Young, fit and robust in physique, we the class of 1962 were mainly from the teachers’ training colleges and had taken PE as either an “option” or “major” subject. Many of us were active sportsmen, representing our states in various games.
It was our batch, recalls Datuk Teoh Teik Lee, who made an impact and took the honours during his terms of office at the STTI.
With youth on our side and being able to play in different games, it was easy for us to assimilate and work together as a team to achieve success in any given sport.
Although we had met on half a dozen occasions with one reunion in Penang five years ago, we were never tired of reminiscing the past. I suppose the opportunity of being able to meet in our mellowing years and to see one another growing old gracefully, brought about the nostalgia of past foibles and shared hopes.
The practical work brought out the best in us, displaying an esprit de corps in helping each other achieve confidence and success in such activities as swimming and gymnastics.
These were two areas of PE that most of us were hardly exposed to when we were in school, mainly due to the lack of facilities and trained teachers.
On the aquatic front
Swimming was a feared activity. Without our legs firmly planted on the ground and the discomfort of water getting into our eyes and nostrils, we took to the water, even at the shallow end, with trepidation — for fear of being drowned.
Strangely, equally divided, as if by fate, was a third of the class who would show off their skills by plowing through the length of the 50-metre pool like the bow of a ship heading for a pre-destined port.
A third consisted of totally non-swimmers, huddled together in one corner of the shallow end of the pool with a false sense of security — I guess each was trying to reassure the other of being safe — through numbers.
The remaining third of the 22 men (the biggest third) was of swimmers of “average standard”, including myself. Now lay the problem for Mr Teoh — to make a swimmer out of every one of us.
Promptly, he set about to detail a programme of training especially for the non-swimmers and the “average” ones. It will be unwieldy to explain the steps he took to help the group achieve success in this article (as that would take a chapter for that). Suffice to say, by the end of the course everyone could swim.
Swimming provided great humour too, with the not-so-good swimmers thrashing the water with great might and not moving very much forward, while the good ones demonstrated great economy of effort with their graceful strokes in propelling their bodies through the water.
One could only stare in awe, but it was a quiet reminder that anyone could achieve that if one was to put one’s mind to the task. And, we did.
While swimming may be tough going, diving, even off the one-metre board, was terrifying. I leave it to one’s imagination to fathom out the result when a big guy jumps off the board and lands on his buttocks, if not the stomach, first. Not counting for the pain he suffers, or the laughter of his peers, the splash could displace almost a ton of water from the pool!
The hard work put in at the pool, especially during our spare time, culminated in a water show for the public on the Institute’s Open Day. It should also be stated here that about half the class graduated as qualified life-savers with the “Bronze Medallion” of the Royal Life Saving Society. A few even qualified as instructors. Such was the determination shown by the group in the aquatic programme.
Of flips and somersaults
Gymnastics was not terrifying but worrying, all the same.
The agile and flexible ones made good gymnasts. Being young and flexible, gymnastics provided a challenge and we eagerly accepted it.
But safety was uppermost in our minds and the trust in our partners for support in our performance was essential. Foolery was unacceptable. Performer and supporter both realised that any careless action could lead to serious injury: a broken bone or twisted joint or even paralysis of the limbs or body.
A warning sign was devised to sound alert on certain performers who were less than flexible in executing flips and turns in the air, or over-swings over high apparatus.
When a thunderous call of “timber” split the air, much like the lumberjack signalling the fall of the tree, the class knew that a friend amongst us was falling over to land, hopefully on his feet even though support was provided.
Silence was broken by cheers of joy on a successful landing. Such was the camaraderie enjoyed among friends that everyone learnt the proper techniques of support.
But, the important part of teaching was in providing safe support and confidence to the students. Athletics and games training were two disciplines not new to us, having coached pupils in schools, or represented our respective district or state sides.
However, the newly acquired knowledge in kinesiology and exercise physiology did help to raise our level of proficiency in coaching as well as in our own performance.
The benefits we received from games training were amply shown in the games we played against outside teams.
Most matches were run-of-the-mill types with the losers congratulating the winners. We then went our separate ways.
Softball, when played against the USIS (United States Information Service) team, was an exception.
Win or lose, the generous team members of the USIS would treat us to tea at the “Oasis”, a café along Batu Road (now Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman). There was always a wonderful spread of tea-time fare and it was here that I first came to know of the “submarine” sandwich.
Understandably, the softball team was never short of players whenever the USIS wanted a game!
The satisfaction we derived from the other games was in defeating teams of repute such as against the Technical College and the Selangor club in rugby (rugger). We had a number of state players on our side and with youth and speed, we were able to acquit ourselves well.
The other games in which we had formidable sides were hockey, volleyball, badminton and soccer, seldom losing to our challengers. Even our lecturers took part in some of these matches.
Outdoor pursuits in camping and hiking in Kuantan and water-related activities at Emerald Bay in Lumut Laut, provided more opportunities for the class to work together.
In fact, such activities were included for the first time in our course of study and had become a standard feature of the PE syllabus in the teachers’ training colleges.
Theory lessons were humdrum by nature but they provided a firm basis for better knowledge into subjects which helped us understand the teaching of PE better.
We had large areas to cover, encompassing administration of physical education, anatomy, exercise physiology, history of physical education, athletics and games training and not forgetting various stroke productions in swimming.
That we were able to “gel” well and had developed a friendship that spanned 50 years was due to the fact that we fed off each other’s enthusiasm and energy in all our endeavours.
Parting was inevitable and as we all went back to our schools, some were already envisaging furthering their studies abroad. Leonard de Vries and T. Vasudevan headed to Canada, with the former returning with a Ph. D degree in PE, (the first to achieve this distinction in physical education), and the latter, a Master’s degree. They taught at universities until they retired.
Mohd Ali Bakar and Chin Siew Foong joined the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, the former retiring as director of culture while the latter was in the Sports Division and was later to be the Special Assistant to the Chairman of the 1988 Commonwealth Games in KL.
To this day, Faridah Merican, the doyen of the Performing Arts, continues her love and passion in this much neglected part of social life and often encourages young artistes to expose their talents in the theatre.
Leela Abu Bakar is still serving as CEO of Yayasan Budi Penyayang Malaysia, a charity organisation that supports the poor and those in difficulties.
Half a dozen of us in the group served in the teachers’ training colleges as lecturers in physical education.
About the same number, disillusioned with our education system, decided to leave the service to move abroad or to join the private sector. It also attracted two lecturers to opt for early retirement to take up positions as administrators in sports organisations.
Despite going our different ways and pursuing different careers, we often met when the opportunity arose to cherish those memories of an era long gone but not forgotten.
What can be more rewarding in our retired life than to meet up with old friends with whom we had shared some good times together?
There is no doubt that we will continue to enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company as the sun sets over the horizon in our life and, hopefully, radiating long golden rays that illuminate the scenery on a good summer day with our ageing minds fighting off dementia.
By HO CHEE ENG
Source: The STAR Home Education Looking Back Sunday April 1, 2012