The Genesis of the Single Malt Whisky Club

What Seniors Who Really Live Do Differently

Some time ago, I read a very interesting book by Bob Buford titled: Finishing Well – What People Who Really Live Do Differently!  The book is based on his in-depth interviews with 60 remarkable and successful people in the United States.

The book details with amazing clarity a motivating set of best practices for those who are seeking to re-define their second lifetime, so to speak. This second lifetime is actually a wonderful opportunity to re-invent ourselves with a singular purpose for the post-retirement phase of our lives.

Downside of our Failure to Re-Invent Ourselves

Failure to re-invent ourselves at this juncture in our lives will certainly leave us that much poorer in spirit and quite lost in this fast-paced world of ours. Some seniors, unfortunately, have become grumpy, morose, irritable and quarrelsome individuals. They are a real pain to be with because they choose to focus on the negatives all the time. This is a situation of their own making but they are the last to realise this.

While in full-time employment, we often danced to the tune of our demanding employers and bosses, the reverse is actually true for us in retirement. In order to do just that, we have to get organised and plan for a variety of interesting programmes and activities. Nobody is going to do that for you if you are much too lazy or indifferent to do that for yourself!

Retirement, I say, is not the time for endless rests and siestas or even watching television programmes one after the other until we knock off in the armchair. Seniors too need to be proactive and stay active. And if a 93-year old doctor can answer the call to lead the Malaysian nation once again, we too must be up for the challenge.

Have Carefully Chosen to be Semi-Retired

This is our opportunity to plan for an enjoyable post-retirement phase.

In my case, I have carefully chosen to be semi-retired. I still enjoy the challenge of a tough management assignment; I also relish the chance to assist a friend or client with a speech; and I jump at the chance to conduct a training programme in my areas of expertise.

Most recently, I received an invitation to conduct a two-day training programme in Effective Public Relations sometime next month. I readily accepted the offer.

Then again, I also received an invitation a couple of days ago to conduct a training session on Business Writing Skills for a small group of women executives/managers in the Klang Valley. I have also signalled my acceptance in this case. Three months ago I was invited to address members of the Rotary Club of Damansara on the topic: Professionals and Professionalism.

All these activities and the fact that I blog regularly keep my mental faculties in top condition……….or so I hope!

Indulging in a Range of Physical Activities

On the other hand, I do not neglect the need for physical activities. I make it a point to go for brisk walks five times a week. Each walk lasts for about forty minutes in a small park in my neighbourhood.

In addition, my wife and I enjoy undertaking scenic drives to ‘ discover’ small towns and villages that we have heard about. We have undertaken such adventures to places like Fraser’s Hill, Kuala Kubu Bahru, Kuala Selangor, Port Dickson, Taiping, Kuala Terengganu etc.

In most cases, these are just day-long drives, but in some cases, we have stayed the night in the town. We did not have the luxury or the time to undertake such drives when we were working and the children were young. Our three adult children have flown from the nest and we are truly free to undertake such enjoyable trips on a regular basis.

On The Social Side of Activities

On the social side of activities, I personally like some variety.

I make it a point to attend at least three interesting tea talks or lectures on an annual basis. The most recent one was on the topic of “ Building Resilience – Ways to Draw on our Inner Strength “ by Maureen Goodman, programme director of Brahma Kumaris, United Kingdom.

In addition, I attend plays, musical shows and comedy programmes from time to time at Theatre Lounge Cafe in Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur; at PJ Live Arts Theatre in Jaya One, Petaling Jaya; and also at KL PAC Theatre in Sentul, Kuala Lumpur. The prices of tickets to attend these events are reasonable and there are ample parking facilities at these centres.

There are also a few groups that I meet with on a social basis periodically. They are my associates from the public relations fraternity; my friends from the Kiwanis Club of Kuala Lumpur; my former colleagues from the teaching profession as well as some of my former students; and also my college mates from my days at a small La Salle college in Penang called St Joseph’s Training College in Pulau Tikus, Penang.

Drinks and Bites Events

An attempt was made to have a social gathering at a well-known club in Kuala Lumpur over drinks and small bites. Initially, only about four others were invited. The event proved very popular and more such events were held always at this social club but with an increase in the number of attendees.

The attendees were all former teachers and former students who had studiously taken the trouble to stay in touch with a few of their former teachers. The initial group was made up of three former teachers and three former students.

The event would last for about three hours or so. The joy of fellowship was the key driver for these events and the subjects for informal conversation were usually topical issues of the day! This club also has a conducive ambience and a comfortable setting for the gathering.

Single Malt Whisky (SMW) Club

After about three such Drinks and Bites events, someone in the select group suggested that the group ought to morph into a ‘ Single Malt Whisky Club ‘. It was to be on a ‘by invitation only’ basis. There was unanimous agreement to the idea and soon, we had our first Single Malt Whisky Club gathering at the same club.

We would meet initially for a couple of cold beers in one part of the club and after about two hours, adjourn to a Chinese restaurant within the club for a leisurely dinner. Each member of the group would take turns by bringing a bottle of a SMW of his choice. The bill for the drinks and the dinner would then be split equally among the attendees.

Octogenarian, Septuagenarians and Sexagenarians

This has now been going on for about three years. The group has increased to eight individuals.  There is an octogenarian, a couple of septuagenarians and the youngest are sexagenarians.

Occupation wise, the attendees are a retired senior manager with a Swedish multinational, a retired general manager of a prominent US hotel chain in Malaysia, a retired but re-employed editor of a mainstream newspaper, a retired entrepreneur with a love for quality German cars, a gung-ho entrepreneur still in harness in a technology business, a retired senior manager, commerce with an established embassy, a passionate geographer and a semi-retired accountant who shuttles between Malaysia and Australia. The actual numbers attending a session may vary due to health or travel reasons but the group remains deliberately small for proper interaction.

Whisky Grand Master & the Rituals We Go Through

One among us is a true whisky connoisseur and he likes to surprise us with a range of expensive whiskies that he is familiar with. He will also normally brief us on the history of that particular liquid gold as well as advise us on the correct way to sip the first drink! He enjoys, by popular acclaim, an exalted Whisky Grand Master status among us.

Now, who says seniors do not know how to live and enjoy life? For this small group in the Klang Valley in Selangor, Malaysia, it is the fine art of living well but in moderation that holds great promise and excitement for them.

Moreover, good friends take on an even greater role and meaning in a post-retirement phase because we share a common past and a diminishing future. But for three or four glorious hours, we can all take a fun trip back to the past, share forgotten and hilarious stories and enjoy the warm fellowship and easy camaraderie. C’est la vie.

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Who Qualifies to be Considered a Friend?

