It was in 1965 that I sat for my LCE examination. LCE is Lower Certificate of Education and I must pass this exam to allow me to proceed to Form Four. If my results were not good enough, I may proceed to Form Four but I must pass my qualifying test while in Form Four to proceed to Form Five, failing which I may be dropped from school. Of course if my LCE results were too poor, I would be dropped immediately and I can forget about continuing my studies at the Muar High School.
I was a town boy with an urban upbringing and in 1965 so many things around me have changed. From the image of Cliff Richard now I wanted to be like the Beatles, wearing my Beatles boots and sang Beatles songs. I had wanted my hair to be like the Beatles but every time I looked at the mirror I looked more like Mo of the Three Stooges, and so I decided to keep my hair slightly that of Cliff Richard. My friend Halim was never bothered about the Beatles and kept his profile as similar as James Bond; the way Bond smiled, the way Bond walked and even his hair must looked like Bond. Yem on the other hand was more to himself, he wasn’t bothered at all. Among our friends Yem was known as Seh Samin and because he didn’t like it, I stick to calling him Yem.
The three of us became very close friends not too long ago. It was only two years ago that I became close to Halim and it was he who introduced me to Yem. The three of us grew in the same neighbourhood and both Halim and Yem were immediate neighbours. Like me, Halim stayed with his grandparents. His grandfather was Hj.Hasbullah and we all called him Pak Ji Sebul. He was a pensioner and already in the mid-seventies. Pak Ji Sebul had quite a number of cows kept inside his house compound and in the morning he would bring these cows out for some grass at the football field at the front of the Police barracks of Jalan Ibrahim. Now we know why the grass on that field was never mowed.
Halim had three uncles staying in the same house and all three of them were body builders. In the evening the three of them would normally take a walk along Jalan Omri and Jalan Ibrahim and they all looked like Steeve Reeves the star of Hercules. Sometime they would take a ride on their motor-bikes of Triumph, Norton and BSA.
Yem (Sheikh Ibrahim) was the son of Sheikh Ahmad, a prominent religious teacher in the late forties until late fifties. He died when Yem was still a young lad of ten years old. Yem’s mother was Tuan Sheikh’s second wife and she was known as Mak Mas. She was like a mother to me. I have lots of stories about her and me and I will surely relate some of these in my coming postings.
In 1965 the three of us were in Form Three. My two friends were schooling at the Muar Hana while I was at the High School. Since the beginning of the year, we were always together cycling to town, going to parties, watched movies and we always stayed late at night. Sometime we would create our own ‘adventures’ by cycling to some spooky places in search of ghosts.
Once we were involved in a gang fight with another gang from a different ‘territory’. It happened at night and we were surrounded by six of them. The fight was started over a tackle during one football game at the field where Pak Ji Sebul always brought his cows to eat the grass. The guy who was down complained to his elder brother and from then on the feud began. The irony was the three of us were not involved in the football game but we supported the boy who did the tackling because he was from our ‘territory’. It was the boy’s elder brother who confronted us and challenged for a fight. We took the challenge and Halim volunteered to fight him one to one. During the fight it was clear that Halim was winning but when the others from their side began to assist Halim’s opponent, that was when Yem and me intervened. We had a good fight and we fought well. I had a bruise on my left cheek and I think I retaliated with some good punches. It was in the midst of this fight that we saw two policemen cycling towards us and immediately all of us scrambled home.
The three of us stopped at the tembok of my house licking our wounds. Halim was not satisfied and sought vengeance. Yem and me concurred and the next day the three of us cycled to Jalan Joned looking for the guy that Halim fought. We asked every one we met the house of this guy and nobody seemed cooperative. While we were sitting at the field of Jalan Joned near the Chung Hwa High School, we saw this guy coming with few others. This time he was not aggressive but very cool. He went straight to Halim and offered a ‘peace talk’. At first Halim refused and challenge him for a one to one fight. Yem however managed to persuade Halim for a settlement and so all of us went to ‘kedai Amom’ and we had some small ‘feast’. This guy in later years became one of my best friends and it is best that I keep his name with me. We were kids then and we lived in a world of kids with full of wild imagination.
Once there was a Sikh boy (can’t remember his name) who was so naughty in school (Muar Hana) and was always seen bullying smaller boys. One night Halim and me stopped him at the junction of Jalan Omri and Jalan Abdul Rahman. It was around 9.00pm and the mamak shop right in front was still opened. This mamak shop was known then as ‘Kedai Kadir’ because the owner was this guy from India named Kadir. It was Halim who started beating him while I just watched. When Halim took a big broken branch to hit him, I stopped Halim from doing so because it could be fatal and we could end up in jail. The Sikh boy pleaded for mercy and promised not to bully younger boys any more. True to his words, he became a very good boy.
We were full of activities and in school I did not excel well, just above average. Then suddenly it was the month of June and I sat for my trial examination. When the result was out, I fared miserably. I dared not tell grandma about the trial exam but deep in my mind I must start taking my lessons seriously. The thought of failing my first year in Standard Six began to haunt me and I did not wish to have any more failures in my future examinations. From then on I started to take serious interests in all my lessons because the LCE examination was just three months away and I was very far behind in all my lessons.
I told both Halim and Yem that I could no longer join them for any night cycling as I need to read a lot but during the day we could still meet. Likewise I told my band leader Tukur of The Dreamers that for the next three months they must find a replacement to take over my place to play the bass guitar in any functions. They all understood my wish and were very supportive.
