Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Coaster stories

At 50 years old, STAR could not be considered as an old school. You could tell from the architecture of the buildings. We don’t have have any impressive edifices built in pseudo Greco-Roman style like those of our rival in Kuala Kangsar (though God only knows why they chose to repaint them pink) or any buildings having elements of Moorish and Gothic architecture like that of St. Michael's Institution, nearer us.

I joined STAR in 1982 when it was only 25 years old but I already felt that it was crumbling. One did not have to try hard to imagine how the 1st batch students lived in the hostels because we were still using their beds and lockers!

But today I’m not going to talk about old buildings and fixtures in STAR but rather about something else which is old but more mobile. I’m going to talk about that very venerable STAR institution – the school Coaster.

I must say that as I left school all thoughts of this nippy mode of transportation were flushed out of my mind but memories of the good times we had in this 21 seater vehicle (the reason I remember its capacity so well will be apparent later) came back when I saw a post in a blog called John’s Universe.

It was written by John, an English teacher in SERATAS, Taiping who put forward his observations during an English drama competition trip to Perlis. This is how he described his first encounter with our beloved Coaster:

“When we got up around the tollbooths near Butterworth, I put down my paper, and noticed a strange little vehicle between us and the bus from MCKK. We seemed to be in a convoy. It looked to be a van from another SBP school, but I couldn't really be sure. If it was, it was barely big enough to hold the fifteen students that would be taking part. There was absolutely no room for any props or backdrops. Hell, if they had any luggage, they would have to be holding it on their laps.

The paint was worn and faded, and the windows were open because there was no air conditioning. I was surprised that the back tires weren't wobbling like drunken belly dancers, or that there wasn't thick black smoke pouring out of the back.

In the back of the vehicle were a couple of signs: One saying, 'Go Pablo', and the other, 'Wowee' or something like that. One of the guys in the backseat was playing a guitar, and either had a big curly hairdo, or was wearing a wig. The others were dressed in colorful shirts. It gave the rather startling impression that we were following a destitute itinerant Mexican Mariachi band up to the Thai border.”

LOL! That sounds about right!

The ridiculousness of the situation was well summed up by this picture he posted:

Why is it called a “Coaster”? I only remember that the word “Coaster” forged in aluminium was affixed in plain view next to the passenger door. Only through googling I later found out that it was manufactured by Toyota. (See Wikipedia).

Anyway, it seemed like everybody loved the Coaster and if I’m not mistaken it was driven by one Pakcik Zain. It was the mode of transportation of choice for any outbound excursions: trips to the clinic, inter-school matches (only players had the privilege of riding in it) and visits to other schools. I remember that the most attractive feature of the Coaster was that it had an excellent sound system and anybody who boarded the Coaster did not forget to bring along their bootleg "footprint" brand cassettes or compilation tapes (courtesy of Melody Music Centre) to play at full blast, never mind that they were half conscious from fever and had to be given medical attention at the clinic immediately.

However, I suspect that the love for the Coaster was borne out of necessity as the other available mode of transport – the school bus - was deemed unreliable. I’m not so sure how old the school bus was when I was in STAR but frequent breakdowns and refusals to start only proved that it was past its prime.

The Mariachi Van syndrome was not a new phenomenon unfortunately. I’m sure I can claim that I (and 19 others) hold the record for the longest time spent on the Coaster at a stretch. This happened during the 1986 PPM tournament where it was held in Kota Bharu (obviously we couldn’t bring the bus and risk being stranded on the East-West Highway). With better roads today I’m sure no one could claim to have spent more than 8 hours straight on the Coaster. Due to the capacity of the Coaster our PPM contingent was decidedly small – 10 basketball players, 4 English debaters and 4 Malay debaters plus 2 hangers-on (which included Cikgu Sharifuddin). This was in marked comparison to other contingents who came in buses with whole teams of researchers complete with their groupies. But due to the spirit of camaraderie, the excitement of a road trip and the prospect of meeting women at the tournament (which really is the whole point of the PPM) we didn’t even realise that there was no air-conditioning. The crowdedness of the Coaster also afforded another excuse for one of our numbers (Long John, the basketballer from Green House) to ditch us and hitch a ride back to JB on the STF bus. I wonder what came out of that?

Apparently things have improved and the school has better modes of transport (although I’m not sure if the older bus in the photo is the same one we had in the 1980s).

Some of us have probably wondered about the fate of that trusty old Coaster but from John’s post I see that it is still in use and I could sense that our boys are still fond of the old beast even if the bigger SBP bus is “comfortable, with air conditioning, captain chair type seats, and a TV and dvd player,” as John describes. Just like many ancient STAR relics and traditions, this one can’t be discarded so easily.

19 comments:

akula said...

Hahah, back then the coaster is THE most preferred mode of transportation.

The Ramjit Singh said...

Tigerlaneboy...how long did you was your trip in the coaster for the PPM in Kota Bharu?

I had to endure 12 hours of being in the Coaster travelling from Ipoh to JB during PPM in 1992 at STF. And I bising bising that the long haul flight from London to UK in economy seats for 13 hours dah susah, macam mana la I could survive that!!! Hahahahah

Ohhh yeah, I guess I was only 15 and half (literally) the person that I am now lah hahahahah

Anyways. The Coaster is still the best!!!!

tigerlaneboy said...

akula ... maybe we should all pool some money to buy the Coaster for old times' sake. It should be at net book value by now.