Learning to differentiate between someone who is only a mere acquaintance and someone who is a true friend

I have come across a number of individuals who casually refer to someone they know as a friend when in actual fact that person is only a mere acquaintance. These individuals should be more careful about making such statements because of the ramifications that flow from conferring such an esteemed and exalted status on that person!

What is the big deal you may ask about this practice of calling someone a friend when he is not actually a friend?

Misrepresentation of that Person

It has a lot to do with the misrepresentation of that person. A few may take it that it is good or advantageous to get to know that person better since he is a friend of your friend. Others may boldly venture into a business deal with that person based on the fact that he is considered a friend of your friend.

But when that business venture goes down the drain and these individuals part company on unpleasant terms, you may be blamed. Of course, the individual concerned should have carried out his own due diligence. He should not have merely relied on the statement that he is a friend!

Who is an Acquaintance?

Now, who exactly is an acquaintance? He or she is someone you have met and got to know a little, probably in an office, temple, club or association setting. He may also be a former colleague or a neighbour.

He has remained merely an acquaintance because there was not enough of a ‘pull factor’ for either of you to progress that relationship.

All Kinds of Friends

You become a friend of another person when you both share common values and probably a number of similar interests. You also truly enjoy each other’s company. Your shared interests and values are the ‘pull factors’ that cause you both to gravitate towards each other and thereby keep the friendship alive and thriving.

It would seem, therefore that you are both charter members of a special grouping called MAS i.e. Mutual Admiration Society!

However, if only you are investing in this so-called friendship, then do not waste your time. If the other party does not reciprocate, move on with dignity and do not try to force a friendship. Unfortunately, some individuals are unable to take a hint.

Friends for a Season / Reason

Over time, one realises that there are all kinds of friends. Initially, they meet the basic requirements as stated above. But over time, their true characters surface. Former colleagues and friends conveniently forget the favours and the assistance rendered. For some, you are currently not in a position to be useful to them any more and so they just disappear having already benefitted from this so-called friendship in the past.

The other reality is that some friendships fray at the edges over time. Not enough effort was spent nourishing these friendships. For some others, your repeated career successes and achievements may have surprised them beyond belief. Jealousy makes an unkind appearance and begins to rear its ugly head!

While a true friend will always be happy for you, those who are pretending to be a friend will display their true colours.  Some are only happy if you fumble, drop the ball and hopefully remain at their mediocre level!

Always Keep a Group of Good Friends

Two weeks ago, a friend of mine from Penang sent me a wonderful and insightful three text message. But I need to let you know that was because I am still using an old Nokia phone, not a smartphone.

Far too many people, I hear, send you all kinds of, mostly irrelevant messages, via whatsapp without realising what a nuisance that has become. I constantly hear of people moaning about having to delete such messages without even bothering to read them.

This friend received that message from another mutual friend now based in Melbourne, Australia. He too was sufficiently impressed with the message that he wanted to further share it. Now that is a truly great circle of friendship.

What Was this Message About?

Friends are the Bulwarks of Life

“Many years ago, after I got married, I was sitting on a couch on a hot humid day, sipping orange juice during a visit to my father. As I talked about adult life, marriage, responsibilities and obligations, my father cast a clear, sober look at me.

‘Never forget your friends‘ he advised, ‘they will become more important as you get older‘. Regardless of how much you love your family and the children you happen to have, you will always need friends. Remember to go out with them occasionally, do activities with them and call them from time to time“.

What strange advice I thought!

I had just entered the married world, I am an adult and surely my wife and the family we will start will be everything I need to make sense of my life.

Yet, I obeyed him and kept in touch with my friends and occasionally increased their number. Over the years, I became truly aware that my father knew what he was talking about.

In as much as time and nature carry out their designs and mysteries on a man, friends are the bulwarks of his life.

After 50 years of Life, this is what I Learned.

Time passes. Life goes on.

The distances increase.

Children grow up and become independent. Although it breaks the parents’ heart, they are often separated from them.

Jobs come and go.

Illusions, desires, attractions and sex weaken.

People do what they should not do.

Parents die.

Colleagues forget favours.

The races are over.

But true friends are always there

No matter how long or how many miles away they are.

A friend is never more distant that the reach of a need, reaching out to you, intervening in your favour, waiting for you with open arms or blessings for your life.

When we started this adventure called LIFE
Wwe did not know the incredible joys or sorrows that were ahead.
We did not know how much we would need from one another.
Love your parents.
Take care of your children
but always keep a group of good friends.

( The author of this sharing is unknown but he or she summed it up quite well. I have also taken the liberty to edit the article. )

In the twilight of our lives, if we can count five individuals as true friends, consider that a real blessing. And if you happen to have another five friends, then that again is your extremely good fortune.

Celebrities and politicians who claim to have hundreds of friends are only deceiving themselves.  Having the company of hundreds of supporters, gushing teenagers or hangers-on, however, is quite possible.

Much too often, some of these individuals mistake ardent supporters from their party or club as their friends. A number of insecure leaders who delight in surrounding themselves with a large retinue of sycophants, often make the tragic mistake of thinking that these toady individuals are actually their friends.

To their surprise and dismay, these leaders soon discover that these characters will, when the chips are down, desert them faster than fleeing rats from a sinking ship!

In summing up, always remember to keep and cultivate a group of good and trusted friends.

 

Troika of Exceptional Educators and Leaders

La Salle School Brickfields was blessed to have such personalities at the helm

Recently, there was a guest blog post by Denis Armstrong on my blog site that had a relatively simple heading: La Salle School, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. It was an incredibly nostalgic, interesting and factual sharing of the early days of this school and of that particular era in the days when the country was known as Malaya.

Denis Armstrong also shared some wonderful photographs from that era. These included photos of some of the pioneer teachers at the school as well as some photos of the school when it was first built in the fifties. That this then nondescript, small school could rise above its grim situation and become a school to reckon with is now the stuff of legends.

However, no history of La Salle Brickfields can be complete without some mention being made of the incredible troika of educators and outstanding leaders.

Overwhelming Response to the Blog Post

This blog post had an overwhelming, positive response. To date over 2,711 individuals have read that particular blog post. It is a clear indication of the great interest that many old boys and even residents of Brickfields have on the subject matter.

However, no history of La Salle Brickfields can be complete without some mention being made of the incredible troika of educators and outstanding leaders. These individuals gave so much of themselves in leading La Salle School Brickfields to much success not just in academic matters but also in sports, games, athletics and extra-mural activities.

The Troika

The troika consisted of Rev. Bro. Gaston, headmaster of La Salle Primary School 1, S. Ratnasingam, headmaster of La Salle Primary School 2 and Albert Rozario who succeeded Rev Bro Gaston as headmaster of the school. All three leaders have since passed on but they have collectively left behind, to their credit, a great legacy.

