The other day, I was reminiscing about my school days in Malaysia with a colleague who also grew up in KL. Although she was almost 10 years younger than me, we shared a lot of funny memories about being a kid back in 80s Malaysia.
We especially laughed about our miniscule pocket money and how it affected our behaviour. To give you an idea, I was given RM3 per school day for lunch and I don’t get any extra for the weekend or to buy stuff. It is a reason why us Chinese kids especially look forward to Chinese New Year for the sudden windfall of cash from the red packets, or angpows.
So, typically a lunch at school would cost RM3 if you get a bowl of noodles or a plate of rice, plus a drink. In order to save, sometimes I’d forgo the drink and get water from the tap. That way I’d end up saving maybe RM1. Kids who got more than RM3 were considered the “rich” kids. Those were the kids who can get a bowl or plate of hot food, a drink *and* a pack of chips. A pack of chips was the epitome of the good life to me then.
Usually us poorer and hungrier kids would like the rich ones to be our friends. But you gotta get the generous ones who’d dole out the potato chips like it was nothing to them. Not surprisingly, they were also the ones who were popular. Sometimes we would be quite mean where even if we don’t like the person, we’d still scum his food. Ah, kids.
The other thing that obsessed every kid were our pencil erasers, or “rubbers” (hee hee). There’s an unspoken rule about using another person’s “rubber” (hee hee, oh behave!) – you only use the corner that has been used before. That is, you don’t simply go and rub away on a pristine corner. Why? Because! I don’t wanna lend you my rubber anymore!
Yes we hate kids who’d break this rule. We used our meagre money to buy a good rubber (this one rubs faster! No! Mine is faster!) so we look after it like it was gold. We’d like to preserve its newness for as long as possible. And we don’t like to see it all grunged up. Worse still if you rub off too much of it. Rubbers cost money yo!
Back in the 80s, an original cassette tape cost RM12. So to buy one would mean that I’d have to forgo a drink during lunch for a little more than two weeks. Either that or I eat kacang putih as lunch and save up quicker. Buying a tape required some sacrifices.
In those days, you’d hear a good single on the radio or catch the clip on “America’s Top 10 with Casey Kasem“. You got psyched up and you started to scrimp and save to buy the album. Clutching your money, you walk into the music shop and hand over your entire savings. You go home and put it in the player and the worst thing that could happen is: the single is the only good song on the tape! Wah, you wanna cry man.
Walkman and batteries
The Walkman was the must-have accessory for a kid in the 80s. Usually you only got one because you blew your angpow money on it, or it was given to you as a gift. But you’d still need batteries to run it and those cost money. So the thing that you’d hate most is a buddy borrowing your Walkman to listen to that tape that you had starved for, and rewinding and fast-forwarding through the tape to listen to the one and only good song on it over and over again!
Wei! Don’t waste my battery lah! Wei! Finish oredi or not!? Come on lah! Give it back! I don’t friend you anymore har!
Ah fun times. Heh. If you grew up in the 80s too, how did you remember it? 🙂
[tags]80s, eighties, Malaysia, Malaysian[/tags]