Like all other towns, Johor Bahru town has its fair share of spooky tales. Some of its paranormal stories deserve a good horror movie; sightings of strange figures, events occurred that cause puzzlement and peculiar experiences keep on outwitting us. Johor Bahru town is my second home and I have few eerie stories that can send shivers down your spine. Stories that defy logic and beyond human comprehension. Whether these stories are true or make up tales is for you readers to judge and decide.

4th December 1977, Boeing 737 belonging to Malaysian Airline Systems (MAS) crashed at Kampung Ledang, Tanjung Kupang, Johor. Flight MH653 was carrying 93 passengers of various nationalities and 9 crews and this horrific incident did not spare any survivor. All dead were beyond recognition. This was perhaps the first fatal incident recorded in the history of the Malaysian airline. As none of the dead could be recognized, the State government and MAS authorities agreed to have them all buried in one common grave with honour. During the burial ceremony all religious imams, priests and monks carried out their own rituals and sermons accordingly. Where is this common grave?

In the heart of JB town there is a housing area called Kebung Teh. It was perhaps named after the road Jalan Kebun Teh. Towards the south is this housing area while towards the north is another housing area called Majidee Park. In between these two housing areas is where this common grave is situated which apparently is right beside Jalan Kebun Teh. A few months later, chilling tales, weird sightings and horrific encounters were reported and told from mouth to mouth. A lorry driver once used this road in the middle of the night and as he was about to pass where this common grave is, he suddenly saw a few people crossing the road. Applying the brakes of his vehicle to avoid collision, he stopped right in front of the grave but the people that he saw just disappeared into thin air. A lone driver was frightened to death when he saw two white figures flying just above the grave in the wee hours of the morning. Neighbouring residents often hear of human wailing and cries after midnight. All these stories could be conjectured but the one experienced by my close friend cannot be one.

Karim Bin Mohd. Amin (now a Dato) was having his usual night out at the Johor Civil Service Club one evening. It was almost 1.00am when he decided to retire and drove home. It was 1982 and was the beginning of his business venture. He told us that he was completely sober and what he was about to experience could not be unreal. Driving at the speed of approximately 50 mph, he suddenly saw a man crossing the road. Instinctively he applied the brakes but it was too late. He had knocked a man and being sober he stopped by the road side to ascertain whether he did knock a man? He looked at the rear mirror and there he saw a man lying on the road. His mind worked fast and decided to take a look at the man. Apparently he noticed that his car was parked right in front of the common grave.

He walked slowly and approached the man who was motionless. The man seemed unconscious but there was no blood. He slapped softly the man’s face just to find out whether he was alright but there was no answer. Karim had to think fast what would be his next action. The best was to call the police and since his house was now very near (He lived in the housing area of Kebun Teh) he’d better hurry home and called the police. What he did next was to carry the man and placed him on the grass by the side of the road. Having done so, he rushed to his car and started to drive home so that he could make  call to the police. As he was on the wheel, he looked at the rear mirror to check whether everything was alright but to his horror, the man he had just knocked and placed on the grass was inside his car at the back seat. Too horrified to look again, he screamed out loud and pressed the accelerator. All the way to his house he was screaming of fright but managed to drive home.

The next morning after having composed himself, he called his good friend who was a high ranking police officer in the state and related the event. He requested his friend to check at all the police station whether there was any report of a man being knocked down by a car and placed on the grass along the road. There was none. Karim felt ill after that and had to stay indoor for a week.

Was what Karim experienced a mere hallucination or other form of optical illusion? I believe him because he is always known among our fraternity as an honest person. Furthermore what good can making up stories be of any benefits to him?

In late 1973 I started working with an Insurance company based in Johor Bahru. I was 24 years old. Before I settled down on my own, I stayed in the house belonging to my second cousin Ungku Yusof Abdul Rahman (now a Dato). He was married to another of my second cousin, Zaini Abdul Jalil, who was a government officer. She was entitled for a government quarters and the house was situated along Jalan Pahlawan. Being related and close to each other, Ungku Yusof offered me to stay with them and I took no time to accept his generous offer. The house in question was a single-storey bungalow with a spacious living room. The master bedroom was at one end of the house while two other rooms were at the other end close to the kitchen. In the middle was the living room where the exit door was. As they were a young couple with a newly born baby boy, the two rooms were never used until I moved in.

Nothing happened on the first and second night of my stay but on the third night the spirit that dwell in the house decided to have some fun. I was in raised in a house shrouded with mystery in my hometown of Muar. Therefore I was accustomed to many strange happenings in that house and as I grew older, these weird feeling did not seem to bother me much. And so on this third night of my stay at Ungku Yusof’s house, the fun began at around 3.00 in the morning. It had to be around this hour of the night that I must woke up. As I opened my eyes, I saw a black figure standing beside my bed. It was so vague that I could not recognize its real image but it was in a form of a man with very long hair. I tried to stand up but I couldn’t move like as though I was tied to something. I struggled hard to get released but to no avail. My inner thoughts began to recite some relevant verses of the Quran but that didn’t work either. Maybe the spirit was giggling at my recitations. It was about a minute that I was like a log when I quietly said to the spirit to let me go as I just wanted to sleep after a hard day’s work. When I was fully recovered I could see vaguely the figure walking away from me. I then slumbered peacefully until the call of azan woke me up. I tried to compromise with myself suggesting that what I experienced was nothing extraordinary, just that I was perhaps too tired. Maybe the spirit knew what my thoughts were when suddenly I saw right before my eyes the same dark figure coming out from the wall walking straight to me. This time I was extremely scared but pretended to be brave. The figure kept on walking until it even passed through my body. I could feel the chilly cold air as it passed through me. As I turned back to see where it went to, the black figure went through the other side of the wall and disappeared. Maybe the spirit wanted to send me a message..”mind you, I am for real so don’t you ever forget that”.

I told Ungku Yusof about my ordeal the next morning and he said that this house had a guarding spirit what we Malays called “Penunggu”. There were few other incidents but I just chose to ignore.

