THIS POSTING IS NOT A BOOK PROMOTION.
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A Teachers' Day 2017 Story:
I met him the first time at *Teachers Training College at Paterson Road in 1961 where I was a studying to qualify as one. He was my lecturer and what a large figure he was in class as we kept to rapt attention listening to his interesting anecdotes and topic of the day. I cannot remember if he was discussing Principles of Education or English Literature but what caught my attention were his humorous one-liners which he dished out as fast as Bob Hope.
I met him again by chance at Toa Payoh Hub in 2009 when I was teaching at *NTU/NIE. He was still keen to know what was happening at NIE, so we chatted. That was when he revealed he had written a book about the Japanese occupation in Singapore. He sent me an autographed copy by snail mail when I requested to buy one.
Mr. Mosbergen's book, In The Grip Of A Crisis, was published in March 2007 with a foreword by Chan Kai Yau. The stories were told with the same pomp, fervor, and flavor as the ones he related in class. In the introduction to his book, he wrote that although his wartime experiences were, "quite modest in scope, (they) were of sufficient interest to be shared with others."
Seen through his own eyes as a teenager he felt, "the marked difference between benign British colonial rule and the mailed list of the truculent Japanese was both stark and harrowing."
Since this blog peeps at our local music scene and food, I shall reveal passages where he wrote about the "seeming tranquility of everyday life in Singapore" before 1942 and selected music happenings during the war. You need to buy the book to read what's written in between.
Mr Mosbergen was an accomplished, self-taught musician who could play the piano, compose songs and lyrics. He remembers his evenings, "of music which was an enriching experience", discussing a Military Brass Band or the Singapore Police Force Band that performed alternately between the Waterloo Street bandstand, near National Museum, and the one at Botanic Gardens.
Under Syonan-to when the music came to life again, he attended concerts at the Victoria Theatre, walking from his home nearby, with his aunt Edna. He watched performances in the evenings by Hungarian and Filipino musicians that included light classics from the works of Strauss, Franz Lehar and pieces from Schubert, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Mozart (page 177-178).
Throughout his book, in great detail, Mosbergen explained his growing up years in Queen Street that came later with frenzied pre-war preparations, a brief military campaign, the surrender of Singapore and the three and half years Occupation of the mighty Dai Nippon.
Concise but about 300 pages thick, you need to read the book in its entirety to appreciate Mosbergen's experience and the harrowing years he went through when the Japanese held this island.
Up to this day, I cannot forget his wise crack at Teacher's College, "Young man," he advised me once, "It's survival of the fittest, not necessarily the fattest."
Happy Teachers' Day 2017.
Mr. Mosbergen passed away on 22nd February 2015.
*Teachers' Torture Chamber (TTC) as we jokingly called it.
National Technological University/National Institute of Education.
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