Thursday, January 19, 2017

Penang Malaya 60's Hotel Time For A Beer?

Here's a narrative from good UK friend Allan Thompson. It's been a while since he's written. Another one that he wrote before Christmas 2016 is still in storage but it'll be out soon. 

He's concerned that his story today could be taboo and lewd. I'm no judge of what this blog's contributors write but this particular one describes a very active Penang, Malaya, in the 1960's.

Little hotel, older than Hell
Cold and as dark as a mine
Blanket so thin, I lie there and grin
Buy me a little bottle of wine

From the time they landed on this island, North of Malaya, up to the day they left by trishaw, Allan and his friends had contributed much to its economy.

Allan Thompson's Letter

Dear Andy,  

Firstly, let me wish you and your family a Happy New Year.  I wonder if you remember the Billy Fury song, Phone Call from his classic early album, The Sound of Fury?   Just a thought.  

Is the subject of Singapore brothels and hip 1960's bars in Penang a taboo subject?  I don't really mean the nitty-gritty, hands-on aspect, but rather the outsider-looking-in point of view.  Here is an example of Penang from the late 1960's. 
                    The Fireballs - Bottle of Wine - Ace Records Ltd

I was on a detachment from Singapore to Butterworth in Malaysia, and we used to go across on the yellow ferry to Penang for recreation.  We found that most of the popular bars were actually hotels, but not normal hotels by any means.  

In fact, if anyone innocent had asked to book in for a night or two, the proprietor would have had to move one of the waitresses/bar-girls out to share with one of the other girls.  This was because each girl had her own room and the hotel was a cover for a brothel.  

We used to go there after normal licensing hours for a beer and a chat with the girls who were very pleasant and generally well educated.  I was amused to find that in one such establishment, all the girls used the same name for business purposes, Suzie Sayang!*   Very clever.  A couple of the hotels employed Thai girls who were very pretty and uninhibited.

There were also smaller bars and one of these was close to the ferry terminal and had a juke-box with a good selection of records.  The one which was played most often was White Room by Cream, closely followed by Bottle of Wine by The Fireballs.  Perhaps this was because the aforementioned hotel rooms were painted white, and wine had the same effect as Tiger or Anchor beer.   

I remember being in this particular bar with some friends  one afternoon when two young men with long hair came in and looked around the room shiftily.  

One of the girls who had been chatting to me touched my arm and whispered: "Very bad men."  

I looked at her quizzically and she explained: "They want boys, not girls.  Very bad."  
It turned out that the two men were actually French merchant seamen but whether their preferences were as the girl had suggested or not, I didn't find out because, after another glance around the bar, they left.  

"Chacun a son gout,"** as they say in France (with accents where necessary).  

I hope you don't find this contribution too lewd for your blog. It does contain a couple of musical references, after all - doesn't it?!

Good Wishes, 
Allan Thompson.

Suzie Sayang.*
French, which means: Everyone has their taste.**
I stood a watching all night long
I stood a watching all night long
I stood a watching till you went away
You were a girl of many charms
Oh how I loved you in my arms
I never thought that you would ever go
Cause I love you so...

Images: Google.
Songs: Suzie Darling - Robin Luke
           A Bottle of Wine - The Fireballs.😊


henri gann said...

A very nice write up Alan. Those must be fun times for the British servicemen. I remember seeing lots of them having their fancy tattoos at Change Alley when I was a kid. And later when the Trekkers played at the Brittania Club.
Susie Darling lyrics ? hysterical and I assume a great bar song. For me, it's one of the first song to learn on the guitar. Beautiful chords !

MB said...

On the subject of brothels and bars in 60's Singapore, it was more or less like Penang and many other places in the region.

In the late 60's some of my RAF mates and me, whenever we wanted some time to laugh (in that direction) would head on towards Johore or Desker Roads to chat up the ladies who were of various races there.

It was so hilarious, the way they put across the stories of their experiences and frustrations.

Another good place to go for this hilarious chit chat was the original Bugis Street along North Bridge Road...


Allan Thompson's description of Penang in the early 60's brings back memories of my visits to Penang in my bachelor days there with my friends. Most of them have moved on.