Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Town that Tin Built Too and My Childhood Memories

I was born in Ipoh in September, 1960. 

As an Ipoh boy I have lots of childhood memories about this prosperous city that tin built. But in this short write-up, I would like to gather my thoughts on my childhood experiences in Taiping, a heritage town that tin built too.

Ipoh Old Town, 1960s
I belong to the generation X or Gen X. In the West, Gen X is used to define the generation born after the post World War II baby boom ended. But as far as Malaya is concerned I prefer to use it in relation to the baby boom just after Merdeka or Independence Day in 1957 up to 1980, which is not much different to the Western concept anyway. So, if you are born in this era, you are a Gen X, and most of the earlier group of Gen X, especially those educated from English or missionary schools articulate well in English, hence this write-up.

And I digress…

I have fond memories of Taiping town. I vividly remember my naive observation of the heritage buildings, the museum, the zoo, the prison walls, the rows of pre-war shop houses, the British named roads, the lake gardens, the occasional fun fairs and the theatres showing Hindi movies and Western spaghettis. To me, this is fun city life, not much different from Ipoh, the city where I was brought up most of my childhood years.

But after living in Taiping for about a year in 1966, where I got my early childhood education at All Saints Kindergarten, Kamunting, I felt a sense of yearning. For once, at age 6, I felt like being accepted to this place, as I have never really had a friend before, and here I made friends with a few lads who really touched my heart. But, sad to say I can't remember any of them except for this boy named Aziz, who is also a neighbor in the kampong where I live. I don’t really know why I liked him very much but he talks a lot and I just listened. I remember when it’s time of the year the school session ends, I cried because I know, Aziz and I were going to part, but that’s all I can recall.

Taiping 1960s
As a child living in Taiping, I also frequent this old house or quarters, as they called it then, in the vicinity of the lake gardens, where my uncle and aunt lived once. This house is built on wooden stilts, with the rooms and living on the upper part and the kitchen on the ground, attached to a maid room and a store. It also has an office flanking it, and I could see once in a while my uncle would go to this place and would not return until late afternoon. He works there, I suppose, to which I later learned that he works at the Penghulu's Office, and I believe he is the Penghulu of Taiping.

In front of this house is a small field and at the end of the field is a stage where they perform musical shows or dance performances on weekends. Across the road is the children’s playground and the playground is part of the lake gardens. This is the spot where KEVII secondary boys would start their weekly morning cross-country runs around the lake gardens, every Mondays in the 70s.

If you have accessed this blog post from Facebook from Kelab Cinta Taiping, I suppose by now you know why I posted the earlier status in KCT group asking about the names or list of Taiping Penghulus around 1960-70. Actually, I have a bad time growing up as my physical build and social skills are a bit on the slow side as compared to normal kids. 

As a kid I am small and skinny and a very shy person. I am only able to make friends with small, skinny and timid looking boys like me. Bigger boys would shy away from me as I would not look good walking around or talking with them, especially in front of girls or other bigger boys they envy. Bigger and good looking boys would prefer to gang-up with boys their size and with better looks and that is a fact of life.

I don’t know about my mental ability back then but as far as I know I think it is normal as I can start reading in the early days of primary one. Anyway, remembering people’s names and their relation to me is one of my biggest problems. I know how to address them, calling them with their name protocol and how to behave if I am taught how, but I really do not know how to have a conversation with older people.

I wish not put blame on my parents, as my mum passed away when I was barely 6 months past my 2nd birthday and my dad was too busy with work, he left me with my aunt most of the time. And most of the time when I was staying with my aunt, I was out playing with friends or cousins.

Once in a while, and probably as frequent as once in a month, dad would drive his car together with me to Taiping to be with his closest family, her eldest sister. Not many people own a car in the 60s, and if you happen to have one, you are regarded as rich.

Hillman Minx, the type my father drove in the 60s
I am the only child in the family then. When mum died, dad remained unmarried until I was 6 years old. Dad always looks sad and seldom talks to me, and I guess he was distraught about mum passing away so early in life. The only few times I remembered Dad talking to me was when he is angry about my being mischievous or not listening to his orders. And the only time he talks a lot was when he is with his eldest sister, Azizah, whom I call Mama.

In Ipoh, our home is a small 2-room wooden structure and asbestos roof built on low concrete stilts, with a concrete kitchen and the bathroom on the ground portion of the house. Every time dad says we are going to Taiping, I felt happy, as I like to be on the move in a car. I love to view the countryside, the hills and the padi fields alongside the small trunk road leading to Taiping. The drive would take some 4 or 5 hours and every time, we would stop by Kuala Kangsar either for a snack or visit a family member nearby the Malay College.

I would remember the names of the small towns and landmarks along the old highway from Ipoh to Taiping – after passing Ipoh town, dad would drive along Jalan Kuala Kangsar to Tasik, Chemor, Kg. Kanthan, Sg Siput, Kg Salak Baru, Kg Enggor, the Iskandar Bridge, Kota Lama Kiri, Kuala Kangsar, Kg. Talang, Padang Rengas, Bukit Berapit, Bukit Gantang, Changkat Jering, Air Kuning, Pokok Assam, Taiping and finally Kamunting.  

To be continued