So back in Primary School (Elementary School for the non-British education systems, namely US) I had a bunch of good friends. I was Primary 2 and that was what, 1994? Besides the point that I am now an old age uncle, the more important idea here is that that was when The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers TV series first aired in Singapore. Yeah morphin’, a redundant apostrophe makes the ‘g’ 10 times cooler. For kids.
Oh I remembered the very day I woke up especially early at 8am on a weekend in 1994, probably a Saturday, and started doing what kids my age back then would do all day: Watch television shows. Man kids nowadays are so pampered. They get to surf the internet and enjoy shows on YouTube. We had to switch on a tube and HOPE something good comes on while our parents would nag at us to sit at least 5 metres away where you can’t see anything on Standard Definition resolution. Speaking of my parents, they would tell me how back in their day they had to play with marbles and spinning tops in the rural farmlands. We all know that’s not true and those times never existed, because the television is an ancient artifact.
Then lo and behold on this very 1994 day, an electric guitar riff came booming through the wooden box in front of me with an old lady climbing out off a flying saucer that’s clearly way too small for her size. “AHAAA after 10,000 years I’m finally free! Time to conquer Earth!” Watch the cheesy sequence in its full glory here: http://youtu.be/XO5JLcz6Qic
I don’t know why I liked it but the idea of over aged high school students turning into tight skin superheroes who can summon giant robots seemed to appeal to me very much. Without much marketing nor advertising, and stuck with an early morning time slot, none of the kids at school actually noticed this show. I presume the station just bought the rights from Bandai to test the waters to see if the local kids would like the “sentai” genre.
Sentai (戦隊?) in Japanese language is a word for a military unit and may be literally translated as “squadron”, “task force”, “group” or “wing“. The terms “regiment” and “flotilla“, while sometimes used as translations of Sentai, are also used to refer to larger formations.
source – Wikipedia
Yes, “Sentai” is a genre in Japan for battle squadrons in tight skin costumes, usually with the red suit dude being the leader, summoning giant robots for battle. I later found out that the American version of the above mentioned power rangers show was an expertly edited sequence of scenes from a myriad of sentai shows bought over from Japan. The drama acting was totally done separately. That’s like the coolest thing ever.
ANYHOO, I started telling all the kids in class about this cool show on TV. I begged them to watch it because I was totally hipster and wanted people to know that I knew about the show before they ever figured to wake up at 8am in the morning to watch shows. Slowly, the word spread and everyone’s talking about it. It was clear that a few other pockets of power rangers interest groups have started in the local Primary school scene. Some kids tried to match my hipness by recommending their own television finds. I remember one of the kids’ words clearly over the house phone, “傍晚六点半有好看的戏！叫Bunny!” Translated to English it means, “There’s an awesome show at 6.30pm called Bunny!” House phones are like an ancient relic now. I barely touch mine now that everyone contacts me through my cell phone. But back then… back then it was THE SHIT. Entertainment with friends with the press of a few buttons. Hell yeah. So I set aside time in anticipation of a cartoon show with a bunny rabbit, or at least a bunny girl that shoots lasers out of her finger tips. 6.30pm came around and all I saw was a crappy Sesame Street rip off. Maybe it wasn’t a ripoff but my biased hatred for the show tells me that’s a fact.
All I saw was a purple dinosaur with a yellow female-saurus playing with kids while dancing and be happy.
What is this crap?
In fact, I hated dress up kids shows ever since I was in nursery school. That’s 3 years old. I’ve hated Sesame Street since 3 years old because it treated me like I’m an idiot. Yeah I get it, it’s an ‘A’. I know words that start with an ‘A’ like “Apple”, “Apples”, “Apple Seeds” and “Apple Fruit” so my vocabulary is pretty decent. You don’t have to keep forcing “Art” down my throat. Then this purple dinosaur betrays my anticipation of a Bunny rabbit with the ambiguous title “Barney and friends.”
I called up my friend and asked, “Are you sure it’s this show that’s on right now?”
“Yeah, Barney and Friends. It’s awesome.” Or in Primary 2 Chinese kid speak, “呀咯！很好看的！”
Being nice and polite, I didn’t proceed with telling him it was worse than 《彩虹夏日营》, a crappy Chinese kids show on air back then, probably with dancing kids. So I deleted that show from my to-watch schedule list and continued morphin’ . So… Choon Yow, where ever you are right now, you probably don’t remember me, but your tastes were kinda crappy back then. Now you know, no offence.
Pri 2 Friend Glossary
Lee Choon Yow – My best buddy during Pri 2. We would eat Mamee mee together by downing the seasoning first and chucking the noodles. He aided in my first and last ever cheating attempt in a test. The way he looked at me in disdain after he let me copy his answer made sure I took responsibility for my own scores and grades for the next 17 years.
Tan Cher How – My 2nd best buddy back then. We were kinda on good and bad terms half the time. Kids my age back then liked to say “跟你好” or “不跟你好了”, which means, “We’re good” and “We’re no good now.” Don’t laugh, I’m pretty sure it’s still the norm now. Cher How and I were like 50/50 because he had a bad temper and I took no bullshit. We once had a duel or something and I unleashed my windmill fists, involving swinging both arms in circular motion from back to front while walking towards the target. It ended up with him bleeding from his nose and I got caned back at home. Good times.
