In 1929 my dad was just a young lad of 9, staying in the little tin mining town of Batu Gajah. According to him, cinemas and televisions were unheard of then. Chinese operas (called tuk tuk chiang in Cantonese) were popular instead, especially during festivals, mostly held near the Kuan Ti Temple ground, near the Kinta River that flows along some small towns in Perak.But opera is heavy stuff, too boring for a kid of 9.
He preferred circus. Watching the trapeze swinging from bar to bar, the clowns with their funny antics and animals like elephants or tigers performing stunts kept him mesmerized. These circuses travel from town to town, performing to large crowds of young and old in huge tents.
So when he heard that a circus is coming to town, he was very excited and determined not to be left out. Having gathered a few equally enthusiastic boys, they cycled from their village to town to watch the circus.
The problem is, none have enough money in their pockets to buy a ticket each. But this does not deter them from having a jolly good time, because boys will always be boys!
Upon reaching the circus ground, dad began to hatch a devilish plan and whispered it into their ears. All understood and nodded approvingly. Halfway into the performance, these mischievous boys sprang into action.
One of them gathered some pebbles from the ground in his fist and creeping quietly from behind, threw them at the old fat guard sitting near the entrance of the tent. He was rudely awoken from his little nap.
Infuriated, the poor fellow gave chase and while the entrance was left unmanned, the rest of the boys would make a quick dash into the tent and assimilate into the crowd. The boy who threw pebbles would run off and disappear into the bushes, leaving the poor guard panting and swearing.
The same tactic is used the next night and the next. All the boys took turns to throw pebbles at the poor fellow while the rest ran inside and watched the circus without having to pay!
Some 70 years later as dad puts his little grandchildren on his lap and watches the circus together on TV, he would recall his juvenile folly and burst into a toothless laughter, tears streaming down his wrinkled cheeks.
Note: Sorry, I do not have a photo for this post. As a little boy from a poor family, dad could not afford to buy a ticket, let alone own a camera to capture what he saw at the circus.