sweet lady, always so kind and soft spoken. She never uttered a word in anger to us. The other benevolent teacher was Mrs Grace Tong, the Supervisor of the Primary School and lived in Cowan Street. She spoke Hokkien was a kind lady who showed compassion and care to me and other pupils when we felt sick. I was kept in the office for supervision after a return trip from the dental hospital in Kidd Road, and local optometrist for eye checking or just being sick. Such kindness will never be forgotten.

In terms of learning to sing nursery songs which took place in a building next to the Church, we were taught to sing by an American lady whose name I cannot recall. One of the songs taught was “Dickory Dock, the mouse went up the clock” A gramophone record was used in those days. The Principal then was Mr Ralph Kesserling. I remembered my mother taking me to see the Principal for enrolment into Std I and since I was under aged, she had to pull some strings to get me in. I saw her produced a class photograph of my father (ACS Ipoh class of 1938) and showed it to the Principal and he nodded his head. I was accepted for enrolment then and there.
With only 10 cents in my pocket for recess, I can only afford a bowl of curry mee (5c) and a cordial drink (5c) served by Mrs Ng Ah Fook. Mr Ng was the tuck shop master… As a small boy, it was difficult to buy the metal token, stamped with the correct denomination when the bigger boys were rushing for it. Recess was at 10.30 am whilst the high school was 11.00 am. A few Amahs were there to take care of their wards as they brought lunch from home in a tiffin carrier and fed the boys under their charge. One particular classmate with Amah was Wong Peng Yan.

The other interesting thing in the classroom was the arithmetic book. It was printed the right way up for half the pages and the other half was printed upside down. I use to enjoy doing the arithmetic and we simply turn the book around to the second half of the pages.

Nearly a year passed, and we had to line up behind the primary school shed for an important occasion, the prize given ceremony. I vividly remember that my classmate surnamed Lau got the first prize whilst Yee Voon Chee and I came equal second. The prize was a book. It was a good year in Std I and an incredible thing happened, ie. 10 or 11 Std I pupils were suddenly propelled in Std IIID (double promotion). Besides Voon Chee and me, I am sure that other 10 boys will declare their entry to Std III D in this blog.

In retrospect, I was not too sure that the double promotion was a good thing for me personally particularly when the average age of the class was 2 years old than me. Yes, I learned how to fight and defend myself, and had the name “fighting cock” given to me by my peers for many years to come. It was intellectually stimulating but a physical nightmare!

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by IpohBornKid

 

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Kuan Hon was the eldest of 5 children of Teochew background whose family came to Menglembu (probably) from Sungei Siput, in the early 1950s. His father, a bus inspector with the Green omnibus that travelled from Ipoh to Pusing, Batu Gajah, Tualang, and Buas, opened up a shop in Main Road selling pots and pans, and earthen pots and water containers (used mainly in Chinese Bathrooms). His father also ran a radio repair business. I remembered seeing the family moved to Menglembu. Both parents worked very hard to make a living and bringing up 5 children.

Kuan Hon went to the Wan Hwa primary school in Menglembu. He was also a scout in the school and was very proud of his scout stick. He used to chant the local scout slogan and it sounded like “jit goo jit, lum pat” and we often taunt him with this chant. Kuan Hon was not serious in his studies and he followed his father’s foot step by learning how to repair radio (valve type) and some electrical wiring work. He was good at it. He used to read the radio repair manuals written in Chinese and these books were published in Singapore. He did well and soon became proficient enough to take over his father’s job in repairing radios. His mother did all the retailing of pots and pans, housework and looking after the children.

Kuan Hon did not mix with the Menglembu boys too often as he was busy running his father’s business in radio repair. The business grew and he began to sell Japanese, British and German brands radios, stereophonic amplifiers and turn tables. The business also expand in selling small refrigerators and sewing machines.

