Monthly Archives: June 2016

First To KERETA ….Then To School

Borrowing BATA’s tagline …

Long before Bas Sekolahs drove into the school transport scene, there were KERETA SEKOLAHs of all shapes, sizes and colors ferrying kids to and from their schools.

My first encounter was with a black vintage Vauxhall Wyvern, owned by an enterprising neighborhood Uncle.   The car had a column-mounted gearshift and a one piece sofa-like front seat.

Uncle also ingeniously added a long wooden bench onto the back seat and another one of half length onto the front seat.  With these mods, the capacity was raised to about 15 Standard One kids, including me.  By the time we got to Standard Three, the capacity maxed out at 12 — we were growing fast.

Though it was quite reliable, the car often needed some robust hand-cranking to cajole the engine into working mood.

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What’s Spook For The Goose Is Spook For The Gander

In the kampong days,  folks often reared chicken and ducks, and to a smaller extent, others like Muscovy ducks and geese.   The last of these were not to be trifled with.

Usually found sauntering around in groups, with their long necks held high and beaks pointed at 45 degrees upwards, they could be quickly provoked or startled and become fearsome Angry Birds.   Males and females were equally aggressive. They pecked and pinched with their strong beaks, causing painful blue-and-blacks and even severe bleeding.

Folklore has it that snakes are afraid of goose droppings — hence, geese were also kept to deter snakes (apart from snaky people) but it was also said that geese poo attracted centipedes.  In any case, all four are equally spooky – goose pimples forming even as I write !

Sabre-rattling Over Butterworth

Living just 4km from the airbase in Butterworth from birth till 1973 “enrolled” me into an Early Childhood Aircraft Appreciation course.

The F-86 Sabres were the earliest jet fighters from the RAAF to appear in the skies.  They had clean body design, with a prominent bubble canopy.  As they circled the area low in their landing approaches, I remember I could even see the pilots inside them.

Later I learned that these RAAF fighters played a prominent role during the Confrontation with Indonesia, where Butterworth-based Sabres chased off marauding MiG-21 fighters.   No shots were fired in anger; perhaps the kill reputation of the Sabre (from the earlier Korean War) was enough to dissuade the intruders.

p/s : Am wondering to this day, why these RAAF aircraft wore RAF decals on their wings.

All That Glitters Is Not Gold

A flash of yellow gleam caught my eyes this afternoon while I was in the supermarket. Ah hah ! Gold Coin chocolates !  Donkey years have trotted by since I last saw them – let alone ate a piece.

These were my childhood favorites.  I remember they were somewhat firm and chewy, and full of cocoa fragrance and creamy sweetness.  (No doubt they contributed sacrificially  to my early dental degradation).

Not wanting to pass up this golden opportunity, I bought a small pack of 20 pieces.  The photo shows 19 – well, the 20th piece went into my mouth for qualitative biochemical assay.  Haiz, any expectation of a resurrection of the old ecstasy was quickly smothered — all that glitter notwithstanding.   It tasted rather bland.   Maybe my ancient taste buds are not working today.

So Good You Can Even Eat It On Its Own

Gardenia’s tagline must have been inspired by this old-time delicacy, LOLX.   Yummy !  Well, I wonder how many of the younger folks out there know what these are !

Not sure what they are called in English, but in Malay they are known as ‘tombong’, a term which the Hokkiens in Penang use very freely and naturally.

I think they are the embryos of coconuts.  Found only in mature nuts, they range in size from as small as grapes to as big  as completely filling the chamber inside, depending on age.  The small ones are sweet and crunchy, the big ones spongy.  The best ones are slightly smaller than a tennis ball.

These are rarely seen nowadays, because few people sell or buy mature coconuts other than in processed form.

Putting The Good Guys Behind Bars

Some call them ‘collapsible gates’, others call them ‘scissor gates’.  At one time, these ubiquitous geometric pieces of art in steel were fashionable throughout Malaysia and Singapore.

Many shops installed these in front of their normal doors, as deterrent/protective barriers against break-ins.    Home owners too have them affixed to their front and rear doors, in order to keep out uninvited guests of dishonor.  Most of these installations were painted with a silver paint, though other colors were used occasionally.

And, many small workshops and foundries throughout the country enjoyed brisk sales from this ‘tradition’.

Alas, these days we see fewer and fewer of such installations – perhaps they are now regarded as ‘ugly’ and ‘uncool’.  However, someone told me that this ‘Retro’ style is making a comeback.  That would be nostalgic renaissance indeed.

WMI or Undivided Lack Of Usefulness ?

I cannot recall clearly  when box of mathematical instruments (aka ‘WMI’) first showed up in our school yearly to-buy “book list”.  Among the items in that box was a strange two-legged creature with sharp points.   We later learned that it was called “Dividers”

But how many of us really found an occasion or even a faint excuse to ever use it ? As for me, it was next to none, even though I was at the forefront of technical drawing in my later years.

 I have seen pictures and even movies where some folks seem to be manipulating this instrument over maps.  Perhaps I am really lacking in knowledge of this instrument, or perhaps it was and is really useless.  Am sure opinion is divided on this matter.