Friday, March 29, 2013

Dad what was your relationship like with your family when you were growing up

When we were growing up, we had a very loving closely knitted family. Mum was the uniting factor while dad gave us the impression that he was a discliplinarian and often many of us siblings were afraid of him. As we grew older we know both our parents love us very much. Though we were not rich, we were not spared our delicious meals, our toys and even enjoyed the luxury of televisions, radios and some basic electrical appliances such as the refrigerators.

I do remember the days when we had to work hard to chop the firewood and my dear grandfather will be the one who wakes up at 5 am to boil the water using fire wood and a small runner piece cut from the tyres was used as fire starter. I am sure grandpa had great live for us and he made sure that we were comfortable as possible. Once when grandpa was alive there was some arrangement with Alec Bus company to supply us with drivers who drove us to and fro school.

We were close to our granny too who was a good cook as she was a nyonya who cooked some of the curries and worked hard in the kitchen until a time when she was not able to walk. Then you can see my dad, your grandfather taking good care of his parents. He ensured that they had medical care and that my grandma was well looked after. She had to be helped by 2 persons to the dining table. Our aunty Sam Ku had to bathe her in her room with small bucket of water. Such service done daily requires a lot of sacrifice and could only be done when there is much love for each other. Grandma died in 1968 and is buried at the Larkin Cemetry

Similarly Grandpa was a loving person and I remember making him bent down for me to ride on his shoulder treating him like a toy horse. Granpa loves to go out every day when he was healthier and always come back with a stick of sweets either Fruitella and later Menthos. Grandpa loved all of us and just a few days before he died, he called all his children that were available and verbally told them how his assets were to be distributed and how we ought to share the family home we were staying in. It was very emotional but he did it and then on the day of his death in December 1966, I remembered shivering in school and shortly after, my dad or a family member came to fetch us from school early.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dad, what rules does your parents have, and which one drove you crazy

One rule that I remembered was imposed by our parents was to study hard and we had our study times given as 7 pm to 9pm. The afternoon was also used to do our homework. We had to sit together in the hall with dad's watchful eyes and we were alright  so long as we have a book in front of us. He does not interfere with our work, merely encourage us to work hard. Dad was also an early sleeper and sometimes go to sleep by 8pm. This is the time we will quietly go downstairs to our grandma's room and watch television which was black and white then.

Another rule that I remembered was to be polite and to respect all our elders. We had to call everyone senior to us before we start our meals. We being obedient children duly complied until one day I had to call about 20 to 30 of them as they came for my Grandpa birthday celebration and I had just returned from school. I was pretty hungry and guess I lost my cool after a few calls and decided to stop calling and started crying. I was propably 5 or 6 years old then. Guess this must be the one rule that drove me crazy

Friday, March 15, 2013

Dad, what is your favourite memory of your Mum

We just celebrated Mum's 81st birthday last November 2012 and we were very glad that all her children and grandchildren with the exception of Brendan were able to return to Johor Baru to celebrate this auspicious occassion. Mum is an extraordinary person and she is very loving generous and friendly person. Her popularity amongst friends and family is evident by the number of guests present at the birthday dinner. ( approximately 500) Though she did not receive any formal education, I believe her values and knowledge are better than many educated people.

During our recent Chinese New year reunion, she was able to enlighten me of her hard life. As a child she was given away by my grandfather. If I am not mistaken she was only 8 years old when she given to another family with the plan to be betrothed to one of the sons. That family according to her treated her reasoably well and even brought her back to China. However when they wanted her to migrate back to China, she went back to her father pleading to return to her natural father. Grandfather must have been more enlightened by then and decided to buy her back and accepted her into the Chai family in Senai.

Mum is tremendously patient and have also been very hardworking throughout her life. She is a good cook and had been cooking for her family since  very young. She told me she had to wash the family clothes manually at the Senai river when she was young too. She had a high threshold of pain and once she fell and was bleeding but all she did was to immerse her leg in the river and once the bleeding stop just carried on walking normally.

Mum had been a very stable magnet to all her siblings and even my father's relatives. Many of my cousins still keep in touch with her even though they have migrated overseas. She is very hospitable and though we were poor she did all she could to put meals on to our dining table.

Although she was pretty scared of doctors and suffered from cataracts for many years. She would avoid treatment as far as possible. She would not complaint but my wife Kar Im sense something was wrong when she could not locate her items in the kitchen, During one of her visits to KL, she had no choice when the opthalmologist had to operate one eye in an emergency. Subsequently my sister and brother persusaded her to do another treatment in JB and her eyesight is much better now.

