Friday, February 8, 2013


(Different versions of this have been circulating on the internet for quite a while. A version exists at 'Malaysia First, Malaysia Last' blog.)

To those of you in the baby-boomers group, may these images bring back nostalgic memories of the good old days when we were young.

"Those were the days my friend,
We thought they'd never end.
We'd sing and dance forever and a day.
We'd live the life we choose,
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way." (sung by Mary Hopkin)

Ghani Minat was our favourite soccer hero, Wong Peng Soon was our favourite badminton player, and M.Jegathesan was our favourite athlete.

You were not cool if you did not have long sideburns, greasy hair (held together with Brylcream) combed into a 'karipap" (pompadour). You were either an Elvis Presley fan or a Cliff Richard fan. You could not be neutral. The more rebellious among us were Rolling Stones fans.

Films by P Ramlee were always enjoyed by all Malaysians. How could we forget classics like 'Do-Re-Mi' and 'Bujang Lapok', and seeing P Ramlee dueting with Saloma on "Gelora"?

Susu lembu (fresh cow's milk) was house delivered in a stainless steel container by our big friendly and strong Bahi on his bicycle. The container cap served as a funnel. The kacang puteh man came a-peddling, walking and balancing on his head six compartments of different types of murukus ...and we bartered our old exercise books for a paper cone of kacang putih.

Driving license renewal was done by pasting an additional slip at the back of a small red booklet. We could enjoy monthly credit "facilities" from our friendly neighbourhood sundry shop by entering the amounts owing into a little "555" book. This was the "credit card" of the day.

Fraser & Neave bottled drinks came in wooden crates and were displayed on the table in homes during Chinese New Year. We always carried in our pocket a packet of fire crackers during the Chinese New Year.

We also always carried a satu-ringgit note at night in case we were stopped by a mata-mata (policeman) for not having tail lights on our bicycles. One plate of noodles 'chow kway teow' cost 30 sen, and we brought our own egg. One 'roti canai' cost 15 sen and one banana 5 sen. 5 sen for kacang putih and 10 sen for ice "ang tau".  Sometimes, ice ball was only 5 sen "pau ang tau" and half red sugar, and the other half black sugar or sarsi.

We bought 'bangkali' bread from the Indian roti man who paddled his bicycle around the neighbourhood with the familiar ringing sound from his bicycle. Sometimes we bought Cold Storage bread wrapped in wax paper. We would spread the bread with butter and kaya, and wrap it with the wax paper to take to school.

Boys went for the 'durian' crew cut by the itinerant Indian or Hockchew barber. It was 30-cent a haircut, all the way to the top. Reason?.. easy to dry when whenever we sneaked off to swim. During weekends, we went swimming in the river. No swim trunks, only birthday suits.  No one would laugh at whether your "kuku bird" was small, crooked, etc.

On Sunday mornings, we listened to Kee Huat Radio's "Fantastic Facts and Fancies", and on Saturday, "Top of the Pops", both hosted by DJ Patrick Teoh who always ended his show with, "Here's wishing you blue skies."

Saturday mornings too, we would go for cheap matinee shows at the Cathay Cinema, usually cowboy shows or Greek mythologies like "Jason and the Golden Fleece". The Cathay Cinema at Jalan Bukit Bintang opposite the Federal Hotel first opened in 1959 with the film, "Campbell 's Kingdom". Father would give me 70 cent for the matinee shows which normally started at 10.30 am on Saturdays and Sundays - 50 cent for the ticket and 20 cent for the return bus fare, makan was not included. Nobody paid a dollar for the 'Reserved' seats.

Believe it or not, we had double-decker buses owned by the Toong Foong Omnibus Company.  Whenever we boarded the bus, we would run to the upper deck to get a better view of the journey.

We never, never, never talked or mixed with girls until Form 5. I learned the waltz, cha cha, rumba, foxtrot and offbeat cha cha from a classmate's sister. My first time dancing with a girl, I nearly froze and my heart went "botobom, botobom ..."

Standard cure for headache? Take Aspro.  We took a lot of sweet stuff like candy floss, fizzy drinks, shaved ice with syrups .... and diabetes was rare. Salt added to Pepsi or Coke was a remedy for fever. Tonic water was always taken at the first hint of malaria. And a spoonful of Scotts Emulsion cod liver oil was a staple after meals.

The first time I used a modern toilet, I squatted on it as I was used to the "bucket system" toilet. Our children would not know the danger of visiting the outdoor toilet at night, nor of jumping in fright when the night soil man collected the bucket while you were in the middle of doing your business. Toilet paper was torn up newspaper on a hook which you had to crumple first before using to wipe your bottom. White toilet paper was an unknown luxury until I left home.

We could turn a mere 5 pebbles (stones) into a game of endless fun. With a ball (tennis ball best), we boys would run like crazy for hours. We caught guppies in drains/canals and when it rained, we swam there.

We ate salty, very sweet and oily food, candies, bread and real butter, and drank condensed milk in coffee/tea, iced kacang, but we weren't overweight because we ran, cycled or climbed trees all day. We fell from the trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth, and still we continued fearlessly with the stunts.

When our parents found out we were caned in school, it was certain we would get another round of lashes from the rotan (rod) at home. Parents always sided with the teachers.
We flew kites with string coated with pounded glass powder and horse glue, and we cut our hands on the string.  Happiness was winning a kite against a local samseng. I forgot, we also had to make our own kites to suit our "fighting styles".

Most of us never had birthday parties until we were 21.

We were the last generation to know how to use logarithm tables and slide rulers. We had telephones which were really, really heavy weights.

And I believe, this generation produced the best parents because we went through the hard times.

We never heard of "bumiputra" and or "1Malaysia", because we were already one Malaysia then.

(All pictures taken from Google images)


Starmandala said...

A very sweet stroll down memory lane, for sure... but I'm quite happy in the present! :-)

Unknown said...

that picture Cathay cinema is in Penang. I and my brother is in that picture. a very sensitive part of my memories lane.thank you. its not in bukit Bintang.

seniorsaloud said...

Thank you for the correction. I was just following the caption that came with the photo on Google Images.

Unknown said...

Really brings back very fond memories of growing up in the 50s and 60s. The sunshine , fresh air and roaming freely is proof in us seniors today.Thank you for sharing

BK Sinha said...

Thank you for this, excellent blast from the past. 2 comments:
1. The right sequence is “Big, Strong & Friendly” if you meant it as a pun to the then Chartered Bank tag line which coincidentally had Sikh security guards predominantly &
2. It is “Bhai” not “Bahi” which when translated frim Punjabi means “brother”