The house party was now set for tonight. Early in the morning we did some decoration at the hall fixing some balloons at the corner of the ceiling and when the ceiling fan moved, these balloons would sway nicely. The food was set on the table in the kitchen; mi siam goreng, tembosa, satay and fruits punch for drinks. The turn-table arrived in the afternoon and after having it tested we were satisfied with the sound. The records were in place ready to be aired the songs of our choices; the collection of Cliff Richard and Elvis Presley, the Beatles’ latest, and some female singers such as Dusty Springfield and Lulu. Tonight we would be wearing our best clothes, with a nice thin necktie that could easily be fixed at the collar. Of course we would be buying some ‘Hacks’ sweets to avoid bad breath.
The house in question was situated along the junction of Jalan Mariam/Jalan Abdul Rahman quite near a Chinese sundry shop we called “Kedai Koparal”. It was a one storey bungalow with a small compound. Ajis’ mum and his aunt were already in Kuala Lumpur spending a few days with some relatives and we had the house all by ourselves.
“So how many girls are coming?” we began asking each other while enjoying our mi bandung along the busy road of Jalan Abdullah. We had only three more days to go and confirmation was still very blur. So far we had only four girls who had given their firm commitment the numbers of which was obviously unsatisfactory. We had on our list at least twenty girls and so far only twenty percent would be coming. With three days to go, we needed to act fast otherwise we might just as well forget the idea. The only thing that kept on improving was the number of boys coming.
Night life in Muar town would be very quiet as early as 10.00pm. Even the town center had by then turned almost into a ghost town and the only areas where we could find some people would be at the cinemas. The gated area of the Grand Paradise was the only place where people would be enjoying their night but this place was not suitable for boys and girls our age. Supposed to be an amusement park, it offered more enjoyment any man could think of. In one corner inside this gated area was a small pub with girls serving their customers with whiskey and brandy. Supposed to serve coffee for night birds, the place became so famous among many older folks that it became known among Muarians of my time as Kopi Korek. I can’t figure out how the word korek was added.
Unlike the evening tea served by a Chinese hawker inside the Padang Muar Club known among us as Teh Cangkung simply because we had to squat while enjoying our tea. So Muar Town of my time had Kopi Korek and Teh Cangkung.
There wasn’t any night clubs in Muar Town and the nearest one could get their ‘foot-loose’ was in Malacca or Batu Pahat. The Padang Muar Club and the Tanjung Muar Clubs served only for members and those invited by the members but for boys and girls our age would find it extremely difficult to have our feet inside the club. So, many boys organized parties to not only show their dancing skills but more so to be able to hold some girls while dancing, something that they could only dream.
Of course Muar Town had many young and pretty girls in the sixties but to get them to go to the house parties was like asking our grandmothers for an evening date at the Kim Leng Restaurant. The sixties was a period when things began to experience something new socially and politically around the globe. It is a term used by historians, journalists and other objective academics. It describes the counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, education and even drugs. Some describe it as the ‘swinging sixties’. Like all other developing countries around the world, Malaysia as a very young nation had to keep abreast with the world’s changing outlook and it was our youth who played this significant roles to effect the changes. The boys were quick to adapt to these changes but the girls were a bit slow and cautious too. House parties were unheard of in the late fifties and when the boys started to organize one in the sixties, it was suddenly a strange element creeping into our society. Most girls were not too sure of this new trend and many were skeptical. That was perhaps the reason for the poor response we got from most girls.
The changes were a bit too fast too. For boys, the hair style of Elvis Presley/Cliff Richard to the Beatles’ mop hair was something that our parents could not grasp with. How could a bulging hair at the top of the forehead suddenly dropped like a flat mop? And the baggy pants we wore too suddenly transformed into a tight fitting trousers that could easily measure the circumference of our thighs. When I first wore my drain-pipe trousers tailored by my favourite Chinese tailor with a front tooth missing, my grandfather would stare at me like a cat observing attentively to a moving object. Luckily my grandma wasn’t too perturbed with these changes.
Nazali Yusoff (Nali) and her two friends Sophia and Zaleha were about the only girls that kept our spirits alive. Sophia roped in her sister Rogayah who was quite sporting too. I pleaded with my cousins Kak Shidah and Kak Fuzi to join in the fun and they both agreed. So far we had six girls while the number of boys raring to go had by now increased to over thirth and we had two more days to go.
