Sunday, December 04, 2005

Accidents

Cuts, bruises, falls, bee stings and scalds were quite common place when we were kids. Today, I would like to share about some of the not so pleasant stuff that happened to us as kids - accidents. I want to issue a warning though. Many of the things that we did in the name of fun were downright stupid. To the kids out there: DON’T EVER TRY THIS; AT HOME OR ANYWHERE ELSE!

The most common injuries were stepping on broken glass bottles. Apparently, there were quite a lot of broken bottles lying around. How they got there I have no idea. Kampong kids our time liked to run around bare-footed. So it was inevitable that we occasionally stepped on broken glass (as well as pig dung which was also in plentiful supply because we had a neighbour who reared pigs and let them roam around). When that happens, of course our mother would do the bandaging using gauze and iodine. Sometimes, she would grind a white tablet called ‘luk-kou-sum’ in Cantonese or 693, into a powder to apply to the wound together with yellow lotion. But I believe it was a kind of anti-bacterial medicine.

Occasionally we also stepped on thumb tacks when we walked around the house barefooted. How on earth could thumb tacks be lying around so that kids can step on them, you may wonder. Truth is; I am not sure. What I am sure about is the pain that it caused. My own suspicion is that, it had to do with the rugs that we used to cover the wooden floors in the house, and these were held down by thumb tacks.

We also had a couple of pretty serious accidents. Regrettably they all seemed to happen to my younger brother Chun Meng. There was this one occasion when my older brother Chun Seong and I were playing with an empty condensed milk can. I don’t know what got into our heads to play such a stupid game. We were tossing it back and forth when Meng happened to get into the line of fire. He suffered a nasty cut on head. The culprit who threw the can was not me.

An even more serious accident happened to him when Seong and I played with spears which we made from the spine of attap leaves. We sharpened one end and hurled them at pile of freshly plucked coconuts. If you look at the photographs that I posted in the earlier article on Our Kampong, you would have seen that there were lots of coconut trees in our kampong. Many of them actually belonged to us. Once or twice a year, buyers will come around with sharp scythes tied to long bamboo poles to harvest the coconuts. It really was an amazing sight. We liked to watch if the coconuts would fall the workers’ heads. The plucked coconuts were then stacked into a tidy pile of maybe a couple of hundred to await other workers to come and de-husk them.


This was another interesting process. It’s a bit hard to describe but I try. Basically, they embed a huge knife in the ground with the blade pointing upwards to about the groin height. The workers, wearing leather aprons will then slam a coconut into the blade and push the coconut downward and forward with both hands to remove the husk in one swift motion. This they repeated swiftly and with great skill until all the husk is removed. Subsequently a lorry will arrive to load up the de-husked coconuts. One guy is stationed on top of the lorry while his partner will toss the coconuts 2 at a time up to him, which he caught with practised ease. We kaypoh kids would stand around to help in the counting to make sure that we did not get cheated. Then they would pay our parents and drive off.

So there we were, Seong and I, throwing our sharp spears at the pile of freshly plucked coconuts, and our younger brother Meng was happily seated on top of the pile. Unfortunately, my elder brother’s aim was not so good (remember the tin can?) and his spear hit Meng on the left thigh. We will never forget the sight of the spear dangling from the poor kid’s thigh. Nowadays, we occasionally joke that if the spear had landed a couple of inches higher, today we would have 1 niece and 1 nephew less.

Another accident that took place at our house happened to our cousin Chee Keong. The guy was climbing up our guava tree to pluck guavas. Lost his footing and had a nasty fall. We learned a couple of lessons from his misfortune. One, we learned the meaning of the ‘chim’ word “dislocation” because he suffered a dislocated shoulder (or was it elbow?). We also learned what a cast looked like when he returned from hospital. Anyway, that accident did not prevent him from getting an econs degree and subsequently rising to become a top dog at PSA.

Finally let me tell you about the time my brother Chun Seong stepped on a rusty nail. One night, we decided to sneak out of the house, he and I, to follow some of the other kampong boys to catch crickets at a deserted house nearby. It was very dark, and we had to use torch lights to hunt for the insects. Suddenly he gave a yell, and on examination, we found that he had stepped on a rusty nail which penetrated right through his rubber slippers. We were in a dilemma because we did not dare to tell my mother for fear of getting a thrashing. Fortunately, there was a budding doctor in our midst. He told us to use the slippers to slap the sole of the foot to dissipate the ‘poison’; and then to bandage the wound with ‘ti tan heok’ or iron-nail leaves in Hokkien. I believe the correct name for the plant is (落地生根), you know the type where, if you toss a leaf to the ground, days later, many small plants will grow from the edge of the leaf. I don’t know which hospital the kid is now practicing in, but his treatment apparently worked, and today, my brother Chun Seong is happily enjoying his retirement in that beautiful country down under.

There were many other accidents here and there and most of us have the scars to prove it; but I have only selected a few of the most dramatic ones for mention here. Maybe my brothers, on reading this blog may be able to add some more details.


My brother Meng who suffered because of our stupidity with me
(holding the Kodak Brownie camera case)





My brother Seong, who can’t aim straight trying to light a fire-cracker. Behind him is our durian tree.

17 comments:

Victor said...

Yeah, I am first, hehe. (我是不是很无聊?). I too have one or two stories to tell about accidents that happened when I was a kid. I suffered a serious one myself in 1970 when I was in Sec 2.