In 1982 when I was already married with two small kids, I encountered the most horrifying experience of my life. I had a face to face dialogue with a young girl being possessed by a terrible jinni. I will tell you in my next posting.

If any of you readers don’t believe in my stories or don’t believe in the existence of ghosts, that’s not my problem. Maybe I should tell the spirit that once dwell in Ungku Yusof’s house to pay you a visit one of these nights.

Watch out for my next posting on “The Spooky Side of Johor Bahru Town (Part Two)”

Have a good day guys.

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Johor Bahru had always been my second town during my growing years. Every time when the school holidays started, I would pack some clothing and had them stuffed in my bag and not forgetting the toiletries, I would walk to the bus station looking for a taxi to ferry me to Johor Bahru. Taking a bus would be cheaper but it would be time consuming. In those day we had buses that we referred as Bas Sangkut. These buses would stop at every town; from Muar town it would first stop at Parit Bakar, then proceeded to Parit Jawa and then to Semerah and finally at Batu Pahat. However, from Batu Pahat one had to take a boat to Batu Pahat town as the bus would not continue their journey but would return to Muar town instead. From Batu Pahat one had to take another Bas Sangkut stopping at every town like Air Hitam, Simpang Renggam, Kulai and finally to Johor Bahru. It would take you the whole day to reach Johor Bahru town. So normally I would prefer to use the taxi that would cost me $5.00.

My first trip to Johor Bahru was in 1956 when I was 6 years old. It was during this trip that I remember when my uncle brought me to Singapore to watch the movie ‘Hang Tuah”. I was so fascinated with the movie for two reasons; it was a Malay movie that I could understand every word spoken from the beginning till the end and what made it even more fascinating was it was in colour. When I returned home I created many lies to my cousins who had never been away from Muar town. I told them that Singapore was so very far away that it was at the other end of the world. Then I told them that Singapore was such a very big town that one could never find a forest and the buildings were all taller than any coconut tree there was. They would listen to me with their mouths wide open.

In 1959, one of my uncles was posted to Johor Bahru as a Police Inspector and I would spend almost every school holidays with his small family. The house as I remember vividly was situated along Jalan Draper, quite near to the Johor Bahru town center. It was a wooden bungalow belonging to the state government. Uncle Othman was married to a Kelantanese lady whose accent was so thick that I sometime found it difficult to understand what she was talking about. They had a daughter, Faridah, who was a toddler perhaps three or four years old. During one of the school holidays, my male cousin who was a few years my junior followed me to spend the holidays with Uncle Othman. Tamar (Nordin Bin Mohd. Noah) and me slept in one room by ourselves often waking up during the night feeling so scared because we imagined many ghosts were around looking for young boys to eat.

Unlike my hometown of Muar where entertainment outlets were minimal, Johor Bahru town offered varieties of them. In the morning, particularly during the holidays, the Lido Beach would be filled with people from all walks of life bringing along their children. It was a carnival and by the shore young girls would walk gracefully stirring into action the cheeky eyes of young lads followed by their inviting whistling tune. Some families organized picnics having their nasi lemak for breakfast under the swaying coconut tress. They would enjoy the same meal for lunch. Hawkers would be doing brisk sales and the ice cream sellers wished they could bring more. This kind of scenario would last till evening and would be repeated the following morning. Once a while the cars of the Johor Royal families would pass by making all heads turning toward their direction. Johoreans are known to be proud of their Sultan and the royal families.

In the evening the Merdeka Park would be the lime light and many young lovers would stroll along the area of Stulang Laut of the Johor Straits. There wasn’t much entertainment but making your presence felt was compulsory otherwise you would be left out. Light refreshment would be served for a reasonable price and hawkers too took the opportunity to earn extra.

I was the first to get a taxi going to Johor Bahru. It was 1965 and I was 15 years old, eager to set foot in my second hometown. The taxi driver waited for another three passengers before we could proceed our journey. Being the first, I had the privileged to sit in front by the side of the taxi driver. When finally the taxi had four passengers, we began our journey. Along the way I enjoyed gazing at the green scenery while planning how to spend my few days in Johor Bahru. I had many relatives and I could chose any of their homes for my stay. But for this trip I decided to stay at my grandaunt’s house situated along the road of Wadi Hassan. We arrived Johor Bahru town by lunch time and I took a stroll to my favourite Chinese restaurant. The Hwa Mui restaurant served the best and authentic dishes of the Chinese Hailam. The waiters were mostly elderly people who walked slightly faster than a snail. I had a delicious meal of chicken chop oriental style and enjoyed every part of the meat. It was so juicy that its taste could still be felt after a few hours later.

Tonight I would be attending a party at the Railway Community Hall along Jalan Bukit Chagar, the reason for this Johor Bahru trip. JB youths were more advance than the Muar town youths but we always competed and refused to be left behind. The western influence creeping into our society was evidently strong looking at how JB youths were coping with it. Few local bands would be performing and I was so excited to watch them. Back home I belonged to a band known as the Dreamers and tonight I would be enjoying myself watching these JB musicians rocking to their bones.

My grandaunt was extremely surprised to see me at her doorstep. Tok Ani was in her late seventies and lived with her daughter whom I called Abang Gayah. Johoreans referred the eldest woman in a family as “Abang”. Tok Ani was so happy to see me that she asked Abang Gayah to fry for me my favourite jemput-jemput.  In those days communication was very poor and we only used letters to communicate and for urgent matters we used the telegram. So every time I went to JB I had to take chances.

After having my dinner, I walked to the nearest bus stand and took a bus going to town. From here I walked towards the Railway station and using the back lane of the station, I walked a little bit further to a nearby hill. I ascended using a small lane and as it was dark, I walked slowly until I reached Jalan Bukit Chagar. One or two cars were passing by perhaps going to the same party. From afar I could see the lights of the Community Hall and could hear the sound of music. There were few lads outside puffing their cigarettes and I hope to meet some of my JB friends. As I approached nearer, one of them who noticed me shouted, “Hey our Muar friend Din is here”. We exchanged greetings and words began to circulate that a Muar friend was here tonight. I had always been friendly to most of them so I guess that was the reason I was easily accepted among my JB friends. Apparently quite a number of my Muar friends were also present.

