Hong Weng Kuen

My School-days At ACS Ipoh

I spent eleven pleasant years (1930 – 1941) as a student at the Anglo-Chinese (Boys) School, Lahat Road.  Those were the pre Second World War years and colonial Malaya was still part of the British Empire.  During those 11 years, the school went through three principals namely Mr. Proebstal, Mr. Runyon and Mr. Taylor.  During those days, English was compulsory and the medium of instruction was English.  We studied subjects like English Literature, Geography, History  of the British Empire, Hygiene, Religious Knowledge, Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, General Science and Art.  Latin was an optional subject and aspiring doctors were compelled to take it up.

There were no Houses for sports and students were divided into Divisions ie. A, B, C, D, and E.  Athletes were then not graded by age but by their height viz those who were over 5 feet were Class I, those under 5 feet were Class II and those who were below 4 feet were in Class III.  Vertically challenged students could spend the whole of their school life in Class III which could work in their favour. I was actively involved in basketball, swimming and athletics and I represented the school in swimming and athletics.  Veerapan who virtually held the school 100 yard sprint record (10 secs) till infinity was one year my senior.  His record was never broken until the day the distance was converted into the metric system.  In those colonial days, the imperial standard of measurement was used so distances were measured in feet and inches, yards and miles. Weights were expressed in pounds, stones, hundredweights and tons while volumes were measured in cubic feet, gallons, quarts and pints. The ACS those days had a different school logo and the school song was entirely different from our present day one.

The ACS had a drama society but stage plays were not produced regularly although we had a Shakespearean play now and then.  We had our Literary Society which met weekly where students had the opportunity to go on stage to speak, read, or recite poetry.  Every now and then, a teacher would take the stage to motivate us to do better in life or impart some moral values. I remember in the later part of 1941, a choir group called The Glee Club was formed as part of an extra-curricular activity to encourage and groom students to sing.  We were taught English and American songs by a Miss Bunn (no reference to her anatomy).  Unfortunately, after a few lessons The Second World War broke out and The Glee Club suffered an early demise.  To this day, I can still vividly remember the song “I Know A Girl You Don’t Know” which Miss Bunn taught us.

I remember my school-days with fondness.  We started our school life in Primary One progressing to Primary Two and then Standard One, Two, Three, etc. right up to Standard Nine where we either took the Junior Cambridge or Senior Cambridge School Certificate.  I was a happy go lucky, playful student and never focussed on my studies.  I spent most of my free time in the Kinta Swimming Club even during exams time.  There were no proper swimming classes for budding swimmers and most of us either taught ourselves how to swim or aped some of the better swimmers in the pool.  During the last six months of my school life, the Indian Army occupied the ACS buildings as part of the war preparations.  All the ACS students were then sent to attend classes at the then ACGS (Anglo-Chinese Girls School) now called MGS premises.  While the girls attended classes in the morning, the boys occupied the same classrooms in the afternoon.  There were stories of girls leaving secret phantom notes for the boys in the afternoon and vice versa.  As cell phones were then non-existent and fixed line phones were not readily available, writing secret notes and leaving them in the desks seem to be the common method of clandestine courtship.

Then on December 11, 1941, following Pearl Harbour and the sinking of the Prince Of Wales and The Repulse in the South China Sea, schools in Ipoh were closed due to war.  My friends and I had just taken our Cambridge School Certificate examinations and the papers were sent to England for marking. Being high spirited and slightly disinterested in studies. I felt that I had not done well in the exams so I secretly hoped that the ship carrying those exam scripts would be sunk either by the Japanese or German forces. Alas, this was not to be and after the war, I found out that I had obtained a Grade III pass in the Cambridge School Certificate examination.  My fellow swim team mate Thong Saw Pak excelled in this exam. He later went on to University as a Queen Scholar and became a Professor. Thong Saw Pak also took up weightlifting and represented Malaya at the Empire Games in Auckland 1950 where he won a silver medal in the 67.5 kg category.

On the whole, I found my school-days pleasant and memorable.  We were not under much pressure to excel and we had a balanced education academically, physically and spiritually.  We did not have to attend tuition classes after school and there were no problems involving drugs or gangsterism.  All the teachers during those days were dedicated to the noble cause of education which regrettably has been mostly lost in our present days.

Hong Weng Khuen

(Cohort: 1941 Standard 9)

2 Responses to Hong Weng Kuen

  1. Dil Devaser (+65 9387 9944) says:

    Mr Hong – I wonder if you remember a Mr K L Devaser who was an English literature teacher in ACS from I believe around 1936 onwards. He also ran a private school in what was called Douglas Road. I am his son and I’m doing some research on his early days in Ipoh. I’m based in Singapore – my email is “dildevaser@yahoo.com” and my mobile is 02 9387 9944. Please let me have your contact details. Dil Devaser (DoB 1956)

  2. Hi Dil.
    This is Tong Kim here. I got in touch with Mr. Hong and he recalled a teacher Devasar when he was in school but your Dad never taught him. He could not provide any more info on your Dad. He says he vaguely remembers your Dad had a private school somewhere. He invites you to drop in on him at the Kinta Swimming Club when you are in Ipoh. You might perhaps like to try Mr. PS Subramaniam to see if he remembers your Dad. Hong and Subramaniam are both from the same time warp!

    Regards,
    CTK

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