The top picture is said to be Form 5 Science, back in 1967. The bottom one is the Anderson School Library Prefectorial Board, also from 1967. Do you see yourself in any/both of these pictures? We’d like to hear from you – perhaps tell us a tale or two about your years at Anderson School, Ipoh 🙂
We’d like to thank Lai Wai Mun for these two pictures.
Here’s another little sharing by IpohBornKid, about a school trip to Penang with his friends!
This picture was taken in the 1950s where Mr Quah Kuan Teik took a bus load of ACS boys to Penang. It was a most memorable trip and of course, we gave the old boy heaps but he remained firm and show exceptional tolerance to all of us. For example, when you go to sleep at night, someone will squeeze some toothpaste in your mouth. On the journey to Penang and back, there were no toilets in the bus (an old ACS school Bus) and the boys would literally go to the back of the bus and “washed” the windscreen of an unfortunate car following behind the bus. If any of you recognised yourself in the photograph please own up.
Mr Quah also told us the story of how some of the boys were lost during the night on a trip to Emerald Island, an island west of Pangkok. Those adventurous ACS boys decided to venture across the island through the thick growth and into the other side. There was a big panic, alarm bells were raised and search party was organised. The boys were finally found safe and sound. Any normal teacher would have said ” I had enough of the buggers, no more trips for you fellas”. No, Mr Quah totally forgotten what had happened and continue the next excursion as if nothing had happened..
On an excursion to Cameron Highlands, Mr Quan took us to visit a vegetable farm. One is supposed to ask the farmer to cut the cabbage if you want to buy it (only 20c each). No, ACS boys were different. Several boys gave a swift kick at the cabbage and it rolled down the hill until it hits an embankment. I cannot remember whether they eventually bought the cabbage.
Nicky Chin, Mano, Me and Z.. : off to Penang we go on an ACS Excursion, if you see yourself in the photo, please hands up.
Here’s part 5, from UV.
Episode 5 – Schooling in Ipoh
After two years with the brightest of ACS for this batch of students which included Yee Woon Chee, Nga Tung See and others who constantly hogged the first and second place in the form, my various extra-curricular activities took its toll on me. In the crucial Lower Certificate Examination (Form 3) year I went to the ‘B’ class again.
In Form 1 and 2 I had Mr. Rasathurai for Mathematics. Incidentally, he was the son of the Head Master of the TR ACS Branch school. Later I understand, Mr. Rasathurai’s daughter became a teacher too and I think I met her once in Taiping when I was giving a talk to one of the schools there. Mr. Rasathurai was a fantastic Mathematics teacher but his jokes were even more fantastic. He would not fail to crack a joke every time he is in class and until today we can always recall some of them and oft-time we would use it whenever we are called upon to do some Master of Ceremony work.
In Form 3B in 1960 I was taught Mathematics by Mr. Balagopal. He is most noted for his bicycle and simple rattan woven bag. This greying, almost bald Indian gentleman would come into the class in a no-nonsense manner and would solve Mathematics problems rapidly on the blackboard for us to jot down, those who couldn’t solve them the previous day. Then he would stop half-way and asked some of us to complete the solution. Most of us couldn’t or would try and make some awful mistakes and he would be at at back, rubbing it with his open palm a few times before raising it to slam it hard down on our back! It would usually be accompanied with the words, “Idiot, it is?” Then we know for sure it isn’t the right solution! However, one would never forget how to solve a problem let it be Arithmetic, Algebra or Geometry after that whacking!
Mr. Balagopal gave me a strong foundation both in Mathematics and Mathematics 2 and it helped me qualify the next year for Four Science A. I have him to thank for this but I never pursued a career later in life that would require my using my Mathematical skills.
