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The 1948 Services Searchlight Tattoo
My joy knew no bounds when I luckily drew a ticket in the ballot to decide the fortunate hundred and fifty boys from our School to go to the Tattoo. I looked forward to seven o'clock on Monday evening, June the seventh, with suppressed excitement and natural curiosity.
At that hour, the lucky boys assembled in front of the School and marched to the Coronation Park, where the Tattoo was held, in neat rows four abreast. Students from all other K.L. schools, both English and vernacular, literally swarmed all over the Ground. The neatly uniformed girls of the St. Mary's and Pudu English Schools blended harmoniously with the gaily dressed girls of the other schools to form a captivating picture of youth and beauty. By contrast the boys looked drab.
When Brigadier Jones arrived with the Director of Education, Mr. H. R. Cheeseman, at 7.35 p.m. to take the salute from the Guard-of-Honour, all available seats were occupied by the excited school children. Then an exhibition of marching to music was given by the bands. The scintillating lights on the drumsticks, instruments and arms of the bands were a novel feature. Altogether it was a very good performance and the rounds of applause, which were given at the end of this item, showed the genuine appreciation of the audience.
The traditionally dressed recruits of the Malay Regiment, in their shimmering white bajus and brilliant green Kelantan hand-woven sarongs, acquitted themselves creditably in the smart drill that followed. The precision and timing with which this drill was performed is a good aspect of Army training. Bersilat, the Malay art of self-defence, which followed was well demonstrated by the recruits of the Police Depot.
The brilliant beams of the searchlights caught two ancient field-guns and their crews, who were dressed in old fashioned, stiff red jackets and black trousers. The laborious loading and firing of these museum-pieces were in striking contrast to the smoothly operating and quick-firing 25-pounder guns which next came into the arena. The flash and report of these made many a heart, among the audience, miss a beat. The high-speed efficiency of a modern fire-fighting unit was then demonstrated by the Kuala Lumpur Fire Section of the R. A. S. C., when they completely extinguished the flames on blazing lorry in a matter of a few minutes. This was followed by an interval of fifteen minutes which I utilised to compare views and impressions with some of my friends. The best patronised place during this break was the branch of the Nanto Milk Bar which did a literally roaring trade with thirsty customers.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the evening was the thrilling and spectacular display of trick and acrobatic motor-cycle riding, which opened the second half of the programme. Showing uncanny control over their powerful machines, these daredevil riders in their spotlessly white uniforms had the crowd spellbound with their daring feats. A perfect sense of balance, split second timing and steely nerves were the qualities revealed by this item. The applause which followed the end of this hair-raising exhibition was positively deafening.
The "Kandyan" dance which followed was a novel exhibition of mixed acrobatics and dancing. It reminded one faintly of Russian Cossack Dances.
The ease and grace with which the gymnasts performed on the high horse in the physical training number made many a boy turn green with envy. With perfect timing, unerring precision and quiet showmanship, these performers went through all their tricks with apparent facility and nonchalance.
Reminiscent of D-Day was the Commando Raid carried out by the recruits of the Malay Regiment. Flashes of light and the chatter and crackle of guns gave this demonstration a warlike atmosphere. This was the last item on the very fine programme, and the satisfied audience then slowly melted away, expressing their admiration for the organisation and smooth running of the Tattoo, which never had a dull moment.
A Sunday at Port Dickson
Last Sunday was one of the happiest days in my life. On the previous day a friend invited me to join a party in a trip to Port Dickson and I was very glad to accept his invitation, for I had never seen the sea before.
Early that morning, we assembled in Pudu Town and left by bus. During the journey, I was picturing in my mind the sights of Port Dickson with its beautiful beach and coconut trees. Soon we arrived at Port Dickson. My heart leapt up with joy at the sight of the sea. The sea was calm and appeared a lovely blue, although it was not really blue at all. Above in the blue sky little specks of white clouds were sailing by majestically. The beach was lined with coconut trees, swaying in the wind. White foamy waves were racing towards the beach where they broke with a thundering sound.
In a moment we had jumped out of the bus and were swimming and splashing about in the sea to our hearts' content, and I was so happy that I swam as I had never swum in all my life. Tired out, I lay basking lazily on the beach, while the waves gently rolled over me. When the tide retreated far out to the sea, numerous crabs and shells were left on the beach and we spent a happy hour in collecting them.