Some girls were quite reserved in their own ways. Shaukat and Nabiha, the two lovely daughters of Johor’s Chief Minister were among those in this category, that was what we thought. They could be seen in many social functions like a Talent Time show, stage performance and even at the fun fair. But they would shy away from house parties perhaps to stay away from the limelight for being the daughters of a very influential person. But being modern in their thinking, they too organized their own house parties and the invitees confined only among very close friends. Along the stretch of Jalan Suleiman and Jalan Daud we could find some pretty girls too like Robiah Adom and her sister Atikah. But these areas were forbidden for Tanjung boys to encroach. Muar youth of my time were cliquish and we had to be very cautious when entering the territories of others. Although very rare, there had been some fighting among boys of different territories over girls. So we had to rely purely on the girls within our territory.
While the boys kept emulating the western ways in their dressing, the girls did too. Slim skirts with tab details were fashionable in those days. Dresses and tops with specific collar detailing, along with the pleated skirts and button accents were among their favourite attires. They also had the sailor look and brightly striped dresses. Although for girls wearing trousers were indecent and therefore scarce, some did confidently with tapered plaid trousers paired with button down shirts. As for their hair style, from the famous Sandra Dee outlook some opted for the ‘bob’ hair. The short blunt cut hairstyle and the boyish short cut but with more soft look. The more sophisticated ones preferred the beehive type, one that could easily block your view in a cinema if seated right behind. The sixties is considered one of the most glamorous and productive era concerning the hair industry. Muar Town had some good hair saloon to cope with the increasing demand.
One more day to go and we now had ten girls coming to the party while the number of boys had reached almost fifty. Many did some rehearsals; like how to hold your partner in a proper manner when the music begins, how not to step on your partner’s foot while dancing and how to start an interesting conversation? Some talked to themselves in the mirror to make sure they would not fault in their ventures. Others had their dancing training among themselves often stepping on each others’ foot. While the boys were so absorbed in their rehearsals, the girls were helping their mothers washing the plates, watering the plants and reading their history books. When their fathers returned from work, they would be seen preparing bubur kacang with a cup of tea ready to serve. Baik sungguh anak dara kita ni (What a wonderful daughter we have.), the father would said to his wife while sipping his hot tea. Grinning alone at the kitchen, it was perhaps the best time to ask her father’s permission to go to this house party.
It was almost 8.00pm when the four of us were standing by the entrance of the house. The night was chilly but the stress of waiting for the arrival of the girls made us perspire like it was such a hot and humid night. The small house compound was filled with boys with their mop hair and drain-pipe trousers. Those passing by would be wondering what on earth was going on? The music was on air with Cliff Richard taking the lead with some of his latest..The Young Ones, Summer Holiday, Please Don’t Tease but we reserved the song When A Girl in Your Arm after the night had gained its momentum. Some neighbours would peeped through their windows trying to figure out what these youngsters were up to. The car assigned to pick some of the girls finally arrived giving us a sigh of great relief. The girls living nearby just walked at their own leisure like nothing important was to happen. Among them would be some staying quite far and would put up the night with their town friends.
When we had the numbers, the party began with an unbalance quorum. It was an enjoyable night of sweet conversation and decent dancing. The food was palatable and sufficient in spite of the huge number of boys attended. As the number of girls were limited, some boys danced among themselves. Kedai Koparal the Chinese sundry shop nearby was out of stock of ‘Hacks’ sweets puzzling the owner himself. At some lampposts nearby, elderly neighbours with their kain pelikat and songkok could be seen standing and squatting speculating among themselves what these young boys and some girls were doing inside the house. By 11.00pm, the girls must return home to keep to their words otherwise the parents would drop by. The next morning the whole neighbourhood would place this topic as the first agenda over their conversation.
Organizing a house party in a small town like Muar Town in the sixties was the most stressful project. In spite of this, we enjoyed every moment that time gave us and we shared these wonderful moments with many of our Muar Town girls. We created these memories only to be shared in our later years…today. These wonderful girls are today mothers to their daughters with some already becoming grandmothers. Memories are borrowed times that we shared together. As times passed, these memories would linger on till our last breath.
This article is dedicated to all the Muar Town girls that I once knew. You all made Muar Town of the sixties a wonderful town to live in. My admiration to the following wonderful Muar Town girls of the sixties:
Fuziah Ahmad, Saleha Hassan, Nazali Yusoff, Sophia Omar, Rugayah Omar, Zaleha Johari, Aishah Mohammad, Halimah Ahmad, Maimunah Omar, Jane Chong, Raja Norizan, Zamrah, Robiah Adom, Atikah Adom, Zakiah Mansor, Zaleha Tahir, Kamariah Othman, Kamariah Abdullah, Kintan Dali, Halimah Said, Rokiah Omar, Jamaah Hassan, Shaukat Othman, Nabiha Othman and many more. Of course I will always remember Midah Mata Sepet ( still can’t get her real name).
And not forgetting Yam Tetek Besar.