The band performing was one called The Beats; a four piece all sporting the Beatles hair style singing the song ‘House of the Rising Sun’. They were all good looking, tall, and I thought they must be the Johor Arabs from Wadi Hana. They sang all the latest songs swinging and rocking as though we were in Liverpool. The dance floor were filled with dancers exhibiting the latest steps. The next band to perform was The Cossacks whose bass guitarist was my friend Wally (Zainal Jaafar) and another friend Rahman Kassim who later went to Germany. They sang most of the Beatles songs shaking their heads like Paul McCartney and John Lennon. I was introduced to some JB girls but as I was more interested in watching the bands, I could not be bothered  with them. Furthermore I was rather shy with girls.

JB bands of the 60s were more advance than the Muar bands. I guess since Singapore was just a few miles away, they could get the best instruments there were. I remember watching a group of Johor Arabs called the Wadi Hana Quintet at the Diamond Jubilee Hall singing an old number ‘Sri Mersing’. It was a great fusion of old and new sound combined. JB produced quite a number of good bands that made the grade. Among them were The Strangers of the Cicin Emas fame, Orkes Nirwana, The Blue Waves whose singer Dino later joined another JB band called the Heavy Machine. Dino and the Heavy Machine are still around in Kuala Lumpur singing in some exclusive outlets.

That night after the party, a good friend offered me a lift home. We stopped at a famous Chinese restaurant operating 24 hours called Three Rings.

Johor Bahru of the 60s during the night was the place for night birds. They had a night club callled the Sky but this place was not suitable for young kids like me and so I never step foot in this place.

Towards the later part of my life in 1973 I moved to Johor Bahru working with an Insurance company. JB of the early 70s had changed slightly  and new technology began to emerge. This was the time I began to have many new friends. Most of the nights I would spend my time at the Johor Civil Service Club drinking a glass or two of Anchor beer just to pass the time. By now JB had a new hotel called Orchid Hotel and next to it was the the Tropical Inn. The Tun Razak Complex along Jalan Wong,Ah Fook was almost completed that would soon transform the old road into a bursting shopping complex. New skyline was showing signs of appearing and JB was set to become a city with a class of its own. But until such time that would soon become apparent, JB town was a town many today have miss greatly.

Breakfast was always an exciting agenda and we had plenty to chose. We could enjoy a nice packet of nasi lemak eaten together with the famous otak otak served by a Chinese shop situated along Jalan Tebrau/Bukit Chagar. Or joined the many who would be enjoying their indulgence of lontong, nasi ambeng and the many Malay delicacies inside the wet market of Jalan Wong Ah Fook. For lunch we could always opt for the nasi padang of Yong’s. Or the famous Malay couple who served the best Malay dishes of authentic minang cuisine along Jalan Ibrahim. Of course not forgetting the legendary mee rebus Haji Wahid and the great Wak Logio’s satay. But you could still chose to eat at the famous Hwa Mui restaurant and the newly opened Lady Jade near the Mara building or at Wato Inn, just a walking distance from Lady Jade. The Sentosa nasi ayam was second to none and so was the Indian nasi daun pisang the origins of the JB Indian Keralla. JB  town was a food haven for those who wouldn’t mind to add a few more calories.

Surely many of you have heard of a place called Mechinta. It was a night club that could shame the fame of Paris and New York. The owner was a friend of mine named Peter Kuok, who happened to be the half brother of Robert Kuok. A short guy and always pleasant, he mooted the idea of Mechinta, the acronym of Melayu, China and Tamil put together. The world famous singer Dato Shake started his singing career in this famous night club. Of course we did have another night club called Queen Bee situated along Jalan Tun Abdul Razak.

God knows how much I miss my JB town of my growing years. The Wahab Book Store where I could get any book of my choice; Everstrong for my sporting attires; RAT Auto to repair my car; the boutique of “His and Hers” to catch up with the latest fashion trend and many other varieties of everything.

And I will surely remember the many good friends that I have left behind.  Johor Bahru of my growing years was a town I will always longed for.





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Hari Raya was the most celebrated festival during my growing years in Muar town and I believe it is still the most celebrated festival until today as the Malay population is still dominant. The Chinese New Year celebration came second followed by Deepavali of the Indian Light Festival. We didn’t have any Sikh festival back then and I noticed some of them celebrated the Deepavali together with our local Indian population.

We always looked forward to celebrate these festivals. Around Muar town, the population of the Chinese was almost ninety percent. Muar town during my growing years had quite a number of Indians and within the vicinity of my kampung we had three Indian families. We referred these festivals as ‘Hari Raya” too but according to the ethnicity. Thus we called the Chinese New Year as Hari Raya Cina and Deepavali as Hari Raya India. Hari is ‘Day’ in the English language while Raya is ‘Big’; thus Hari Raya means ‘Big Day’. However, there was another festival which was less celebrated and this was Christmas. This is understandable as there weren’t many Christians living in Muar town of the fifties and sixties.  However, there were three families who lived quite close to our kampung that celebrated Christmas. I still remember their names; Mr. Desmond Pereira, Mr. F.A. Johns and Terrence Smith.

It took us quite a while to finally realize that there was another festival we called Hari Raya Omputih (Big Day for the white people). We were then taught that this festival was a celebration for the Christian people. We were also told that this festival was to celebrate the birthday of a great prophet and messenger of God named Isa (Jesus) and this day was known as Christmas Day. So all these while we only knew that only the English people celebrated Christmas. Even after we gained our independence in 1957, there were still many English people in our country and they would celebrate their Christmas day at the Tanjung Club. During the night, we would cycle around the area where the Tanjung Club was and stopped by the roadside to watch the English dancing and celebrating their Christmas eve.

