Monday, February 13, 2012

Enid Blyton

Like many English-educated Singaporeans of my generation, I loved to read books by Enid Blyton when I was in primary school. I think I borrowed these books from our school library. At that time, I was in Braddell Rise School. I remember four series; The Secret Seven, The Famous Five, the ‘Mystery’ series and the ‘Adventure’ series. My favourites were books from the ‘Adventure’ series. I found them so exciting. I can recall only three titles; The Island of Adventure, The Mountain of Adventure and The Castle of Adventure. How about you? Do you have any favourite Enid Blyton stories?

As far as I remember, our National Library did not keep any books by Enid Blyton. Can anyone remember the reason for this?


Besides the Enid Blyton books, I remember reading one other book from our library. The title was, The Book of Parables. Of course, at that time, I did not know that these were actually stories from the New Testament Gospels. I remember seeing a picture of shepherd with a lamb.


Another series of books that I enjoyed reading at that age were simplified versions of English classics like Lorna Doone, The Black Tulip and The Count of Monti Cristo. My father borrowed these books from a place called Lembaga. I believe it was the Adult Education Department of the Ministry of Education.


Special Fives


My friend from BRS, Lee Sock Geck, used to love Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories. In fact she and her girl friends formed a group called The Special Fives, just like in the books. Let me quote her account as recorded in my book, Good Morning Yesterday.


For me, we had our "Special Fives". The leader of our gang was Jane Ittogi. We met every Friday at her house which was in Thomson Ridge, two bus-stops from where I lived. We had meticulously set up an ‘organisation chart’ showing the group leader (Jane), Deputy (me) and members (three other girls from Braddell Rise School). And we even composed this song:

“We are, we are the Special Fives,
You know me and I know you,
When you're in trouble, I'll help you,
We are, we are the Special Fives.”


Our favourite activity was to walk to the Friday Night Pasar Malam near Jalan Isnin, eat sweets and tidbits, talk about boys (of course) and then lie in Jane's garden looking at the stars, and wondering what the future held for us.”

PS - I wonder what have become of Sock Geck's "special five" members. Where are they today? Perhaps I can persuade her to write another piece for us, about what her buddies at Thomson Road have become today.

UPDATE (15/2/2012)

I was at a neighbourhood clinic and saw these 3 old Enid Blyton books. At times like this, we appreciate the handphone camera. I think I have read no. 3.



33 comments:

James Tann said...

When I was in Pri 6, I went through the entire 13 volumes of the 'mystery' series. The Five Find-Outers! Fatty, Larry, Daisy, Bets and the dog whose name I forget. The mystery of the Burnt Cottage was the 1st in the series, then the Disappearing cat, the Tally-ho Cottage,... I still remember that !

LCS, by the way, the Lembaga is not a place. It's the Adult Education Board or Lembaga Gerakan Pelajaran Dewasa or commonly LGPD or colloquially 'Lembaga'. It was tasked to run basically night classes for working adults and held classes in schools all over Singapore (but mainly in the city) in the late 60s and early 70s. They conducted lots of school courses as well as what we would call 'enrichment classes' today.
I took a colour photography course at the Cultural Centre (now Drama Centre) at Fort Canning ard 1970.

Brian and Tess said...

I think the Famous Five were my favourites but I also remember writing a satire on 'Noddy' for the School magazine when a teenager - of course I was so much knowing then. What many people probably don't realise is that whilst Enid Blyton was seen as a great favourite of children she herself led a life which included neglecting her own children. She was very far from a role model in any respect.

And of course her Golliwogs have become in the UK the symbol of the unthinking racism of the past and she is therefore either banned or simply missed out of many public library holdings.

Lam Chun See said...

I remember a name, Timothy; and a tomboy called Georgina who preferred to be called George.

jade said...

Chun See,
I can tell you that four of the " Special Fives" members are all well and alive today. Not sure what happened to the 5th member as we have not been in touch. Interestingly, the 'stars' we were gazing at, did shine on one of us favourably. The lucky gal is now a successful lawyer and married to a Cabinet Minister. I had the privilege of being part of the group and will always have fond memories of our happy, carefree childhood outings.

jade said...

