Recollections of the Golden Years
You are invited to share your V.I. memories of the Golden Years (until the mid-seventies). Email me on any V.I. topic you wish, giving your name and final year at the Old School - Chung Chee Min
P U B L I C A T I O N S
A really big bouquet must be handed to members of the Editorial Board for the work they put in to get the first copy of the school newspaper, The V.I. Voice, published. Special credit, I think, must be given to the publishers and typists. I dropped in on them while they were actually at the task of Roneoing the magazine, and I must confess I have never seen so many pieces of paper lying scattered all over the school library and so many sweating personnel trying to put them into a greater disorder.
I really pitied the school printing machine for the tortures that it was subjected to. After being turned about 150,000 times (these included the spoiled sheets), it suffered a nervous breakdown and refused to function properly. Every subsequent sheet that was printed was blurred by its jittery movements. That was that!
But then there was the task of sorting the sheets of printed material and getting them stapled. My advice to those who are not dexterous is never to apply for such a job or get one forced on you. I tried it and after ten minutes had to give up. Getting page one and page three was easy enough but page 5 was in one corner, page 7 was out of reach, and page 9 over on that desk. By the time I had compiled ten issues, my back began to ache. After 50 my legs forsook me and, after 50, I was a goner. Well, I think 20 cents is not too much to pay for a copy of The V.I. Voice, considering the time and work put into it!
Chan Heun Yin (1960)
Seladang Calypso 1957
Jokes and jokes, there is plenty,
Seladang magazine, this,
Trips and trips, there is plenty,
Every time you GOSOK GIGI,
Even if you in W.C.
Or even in bright moonlight,
Or even by candle light,
Seladang magazine, this,
The Seladang (1960)
Mr. Gerry Fernandez, who has taught in the Victoria Institution for about five years, left for the United Kingdom on October 5th, 1960, for advanced studies in law and economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
A well-known figure in debating and literary circles, Mr. Fernandez has, during his service at the school, been closely associated with the Editorial Committees of The Seladang and The Victorian, first as Assistant Advisor and then as Advisor. The invaluable services which he has rendered to both the committees in the form of criticism, suggestions and guidance can never be fully appreciated by those who have not passed through the editorial positions.
In spite of his keen interest in both publications, Mr. Fernandez has on no occasion attempted to interfere directly with the work of the Committees and, in his own words, “these two publications, unlike those of other schools, are actually run by the boys themselves.” A magnificent tribute indeed to the independent spirit of the Victoria Institution! He continued, “In many other schools, the Advisory Teacher is the Editor in all but name, but I am glad to say that this has not been so in the Victoria Institution. At least I have never been given the opportunity to follow suit!”
Mr. Fernandez is an intellectual all-rounder, absorbed in the study of mathematics, politics, philosophy, law, economics and psychology. Before he left, he was holding the position of Advisor to the Psychology Section. Debaters will well remember how successfully Mr. Fernandez led the Selangor Staff team to victory in a debate against Selangor Schools organised by the now defunct Selangor Schools Literary Association.
Norman Foo Yeow Khean (1961)
Let me first disillusion you budding leftists who hold revolution in almost unreasoning sanctity. The Seladang has never defended you because it loved you. It was merely keeping alive that small voice of conscience which believed that even the most obstreperous pupil could be right in the long run, that not all recklessness could have arisen from brute ignorance, that quiet and detached examination of all disputes could most easily resolve them.
And now, you the traditionalist. The Seladang, I know, has seldom had kind words for you. This is not because it disliked you. On the other hand it always had a secret sympathy for you. But the Seladang consciously recognised that unthinking tradition has always has the smell of decay - something which, in enlightened self-interest, the editorial committees always sniffed for.