Group photo of teachers from the three schools

Group photo of teachers from the three schools: La Salle Brickfields Primary School 1, La Salle Brickfields Primary School 2 and La Salle  Brickfields Secondary School ( 1976 )

There are two more individuals who also contributed significantly to La Salle School being a success story. They are Denis Armstrong, the extraordinarily talented athletics coach and strict disciplinarian who later became the supervisor of La Salle Secondary School. The next person is L A Fernandez, an able administrator and a confident as well as a humourous public speaker who later succeeded S Ratnasingam as headmaster of the school.

  1. Ratnasingam – A Charismatic Leader

In a troika, all the three individuals are supposed to be of equal status. However, in my opinion, S. Ratnasingam, who always chose to wear a bowtie, was the undisputed leader of the pack. Ratnasingam, a Normal Class trained teacher had the vision, the drive and the will to unite all three schools. In this effort, the troika succeeded brilliantly.

Mr & Mrs S Ratnasingam

Mr & Mrs S Ratnasingam

At that time and even now, it is quite common to see the headmasters of schools sharing the same premises being unnecessarily petty and small minded. Instead of pooling resources and being prudent, these small minded individuals insist on being difficult and are overly bureaucratic.

With the troika firmly in place there was unity in purpose and much was achieved at La Salle Brickfields during that golden era.

To his everlasting credit, Ratnasingam generously made time to undertake other civic and community-related responsibilities willingly. He was no mere pen pusher or a laid back, stodgy bureaucrat. He was mainly responsible for building a new 2 storey block for La Salle Brickfields. By his actions and his approach, he stood head and shoulders over the other headmasters of his time by being a leader who could inspire his team.

Ratnasingam also served a stint as Boy Scout Commissioner for Kuala Lumpur. In addition, he made time to serve as an adviser to the Juvenile Court in Kuala Lumpur for a number of years.

S Ratnasingam as Commissioner of Kuala Lumpur Scouts

S Ratnasingam as Commissioner of Kuala Lumpur Scouts

In retirement, Ratnasingam stayed true to his DNA! He continued to contribute his time and effort behind the scenes to the Kuala Lumpur Befrienders.

Albert Rozario – A Leader with a Human Touch

Like S Ratnasingam, Albert Rozario was also a Normal Class trained teacher. Later on, he attended and successfully completed a year-long course at the Specialist Teachers’ Training Institute (STTI) in Cheras, Kuala Lumpur. He achieved a distinction grade in his field of specialisation i.e. Physical Education. Albert Rozario was also a good swimmer and a keen gymnast.

He had an affable personality and was pretty down to earth in his relationships with the teachers and admin staff. He also possessed a keen and sympathetic understanding of human nature and this was put to good use when he had to counsel a few individuals who had committed some malpractice.

Albert Rozario and Rev Bro Gaston

Albert Rozario and Rev Bro Gaston

Albert was also a talented administrator and a headmaster who readily supported his teachers’ efforts. He was also equally quick to recognise good performance. I can vouch for both – his strong support and due recognition during my 15 years of service at La Salle Brickfields.

Sometime in 1965, he successfully underwent a major operation, while at La Salle Brickfields, to remove an ailing kidney. He survived for more than 50 years with just one kidney.

Albert Rozario was married to a teacher, Mary who later became a headmistress at St Theresa’s Primary Convent, conveniently situated next door to La Salle Brickfields. They had eight children.

In view of his physical education qualifications and related abilities, he also served with considerable energy and enthusiasm for about three years as the Organiser for Physical Education at the Selangor Education Department.

One of his unique skills was his uncanny ability to get a teacher to undertake a difficult task. His approach was disarmingly unique: He would not summon you to meet him. Instead, he would casually accost you as you walked along the passageway to your class. As he reached you, he would put a friendly arm on your shoulder and then make the request – it was never an order or a directive. No one could ever turn down such a friendly approach!

Rev Bro Gaston – Good Rapid Writing Promoter

I remember meeting Rev Bro Gaston when I first reported for duty at La Salle Brickfields Secondary School in 1966. We exchanged pleasantries and indulged briefly in some small talk. However, over the years I, unfortunately, did not have much interaction with him.

Many old boys fondly remember this genial gentleman with a ready smile for introducing them to Good Rapid Writing – an activity forever associated with him.

Rev Bro Gaston was not very much involved in the day to day administration of the school, leaving that important task to his able senior assistant ( deputy headmaster ), Albert Rozario. But he was a familiar sight in his smart white robe along the corridors and classrooms of La Salle Brickfields – both the primary schools as well as the secondary school.

Many old boys fondly remember this genial gentleman with a ready smile for introducing them to Good Rapid Writing – an activity forever associated with him.

This was a mission of crucial importance to Rev Bro Gaston because he believed that good rapid writing was a much-needed skill that students needed to master.

He emphasised the formation of each alphabet in a smooth flowing movement. A former student and an education professional himself, Loh Kok Khuan described it as: speed, modernity and poetry in motion! Loh Kok Khuan also mentioned that some alphabets seemed to resemble rockets and racing cars and that those were the heady years when the US was aiming to land a man on the moon.

Rev Bro Gaston was the master trainer in this field and he went around the many classes teaching the skills with a passion that was contagious. To encourage and motivate the boys to take this training seriously, he organised competitions in good rapid writing from time to time.

The prize was a Parker pen – a quality pen in those days that many could not afford. Kok Khuan also revealed that a classmate who excelled in this good rapid writing and in the process won many Parker pens much to the chagrin of his fellow classmates is Chang Hoe Yoon. By some strange coincidence, Hoe Yoon subsequently qualified as an engineer and worked for a reputable regional airline.

Rev Bro Gaston was also responsible for promoting the Ukulele musical instrument.

He encouraged the boys to take up this small, four–stringed guitar-like musical instrument. For the record, the Ukulele was introduced from Portugal into the Hawaiian Islands in about 1879.

After his retirement, he returned to Canada. He was not in the best of health when S Ratnasingam decided to pay him a visit. He was overjoyed by this unexpected visit from an old colleague and dear friend and perked up considerably. Rev Bro Gaston even made a brief visit to Malaysia later.

La Salle Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur was indeed very fortunate to have had such visionary and caring leaders during those formative years before and after Malaya gained its independence. They may have moved on but the teachers and many old boys do have wonderful memories to treasure.

Amazing Sikhs From Around the World

A Community that Punches above its Weight Class

Sikhs seem to possess an indomitable spirit and a desire to rise above their station in life. This is not just happening in India where most Sikhs live but throughout the world.