It was only when I was in Standard Six that I knew that Christmas was a day celebrated by Christians irrespective of their race. During my primary schooling we had one teacher who was a Christian named Mr. Edward who was an Indian by race. He was our Singing class teacher and was very good at playing the piano. Mr. Edward later married our class teacher Miss Sundram and since then we called her Mrs. Edward.

Along the same road where I lived in Jalan Omri, there was a Christian family of Indian descent. The head of the family was Mr. F. A. Johns. Mr. Johns worked with the Central Electricity Board (now Tenaga Nasional) and he was fond of cars. He was driving a Jaguar E-Type at that time. He had a son slightly older than me and had many Chinese and Malay friends. On the eve of every Christmas, their house was the only house that would be lighted brightly. We could see the Christmas tree nicely decorated at the front portion of the house.

Sometime in the early sixties, perhaps in 1961, Mr. Johns participated in the Johor Grand Prix. Johor state was perhaps the first Malayan state to organize a Grand Prix participated by few international drivers and riders. I remember few Japanese motor cycle riders participated but I remember only one name; Tanaka, who was the winner in the motor cycles category. It was in this Grand Prix that Mr. Johns died. The circuit started from Jalan Yahaya Awal in front of the Prison building with a sharp bend a few yards away to Jalan Air Molek. From here it would lead to the road along the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque which was on top of a hill. From here the road descended towards Jalan Lido and it was from this road that Mr. Johns crashed into the Johor river. It seemed that he was leading all the way but as fate had it written, sadly Mr. Johns died instantly when the accident occurred.

His death brought shock waves in Muar town and everyone was talking about it. It was a sad moment for Muar town for it had lost a courageous son. But the name F. A. Johns will be remembered for a long time by Muarians particularly my contemporaries.

When I started schooling at the Muar High School in 1963, I had three classmates who were Christians; Thomas Eapen an Indian, Alfred Walter Lopez a Portuguese descent and Alber Lim a Chinese. As Christmas would be celebrated during the long school holidays, we hardly celebrate Christmas with them. However, our school headmaster Mr. Desmond Pereira was very much a Christian.

Mr. Pereira became the headmaster of the Muar High School in 1957 until his retirement in May 1973. He took over from Mr. E. A. Balshaw, the last Englishman of the school thus making Mr. Pereira the first Malayan to be the school’s headmaster. He was born in Malacca in 1922 and was believed to be a Portuguese descent. He was a member of the Muar Rotary Club which started the Interact Club. He encourage all schools in town to be involved in joint activities like debates, oratorical contests and even musical performances.

Mr. Pereira must be the best Headmaster the school ever had. He died peacefully on the 17th December 2016 at the age of 94 in Johor Bahru.

My classmate Walter Alfred Lopez who looked like a younger version of Triny Lopez was among my best friends. He was a Portuguese and very proud of his ancestral heritage. I liked to tease him by asking “Are you related to Alfonso D’ Albuquerque? Lopez was a jovial person and very friendly. It was through him that I learned a lot about the Christmas festival.

Along the Police Barracks which was a few yards away from my house there once lived the Smith family. They were believed to be a mixture of Indian and Portuguese. They had a son who was a year older than me named Terrance. Together with his younger sister, they would frequently walk by my house in the evening. It was routine for me to play my acoustic guitar during this time at the tembok (concrete bench) of my house. One evening while walking passed my house Terrence noticed me playing my guitar and he waved at me and smiled. I waved back and invited him to sit with me which he obliged. Apparently I discovered that he was a very good guitarist. From then on we became close friends and we would sit together playing our guitars. We would sing Beatles songs together and played some instrumentals of The Shadows. Later I introduced him to my cousin Ajs who was an excellent guitarist too.

One day we received an invitation to perform as a guest artiste at the Cathay cinema where a Talent Time show was to be staged. Terrence was very excited about it and immediately excepted the offer. We invited another friend named Yem (Sheikh Ibrahim) to be the drummer. We practiced few songs in my room with Terrence playing the lead guitar, Ajis the bass guitar and me playing the rhythm guitar. On that night we performed well and the audience gave us a thunderous applause and it was such a memorable night for us who were only about sixteen years old at that time.

Once Terrence invited us to his house for a Christmas lunch. We were introduced to his parents and family and we had a great lunch cooked by his mother. Terrence however did not stay long in Muar town as his father was transferred to other district. Since then I have lost contact of him.

Although Muar town of my growing years did not celebrate Christmas as we usually did during the Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali, the spirit of Christmas was instilled inside me by these Christian friends of mine. Those were the years when race, colour and creed had no boundary and we respected each other’s religions and cultures greatly. It was a time when we learned so many things about the diversity of our great multi-racial society. I miss those wonderful years when my Chinese and Indian friends could simply walk into my house without needing any reason. Sadly these good values seem to slowly fade away. We seem to have lost trust in our own people.

To all my Christian friends and readers, Merry X’mas. May the good Lord’s blessings be upon us all.


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We are still in Muar town and the year is 1960 and by now some of you readers, particularly the young ones have learn something precious, something that money can’t buy. Life in the 50s had always been good, even the weather was always kind; soft, warm and balmy. Malaya was a very young nation and we were lucky to have inherited many good things left by the British. The social life was slow but steady and we never complained, after all there wasn’t anything to complain about.

The past fifty years had been a breathtaking era of change. Since independence Muar town took its time to change and there weren’t any rush for changes although new opportunities were plenty. While the neighbouring districts of Malacca and Batu Pahat took the opportunity, time stood still in Muar town. Nevertheless, the people refused to be left behind and were able to ride in tandem to the growing needs, although slowly but surely, for a social transformation.

Preparation for the Hari Raya

Two weeks before the big day, the Muslim Malays would start to itemize the many things that need to be done; new clothes particularly for the young ones, new shoes and new songkok. Even the whole house need to be cleaned and beautified; new window curtains, some parts of the house need a repaint, shrubs that grew inside the drain must be removed, the grass must be mowed and flower pots need to be arranged.