And finally, let me address myself to my ancient antagonists, the silly pupils committed to defend the status quo without bothering to question it rationally. I don't know how it is now, but some time ago the Seladang has never made a secret of its pleasure in exposing them and, in the interests of the school, of appealing to them to be sensible. Although The Seladang has never published squalid details of affairs which deserve the Goon Show treatment it was conscious of the fact that lots of pupils would liked to have silenced its editorial committee. Mind you, there are many people who would only be too willing to remove others from supposedly dangerous positions “for the sake of the school.” Such people make me shudder because they resemble the philistine Soviet officials who mumble ominously when confronted with modern poetry, “What we do not understand is dangerous for the state!” I need not remind you what this leads to.
On the contrary, The Seladang has never said, “Remove them.” It has only said, “These are crooks.”
You see, history is on our side. The voice of reason is undoubtedly small but it invariably wins. The moment the V.I. actively (obscurity here, I admit, but have you read the appendices to the Malayan constitution?) censors The Seladang, or appoints a “management” or “supervisory” committee over and above the editorial committee - from that moment onwards, the V.I. will cease to be one of the premier schools in Malaya. It will cease to produce responsible citizens of all shades of opinion who have learnt to tolerate unsavoury ideas through the expressions of a relatively free press. It will cease to produce leaders of tomorrow, because the only effective leadership of nations is provided by today's radicals who love justice and freedom, both in the political and socio-economic sense. What it will produce (which it does even today, in very limited numbers fortunately) are unquestioning, unimaginative, but power-loving men. I hope we won't ever see that moment.
I think I have made my point. The Seladang serves no particular section of the school. It was actually the focus point of all shades of opinion and the guardian of the freedom of expression. It thrives on the belief that for the V.I. to hold its own against other schools in terms of educated and dedicated youths (Malaya's greatest investment) who can exercise their great resources of fearless intellect, it must guarantee the right of dissenting, rebellious and progressive opinions to co-exist alongside the possibly more sober but no more virtuous ones of the establishment. After all, even the wisest fool can learn something.
"Vikki", The Seladang (1962)
Have you seen The Victorian? Probably you haven’t because they still haven’t handed them out yet. When Big Brother received his copy he thought it was a super-early 1962 edition of The Victorian because he had forgotten all about the 1961 issue. Everyone last year had been of the opinion that it would not materialize because the year was already drawing to a close and the Editorial Board was twiddling thumbs. Next time they'll probably sell super-delayed back copies.
As for quality? Pooh! Nothing to talk about it. It’s easier counting sheep than counting printing mistakes. Goodness, according to its report in The Victorian, the 1961 Junior Science Group had four chairmen and only one committee member. And Mr. Ganga Singh was listed as plain “Ganga Singh” minus the "Mr." Tut-tut! School Captain Chung Choeng Hoy held no office according to the report of the august Prefects’ Board. I thought he was an honorary member who cleaned out the waste paper basket every now and then, and poor Foo Yeow Khean vanished completely from the list of Prefects… and so on.
Yap Moo Len (1963)
THE SELADANG STORY
The Seladang is now ten years old.
The V.I. Voice, the predecessor of The Seladang, made its debut on “the stage of V.I. life” in the form of 20 cyclostyled pages. Its birth can be attributed to Zain Azraai, the then School Captain. The object of The V.I. Voice was clearly explained in Zain Azraai’s first editorial:-
“We make our debut today. It is with feelings of apprehension, trepidation, joy and excitement that we greet this memorable occasion when we appear for the first time on the stage of V.I. Life. Whether we shall survive the tests and trials which be ahead, time alone can tell. It will depend to a very great extent upon the support that we receive from pupils in the school.
“Whatever else this newspaper may or may not achieve, we hope that it will be regarded as a forum for the free expression of opinion. In so doing, we hope to rekindle the waning flicker of the school spirit to a glittering flame which will burn bright and clear in the bosom of every Victorian and enable (all Victorians) ............... to look with confidence at the years ahead as they look back with pride at the years gone by.”
A month later another 20 cyclostyled pages appeared. The best indication that the magazine was being accepted by the school was the Editorial Board’s ability to print the third and fourth issues of The V.I. Voice at the Khee Meng Press in the now famous Seladang format.