Members of the vibrant Sikh community in the United Kingdom, for instance, are taking their noble tradition of religious hospitality to one of the most inhospitable places on the planet.

This is a remarkable and edifying example of real caring, concern and sympathy for the downtrodden and it is manifested in this act of feeding the displaced individuals.

Just a mere five miles from the Syrian border, Sikh volunteers from Langar Aid are feeding about 14,000 refugees fleeing the civil war in that country. This is a remarkable and edifying example of real caring, concern and sympathy for the downtrodden and it is manifested in this act of feeding the displaced individuals.

Religious Hospitality at its Best

Langar Aid is an off-shoot of Khalsa Aid. Khalsa Aid is mainly funded by UK based Sikhs. Khalsa Aid was founded in 1999 in the UK.

In the not too recent past, Khalsa Aid, an international non-profit and relief organisation has also rendered much-needed assistance to displaced Kosovan refugees as well as provided earthquake relief in Turkey.

The answer lies, I believe, in the lofty Sikh principles of selfless service and universal love.

Selfless Service and Universal Love

Just what is it that motivates these Sikh volunteers from the UK to place themselves in harm’s way especially in a danger zone and render much-needed assistance to fellow human beings in distress?

The answer lies, I believe, in the lofty Sikh principles of selfless service and universal love. These are truly noble principles to live up to. It is relatively easy to talk or preach about selfless service and universal love but to actually live it in practice is altogether a different matter.

To carry out this humanitarian service, these committed volunteers have taken time out of work, education, family and other recreational pursuits to travel abroad and render assistance. These volunteers have truly demonstrated in a practical and inspiring way their utmost commitment to their religious principles.

Their selfless service, especially in such dangerous conditions, reminds me of that famous saying: ‘ Greater love than this no man has, than to lay down his life for another ‘.

Golden Temple in Amritsar

The Golden Temple in Amritsar, India –  the holiest shrine for Sikhs throughout the world, provides another telling example of this selfless service and universal love.

How many know, for instance, that nearly 100,000 people are fed on an average day at the Golden Temple? This free meal is not limited to only Sikhs but extended to individuals of every faith, colour and ethnicity who visit the temple.

This simple but nutritious meal, let me reiterate, is free for all who visit, not just Sikhs. Think for a moment about the sheer logistics and costs involved. This goes on day after day. Of course, those entering must observe certain respectful traditions before entering the Golden Temple.

Back here in Malaysia, I have been informed that a number of Western tourists on a shoestring budget have heard about the warm hospitality at Sikh temples in Malaysia. They go with confidence to a Sikh temple for a meal and also occasionally to spend a night there. They have to, of course, adhere to an appropriate code of conduct whilst spending the night within the temple compound.

Four Sikh Cabinet Ministers in Canada

Recently in Canada, the prime minister of that country appointed four Canadian Sikhs as cabinet ministers. These appointments made world headlines because they are serious, high-level positions in the government of Canada. It is also a clear demonstration that this is Canada’s most diverse cabinet. Canada leads the world, I believe, in truly embracing diversity in full measure. There is no lip service or tokenism here.

Harjit Sajjan, a former senior police officer and a veteran of three military deployments to Afghanistan was appointed Defense Minister. This is a senior position in the cabinet. It is no window dressing. Amarjeet Sohi was appointed Infrastructure Minister, Navdeep Bains, a business school professor was appointed Innovation, Science and Economic Development Minister and finally, a Sikh lady named Bardish Chaggar was named Small Business and Tourism Minister.

What some may not know is that there are an estimated 500, 000 Sikhs in Canada today. Sikhs first started moving to Canada more than 100 years ago. The appointment of not one but four ministers from this community is a clear sign that the Sikhs have integrated well into Canadian society.

By contrast, India has only two Sikh ministers. But then again, one must realise that Sikhs in India only constitute two percent of the population.

Sikhs in the Indian Army

Sikhs are by nature respectful, courageous, hardworking and enterprising. Does one realise that nowhere in the world can you find a Sikh beggar? This speaks volumes about the cohesion within the community.

There are no official statistics for the number of Sikhs in the Indian Army for obvious reasons. However, it is generally regarded to be in excess of twenty percent! There are also many senior Sikh officers from the ranks of colonel to general.

A Sikh, Manmohan Singh, a graduate from Oxford University has also served with distinction for a number of years as the prime minister of India.

Sikhs in Malaysia

The Sikhs constitute one of the many Indian groups in Malaysia. The biggest group of Indians in Malaysia come from the Tamil community. In the early days of Malaya, these Sikhs served in the Police force as well as in the Home Guard. The Home Guard was an earlier version of the Territorial Army.

The Sikhs were recruited to serve in these bodies because of their impressive size and build, towering figures and burly outlook, complete with moustache and beard that made them look fierce. However, they are also big, strong and friendly people if you take the trouble to get to know them. In the Army and Police force too, Sikhs have made great contributions.

Significant Contribution to the Professions

In the fifties and sixties, it was common to see a number of burly Sikh gentlemen serving as guards ( or jagas ) for banks and companies. These guards would sleep on charpoys beds in front of the buildings that they were protecting. The charpoy is basically four wooden legs supporting an open, rectangular structure that is filled with intricately woven network of ropes or chords.

Other economically and socially disadvantaged Sikhs took to goat herding or rearing cows for their milk. The Sikh would then peddle a bicycle with a milk tank on the back and sell the milk to a regular list of homes in the area. Some of these Sikhs also got into the informal but lucrative money lending business.

Lion of Jelutong

Through sheer dint of hard work, discipline and a desire to improve their lot, many of these families provided a disproportionately high number of well known medical doctors/specialists, engineers, lawyers, academics and other professionals.

Easily one of the more well known, highly regarded and respected Sikhs in Malaysia is the late Karpal Singh.  He was regarded as a brilliant and fearless criminal lawyer and many did seek out his services. He was also a committed Member of Parliament, a lawmaker of repute, and a righteous fighter for the underdog.

You can now probably understand why I stated that the Sikhs certainly do punch above their weight class and they do so with style and flair.

Red Rose of Petra Truly Rocks!

A Magnificent Jewel among Jordan’s Tourist Sites

I visited this amazing site during my two day trip to Amman, the capital of Jordan recently. It was a long, tedious four-hour drive from Amman in a not so comfortable tourist bus which had seen better days. But it was well worth the visit.

Petra city is the capital of the Nabataeans. The city was built more than two thousand years ago in the heart of the Shara Mountains! It thrived in the first centuries BC and AD and was a vital link of a major trading area connecting ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt.

It is no wonder that Petra has gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status as a result.