But above all would be the preparation of food and delicacies. Unlike today’s communication speed, the last fifty years was done at one’s leisure.

For the Muslim Malays, Hari Raya is the height of all celebrations and this is prominent because of the one month of fasting during the Muslim month of Ramadan. The end of Ramadan is the beginning of the Muslim month of Syawal, the month of Hari Raya. Thus, the celebration will be the grandest of all.

Every house would have their set of meal; lodeh ketupat (which is Lontong), rendang daging/kambing/ayam, laksa Johor, nasi briyani, dalcha, salad, etc. 

Cooking in those days were done manually. The oven as we know it today was hardly heard of although some well to do families were already using it and showing off to every visitor that dropped by. Those having seen it would tell everyone about a fascinating machine that could bake cakes and bread by using electricity. Few wouldn’t believe it saying it could be magic.

The most sought item would be the rubber woods. To purchase these woods, my grandfather would cycle as far as Parit Korma/Parit Raja only to book them first. Most of the suppliers were the rubber tappers/planters themselves. Grandpa would request a full load of these woods in a bullock cart. In most cases, the supplies would reach our home in a week’s time.  So to get our supplies on time, grandpa must make the order on the second week of the month of Ramadan. A week before Hari Raya, I would be on full alert to wait for the bullock cart full of rubber woods to arrive. Normally it would arrive in the evening. From Parit Raja to our house was approximately 7 kilometers, a trip of that could reach our house within ten minutes if driven in a truck. The bullock cart would start in the morning and would arrive at our house in the evening. We had no choice because that was the cheapest mode of transportation. Further more there weren’t many trucks available. If the supplies could not be supplied at the appointed time, a messenger would come cycling looking for grandpa grinning unnecessarily to tell the not so good news.

To make the ketupat lodeh we need to look for young coconut leaves and these could be found in abundant along the coastal coast of the Muar district. As many Muarians would serve ketupat Lodeh during the Hari Raya celebration, demand for these coconut leaves would be great. Many would start cycling to these places looking for suppliers and these suppliers would look for the landowners where coconut trees were plenty.

Once these leaves arrived home, the women folks would start weaving them into small containers to be used for boiling the rice cakes. A big heavy pot would be used to boil these ketupat (rice cakes) and normally done immediately after getting confirmation the end of Ramadan. The lodeh would be prepared at the same time.

Making cookies would normally begin about ten days before Hari Raya. These cookies would be done by using a thick and heavy metal plate with mold of various designs. The baking process was done by placing another metal plate filled with burnt charcoal and coconut husks and placed on top.

These days, one can easily get cookies in the supermarkets and some other outlets but they surely had missed the great opportunity of witnessing the baking process of these cookies in the 50s. It was fun and full of excitement.

Of course we would be sending Hari Raya cards to our relatives, close friends, schoolmates and even to some boys or girls. Those greatly admired would get special cards. Hari Raya cards could be found in bookstores and even in some sundry shops. The price per card ranged between 30cents to $1.00 and we normally got ourselves the cheapest ones.

This was the only month the Post Office needed to work overtime. One week before the Hari Raya, these cards would arrive and everyone in the house would come out running like an Olympic aspirant when the ringing tone of the Postman’s bicycle could be heard. Those who posted their cards late, like three days before Hari Raya, their cards would reach the recipients very very late and some even received theirs after the Hari Raya.

Now with almost everyone having a smart phone, Hari Raya greetings are sent through whatsapp. The days of receiving Hari Raya cards are long gone and the excitement of waiting for these cards during the Hari Raya festival are slowing being erased from the Malay society. Technology may have given us a great leap towards achieving greater advancement but it has robbed us of the many wonderful moments of life.

Invitation to a wedding

Malay weddings of the 50s and 60s were a tedious affair as far as communication was concerned. As telephones were scarce, the invitation would be done in four ways:

  1. Through the postal service
  2. Through personal service
  3. Words of mouth
  4. Personal invitation

1. Postal service was the most efficient service of that period and quite cheap too. As this service was the most sought service, almost every town would have a Post Office. Letters or postcards sent within the town would reach the recipient the following day while those within the district would get theirs in two days. For the other states, the letters would reach between three to four days depending on the distance. The cost of the stamp was 10 cents as long as it was within the peninsula of Malaya. Before independence the stamp would print the picture of either King George or Queen Elizabeth.

2. We had relatives and close family friends whose addresses we did not know but we knew where they stayed. For these people, someone would have to cycle to their houses and hand over the invitation cards. Normally this would be done three weeks before the big day.

3. Malay weddings in the kampung was a big event. We would invite everyone we knew. The neighbours would invite their immediate neighbours without needing any approvals. The Kacang Puteh seller whom we had invited earlier would invite the rojak seller and he in turn would invite the ice-cream seller. Some neighbours woud invite their cousins and even their uncles and aunties…the more the merrier.

4. Inviting the elders in the family must be done in person. This is a show of respect that has survived for a long time. I remember my granduncle Tok Aziz came to the house to meet my grandfather who was his elder brother. A day before, Tok Aziz sent a messenger to my grandfather and told him that his younger brother Aziz would like to visit him and to extend his invitation for his son’s wedding. The next day at the appointed time my grandfather was ready to receive his younger brother. Grandpa was fully dressed with his baju melayu complete with kain sampin and songkok. When Tok Aziz arrived in a rickshaw, he was likewise fully dressed like grandpa. The two brothers would sit and talk and Tok Aziz would then break the news of his son’s wedding and inviting grandpa to be his guest of honour.

To those of us who can remember life in the fifties, the changes that are happening around us are nothing short of a transformation, an inevitable change that will surely come to face. Fifty years from now, when smart phones will be outdated, when some of you young readers will be 65, you’d be laughing at the way life was in 2017. But until that happen, let us enjoy and remember that there was a much wonderful life back in time some fifty years ago when time almost stood still.



