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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Teachers' Training College, Kirkby, Liverpool:Reliving memories. Part 2. Orientation

Teachers' Training College Kirkby, Liverpool:Reliving Memories

Part 2. Orientation 

The next morning, cold and exhausted, I peered sleepily through the frosty panes and noticed the buildings were still in dark shadows and the ground was covered with a white mantle.

The buildings were still in dark shadows and the ground was covered in
a white mantle.

 We were told to gather at the recreation hall and so we tread our way gingerly along the slippery pavement to a murky, brick building.  Our most honourable senior sirs and ladies had already lined up along the dimly-lit corridor to give us a ‘warm and rousing welcome’.  Years on, their raucous shouts of ‘WALK FASTER FRESHIES, THIS IS ENGLAND NOT MALAYA’ still ring in my ears. Once inside the hall, I spotted more seniors prowling the floor like vultures that were about to pounce on unsuspecting preys.  The hall was gradually filled with a cacophony of voices.

“Where is your manner, 'freshie'!”

“Zip that smile,' freshie'!”

“Kowtow to Big Brother, 'freshie'!”
( 'Big Brother' was just a papier mache face mask which was mounted on the wall of the main recreation hall} 

A papier mache face mask was mounted on the wall

“Your ribbon has wilted , 'freshie'! Make sure you water and iron it.”

(Each 'freshie' had to wear a green bow which had to be kept in pristine condition throughout the one month orientation period.)

A green bow which the 'freshie' had to wear

“Don’t you dare sneak into sickbay! Charlie the ghost will be waiting for you there.”
( 'Charlie' was perhaps the creation of a senior with a fertile imagination who wanted to deter 'freshies' from seeking sanctuary in the safety of the sickbay)

Those were words that would become familiar to our ears during the course of the orientation.  Above the threats, the sound of strident shouts, shrill screams and boisterous laughter rang and echoed round the hall.
Some of our senior persecutors were in their elements and   their endless torments left many of their victims seething with anger and some had to muster their utmost self-restraint, lest they let fly a knock-out punch on their tormentor’s face. The junior ladies too had their fair share of ‘entertainment’ and many were left teary-eyed at the end of the day.
I remember when we were finally allowed to return to our Blocks, I would pause outside the hall to get my bearings, as the orientation had not only left me disorientated, but the dimly-lit road and fog made the Blocks almost indistinguishable.

On the college campus on a cold winter day

The Blocks were almost indistinguishable

About a week into the orientation, in spite of the threats and spooky tales I found myself in the college sickbay. 

The college sickbay where students seek treatment for minor illness and injuries.
Photo: Courtesy of Vin Quen who is seen here with Matron.

 At first there were a few juniors to keep me company, but as they were gradually discharged, I found myself the only patient in the sickbay. At night, as I listened to the howling wind and heard the rattling of the window panes, they would conjure image of ‘Charlie’.

The sounds conjured image of 'Charlie'

One morning I asked Sister if I could be discharged.
“No, young man, you are not going anywhere,” she replied.

While I was having a quiet sojourn in the sickbay, the other 'freshies' were busy preparing for a fancy dress parade. Items that were considered suitable for costumes or accessories were hastily collected, stored and jealously guarded. Even the lid of a trash can became a prized possession. On the morning of the 'freshies' parade, all the 'freshies', garbed in their creations, gathered outside their respective Blocks where their acting skills were put to test by their 'honorable senior sirs and ladies'.

'Freshies' in their fancy dress costumes outside Block8
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

'Freshies' posing with 'senior sir', Huang Soon Ngak
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

Two 'freshies' displaying their acting talent
Can you recognise them?
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

When I was finally allowed to leave the sickbay, I found out I was just in time to attend the crowning of the' freshie’s queen'  and the 'debowing' ceremony.  After a seemingly long month of taking meticulous care of our green bow, we were finally about to be relieved of the task. Each 'freshie' had been assigned a senior from the opposite sex to remove the green bow  _ the bow to signify our 'freshness' and lowly status.

Seniors busy 'debowing' the 'freshies'.
Are you in the photo?
Photo credit: Ooi-Tee

"Now, you're a junior," senior lady, Zahorin bte. Hj. Mohd. Arof tells
'freshie', Tan Ooi Tee, as she removes the green bow from his lapel
Photo credit: Ooi- Tee

The moment the 'debowing' ceremony ended there were warm handshakes, big hugs and embraces among the seniors and juniors. Our ‘enemies’ had become our friends; our ‘persecutors’ were now our protectors. We realised that most of the threats, taunts and humiliating acts we had to  undergo during the orientation were meant to teach us social etiquette and to remind us to always remain humble, irrespective of our achievement and social status.  The seeds of friendship planted during the seemingly endless cold winter would grow and blossom into a friendship that would last a lifetime.  

Lean Aing, who was from my batch, recall  her first impressions as a fresh arrival at Kirkby College.

 "Here we were an assortment of new students who had been so fortunate to have been selected for the two year Teacher Training Course in Kirkby College.Some of us were just fresh out of regular school, a few had already been working or doing temporary teaching, whilst a few had even entered a college or university prior to jumping on the glamorous bandwagon of going to England.

There we were suntanned, apprehensive and dressed in winter clothing which were either store -bought in Malaya or inherited from friends or relatives. I think we broke some rules of "correct fashion"  and wore whatever was available. The men were quite appropriately dressed in suits. It was late in the evening when we first arrived at Kirkby College and it was only the next morning that we experienced a close encounter of the unforgettable kind with THE SENIORS..........THE SENIOR SIRS AND SENIOR MISSES!

We knew the Seniors were all Malayans like us, but somehow they appeared different. Some of the Senior Misses were exceptionally fair and rosy-cheeked ,
others had glowing complexion and they were oh so smartly dressed in their skirts, twin-sets or blazers matched with slim skirts  and ......they wore nylon stockings. Some ladies looked chic and fashionable sporting accessories like brooches and long strands of pearls or beads.

The Senior Sirs looked so smart and confident , some sporting blazers or sports jackets . That was the time when the men wore proper shoes not the sneakers or moccasins which they do nowadays.

It was The Orientation Period and a lot was actually play-acting but nonetheless, at times, it was quite traumatic for some as the majority of us were unaware

 of ragging. I used to avoid a certain person who resembled a scary Japanese character straight out of a war movie. Then there was another senior who smoked a pipe like Sherlock Holmes. We were quite awe-struck by some of the senior ladies who sported lovely long tresses, fashionable overcoats And spectacles like those in Lat's cartoons. Some seniors were fierce and loud while others were kind and helpful during the Ragging Period. When it was over we found their better side and some long-lasting friendships evolved from then."

Cheah Lean Aing 1959-1960


Related article: Click below link

Part 3.

Academic work and teaching practice  

1 comment:

  1. "I would pause outside the hall to get my bearings, as the orientation had not only left me disorientated"...Imagine an orientation that causes disorientation! Well done, I could almost feel the crisp cold of winter and see myself treading the path leading to the orientation hall. 55 years ago, but the memory is made as vivid as the present...