Her favourite hobby is playing mahjong and this had helped keep her senses even at this age. She is so good at the game then even when she could not see, she could read the mahjong with her fingers and can play the game normally.

Mum is always looking forward to extend her love to the family including her 7 grandchildren. She always ask after them and am sure that she prays hard for all of us.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Dad, what the best thing your dad taught you

Dad taught us that family bonds are important and he was very filial to my Grandpa and Grandma. He respected them and made sure that they were well looked after. His love of his parents were also extended to his own family and that of his in laws and the rest of the siblings. He was very generous to all when he could afford to.

Although dad loves to drink, he does not shirk his responsibility as a father and a son. I remember the discipline he instill into us kids when study time was enforced from 7pm to 9p each weekday night. However his habit was to sleep and wake up early. As children we love to watch tv and sometimes we sneak into the tv room after he had gone to sleep. Dad did not however teach me to drink, though I cultivated the habit after attending college and when I started work.

Dad also instill the discipline of church going to us as he never failed to make sure we attend Mass each Sunday. I heard from Mum that in his earlier years he was not a regular church goer but was persuaded by Father Chego to do so. Dad also observes punctuality and was seldom late for his appointment

Another great lesson we learned from him is to be friendly, humble and loving to all. He had all kind of friends, including our Malay neighbours and a number of army personnel from Australia, Scotland etc. No racial discrimation as we have all sorts of visitors including some Indian friends too.

Dad taught us to fish, he was the one who taught me to put the worms into the hook as bait when we fished at the Senai river. I also probably cultivated the reading habit from him as he too was an avid reader, although he reads mostly Chinese kungfu novels and newspapers.

All in all I think the best thing taught us was to love our families, siblings grandparents and friends. His great hospitality had been passed on to us too.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dad, what is your favourite memory of your dad

Your granddad and my dad is Abraham Paul Loh Khiong Choo. Little did I know who Abraham was until later in the Catechism classes and still later in the bible classes I attended. Dad was a responsible, caring and loving provider. He was a man who sort of learned from the University of life. I gathered he had only a few years of Chinese education but he was able to pick up English through his drinking sessions with all the soldiers that were serving in the Johor Military Base nicknamed 221. I remember a Scottish Major Enfield who had been a very close friend and was a frequent visitor to our kampung house. He loves drinking his whiskey with dad and I remember praisng Mum for cooking very lovely fried rice.

Dad at that time was working as the Acting Managing Director of Alec Bus Company. Dad must have have learned management skills on the job for I am quite sure he have no diploma or degree in Management. Yet he was able to trust-worthily carried out his duties and if I remember correctly produced good results for the bus company. A bit of history. I have a Uncle, the late John Loh Toh Met who was a millionaire in 1957/8. He had a range of businesses, insurance company, workshops, petrol station and the bus company. Unfortunately he had died in 1958 while watching a wrestling match, must have suffered a massive heart attack. At the time of his death Uncle's children were still young, so somehow Dad was entrusted to looked after the business until my cousins reached the age of maturity. In this case his eldest son Anthony Loh Khee Toh took over the company when he reached 21. Dad was an honest person and I doubt he made much of this assignment, he could have taken advantage of the many opportunities to make money for himself, yet he did not. He just handed over the Company to Anthony and fortunately was assigned a smaller post of MD of South East Express Company Limited, a company owned by a Mersing towkay and Alec Bus Company Ltd. With his much lower income we struggled as we grow up but he did not sting in our education. All 3 sons of his were given respectable education. In fact my Brother Alex did his first degree in UKM and followed by  Masters in America and Philippine while Henry   did his Bachelor of Accounting degree in University Malaya, followed by his Masters in Anthropology in Canberra, Australia. Unfortunatly our sister Philo did not pursue higher education.

Dad was a very disciplined persons and when Grandpa asked him to mange the smallholding he will drive to Senai early in the morning to help in the work of transporting and selling the rubber sheets from the small kongsi to a shop in Senai. I being the eldest sometimes get to follow him when it was the school holidays and on Saturdays.