Soon it was six o'clock, the hour of sunset. If sunset is appreciated as very lovely on land, I think it is a thousand times lovelier at sea. The sun hung lazily on the distant horizon, like a golden mass of fire illuminating the evening sky. Slowly it went down, leaving in the sky wonderful colours no artist's brush can really catch on canvas.
As we were very tired and hungry, we went to the house of a friend as previously arranged and had dinner there.
Port Dickson is even more beautiful at night than in daylight. Everything is quiet save for the continual sound of the waves on the shore. The moon sails across the sky, casting its gentle silvery rays on the land and the sea. Occasionally, one can hear the sound of music and of merry holiday makers accompanied by a guitar.
Port Dickson, with its calm blue sea and its waving coconut trees, is indeed a Hawaii to me and to every lover of nature.
The Pottery Works of Segambut
On the morning of the 28th of February, 1948, some eighty members of the Science and Mathematics Society visited the Goh Ban Huat Pottery Works, which is situated in Segambut. Pottery manufacture has been carried on for almost twenty years in this neat, compact factory which employs a hundred and fifty hands, many of whom have made their permanent homes within the factory's five acres of land. Until recently, the factory's products were limited to earthenware: jars, pipes, latex-cups and storage pots but, with enterprising direction, the factory now produces household crockery for Malaya's everyday needs.
The clay-pits that surround the factory have been almost used up, with the result that clay has now to be imported from Kulai in Johore. The clay is subjected to elaborate processes of purification by alternate pounding and washing. The purified clay has still to be kneaded and, until it is quite free from air-pockets within the clay, it has to be pounded over and over again.
One noticed the intense interest of the boys as they were shown round the works in groups. Beneath the long low roofs of the factory sat scores of Chinese craftsmen, all busy at their jobs. We saw the various methods by which cups, plates, saucers, bowls and dishes were made and in which modern methods supplemented ancient craft. Most boys were fascinated by the ancient potter's wheel, where sat an elderly Chinese craftsman, whose nimble fingers deftly moulded beautiful pieces of pottery. The amazing thing was the way he could produce exact replicas time and again, with quiet patience and mastery. This was in contrast to the noisy modem methods where rotating turn-tables, driven by electricity, filled the atmosphere with humming and groaning.
The finished articles are then dried in the sun and then are dipped in liquid glazes. Glazes are of two kinds - local glaze and foreign imported glaze. The former is made of powdered cockle-shells, lime and padi husks. The articles, wet with the liquid glaze, are taken to the firing-kiln or ovens which, when fully heated, reach an extreme temperature of about 1,200'C. These ovens are long structures over one hundred feet in length, built of fire-brick which must withstand the intense heat. We were lucky to be able to enter a cooled oven, which we found quite warm, even after cooling for a couple of days.
In another corner of the factory, we found the artist at work. His job is to furnish pretty and attractive designs for specially ordered articles. These paintings are simple but most attractive, especially when gold paint is applied. Here again we were amazed at the fidelity with which each similar painting was copied onto the various articles,
As a contrast to this work, we saw pretty Chinese girls at work, transferring printed floral designs onto articles, with great speed and accuracy.
When asked why the management still retained the old methods of production, our guide told us that this method was used in the creation of newly designed articles, which are specially made for individuals to their individual tastes in small numbers only. Otherwise, it entailed the making of special moulds which cost a considerable sum.
We ended our visit by feasting our tired eyes upon the numerous articles put up for show in the office adjoining the factory gate. Here, upon beautifully designed show stands, stood the many products of the factory, giving proof of their progress in their newest field of production -crockery.
The visit took an hour and a half and proved most interesting.
Crossing the Main Range
Bentong was the destination for which I was bound. Not until I had got into the car and started on my journey, did I realise that the road led over the Main Range. I thrilled at the thought of reaching a height of two thousand feet. Fortunately for me the car was driven by a friend of mine who promised to halt at certain stages of the journey.
For the first twelve miles, I noticed how the urban district gradually merged into the rural areas, where attap houses were predominant and concrete ones a rarity. Then the scenery changed into a tangle of undergrowth, relieved by rubber trees. In the midst of the trees under the thick canopy of foliage, Malay families had built raised houses in their characteristic style. The car gradually left behind this tranquil scenery and wound its way amidst thick forest, where human settlement was absent.