Trade then was mainly in frankincense, myrrh and spices. It was later annexed by the Roman Empire. Much of the city was destroyed in a major earthquake in 363 AD. It appears to have been largely deserted and abandoned partly because of a change in trade routes too.

Rediscovered by a Swiss Explorer

Thanks to the persistence, skill and cunning of a Swiss explorer named Johannes Burckhardt this wonderful place was rediscovered in 1812. Johannes dressed up as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city.

As a result of this rediscovery, Petra became increasingly known in the West as a fascinating city. It also began attracting visitors in large numbers.

Gains UNESCO World Heritage Site Status

It is no wonder that Petra has gained UNESCO World Heritage Site status as a result.Like the famous Angkor Wat temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia and the equally famous Borobudur Temple Compound and Prambanan Temple in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, the Red Rose of Petra is a most worthy recipient of this prestigious award.

No mere description, photographs or even a video recording of this site can do justice to the wonder and glory of the Red Rose of Petra. In Petra, you actually get to see and marvel at great natural, cultural, archaeological and geological features that truly merge in an awesome display of nature and human habitation at its best.

Why is it called the Red Rose?

It gets this name from the wonderful colour of the rock. I was informed that the many impressive sandstone mountains in that area contain iron and that also partly explains the colour.

Many of the city’s structures were carved from these impressive sandstone mountains. The same mountains also contained intricate tombs that were cut out of the mountainsides. The Nabataeans buried their nobility in these tombs.

Discovering Petra

After a four-hour journey, I finally arrived at the site. I saw a large, well-planned visitor centre with all the modern conveniences that are needed to make this walking tour a reality.

There are fast food outlets, restaurants, shops selling souvenirs, and more than adequate, clean toilet facilities. For those not so inclined to walking all the way through the various trails, they had the option of taking a horse ride ( part of the way only ) or a horse-drawn carriage all the way to the main attraction i.e. the Treasury.

Petra_TheTreasury
The Treasury

The Treasury, Petra’s most magnificent facade soars almost 40 metres high and is intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, figures and more. The Treasury is crowned by a funerary urn, which according to local legend conceals a pharaoh’s treasure. No such treasure, however, was ever found.

Leisurely Walk Along the Trails

I was with a group of fifteen other Malaysian men and women and all of us chose to walk down the gently sloping trails to the Treasury. It was a cool afternoon when we began the 2 km walk and as we walked we were gently cooled and caressed by breezes that kept us comfortable.

We were advised by our experienced tour guide not to choose the horse-drawn carriage because it could turn out to be quite an uncomfortable and bumpy ride. Those with back problems especially had to be very careful.

Amazing Sights to Behold

The sights along the way were mesmerising, to say the least. The beauty, majesty and grandeur of those glorious sandstone mountains were a sight to behold. Over time, mother nature ( wind, rain, snow and earthquakes ) had taken turns to wear down portions of the rock.

In one particular place, as we passed, we could make out the side profile of a fish! As we passed that rock and turned back to look at it again, we could clearly make out an elephant with its trunk! At other areas, we could make out shepherds and even camels but nature had exacted its toll.

The Incredible Siq

Petra_TheSiq
The Siq

This is a narrow gorge that leads visitors into Petra. The Siq actually resulted from a natural splitting of the mountain. A triumphal arch once spanned the entrance to it.

Two water channels run along both rock sides. What an amazing piece of imagination to have constructed such a water conduit those many, many years ago. It also presents a dramatic entryway into Petra.

Good Workout and Great Time

The walk back was a lot different.

Most of it was pretty easy going except for the few hilly portions. I could feel the perspiration on the back of my neck. But all of us in our group, including a senior lady who had knee surgery on both knees and who had the use of a hiking stick to ease the walking process, made it back with relative ease.

A seasoned traveller in my group informed me later that evening that the apps on his smartphone showed that he had taken a total of 11660 steps in all. Not bad for a pleasant and enjoyable afternoon workout.

Some Other Relevant Matters

Part of the trail we took was paved with limestone slabs from the time of the Roman annexation. These were meant to enable the Romans to drive their horse-drawn carriages over them. Over time, these limestone slabs had turned quite smooth.

Petra_TheCollannadedStreet
The Collannaded Street

We also had to put up with the smell of fresh horse dung which was liberally excreted all along the way. But the good thing is that there were workers around at certain sections to sweep these droppings. So we had to be careful and watch where we put our foot all along the way.

The other matter that annoyed me was that the horse-drawn carriages were using the same trial as the walkers. There was no separate trail for us. From a safety angle, this was bad because the drivers of the carriages were all out for the dollars and so they drove the carriages at speed.

Sometimes, they rudely shouted out warnings for us to keep out of their way.  In such circumstances, accidents are just waiting to happen. I do hope the Jordanian tourism authorities will look into the matter and make it safe for the walkers.

Interesting Observations

Petra_BenJordanMorais
Ben Jordan Morais

Throughout our bus journey to Petra and also while cruising around in the city of Amman, I did not see a single motorbike. I checked with our guide Talal and he informed me that the government had some five years ago allowed for the importation of motorbikes but somehow it did not seem to have taken off.

There were no signs of the usual Honda, Yamaha or Suzuki small bikes nor of any big Harley Davidsons! Coming from S. E. Asia and especially in countries like Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, this was a pleasant surprise for me.

I would also like to commend the motorcar, bus and truck drivers of Jordan who seem to be very level-headed and responsible. Throughout the four hour journey to Petra and even in Amman itself, everyone seemed to drive in a responsible and careful manner.

There was absolutely no speeding on the highway and likewise, there was none of the recklessness you see on Malaysian roads and highways. I did not expect to witness such self-discipline by vehicle drivers in Jordan. But there were, however, some instances of double parking in the city.

Luxembourg Knows How to Value and Treat Teachers

Many other countries are great at paying lip service only

As we approach Teachers Day next month, I feel it is time we get real about teaching and teachers.

This is especially true in the Malaysian context. For far too long, teachers have had to cope with frequent changes in policies and approaches.

Many feel overburdened with a host of additional administrative duties that take up too much of their time.

Time to be spent in the classroom is oftentimes sacrificed because these teachers have to attend meetings and briefings conducted by school principals / senior assistants or education department personnel.

Teaching is a Noble Profession?

There is still that widely held perception by some that teaching is a noble profession.

But do these people, society in general and governments that regard teaching as a noble profession back up that perception by instituting clear policies and programmes that actually translate into that commitment? No, they do not.

Much too often this convenient saying is trotted out on Teachers’ Day in an insincere attempt to flatter the serving teachers. It is merely meant to create a ‘feel good’ atmosphere for the day. It is also an example of lip service of the worst kind.

If we continue to believe in teaching being a noble profession, then surely our policies and programmes to ensure this does happen, must ring true.

