Of Cabbages, Captains And Kings
“The time has come”, the walrus said, “to talk of many things: Of Shoes – and ships – and sealing wax – of cabbages – and kings – and why the sea is boiling hot – and whether pigs have wings.” (Lewis Carroll – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
ACS Rules The Pool
I boarded the good ship ACS starting as a powder monkey in 1959, from Primary Standard One all through to Secondary Upper Six Form in 1971. It is, however, best that I share memories of my favourite schoolboy rite of passage before these fade with the throes of senile decay. I had always enjoyed being immersed in water. In Form One, I was accepted into the Swimming Squad. The swimming pool complex had been commissioned a couple of years earlier. Mr Leong Soo Nyean was the teacher/coach then. He had a formidable personality; lived in Falim and rode an awesome Triumph Tiger 500cc whose arrival was formally announced before sight. I participated in the school’s swim meet – age / class group, subsequently represented the State in age group competitions at national level, throughout my secondary years. My eventual forte was to be in water-polo, where I earned the sobriquet “The BA”.
The first time I represented the School was at the 2nd Methodist Games when in Form 2. ACS Ipoh hosted, competing with the other 3 major Methodist schools – ACS Singapore, MBS, KL and MBS, Penang. The inaugural games were held in Singapore the previous year. ACS Ipoh was the overall champion, winning the majority of the different sports. That year, our contingent team captain was Woo Kwong Kee, a splendid high jumper. I also took part in the 3rd and 4th Games, playing water polo as well. Proud to say, ACS Ipoh was Overall Champion in every meet. Mr Teerath Ram dubbed these victories “Operation Grand Slam”. This was a time when ACS swimmers dominated the School and State Schools’ Colours rolls. It was an era when ACS Ipoh had the temerity to send its swimming and water-polo teams not only around the country, but to Thailand as well where I remember with pride 2 such tours. The journey was more challenging than the water-polo we were made to endure 3 days and two nights on board train and bus to Bangkok. We swam and played water-polo against Chulalongkorn and Kasertsart Universities and Thai Age Groups. And good enough were we that even the Thai national water-polo team chose to play a practice match against us preparatory to the SEAP Games.
I stand to be corrected, but I remember Perak having won only once the water-polo gold in the annual Malaysian Combined Schools’ Meet. This was in 1971 when I had the honour of captaining the state team where all the first 7 were from the ACS, with only one from SMI in that team of 12. We upset the favourites, Penang, and then promptly beat Selangor 7 – 6 in the final. I remember too the punch-ups in the Chin Woo pool which continued all the way into the change rooms. We were in celebratory mood and Mr Lee Chong Lay, coach, and Mr Ignatius Loke, the team manager, were happily tossed into the pool. It was discovered in time that Mr. Loke could not swim and he was fortunately plucked out by one of the girls.
Nothing of this would have ever been possible if not for the dedication and tenacity of the teachers involved, including their sheer determination to overcome all sorts of bureaucracy. I pay tribute to Messrs. Oh Boon Lian, Lee Chong Lay, Fong Soon Leong, and later Foo Yoke Meng. In their own ways, they were the true educators. Their personal achievements require separate mention. Messrs. Oh, Lee and Foo, were appointed National swimming coaches in their tenures.
Although I had represented the School, National Schools and State at swimming and water polo, I never made the grade to National teams, but quite a few others did both in Swimming and Water Polo. Swimming – Cheah Tong Kim, Colin Clark, Ong Mei Lin, Lim Cheik Sung and Victor Lau. Diving – Victor Lau and Chan Beng Cheong. Waterpolo – Choo Soo Ha, Peter Ooi Aun Chuan and Chan Choong Pooi.
Esprit De Corp
The ACS Swim Squad had a culture of tremendous fellowship and camaraderie (which persists till today, among the old boys/girls). The ex ACS swimmers always came back to support the present crop, particularly in the annual Old v Present Boys’ water-polo matches. The current seniors always looked after their juniors. Like the adage “monkey see, monkey do” the juniors underwent the ritual of ragging; one challenge being to exit the change room in the nude, jump into the pool and swim a lap just as the MGS girls were waiting for their session to begin . We also had our repertoire of team songs and ditties. The roar of “ACS Ipoh Hip Ho Hip Ho” was an awesome rally call. The swimmers claim credit for improvising the school song to the tune of Limbo Rock. I mention below some of the old salts of the pool, whose paths I have crossed and others who equally deserve mention but that I have missed out. In the early years some of them trained in a mining pool in Batu Gajah or the Kinta Swimming Club, the pre ACS pool. I include nicknames, not in derision but with affection, with the hope that such will jolt them to share memories from their woodwork of history. I acknowledge some may have journeyed on to happier hunting grounds.
Prof. Ong Kok Seng (Elder brother of Ong Mei Lin).
Wan Sai Pan aka The Croc.
Cheong Ah Woh aka Ah Woh Sook. (His son, Edmund, is also a talented ACS swimmer).
Ronald Yeoh aka Tai Check Loh.
Bernard Sit Peng Yew aka Cheong Yew Loh.
Cheah Tong Kim aka Soh Ti.
Colin Clark aka Soh Clark.
Phang Chee Foo (the role model for shaving advertisements; and the School javelin champ).
Cheong King Ngok aka Ngok Yee Tau (Crocodile head).
Tsang Hing Chau aka Sam Sam.
Wong Heng Cheong (Water-polo defence, the proverbial brick wall).
Au Kong Joun aka White Monkey.
Ng Siew Kee aka Tough Fight.
Looi Teik Aun (…of ACS OBA fame).
Dr Peter Ooi Aun Chuan aka King Smeller.
Victor Lau aka Sor Lau.
Choo Soo Ha aka Sor Ha.
Ooi Aun Chye aka Bulldog (brother of Peter Ooi).
Dr. Danny Chan Sia Fei.
Dr. Wong Woon Wai aka Diamond Head.
Chan Beng Cheong aka Master Black.
Lim Cheik Sung aka The Injun.
Lim Foh Sen aka Bones.
Lee Fook Thean
Tony Ooi (youngest of the Ooi brothers).
Chan Choong Pooi (son of Mr Chan aka Ah Fat, the canteen operator).
And the list goes on; and others who came years later. Needless to say, the ACS Girls’ teams’ portraits were centrefold material. Look up their photos in “The Voyager”. Some swimmers achieved fame, in the pure discipline of the sport, like Ong Mei Lin, Sports Girl /Woman of the Year, coupled with academic excellence.
Others became the stuff of which legends are made of. Like when Phang Chee Foo rode his motor bike into the swimming pool change rooms; or when Colin Clark, Choo Soo Ha and Victor Lau enticed a herd of cows to follow them along the entire stretch of Tiger Lane (as it was then named) in the middle of the night, culminating in a messy encounter. Victor’s bike rammed a cow. He fell. In a fit of sudden shock, the cow retaliated with a massive show of bovine excrement. And cow soon proclaimed victory with its deluge heaped all over a floored and helpless Victor. At an MSSM meet in KL all the state flags displayed at the games’ village went astray; it was rumoured that the Perak boys’ water-polo team had flags for blankets. After each training session, it was said the composition of the ACS pool contained 75 per cent urine, 15 per cent chlorine and 10 percent rainwater. The access to the swimming pool complex was via the McAlistair warehouse road, which was lined with yellow flame and wild cinnamon trees. A bicycle would sometimes be cradled in the upper boughs of a tree. Once, a Honda cub found its way up there as well. These are but a few episodes in the Swim Squad chronicles.
Chin Yoong Fee (Cohort 1971 Form 6 Upper Arts A)