Memories By Ridzuan Halim
Memories of MC Teachers circa 1964 (thoughts while looking at a staff photo kindly provided by Bahar Mansor)
Important Note: All persons, alive or dead, referred to below are fictitious and any similarities to be found are purely coincidental.
Ustaz Nawawi: The first thing that strikes you is his bald head. He is somewhat short and has a prominent nose. He is kindly and not very demanding which explains why many never learn their Koran well. Anyway with stars, fully learned and with a (very) mature resonant voice like YM Engku Hashim to read the Koran so well, with all the tajwid and idram ma'a ronah in place, who needs you!
Ustaz Rahman: He replaced Ustaz Zihin who went on to become a lawyer, a politician and now chairs a public listed company. Ustaz Rahman, a graduate of Kolej Islam Klang, knows English and features prominently in the Islamic revival of some Kolej students. For some that became a life-long enterprise. I remember him also for taking us to Cangkat (Jering? Jerlun?) just outside Taiping. We went into the deep logging tracks, had kenduris (shared talam) and of course the famous local durians. He also accompanied (mastered) us for a picnic at Ulu Kenas where I started swimming. You should see how good Anis Ahmad was with the dog paddle (maklumlah budak kampong).
Mr Leong: Did two stints at Kolej before and after going to University of Malaya. Joined Kolej fresh from MTC Penang and taught us Science. Along with him came Mr Mah Chor Yong and Mr Liew (all Penangites). He is quiet, hardworking and studious looking. Mr Leong's class experienced the 'Bunsen Burner' incident on which Charlie wrote for the School Magazine.
Mr Tara Singh: A Science teacher, rather strict and with nice well combed hair. He left Kolej to do an Arts course at University of Malaya but returned to Kolej due to health reasons. It seems that during ragging week (ragging quite severe then) he was interrogated by a senior as to some unhealthy goings-on at Kolej. He said, "No Sir, I'm not involved, I was their teacher". The senior said, "You teacher, you must be lagi teruk!"
Mr Bala: Also served two stints at Kolej, before and after going to M.U. Friendly, noisy and very active in games. He was very close to Mr Sandragasan (a graduate history teacher). Mr Bala, after retirement, was appointed a member of the Education Service Commission. A strong Kolej supporter.
Tuan Syed Bakar: Tuan Syed replaced Mr Tai. Mr Tai and Tuan Syed is a study in contrasts like the difference between traditional art and Picasso. One is strict, while the other is undisciplined; one has straight well-groomed hair and the other has long, wavy, unkempt hair. The tidy Art room soon became unkempt. Rumour has it that the Art Room was even used as a smoking den by some (please get confirmation from Charlie). Dato Mahsun, a fervent artist trying to really paint was often disturbed by such smoking activity. Dato Mahsun later married Tuan Syed's sister. I remember going to Tuan Syed's house at Pokok Asam, Taiping with Joe Baker in order to watch 'The Dirty Dozen' at a cinema there. I recall that Tuan Syed's mum was very strict with and concerned over him. She is still very concerned over him. Tuan Syed had many jokes, most of which I can't tell in writing. Talking of strict haircuts (remember the obsession with haircuts) Tuan Syed related that at a girls' school in England, the duty teacher goes about her inspection with a mirror attached to a long stick. She would go around holding the stick down and repeating "haircut", "haircut". Charlie still cannot forgive Tuan Syed for giving Dato Fuad higher marks than him for a drawing assignment. It seems that Fuad successfully projected 'anger' in his creation. Mr Tai to say the least was never impressed with Fuad's art works.
Tuan Syed put up superb illustrations for our Diamond Jubilee (1905-65) publication, making it a real collector's item.
Mr Liew: Also from Penang MTC (together with Mr Leong and Mr Mah) who taught us English in Form 2. He is gentle, considerate and somewhat quiet. He is the first person to introduce us to our own voices, having arranged for us to speak into the tape-recorder and playing it. That's when many of us discovered that our voices are not that attractive and serve to dispel any notions of a career in singing or politics.