Best of Us Would be Teachers

Lee Iacocca, the famous former chairman and chief executive officer of Chrysler Corporation in the United States once remarked candidly:
“In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less”.

He and Chrysler Corporation believed that education needs to attract and retain the best of us. But that won’t happen as long as teaching ranks near the bottom of all our professions in pay and prestige. Real, concrete efforts and solutions are needed to elevate the status of teachers.

If we continue to believe in teaching being a noble profession, then surely our policies and programmes to ensure this does happen, must ring true.

Great Countries for Teachers

Is there a country in this world where teachers are truly treated with respect, have high status and earn good salaries? Or is this just a pipe dream?

Yes, there is such a country. No, it is not Shangri La in some distant corner of the universe.

Luxembourg is a great country for teachers.

It is the second richest, land-locked country in the world. It is in Western Europe. With a population of almost 600,000 inhabitants, most of whom are typically tri-lingual, this Grand Duchy is also one of the safest countries in the world.

In terms of physical size, it is slightly smaller than Rhode Island in the US.

According to data released by OECD, the starting salary for a high school teacher in Luxembourg is US$ 79,000. The peak salary for a senior teacher is US$ 137,000.

Opinion polls in that country have shown that teaching is Finland’s most admired profession!

By stark comparison, the average American teacher makes US$ 44,000 and peaks at US$ 67,000.

Most Admired Profession

Another country that knows how to value and treat teachers well is Finland.

In Finland, high-quality teachers are the hallmark of Finland’s education system.

Opinion polls in that country have shown that teaching is Finland’s most admired profession!

Factors that Contribute to that High Reputation

Believe it or not – primary school teaching is the most sought-after career in Finland.

The attractiveness of teaching has much to do with four factors:
i. the rigorous selection process;
ii. the work itself;
iii. the working conditions; and
iv. simply, respect for teachers.

Teachers are required to hold a master’s degree.

Where Teachers are Well Paid

Here is a list of the ten countries where teachers enjoy the best salaries:

  • Luxembourg,
  • Switzerland,
  • Germany,
  • Korea,
  • United States,
  • Austria,
  • Netherlands,
  • Canada,
  • Ireland and
  • Japan.

Here’s wishing all teachers everywhere a truly Happy Teachers Day.

La Salle School, Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur

A guest post is a piece of writing that is published on someone else’s website or blog. This post today is a guest post by Denis Armstrong, one of nine pioneer teachers of La Salle Brickfields when the school was established in 1954

Beginnings
I was present at the creation. No, not THAT big one but a more modest one: the creation of La Salle Brickfields (LSB), K.L.

I was born and grew up in the fifth house in the first block of houses in Rozario Street (“Hundred Quarters”), a stone’s throw from LSB. Directly in front of my house was the Vivekananda Ashram. To the left, about 50 metres away was the Gajjan Singh petrol station along then Brickfields Road. To the right at the end of Rozario Street and the beginning of then Temple Road was the Lutheran Church.

Adjoining the church was the Buddhist Temple and a bit further on the opposite side of the road was a rice mill just next to the iconic toddy shop. Continuing along Temple Road, and where now are Brickfields Primary School and the Methodist Primary Girls’ School, used to be the town dump site for waste and discarded material. As children growing up in Brickfields in the late forties, we used to scavenge the dump site for old bicycle and motorbike rims. We removed the spokes and ran around and raced each other with these “wheelies”, controlling them with a stick.

Other landmarks at that time which now no longer exist were the original YMCA building which was demolished to accommodate the petrol station; and the Lido Cinema Theatre, also once known as the Cathay Cinema and earlier still as the Princess Cinema. Just behind the Lido cinema was the Kishan Dial Secondary School, possibly the first private school in the country to prepare students for the Overseas Senior Cambridge School Certificate.

The Anthonian Book Store started as a tiny business selling religious items like Catholic bibles, prayer books, rosaries, crosses and medals. It occupied a half shop lot in the block of shops just next to the Holy Rosary Church. Other landmarks in the vicinity of Brickfields at that period were the Royal Selangor Museum on the site of the current National Museum and a public swimming pool at the spot now occupied by the Police Station along Travers Road. These two landmarks received direct hits during the Allied bombing of the railway marshalling yards in Brickfields and Sentul in 1945 towards the end of the Japanese occupation of Malaya.

Creation
In those days the future home of LSB was a low-lying expanse of swampland. As the land was a foot or so above the canal running alongside it, the land had to be raised before the school could be built. And the cheapest solution for the landfill was garbage and discarded material from the town. Hundreds of lorry loads of this waste were dumped on the future site for the school building.

Layers upon layers of rubbish were sandwiched between layers of sand until the required level was achieved. Bulldozers were used in the operations. Almost immediately after the landfill was accomplished in early 1953, the freshly-laid landfill was promptly dug up, the foundations laid and the erection of the school commenced. Everything was completed sometime towards the end of 1953.

I saw it all happen. I was in my final year in school (St. John’s Institution) preparing to sit for the Overseas Senior Cambridge School Certificate at the end of year 1953.

Growth
In January 1954 La Salle School, Brickfields, opened its doors to welcome its first intake of students who had been housed in St. John’s Primary School the previous two years while awaiting LSB to be built. Together with the new admissions for the year 1954, there were in total eight classes. There were nine teachers. I was one of those nine pioneers.

I joined LSB in January as a temporary teacher while awaiting my exam results. After receiving my exam results in May 1954, I was accepted as a trainee teacher and began my three-year Normal School* teacher training. Thus began my teaching career.

What were those times like when LSB first opened its doors in January 1954? It was a mere eight and a half years after the end of the Second World War.

LSB then had no field for its sports activities. The land in front of the school was still a swamp. Once again, sometime in 1957, the lorries rolled in with their loads of rubbish and the bulldozers set to work to convert the swamp into a playing field. The field was ready for use in 1958. Engineers from the government’s Survey Department measured the field and succeeded in fitting an eight-lane 400-metre running track on it, thus making LSB the only school in KL other than Victoria Institution to possess such a facility. Prior to LSB having its own field, all sports activities were conducted in nearby “Chan Ah Tong Stadium”, a small playground adjoining Chan Ah Tong Street and a Brickfields landmark.

Reminiscences
What were those times like when LSB first opened its doors in January 1954? It was a mere eight and a half years after the end of the Second World War. The country was still recovering from the turmoil, destruction and ravages of the Japanese occupation. Times were still hard.

The country was in the midst of a guerrilla war, the so-called emergency, with the Communist Party of Malaya (MCP). The British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, had been assassinated by the MCP in 1951 while travelling in his car to his holiday retreat in Fraser’s Hill.