I began my preparation by going into the subject one by one. My worst subject were Mathematics and Physics. I approached my neighbour Maniam to assist me in my maths and he gladly obliged but for Physics it was a gone case. In the first place, Physics was a very tough subject for me and to make it even worse, the teacher was an American Peace Corp called Mister Gary. When he opened his mouth, he talked very much like John Wayne and at the end of every Physics lesson, I understood nothing.
I had no problem with Bahasa Kebangsaan, English and Art but I still need to brush up my Geography, History, Literature, Health Science, Biology and Chemistry. I had hardly three months before the exam and I need to read a lot, remember some important dates for my History, memorize some countries with the longest rivers for my Geography and so many more and I had not much time. I decided to add extra time to keep up with my lessons and began waking up every morning at five o’clock. Every time when grandpa and grandma performed their ablution for the dawn prayers, they noticed my room was bright. One morning before going to the toilet for her ablution, grandma knocked my bedroom door and then noticed I was studying. She looked very pleased and while walking back to the toilet, she must be telling herself ‘what a fine boy my grandson is’.
In school I paid due attention to all my lessons and my mathematics improved greatly. Thanks to my good neighbour Maniam but I gave up Physics completely because Mister Gary still talked like John Wayne.
One week before the examinations, most of the teachers suggested some spot questions, in other word predicting some of the questions that would appear in the exam papers. We all began reading the anticipated answers and memorized every detail. We all hoped and prayed that these spot questions would come out handy. It was indeed a tedious week having to digest so many facts and figures. By now grandma was convinced that her grandson was indeed a very good boy and she even prepared coffee and brought it to my room after her dawn prayer.
The moment of truth arrived. I woke up very early at 4.00am and began to revise many facts on the first day of the examination. After having my bath and completed my dawn prayer, I got dressed and ready for the ‘battle’. Grandma called me and gave me a glass of ‘air zam zam’ and told me to ‘selawat’ as many as I could before the exam. I heeded but honestly thought that this ‘air zam zam’ would do me no help had I not studied hard.
At school every student was still seen reading some bits and pieces hoping for a last minute of catching up. I was quite relaxed and I thought I was quite prepared for the exam.
Passing the LCE examination was a turning point for my contemporaries because with the LCE certificate we could still apply for a clerical job in some government bodies. But if we failed to make it, then the future could be quite bleak. However, in the mid-sixties failing your LCE examination was not the end of the world as you could still make amends and turned to other field suitable to your taste. Few of my friends who did not make it in their LCE exams are today far more better than me in their own fields.
Our first paper was Bahasa Kebangsaan and I answered some of the questions quite well. Cikgu Hasrin was our Bahasa Kebangsaan teacher and some of the points he gave us a week ago found their way to the examination papers and that was a great help to those who were attentive. The second paper was history and likewise I managed to answer some of the questions with ease. That evening I felt quite comfortable having executed my first day quite satisfactorily.
The second, third and final days were more tougher with some of the questions were left unanswered in particular subjects like Chemistry and Biology. My mathematics was average and I managed to do some workings correctly just as Maniam taught me. Overall, I was quite satisfied with my efforts and was glad that I realized the importance of passing the LCE examinations was not too late. In two months time the results would be out and I was still skeptical whether I could make it. But now that the exams was over, it was time to look for my two buddies and to find out how they both fared in their exams. We did not study together simply because we went to different schools and the teachers had their own ways of teachings.
Immediately after our exams, we continued our daily activities of cycling to town and Tanjung as well as night cycling. We created new ‘adventures’ by cycling to spooky places in the middle of the night, we cycled to Parit Jawa and also to Bukit Mor and climbed to its peak. Bukit Mor is not too high but climbing it was quite tedious and we could see some clouds moving at a near distance while at its peak and it was quite chilly.
The Form Three results came out right at the second week of the fasting month of Ramadan. Those who took the LCE examinations in 1965 surely must remember that the results came out approximately two weeks after the fasting month of Ramadan because I remember that most vividly. When I noticed some of the Form Three students kept passing by my house heading for the Muar High School one afternoon, I thought the results could be out. I was actually very worried and grandma had been asking about the results for the last few days.
Then I saw my classmate, Johari Aziz cycling and he shouted to me that the results were already out. I immediately took my bicycle and cycled to the school which was hardly a five minute jouney. At the school office where the results were displayed, I saw the students gazing at the results with some jumping with joy. Then I saw Johari and he was smiling broadly and before I could reach the place, he shouted at me:
“Din, kau passlah…1st grade” (Din, you pass with grade one). While looking for his results, he managed to look onto mine.
I was obviously happy to hear the news but I must certainly see the results for myself. When I saw my name on the big white sheet complete with the results of each subject plus my aggregate, I could now celebrate the buka puasa that evening with some delicious delicacies.
Johari Aziz too passed his exams with grade one and that was the last time I saw him. He had been my classmate and sat right behind me since we were in Form One. That year, his father who was an officer with the Agriculture ministry was transferred to other state.
My results were not that fantastic; no distinction, six credits and two passes but I made it. My two buddies both obtained third grades and they must sit for their Qualifying Test while in Form Four next year.
The Ramadan of 1965 was a happy puasa month for me and I made grandma very happy.
Whenever I read the cartoons drawn by my idol Lat, many of the episodes found in his drawings during his growing days reminded me so much of mine. Likewise my contemporaries irrespective from which state they come from surely had the same experiences. The 60s was truly a wonderful period when time had been very good to us.