Other than playing many kinds of games to keep us busy during the days , we read comics, magazines with lots of pictures but we never read the newspapers. We were not too bothered to know what was happening outside our town. But more so, we could not understand the language of the newspaper. We had radios to entertain us and later we had a turn table to play some records of our idols. We called a radio with a turn table radiogram. The record was so heavy, black in colour and there were two types. A big record had about six or seven songs on each side and was known as the 331/3 rpm while the smaller ones had one or two songs on each side known as the 45rpm. Later when these records were of no use to us, we played with it. We would throw it into the air and it would spin like a flying saucer.
We knew what a telephone was. We could talk with someone very far away like someone from Kuala Lumpur or even from Penang. In the late fifties, only houses of top government servants, successful businessmen and well-known politicians had telephones installed in their houses. Some of these telephones were of no use because you still need to call someone with a telephone and in the late 50s, very few houses had them. So their telephones never rang but when it did ring, the sound of the ringing tone could be heard by the immediate neighbours. The owner of the telephone could get a heart attack if he suddenly heard it ringing. Orang Melayu kata teperanjat beruk.
For kids like me, we made our own phones. After finishing our ice cream, the box would be kept and later turned it into a telephone. We used a thread and poked each end of the thread to the center of the base of the ice cream boxes. The length varies according to how we liked it. Then the caller would talk to the receiver who could be as far as six feet away or slightly more. “Halo halo, siapa disana?” The receiver would then answer, “Halo halo, saya disini?” Then the caller would say again, “Yelah, disini tu siapa, bodoooh“.
We were quite progressive and always kept abreast with any latest invention coming our way but towards the coming of the sixties, we were not aware of another product called “Television”.
One day, while in school, I heard my friend whose father was a rich man told us that his father had just returned from overseas and in this country they had a big radio called “television” that had pictures that could move, just like in the movies.
In class, I asked my classmate seated besides me, “What is a television?” (I pronounced it Tali Bisen). He knew not too what a television was. According to some of his friends, it was like a radio except that this radio had pictures, real live pictures.
I still could not comprehend a radio with pictures, like in the movies. Back home, I asked my three ‘sisters’ whether they have heard about this new thing called ‘Television”. According to Kak Fuzi, it was bigger than the radio and it had pictures. I then asked her:
“Kalau P. Ramlee nyanyi, nanti ada gambar dia nyanyi lah?” (If P. Ramlee sang, will there be his picture singing?)
“Adalah” (Yes), replied Kak Fuzi. Then I asked her again, “Kalau cerita hantu? Hantu betul ke dalam gambar tu?” (What about a ghost story? Will there be a real ghost in the picture?). “Agaknya lah” (Maybe!), replied Kak Fuzi.
In the mid fifties, while the western world was enjoying with this new invention of watching movies at home, there were still many people of my home town who had never heard of this new invention. including me. We had only radios to entertain us and we need to go to the cinemas to enjoy a full length movie. It was unthinkable that that was a big radio with pictures that move like in the movies. My mind began to create so many imagination, a mind from an eight year old boy who was only accustomed to listening to the radio and of the latest what was called a radiogram.
If there was a movie to be played at home, it had to be like those we normally watched by using a big white cloth attached to two strong poles we called papaganda. Then there must be a projector rolling the films and while the film was being rolled, there must be a big lamp to be shone just like in the cinema. So how could a slightly bigger radio produce some pictures that could move?
I took no more interest on this television not until three years later when I saw a picture of a television advertised by an agent from Kuala Lumpur. Those days the size of a television was quite big just like a small cupboard. The center was a screen where the pictures would be shown. Many rich people from Muar town by now had ordered this television to be installed in their houses. It was sometime in early 1964.
However, our neighbouring Singapore had them as early as the beginning 0f 1963. Each television would be accompanied with an aerial, a metal pole which transmits or receive signals. Those staying in Johor Bahru could get the Singapore channel, which was just one channel. As we moved away from Singapore, we needed to have the aerial higher and higher in order to get a good reception. In Muar town, quite a number of houses were already having televisions at their homes. One of them was the house of my close friend Mohammad Shah whose father was an Exco member of the Johor State government. The aerial that was fixed at his house was twice higher than the coconut tree.
When television finally came to Muar town in 1964, our country had by now our own broadcasting body and we no longer needed a tall aerial, but those who still wanted to have the Singapore channel must have the aerial as tall as the coconut tree. So whenever we passed by any house that had a very tall aerial, we knew that they could watch a Singapore channel.
It was only in early 1965 that we had our own television installed at the house of my uncle Pak Mat Rippin (Ahmad Hj. Ariffin). Pak Mat, the father of my three ‘sisters’ was like a father to me. He was a draughtsman and a very kind man. Once he ordered a set of encyclopedia for his children to read and learn and I was among those who liked to read the encyclopedia. Pak Mat’s house was just a few steps away from the house I stayed and so every evening I would be glued at the television. The transmission began at around six in the evening and would end around eleven o’clock.
There were quite a number of good movies shown and the most favourites among Muarians of my time were the series of Peyton Place and The Fugative. In the evening there was a musical channel where we all never missed called The Shindig. It was a musical programme with few invited famous singers of those days and it would sometime be accompanied by the Shindig Dancers.
By now we all knew James Bond, the famous English spy/agent who had a license to kill and to our mind he could kill anybody he disliked. From James Bond came many other movie thrillers with heroes just like him. We had Simon Templer in the series The Saint driving a Volvo sports car. Whenever we noticed this type of car moving around Muar town, we would shout “Hey, that’s Simon Templer’s Volvo”. Then we had American heroes such as Our man Flint and Mannix the private detective and later another good series called The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
This series features two famous men known as Napolean Solo played by Robert Vaughn and Illya Kuryakin played by David McCallum. They worked for a fictitious secret international espionage and law enforcement agency called U.N.C.L.E. At night many young boys who always spend their time at the Taman Selera would pretend walking like Illya Kuryakin and smiled just like he did. Some boys would spot his hair style because many girls liked Illya Kuryakin because of his good looks. At one time even I tried to be like him. In fact I liked to be like many famous names. Sometime I liked to be like Cliff Richard and the next day I pretended that I looked like Ricky Nelson. When the Beatles came, I wanted to be like Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr too. Only my close buddy Halim was consistent, he always wanted to be like James Bond and until today we called him Halim Bond.
It was only in 1978 when we had colour movies but to have colour movies in our television, we had to change to a new set and so many TV owners began to flock to the local agent to replace their old sets.
Those days, there wasn’t any Malay drama but we had some Malay movies shown. Every time when we had Malay movies shown on television, many neighbours who had no TV would come and we really enjoyed them because Malay movies were the only movies we understood from the beginning till the end. Some would bring kacang goreng to enjoy while watching the movie.
But I never had a television in my house because maybe grandpa could not afford it. Luckily my uncle Pak Mat Rippin could afford to buy a television, at least I was not deprived of watching a movie at home in the mid sixties.