Life was simple. There were no computers or Internet, no TV or mobile phones – just fixed land phone lines and these were few and far between. There was radio but no FM, just AM broadcasts; and there was Rediffusion, a cable radio broadcast with continuous service from 6.00am to 12.00 midnight for a monthly fee of six Malayan dollars.

Fast food outlets were non-existent. The popular meeting places were the coffee shops where you could get a cup of tea or coffee with Milkmaid condensed milk (genuine milk!) for less than 20 cents. Ovaltine was then the popular health drink. Ice balls made from shaved ice, and ice cream potong were available to quench your thirst.

The most popular pastime was going to the cinema. There were cheap matinees and midnight shows in addition to the regular screenings. The first four or five front rows of the cinema hall, directly in front of the screen, were fondly referred to as “parliament seats” and tickets for these seats initially cost only 45 cents. Ticket inspectors with torchlights made spot checks to discourage “parliamentarians” from sneaking into the more expensive sections of the hall when the shows started and it was dark.

A vendor with a tray filled with tidbits and drinks and cigarettes (yes, cigarettes) made a couple of excursions along the aisles of the cinema hall during the show and you could buy things from him. The pickings “downstairs” were rather slim for the vendor. His main takings were from the patrons “upstairs” occupying the expensive balcony seats, the majority of whom were our colonial masters.

Another big attraction was the Bukit Bintang Amusement Park (BB Park) in the area now occupied by Sungei Wang Plaza. It was a brightly lit place with a carnival-like atmosphere. There was something for everyone. It had restaurants and a cinema hall (Rialto) which played second-run films. There were gaming stalls and shooting galleries where you could try your luck and win prizes. There was a cabaret and a joget stage with live music where you could dance with professional dancers for around 30 cents per dance.

Boxing and wrestling rings were erected to stage fights. Small halls offered various performances like Chinese opera and magic shows while those who fancied it could pop into Bali Hall and catch Rose Chan strutting her stuff. To keep the younger crowd and children happy there were Dodgem/Bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, a Carousel, a Roller Coaster and even a Ghost Train to scare the wits out of you.

On the roads, trishaws had replaced rickshaws. Few could afford cars; motorbikes and bicycles were predominant. Aircond was a rarity. Men carried handkerchiefs and wore sleeveless cotton singlets (Pagoda brand) under their shirts, presumably to absorb sweat. The first “skyscraper” was the Loke Yew building, all seven storeys of it, in downtown KL. “Hundred Quarters” and most houses still had the bucket sanitation system (gasp!!). These buckets, made of solid rubber, were emptied daily during the early hours of the morning by workers in their lorries (“honey wagons”).

Children still flew kites and played with marbles and spun tops and climbed trees and caught fighting spiders. An outing to Port Dickson was a treat. Visiting Singapore and shopping at Change Alley and the Arcade was a big deal. Anyone earning a so-called “four-figure-salary” was looked upon with awe.

There was hardly any pollution and the air was clean and the skies were clear. On a cloudless night you could look up and witness a sky strewn with literally hundreds of brilliant stars and you could even identify the various constellations. Today, count yourself lucky if you can spot a dozen stars.

There were fighting spiders, huge atlas moths, lots of different types of butterflies and dragonflies, bumble bees and even the occasional fireflies. The clearing of trees and greenery, all in the name of progress and development and plus all that fogging, took care of them.

Pupils and Parents
The pupils of LSB came mainly from Brickfields proper and the surrounding Bangsar and Old Klang Road areas.

Catholic families from the rubber estates and tin mines in Puchong who wanted their children to attend a Catholic school sent them to LSB. The Catholic families in newly developing PJ did likewise. Federal Highway had not been built and Old Klang Road was the only link to PJ. The land now occupied by La Salle PJ and Assunta Secondary School was then a rubber estate and tin was still being mined in Taman Jaya Lake and its surroundings (A&W Drive-In Restaurant and Amcorp) when I moved to live in PJ in 1956.

The parents were all for their children to do well in their studies so as to get decent jobs and escape the grim cycle of hardship and poverty. It was just a few years after the end of the Second World War and the Japanese surrender in1945.

The majority of the pupils’ families were from the low and lower income groups, many of them with household incomes less than 200 dollars a month. With their meagre incomes, they had to house, clothe, feed and educate their children.

In those days large families of five, six or more were the norm. At that time too, monthly school fees at the rate of two dollars and fifty cents were payable. This was a large financial expenditure, especially when multiplied by the number of school-going children in a family.

The parents were all for their children to do well in their studies so as to get decent jobs and escape the grim cycle of hardship and poverty. It was just a few years after the end of the Second World War and the Japanese surrender in1945. The dark memories and scars of the physical, mental and emotional trauma of the brutal Japanese occupation were still raw. And the parents brooked no nonsense from their children when it came to conduct and application to studies. They supported the efforts of the teachers one hundred percent.

On its part, the school did its best to assist needy pupils. Money was collected through various fundraising initiatives including cinema shows held on Saturdays. The money collected was used to clear unpaid school fees and to purchase textbooks and stationery for deserving students. Food, especially powdered milk, was obtained from charitable organisations and made into milk treats for the pupils.

Teachers
I have taught in only one school: LSB.

I witnessed the landfill on the future site of the school. I saw the school come up brick by brick in 1953. I started as a temporary teacher in January 1954. I was accepted as a trainee teacher in May 1954. I qualified as a trained teacher in 1957. I left LSB and the teaching profession in May 1974, twenty years to the very month when I began my teaching career.

I look back with fond memories of my two decades teaching in LSB. Out of humble beginnings during the final years of British colonial rule in Malaya, there rose a school second to none in its professionalism, dedication and focus on the holistic education of its students. Academic excellence is important but stellar academic results are no guarantee of success in life. Character, values, discipline and living skills are equally important in facing life’s challenges and “the arrows and slings of outrageous fortune”. In LSB there was zero tolerance for indiscipline, disrespect, vandalism, bullying, gangsterism and suchlike anti-social behaviour.

The school provided a wide range of extracurricular activities for the pupils’ participation. In addition to a robust sports and games programme, pupils were encouraged to join one of the uniformed groups such as the Boy Scouts and the Red Cross Society. The successful implementation of these initiatives would not have been possible without the fullest support and active participation of the teachers.

Fine buildings do not make a great school. It is the teachers and especially their leaders who make a school great.

All these extracurricular activities helped develop beyond-the-classroom skills: living skills which are almost impossible to impart with chalk and talk in a classroom setting. Participation in these practical activities instilled in the pupils the concepts and values of team building and co-operation, obligations and responsibilities, courage and true grit and a never-say-die mindset. This holistic approach to an all-round education was a hallmark of LSB.