I often watched Kuan Hon repair radios and he was keen to teach me some basic work in repairing radios, not so much in diagnosing the problem, but was told solder this and that, changing knobs, fixing the broken string in the tuning mechanism and changing the electrical plug or faulty wires. I learned all that with great enthusiasm. Not every day do you get free lessons in the repair of radios, particularly the valve jobs. Then came the transistor radio and Kuan Hon was quick to learn how to repair those Japanese radios.

Somewhere in the expansion of the business, Kuan Hon branched into basic electrical work by selling the florescence lamp. They came in the kit form and you had to write them up before they work. Very soon, I also learned from him how to wire the internals together. He also taught me how to diagnose the fault and up to this day, I have never forgotten how they work and still able to repair them, whether it was the fault of the “starter” or the “choke”.

The skills I learned from Kuan Hon was invaluable and as a result I became proficient in electrical wiring, installation of florescence lamp, changing of electric plugs (all sorts), minor radio repair (valve type) and connecting turntables to stereos and speakers. I became skilled in using the soldering iron. He also taught me how to install a line antenna for medium and short wave radio sets. I often wondered why he had bothered to teach me all these things, but in retrospect, I believe I was an able assistant to him in many jobs inside his shop and outside the shop.

I used to follow Kuan Hon outside the shop to make minor electrical repairs, particularly florescence lamps. I was very good with the electrical “test pen” and agile with climbing ladders. I was a useful apprentice, obedient and quick learner. By following him, I learned all the tricks he had taught me. On this note, I became a proficient electrical handyman and this skill had served me well in my later years. I actually did wired my own house with the supervision of a licensed electrician.

I often accompanied Kuan Hon in delivery refrigerators, sewing machines and radio to customers in the villages. At that stage, the business was doing well and he business bought a Morris minivan for delivery and I enjoyed these trips with him to all the mining towns south of Menglembu. One day we delivered a fridge in the village where there was no electricity. Later, I found out that the people who bought the fridge had used it as a wardrobe whilst waiting for the electricity to become connected.

I also enjoyed the lunch somewhere in Batu Gajah, at a road side shop where they make the “what tan hor fen” combination fried noodles with egg. Kuan Hon was a generous man and he was happy to buy me lunch. Whilst driving to this mining towns, Kuan Hon was a dare devil driver and use to overtake cars with me assisting him by sticking my head out of the door window and making sure there were no oncoming traffic as he was attempting to overtake a vehicles as the road curved to the left. Crazy thrill seekers again!

Kuan Hon was much matured for his age. He went after a local girls who ran a hair dressing salon down the Main Road and before long he got married. By that time, I was living overseas as a student and had not been in contact with Kuan Hon for decades. It was sad to learn from his family that he had passed away at an early age. Although Kuan Hon did not play too many games with the boys of Menglembu, he was busy running the business He worked hard and was a very good teacher. I owed my electrical handyman skills from him and I would never forget his kindness in imparting his skills to me. Kuan Hon was indeed one of my treasured Menglembu friends.

Note:

IpohBornKid is a former Ipoh resident who now resides in Sydney, Australia.

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As we were growing up in the tin rich Kinta Valley towns, the opportunity available to kids to be involved in gaming was abundant. Each town, each district of Ipoh, and Menglembu, had its own tale to tell. The chance to take a bet on anything including food, was unbelievable and abundant.

The Ice Cream Man & his “Chocolate Wheel”
In Menglembu, we had a famous ice-cream man who sold cylindrical block ice cream with vanilla, durian and red bean flavour. He rode a bicycle with his metal square container about 2 cubic foot in size, securely fastened on the pillion tray. At one edge of this box was a tube which drained the water from melted ice block. These ice blocks, with the addition of salt, were coolant for the ice-cream. Dry ice would be too expensive to use. His trade name was Wong Soon Kee. At the back of the metal container was mounted a wooden circular wheel with nails spaced at regular intervals at the perimeter of the wheel. As you spin the wheel, it ratcheted against a piece of bamboo. Each interval on the wheel was clearly labelled 1, 2 or 3 serves of the ice cream. If you do not wish to spin the wheel, you were sold a slightly longer ice block of your selected favour. If you gamble, your unit block size shrank by 20% for each serve worn. If your number spun was 1, you lost 20% to the ice-cream man. If your number is more than 1, you unit block size was still 20% shorter. What a way to encourage young kids to gamble on his “ice-cream” wheel.

