July 22, 2011

"Testing the Grounds"

When I was in secondary school in Sibu my peers and I had normal day scholar life - we were in school only during the school hours. Students then were divided into day scholars or boarders where schools had boarding facilities. The boarders were from outside of Sibu and there were two boarding houses one for boys and one for girls in our school Both boarding houses were run by very strict supervisors related to the Methodist Church.

And romances were not tolerated.

However it was normal for boy-girl relationship to develop even though it was frown upon. One of the great romances was that of a yet to become State Assembly man and a pretty girl staying the the Methodist Girls' Hostel. He was a senior boy hailing from another town. Of course he was a " marked man" as he had the right background and was of good intellect. Perhaps many girls were already  trying to catch his eye.  Fortunately in those days no mothers were daring or blatant enough to drive up to the hostel to invite him out for dinners..

Many boys approached the pretty  girls or their tragets to help with their sewing in order to "test the grounds". And many couples started off in this way.

According to the school legend he needed his slender white trousers shortened a bit so that he would ride his bicycle better. So he approached the pretty girl in the girls' hostel right in the middle of the basket ball court and asked her to do him a favour. Could she help him hem his trouser legs?

They became an item after that.

Now in all schools throughout Sarawak in those days there would be boys who needed help in the field of sewing. Girls who were able to hold a needle and thread it would be very popular. Trousers needed to be flared or narrowed - shortened or lengthened. Some girls offered to helped. Others had to be coaxed.

And some boys who could hold a needle would charge for sewing!! I believe none of the girls were enterprising enough to charge for their sewing.

Chivalry was in. And ladies were only too happy to do a thing or too for their knights in shing armour!!

Today most boys would be able to handle this. They can sew their buttons and  mend some  holes.
Hahaha...remember this...a torn sarong held together by a safety pin? Safety pins are very useful
My son is quite good in sewing buttons. He can charge 50 cents per button. 

Useful tools of the trade. The red thimble is quite an antique today....
In those long ago days a symbol of reciprocated love was the making of embroidered handkerchiefs for the boys. Grils would secretly make handkerchiefs and kept them under lock and key in the hostel. When the time was right they would secretly send the handkerchiefs to the boys..sometimes by post.

And our school clerks would gossip saying that a boy had just received a small parcel and the postmark was Sibu...They would guess..."Ha ha! Must be a handkerchief inside...and the writing belongs to a girl..." Many of us used to hang out near the school offices waiting for mails from our pen friends. Well a bit of gossip would make our day. I am wondering how many girls did make handkerchiefs for their intended.

One of the clerks is still around. He has been quite a favourite of ours as he plays the piano very well. This man is Mr. Chong Chung Sing. He is also a good photographer.

I am glad that my son is more independent and more than competent so I don't have to worry about him...he can sew better than any girl. Mothers should encourage their boys to sew well. Furthermore today hemming and other clothing alterations cost a lot. My grandmother used to say.."Your parents can be very skilful and do everything for you but nothing can beat your own skills."

It is nice to think of the old days and how simple it was to get a girl to pay attention to a boy. Helping a boy to do some sewing definitely showed that the girl was kind hearted and skilful if not anything else. If a girl was not interested she would say no immediately. However if a girl was kind enough she would probably sew for a lot of people who ask for her help!!  I think there was one girl who had a sewing machine and she was making lots of clothes for people!! Sewing was taught from Form One to Form Three during my secondary school years.

What strategy did you use to catch the eye of your girl friend/boy friend?


Ann said...

I never knew.

when I was in Form 1 to 3, we had two boys who volunteered, they thought we were having cooking classes. They hated it because the rest ofthe boys teased them to be gays.

Ann said...

badminton was a common thread that brought us together, (me and my husband,)

Bengbeng said...

pretending not to know the way around Sibu was my gimmick hehe

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann...Were the two boys Tracey Mamora and Feng Chong? I might not remember that too accurately it could be these two boys or two others. Each batch from your time onwards had two or three boys...My son would have volunteered for home science too...and the teasing would be the same 30 years later!!

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann... I was actually interested in someone else but he was too "distant" and the chances for me with him was zero. Well later my cousins did try to match make me with a few guys but I had no luck because the shelves were too full of choices for these guys. Any way my mother was not interested in match making. She said that I would not be chosen any way.

And one day I won a carroms match and was matched with a guy to play mixed doubles. So that made history.....God works in mysterious ways.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Bengbeng...you are one smart guy....

Ann said...


Glad you waited for the right guy!!!!

My classmates form 1 1967 to form 3, were Stephen Nayin (spelling definitely wrong) and Robert Lai.

They were both scouts. Haven't seen Stephen, Robert became a Policeman.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann...yes I remember that batch...I must take a photo with Robert and his family again and show you...He is right here in my church in Miri!! It is nice to have Sibu school mates in Miri..Yes Robert was a good scout.

I remember Stephen vaguely too. I must let Robert know. So when are you going to visit Miri? Latest news..my sis Chang Sig and I are planning for Nov in NZ...I am giving you one and half years' advance notice.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Ann...just curious...do you two still play badminton? or have you moved to some other sport?
Games are good venues for b-g relationship to develop. Can see character through the games!!

Ann said...

my sis Chang Sig and I are planning for Nov in NZ...

You mean Chang Sing?

I shall love to see you.

I have having one month's notice to meet up with my Binatang's family , the one that marries T.S.'s cousin in Christchurch. The mum is coming from Kuching.

Ann said...

We ran quite a bit, and walk too. When I was 50, I trained for the 1/4 marathon with my friend. On weekends, my husband walked while I ran.

Now sometimes we walk. not the PAK TOI walk, he walks ahead of me. Just this Sunday, we climbed Mt Eden Volcano with my son, and I complained he climbed too fast, as I am so out of shape.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I have several sisters..Chang Yin is No.3. No.2 is Chang Sing. No.4 is Chang Sig and youngest is Chang Ni. The rest have all visited NZ except me. That's a wonderful dream to achieve. Excited about it already.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

It is nice to be able to do all these activities together. Mt Eden must be nice. As we grow older we tend to be slower. After my heart surgery my movements have become slower. Stopped playing competition tennis even.

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