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Published: June 25th 2011
Yearbook Staff while Dalat School was in Bangkok
From left to right: Miss Forbes, Miss Luckenbill, Becky, Darrel, Karen, Mark, Carol, Bob, Joy and Bill
After furlough from 1964 to 1965, I returned to Bangkok, Thailand where Dalat School had been evacuated to that Spring. I attended the Fall semester. Bangkok was hot and humid, and the air conditioning couldn't keep up with dorm rooms that had two triple deck bunk beds in them. By the time the Spring semester started, Dalat School found new home at the Eastern Hotel in Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia. This had also been a hill station for British colonialists to get away from the heat and humidity of the lowlands. Only these highlands were very humid; so much so that the school had to send the laundry down to mountain to dry.
The Cameron Highlands had a very British Smoke House Restaurant and the Cameron Highlands Hotel with a nine hole golf course where I lost a dozen golf balls in the jungle that encroached upon the fairways…108 for 9 holes, not too good for my first game.
The Highlands also had a British Military Hospital (BMH) where Australian and New Zealand servicemen wounded in Vietnam came to recover. We would ask our dorm parent for our allowance on Saturday mornings, and he would
Dalat School campus
Boys dorm to the right, girls dorm on the other end, and little girls dorm the the left
ask what movie was showing at the BMH Theater. We weren’t supposed to go, and could be campus’ed (where one was confined to the dorm room when not at class or meals) if caught.
The British Army Special Air Squadron (SAS) also had their jungle training grounds spread across the dense jungle. Our school was located between their camp and the town. One night as a drunken soldier attempted to return to his quarters, he mistook the girls dorm for his barracks. He undressed and climbed into bed with one of the girls, and was immediately awakened by screams and the lights being turned on. I'm not sure who was more surprised, the girls or the drunk soldier. Until this particular event we didn’t have much to do with the Aussies and Kiwis. His commanding officer was very apologetic, and proceeded to arrange events that would bring us together on a friendlier basis.
The Kiwi’s tried to teach us rugby, but the Maori warriors were a bit overpowering for us high school boys. There were more than a few broken bones on our side. After we healed we challenged them to soccer, which we won handily. The highlight
of our exchanges was a Maori pig roast preceded by the Maori war (haka) dances…a very interesting evening.
Another game we learned from the Aussies and Kiwis was Hash House Harriers (Fox and Hounds). A couple of us high school boys were designated to be the foxes. We departed about a half hour before the rest of the elementary school kids who were the hounds. We dropped pieces of paper every twenty yards or so, which was the trail they were to follow to catch us. We headed down the jungle trail towards Robinson Falls, and then beyond it into unchartered territory. After awhile we hear the pack coming. As they were about to catch us we ducked off the trail. The pack should have stopped when they lost the trail, but they continued on into the jungle. We became worried because it wasn’t safe for little kids to be strung across the mountainous jungles where there were tigers. So we became the hunters, trying to catch up with them. Well the trail continued down the mountain and ended up at a tea plantation about 10 miles from the school. We eventually rounded up all the children, and then
called the dorm parents to come pick us up in the school van. This necessitated many runs back and forth, because there were a lot of us. The kids looked the worse for wear when they got back to the school. I don’t remember receiving any punishment for having almost lost the entire population of our elementary school.
However, I did receive two weeks of campus, because I was involved in a firecracker battle at Parrot Falls. We would light a firecracker and toss it at the opposing team. Occasionally a firecracker would go off in our hand, or on an opponent’s head, so there was plenty of evidence. So even as a senior I occasionally strayed from the straight and narrow.
One major event in 1966 was the invitation by the U.S. Embassy to greet President Johnson who was stopping in Kuala Lumpur on his way back to the States from Vietnam. While in Vietnam he had awarded the silver star to Sam, a Dalat alumnus, for bravery in action in the Mekong Delta. The picture was in Time magazine. We took several busses to the KL airport and lined up against the fence where his plane
A little bit of England in the middle of the jungle. We would have special dinners there.
would park. When the President disembarked he came over to the fence to shake our hands. Afterwards we went to A&W, the only American fast food restaurant in KL, for burgers and shakes. That was the real treat of the day. Later the embassy sent us a copper bust of President Johnson to commemorate the day. We soon learned that the bust was copper paint over plaster when one of our students decided to use his #2 Ticonderoga pencil to pick the President’s nose. We were not particularly respectful of authority.
