Whenever school holidays approached, our mind began to think and plan many things to keep us occupied. We planned few interesting events like organizing a cycling trip to nearby places, playing our guitars in the morning and spending our time at Tanjung during the evening. Quite often I would take a bus and spend my holidays in Johor Bahru as I had quite a number of close friends in the state capital. However, in almost every school holidays we would organize a party and in this article I wish to share with you how we organized a party in a small town like Muar. It was always interesting, growing up and reaching our teens.
The only entertainment outlet in Muar town of those days was the Grand Paradise but we were too young to be going to this kind of place. The Grand Paradise was more for the adults, married men with a ‘degree’ in deceiving their wives, businessmen who somehow always arranged their ‘meetings’ only at night and the gamblers who lost yesterday trying to make it up for yesterday’s losses today. Although boys of my age were not forbidden to enter the Grand Paradise, we felt quite uneasy to be mixing around with those we thought were a bit ‘too much’ the way they entertained themselves. So we normally organized our own party.
The mid-sixties, 1965, was about the most interesting and exciting period for boys of my age. We had passed the period of Elvis’ ‘Jailhouse Rock’ and Cliff Richard’s ‘The Young Ones’ and we were entering into a period when the Beatles had taken center stage followed by the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits and few other popular British groups. As the western civilization revolutionized their youth, we followed in tandem without fail. Popular Muar groups began to show their talent emulating the western ways and the most popular band group of this period was a group calling themselves Les Flingers. The band comprised five good looking lads all from the Muar High School with Yahaya Kosai (my second cousin) as the lead guitarist, Omar and his brother Shamsuddin the bass and rhythm guitarists respectively, a drummer and their lead singer with a good voice also named Omar. They became the most sensational pop band in Muar town of my time and the most sought in most Malay weddings and other social events. Sad to mention, Yahaya Kosai passed away at a very young age while undergoing his army training after completing his Form Five and all of us mourned his death. Omar the singer in later years together with his friends formed another band calling themselves The September Five and made a name for themselves nation wide.
Organizing a night of social gathering with music and dancing needs a lot of proper planning which include the venue, the food, the number of guests, the type of music, transportation and above all the financing. We were in our early teens and still receiving our daily allowances from our parents and in spite of lacking the many facilities needed to organize a party, somehow we always managed to organize one with success. In most cases we organized parties at selected homes of one of ours where permission by our parents had been obtained. In this article I am going to share with you about a successful party we organized at a private hall.
On the left side along the stretch of Jalan Suleiman leading towards the town center there was once a small single storey building known as the Ghandhi Memorial Hall. Most the Indian celebrations were held at this hall as well as some of the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) activities. Most of the time this hall was empty and after suggesting few other places, we finally agreed to have our proposed party at this hall. It was quite spacious and could easily acomodate two hundred people for a dinner gathering. At the end of the hall was a big picture of the late Mahatma Ghandhi hung upon the back interior wall of the building.
Three days before the scheduled date, we began our planning and action. The rental for the hall was fifty dollars and we had paid fifty percent deposit two days earlier and the balance to be paid on the day of the party. We had some financial problem and we knew this was coming. The total amount needed was one hundred and fifty dollars and minus the fifty dollars for the rental of the hall, left us a balance of exactly one hundred dollars except for one problem. We had our budget worked out but we did not have the physical cash. We had just three days to raise another one hundred and twenty five dollars and that was the toughest. The party must proceed as most of the invitation cards had been sent.
I became very close to Sheikh Ibrahim (Yem) through my close friend Halim Bond who was his immediate neighbour. The three of us became very close when we were in Form One. After our Form Three, Halim left for Johor Bahru and until that time, the three of us shared many wonderful moments together. Organizing this party was Yem’s idea and both Halim and me agreed to work together. We had some other friends who gave a helping hand and each was given a specific job responsibility. I can’t recall which person did what job but the area of responsibility was to ensure all important agendas must be settled a day before the scheduled date. By now we had almost all the important materials ready; the record player and all wiring to be connected to the speakers, the records of various artists of the 45 rpm size, the tables and chairs would be provided by the hall and we had a sketch of the settings for the night. Yem’s sister agreed to do the cooking for us and three cars had been reserved to fetch the girls who had replied that they would be coming. We had one final problem to be settled immediately and that was to raise the one hundred and twenty five dollars.