The Ramjit Singh ..... my estimate was 8 hours because we left about 9 a.m. from Ipoh and reached by about 5 p.m. So OK I concede that you probably hold the record. But how the hell did it take 12 hours from Ipoh to JB? Breakdown ka? Of course Coaster was worse because at least on the flight to UK boleh ngorat the stewaredesses (unless u took Aeroflot)

The Ramjit Singh said...

NBV = 0, maybe dapat gain on disposal and not a loss

We spent about 12 hours from Ipoh to JB because in 1992 the highway was not ready yet, it still took 3 hours from Ipoh to KL by Car, so by Coaster 4 hours. Then we would stop for Subuh, and then continue Ipoh to Melaka which would take another 2.5 hours, then from Melaka to JB using the old road before the highway, so all in all it took about 12 hours la there about.

Stewerdess, aku rasa Thai Airways sentiasa cun-cun, MAS now occasionally ada yg cun (saw 1 that looked like Fasha Sandha's sister - If I didn't wore a wedding ring dah lama jadik lelaki gatal), SIA kureng lah. Aku rasa Aeroflot sure satu geng macam TWA and BA kan? Makcik tua!!!

diphthong said...

i went to a regular dayschool in PJ. whenever i see one of these bas sekolah berasrama penuh with the school name boldly emblazoned, i would always think, "tu dia rusa masuk kampung."

tigerlaneboy said...

The Ramjit Singh ...... maybe we played the musafir card and didn't stop anywhere. that's why only 8 hours. but still sakit punggung jugaklah

the mysterious diphthong ..... which means u have not come across our bus because we would be singing our obscene half-time cheering songs all the way

The Ramjit Singh said...

...or singing out-of-tune and out-of pitch any current hits that was on the radio then.

Encik Rasis said...

whatever song we were singing back then, it always sound so sweet to our ears... hehehe...

i vote for the coaster. star nak jual tak coaster tu?

mozilla said...

ko nak beli ke coaster tu? ko dah lupa ke bebudak aku hijack masa spm 96? hahahaha...drive masuk padang mcm orang gila..

korang lupa ke van A-team? aku rasa dah jual timbang kati besi buruk kot

Encik Rasis said...

kalau nak jual, nak gak aku beli. buat transport team basketball old boy...
hohoho~
van A-team? batch aku hijack, dari dewan sampai yellow...
wohoo~
batch aku panggil van tu, ninja turtle...
seb baik tak kaler hijau...
hehehe~

Da Winged Acrophobic said...

Didn't realize the tigerlane boy has been so active! Well documented. Keep it up. PS. I forgot the coaster took that many of us to KB that year!

faliq said...

salam
get me listed!!
thanks!

afsi said...

salam

teringat lagi naik coaster from Ipoh to KL in 1983 for the National KRM U-15 rugby 10 a side. Imagine bebudak rugger berhimpit dlm coaster yg amat 'selesa' Mentang-mentang kalah final... balik malam tu jugak

BTW, I should be listed under 1985..:)

Aminsyah said...

Coaster tu best sbb boleh melados kat belakang! Kalau naik bus (yg baru aku tatau, '97)tuh aircond, mana boleh melados. Kat STAR dulu kan kerje nak melados je. Van ninja turtle tuh lagi champion. Sendal pintu pakai garpu, lantai ada lubang. Kalau pergi klinik kg simee naik Bedford (nama betul dia) tuh sihat yg nak tipu MC pon balik jadik sakit hahaha

tigerlaneboy said...

mozilla ... haha. you guys must be crazier than we were.

Rasis ....transport team basketball old boy? make sure jangan jalan jauh2

Da Winged Acrophobic ... sorry by the time you read this i was inactive again

faliq ... done. sorry it took a while

afsi .... still trying to figure who you are. rugger player, batch 85, duduk usj. anyway, u r listed in 1985 now.

Aminsyah ... mana tak sakit. hang melados banyak sangat.

Don said...

You mean the Coaster wasn't air conditioned?
My God, when we went on that 1986 PPM road trip, I remembered it to be the height of automotive comfort. Looking at its current state only proves the adage that we look at the past through rose-tinted glasses.

tigerlaneboy said...

don .... of course lack of air-conditioning was tolerable. we had to deal with dorm takde kipas, jamban cangkung, mandi with toilet lush water...amongst other things

cikgutuition said...

Hi there..I am wondering who are you are at the moment as I also had the unfortunate journey in the coaster during the trip to Sekolah Sultan Mahmud in Terengganu for the PPM in 1984. Not sure if you were there too..So I guess my journey was even longer than yours.. :)

Anyway I am Yusoff and I was in the basketball team in 83 and 84. nevertheless the trip was not a futile one as I managed to get to know my 1st gf from TKC.. :)

Ajak 9296 said...

Mozilla,

I remember the hijacking incident vividly...

starting from the attempted arson of the guard post and his dog...

to the ransacking of the garage and eventual discovery of the keys to the coaster...

barrelling out of school half naked in coaster with said guard and firearm barely able to catch up...

cruising past the red light district with the hookers and ladyboys wondering whats up with a school vehicle in that area in middle of the night...

lazying at the end of the Ipoh airport runaway contemplating our post-SPM future...

ramming the gate at the rear entrance coz some fool decided to lock it...

and finally dropping off passengers one by one at specified intervals, with the coaster rolling to a stop on auto-pilot since the driver had to bail out as well...

aftermath... said guard came in to our dorm asking the same people who took the van for a joyride if they had seen anything suspicious...

and last but not least paying RM10 each as 'fuel money' to the HM's 'special envoy' as reparations for our sins...

but look what fine gentlemen we turned out to be huh?