Reading Enid Blyton books had been a very enriching experience for me, especially so when I grew up in a poor kampong. It opened a whole new world for me just savouring the detailed descriptions of English countrysides, meadows, lakes, hills, valleys, farms, etc. Pictures of quaint little towns were my favorites. It was all so fascinating.

Once, on a train from London to Edinburgh, Scotland, I had a most nostalgic time looking out the window and staring at the scenery. It seems so surreal to see the places once described in Enid Blyton's books come to life as we passed. Thank God BRS did have a library where the books helped filled the void and time of an otherwise uneventful kampong living style.

Tim said...

Great memories!

I was introduced to Noddy at a very early age. before I went to Singapore. Then it was a progression through Secret Seven to Famous Five. It seems that each series was aimed at a slightly different age group, so having moved on to Famous Five, the Secret Seven seemed slightly childish.

The next progression was on to Biggles and Jennings (I can't remember which came first). Biggels was my hero ... a Great War aviator, defying the odds and surviving more than the average 20 minutes! I loved the Jennings stories, and they gave me a completely false idea of what life at a boarding school would be like. People were nice to each other in the Jennings books.

All these books were available in the book store at Fitzpatricks on Orchard Road, and that's where a lot of my pocket money ended up.

By the way ... as a very small boy I was the proud owner of a Gollywog. I didn't see anything sinister in it at the time, although I can see how people would be uncomfortable with it in the wider context of a multi-racial Britain.

My 18 month old grandson has a black doll (am I allowed to say that?) which he loves very much. He probably feels the same way I did about my Gollywog.

Lam Chun See said...

I don't think many Sporeans know what is Golliwog. I had to Google for the meaning and now I understand why Enid Blyton was regarded as racist. That must be the reason why our National Library did not keep her books - or at least one of them.

peter said...

No wonder chun see so good my inglish so hopeless bcos i read BEANO.

pseudophilosopher said...

I love the Magic Faraway Tree series and the Famous Five series!

fr said...

During my secondary school days, I read The Land of Far Beyond by Enid Blyton. It is the children's version of John Bunyun's The Pilgrim's Progress.

Somehow this book was not as popular as Enid Blyton's mystery, adventure or fairy-tales series.

Brian and Tess said...

Chun See, I thought when you asked why the National Library did not hold Enid Blyton books that you knew the answer. It may be because of the links to racism through 'golliwogs' or for other reasons. The strange thing is that most children - even those growing up in Singapore - loved these nostalgic books about an England that hardly existed for most people yet in many ways they are now viewed by childrens' authors and librarians with great disapproval.

Edward said...

The 21 volumes of Enid Blyton’s “Famous Five” series are sitting on a book shelf in my daughter’s room. They were her early favourites. Like me, she enjoys reading and have kept up her interest in books throughout the years. I have read a number of them but can’t remember which ones. Hey Peter, I also used to read Beano and Dandy; bought these from Radiant Store at the corner of Jalan Leban and Jalan Batai. Tim, I remember Noddy as well. We bought a couple of Noddy tapes when my daughter was about 2; these were her first cartoon tapes and we still have them. Of course she graduated from Noddy to Blinky Bill and then onto the Walt Disney series.
Has Jane Ittogi got an older sister named Elsie? And a brother called Donald? I think Elsie completed her HSC (Medicine stream) in St Andrew’s. I believe Jane went to St Andrew’s for her HSC as well. Must be the same family as there aren't many Ittogi's around! Small world ...

jade said...

Hi Edward,
About the Ittogi family...You are right about Jane's sister, Elsie and youngest brother, Donald. I am not sure the 2 sisters did their HSC in St. Andrew's as I was not in touch in them during those years. I know Jane did her U studies in UK as I did meet up with her once upon her return. Small world indeed! Thomson road wasn't such a long road after all, come to think of it.

Angie said...

