The beginning - how it all came about
Venue: Seafood Restaurant
Off Jalan Lobak
"Hello, is that you, Shu Hui? asked the voice over the telephone. It sounded so familiar yet; I could not put a name to the voice. It has been a long time since someone addressed me as Shu Hui, in fact since school days in ACS. "Yes, this is. Who is speaking?" I asked.
"Yoke Heng, remember me?" she continued and our conversation went on.
Since Form 4, Yoke Heng was one of my closest friends in ACS. Both of us were in the school 4x100m-relay team since Form 4. We were also competitors as she ran for Malaya House, I ran for Cambridge House. Yoke Heng in one of the shops at the ground floor of the Templer Flats and she witnessed many groggy scenes, as Templer Flats or 14 storey was the favourite place for many distressed people jumping off ending their lives. I stayed next to Metropole Cinema in Temiang, often witnessing gang clashes between the Limbok and Temiang thugs.
We walked home from school together or she will hitch a ride on the back seat of my bicycle. Sometime Poh Ling and Kooi Mei will join us. Her father, a wantan mee maker/seller; and coffee shop owner did not allow her to cycle. They have a noodle making machine sitting in their tiny living room. We spent many evening savouring wantan mee, under the watchful eyes of her elder sisters who were always listening on our conversation. Before going off to Ampangan for Malay tuition, Yoke Heng spent time at my mother’s ice-kacang shop, a favourite haunt of the Chinese School students from Chong Wah, Chan Wah and SPI students. Yoke Heng’s bed at a corner near the stairway of the coffee shop and often demons disturbed her at nights. I remember her telling me her decision to become a Christian that evoked the wrath of her entire family How could I have forgotten her?
The last time I saw Yoke Heng was at her wedding many years ago. It was a whirl wind romance as she was swept off her feet by this American air force guy she met while holidaying in Thailand. Next thing, she was getting married and flying off to settle in the States with him.
Summer 1992, Yoke Heng is now back in Malaysia, visiting family with her husband and 5 kids! We met at a seafood restaurant somewhere just off Jalan Lobak. It was sort of a very first reunion dinner. I vaguely remembered Swee Choo, Poh Ling, Loo Thay and maybe one of the Fang Twins at the dinner. There may have been others but memories failed me. Yoke Heng chided us for failing to keep in touch despite the fact that there were so many of us still in Seremban or at least visits during weekends. She had a real go at me that night. "Shu Hui, you are always organising functions at the Chinese Methodist Church, at the Girls Brigade. What happened to your energy? Do you have to wait for someone to return from abroad? Sometimes it can be too late…" Guess it must have been that very evening sub-consciously I was challenged to take on the role of initiating ACS reunions and that we should stop making promises to keep in touch but never actually mean it.
This night was the setting of the first ACS Class of 71 Reunions, the rest is now history........
Cheong Yoke Heng and husband, Angie, Loo Thay, Tan Poh Ling, Yap Swee Chu