When the sun began to decline towards the western horizon covered partially by the greyish clouds, its luminous ray would slowly paint the heavenly sky with red illuminating the calm surface of the Muar River like a silver plate. While the breezy wind blew with ease toward the shore, every tree branch there were would dance gracefully to its tune. And coconut trunks by the shore would slowly sway attractively in tandem to their swingly leaves. Such unruffled atmosphere would not be easily wasted by the eyes of many. That would be the moment when the tip of its cape offered the most conducive environment to its faithful inhabitants. Tanjung as it was named was a beacon of serenity to many Muarians of various races and creeds both young and old.
Tanjung is Cape in English and as its name denote, it was once the pride of the town’s heritage of old colonial period. When the British laid its claim on this enchanted piece of land, the choice was obvious that Tanjung became the ideal location for early development of Bandar Maharani. It was along the river mouth that the present Sultan Ibrahim mosque was built and right beside it was the children’s playground. The Tanjung Club where whisky, brandy and beers quenched their thirsts on every hot sunny days was a walking distance from the playground. Across the road stood rows of strongly built bungalows of English facade. And the top most government administrator, the District Officer (D.O) dwelled right beside the river bank alongside the confluence of the Muar River. And strolling along the river bank towards the west would bring you to the Muar Rest House and additional walking could reach you to the “Day Training Center” (DTC) for would be teachers.
There is one golf course in front of the D.O’s residence that still stands until today. Muarians boasted that this golf course as the only golf course in the whole world that is as flate as a plate. This is obvious as you can never find a hill in Muar town. Anywhere you stand, you will see the greens throughout. And not many people, even among Muarians that there was once an air strip beside the present site of the golf course. It was to cater for the services of light aircrafts and was eventually closed in the mid-fifties.
When the British gave us back our country in 1957, they returned to us a well-administered country together with its many unspoiled places of natural beauty and Tanjung was among these. Tanjung during the days of my stay was truly a beacon of serene environment.
Passing through Tanjung at the break of dawn was breathtaking. Unspoiled by the pace of slow development and the passing of cars countable only by the hour, it gave you great pleasure to take a stroll while enjoying the beauty of nature. Tall and stout oak-like trees assembeled in straight rows by the side of the roads providing comforting shades. Dews cooling the fresh leaves and grasses began to dwindle in conformity to nature’s wonderful system leaving behind a new breath of fresh air. Missing a day of strolling at Tanjung would be an opportunity missed.
Tanjung was a place where young lovers met, a place that could heal some broken hearts, a place that could solve for those desperately seeking for inspiration and for those who wished to paint nature’s beauty into a thousand words.
The period of the early sixties was like entering a new dimension when time began to unwind a new era of excitment. It was Cassius Clay who brought back the glory of the boxing world topping the agenda in every coffe-shop conversation. When Elvis Presley rocked the United States, the tremor reached Muar town almost immediately. President Kennedy had been elected to begin confrontation with the Russians. Then came James Bond with his gadgets to dismantle every evil ways planned by the villains, and registration for new cars ending with the triple digits 007 were fully booked. Cliff Richard made Britain really great and when Chubby Checker did the twist, the Muar youth followed suit. But when the Beatles took center stage, suddenly every lad in Muar town was spotted with the mop hair.
It was 5pm, the best time to show your presence at Tanjung. The year in question was 1963 and I was fourteen years old and on a day somewhere in that year. We were growing up, ready and eager to ape the western cultures. From the way we combed our hair, the shirts we wore right down to the shoes we chose. The girls had their fair shares with the ‘Sandra Dee’ outlook. Their skirts covering below their knees made them more modest showing regard for conventional decencies. And of course their favourite song would be Connie Francis’ ‘Where the boys are’. And now many youth were heading toward Tanjung with their bicycles and I made sure not to miss the boat.
Kamal the ‘rojak’ seller was ready to serve and besides him stood the ‘cendol’ man to quench your thirst. The evening wind began to blow and it had better not gush for that would be disastrous to our hair-do. But nevertheless I had my comb always on standby to rectify. Discovering a missing comb would render me to make a U-turn home.
When I reached Tanjung, there were the boys Connie Francis had asked for. Colourful shirts of various design dominated the scene. Boys of Muar town those days were quite clannish and so I had to look for feathers the same with mine. We were known as the ‘Tanjung Boys’ and our ‘adversary’ would be those from the ‘Jalan Daud’ vicinity. Falling in love with girls outside your clan could be fatal and the ‘West Side Story’ scene coud take place. The girls too stick to their kind but with exemption when a good looking lad outside the boundary began to appear.
By 5.30pm Tanjung began to create some wonderful scene. There would be a small group strumming their acoustics to the tune of ‘The Young Ones’ and the singer thought he sounded like Cliff Richard. On another side few girls were giggling enjoying gossips they had exchange with one another. Couples holding hands would stroll along the river bank while the singles flocked with their own kind. A single girl walking by had better watch out for the restless wandering eyes of many aspirants looking for steadies.
At the playground besides the Tanjung Club elderly couples took their young ones for a sway and slide. The younger couples pushed their prams while the babies slumbered peacefully.
Working men and women took their time off to chat inside the club while the bartender kept pouring the beers into the mugs. Quite a number of Muslim Malays of my time were great drinkers and they would normally prefer whisky or brandy. Non-drinkers were regarded as not keeping with the trend and they had better buck up.Female accomplices were contended with their soft drinks but would not mind for a small drop of intoxicant.
At the golf course, golfers were regarded as those from the high society and they were mainly the government servants, the politicians and some entrepreneurs. In fact it was in 1963 that the gold course began its first tee-off. Famous names of those days were Dato’ Suleiman Ninam Shah (who later became a Tun), Gan Cheng Lock, Dato’ Chua Song Lim and few others. The youngest golfer Muar had ever produced was Kadar Shah who began his golfing at the age of fifteen and later became one of the country’s great golfers.
At the river bank besides the D.O’s residence, swimmers began their evening dips and it would be fun to watch when the tide was high. Young girls would puddle nearer to the shores and as bikinis were quite ‘forbidden’ to the eyes, loose shorts would be sufficient for boys to gaze.
When the Quran recitation began to fill the air from the nearby town mosque, it simply meant that time was up and Tanjung would once again welcome the undistrurbed moment of total serenity. And cycling youth began peddling home, bringing with them memories that would one day become a thing fondly remembered.
But tomorrow about the same time, Tanjung would once again invite those who missed yesterday another promising moment.