In October, 1953 — just after Zain Azraai had left the V.I. for Oxford University — the magazine changed its name. The editor, R. Nithiahnanthan, said in his editorial :-
“Our object in changing the name from The V.I. Voice to The Seladang was twofold. Firstly, we felt that The Seladang as represented on our school badge is a symbol of all that the school professes and stands for. Secondly, we believe, the name SELADANG has a wide and more embracing meaning in that it represents the fauna of the country and is a symbol of our growing nationality.”
Despite its change in name the magazine never forgot its original object. In fact, today we still serve as a forum for the free expression of opinion. We publish letters and articles on the school as well as other topics, and to encourage a greater flow of such letters and articles we allow the use of pseudonyms (though the writers’ names must be revealed to the Editor as a matter of good faith).
However, we regret to reveal that many pupils who do voice their opinions in and around their classrooms are unwilling to do so in The Seladang. Most of these pupils have one main apprehension — censorship. We wish to assure our readers that censorship has never been ruthlessly wielded by either the Editorial Board or by the Headmaster. A small measure of censorship has always existed, and it is highly necessary, in an institution where impressionable minds may choose to enthuse about the wrong things, that it continues to exist.
On our own part, however, we have always helped to level constructive criticism at the school and its institutions. Ever since our inception we have invited a columnist, often a pupil independent of the Editorial Board, to express his views on the school. Writing in a humorous vein, our columnist — now appearing as “Vikki” — has for the past few years focussed attention on many things, including the food in the Refectory, the bad conditions in the Cycle Park and the strictness of the Prefects. We are happy to reveal that the constructive criticism of our columnist has not always been in vain.
The passage of time has burdened The Seladang with added responsibilities. Today, in addition to being a forum for the free expression of opinion, it is also a newsmagazine. Members of the Editorial Board are assigned to report on all major events in the school and to interview various people. The important role of The Seladang as a newsmagazine is clearly shown by an examination of the news items of two typical issues of the magazine.
The May 1962 issue included a preview of the Dramatic Society’s annual major productions, reports on the science and mathematics exhibition, the arts exhibition, the variety concert, the annual cross-country run and speeches delivered on Speech Day by the Headmaster, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Malaya and the President of the V.I.O.B.A.. The January/February 1963 issue included analyses of the L.C.E. and H.S.C. results, reports on the inter-Sixth Form games and interviews with new members of the Staff, new Sixth Formers and new First Formers. Recently we started, with the help of the V.I.O.B.A., an old Boys’ Corner which we hope will be a regular feature.
Prior to 1959, articles and news of a very localized nature were often published. In the past four years, however, the editors have given priority to coverage of news of interest to the whole school. But we believe that news items about particular classes, if they are suitably written to appeal to the rest of the school, can help to bind the school into a united whole.
To best serve its purpose as a newsmagazine, The Seladang has to be published as regularly as possible. We have always recognised this fact, our aim from the very beginning being to publish The Seladang at monthly intervals. However, because of the heavy costs of printing and the great length of time necessarily involved in publication we have only been able to publish five or six issues each year for the past few years. To print a 16-page issue costs us a little less than $200. Admittedly, our Editorial Board is not a profit-making concern, but we have to spend a substantial sum on various items, especially stationery and postage. It is also highly important that we have some reserves to last us through any rainy day — especially because we have been allowed an autonomous account since 1957. An autonomous account, which is held for us by the School Treasurer, allows us considerable scope in expenditure but it also means that we have to bear any losses ourselves.
From the foregoing it may be apparent that our very survival as an important institution of the school depends upon our income from advertisements. In view of the fact that there are in the V.I. three other magazines — The Victorian, The Scientific Victorian and The Analekta — our income from this source is necessarily limited.
Our situation being such, we can only safely publish five or six issues a year. However, we pledge that The Seladang will serve its purpose as a newsmagazine as best as it can.