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COMMUNICATION OF THE 50s AND 60s in Muar Town (Part One)

telephone of the 60s

Have you ever imagined travelling back in time to a not distant past, only about fifty years back in time. How life was then and how society coped with the slow pace of development and they never complained. The wonderful period when technology was already alive in the western world but in a small town of Muar, television was unheard of, cars fitted with air-condition  was unthinkable and smartphones were meant for Martians.

How would one born in the 90s and above comprehend that a ten cents coin could fill your empty stomach with a bowl of mi curry and a bottle of soda? When a one dollar note could provide a good dinner for two? Those were the days when life was so wonderful, when the sun took its time to set at the western horizon and a day took quite a while to end. I’ve been there, not in the western world when many things had begun to change and transform but in a small town somewhere near the southern state of the Malayan Peninsular; Bandar Maharani or Muo (Muar) to its local population. Come and follow me and lets take a closer look how communication shaped lives in the 50s and 60s in this small town.

Fasten your seat belt, we are travelling back in time some fifty years down memory lane. Observe, and take some notes and when you are back to the future, tell your family and friends that they have no reason to complain about the reality of living.

Death of a family member

Hashim’s (fictious name) father had just passed away of old age. It was almost 10.00pm, sometime in the year 1960. If that happened today, all he needs to do is to press some buttons on his mobile smart phone and immediately all family members, relatives, neighbours and close friends no matter where they stay will be informed, even as far as Canada or down below in Australia. Funeral preparation and all other necessary works likewise can easily be done by using the mobile smart phone and within minutes his house will be filled with relatives, friends and neighbours ready to extend their helping hands. But fifty years ago this was unthinkable. Hashim had to sit down with his siblings and to think what had to be done immediately.

They lived along Jalan Joned not too far from the town center; about twenty minutes of cycling time. They would have to divide their job functions. His mother would stay put inside the house to get ready for the necessary items to prepare for the funeral. Hashim had a younger sister and she was assigned to go around the neighbourhood to inform them of their father’s unexpected death. His younger brother would have to cycle to some parts of the town to get the message across to few relatives. For Hashim, he had a bigger responsibility. The first thing he had to do was to cycle to the town Post Office where the Telecoms office was situated to send some telegrams to his older brothers, sisters, uncles and aunties and other close relatives who were staying in various parts of the country. They must return home immediately as it was customary to bury the deceased body of a Muslim within twenty four hours after his death. By the time he was on the road cycling as fast as he could, it was already 10.30pm. At the Telecoms’ office he would request the person in-charge to send the telegrams to the names and addresses of the recipients. It would normally read like this:

Ayah meninggal dunia. Balek segara. (Father passed away. Return home immediately).

For each word used, the telecom would charge twenty cents per word and so to save money the message would be as brief as possible. The telecom office would immediately send the telegrams to all the names given by Hashim. For instance, if the recipient resided in Johor Bahru, the Muar  telecoms office would send the telegram to the Johor Bahru office. Once they received the telegram, a postman would be assigned to send the telegram to the recipient wherever the address was given. Receiving telegrams those days would send shivers down your spine. Most telegrams received contained bad news and it could be even worse if it was received in the middle of the night or in the early hours of the morning.

Those having telephones at home  could easily be counted. Even having a phone at home could be useless  because you could only call someone with a phone at home and so your telephone would end up being a decorative item. Once in a blue moon the house phone would ring and the whole household would scramble towards it with few ended up quarreling. The ringing sound of the house phone could be heard by the immediate neighbours and within seconds, heads would appear in every window with most showing their ‘inquisitive’ eyes. If the phone rang in the middle of the night, the house owner could get a heart attack. The neighbours would be so curious to find out that some of them would be at your doorstep before the sun could rise to light the earth and you’d better tell them who the caller was and what was the call all about.

Having done his business at the telecoms office, Hashim would have to cycle to the ‘Rumah Pasong’ (Police Station) to get the death certificate. Only with the death certificate could he get the green light to bury his father. The only Muslim burial ground of that period was at the 1st Mile of Jalan Bakri.

On the way home, he would have to stop at the Imam’s (priest) house for the funeral arrangement. He had to do this most discreetly as waking up someone in the middle of the night was a serious matter. Praying very hard that the Imam was snoring instead of having a wonderful time with his wife, he would utter quietly the greetings of “Asalamualaikum” (Peace be upon you) right at the front door of the Imam’s house. It certainly wasn’t a peaceful gesture greeting someone snoring in his bedroom in the middle of the night. Having met the Imam who was half asleep , Hashim would return home cycling as fast as he could. When he woke up in the morning, the Imam could have forgotten every word Hashim had told him and so it was time that the Imam had to cycle to Hashim’s house to find out.

The following morning most of the important things needed would have been looked into. Communication was done entirely by words of mouth and because it was done through human communication, there would be some flaws detected later. Like the cause of his death and the timing too. In spite of having sent few telegrams, there would surely be some other important names being left out. Few distant relatives would only find out in three or fours days’ time of the death of Hashim’s father and few demanded answers why they were not informed.

Those that had received the sad news through the telegrams last  night would by now be on their way home. Few would arrive late with valid reasons and by the time they arrived at the house, the burial ceremony was over.

Falling In Love

Falling in love in the 50s and 60s was fun but not with few stressing moments. Some Form Four students were already having girlfriends and few others had passed their marks even when they were in Form Three. In most cases, the boys from the Muar High School would woo those from the Sultan Abu Bakar Girls’ School (SABGS) and those from the Saint Andrews School would find theirs at the Convent of the Infant Jesus School as well as the Saint Terresa School. These two girls’ schools were mainly attended  by non-Malays with the Chinese girls dominating the scene. Some were truly pretty and they could be recognized by the colour of their school uniforms. When school was over, the front road of the convent schools would be filled with dashing Chinese boys in their school uniforms cycling up and down, over and over looking for their sweethearts. They would then cycle home together and parted when they reached the girl’s house. Along the way they could have arranged for a date later in the evening. The boy would then wait at the famous Kim Leng Restaurant at 5.00pm. If the girl could not get the approval from her parents, the boy would be spending the whole evening alone as there was no way the girl could communicate with him. He could only know the answer the reason why the next day. But he would never complain.