Dad loves to smoke and drink. He was a smoker since 9 years old and until his heart attack at age of 69, he was a regular smoker. After his operation and recovery from the shocking heart attacks, he stopped smoking entirely but continued drinking. Dad used to drink a stout a day and it was always in the evening. However if he had drinking companions, he will be able to drink more.  I remember folowing him to the small drinking place in Jalan Meldrum called Heng Kee Bar, He and his friends will be drinking there while I will get my sweets and also a soft drink. I remember too following him to the Johor Civil Service Club in front of the old Rest House, now Thistle Hotel. Here he will be playing snooker and drinking too. I sometimes get him to give me coins so that I play at the slot machines.

I must say dad supported me a lot all my life and he loves his children very much. When you were born and then your siblings, he made sure all of you get your toys and he loved to play with you too. I remember that on his death bed he wanted to see you all before he sadly left us in October 18, 1997. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Dad, which were your favourite pets and what made them so special

Living in a kampong house, we had the opportunity to encounter several types of pets such as dogs, cats, chicken, ducks, pigeons, guinea pigs, turtles, tortoises and lots of fishes. I took the dogs in my life for granted and most of the time they were our alarm systems or announcer of any visitors or intruders into our home. These dogs are very useful as they keep within the house compound and are able to function well as our guard dogs. They were obedient and were usually responsive to out calls. They will greet us happily when we arrive home. I remenber feeling quite sad when we have to bury the dogs when they die, especially the Alsatians.

Most of my time had been spent with the fishes as I love them moving so quickly and yet gracefully through the many aquariums we had in our home. It is however a lot of work to clean the aquariums and sometimes will end in heartache as we forget to put in enough anto chlorine and they will float one by one. Many of the gold fishes that we kept ended end dying this way.

I do enjoy going to the drains to catch longkang fishes and later we manage to catch fighting fishes from the stream in Senai which we kept in small bottles inside the house as we love to watch them fight.

Another fascinating story about pet pigeons was my dad gave the pigeons away to a friend in Singapore, the pigeons mangage to fly back home to their coup in our home. If I remember correctly they were identified by a string tied to the legs. At that time we never heard of bird flu and in fact off and on we caught them and ate them for their medicinal values.

We kept a turtle at the big aquarium near the outhouse and this grew to a respectable size of over 1 and half feet long. I was quite afraid of this pet as I had been warned that if the turtle bit my finger it will not let go until the thunder booms. Anyway sadly this pet ended up in the kitchen table before we shifted from this kampung house. Needless to say I did not eat any part of it.

I remember swimming or playing in this big aquarium or a small pool when there was no turtle or when it was much smaller. I will try to catch the many talapias just for the fun of it. Although I love fishes as pets, I do not really like to eat them unless they are fried or have no fishy smells.

Other pets that we played with included insects such as grasshoppers, spiders which we kept in matchboxes. I remenber too chasing the chickens around the gardens just for the fun of it. Those days there was much outdoor fun as there were no computers and television only came in the late 60s.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Dad, when you were a kid, what was your favourite holiday, and how did your family celebrate it

When I was a kid, going for family holiday hardly happens. It could be it was not the norm those days to have family holidays and also that we were not rich enough to afford expensive holidays. I do remember some excursions to the waterfalls in Kota Tinggi, where the family had a chance to enjoy the beautiful waterfalls scenery and also some delicious Chinese food ate at the Chinese restaurants or coffee shops. I remember too that Dad brought me to some hunting trips where I observed the hunters shooting flying foxes in the now developed town of Pandan. In one of the hunting expeditions I remembering encountering my first leach experience when we were in a lookout point in the jungles of Kota Tinggi. There is where I learnt a match stick or a lighter came in handy to get the leach off my leg.

The other more frequent holidays is when dad took us back to Senai where we visit our small holding. We have  a small processing plant in the rubber smallholding  and I observed the hardy tappers collect the latex early in the morning and then transfer it to the small plant for the latex to coagulate into rubber slabs. It was an interesting learning experience for us siblings. As we grew older we learnt to fish using hooks and worms as bait to catch some fishes, of which the tiger barb was my favourite. Occasionally we will get into the small stream and use a a pongki to catch the small fishes to be brought home as out pets.

I also remember Grandpa taking me in the earlier days to the smallholding, where I follwed him using the bus and had to walked long distances via some small established paths to visit the rubber small holdings. Perhaps this started my love for walking and taking the public buses which I carry on doing even today when I am close to reaching 60 years.

Other trips that I remember going with Mum and dad was to visit Port Klang, probably in the late 60s and also visited Mantin graves where my first grandmother Anna Thong rest in peace. We usually travel with my late God father Lawrence Wong in his Opel having the number plate JA 1 then.