Fine buildings do not make a great school. It is the teachers and especially their leaders who make a school great. LSB was very fortunate to have dedicated teachers and exceptional leaders. I was asked to highlight the contributions made by some of the teachers but I refrained except for the three stalwarts mentioned.

On my scorecard every teacher contributed, every teacher co-operated and everyone played his/her part, the only difference being that some contributions were highly visible while others ran below the radar. Therefore, to highlight one will be to highlight everyone.

For the record, every teacher was involved in at least one, if not two or more, of the following activities :
 Athletics, Football, Hockey, Rugby, Badminton, Table Tennis, Sepak Takraw. (Note: The scope of work involved all competitions viz. intramural, inter-La Salle; MSSS district, inter-district and finals).
 Boy Scouts, Red Cross, St John’s Ambulance, School concerts, Saturday cinema shows to raise funds for needy students.
 Women teachers who home-cooked delicious food for school functions.

Yes, loads of work, loads of contributions – lots of unsung heroes/heroines.

It was a privilege to be a part of this pool of dedicated professionals drawn from the various ethnic groups of our country. They viewed their pupils with 20/20 vision: each and every one was treated fairly with no bias towards race or colour or whatever. I was fortunate to share my journey with this band of professionals.

I learned so much from all my colleagues, particularly Brother Gaston, S. Ratnasingam and Albert Rozario. They were visionaries and led where others followed, and were largely responsible for the excellence, the unity and the unique esprit de corps that prevailed in LSB. All of them have passed away but their legacy still lives on.
Denis Armstrong
11th November 2017
Revised
4th April 2018

*Normal School
Educational institution to train teachers
A normal school was a school created to train high school graduates to be teachers by educating them in the norms of pedagogy and curriculum.

In 1685, St. Jean-Baptiste de La Salle, founder of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, founded what is generally considered the first normal school, the Ecole Normale, in Reims, Champagne, France. The term “normal” herein refers to the goal of these institutions to instil and reinforce particular norms within pupils. Norms included historically specific behavioural norms of the time, as well as norms that reinforced targeted societal values, ideologies and dominant narratives in the form of curriculum. From this beginning in France, the concept of normal school teacher training spread all over the world.
(Source : Wikipedia – Normal School)

DA01

LSB in the mid-fifties. Note that the canal has no embankments. The embankments to contain the water were built later. If you look carefully, you will notice a signboard to the left as you cross the bridge to enter the school. The signboard reads “Catholic High School” (in English and Chinese), indicating the temporary occupation of some of the classrooms by CHS students prior to their school building in PJ being built.

The canal running alongside the school is actually a little stream (Sungei La Salle?!). If you follow it upstream, you will eventually arrive at its source: it starts as a spillover from then Lake Sydney in Lake Gardens. As a small boy growing up in Brickfields, I used to catch fish in the canal. The water was much cleaner then and there were many different types of fish : rainbow fish (guppies), striped tigerfish, arrowan, small prawns and plentiful mira meen.

DA02

LSB sports meet in the mid-fifties held in “Chan Ah Tong Stadium”. Our sports meets were held there before the present field was ready. The prize giving ceremonies for the sports events were conducted in the school hall after the end of the meet.

DA03

That’s me with my pioneer batch of Standard Two students. The class photo was taken in early December 1954. LSB started as a single session primary school. The secondary classes were introduced later.

Note the rather simple, plain “home clothes” worn by nearly everyone. No fancy haircuts (some even sporting “homecuts” done inhouse so as to save money), no neckties, no socks, no school badges and not a single fatty in the group, reflecting the economic realities of those years.

Fourth row :
Third student on my left is Jerry Koh Sek Lee. He now runs a successful private tuition centre (Jerry’s Tutorials) in PJ.
Sixth student in the same row (face partly hidden) is the late George Jansen, brother of Julian Jansen who is also an LSB old boy.
Front row kneeling :
Third from left, shielding his eyes from the sun, is insurance agent extraordinaire George Devan. (His memorable tagline: When you see me don’t think of insurance, but when you think of insurance see me).
All of them in this group should now be in their early seventies.

DA04

An informal group photo of the pioneer teachers taken in front of the school main entrance in 1954.

Standing left to right :
Vivian Sequerah, Francis Fernando, Denis Armstrong, S. Ratnasingam, Kok Yew Weng.
Front row left to right :
V. Thangarajah, Clifford Sequerah.
(Not in picture : Victor Santhanam (photographer) and M. Rokk)

Francis Fernando migrated to Australia. Victor Santhanam left teaching in 1955 and went to Singapore where he started VICSAN, a successful magazine distribution company.
All the pioneer teachers who taught in LSB in 1954 have passed away except for Vivian Sequerah and me.

DA05

Band of brothers…
Another informal group photo taken in front of the school in 1959

From left to right :
Noel Cheow, Victor Nesadurai, Albert Rozario, Mohd. Idris Basri, Denis Armstrong.
I am the last one standing. Sadly, all the others have passed on…

I am seen wearing my Ray-Ban sunglasses (genuine!). I was already a qualified teacher (qualified in 1957) so I could afford those Ray-Bans!
The monthly gross pay for a Normal Class trainee teacher was Malayan $175. Upon qualification, the gross salary was Malayan $375.

To put that salary in perspective, consider its purchasing power in those times :
 Cars (Morris Minor) – Around Malayan $5,000 (approximately 13 months salary)
 Houses (A single-storey bungalow, land area approximately 6,000 sq. ft. in Section 6, in newly developing Petaling Jaya) – Around Malayan $15,000 (approximately 40 months salary)

DA06

An ad in the Pan-Malayan Telecommunications Magazine “MERCURY”. Vol 2 No. 5 September 1955
FAIRWINDS HOTEL was a top class establishment famous for its Hainanese Western/Local cuisine. The building is now a private residence. It is just next to the Avillion Hotel. Food inclusive means Breakfast, Lunch (Tiffin!), Afternoon Tea and Dinner!
Yes, those were the days!

DA07

Another ad in MERCURY.
SI-RUSA INN was managed by Chelliah, an Indian Malayan and his Japanese wife. Japanese food was a rarity in those days.

DA08

An end of the year picnic at the Lake Gardens in 1959 for Std. 6A (Albert Rozario class teacher) and Std. 6B (Denis Armstrong class teacher).
Albert Rozario is in the front row, centre and I am on the left.
The boys were the pioneer batch of Std 1 pupils when LSB first opened its doors in January 1954. They would be 71-year-old senior citizens now.

 

DenisArmstrong170x200px

This is a guest post by Denis Armstrong, one of nine pioneer teachers of La Salle Brickfields when the school was established in 1954.