His penmanship comes to mind. It was beautifully and artistically rendered. Calligraphy in fact. I admired his cool signature.
He had to stop schooling at Primary 3 because he was biologically the eldest kid and had 5 or 6 younger siblings. The true eldest kid was adopted. Father was the second oldest. In those days people couldn’t afford too many children due to poverty. His parents were keen to help out a stranger in need. Also they were a young couple who didn’t have any children yet at that point.
My father did very well academically, so when his parents wanted him to drop out, the school Principal and teacher volunteered to help him go to school for free (pay the fees). They went all the way to his house which was unusual and were sad to be rejected. His parents (my grandparents) said it’s not about the fees, but that he needs to make money to feed the many mouths at home.
He worked many different jobs as a kid. One of the jobs was working in a printing firm. There he picked up the ability to operate a printing machine. He started a printing firm with a relative, but as these things go they had a falling out, so he went on to do his own thing. Started his own business.
At that time a lot of people were in the printing business but he wanted to be more specialised. He learnt these specialised skills from a friend in Hong Kong where in the early 70’s there were printing firms that do printing of cassette tapes and vinyl record covers and labels. He was one of the first in Singapore to do it so they did well. I attribute this to a certain level of luck especially in getting to know that friend in Hong Kong.
He had to order machines first from Hong Kong and later from Germany when they started doing better. Clients included Polydor and EMI.
My father was distant and not warm. If you ask too many questions he would scold you. But if he was in a good mood he would tell you things. This was the norm in the past. Very distant and strict parents who used corporal punishment. I have amnesia and just naturally tend to forgive and mostly forget after some time. But of course I wouldn’t raise my own kid that way.
Father was the better looking partner. He had big eyes, thick eyebrows and was muscular from the hard labour he did. Girls used to slip him presents and love letters, before my mum came along. She chose him. Her parents didn’t approve as he was poor and in their mind had no good prospects. They wanted an educated office worker, a civil servant, but as always, she got her way.
My father also did self study as a grown up. I remember him owning a stack of Chinese classics in his office. Also included was the translated version of Tolstoy’s War & Peace. I was pretty impressed considering he only studied up to primary 3. He also had quite a lot of the left wing reading materials too. Russian translations. Makes sense as he grew up understanding poverty.
We may be richer and more privileged now, but I don’t think money and technological advances lead to a happier existence. People may have been happier then, in the 70’s. I don’t believe money can buy happiness. That is not true happiness. It also all depends on your expectations as well. The lifestyle you are trying to upkeep.