In Form 3B too we were blessed with Mr. Oh Boon Lian, our Geography teacher. No one would dare play the fool in his class. He wasn’t Mr. Quah Guan Teik who would cry when boys do not pay attention to his lessons. You pay attention to every word that comes out of Mr. Oh’s mouth when he is in class, so I missed nothing during his lessons. That was the start of my interest in Geography. In those days we had to learn all the Southern Continents and the whole of South East Asia for the LCE Geography syllabus. That is why today; those from that era could tell you the capitals of practically every country in South America, Africa and States in the Continent of Australia and New Zealand.
The Lower Certificate of Education Examination was a major hurdle to cross. It would decide whether you continue in Form Four in the Science or Arts stream. Most of us would sit for seven subjects. Others may also offer languages like Chinese, Tamil and Punjabi. O yes, I took up Latin in Form 1 and 2 but learned more to take punches for not being able to conjugate Latin verbs from our teacher who taught us during Saturday mornings for free! Some of you might recall him. He was the one instrumental for the start of Berita ACS! (No, not Mr. Jamit Singh)
When I visited Venice, Florence and Rome after I retired, I recalled some of the words I learned in Latin class but it did not help me at all when I was lost in Rome and luckily English was such a universal language, I was able to find my way back to my residence using it.
Science always intrigues me since Form 1 when Mr. Low Kum Wai started teaching us. He would make science come to life with all his stories of how to apply Science to our daily lives. I can never forget his lesson on friction when he described how he nailed nails into the sole of his clog and when cycling fast at nigh down the road he would let it glide over the surface of the road and would leave a trial of sparks to attract the attention of young girls! That’s Mr. Low Kum Wai and his Science lessons. How can one ever forget the facts with such a tale to fascinate you?
History was boring as usual. With the ‘What is Bronze’ teacher (see Episode 2) spending the whole year asking us to define bronze as the main part of our History lesson in Standard Four, I never took a liking to History in school. All we need do then was to buy a revision guide book written by a particular Indian gentleman (not a teacher in ACS) and memorize it and we are sure to pass! I did that for Form 5 too and even scored an A!
However, History was still the British version unlike what we have today. We learned Colonial History and History of the British Empire. We learned about Ancient Civilizations. We learned very little of Malaysian/Malayan History as there was so little of it except from book written by Englishmen! Parameswaran was a Hindu Prince then and Hang Tuah and Hang Jebat were heroes! I have often been involved in arguments with younger people over this! They do not learn what I learned in the past about these same characters!
In this episode I tried to give you an idea of what being in lower secondary was like. It was not so much the subject matter but who your teacher was that made you remember enough facts to pass your crucial examination! The teaching methods (Pedagogy) may be unique but it was effective, at least, for me. Learning was fun despite the threat of a major examination. Why so? It was so because our teachers made it fun! Even the whacking on the back with reprimands of “Idiots” and “stupid rascal” never deterred us from wanting to study and perform well.
What has changed today? Should a teacher lay a finger on a pupil the press will make a big issue out of it, police reports would be made and politicians will cry blue murder. I too have cried for the ‘blood’ of some teachers who went beyond the point of decency in handling students (especially girl students). Times have changed and teachers no longer can do what their own teachers did. I would accept a lot of things teachers did to my son but I don’t think he would accept the same being done to his children.
Do we call those days when I was in Lower Secondary school the ‘good old days’ or the ‘bad old days’? It depends on who is reading this. You share your comments on this, please.
Today we’re featuring the 3rd installment of UV’s Schooling Days.
Picture of the ACS Primary Building (from the 1800s), taken from the Kinta Valley book.
I didn’t do too well in my first year in ACS Ipoh. I was placed in the ‘B’ class the following year. It knocked the pride out of me and possibly the high expectations my parents had of me. It also set me off, young as I was then, to accept disappointments and being taken down a peg or two. I settled in easily in the new ‘B’ stream. Practically all schools stream their students according to their academic performance during that time. There would be class positions and ‘Standard’ positions based on the total marks of all the subjects. So if you are first in class in the ‘A’ stream you may be first in Standard but should there be someone from the other streams obtaining a higher total than you, you may end up being second in Standard. Nobody wants to be the last in class (even in the best class) or worse still, last in the Standard!