Malay boys from the Muar High School would prefer Malay girls from the SABGS which is situated along Jalan Abdul Rahman. When a Malay boy was seen frequently with the same Malay girl, they would become an item as far as the community was concerned. When this happened, it was called berendut in the Muar Malay language.

Ahmad (fictitious name) was deeply in love with Aminah. They were both in Form Four and both scored good grades in their Lower Certificate of Education (LCE) exams. Ahmad lived in Parit Raja Laut while Aminah was a town girl. Every day when school was over, Ahmad wasted no time cycling to the SABGS and Aminah would be ready to cycle alongside him. Sometime they would take their time cycling along the coastal cape of the Muar River known as “Tanjung” by the locals. At Tanjung, they would sit on the concrete bench facing the river and talked everything connected to their lives. They were head over heels in love with each other.

One day, Aminah’s male cousin of the same age from Kuala Lumpur came and spent a few days at Aminah’s house. That few days were like a thousand years for Ahmad, with sleepless nights, tossing right and left and by morning he would look like he had not slept for years.

On the same scenario but with today’s technology, the situation could be easily solved. Aminah could have received a whatsapp message from her cousin first and that same message could be forwarded to Ahamd and the three of them could have a good time together outing without Ahmad feeling anything suspicious about his new friend, Aminah’s cousin. Back in 1960, because of the poor communication system, the situation was disastrous.

When Ahmad sent Aminah home after their afternoon cycling rendezvous, he noticed a boy his age at Aminah’s house and immediately demanded an answer and it had better be good. She did but Ahmad was not convinced. He cycled home leaving Aminah speechless at his sudden childish behaviour. It was something she couldn’t understand at all.

During their berendut period, every time each of them wanted to extend some messages, they would each write something on a piece of paper and placed it inside an envelope. The envelope would then placed in between some branches of a selected tree in front of Aminah’s house. That night Ahmad wrote something very long and in a hostile text. Having done so, he cycled to Aminah’s house and quietly making sure nobody was around, he placed the envelope in between some branches. In the morning before cycling to school, Aminah knew that would be a letter somewhere in between some branches of a particular tree. She would only read the letter during recess and tears began to drop. During the whole remaining classes she understood nothing with her mind dancing all over the place. If a teacher asked her who was the first President of the USA, the name ‘Ahmad’ would come out from her mouth quite easily.

When school was over, she waited for Ahmad but he was nowhere at sight and so that day she had to cycle home alone. Immediately after lunch, she replied his letter explaining everything that could come out from her mind. Her male cousin was only visiting her parents as he would be leaving for overseas in a month’s time to further his studies. The letter was then placed at the same place in between some branches and Ahmad would later cycled along the road to pick it up. This letter writing between the two of them took some weeks to finally able for the two of them to reconcile. But that was the only available communication method they could think of; there were no other ways.

Many years later they got married and have children. One evening while waiting for Ahmad to return home from work, Aminah noticed her fifteen year old daughter so absorbed pressing some buttons on her smartphone. The speed of her fingers pressing the buttons was faster than any pressing machine found in town. Out of curiosity, Aminah asked her daughter with whom she was chatting with? It was with a boy she knew who was staying in Singapore. Aminah smiled and her mind began to rewind those period when the only mode of communication was through letter writing and to receive every reply would take a day but she had never complained.

Organizing a Party

Muar town of the 50s and 60s offered no entertainment outlets other than the cinemas. By 9.00pm, the town would be very quiet and shops would have been closed. Some closed as early as 7.00pm. However, a few shop owners decided to have theirs opened for twenty four hours and became known during my growing years as Kedai Siang Malam ( shops opened day and night). It consisted of four shop-lots; a coffee shop serving all kinds of drinks (including beers) and a special noodles known among Muarians as Mi Bandung; a bicycle shop to serve those who had punctured tyres, to replace dynamos, brakes failure,etc; a workshop for motorcars and and a shop selling essential items like toiletries. What a brilliant idea these entrepreneurs came out with. The coffee shop would be filled with customers even after twelve midnight. Sometime the stall selling Mi Bandung would serve Nasi Briyani. The workshop received endless customers during the night and likewise the bicycle shop too. Muar town of my time was a town for bicycles and each house would have at least a bicycle. These Kedai Siang Malam were situated along the busy road of Jalan Sisi.

Besides these shops was the famous ‘Grand Paradise Amusement Park’ with nothing to be amused with. The whole area was covered with wooden walls, many were worn out. The interior was filled with some shops mostly serving alcoholic drinks. There was a tailor known as ‘Mary Tailor’ whose owner was an elderly Chinese man with a front tooth missing. It would have been appropriate if he had named his shop as “Merry Tailor”. Further inside was a cinema and a theatre. This theatre was the place where the legendary stripteaser Rose Chan made all the cheeky men gravitate whenever she stopped by to perform. “Was your meeting last night successful?”, a wife would ask her cheeky husband the following morning.

We had wanted to organize a party and the venue was chosen…Ghandi Memorial Hall situated along Jalan Suleiman. Six of us had earlier decided to have a meeting at the coffee shop of the Kedai Siang Malam. We had agreed to meet at around 10.00 pm and everyone must be present. Ajis and Halim were already having their coffee when I arrived at 9.50 pm. We discussed about the fees to be charged, the food and drinks to serve and the cars needed for transportation.

In those days, getting girls coming to your party was like asking our grandmothers to dance the twist in a public place. So we had to offer them few incentives; free entry, transport provided and and they could eat as much as they liked. In spite of these incentives offered, only a handful gave a positive reply with a condition they must be transported back home by 11.00 pm.