Those days whenever we organized a party it was never for a profit. We did it simply to occupy ourselves and to enjoy every moment of it since Muar town offered no entertainment outlets for boys and girls our age. Furthermore, it was a splendid way for boys to meet with girls and the chance to dance with them. Likewise we thought the girls would surely like to come as they hardly had the opportunity to mix around with boys as well. Furthermore, girls were not charged a cent, only the boys had to pay. In most cases, the organizers would be the one loosing money but they never complained.
I asked Yem for the list of boys who had given their positive answers and it was total at fifty four. We had earlier informed that each person had to pay five dollars and at fifty four we could collect two hundred and seventy dollars. So both Yem and me began cycling to meet these names and to collect the entrance fee as much as we could. Halim cycled to other places to ensure confirmation on the three cars to be used for the night. The first car was a Ford Prefect belonged to Zainal’s father, the second was an Austin Minor belonged to my uncle Pak Mat Rippin and the third car belonged to Mat Shah’s father Dato Suleiman Ninam Shah. Yem and me arrived home at around 6pm and we managed to collect one hundred and fifteen dollars and was quite confident to have them all collected by tomorrow. Halim came back with the confirmation of the three cars and each car would be given five dollars for petrol.
That day finally arrived. By 9am, Yem went to the hall to pay for the balance of the rental while Halim and few others had gone to the market to buy the ingredients for the food. Yem’s sister Kak Alia as we called her would only start cooking around 5pm. We had estimated a total number of 120 guests (which of course included those not invited), and Kak Alia must make sure her cooking estimate reached the mark. We had decided to serve Mi Siam, Tembosa, Roti Jala with mutton curry, some cakes and fruit punches for drinks. I did the selection of the songs to be played and I must be able to balance the tempo of the songs to satisfy the moments when they should be played.
By 3pm, the hall had been fully decorated with ribbons and balloons, the dining table was placed at the outside compound along the small verandah, some chairs were placed on a straight line of ten on all the four sides. At two corners of the hall we had six chairs for three couples and the record player was placed at the center with all the records placed on a small table. We had an Indian lad to keep the records playing and for that we had to pay him ten dollars for the night. I had arranged all the songs to be played to make his job easier.
At home I had my shirt and pants ready. My ‘Beatles’ boots had been polished earlier in the morning. I had been informed that Kak Alia had just finished cooking and Yem would be bringing the food using Mat Shah’s car before 6.30pm. By 7.30pm after my dusk prayer I cycled to the Ghandhi Memorial Hall. The guests should start arriving by 8pm.
When I reached the hall almost everyone of the organizing committee were there. Sahak Doktor and Mene (Zakaria Lamdin) were given the assignment to receive guests, Yem was busy arranging the food as well as arranging the seating positions and where to have all the chairs placed. At exactly 8pm, the first four guests arrived, four girls all well dressed with smashing colours and their swinging skirts ready to jive. The music began with the song ‘Don’t play that song’ by Keith Loke and the Quests, a slow number I chose to suit the early environment of the night. The Indian lad did a wonderful job keeping the songs in constant mood as more girls began to arrive. The boys too began to arrive; the Bad Ladds headed by its chief the Muar town casanova Salleh Uzir followed by Amir MakSom the Chubby Checker of Muar town, my cousin Aziz Mak Enggor, Sahak Dresser, Bakar Gagap, Mahmood Suleiman and Mat Ringo, they all belonged to one of the many street teenage gangs of Muar town. Halim, Yem, me and four others belonged to ‘The Jets’ and there was one group calling themselves ‘The Blue Jeans’ and they all came wearing jeans. By 8.30pm the party began.
