Saturday, 29 August 2015

August full moon

It has been a hazy few days behind us but tonight's full moon shone very brightly in a cloudless sky as Bersih4 participants settle down for the night in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. All you guys are fantastic!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Marcus Langdon, local historian and author

Here we are at the George Town World Heritage Incoporated (GTWHI) office at the corner of Carnarvon Street and Acheen Street two days ago when we joined in the launch of Marcus Langdon's latest book, George Town's Historic Commercial & Civic Precincts.

This happens to be a most interesting book that is full of information - and pictures - on some of the old historical buildings in the heritage city. It also traced the early development of George Town where Beach Street was originally located next to the sea front before land reclamation set it back and Weld Quay ultimately became the new thoroughfare by the sea.

I first met Langdon about a year ago when we both attended my friend, Kee Thuan Chye's book reading in a house in Malay Street. At that time, I already new that Langdon was carrying out research work on Penang's early history and in fact, already had Penang: Fourth Presidency of India 1805-1830 - his first volume of four - already published.

I had asked him when his second volume would be coming out and he said that he was still trying to find a publisher. Hopefully, he said, by Christmas. But it never happened because of various reasons.

I told him what I thought about the book. How it was fascinating to uncover the small snippets of information on Penang Free School. But too bad, I said, that there was so little information on the school's early years. That must have stirred up something because Langdon suddenly told me that he was devoting one whole chapter in his second volume to the Penang Free School.

If he had thought that the matter would rest there and then, I think that he was surprised when several months later, I made an arrangement to meet him at The Old Frees' Association where we exchanged views about the founding of the school. He offered me a copy of his manuscript, the chapter on the school, on condition that it was not shown to anyone until his book was published. With Volume Two of Penang: Fourth Presidency of India 1805-1830 set to appear anytime soon, most probably within the next month, maybe I can just say enough that Old Frees everywhere should welcome this book's publication. You will not be disappointed with the contents, that I can guarantee you!

Thursday, 13 August 2015

It's now minding your Os, Ps and Qs

When out of the blue, I received a message from my cousin, Eng Chye, inviting us down to a dinner in Petaling Jaya on the 10th of August, I decided that this was not going to be something that I would want to miss. For one thing, Eng Chye and I both go back a long way to 1974 when we got to know one another without realising that we are related. So we are very fast friends - and cousins. And for another thing, he was Best Man at our wedding. I could have called upon anyone in Penang to be Best Man but no, I plumbed for him although he was living in Petaling Jaya and he had agreed.

So there we were, at the D'Fong Restaurant in Petaling Jaya. We walked in to find four resplendent tables laid out for Eng Chye's and Adeline's family and relatives. Plus, there they were, the couple of the hour, Eng Chye's daughter, Xinyi, and her husband, who were being introduced round to us. Wow, like I told her, the last time that I saw her, it was at a restaurant at the Gurney Plaza and she was just this tall.

And there they were too, some more of my multitudes of Oh relatives amidst the Phuah relatives, many of whom I was meeting for the first time too. So pardon me if I'm unable to remember who's who and who's named what. They were really that many and my poor brain just couldn't function properly.

Oh yes, seeing everybody together like this, I would wish to update one saying that Eng Chye and I used to have a chuckle together in the past. Based on our surnames, we had been telling people to really "mind their Ps and Qs" with us. Perhaps now, I should also change this to "minding your O(h)s, P(huah)s and Q(uah)s," It's not often that three surnames can mix together as well as this!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

A dinner with relatives

We have been pretty busy moving about and eating during the past few days. On Saturday, we attended the Ban Hin Lee Bank 80th anniversary reunion dinner at the Royal Bintang Hotel in George Town, Penang, where we met up with a lot of people from our banking days.

Then on Sunday morning, we took the Express Rakyat train down to Kuala Lumpur where yet another dinner function awaited us: an informal dinner gathering at the Restaurant Siu Siu at Robson Heights, Kuala Lumpur, with some of my Oh relatives in the Klang Valley.

Standing left to right: Evelyn Lim, Peggy Oh, Amy Oh, Aaron Oh, Girlie, Harry Oh, myself and Michelle. Seated next to Saw See is Amy's and Peggy's mother, the last of the Oh family one generation before us.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

BHLBank's 80th anniversary reunion dinner

It was a pity that Ban Hin Lee Bank ceased in exist when it was taken over by Southern Bank in 2001. What was supposed to be a merger of two equal partners when Ban Hin Lee and Southern began talking to one another in the 1990s was dealt a mortal blow when Bank Negara Malaysia, in its infinite wisdom, declared Ban Hin Lee Bank to be the junior partner in the merger process. As a result, Ban Hin Lee lost out in everything and the bank ceased to exist as an entity after July 2001.

But the culture and philosophy of Ban Hin Lee Bank remained steadfastly ingrained in its ex-employees. Though they might have been absorbed into the enlarged Southern Bank entity or they left to pursue other careers elsewhere, the former BHLB employees carried with them the credo of everything that Ban Hin Lee stood for: maintaining excellent work ethics and high professionalism in whatever they do.

Above all, the former employees of BHLB never forgot how the staff had always gelled together as a team whether at work or at play. We had the Senior Management team to thank for this because they instilled in us the importance of team work which carried through to our recreational activities. For instance, I remember how the BHLB Recreation Club had constantly drawn up varied activities for us: organising outings or sports events that played a big role in bringing the staff together. By and large, we understood one another.

So even though BHLBank had ceased to exist for 14 years already, the good memories of having worked in this banking institution are still there. I am not alone in this. Throughout the country, we have countless other ex-BHLB staff who must obviously feel the same way too. Why I say this: just last Saturday (8 Aug 2015) we had 200 or so of the former Ban Hin Lee Bank staff come together for a reunion dinner to celebrate what would have been the bank's 80th anniversary, as though the bank was still around. 

[There would have been more significance if the organisers had chosen the 17th of September for this reunion because this date in 1935 was the date when Ban Hin Lee Bank sprang into life. But let's not quibble about this little detail, shall we?]

I've had people who were astounded two years ago when I told them that we still had reunions after 12 years. Last weekend in 2015, 14 years after 2001, we came together again. And this time, we attended the reunion with an even greater enthusiasm because of the good feelings of the 80th anniversary behind it. Unfortunately, those ex-staff who missed out on the event would have really missed out on a great opportunity to catch up with old friends first and former colleagues second. We were the greatest bunch of people that we had ever worked with, that's all I have to say.

The Ban Hin Lee Bank family

Choosing our door gifts at the Registration counter

Former BHLB CEO Dato' Seri Goh Eng Toon and former Assistant General Manager Tan Kuan Hai

Former General Manager Neoh Choo Kean