It was this system of evaluating a pupil that started this silly race to be academically ‘excellent’ in our Malaysian education system. Parents talked about their children having obtained this or that position in school. “O, my son was first in class”, a proud parent would proclaim proudly while another would sheepishly say, “My son only came out 10th.” So what if he is first or tenth or for that matter last? Is his future determined by the so-called ‘position in class and Standard?
Mixing with boys who ‘were not so clever’ so to speak widened my outlook in life more. It proves to me that I am also someone who is not at the top all the time. My desire to lead a life of a boy in the Fifties just started then. The pressure was off and I could do with the minimum of studies and get by. I started playing games amongst my neighbourhood friends; go on cycle rides every evening and practically the whole day on weekends. Life was great!
I had my first sex education in Standard 4B in ACS Ipoh. There were some ‘naughty’ boys who would tell you tales of ‘sexual exploits’ (more like peeping) that they had experienced and one even showed what masturbation was in class! (I hope I am not censored.). Yes, during the Fifties we were not so fortunate as to get all the pornography via the Internet. It was all related through word of mouth from ‘experiences’ someone had. All the innocent ones (me included) would listened attentively to ‘juicy’ tales from the more ‘experienced’ fellas.
I had a lady class teacher then, Mrs Lee Hoo Keat, the daughter of Mr Aw Boon Jin, our Junior Supervisor. ACS was divided into Primary, Junior and Secondary then. Mrs Lee was a tall lady and would often come to class dressed in ‘samfoo’ (a Chinese form of attire made up of a pair of pants [straight cut] and a short blouse of the same floral cotton material. While she teaches, she would be seated behind her teacher’s desk and she would cross her legs and swing the leg that was placed above the other. Eventually, her shoes, which she put on loosely, would fly off her foot and fly out of her desk region and someone has to send it back to her. The boy seated at the front of the row that was nearest to her desk has this task.
Our English teacher was Mr Aw Boon Jin and we would dread his periods. Every mistake we make would be ‘rewarded’ with a swipe of his thin cane that he carried around across our palm. I learned my English Grammar and spelling very well those days. Even worse would be detention after school for serious and repeated mistakes. I was detained once and my brothers left me behind and I had to walk home. It was a lesson well learned.
History was taught by Mr. Wong Chong Choon (we nicknamed him ‘Choon Toi’ because he was rather mean to us). He would from the first day of his History lesson about the Bronze Age asked us “What is bronze?!” For weeks that would go on and none of us ‘stupid’ fellas could answer him. This would go on for practically a whole term and he would never give us the answer. I think I did not find out exactly what bronze was until very much later. I remembered this teacher in particular also because he made a classmate of ours stand on a chair with his pants off as a punishment! I can’t imagine what would happen to a teacher who does this today!
In Standard 5, I once had a hockey stick landing on my head by a teacher for talking while he was teaching. I too will never forget him. He was Mr. Ng Pak Hing, a brother of the famous Dr. Ng Yoke Hing, Chairman of the Board of Governors of ACS Ipoh. I never told my parents about this incident until I left school. Luckily I must have had a thick skull then. Punishments were dished out in all sorts of forms those days and we do not go crying back to our parents for obvious reasons. Our parents will blame us for being naughty and that was why the teachers punished us. We also took our punishment like a man and would consider it sissy to tell our parents.
In Standard Five, I had a very interesting teacher. He was Mr. Robert Leong. He runs a small shop in Anderson road (half a shop) selling comics and other gadgets. Because of his outside trade, he would tell us fantastic tales from comic characters like Superman and Captain Marvel. These characters come to live the way he told the stories with gestures, facial expressions and ‘sound effects’ (made from his vocal organs only). This would then make us interested in the comics he sold. No, I am not saying he sold them in class too! We would then go out and hunt for them and long for each new one. He was very creative too as he would invent new stories and characters with superpower. Once he told us how his ‘hero’ could fly because he ate lots of onions and let off gas to propel him into the sky!