The Pickled Fruit Man with his gaming metal rods
Another Menglembu hawker sold pickled fruits, particularly specializing in pickled papaya and mangoes. He was a stout person with a tanned skin and wears a silly hat. He was called the “Tee Ta Lo” because he played the Chinese mini-trumpet as an audio signature of his arrival.
This man carried his pickled fruits in 6-compartment wooden box with glass covers on top of each compartment for hygienic purposes. The box was secured on the pillion tray at the back of his bicycle. When he stopped, he opened his wooden cover to reveal his wares.
He too was a gaming food peddler. His gaming tool was made of thin metal rods and each rod had a number of filed cuts (notches) at one end. There were more than 20 rods in a metal cylinder and the rods were placed with the notches at the bottom of the cylinder so you could not see the number of notches. You pay your money and you choose whether you want to a chance on the metal rods.
The opened large wooden cover stood at 90 degrees from the food containers, and there was a notice/rules about the points scored and the numbers of serves paid. If you want to gamble, he allowed you to pick 3 rods out of the cylinder. He then counted the total numbers of notches on the rods. Although I cannot totally recalled the prize chart, I believe that the minimum score was 3 and the maximum is 12 (3x4notches). The next serve up is 6 points, 3 serves for 9 points and 4 serves for 12 point. I did not remember anybody scoring 9—12 points but 3-5 points was very common and scoring 6-9 points was a 20% chance. The principle of serves was similar to the ice-cream man.

The Ice Kachang Man with his Lucky Draw Prize
It was a popular attraction to kids with little money in their pockets to play the lucky draw prize. In the Menglembu market, the ice-kachang man was first to introduce this lucky draw prize in his ice stall. A large cardboard had a 10×10 square and each square had a number. Some numbers carried a prize the form of small toys, plastic rings etc. Most prizes were worthless. It would cost more than 5 sen to buy the good prize. You have a chance to win a good prize that was displaced on the large cardboard and the prize was attached via a string to a number in the cardboard. Below the prize section, was the lucky draw paper envelopes which were glued also to the card board. There were 5 sen or 10 sen lucky draws. You picked your ticket and opened to reveal the number. If your number corresponded to a prize on the board, then you won that prize. Every envelope wins a prize. I did not have much money in my pocket and can only buy one envelope at a time. Other kids bought about 3 or 4 tickets at on time.
The Manual Pin Ball Machine Man in front of the Primary School
The worst form of child gaming devices was the mini pin ball machine. These infamous machine was about 6 inches x 1 ft in size. It was designed like a pin ball machine with a spring loaded launcher to propel a metal ball (probably a small metal bearing) from right bottom part. By pulling the spring loaded device you propel the ball into the main board. The Board has circular holes in them and would allow the metal ball to be trapped. Each hole was labelled with the prize and most of the time, money was involve. A certain hole could pay 2x or 3x your bet.
Unfortunately, these peddlers chose to introduce gaming activities in front of the Wan Hwa Primary School. Out of curiosity and the thrill of winning (Tai Lum Tao – literally in Cantonese big thinking head or just “fat hopes”) I ventured forward to gamble my pocket money away! At one stage, the teachers were attempting to ask these peddles to move on but these people were adamant and did not move. Months later, the Police took action and close their business down.

