Saturday, April 26, 2014


US President Obama begins his 3-day visit to Malaysia today (26-28 April, 2014). The last time a US president visited Malaysia was in 1966 when President LB Johnson paid a 20-hour whirlwind visit.

In conjunction with President Obama's visit, the Star published an article ("It was the good old swinging 60s") that will surely resonate with those of us who grew up in the 1960s. To many of us, those were the most carefree years of our lives. We were young then, with no cares in the world except to study and do well in our exams. The joy and stress of raising a family and the pressures of working life were yet to descend upon us.

The Star, 25 April 2014

What was life back then in the 60s? If you are now in your 50s, 60s or early 70s, the images below will stir up poignant memories of an era long gone but not forgotten. Here's a glimpse into the past.

I bet many of us still keep some currency note and coins of the 1960s. A dollar then could buy us a good lunch. Bank Negara launched the local currency notes in 1967, but it was only in 1996 that the $ sign was replaced with RM.

Inflation was an alien word in the 60s, virtually unheard of during my high school years from 1960-1964. 50 cents pocket money was all my mom gave me but it was enough to get me a plate of nasi lemak or a bowl of noodles at the school tuck-shop, a glass of syrup drink and a piece of fruit. I still had money left to buy sweets or save.

My ex-classmates and I with our bicycles in 1962.

Pedal power ruled the day. My friends and I went everywhere by bicycle. Festive seasons would find us cycling in groups to visit our Malay, Indian and Chinese friends. Those who didn't cycle would take a trishaw to their destination. I recall my uncle taking us for an evening spin around Batu Pahat in a trishaw. The ride around town cost him only one dollar. It was a treat as not many families then could afford a car to cruise around town.

The UK and the US dominated the youth fashion scene. We were very much influenced by what teenagers there wore, and they in turn were faithful fashion followers of their teen idols of the time. My wardrobe then consisted of mini-skirts, hot pants, huge flora ties and colorful fancy stockings. Woodstock 1969 spun a new fashion fad - the hippie cum flower child look. Bell bottoms were in, so were tie-dyed tees and gypsy skirts. My wardrobe changed accordingly.

As for hair style, the boys either spotted the bowl-cut Beatles style or the pompadour a la Elvis Presley. While the guys heaped Brylcream on their hair, the girls teased their hair into huge 'beehives' kept in place with generous amounts of hair spray. The hippies would let their hair grow long and adorn their hair with flowers. Others opted for the Afro hair-do. The clean-cut Gary Grant look of the 50s was uncool, and definitely OUT.

Teen Idols of the 60s made a huge impact on the music we listened to. We followed religiously the UK and US hit parades like BBC's Top of the Pops and the American Billboard Top 20. Music genres ran the whole gamut from romantic ballads to acid-rock, from musicians like Neil Sedaka to Jimi Hndrix. Pop groups also dominated the teen music scene. We enjoyed songs by The Carpenters, The Animals and The Rolling Stones. We swooned over boy bands like The Monkees and Herman's Hermits. Later, we added Santana, James Taylor and The Who to our fave list. Our music taste was certainly eclectic!

Some of our teenage idols

We bought EPs and LPs and played them on our turntables at home. Coffee shops had jukeboxes. For 20 cents a selection, we could listen to the current hits of the time. I painstakingly copied the lyrics of hundreds of songs, and sang them aloud in the privacy of my room.

The radio stations had programs where you could dedicate songs to your friends. I remember DJs Constance Haslam, Vicky Skelchy and Patrick Teoh announcing names like "Elvis Rocky Tan dedicates the next song to Lulu Sandra Lim". We gave ourselves names after our favorite pop idol.

The songs we listened to all came from gadgets similar to those below. No such thing as a remote control. Gadgets then were heavy or bulky. There was nothing we could carry with us in our handbags or pockets for easy listening or viewing.

As teenagers we loved to dance. We had dance parties where the boys would sit on one side of the dance floor, and the girls on the other. The boys would pluck up courage to walk over and ask the girls to dance. Such gentlemen! The wallflowers were those girls who never got asked.

The Twist, the Jive and the Limbo Rock were staples at any dance party. Strangely enough, off-beat cha cha and a-go-go seemed to be popular mainly in the south-east Asian region.

So, how many of these throwbacks to the 60s do you remember? If you miss the music and the dances of the era, come and join us at SeniorsAloud's party of the year. Relive the good old days and share fond memories with old and new friends.

Contact Lily at +6012-306 8291 to book a seat or a table. The event is almost fully booked. Click here for more details.

No comments: