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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teachers' Training College, Kirkby, Liverpool:Reliving memories. Part 2. Orientation and Sick Bay

Teachers' Training College Kirkby, Liverpool:Reliving Memories

Part 2. Orientation and Sick Bay

The next morning, cold and exhausted, I peered sleepily through the frosty panes and noticed the buildings were still in dark shadows and the ground was covered with a white mantle.

The buildings were still in dark shadows and the ground was covered in
a white mantle.

 We were told to gather at the recreation hall and so we tread our way gingerly along the slippery pavement to a murky, brick building.  Our most honourable senior sirs and ladies had already lined up along the dimly-lit corridor to give us a ‘warm and rousing welcome’.  Years on, their raucous shouts of ‘WALK FASTER FRESHIES, THIS IS ENGLAND NOT MALAYA’ still ring in my ears. Once inside the hall, I spotted more seniors prowling the floor like vultures that were about to pounce on unsuspecting preys.  The hall was gradually filled with a cacophony of voices.

“Where is your manner, 'freshie'!”

“Zip that smile,' freshie'!”

“Kowtow to Big Brother, 'freshie'!”
( 'Big Brother' was just a papier mache face mask which was mounted on the wall of the main recreation hall} 

A papier mache face mask was mounted on the wall

“Your ribbon has wilted , 'freshie'! Make sure you water and iron it.”

(Each 'freshie' had to wear a green bow which had to be kept in pristine condition throughout the one month orientation period.)

A green bow which the 'freshie' had to wear

“Don’t you dare sneak into sickbay! Charlie the ghost will be waiting for you there.”
( 'Charlie' was perhaps the creation of a senior with a fertile imagination who wanted to deter 'freshies' from seeking sanctuary in the safety of the sickbay)

Those were words that would become familiar to our ears during the course of the orientation.  Above the threats, the sound of strident shouts, shrill screams and boisterous laughter rang and echoed round the hall.
Some of our senior persecutors were in their elements and   their endless torments left many of their victims seething with anger and some had to muster their utmost self-restraint, lest they let fly a knock-out punch on their tormentor’s face. The junior ladies too had their fair share of ‘entertainment’ and many were left teary-eyed at the end of the day.
I remember when we were finally allowed to return to our Blocks, I would pause outside the hall to get my bearings, as the orientation had not only left me disorientated, but the dimly-lit road and fog made the Blocks almost indistinguishable.

On the college campus on a cold winter day

The Blocks were almost indistinguishable

About a week into the orientation, in spite of the threats and spooky tales I found myself in the college sickbay. 

The college sickbay where students seek treatment for minor illness and injuries.
Photo: Courtesy of Vin Quen who is seen here with Matron.

 At first there were a few juniors to keep me company, but as they were gradually discharged, I found myself the only patient in the sickbay. At night, as I listened to the howling wind and heard the rattling of the window panes, they would conjure image of ‘Charlie’.

The sounds conjured image of 'Charlie'

One morning I asked Sister if I could be discharged.
“No, young man, you are not going anywhere,” she replied.

While I was having a quiet sojourn in the sickbay, the other 'freshies' were busy preparing for a fancy dress parade. Items that were considered suitable for costumes or accessories were hastily collected, stored and jealously guarded. Even the lid of a trash can became a prized possession. On the morning of the 'freshies' parade, all the 'freshies', garbed in their creations, gathered outside their respective Blocks where their acting skills were put to test by their 'honorable senior sirs and ladies'.

'Freshies' in their fancy dress costumes outside Block8
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

'Freshies' posing with 'senior sir', Huang Soon Ngak
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

Two 'freshies' displaying their acting talent
Can you recognise them?
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

When I was finally allowed to leave the sickbay, I found out I was just in time to attend the crowning of the' freshie’s queen'  and the 'debowing' ceremony.  After a seemingly long month of taking meticulous care of our green bow, we were finally about to be relieved of the task. Each 'freshie' had been assigned a senior from the opposite sex to remove the green bow  _ the bow to signify our 'freshness' and lowly status.

Seniors busy 'debowing' the 'freshies'.
Are you in the photo?
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

"Now, you're a junior," senior lady, Zahorin bte. Hj. Mohd. Arof tells
'freshie', Tan Ooi Tee, as she removes the green bow from his lapel
Photo credit: Ooi- Tee

The moment the 'debowing' ceremony ended there were warm handshakes, big hugs and embraces among the seniors and juniors. Our ‘enemies’ had become our friends; our ‘persecutors’ were now our protectors. We realised that most of the threats, taunts and humiliating acts we had to  undergo during the orientation were meant to teach us social etiquette and to remind us to always remain humble, irrespective of our achievement and social status.  The seeds of friendship planted during the seemingly endless cold winter would grow and blossom into a friendship that would last a lifetime.  

Related article: Click below link

Part 3.

Academic work and teaching practice  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Malayan Teachers' Training College, Kirkby. Liverpool: Reliving memories

Malayan Teachers' Training College, Kirkby, Liverpool: Reliving memories
( Part 1: The Journey )


 Kuala Lumpur to Liverpool

A sunny, December morning of  1958, found me walking with mixed emotion towards a waiting BOAC plane at the Sungai Besi airport in Kuala Lumpur.  Halfway across the tarmac I paused to look and wave at the indistinct figures at the viewing gallery as my mum, uncle and auntie were among the many other parents, relatives and friends who were watching their loved ones boarding a plane that would transport us 8,000 miles to our new home at the Malayan Teachers' Training College in Kirkby, Liverpool.  