The Electric Pin Ball Gaming machine – inside Menglembu Markets
There were two very popular pin ball gaming machines in the Menglembu markets. Although the prizes were not money, they were packets of Navy Cut cigarettes worth about 40sen a packet. One was a horse racing games where you bet the number of the horse, usually numbered 1-7. Each game can produce a single number win, triple number win (2,4,6 or 1,3,5; 3,5,7) or all 7 numbers win. The prize for each win was a packet of Navy Cut cigarettes.
The other pin ball machine game was cross number game. Numbers on the panel displayed winning combinations. You were allowed to launch 5 balls and each ball would eventually land on a hole with a number after rotating in the round bowl (just like a game of roulette). If the total number of holes in the bowl was 25, the board would display a 5×5 grid of 25 numbers. Each ball landing on a numbered hole in the bowl was lit up. To win a prize, you must have the 3 numbers that formed a straight line, vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Of course the value of the prize went up if you had 4 or 5 numbers on a straight line. The eventual prize was a packet of cigarettes
I have gambled on both these machines and walked away with 5 packets of cigarettes. The only way I could convert them to cash was to sell it back to the owner for 30sen/packet (ripping me off by 25%) or wait till one of my relatives want me to buy a packet of Navy Cut. I could not understand now why would they allow a ten year old kid on the gaming machine!
The other pin ball machine was located in my neighbour’s shop. He had an old type pin ball machine with “coiled bumpers” and each time the ball hits the bumper it scored 10 points. After exhausting 5 balls, you only win a prize if your score was 250, 350 and 450 exactly. I was not allow to play this machine because the owner knew my mother.

The first Poker Machine at the Kinta Swimming Club
My first encounter with a poker machine was a table model which was parked in the dinner room of Kinta Swimming Club. This machine had 3 wheels and each well were numbered 0 to 9. The winning combination was well displayed on the machine. It played for money. I remember that the numbers 222 was a winning combination. As a frequent visitor to the swimming club for competition training, I was very much tempted to play with the machine. Since there was always a presence of a teacher, I did not get close to the machine.
Despite my passion for gaming, I did not became a problem gambler. In my youth as a University student, I often played mah-jong. In my adult life, there were other temptations like the casino. Although I could play all the casino games and spend time watching my friends lose lots of money, I seldom gamble. My greatest saviour was that fact that I hate losing money and I do not believe in get rich quick! In retrospect, I was lucky that I was able to maintained a distant from gaming activities (only been to the race course twice in 50 years), whilst some children grew up to be problem gamblers. In my opinion, such gaming devices should be off limits to children.

Note:

IpohBornKid is a former Ipoh resident who now resides in Sydney, Australia.

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Kong Fu who lived in Main Road, Menglembu was 13 years old in 1958. He had about 6 or 7 brothers and sisters. Kong Fu, was also an ex-Ipoh ACS student and I remembered going to the Principal Mr Kesselring’s office with him and his mother. His mother was trying to get him enrol in the morning ACS class. Typically Chinese, his mother bought some fruits, usually 5 in a pyramid cone made of newspaper, properly tied up with a “vine” type string and with a square piece of red paper at the apex of the pyramid. He remained in ACS for a few years and was later transferred to MAS (Methodist Afternoon School) when Mr Wong Wai Lam was Principal. Transfer from ACS to MAS was quite common if you do not perform too well in the morning school.

Koon Fu was a physically strong young lad and had a zest for riding his father’s “Made in China” bicycle for men. This bicycle had larger wheel diameter than the normal Raleigh bicycle imported from UK. It has lever connected braking system different from the Raleigh with steel cable mechanism. It also came with a pillion rider seat cum “carry” table and the old fashioned parking apparatus which had two legs hinged to the axle of the back wheel and when the rest was put on, the bicycle would stand up with it back wheels off the ground. You can actually pedal and the back wheel was free to spin around. Interesting plaything for kids.

His younger brother Poom Poom was about 2 years younger than him and he always wanted to follow us wherever we went. We had to accommodate his wishes otherwise he would carry tales! The best solution was to take off without his knowledge. All 3 of us actually rode on one bicycle. Kong Fu, being the strongest, would pedal the bicycle sitting on the pillion, I sat on the seat in the middle controlling the steering bar and brakes; and Poom Poom sat on the horizontal iron bar. Of course, we were not supposed to have more than two people on the bicycle, let alone 3 people. We choose to ride the bicycle in Jalan Lee Ming Hin, a road that is parallel to Jalan Lahat. In the old days, this road ran from the current roundabout before reaching the Police Station coming from Ipoh, and ended near the entrance to “Bukit Merah New Village”. The red omnibus from Ipoh usually made the U turn from this junction and made its return journey to Ipoh. My mother told me that the Jalan Lee Ming Hin was once a railway track and prior to the Japanese occupation, and they rode the train to school in Ipoh and back. Tin mining activity moved the railway east of Menglembu (about 1 mile from the road) and after the mining activity stopped, they restored the road and the area along the road was called the East Regrouping Area of Menglembu.

The term “Regrouping’ has a special meaning during the Malayan Emergency of 1948. According to the British plan, all residential areas were grouped and fenced in with barb wires. Volunteers, called “Home Guard” were recruited from the local villages and their job was to patrol the fenced area to prevent “communist” insurgents from entering the villages for whatever reasons. Hundreds of young students fled to China via Singapore and Hong Kong to escape being “conscripted”. I have met a few Malayan born youths who went through China and onto Indochina. At the end of the Vietnam War, they went on to live in Western countries as refugees.

The bicycle for 3 took many trips to the country side of Menglembu particularly through the villages, vegetable farms and mining pools between the old railway road and the current railway line. Obviously, the area described had no “Mata2” or policeman on duty and we were free to roam the country side without attraction any attention from the constabulary.

Kong Fu and I played dangerous Russian roulette games with that old bicycle. The entrance to Bukit Merah New Village was a road off Jalan Lahat and it had a steep climb, at least a 30 degree inclination. One of us would push the bicycle uphill to top of the entry gates, climbed onto the bicycle and waited for a signal from the other person standing at the bottom of the road. After checking for traffic flow from either side of Jalan Lahat, a signal was given vocally that the traffic was clear. On that given signal, the rider would release the brake and glide downhill into the bottom of the road and cross the “not so busy” Jalan Lahat. It was a thrill seeker of our times. I do not recommend anybody trying that now. We took turns to ride the bicycle down the slope. In retrospect, I believe it was a dangerous sport and only fool hardy kids would try it. Being born in the era, some of us would foolhardy enough to be thrill seekers in the 1950s. I had never related this story to anybody until now as I write my childhood memoirs. If our parents had known about our dangerous activity, we would be canned and banned from riding any bicycle. Please don’t try it now!

Not long after that experience, I had grown bolder and actually tried to cross the Main Road at the Menglembu Post Office junction thinking I could outrun the cars. One later afternoon, I pedal hard and attempted to cross the main road but unfortunately, a black Ford 10 ran into me. Luckily, it hit the back wheel and I was thrown out of the bicycle and landed on the grassed area adjacent to the big tree. I had a few cuts, bruises, lacerations and a big lump on the head. I survived to tell the story!

Kong Fu and I also went swimming in the mining pools and in those days, this activity was “verboten” (forbidden) because of reported drowning of young children while taking a swim. As a child, I had seen the villagers recovering a body from the mining pool but that did not deter me from venturing into the mining pool for a swim. It was the poor man’s swimming pool.

It was easy to determine whether you had been in the mining pool by simply using a 10 sen coin and scratching the skin in your arm. If there was white powder coming out of it, you get the stick! Hence, you usually go to the bath room and wash yourself thoroughly without anybody noticing that you were there early than the appointed time. Now I know that the white powder was from the soluble salts (not NaCl) dissolved in the mining pool water and it is possible a form of carbonate or sulphate.

I met Kong Fu again in the early 1970s when I returned to Menglembu from overseas and he was working in the tin recycling business with this father at a shop named “Wu Lang”, next adjacent to the Menglembu Police Station. I did not see him again and I was informed by his nephew, who lives in Sydney that he has passed on. I was also told that Poom2 now resides in Perth and I was not able to contact him. Yes, Kong Fu collected Hollywood film star cards and we used to exchange cards together.

Although he has passed on, I still remember the fun and thrill seeking adventures we had together as children.