Another major event was the hunt for Jim Thompson, the Thai Silk King. During WWII he was an Office of Strategic Service (OSS) agent (predecessor of the CIA) parachuted into Thailand to organize resistance to the Japanese occupation. After the war, he decided to stay and organized the commercialization of the Thai silk industry. He visited silk villages, identified the best craftswomen, supplied dyes, and bought their product. My Dad took him to a number of villages in Northeast Thailand, so they knew each other well. The industry flourished after his silks were used in the Broadway production and movie “The King and I.” At Easter 1967 he
Dalat School Class of '68 in their Junior Year
Left to right top row: Carolyn, Esther, Mrs and Mr Duell, Ruth. Bottom row: David, Bob, Richard, Darrel, Edwin, and John
visited friends in the Cameron Highlands. One Sunday he went out for a walk and never returned. The Dalat High School boys were recruited to scour the jungles to find any clue of what might have happened to him. After three days of looking we came back empty handed. Some suspected that his earlier contacts with unsavory types during WWII may have come back to haunt him. That summer upon my return to Bangkok, acting in my position as business manager of the school yearbook, I visited his company and talked to the director. I convinced him to donate 400 yards of blue Thai silk to use as the cover of our yearbook. Many thanks to the Jim Thompson Thai Silk Company!
On long weekends we would go down to Ipoh and swim in the river or a swimming pool. We also played local teams…I was on the softball team. I continued to do well in school. I was more known for scholastics than my meager athletic abilities. I also liked to read after classes were over. James Michener and Leon Uris were two of my favorite authors, both writing historical fiction, and both writing very thick books.
During my last semester at Dalat School, the Vietnam War again intruded upon our lives even though we were in Malaysia. The Tet offensive began in February 1968. We received word that six of our missionaries had been murdered by the NVA in Ban Me Thuot. Their children were at school with us, and were notified that their parents were dead. We were all deeply grieved.
One of our school traditions was for the Senior Class to have a Sneak sometime during the last semester. It was called a sneak because the juniors were not supposed to catch the seniors leaving. Well, our class wasn’t very good at this. As juniors we didn’t catch the seniors leaving, and as seniors, we were caught by the juniors. I blame it on class numbers; there were only seven in my senior class. Nevertheless our long weekend at the Lone Pine Hotel on a beach on Penang Island was just the break we needed. Penang was a British free port and has a mixture of every nationality, mostly Chinese, Indian, and Malays. We toured the many sights and relaxed on the beach.
Another school tradition was the Junior-Senior Banquet (kind of
a prom), which the juniors put on for the seniors. We were hosted at the Cameron Highland Hotel. I believe the theme was Romeo and Juliet. Perhaps that was why I was wearing leotards!?
Our two and a half years in the Cameron Highlands came to an end with graduation. My Mom and Dad were there for this significant milestone. I gave the Salutatorian address…something along the lines of “No Man Is an Island” per John Donne. And then it was over. I was headed to Geneva College as an engineering student.
As a graduation present the family took the “scenic route” back to Bangkok. We took a taxi from the Cameron Highlands to Penang, where we spent a couple days seeing the sights including the botanical gardens and the Chinese snake temple.
Then it was on to the port of Songkhla on the Gulf of Siam side in southern Thailand. There Dad had booked us on a coastal steamer, the Bhanutrangsi. The boat was built in 1935, and was mostly used to pick up and drop off raw materials from the islands and remote seacoast towns. However, the upper deck had staterooms for maybe a dozen
passengers and a lounge. The accommodations reminded me of the Nile cruise boat in the movie “Death on the Nile.” The only other passengers were a European artist and his Thai girlfriend…kind of a Paul Gauguin character. During the days we weren't in port touring, we played cards (Rook) and read books.
Our first port of call was Ko Samui. In 1968 there was no tourist development, no hotels or resorts or airport. Today an airport receives dozens of flights per day feeding the flow of tourists to its many resorts. While the boat loaded its cargo of copra (the dried meat of a coconut is the source of coconut oil, and is the backbone of the economy of many Pacific islands), we toured the island which was mostly coconut plantations. We were there most of the day, departing in the evening for the next port, an unnamed fishing village where we loaded dried shrimp. Then it was a couple days to the mouth of the Chao Phraya River that took us to the port in Bangkok.
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