September 22, 2009

A long lost friend found !

I must say Facebook is one wonderful online social networking tool. Thanks to Facebook, I managed to find one long lost friend of mine called Philip Waldron in the United Kingdom. Couple of months ago I searched Facebook and must have got at least 50 Philip Waldrons from all over the world. Looking at those who uploaded their photos and other information, I crossed out almost half of the list because they were not who I was searching for. Then I was left with a list of those with the same name but without a photo and did not provide much information. So, I patiently wrote to each of them and ask if they are the same Philip Waldron that used to work in Malaysia in the 1980s and kept my finger crossed.

That was in early July this year. The month went by quietly and come August I received a few messages from people of the same name telling me that they are not the same Philip Waldron I was looking for. I thought August would go by without any good news but then lo and behold right towards the end of August, I received a message from my long lost friend, Philip Waldron. I was so glad. And after a few more emails, we established contact again.

You see, I met Phil (how I called him) when I was employed by a company called SGB Asia (M) Sdn. Bhd. SGB stands for Scaffolding Great Britain if I remember it correctly. He was my boss. I was just a young lacky back in the early 80s and when I was employed by SGB, it was a very good kick-start of my working life. It was also a “big thing” then being able to join a “gwai low” company (“gwai low” means western or foreign in Cantonese). Now we call these companies Multi-National Corporations (MNCs). Not many people, especially those like me with only “O” Level qualifications managed to get a chance to work in these “foreign companies” like SGB. I made my dad the happiest man in the world when he found out that I got a job with a “gwai low” company. And every time when talks to a relative or friend he will tell them “You know, my son works in “gwai low” company”. He was so proud.

I was really glad that I joined SGB and was placed under the guidance of Phil. I remember our office was in Plaza Sungei Wang, one of the happening buildings in KL back then. It was consider a posh place for an office. I worked under Phil mainly assisting him in designing and drawing various formworks for the construction industry. It was Phil who unselfishly taught me all about bending moments of steel, timbers and other support materials. I also learned about concrete weight and pressure, how to calculate and design various formworks for constructing slabs, columns, walls and beams. The construction industry boomed in the 80s and SGB expanded. We then moved into a bigger office in Wisma MPI (I am not sure it is still called Wisma MPI) in Jalan Raja Chulan.

Then another “big thing” happened. With the recommendation and support from Phil, I was given the opportunity to go overseas on an assignment. I was sent to Hong Kong to assist in one of the very famous projects back in those days … the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank building (today it is just called HSBC). It was a “big big thing” for me. Again not many people get the opportunity to be sent overseas to work and with all expenses paid by the company plus other special allowances. I was envied by all my friends. It was the first “real" overseas trip for me because before that I have only been to neighbouring countries like Singapore and Thailand.

After completing the overseas assignment, I came back to Malaysia and continue to work with Phil. We were involved in a lot of projects both big and small all over Malaysia. Now when I looked at some of those bridges and buildings in the country, I can proudly tell my kids that I was one of the people involved in building them. And after a couple of decades, I still see one of the scaffolding systems called “Cuplock” being used today in many construction sites.

Unfortunately in the 1986, we were hit hard by recession and the construction industry suffered the worst impact. It was this reason alone that SGB decided to cease operation in this part of the world and started to recall all its expatriates. Phil left Malaysia and went back to UK. I remember he gave me a pair of Rayban sunglasses as a farewell gift. I stayed with SGB until it finally closed down all its operations in Malaysia. I was one of the last to leave the company.

I went on to work in advertising and marketing. But I owe it all to Phil Waldron who taught me the ABCs of formwork and construction that provided me with a good start on my working career. After almost 25 years, I may have forgotten a lot of (if not all) the technicalities of formwork and construction but I will not forget the name Philip Waldron. Like I always quote … “If you have not found someone that you will not forget, then you are not worth remembering”.

A photo of (a very young) me and Philip Waldron