Mr Felix Teh: A University of Malaya graduate, who did not teach C-66. He taught geography to the senior forms. Subsequently joined Malaysia-Singapore Airlines and now resides in Canada. A quite-spoken and good-looking chap.
Mr Ray Gieri: An American Peace Corps volunteer who served at Kolej 1963-65 and never really left after that. He became life-long friends of Tuan Syed Bakar, Mr Kamalandran, Mr Guy Palmer and Mr Neil Ryan. A mathematics masters graduate, he taught us Arts Students mathematics during Form Four. I must say he did quite a good job. But Encik Aziz thought otherwise and (according to Charlie) assigned Mr DK Gupta to repair the damage done. As a good all-American boy he was made to coach our basketball team, which during his tenure, managed to beat Chung Hwa High School. The stars then included our seniors Azmi Esa, Razman and Zamri. Recently Zamri, a captain with our national airline managed to upgrade the cikgu to first class. Well, there are some benefits to being a Kolej teacher. Mr Ray Gieri after Kolej had a lifelong career with the United Nations, retiring recently as the CEO of the UN Pensions organization. At the time of writing Mr Ray Gieri is on one of his regular trips to Malaysia, during which he attended Dato' Sallehudin Hashim's wedding, Pa Din's (Khairuddin Yunus) daughter's wedding and sadly enough the funeral of the late Encik Muzaffar (D.J) Tate.
Mr Bob Bojanowsky: Also a Peace Corp volunteer who taught science. I remember him only vaguely. I recall a talk given by him to the Junior Union on the subject of cancer. The photograph revealed him as a handsome chap. Lately I’ve learned that he made quite an impression on the local ladies.
Mr Mah Chor Yong: as mentioned, one of the Penang MTC trio including Mr Leong and Mr Liew. Mr Mah taught science. He was a keen and enthusiastic teacher too keen for those who had a dislike for the subject. I remember he spoke with a certain dialect. He would say 'ekjamin' for 'examine' and 'kondenksashen' for 'condensation'. My most memorable experience was during avid preparations carried out for the annual speech day and exhibitions. He was putting up an exhibit in which hydrogen was produced, which when air (oxygen) gives out a 'pop' sound. He was probably a bit nervous before turning up the Bunsen Burner was greatly irritated when a few fellas, including Ahmad Ibrahim, keep saying out "pop", "pop". He gave a stern warning to everyone around and all became quiet. Just as he was turning the burner again, in walks Me'e (Ismail Ibrahim the future pharmacist) who obviously knew the experiment and unhesitatingly called out "pop". Mr Mah gave the future pharmacist a tight slap.
Y.M. Raja Raffnan: Raja Raffnan taught us geography in the lower forms. He is a member of the Perak Royalty and had a fondness for cars and car-racing. We used to see him in action racing at the polo padang. He walks with a slight limp from a motor accident. I came to know rather well his brother who served in Bank Negara Malaysia. Raja Raffnan died in 2003.
Mr Nadarajah: I can't remember him much even though he must have taught us. He was a heavy smoker and was somewhat quiet. He was awarded a 'Tokoh Guru' award by the Ministry of Education before his retirement. He died a few years back.
Encik Rubian: A Perak man, he was the Kolej clerk. During our early years he was responsible for distributing pocket money to us, weekly-sums of RM 10 to 20 for us to purchase supplies like toothpaste, Vaseline, Cola-Cola (from Pak Yan), spectacles and the like. The lucky ones like Wan Ahmad Kamal and Fathil Mahmud used to have fabulous sums. Encik Rubian's arrival at class not only meant a welcome interruption to a boring class, it also signalled the coming to an end of the study week. We would give him a hearty and draggy welcome "Selamat pagi Che Rubiee'een'. I can remember distinctly Bahar Mansor's roar. Encik Rubian was somewhat obese and had difficulty walking.