 

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Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

Fun Kee

Fun Kee, one of the natural leaders of the Menglembu Pack, still lives in Menglembu and he would be in his very early seventies. Fun Kee is Chinese educated and did his primary education in Wan Hwa Primary and secondary education at Yuk Choy High School. He was a skinny fellow, tall, fit and possess enormous talents for organizing any activities for the group. He could sing, dance, and play the guitar and a very keen sportsman (badminton being his forte) and a Chinese rock and roll fan.

Fun Kee was a good story-teller. Whilst all the kids were much younger, Fun Kee was the elder leader who can read Jin Yung’s and Wu Longsheng kung fu novels and had access to those novels. At the time, Radio Malaya Mr Lee Tai Soh, was broadcasting kungfu novels but there were no broadcast on the newer kungfu novels, viz. The Mythical Crane, Magic Needle” by Wu Long- Sheng (circa 1957-59), The Legend of the Condor Heroes (射鵰英雄傳 circa 1957-9, Jin Yung) and The Return of the Condor Heroes (神鵰俠侶 circa 1959–61, Jin Yung). Fun Kee had those novels in print and was willing to read to us a chapter at a time after school. Every day, between 3pm and 4 pm, we as little kids would sit round his house upstairs and listen to his readings on the kungfu novels. It was fun and exciting to hear as each chapter unfolded. Later these novels were made into movies and serialized; and the DVDs did the rest. But in 1950s, it was heaven-sent to be able to enjoy these stories read by a talented reader. However, my early childhood exposure to these kungfu novels made me an addict in later life to the DVDs produced by Hong Kong followed by more scenic ones from China. I used to sit up all night watching these devilish DVDs. My cousins who could read Chinese had to read the novels after lights out, and they use a torchlight under their blankets to avoid detection!

Fun Kee was also a great social organizer. All the Menglembu boys and girls trip to the Kledang Hill (Picnics and Dancing) were all coordinated by him. He was the greatest and was ever popular with the group as he took no payment in any of the organized events but gave his best to everyone. He was indeed the benevolent leader.

Fun Kee was also good at social dancing. He was a self-taught dancer. He brought Chinese dancing books with illustrated footsteps and taught everybody how to dance the cha cha, rumba and other Latin American dances. He could sing too and he was also self-taught with the guitar. Fun Kee also taught me how to play the guitar and he did not mind me using his guitar for afternoon practice. He was generous and kind, and was ready to teach anyone who wanted to learn.

Fu Kee was politically astute person as a teenage and his knowledge of politics, dedication and commitment for the welfare of the public. He was also a student activists. Fun Kee is a caring person and he cared about the radioactive waste in Bukit Merah caused by refining rare earths. I only learn recently that he was in jail for protesting against the rare earth people. He told me that when he was in jail, the leader of the pack there learned that he was put inside for protesting against the rare earth people and these commercial activities had led to a rise in cancer in that population. In jail, he was treated with respect and no one was to bully him or harass him. He was later released. For that, I would salute him for his courageous convictions and beliefs about a safe living environment for his fellow man.

Fun Kee, despite his age now (70s), is still active as a travel agent and often accompany tourist around Malaysia. With his talent in organization and networking, it would be a breeze for him and I am sure he would enjoy his work very much as he is very much a “people’s” person.

Fun Kee is a scholar and gentleman. He was the eldest and has 3 brothers and 2 sisters. Despite being a low income family then, Fun Kee excelled in what he did and if he had the opportunity to further his studies, he would make a good academic. I consider him “rich” in many ways, being an able leader, understands environmental safety, morally ethical and beyond reproach and a very talented organizer. He is indeed a good friend to have. Like Ah Piao in Chap 2 of this series, he was also very protective of the young ones.

Thank you Fun Kee for all you have taught us when were still very young then. Fun Kee’s contribution to the environment is his highest achievement of his life and people of Menglembu should acknowledge his contributions to the youth of Menglembu and to the villagers living in Bukit Merah.

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