The Seladang can serve the V.I. in yet another way — as a training ground for creative writers. Ever since the inception of The V.I. Voice we have always published short stories, poems and other creative works. We note with pride that a few writers now contributing to Radio and Press have had part of their training writing for The Seladang. It is our fervent hope that more of the many V.I. boys and girls writing stories and poems will publish their work in The Seladang.
Having served the school for ten years, The Seladang has become an integral part of the school. This is evident from the many questions levelled at members of the Editorial Board whenever publication is delayed — questions like “Where’s The Seladang?" and “When is it coming out?” If the prevailing attitude towards The Seladang continues, we are sure the magazine will be able to serve the V.I. for many more years to come.
Gan Hiang Chye (1965)
The process of producing The Seladang is a rather long and complicated one which revolves round the editor. The magazine first takes shape in his semi-bald head as he plans, schemes, prepares and generally decides what news and which items are to be included in the newsmagazine. He draws up a list of the forthcoming events which he thinks should be covered as well as the many successes and records which he anticipates will come the V.I.’s way.
When he has indulged in these mental callisthenics to his heart's content, the editor calls a meeting of the committee members. He assigns to the various members their tasks and also asks for suggestions to improve the magazine (we do not believe in resting on our laurels). At this meeting too, he informs the members — usually to a chorus of aiyahs and aiyohs — that they must now sally forth into the external world for their periodical treasure hunt or, to put it in a simpler way, to hunt for advertisements. As everyone is well aware, this is necessary because no magazine (especially The Seladang) can survive on the subscription from its readers alone. On the other hand, this part of the business is much dreaded by the committee members. Getting advertisements is certainly no easy task. There are four different publications in the V.I. alone — to say nothing of the other schools — and the members of these Editorial Boards usually have to approach the same people for their advertisements. In addition to this, many of the people approached are reluctant to advertise in The Seladang because, being a school newsmagazine, it has a limited circulation.
The editor now relaxes and awaits the reports and contributions from our readers to come in. This, needless to say, takes time as it depends on such factors as the dates of certain events which have to be covered or the people we plan to interview. After the articles have been handed in, the Editor carefully weeds out any grammatical mistakes or objectionable remarks. Satisfied, he hands the articles over to the typists who start their typewriters clicking. We have only a few typists on the board but this is compensated by their efficiency.
The type scripts, after having been checked by the editor or sub-editors, are submitted to the two advisory teachers before being sent to the press. The duty of the teachers is to ensure that no deleterious material is printed in the magazine. However, we are proud to say that there has been little occasion, if any, for them to interfere in the running of The Seladang. Each batch of articles submitted to the teachers is normally kept by them for about two days before being returned.
When a certain number of type scripts have been collected, they are delivered to the printers. After a few days, the proofs of these articles are returned. As printing mistakes are invariably made, these proofs must be carefully checked over for typos, for example, missing commas, "potty" instead of "spotty," and "might" instead of "right" and so on. This process is known as proofreading and is usually done by the sub-editors.
The editor now begins to dummy the magazine with the help of one sub-editor. He cuts up the articles to sub-head them where necessary and pastes them with the appropriate headlines onto sheets of paper which are of the same size as that of the actual magazine. Dummying is a difficult and exacting task which takes about four hours. Certain articles are given prominence at the top of a page or, if an article is long, it must be broken up and continued in another page at an appropriate point.
When the dummy is completed, it is submitted to the Headmaster for his official approval. This is not only important but necessary because the ultimate responsibility for the magazine lies with him. It is his duty to see that The Seladang remains what it is — a publication of healthy ideas and material meant for healthy schoolboys and girls. It is his right and prerogative to object to any material which is offensive or of doubtful merit and purpose.
Once his approval has been given, usually after a few days, the dummy is returned to the printers who will then print a trial copy. This copy is given a final and painstaking check-out by the editor or sub-editors. Even at this last stage mistakes can be made by the printers.