Encik Azahari: Also the school clerk, he was a tennis star in his young days. He had a fine moustache and moved about quickly, reflecting his sportsman past. Later we came to know that he was somewhat of a war hero. At the onset of the Japanese occupation he had the foresight to hide, thereby preserving the college sports trophies and other valuables in the well. Otherwise these would have been lost to the Japanese army who used the Kolej premises as their local headquarters. Many College boys used to hear shouts in the middle of the night, apparently the spirits of those who had undergone the notorious Japanese water torture. Surprisingly, I do not recall having had any transaction or contact with Encik Azahari. (Some of us had more contacts with Mat and another office boy who had the duty to summon the recalcitrants for the best of the six).
Mr Yoong Khoon Weng: A tall, slim teacher who beneath his strict exterior had a keen sense of humour. Quite capable of giving a sharp pinch on the stomach. I recall he had a VW. His name is often mentioned till now by C-66 as he is the inspiration for a nickname given to Professor Zainal Abidin Shariff, one of our top scholars.
Mr C Kamalandran: This handsome Ceylonese sportsman is well liked by all and is arguably closest to C-66. He taught English, Malayan Studies and instructed P.E as well. He is Tuan Syed's classmate at King Edwards VII Taiping and at Teacher's College and they remain fast friends till today. Charlie loves to relate how he, in all innocence, asked Mr Kamal, "Sir, what is the meaning of 'frost'", during a reading of John Buchan's The Thirty Nine Steps. Mr Kamal's answer was a terse, "Mount" (his lingo for stand on the chair). Charlie never forgot this harsh treatment and had his revenge two years later. He organized an exchange between Science 1 and Science 2 classes, with each one sitting at the same seat position on April Fool's day. Mr Kamal did not realise he was teaching the wrong bunch till almost the end of the period. Mrs Tina Kamal, the better half, was a familiar lady at our concerts and assisted in the school choir. Her favourites were Shagul Hamid, Johari Abas and Y.M. Raja Ahmad Tajudin Shah (RATS). Dr Anis musical skills came rather too late. Charlie was rejected for the choir and during psychoanalytic sessions he underwent in New Zealand years later it was revealed that the choir rejection was deeply implanted in his subconscious. After leaving teaching Mr Kamal joined Texas Instruments where his close colleague was our very own batch coordinator DZ (Dzul). As for me, we are neighbours at Section 5, Petaling Jaya and regularly cross each other on our walks.
Mr Ang Tong Seng: I must say I do not know Mr Ang at all except that as Pavilion Master he was rather strict and somewhat aloof. The Science fellas would have some nice tales about him as like all our teachers he has his share of eccentricities.
Guy Palmer: Taught physics under the VSO (Volunteer Service Organization British equivalent of the Peace Corps). He had a full life at the Kolej. He initiated the Auto Club and managed to obtain a stripped down car for the members. I believe the club helped to inspire the late Tan Sri Yahaya Ahmad to take up auto engineering and the rest as they say is history. He was also one of the lip-sync Beatles which created such a sensation in Kuala Kangsar. Some of us also remember his thickly accented words "are you threatening me!" in a play which he acted. We all remember him as a very thin and energetic chap, so it was quite a shock to meet up with him at a Lake Club dinner hosted in his honour sometime in 2003. He's now quite plump, had given up his horn-rimmed glasses and had switched from autos to light aircraft. He had since married (still is) to the Penang Chinese girl he met while at KK. And he still keeps in regular touch with Mr Ray Gieri.
Note: Dear C-66 I am about half way through the staff photo now and will complete the rest in one to two weeks' time. Maklum lah, for a writer the inspiration or motivation does not come at one go. I have to draw up a skeleton first and can do the writing only about a week after that.
By the way in one of my The Edge articles recently I did include a reference to one of our classmates. That reminds me of a doctor classmate practising in a royal town. While attending to his many patients, his nurse interrupted him, whispering that he is being commanded to attend to some medical procedure at the Istana. Following the incident he issued a stern reprimand to the nurse, "Lain kali kalau Istana perintah buat apa cakap pelan-pelan, khabak kuat-kuat bagi semua orang dengak!"
Best wishes and Sincerest Salam to all.
Ridzuan Halim. January 2004