Yes, we had some interesting teachers then. Soon it was the year for the Secondary School Entrance Examinations. If you fail this examination, you cannot get into Secondary School. You would become a Primary School dropout! The year was already 1957. It would be Merdeka soon. The Examination would be post Merdeka. By the time I was admitted to ACS Ipoh the Primary School Grading System had already been changed. It was from Standard 1 to Standard 6. (Primary 1 and 2 were dropped and the old system of Standard 1 to 9 abandoned. Secondary school started from Form 1 to 5 as it is today with Lower and Upper Six for those who wanted to go further to Universities.)
I took my studies more seriously by then. I spent more time reading and learning but still played a lot with my neighbourhood friends. I continued with my model making hobby and played with self-made toy soldiers and table-soccer. I too was very creative and imaginative in the way I created my own play things and battle scenarios. I use my bed, mattress, blanket and pillows to create battle terrains of various types for my mock battles that would last hours. I love to read war comics. Since my brother-in-law was an ardent fan of those war comics depicting battles of World War II, I had the opportunity to read lots of them. These gave me a very good background of military tactics and strategies and reading books about pilots (Biggles) and war heroes was my craze.
The end result of my taking my studies seriously was I passed very well and for a ‘B’ class boy to end up with the 12th position in Standard was a surprised to my teachers. I remembered Mr. Ng Ah Fook announcing the result to my class and when he called out my name and position and I was not really overjoyed, he showed a shocked face. I had never been excessively overjoyed by any major successes in the academic field no matter how good the results may be. To me, it was merely another hurdle to cross and the next one to face.
Here’s the 2nd Episode from UV-Valiant Knight.
The Central Mental Hospital, TR. This picture was taken in 1952; the Writer’s mother is seated next to the Matron (an English Lady).
Aerial view of the ACS School, Ipoh
Mr. Samuel Welch later joined the newly formed Royal Malaysian Air Force and became a very high ranking officer before retiring. He married a woman police officer, Blossom Wong, who became famous when she was the bodyguard of Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Malaysia.
I remembered the time when Mr. Welch was teaching us English and we were reading from the reader a story about Red Riding Hood and he wanted to dramatize the story. He got some of us to act out the various parts. Unfortunately, I was given the role of Red Riding Hood and had a handkerchief for a headscarf and rosy cheeks plastered on by using a red chalk! From that day, my classmates always teased me and being new and quiet, I was nicknamed a sissy! I only managed to rid myself of this ‘title’ in Standard Four when I took on the class bully in a fist fight!
This class bully was much taller and of a bigger size than most of us and he would pick a fight with anyone at any time. I decided to put a stop to this and decided that the only way to get him out of my back was to fight back. Fist fight was common in boys schools then. Disputes would be settled with a fist fight that eventually would end up as a wrestling match. Usually the weaker boys would be beaten up, have their shirt and pants dirtied or torn, sometimes they would end up with a black eye or two black eyes, a bloodied nose and swollen cauliflower ears. I was lucky to end up with a dirtied shirt and had to answer to my parents as to why it was so.
Fights in school were not tolerated and if we were to be caught, we could be caned by the Supervisor or the Discipline Teacher. Mr. Aw Boon Jin was the Junior Primary Supervisor (as he was called then) and he has a thin cane that would land smack on your open palm. It was a real sting and one would carry the cane mark for at least a day. One has to hide this from one’s parents or else one would get another caning at home!