On the street where I lived, there used to be wayang shows (大戏) and getais (歌台). One or two nights before the show, the stage would have been set up. As a naughty kid, I climbed up the stage structure and sat on one of the horizontal poles located quite high up (about 15-20 feet from the ground, I guess). I lost my footing and fell on the concrete ground near the backlane. I landed on my back with a loud thud and couldn't get up for a minute or two, though still conscious. Miraculously, I could get up and walk upstairs immediately after that, just in time to meet my frantic parents rushing down to find out what happened. I was sent to the Sei Bai Bor (General Hospital) for an x-ray but no broken bones were detected. I wasn't even hospitalised and was none the worse after the accident.

In the late 50s, my 3rd elder brother, then about 10-year old, had an even nastier fall but it was not because he was naughty. He was in the common toilet on the 4th storey doing his business. When the water cistern could not flush, he climbed to take a look, using the window sill as a support. It so happened that the window was closed but not locked. (The louvred window consisted of 2 leaves which opened out - to the same backlane.) He fell right out of the window and 4 storeys down to the backlane's hard concrete floor. The incident was reported in a small article in the Chinese newspaper. Unlike me, he was hospitalised for a long time. How on earth he managed to survive that fall, I do not know. But I am very grateful that he did. He is still alive and healthy today.

Anonymous said...

ah, honestly i do not have this kind of incidents happening to me, and i definitely does not want any lol (no, it isnt lots of love. oops.)

anyway, my mum told me before, that she suffered a number of stitches from a milk can (gu ni gong) thrown from a flat & landed on her head while she was on a truck (how unlucky can she get?) and i saw the wound on her head.. the scar is still there.. hmm..

i have nothing much to share about myself, since i was born in the 80s. but i thought its really dangerous to suffer from these injuries..

Anonymous said...

and thats me.. i always forget to put my name behind..

- EteL

cockroach//蟑螂 said...

I don't think kids like us won't run around the road with no shoes...but why last time kids at your tme don't wear shoes?

Nikholai said...

TODAY led me to this blog, very interesting write-ups on local old days. Nostalgic and I would like to add this blog to my link library. Hope you won't mind.

Anonymous said...

cockroach,

I still run around barefoot in the early80s... no $$ to buy shoes and slippers is too laychey to use for running in. And of course the accompanied cuts. But luckily no thumbtacks as those flooring is not in fashion anymore

Lam Chun See said...

Dear Cockraoch,

Didn't you watch the movie by Jack Neo (forgot the title- Home Run or something. A sure sign of ageing - can remember things from decades ago but cannot remember recent things). A bit exaggerated of course.

If you look my photos carefully, you'll see that most of the time we wear slippers. Maybe sometimes lazy - not sure of reason after so many years.

By the way, have you considered having a name change. I feel very uncomfortable calling somebody Cockcroach.

Lam Chun See said...

Victor, thanks for sharing your experience. Hope more of our generation people will share their experiences.

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Chris said...

We kids in the olden days are very gung-ho one, simply because our parents weren't as "fussy" as the parents of today. Back then, everybody knew everybody in the kampung. So our parents weren't as worried to let us a kid hang out with the neighbours’s kids playing football, or police and thieves in the areas around the kampung. Without adult's supervision, accidents were waiting to happen, of course. But we were none the worse for it.

Personally I did not encounter any major accident myself (touch wood), but I remembered having a nasty fun and hitting my head with a loud "thud". See, while waiting for my turn at the barber, those barbers that were found at the 5-foot-path (Uncle Koo has posted a blog on these barbers in his blog), I thought it would be fun to sit on a chain that has been tied from one end of a pole to the other. It looked like a swing and the silly me could not resist sitting on it. The moment I did, I fell backward, hitting my head on the concrete ground. Luckily, never suffered a PHD.. Physical Head Damage, that is. Hee!

cockroach//蟑螂 said...

hahaha...I like the name cockroach...its my blogging nick. hahaha. Just after few days of having cockroach as my nick, there is a song by 郭美美 about 蟑螂。haha. 看见蟑螂,我不怕不怕。。。。

Lam Chun See said...

After writing this blog and reading Victor's stories, I have come to the conclusion that kids of my time are much naughtier than kids of today.

Nikholai said...

It's not true that yesterday's kids are naughtier as compared today. In the 70s - 80s, kids of my time we still get to stray into small forests, swim in big drains (not knowing of possible dangers like snakes and drowning) and also, we make weapons out of bamboo. Those grown in deep jungles. We make explosives out of match sticks and modify fire-crackers. Today's kids, they are very much deprived of thrills like this however, the hearts of kids will never change. If only, they can get hold of real guns and start playing Counter-Strikes in hawker centers...

Anyway, I'm now an over-aged teenager. I'm stucked in the 70s. I'm in trouble :)

Lam Chun Chew said...

Walking barefooted was actually due to force of habit and also just being practical. When kids went to catch fish in ponds, where were they going to place their shoes or slippers which might be stolen in the first place. They were likely to be punished by their parents if they lost their shoes which were meant to be worn for schools or on special occasions. To think of it walking barefooted is like having foot-reflexology in the modern context and not having to pay for it. Remember the bare-footed grass-root doctors in China, doing a great service in the country side. So walking bare-footed has its virtue, but I would not recommend it to the present generation. Image we walking bare-footed on our busy streets on hot pavements, but no harm in parks or seaside.

Lam Chun See said...

I just learned from my brother Chun Meng that his cut from the gu-nee-kong needed 7 stitches. And the brother who couldn't aim, got caned with a chop stick (????? .. sometimes angry mothers just grap what is handy) - and I got away scotfree ... hehehehehehehe...

Carol said...

Your post brings back my own childhood memories. To have no accident during childhood would have been like missing something. As a parent though, it is not a very comforting thought.