Mentone Memories

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Bruce Tonkin (centre/front row above) took some time to recall the Mentone Grammar Tour of Singapore and Malaysia in 1974; which left a huge impression and a lifetime passion for travel. Whilst we are not able to travel overseas at present, we hope you enjoy sharing Bruce's memories. Our pre-tour preparation included getting our needles and then having our passport photo taken in fairly quick succession. As can be seen in my Passport, I look a bit ‘crook’ from the Cholera shot. On May 10, 1974 a group of 35 teachers and students from Mentone Grammar School boarded a Qantas 747 bound for Singapore. As I recall we were to transit Singapore Airport and then fly on to Kuala Lumpur. As Changi did not open until 1981, we landed at Payer Lebar Airport. Whilst in transit an older lady asked us if we were English! Our Blazers must have looked impressive, but not the sort of thing you wore in tropical heat! Read More

We boarded a Malaysian Airlines plane and landed in Kuala Lumpur at Subang Airport just out of downtown Kuala Lumpur before heading to the Hotel Equatorial. It was, at least for me my first trip overseas and first time on an aircraft. As I recall we were to spend 3 days in Malaysia and 4 in Singapore. Our sightseeing took in the Selangor Pewter Mine and Factory and a trip to the Batu Caves. I remember one of our buses broke down and we spent about 2 hours waiting for repairs. A day trip to the coastal town of Malacca was a highlight but the tapioca pudding was not! One of the memories of the stay in KL were the meals at the Equatorial where Captain Jackie (the Maître D’) looked after us, as all meals were included. After 3 days we travelled back to Singapore by air and again to the Hotel, I’m not sure but it may have been the Hilton this time. My dad had prepared a graph of the exchange rate in the back of my diary to use whilst away. We went to a store on Orchard Road, the Specialists Shopping Centre which housed John Little Department Store for our duty-free shopping. This was one of the tallest buildings in Singapore at the time, 8 stories high. I remember I bought a radio, a camera and a watch for my mum. Our food highlight was at a waterfront cafe starring a big fat rat off for a swim it waddled straight through our legs under the table. I am sure we also went to the Bird Park or Zoo as well.

Another side trip into Malaysia to Johor Bahru to see the Sultan’s Place was undertaken. I remember that it was very ornate with duck-egg blue ceilings. On return to Singapore we went to the Old Bugis Street, the original. There were touts trying to sell cigarette lighters shaped like a camera and lots of sailors and “girls”. I remember taking pictures of one of our teachers John Waite, up on a balcony. We were all fascinated by the sights and sounds. Also, a fight that took place between a drunken sailor and a local provided the entertainment. These are only a few memories as time has flown by. This trip gave me a lifetime fascination with both Singapore and Malaysia and my family, and I spend a lot of time in both places, especially Penang living there in 2015. It is worth noting that 31 of my 45 years working, have been based at Perth International Airport working in the duty-free stores. It is also interesting that I still remember that the trip cost my parents $365.00, a lot of money for them back then and that I had a total $170 spending money. The exchange rates were both similar for Singapore 3.62 and Malaysia 3.52. So, whilst there is a vast difference today for Singapore 1 for 1 Malaysia is still around 3 to 1. The teachers on the trip were Geoff Ryan, Don Ingram and John Waite and they were accompanied by some of their wives.