During my pre-teen days, I used to accompany my late Granny on her bi-monthly trips from Butterworth to a small town called Padang Serai in Kedah, to visit her eldest daughter. We would wait at the bus stop nearby for the red-and-yellow liveried Central Province Wellesley bus to take us on the 90-minute journey.
On each visit, Granny would pack at least one chicken (sometimes a duck as well) from her own hand-raised “broods” in our backyard, for my Big Aunty and her family.
Usually, the chicken was quite cooperative (legs tied, no doubt), but the ducky fellow could be quite an embarrassing nuisance with its non-stop quacking all the way. Well, in those days, no one in the bus complained or made a hoo-hah. It was an accepted way of life. (In these days of smartphones, the saga would have gone viral).
Crossing that half-way mark probably was nothing dramatic, like trying to beat the red light, but tell-tale signs of “successful” ageing were starting to show up.
Rippling muscles of the Incredible Hulk were giving way to flapping blubber of incredible bulk, especially around the waist. Once a 10-km jog at 5am seemed like a stroll in the park, but now panting started to set in after 2km – and that was, if the body was able to pick itself up at 7am.
Once I was able to sit up at the PC, work till 3am, went to sleep and get up again at 5am…..and still be fresh at work for the following 10 hours. Now if I work on the PC up to 10pm, my eyes would glue shut till the next morning, as though Loctite had been applied.
Aiyoh, what happened?
Haha, a precious photo by one “Rod Farquhar”…. taken probably in the late 1960s or early 1970s.
Well, Theatre Rex was not quite as jurassic as its cold-blooded carnivorous counterpart – Tyrannosaurus Rex — but by now it definitely is a dinosaur in its own right.
In its heyday, thousands of warm-blooded “Butterworthy” inhabitants flocked into its cool cavernous interior whenever they needed a quickie hallucinatory diversion from their daily grind of life.
In those days, when I was not so old yet, I did enjoy many Shaw Brothers movies at this iconic cinema, with my friends and family.
Ticket prices ranged from 40 sen (3rd class) to RM1.40 for “Dress Circle” (or upstairs) per seat. But poor kids like me sometimes just bought one ticket and used cute persuasion on the ushers to let in a friend, FOC.
When I was a kid, most people could not afford to own a camera. But that did not stop us from wanting to capture memorable fun moments of our lives.
Poor as we were, folks managed to have family outings at popular scenic and recreational spots such as the Botanical Gardens, Penang Hill, and even Batu Maung (where there was a horse for rent). Of course, there were the ever-present professional photographers with their cameras staking out at these places, patiently stalking their potential customers and their wallets.
A super-friendly approach and sweet persuasion by these pros inevitably ended in getting us shot a couple of times, and somewhat poorer. We then gave our addresses to the camera men for sending the finished photographs to us.
Back home, it was an agonizing two weeks’ wait for the postman to deliver the eagerly-awaited pieces of printed joy.
One morning, sometime in my 2nd year of stay in China, my wife and I hailed a red VW Santana taxi for a trip to downtown Shenzhen.
The agreed price was RMB80/=, and the ride proceeded smoothly, till we were about 5 km to the destination. Suddenly the car stalled. The driver told us to pay him the RM80, while he would call in a replacement car.
So I gave him a RMB100 note, but he quickly returned to me, saying it was a fake note. Stunned, I pulled out another RMB100 note for him, and the same happened. Incredibly, it happened a 3rd time.
After we got home, I discovered in my wallet three RMB100 notes with identical serial numbers! Oh Silly Me! That driver had swapped fake notes for my real ones.
In the old days, having a baby delivered in a hospital was somewhat of a luxury, which the kampong folks could not afford, or maybe had a prejudice against.
Thus, the services of a “Bidan” or midwife were highly sought after. In my kampong at Bagan Ajam, Butterworth, there was my neighbour Aunty Bidan. She must have had a very busy schedule, as many of the couples back then had at least half-a-dozen children.
In fact, two of my cousins were helped out into this world by her skillful, loving hands. No storks needed.
Aunty Bidan (she was a Mrs Tan) had also the distinction of being one of the two persons in the village to own a car (I think it was a Simca) and a telephone (which she graciously ‘shared’ with all her neighbours). I still remember that 5-digit number.
It is now unimaginable for anyone buying a car – new or preloved – that it would come without an airconditioner built-in. Yet, up to the very late 70s, airconditioning was an optional item.
And so, my very first full-size car (a 2-yr old Mazda 323 Hatchback) did not have one. After sweating it out for a couple of months, and with my hair blown into a bird’s nest after each ride (windows had to be down), I decided enough was enough.
A trip to a workshop, and about RM1,400 poorer, ah ha, got me a brand new Sanden kit installed, with the blower/evaporator unit mounted under the dashboard. Cool ! Wow, “to chill it out” had taken on a new wonderful literal meaning.
The first stop after that was to go over to my GF’s home and pick her up in cool comfort.