When everything has been checked and rechecked, the actual printing begins. This takes at least a week and, when completed, the new and glossy copies of The Seladang are brought back to school and distributed.
The Seladang (1965)
For the first time in its history, The Seladang embarked on a scheme to find out what really goes on in the minds of V.I. pupils. It conducted a poll among the upper school pupils and found some unexpected results. The first survey was to determine which authors were most popular and which magazines most read by the upper school. On analysis the results showed Ian Fleming leading at 31.9%, followed by Charles Dickens 18.9%.
The enormous popularity of Fleming’s James Bond (alias 007) among pupils is probably due to the influence of his adventures on the screen among our girls galore and his exploits in the hot spots of the world. This may be a form of escapism among V.I. pupils from their books or what? This popularity has also manifested itself in other forms, like U6Bl's recent concert production of From Punjab with Love.
Charles Dickens - second in popularity — at least shows that V.I. pupils still retain the ability to read literary works. The present day trend of science is shown by the popularity of third-placed H. G. Wells who wrote science fiction before that was fiction became a fact.
Shakespeare, whose works have always been studied in the V.I. came in fourth. This reveals the true nature of V.I. pupils showing that they don’t treat his works as examination objects only. Agatha Christie, writer of popular detective stories came next, followed by Zane Grey, Denise Robbins and P. G. Wodehouse.
On deeper analysis, the Upper Sixth Forms bowed a greater preference for H. G. Wells, and Fleming and Dickens, in that order. Denise Robbins proved the least popular. (Do Upper Six students lack romance?)
The Lower Sixth students differed in their choice, especially with H. G. Wells who plummeted almost to the bottom of the chart, garnering 6.5% of the votes to beat Wodehouse into the last place. The rest of the results were nearly similar.
Generally, the Sixth Form pupils showed a lack of interest in modern humour and romance. This was also quite obvious in the Form 4 and Form 5 results which showed a marked interest in Ian Fleming’s works (30% of the votes approximately). The only exception was 4B1, which preferred Charles Dickens. Form 5, especially Forms 5B2 and 5A2, showed a preference for Dickens.
An analysis of the votes handed in by the Sixth Form boys and girls showed some interesting results. Fleming was tops with the boys but the girls put him at the bottom of the list! Perhaps they had a strong aversion to the behavior of the boys’ hero, James Bond. One incredible point stood out. Robbins was not at the top of the girl’s list. Does this reflect on their romantic nature?
Although Zane Grey was at the bottom of the girls’ list, the females of U6B3 tried very hard to put him at the top. Dickens was appreciated more by the arts classes and H. G. Wells by the science classes but there was no such distinction in the Fourth and Fifth forms. Shakespeare was appreciated most in the Upper Forms, especially U6A1, and also by the girls. There are also many Agatha Christie fans in L6B2.
We also polled which magazines was most popular among Upper School pupils. Almost half the pupils (40.8%) digested Readers' Digest. Perhaps this is probably because V.I. pupils do not find the time to read everything so they resort to reading the condensed version of the articles.
Life (17.2%), Time (16.0%) and Mad (15.1%) were equally popular and although Life had many more pictures than the others, it could not beat Readers' Digest. In a cunning attempt to discover how many pupils were slightly insane, The Seladang inserted Mad into the list polled because we believed that the percentage of "madness" in the V.I. was directly proportional to the percentage of Mad readers. The startling figure was 15% of the upper school. However this figure was slightly inaccurate since those who were really mad chose The Seladang. Apparently 3.4% of the Upper School do need urgent medical attention!
Her World was least popular, but one staggering fact emerged. Six times as many boys like Her World compared with girls in the V.I.! The Seladang would be glad to receive some enlightenment on this.
Although the various races differed little in their choice of magazines, it was found that a large number of Indians liked Time Magazine. There was also little difference between the various classes in the choice of magazines.
Chung Chee Min