Just a day before the party, most of us practiced our dancing style especially the twist and the Elephant Walk. Tonight all of us would be showing our talents with confidence but when it came to the slow numbers, many great ‘heroes’ of Muar town suddenly turned not only timid but pale. Some practiced alone at the back of the hall the steps of the rumba and the fox trots. Every boys suddenly began chewing ‘Hacks’ sweets to avoid bad breath. Some even practiced how to converse. For instance:
“Hello, my name is Suleiman, may I have this dance?”
The girl would normally obliged and suddenly Suleiman could feel sweats began to flow over his body. The music was the Beatles’ “And I Love Her”, a slow number that could give him the great opportunity to hold her nice hip. The girl stood up and held his shoulder and he began to blush.
As the music played Suleiman was speechless, unable to think how to start the conversation. It was the girl who began, “Are you trembling?”
“Yes, no I mean no, I am, I am ok”, Suleiman answered stammeringly. The girl smiled while she danced gracefully but Suleiman was too absorbed with his steps praying hard that he would not step on her foot. He was still speechless and the girl began to feel boring but she managed to lift up the spirit and asked him again, “Which school do you go to?”
“High, High, High School”, answered Suleiman trying very hard to regain his composure. When his confidence was regained, he made his first moved, “You, you, yoooou sekolah mana?” (Which school do you go to?)
“SABGS”, she answered confidently.
“Oh I see”, answered Suleiman trying hard to portray his confidence and when he finally became more confident of himself, the music would end.
After sending the girl to her seat, he suddenly remembered that he had forgotten her name. Now, that was a disaster and he must make sure he could get hold of her with another dance.
That was just a typical example the reaction of most boys of my days when given the great opportunity to engage a slow dance with a girl. The strongest among them could easily be melted by the sweet smile of a young innocent girl.
Youths of my time were quite cliquish and they would normally group together among themselves. Likewise the girls too would flock with their own kind. I belong to the Tanjung fraternity and among us we had smaller groups where we would normally meet during the evening along the shore of the Muar River. The Tanjung girls too would be around showing off their swinging shirts. Tanjung girls of those days were quite ‘advance’ in their dressing. Famous Tanjung girls of those days were Sophia, Zaleha, Nali, Gayah, Zaki, Normah, Fuzi, Zai and few others. All these girls would surely be invited to the party.
Of course there would be girls coming from some corners of Muar town like Parit Korma, Parit Setongkat and Parit Sakai.
The party began to be more lively as Zainal and Kak Shidah did the jive and everyone followed each with their partners jiving alongside the great couple. Then came the twist and the Limbo Rock and the best was surely Amir MakSom, Muar’s own Chubby Checker. Salleh Uzir exhibited his twist partnering Normah his sweetheart and I was busy doing nothing walking up and down the hall but I enjoyed every moment that time had given me for the night.
Everyone enjoyed the night, dancing to the music of their choice. Sometime the same song would be repeated at the request of some who were already getting themselves acquainted with ‘new’ girls; exchanging addresses, the schools they attended to as well as asking the names of their parents. When Elvis’ song “Are you lonesome tonight” was aired, the hall was filled with couples dancing very close to one another while I would just watch happily.
As the night grew, many girls must be sent home as most fathers would by now be waiting at the front doors of their houses. In Muar town of the mid-sixties, 11.30pm was already very late and most parents would not be able to sleep until their daughters were seen arriving home safely. We made sure all parents could have their good night sleep. The three appointed drivers began to send all the girls home and by 12pm, the party ended successfully and we began to clean up the hall.
The next morning everyone was talking about last night’s party. Some managed to get to know new girls; their names, where they lived and which school they went to. Few others managed to arrange a dating appointment at the Kim Leng restaurant next week and there were others who improved their dancing skill ready to show off at the next party but until that time arrived, the subject of last night’s party would dominate many conversation.
It would take at least another three to six months for us to organize another party but along the way, there would be others who would likewise organize their own and we would surely be invited.