I was saved by the bell that ended our recess (a short break for pupils to ease themselves and have a bite to eat). Pupils in primary schools usually bring along some packed food from home with a bottle of drink. Most students then would use a tomato sauce bottle that would contain a pint (we were using the British Measuring System then) of drink. I love coffee and this was the drink of the family. Real black coffee from ground fresh coffee beans would go into the brewing of the drink. I suppose that’s how Ipoh White Coffee became so famous today. Most Ipoh folks were great drinkers of coffee. We never had Tupperware then and we make do with containers made of metal that once contained sweets or biscuits. They were of all shapes and sizes and displayed colourful pictures of people or scenery.
Big bullies would demand a share of one’s food or drink. Many pupils would rush to the canteen (also known as the ‘tuckshop’ in ACS Ipoh) to buy some food and a drink. One could easily get a bowl or plate of noodles/rice for ten cents and a drink for five cents. In ACS Ipoh then, we had to line up to exchange our coins for tokens (made of metal) and use these tokens to buy food from the various hawkers. The ‘contractor’ (one who runs the cateen) was the late Mrs. Ng Ah Fook, the wife of a teacher in the school. Mr. Ng Ah Fook later became the Headmaster of the ACS Primary School.
There were various stalls in the canteen. Since recess was short and there were hundreds of us from each session (Lower Primary would have their recess first, followed by Junior Primary and then Lower Secondary and Upper Secondary), the bowls and plates of food would all be dished out and neatly arranged on the counter of each stall and all we had to do was take one and pay with our metal token and go to the side for the soup to be added if it is a soup noodle bowl we took. There were hardly any changes in menu! Day in and day out we ate the same stuff. Next we would queue up for a drink and this was when we had to be very careful not to spill our drinks. If it should spill on someone, a fight may result there and then and we would not get to eat or drink that day. Worse still, we would be hauled up for caning.
To avoid all the hazels, most meek and mild pupils will bring their own food. After all, home cooked food is always the best and you can sit anywhere to eat. There was no rules to say one has to go to the canteen to eat. One could bring any kind of food, too. There was no such thing as ‘halal’ or ‘haram’ food.
Most pupils will also use the interval time to ease themselves. ACS was and still is, notorious for poor toilet facilities. At my time, there was only a toilet way behind next to the Horley Hall (hostel for outstation pupils) and it was so far away that one had to run there and back if one wanted to eat as well during the break. Then, it was so small that not all can use it at once and a long queue would result. Inside was an open system where all the boys would line up on two sides of the building and pee into a drain that runs the length of the building. Sporadically, water would sprinkle from a lead pipe that runs about 4 feet from the floor and if you are unlucky, water might splash onto your shoes or pants while you are peeing! The stench was overwhelming. If you have to do the ‘big one’ you have to wait even longer for your turn and you wouldn’t want to eat after you have finished. The flush system would not work so regularly for each user! So the excreta of the previous user would remain while you add yours and so forth.
Yes, life in the Primary School has lots of interesting events. These are common, I suppose in all schools during the early Fifties. We only had a few teachers and they taught us various subjects. Specialization was not common. Our class teacher would normally teach us the important subjects like English, Mathematics, Geography and History. For Art we would have a different teacher as this subject needed talent on the teacher’s part. During my time, there was this old teacher, Mr. Wong Hean Lin who would remain in his Art Room and we would all move to his room to learn drawing and painting.
Most of the time he would give us a topic for imaginative composition and we spend about two periods producing something on a large piece of art paper. We had to bring our own pencils, water colour, brushes and water containers (usually a small glass bottle [Brands Essence of Chicken bottles were the first choice then]. After each lesson we had to wash our brushes, palettes and containers and this would be the time for some bullies or cheeky characters to flick their brushes still wet with colours on someone’s shirt or pants. Here again a fight would start!
Serious fights might at times occur. If such a fight was scheduled, it would usually be arranged for the fighters to meet after school behind the famous gymnasium of ACS Ipoh. This way out corner of the school was selected because it was secluded and out of the way from the school’s office and Principal’s house. All those with news of the fight would gather and it would be a real show then. Very often, it would only be stopped when one of the fighters plea for mercy! It could be rather bloody at times, being fought with bare fists!