Boarding the plane

Once on board the plane, finding myself surrounded by strangers, a twinge of apprehension gripped me. As soon as the plane was air-borne two brothers, John and Lawrence came to introduce themselves while around me I could hear boisterous laughter and see young, smiling faces. In the company of 149 jovial and   high-spirited young Malayans my initial apprehension soon disappeared. While our first group left on December 1958, the second group left on 7th January 1959.
My friend, Robert who was on board the second flight  remember the journey as he was entrusted with a heavy responsibility.   
"  I was up the front of the plane playing my important duty for Rosalyn Chew's fiance' --I sat next to her, guarding unwelcome wolves who might want to get fresh with Roz who was engaged before leaving for Kirkby. Others on the plane was mainly from Penang and Perak -- people I recall vividly are Tien Chong, Lean Aing, Vincent Lowe, Bella Ho, Joo Suat, Peggy Fong, Susan Lau, Lye Meng, Lionel Koh and Kam Hon."  

My friend, Ooi-tee,  who was also on board the second flight can  recall another incident.
" The plane had just taken off from Karachi when the cabin was filled with the long crow of a rooster and the bleat of a sheep. I traced the source of the barnyard noises to two turbaned individuals. The stewardess warned them to stop the racket, but her warning fell on deaf ears. The captain was duly summoned and he warned them that they would be sent home from Bahrain if they did not stop their barnyard noises. Teary eyed, they watched in stunned silence as the captain calmly strode back to the cockpit with their seized passports"


The BOAC plane which ferried us to London
As there was no direct flight to London those days, we had to make a number of stopovers along the way.

Our flight route

 Our first stopover was at Bangkok airport where we were able  to stretch our weary legs while those with cameras took the opportunity to take snapshots of their new-found  friends.

A bevy of beauties. Photo credit: Robert Tay

 The plane then made a night stopover in Calcutta and we all checked into a  hotel.

Robert: " I remember, I was put in a very large room, all alone by myself."

   At dusk we took a stroll along a street to take in the sights and sounds of the city. I noticed the street was filled with a seething mass of humanity.  Unattended cows, settled comfortably in the middle of the street while others wandered aimlessly among the bustling crowd. Street sleepers could be seen getting ready for the night. 

A seething mass of humanity. Photo credit: Calcutta 1959. by Che Guevera
While those of us on the first flight made stopovers at Bahrain and Rome, those on the second flight, I was told by my friend, Ooi-tee, made a further stopover at Karachi.

Stopover at Karachi
Standing  L to R:: Manasseh, Ramakrishnan, Tan Ooi Tee, Balwant Singh
Kneeling: Cheng Swee, Ajit Singh
Photo courtesy of Ooi-tee

At Karachi Airport
Lto R: Teong Kooi, Lye Meng, Monica, Siew Leng
Photo courtesy of Ooi-tee

At Karachi Airport
From Lto R: Tan Ooi Tee, Cheng Swee, Monica Phang, Amy Grace Tekkah
Lau Siew Suan, Chow Lye Meng
Photo courtesy of Ooi-tee, 

 When we landed in Rome, we could feel a sudden chill and there was a buzz of excitement when some of us spotted ice particles on the plane's glass windows.

We arrived at Gatwick airport in the middle of a bitterly cold English winter and boarded a  train for the long journey to Liverpool. After five decades, all I can remember about the journey is the hiss and chug of the engine and the occasional long, lonesome blast of the horn as the steam locomotive made its way through the cold and dreary winter night.

A British steam locomotive. Photo credit: Tony Woodward archive

 Those in the second group was met on their arrival at Gatwick airport by Mr. Struthers who guided them to a waiting coach and accompanied them on the long night journey to Kirkby College.

Mr. Struthers welcoming the students on board a coach at Gatwick Airport (Jan 8, 1959)
Photo courtesy of Ooi-tee.

Arrival at 'kampung Kirkby'

As the coach that transported us from the railway station rolled through the main gate and came to a halt at the campus ground, all I could see through the veil of low-hanging  fog was the murky shapes of  buildings that resemble an army barrack. ( later I learned during the War the place was used as accommodation for army and police personnel; medical students; hospital workers; and lorry drivers). 

'Kampung Kirkby' , Liverpool

Our seniors in the welcoming committee were on hand to welcome and assist us. Our luggage was efficiently and expediently delivered to our respective rooms and we soon found ourselves following doggedly  behind their confident footsteps as they guided us to our rooms. Each of us was allotted a room which was furnished with a single bed, a metal wardrobe, a writing table and a chair. A hot water pipe which ran along one side of the wall provided us the much needed heat through the cold winter night.

Outside the room, light snow was drifting down from a grey, darkening sky and although  excited and enthralled at the magical sight, I had one eye on the bed with its irresistible warmth and comfort. The moment I was left alone in the room, I changed hurriedly into my long johns, put on extra warm clothing and tugged myself under the layers of woolen blankets.     

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