My friend, who was at the wheel, told me that the ascent had begun. At the same time the car took a sharp corner to the right then another to the left - it was making its way up the steep road. The gradient, I understood, stretched for thirteen miles and all the way the car was on third gear. When we reached a road that was comparatively level, we decided to stop the car and view the surroundings
Now there was a peculiar sensation in my ears; the was the sudden change of altitude. As I looked up, huge mountains towering high above met my gaze. Below me were deep valleys with steeply sloping sides, covered with trees diminished by distance. I felt dizzy. At the same moment, my companion pointed out a small object moving along a zig-zag track far down the mountain, about a thousand feet below. I was surprised when I realised that it was the bus to Bentong, winding its way up the road we had already traversed.
My friend carefully negotiated the dangerously narrow bends because one error in his judgement would have ended in disaster. With the absence of many mountains, we realised that we were nearing the top of the range. Soon we were at the top and we stopped the car and alighted to look at the state boundary. The sun shone brightly over the summits of the mountains in the distance and everything looked bright and cheerful. A cool wind was blowing; the green plants seemed to dance in the glorious sunshine which flooded the whole scene. The air was scented with the sweet fragrance of roses. There we lingered, revelling in the unforgettably beautiful scenery, and we plucked two roses as souvenirs.
From the summit our car raced down with its engine stopped - we were descending. Genting Sempah, the only settlement in those mountains, was only a mile from the state boundary. Having refreshed ourselves at a coffee shop there, we went on quietly. A little further and we came upon a waterfall at which we stopped. The water gushed out in a torrent from the heights above. We washed our faces and had a drink of the clear, icy water. Oh it was indeed refreshing. This was the last break in our journey; soon we were on level road again and the engine was brought into use once more.
Small villages appeared on both sides of the road and forests gave way to flat tracts of padi fields. A small river followed the course of the road. In the stream buffaloes were basking lazily in the mud, while in another part, naked children were joyously romping in the water. Our car raced on, leaving behind the Malay kampongs, and after three hours of motoring we drove into bentong - the first town beyond the Main Range.
My Trip To China
During the Easter holidays, a Malayan Chinese Athletic Sports Meet was held in Penang to select a field and track team to represent Malaya in the Seventh Chinese National Meet in Shanghai. I was lucky to win the High Hurdles event in Penang and was chosen as one of the members of the team. I left Singapore at 8 p.m. on the 30th of April in a Dakota, chartered from the Pacific Overseas Airways Company. We reached Bangkok at midnight and stopped for a few hours. The next morning, we left for Hongkong at 6.30 a.m. and arrived there at noon. After tiffin we continued our journey and reached our destination at 8.30 p.m. The bird's eye view of Shanghai at night is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. At the aerodrome, we were welcomed by the sports representatives who took us to the Yangtze Hotel in the old International Settlement.
In Shanghai many things are different from those in Malaya. The climate is much cooler than in the tropics, and all of us had to don warm clothing. The next thing which worried us was the currency. The foreign exchange was about four Malayan dollars to one million Chinese dollars, and, whenever we went shopping, we had to carry bundles of notes along with us. There are plenty of bath houses in the city and the charge is about twenty cents for a bath. Most of the people do not bathe daily for they seldom perspire. The traffic is controlled by lights. Motor-cars and lorries are scarce and public tram-cars and buses carry most of the passengers. The numerous trishaws are a public nuisance. Since the war, Shanghai has become the industrial centre of China. During my three weeks' sojourn in Shanghai, I visited a cloth factory and a rubber factory. Although the quality of the products is not up to the American and European standards, prices are much cheaper, and they are welcomed by the poor community which forms the majority of the population.
The Shanghai Stadium is about seven miles from the hotel, yet it took us more than half an hour to reach it by bus because of the heavy traffic. The Stadium can accommodate about seventy thousand spectators. Fifty-three units, composed of about two thousand five hundred competitors, took part in the Sports. Malaya was first in weight-lifting, badminton, and water-polo, second in swimming, third in table-tennis and fifth in the field and track events. Because of the difference in climate, most of our performances did not reach our usual standards in Malaya.
After the sports, we were allowed to go anywhere we liked. Some went to Peking and some went to Soochow. I went to Hangchow with some friends. The West Lake District of Hangchow has perhaps the best scenery in China. We had a wonderful time there but before long we were called back and when we climbed into the plane all of us wished that we could have stayed a little longer. The familiar engine sound was heard, and we found ourselves on our way home again
Last update on 31 October 2000.
Contributed by: Chung Chee Min
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