So with the morphin’ craze going around school, Choon Yow, Cher How and I formed our own morphin’ squad. Whatever comes next is going to be one of those “Oh God Why?” moments.
We called ourselves 毒蝎帮, or “The Poisonous Scorpions”. So cool. You’ve got to admit that it sounds cool for Pri 2 vocabulary. Come on. We had squad signal signs to show that we’re from the same team which involved curling up the pinky into a hook and pretend it’s some sort of vicious sting. We even had “underground” talks about recruiting people to join our squad. I had some minimal martial arts display training back then so I was appointed the leader and started training my members how to do punches. But, as superheroes we needed super powers too. This came in the form of our watches. Let me explain.
My Primary School, Maha Bodhi School, was situated in Geylang back in 1994. Before it moved to the new Ubi location in 1995, the old school yard was old and run down as hell. The school was shaped like an N with public toilets on both wings. Right outside the toilet on the right wing we had a fenced up area between the toilets and the void deck. Whatever was in the fenced area, I would never know. And between the fence and the toilet walls was this drain alley. This alley was our squad’s secret meeting place to train our super powers.
Training our super powers took time and most of all, timing. The sun would shine into the alley only during the 12.30pm recess break. We would quickly down our lunches and head to the secret hideout where we REFLECT SUN RAYS OFF OUR WATCHES ONTO THE TOILET WALLS AND PRETEND THEY WERE LASERS. AND WE WOULD CROSS STREAMS WITH THE LASERS IN EPIC BATTLES. This was obviously accompanied by sound effects from our mouths.
So it was all fun and joyous crime fighting until one day, news reports of youth gangs started appearing in the papers. Parang murders. Gang number signals. Youth with dyed hair punching other youths with dyed hair. For a while, dyeing one’s hair meant being a gangster because of all these reports.
Being in a Singaporean school, our Principal clearly had to say something about it. All the classes were summoned to the assembly hall one afternoon for an emergency announcement where a gigantic Buddha statue gazed down upon all of us with slitty eyes, judging all our misdeeds or something. “Ahem, so there have been reports of gangs recruiting teenagers and even children like all of you. We want to emphasize that gangs are illegal and bad. If you are in a gang, please approach the discipline master Mr Lam. If you know of anyone trying to recruit you, do approach any of the teachers or the police, because gangs and illegal and bad. What are gangs? Gangs are people, youths especially, gathering together to commit acts of crime. They smoke together, have tattoos and fight everyday. If you notice groups of youths hanging out together in places where they shouldn’t be, do report them.”
Suddenly, I was scared shitless. Have I been operating an illegal gang? “Youths hanging out in places where they shouldn’t be”. We’ve been hanging out in our secret hideout that we shouldn’t be at because it’s secret. That FITS THE BILL!
I don’t know how that concept makes any sense but I was 8 years old.
So the three of us became paranoid that there might have been people reporting on us and that we would get into trouble. As the leader, I suggested a solution to the problem. We drop anonymous slips of paper to the discipline master declaring that “The Poisonous Scorpions” were a study group and do not fight battles with lasers. The problem with the plan was the method of delivery of the paper slip and how do we make sure the discipline master sees it. For this arduous task, I asked Choon Yow for help with his long legs and fast sprint speeds. We would pretend to be playing catching like normal 8-year-olds, then as we run by the discipline master, CY would drop the slip on the ground while making sure his face wasn’t seen. Then the squad would gather behind the classrooms and peek through the windows to see if the discipline master picks up the slip of paper.
The first attempt ended with the slip of paper disappearing along with a strong gust of wind. I attribute the wind to CY’s fast speed and asked him to run slower this time round. He argued that a lower speed meant his cover would be blown. There was no other choice though, he was the only one who could do the job. Our lives free of visits to the discipline master’s office depended on him.
For the second time, I ran past the discipline master first, shouting out catching catchphrases as a disguise of our activities. “Ahaha you can’t catch me. Nanny nanny poo poo.” I think. Whatever. CY followed close behind me and in a swift motion bumped into the DM’s leg and stuck the slip under his shoe. We sprinted off like crazy with the DM yelling for us to slow down and be careful. Ha! We totally got him fooled.
Behind the classrooms, we saw him notice the slip of paper, pick it up, read it and put it in his pocket. Mission accomplished. The first and last coordinated mission of “The Poisonous Scorpions” was a success. Reluctantly, I gathered the members and dismissed them one by one. Our crime fighting days were over.
The next year, our school shifted to the new and current location at Ubi Ave 1, proudly proclaiming to be the largest Primary School in Singapore at that time. I was later told that the old building was painted green and converted into a rehabilitation centre. The last time I passed by the area on a bus, the building seems to be gone. Even our neighbour Kong Hwa Primary School’s new school building (new in 1996, haha to me it’ll always be new) had also been torn down.