I too grew up on a diet of enid blyton books. pseudophilosopher, I love the faraway tree series too. I remember sitting on the floor in books section of dept store for hours gobbling up story after story.... those days....The library carries these books nowadays, but they are few and far between.

Eni said...

I too was very much fascinated as a child by Enid Blyton's books such as The Famous Five, Secret Seven, St. Clare, Malory Towers, etc. In fact, I even attempted writing a novel at around 12-13, based on Enid Blyton's theme plots. Though my efforts were unsuccessful, I was able many years later able to write and publish a book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.sbisabirye.blogspot.com). In my book, I also address the golliwog issue within its political, historical and cultural context in a sub-titled segment, "The 'Golliwog' Controversy."
Stephen Isabirye

Eni said...

I too was very much fascinated as a child by Enid Blyton's books such as The Famous Five, Secret Seven, St. Clare, Malory Towers, etc. In fact, I even attempted writing a novel at around 12-13, based on Enid Blyton's theme plots. Though my efforts were unsuccessful, I was able many years later able to write and publish a book on Enid Blyton, titled, The Famous Five: A Personal Anecdotage (www.sbisabirye.blogspot.com). In my book, I also address the golliwog issue within its political, historical and cultural context in a sub-titled segment, "The 'Golliwog' Controversy."
Stephen Isabirye

jade said...

As I recalled, Golliwog was featured as an outcast, sadly casted aside by the so-called respectables but the underlining message had always been that Golliwog was not the bad guy, but someone that is pathetic, yet good in nature and definitely grossly misunderstood. I remember always feeling sorry for him and condemning the bullies that handled him.

I tried introducing E.B. books to my kids in the 80s but they shunned them, considered the stories boring and preferred to hound books by Roald Dahl, a series called "Choose your own adventures" , Sidney Sheldon and Ghost stories by Singapore writer, Russell Wong.

I remembered reading comics of 'Superman' and 'Superboy', borrowed from the boys and "graduated" to reading romance comics, the lovey-dovey kind. The drawings in comics were superb. Guys were always featured as muscular, macho, tall, dark and handsome and the ladies had figures and faces to kill for.....without having to hit the gym or visit beauty spas! The love stories always had happy endings, ideally suited for the minds of young girls.

Edward said...

Hi Jade,
Jane and her older sister Elsie did their HSC at St Andrew’s in the late 60’s. Her younger brother Donald also studied at St Andrew’s primary school around this time. Elsie was in the Medicine stream at St Andrew’s, so obviously she intended on pursuing a medical career. If I am not mistaken young Donald occasionally spoke quite good Hokkien to the other kids in the pirate taxi that drove him to school every morning. It was the same pirate taxi that ferried Jane and Elsie to St Andrew's during their HSC days. It’s a small world indeed. My grandparents (mother’s side) also hailed from Swatow ... maybe from the same village as your relations. Hey we could be cousins too! Ha, didn’t we say it’s a small world!

Lam Chun See said...

When I think of Enid Blyton books, one word comes to mind .... moor. I remember seeing that word frequently in her books and being not very sure what it meant exactly. From the context, I guessed it meant a field.

Anonymous said...

Jane Itologi has a brother in NJC.

Brian and Tess said...

Moors are usually a very open and exposed area, often found on high hillsides and unlikely to be cultivated although you might find sheep, goats, deer etc grazing across them. They are common on the higher and less populated parts of the UK. Nice places to walk in the good weather and not places to be in very bad weather!

Edward said...

James, Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School in Jalan Kuras was also a department of the Lembaga Gerakan Pelajaran Dewasa (Adult Education Board) after school closes in the evening. In the late 60’s a friend of mine studied his HSC there during week nights. In the old days Lembaga (as it was commonly known) has inferior connotations of being a school for those who are unable to attend a normal day school. It is assumed that they did not qualify for day school. This is essentially a prevailing snobbish attitude of the 60’s. Btw I have religiously followed your comments in the story of the Princess Elizabeth Estate. After nearly 300 postings I still do not know the identity of the young char kway teow seller! Sigh.

James Tann said...