It was almost 10.30 pm and the other three were still not at sight. Decisions must be made tonight because the scheduled date of this party was a few days ahead. The only way to find out was to go to their houses. I volunteered to look for Yem and Razak as they both lived nearby while Halim would look for Haron. Ajis would stay put at the coffee shop.

Half an hour later, I arrived with Yem minus Razak. Yem had a punctured tyre and the reason he couldn’t come earlier while Razak was already asleep as he wasn’t feeling too well according to his mother. A few minutes later Halim arrived telling us that Haron would be joining us soon as a far away uncle had come to pay him a visit. These unnecessary delays could have been avoided had the smart phones of today were at our disposals. But in spite of the poor speed of communication of that period, we managed to overcome many important issues.

The 50s and 60s may not be as exciting as today’s era, but it was a period of many happy moments and if I were to be given another choice in life, I would gladly wish to be transported back in time, some 50 years back when life was never stressful in spite of the poor speed of communication.

Have a wonderful day guys.




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When I started to blog about my growing years in the town I love, it was done to bring back those wonderful memories that time had given me. Those wonderful years are gone but the memories will linger on, reluctant to leave my faculty of thoughts. Some of my contemporaries have passed on bringing with them into oblivion those precious moments that should have been shared. I have my fair share of those memories and I will not let those memories fade away and rot with the passing of time. We can’t rewind the clock to visit the past but we can visit the past by unveiling them from our memory bank and that was what I did in January 2013.

Since then my blog had been visited by many readers not only from Malaysia but  throughout the world. I reckon those from abroad must be mostly Muarians who must have missed home greatly.

On the 24th November 2014, I launched my first book carrying the same title “Pages From My Past” reminiscences of my early years in Muar town; a collection of 40 stories taken from this blog. Although there wasn’t much promotion done, the response I received was something I had never expected. Most of my readers enjoyed reading my stories which obviously gave me great satisfaction. Maybe it is good to recollect those wonderful years when time took longer to last. As Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar said, “When we reminisce, life feels more meaningful.

On the 16th October I launched my second book “More Pages From My Past” and again it was well received and obviously mostly from Muarians. Since then I have been receiving messages from people thanking me for the effort I took. Let me share with you some of the messages I had received so far.

Dear Encik Kamaruddin. My daughter found your book at the MPH bookstore and bought it for me as I am from Muar. I did not read the book not after more than a month after receiving it from my daughter. When I started reading the book, I could not stop and kept on reading until I noticed it was almost 2.00 am. Thank you for such a wonderful book and I truly enjoyed reading it. (Muhamad Salam Omar).

I am halfway reading your book and I must say it’s funny and entertaining. I m enjoying it. Although I am not from Muar, I can visualize wat you wrote. For someone who never had any training in writing you sure did a wonderful job. (Rahmah)

When I read your book I laughed and I laughed and I laughed till the end. It is so funny but I guess it must be the truth as I experienced them myself when I was growing. Your book is so entertaining. You should continue with a second book. (No name was given).

Dear Kamaruddin. I m not from Muar but your stories bring back my own memories. I told my children to read your book because the stories are similar to mine when I was growing. Children these days must know how people like us grew up. (Lee Kok Chai)

For the young, it should be a postcard of the past written with passion and conviction by someone who cherish the great days that were. And in no ordinary town- in Muar no less, the town that meant a lot to Din, to me and many hardcore Muarians of our generation. (Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar)

Please keep writing. I love reading your stories. (Tan Sri Arshad Ayub).

To me, the fact that it is told not in the detached dispassionate tone of an academic scribbler but through the personalized flesh and blood voice of her very own son, increases its value-it makes it far more real. Additionally, though ‘Pages From My Past ‘ is ultimately the personal story of Kamaruddin Abdullah, nonetheless, in another sense it is also the story of the Muar generation that he belongs to. So for that we have to thank you Din- in recounting your story, you have in a way , also told ours. (Prof. Malek Munip)

Good morning Sir. I am very interested to purchase the books you are offering for sale as I am also a Muarian. I think you have done a very good job highlighting muar history. (Baljit Singh).

Thank you to all you readers for the many messages that I have received. You give me the strength and encouragement to keep on writing about the good old days of growing up.

I am coming up with a third book “The Ultimate-Pages From My Past” to include many more untold stories that must be shared. Stories that please the mind and warmth the heart.

To Muarians who may want to share their stories, please write to me ( and let us share these wonderful moments that we once cherished to others.



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On the 2nd November 2016 I paid Muar’s District Officer, Tuan Hj. Ramlee A.Rahman, a visit at his office to extend to him my two books as a gift. During our brief meeting, Tuan Hj. Ramlee asked me why aren’t my two books sold in Muar town? Some Muarians who wish to read my books find difficulty in getting  them in any  bookstore of Muar town.

As a matter of fact, there isn’t any of my books sold in Muar town. My publisher Kalsom Taib Publishing made no attempt to promote my books in the town I was born.

It is rather peculiar not to find these two books in a town that provides much of its settings as described in the two books.

It was at this juncture of our conversation that Tuan Hj. Ramlee suggested to me that another launch of my books should be held in town and he offered the official residence of the District Officer as the site of the launch. After a brief discussion, we both agreed to have a second launch of my two books in the town I was born and raised.

The District Officer of Muar is a very senior post and it has been a tradition that those having serviced the Muar district as its District Officer will eventually rise to become the State Secretary of Johor State.

The official residence of the District Officer is situated at the mouth of the Muar River. It was built even before I was born in 1949. At the rear part of the residence is the Muar River and in the evening one can clearly see the sun set at the western horizon.

It is my honour to invite Muarians to the launch to be held as follows:

Date of launch   : 19th November 2016 (Saturday)

Place                    : Official residence of the District Officer at Tanjung Emas.

Time                    : 10.00am

Lunch will be served accompanied by a Ghazal performance.

To all Muarians who live outside the district, jom balek kampung.


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