Sunday, November 25, 2007

Special Tribute To Retired SMI Bus Driver Joseph Chai

Managed to arrange for an interview with Mr Joseph Chai Siew Wa a day before he called it quits. It was on May 27, 2005. Joseph was then 67 years old. The interview lasted 20 minutes and at the end of the session, I managed to have a feel sitting at the driver's seat, trying out the big steering wheel and experienced for a moment how this Joseph could drive a bus, ferrying noisy kids day after day for a total of 48 years!
A story was featured in the Old Michaelians Association magazine that year. For readers of the blog here, I am featuring here a write-up for all who still remember Mr Joseph Chai, the SMI school bus driver.

Started with an Austin, I progressed to a "Wogen" then a Morris. All these vehicles, Joseph said, were reliable and trustworthy.
"I started operating a school bus when I was 19 in the year 1957. There were virtually no cars on the road. Only bicycles and tricycles could be seen on the narrow roads in Ipoh then," said Joseph, who speaks impeccable English.
Joseph changed to a used Morris in 1973 for a princely sum of RM30,000 to ensure comfort and safety of his charges. With a slightly bigger bus, Joseph could ferry 45 pupils with ease.
Joseph has seven children, six daughters and a son, who works as a technician in Kuala Lumpur. (Heard that his wife is working in Hong Kong)
He remembers the time in his early days when he learned English from Brother Denis at night. (that explains why he speaks good English). Like Pakcik Din, Joseph was also working as a lab assistant at SMI. (And when the contract ended, he switched to bus driving). He remembers also when money had to be changed into Michaelian denominations to be used in the school canteen. As a boy, he had a close relationship with Mr P.J. Morsingh (our first headmaster). He has great respect for the La Sallian brothers because of their commitment towards educating the young. (taken from SMI school magazine 2002).
Joseph Chai, now nearing 70, had to say goodbye due to his failing eyesight and poor health.
Thank you Joseph Chai from us at St Michael's and from those who got on your nerves when they were on your bus - shouting, jumping, fighting, throwing papers and wrappers out from the windows yet still so much rubbish in your bus at the end of the day.
Sir, the boys had grown up. Many are already grandfathers, fathers and some prefer to be like Cliff Richard. Many are still in the country, some overseas. But they have one thing in common - they remember you fondly.
From St Michael's Ipoh, take care and thank you.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Dear Members of Class 5A3 of 1967

caption: Anthony Kim (standing, second from left). Was the busiest man that evening (OMA dinner), going around with his videocam.
Seated L to R : Gladys Ong ( Michael Ong's wife, former Convent Ipoh), Jeffery Thong Keon Hin currently in Melbourne, Gilbert Gomez.
Standing L to R: Michael Ong, Kim, Teoh Kar Hin, Joseph Doss, Thomas Amernathan, Justin Gomez.

(Pix from Mr Robert's website, and thanks).

I believe you guys must be busy contacting each other after the meeting in Ipoh. Mr Robert, for example, has tediously and painstakingly created a webpage to network with all his buddies. His creativity is well-reflected on all the pages, successfully attracting many others who had lost touch with one another when they parted ways after completed their Form Five in 1967. And there is one enthusiastic and dynamic Michaelian, Mr Anthony Kim, who keeps all his old friends up to date with his long list of e-mails, sending to them latest updates, currrent news and all things Ipoh. These are the people who are still vibrant, with the Michaelian spirit still burns within furiously. Feel free to use whatever images you need from my blog.

Keep in touch constantly.....from St Michael's Ipoh, cheers!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Special Tribute To SMI Bus Driver Pak Din

caption: UNFORGETTABLE... Pakcik Din (left) and the Ice-cream man. Two faithful Michaelians.

St Michael's takes pride in having produced individuals who have contributed to society and become prominent figures in the community. The alma mater never forgets these personalities. Here, we pay a fitting tribute to SMI Bus Driver for his service and zeal to all Michaelians.

Pakcik Din, full name Tuan Haji Jamaluddin was born on 4 September 1934. He came to work at SMI in 1952 as lab assistant. Brother Denis Hyland was Brother Director then. Many did not know that we had a fleet of nine school buses to ferry our boys to and fro school and Pak Din was commissioned to drive one of the buses.

He continued to drive privately even after his contract as a lab assistant expired. He recalls the time when there were no traffic lights in the early days and bullock carts were a common sight then. St Michael's was merely a small structure then compared to the magnificent building today.

At 73, he is still going strong and up to Nov 16, 2007, Pak Din still ferries young, energetic Michaelians to school from the Ipoh Garden and Canning Garden areas. His amber-coloured bus, AT 8551, has been on the road for more than three decades, four perhaps. (extracted from SMI 2002 school magazine)

The antique-looking bus carries with it prominently the logo of St Michael's, displaying the "green and white" proudly around town for many,many years. Pak Din arrives punctually everyday and parents are rest assured he can have their kids "delivered" to school safe and sound, just like when the parents themselves got delivered to school when they were young. By whom? Yes, by the same reliable and trusted man, Pakcik Din.

He has seen through eight directors and principals- Brother Denis, Brother Pius, Brother Paul, Brother Vincent, Mr Chong Suan Ee, Mr K. Balasubramaniam, Mr Teh Chor Aun, Mr Louis Rozario Doss and now, Mr Phoon.

Note: In the newspaper on Nov 19, 2007 : No more long trips for buses older than 15 years, says the Commercial Vehicle Licensing Board (CVLB). It will no longer issue temporary permits for school buses older than 15 years for long distance trips.

"The buses would only be allowed to fetch the students between their homes and schools", the Entrepreneurial and Co-operative Development Ministry clarified.

We were worried initially. First it was the Ice Cream man, now Pak Din. After some clarifications, Pak Din is exempted from the directive as his bus fetches students between their homes and school. Thank you Pak Din for all the years of faithful and exemplary service to us Michaelians.

A note from an old boy Mr Robert de Silva:

Dear Mr. Khiew,

I would like your permission to copy Pak Din's picture and paste it in our website. I traveled by the school bus to school from Lahat Lane during my primary schooldays and from Kg. Simee during my Form 1,2,3 and maybe part of Form 4 days. I remember the Bus Drivers then were a Joseph, a much younger Chinese Gentleman then ,Pak Din, Ahmad and a much elder Chinese gentleman Leong ? I cannot remember his name. He was a detective in the Police Volunteer Reserve. Maybe a Sergeant. Had fun travelling in the buses at that time and used to greet them whenever I see them after school days but it has been a long time. How are they faring? Thank you. Robert.

Our reply: Dear Sir, go ahead and use the picture. Joseph Chai has retired. It was in 2005 he decided to call it quits. He is still in Ipoh, staying in Simee. I can run a story about him later. As for Leong, we can get his update from Pakcik Din. Cheers and good day. Been to your blog. Pretty creative.From the alma mater, Peter Khiew.

Note: Robert de Silva, who currently lives in Washington DC, was in class 5A3, year 1967. His site is

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Taking A Short Break

Due to marking of exam papers, year-end preparations, the registration of Form One students 2008 and other logistics matters, I will be taking a short break. Posting resumes middle November 2007.