Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Johore Zoo

After mentioning the three-legged tiger in Johore Zoo in my last posting, I came across two old photos from the 1950s and 1960s of the zoo. The first one was sent to me by Chris Manning and shows a small elephant, complete with tusks, being fed by visitors, some of whom appear to be British. Beside the elephant is a pool and I think that I remember this part of the zoo from when I was little. I think that it contained turtles and Koi Carp but my memory might be playing tricks with me. Across the way, there are some very small enclosures but I can't tell from the photo what is in them. The flowers all look very colourful in the foreground. The second photo shows a later view of the zoo and around the pool are
either goats or very small deer. People on the left are peering into some very small cages and I wonder if the clapping gorilla that I wrote about in a previous post was in one of them? It looks like the Sultan's Palace in the background but I can't remember them both being so close. From the photos, the zoo looks very tidy and well kept but that's not quite how I remember it. The animals were kept in very poor conditions, especially the apes and tigers, and the place had a smell like I've never smelled anywhere else! It's still going today but, hopefully, it's improved in the last 40 or so years.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Tiger rugs

Many of the shops in Singapore and Malaya sold tiger rugs. As a boy, I was fascinated by them and wanted one for our bedroom at Jalan Wijaya. Of course, tigers would have roamed wild not too far from where we lived and were probably easy prey to hunters. At the time, it was something exciting but nowadays, of course, the thought of someone shooting anything as beautiful as a tiger disgusts me. We were all putting Tigers in Our Tanks and tying fake tails to our bikes and car aerials while hunters were out shooting and trapping real ones close by. Tiger rugs seemed to be everywhere back then, in hotels, offices, banks as well as for sale in places like Tangs. Their snarling heads made you think that they could leap up and bite you at any moment. A tiger is certainly a beautiful animal which is why, perhaps, that someone would have wanted one as a rug back then. I think that I've written about the three legged tiger that was on display at the zoo at Johore Bahru (it lost its other leg when it was trapped). Looking back to those days, I would have thought that people there cared little about animals but then I found this newspaper clipping from a Singapore newspaper dated 14th October 1966:
Spider fight : $500 fine
'Get caught staging a spider or fish fight and you might have to pay a $500 fine, 6 months in jail or both.' This was the message from a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals official to Tiong Bahru Secondary School students as part of a kindness to animals campaign.
It's funny that they were so concerned about insects such as spiders but not too concerned about tigers, apes, dogs and other animals. I'm sure that much has changed over the years. Of course, nowadays, I would never want or have anything in my house like a tiger rug but to a small boy, it was something incredible and fascinating.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

The Gooi Rubber Company

This photo was taken on our trip up to Penang in 1966. I've mentioned before that we travelled all the way up to Penang from Johore in a tiny Toyota.
There were lots of rubber plantations in Malaya but this one made us laugh because it was called the 'Gooi Rubber Company' which looked a lot like 'Gooey Rubber' to us and that's what we called it ever after. I think this photo was taken by my mum and we must have stopped on the way to take it. Although we were warned of bandits and wild animals such as tigers, I don't think we ever saw any, just the few working elephants that crossed our path further into the journey. I don't even remember seeing any monkeys on the long journey although there were plenty of dead snakes on the road.
The rubber trees used to have grooves cut in them which led down to a metal cup or half a coconut to collect the rubber. This seemed a long drawn out process even back then and I'm still not sure how they collected it all and put it to use. Some of it will have turned up in our tyres and the many flip-flops we wore over the years. There was a rubber factory near our home in Jalan Wijaya and I recall the smell. Alan remembers opening one of the bins and finding a sheet of rubber with all the shapes for flip-flops pressed out of it. It all burnt down one night while we slept. There must have been a huge black cloud and an awful smell but we missed it all because we were fast asleep.
I wonder if the Gooi Rubber Company is still in business?