Hi Edward,
Yes, unfortunately, the Lembaga classes had that poor PR image! Sad.
You'll be surprised to learn that the young char kway teow seller is none other than Chun See's good friend Chuck Hio's mother!

peter said...

On Lembaga, still remember 2 events. 1st in secondary school we had to quickly leave school after flag-lowering ceremony to allow the Lembaga class to commence @7pm.

Then whilst waiting for enlistment, I got a temp job as a relief teacher (OMG for someone who never had an affinity for education or reading)@Gan Eng Seng Sec School in Anson Road. I taught a class of working adults on English "pros" (or was it prose) and "garmmar" (grammar). Very strange feeling I got as an 18yo facing 20 something or someone who could be my father. Teaching was under poor lighting conditions, most of the time the classes were dim due to a lack of electric bulbs or blown electric bulbs. I think class was over by 9.30 or 10pm each night. Mind you some of my salary went into CPF - not bad for someone so young to earn CPF.

Tim said...

Moor - we are surrounded by moorland up here in Yorkshire. As Brian (or Tess?) says, it's hilly and exposed, open country. Not necessarily a natural landscape. Forests were removed for grazing, and sometimes sown with Heather to provide a habitat for Grouse. Which were then shot dead by toffs from the South.

Edward said...

Thanks James. That’s one mystery resolved. Now I can tick it off my TBC (to be confirmed) list! What I particularly enjoyed about the PEE post was that it “re-connected” a number of old friends from the same estate. The childhood experiences you share with your neighbours were unique and unprecedented in other estates, even in the context of the 60s. Sorry Chun See, this isn’t about Enid Blyton. I graduated from Marvel Comics (Superman, Spiderman, Fantastic Four, etc) to the Straits Times!

Lam Chun See said...

Yes. The former residents of PEE are truly amazing. I suggested to James that they shd write a book about it. Nowadays, they can easily get govt support for this type of project.

Jean said...

@Tim - The North York Moors not far from Scarborough are beautiful as I'm sure you know.

My uncle introduced me to Enid Blyton books when I was in Primary school. They were the first books I ever read & eventually led me on to Agatha Christie & Nancy Mitford. Jilly Cooper too but that's another story. I was mad about Beano & Dandy as well & spent my pocket money buying them at Everybody's Store in Katong.
Oh dear I had a golliwog doll too that I remember my godmother bought for me from Robinson's just before the big fire. I loved it but at the time we were oblivious to its racist conotation & it wasn't yet politically incorrect I guess. Like The Black & White Minstrel Show that suddenly one day disappeared. How I miss the old days.*sigh*

Lam Chun See said...

In primary school, don't think we gotten into habit of using a dictionary yet. Maybe we did not even have a dictionary in our house at that time. Hence, I remember being a bit frustrated at not being able to fully understand what I was reading.

But today, British kids will not have the same problem when they read my book becos they now have the internet. I think you can even find the meaning of words like 'kopi tiam' and 'siong' from the other side of the world.

Edward said...

You’re right Chun See, I think the story of the Princess Elizabeth Estate post has the potential of being made into an interesting book. There is so much camaraderie amongst the residents of PEE that it almost seemed like a fairy tale. The estate would be a model of peaceful co-existence between groups of people from different backgrounds. Harmony in Diversity. Seriously though, I think you guys should get together and have a yarn about this.

Lam Chun See said...

Just added 3 new photos.

Anonymous said...

Tim, what are "toffs" ?

Tim said...

Jean said...

@Tim - The North York Moors not far from Scarborough are beautiful as I'm sure you know.

I agree. They have their own character, somehow different from Ilkley Moor, but a wonderful landscape. We often head for Whitby or the NYM Railway.

Anonymous said...

Tim, what are "toffs" ?

Well I guess it's a bit of inverse snobbery from me. "Toff" is a working class expression referring to people of a higher class, especially those of a snobbish disposition. It's an abbreviation of "Toffee-nosed", which in turn refers to people who walk around with their noses stuck up in the air, presumably to avoid the smell of the unwashed masses.