MEMORIES OF MY ALMA MATER
Yes, those good ole school days certainly hold many dear and cherished memories and recollections. I was a true blue ACS student having been enrolled by my mum in 1953 and staying on till 1965. My brothers Tong Gin and Tong Meng were also ACS alumni and so were all my Ipoh cousins. ACS courses through our blood. If we were to get cut, blood type ACS will flow from our veins.
What do I remember about those good ole days? Time doesn’t permit me to be loquacious so I shall select some choice moments.
1953 was the year I started school in that old wooden building near the lower field. I remember starting in Primary One with the likes of Mano Maniam, Chong Kheng Ho, Chew Gi Boo, Thinakar Rao, Pah Eng Cheong, Nicky Chin, etc. Our class teacher was Mr. Foo Choy Wan, deceased. Our curriculum included drawing, singing, recitation, dictation, writing and nursery rhymes. We were given marks for our writing those days. Those were Colonial times and so we were fed a lot of good British stuff. I remember singing “God Save The King” and when George VI passed on, Elizabeth II ascended the throne. No, we didn’t sing “Britannia, Britannia, Rule The Waves”.
CHAPEL SERVICES AND THE OFFERINGS
Yes, I loved the chapel service on Fridays when we had mixed worship services with the Six Form students. The Six Formers were at the top of the ladder so we looked at them with awe and admiration. We gawked awkwardly at some of the prettier Six Form lassies. Many of us harboured schoolboy crushes on some, belles like the Doong sisters (Ruby and Julie), Aw Soh Choo, Aw Poh Har, Lim Miao Ling, Teo Ee Sim, and others. Then there were the buxom ones like Lean Pek Leng (the original sweater girl), Helen Wong, Annie Lau, and Voon Hean Lim. Patsy Lam fell in between. We were young, hot blooded, and full of testosterones and many of such names appeared affectionately as graffiti on the toilet walls together with those of a few “popular” lady teachers. We did not have the benefit of SMS or telephone postings those days but by checking the latrine walls and noting how many times a girl’s name appeared there we were able to judge their popularity.
SOME POPULAR BUZZWORDS THOSE DAYS
The canteen was called the tuck-shop and the toilets were referred to as latrines or WCs. The more “user-friendly” tuck-shop girls outsourced from beyond the ACS walls were called “Lotti Thou” literally bread head for their capacity to drive many of the boys crazy. Those too were the days of the “teddy-boys”, greased hair and drainpipe trousers, and Falim and Mangatou were hotspots for gangsters. I remember the Kinta Swimming Club, which we used to haunt before having our own pool in 1962, was controlled by the 08 Gang from Buntong. Gang fights were common and we had to be a bit street wise to survive unscathed.
OUR OWN SWIMMING POOL CIRCA OCTOBER, 1962
And it came to pass that we had our own school swimming pool which catapulted the status of the ACS into ionosphere. We were the second school in Malaysia to have a swimming pool after Victoria Institution. Since then a more organized aquatic programme had been put in place, with swimming classes for many for the students. Water-polo activities also blossomed alongside life-saving. We made our pool available to our sisters in the MGS. The most sought after lifeguard session was during the MGS swimming period, and there never was a shortage of volunteers for this session. Our aquatic standards rose. We produced good national swimmers and our school water-polo team was invincible among all the school teams in both Malaysia and Singapore. It took a Combined Singapore School Team to make us taste defeat.
SOME OF THE TEACHERS I REMEMBER
Wong Suet Lan who as a fresh graduate from Kirkby infused all her idealism and enthusiasm into us to be complete students. She injected into us a love for English and literature. We were introduced to debating, phonetics, reading book reviews, etc. She was our class teacher for two years and, in that period, she touched the lives of many of her students who later performed and excelled in life. Such was the love and esteem she left behind that when she visited us in the 1990’s, 28 of her former students gave her a lunch in an Ipoh restaurant. She now resides with her family in Kingston, Canada.
Tye Soh Sim – Again a teacher par excellence. She taught us with a mix of wisdom, wit and sarcasm and we enjoyed every minute of it. I never told her directly how much I appreciated her. The closest I got to it was when I repeated Form Five in 1963 after a playful and lackadaisical year. Being a good swimmer/water-polo player, Mr. Ram gave me the choice of class to repeat Form Five. I sought out Miss Tye and told her I wanted to be in her class. She must have felt ‘flattered’.
Low Kam Whye who taught us science and made it so interesting. He had an excellent command of the English language and this combined with his wit made his lessons so meaningful and humorous. I dare say I got my weird sense of humour from him.
Oh Boon Lian and Fong Soon Leong who inspired and encouraged me in my swimming to become the athlete I am.
The two most quotable quotes would go to my maths teacher Mr. Loh Swee Kee:
“That’s the trouble with you fellas, you know next to nothing but you act like a professor”; and
“In India they have the untouchables but in Form Five Arts A we have the unteachables”.
“THE AREA BEHIND THE GYM”
Most differences were settled in a “gentlemanly” manner “behind the gym”. Belligerents usually fought it out with fist cuffs though there were occasions where sticks, stones, knuckledusters were used. I strongly suspect this is where the phrase “sticks and stones may break my bones …” originated.
MOST ENJOYABLE CLASS
Generally, I enjoyed all the classes I attended during my 13 years in the ACS. But if I were to single out the most enjoyable one I would choose my Lower Six and Upper Six Arts A 1964-65. Form Six was the first time where we were mixed (arrrgh) with the girls. To make matters worse, the girls out-numbered the boys and I was “bewitched, bothered and bewildered”. I had no time to prepare for this transition and lacked the social grace to deal with the situation. BUT the girls, all to a woman, were very understanding, gracious and encouraging and I grew up in many ways in these two years. After getting over the awkward start, life was a barrel of fun as the class was so full of talents, brains, enthusiasm and camaraderie. People like Rohini, Nyuk Yong, Peggy, Colin Clark, Beant, Peter Pu, Beng, Siew Lin, the two Carols, Jean, Husky, Foxy, the Teoh sisters, Strauss, Lucy the Ling and a host of others made my Form Six days most enjoyable.
MOST MEMORABLE MOMENTS
When, as the School Captain, I held aloft the Champion’s Trophy for the Champion Methodist School in the Inter-Methodist Schools Games in 1965. The Games involved various sports among the ACS Ipoh, ACS Singapore, MBS Penang, and the MBS Kuala Lumpur. We emerged champions amongst a star studded field.
The occasion when I was thrown fully clothed into the school pool after returning from the Tokyo Olympic Games in 1964. Unknown to me, my class mates had planned a welcome home party for me after I had been offloaded into the pool. I understand Beant’s turban also fell into the pool in the melee.