Dalat History: Penang, Malaysia
Unknown to us at the time, a professor at the Baptist Seminary here in Penang had a special interest in Dalat. He had a daughter who wanted to attend. If Dalat moved to Penang that would be possible. On his way to work he would pull off to the side of the road in front of Sandycroft and pray that Dalat might obtain the lease. On April 19, 1971, six years to the day, from the date of our move from Dalat, Vietnam, to Bangkok, Thailand, our director and business manager made a trip to Kuala Lumpur and negotiated the lease for Sandycroft.
It was exciting news for nearly everyone, even though many people were sad to leave the Highlands. For some staff it was the third move in six years and they were not looking forward to it. On a long weekend in May before the school year ended, two van loads of staff and students headed for Penang to assess what had to be done in order to get Sandycroft ready for school in August. Mr. Baxter, the science teacher at that time, along with two senior boys, began gutting the building that would become the science lab. The building was full of shower stalls and toilets, complete with all of the plumbing.
Muthu, Kumar and Rajin's father, had removed the plumbing fixtures and pipes. Then the two senior guys and their science teacher donned safety glasses and with sledge hammers smashed to smithereens brick, cement and tile, demolishing all of the stalls and cubicles. They returned to the Highlands covered with cuts and scratches but Mr. Baxter was overjoyed that he would now have a science lab and classroom of his own design. In Tanah Rata his science lab was an eight-foot-wide hallway.
In late June thirty-seven truck loads of school supplies, furniture and personal effects were loaded in Tanah Rata and unloaded in Penang, all within one week's time. The transformation of the British rest and relaxation center into a school took a lot of work. By the end of the summer the staff was exhausted. We as teachers were not used to physical labor and we were not used to the humidity and heat. I never wanted to see another paint brush or can of paint.
On August 31, 1971, we had 214 students enrolled with one-fourth of them coming in as day students. Penang had so much to offer us. The beaches were beautiful. We were no longer an isolated school. Our boarding students could land at the Bayan Lepas airport and shortly thereafter be on campus instead of facing an eight-hour bus ride. Our coaches and athletes liked the MSSPP inter-school sports program. The choir and drama club had new opportunities to perform. We could attend concerts and drama productions sponsored by the Penang Arts Council and the British Council.
The people of Penang welcomed us with open arms. It was a shopper's paradise. Jimmy, a young Chinese man who worked for the KK grocery store would pick up our individual shopping lists each morning and deliver the goods later in the day.
In those early days the student canteen, a little shack-like building, about 12 by 12 feet, situated right on the corner of where we presently have our student center, was the best kept and painted building on campus. Every year a high school class would claim a new side of the building, then paint an original design as well as large numbers indicating their year of graduation.
In those early years the seawall demanded constant repair. Truck load after truck load of rocks were brought in. Our high school boys spent many a Saturday carrying rocks to fill the huge black holes that would suddenly develop under the smooth cement facade. They worked two hour shifts and coordinated their work hours with the low tides, some getting up at 5 and 6 AM to make sure the cement got poured and somewhat dry before the tides came in. In the last 10 years we have added some major buildings.
First it was the student center and then the gym. Thanks to fund raising by the PTF, the swimming pool became a reality in 1995. Retired British military personnel often stop by to reminisce about how things used to be. The empty skyline of 25 years ago is now filled with hotels and highrises. The old Bamboo Bar and the horse stables are long gone.
Penang and Sandycroft have changed but Dalat School remains much the same. Our students still think the most important part of school is their friends and social life; the parents still think Dalat is a safe place providing a quality education and we teachers still think that our students are the greatest and best. And Dalat International School continues to educate both missionary kids and day students.
God's faithfulness to us over the years is obvious: four locations in three different countries covering 75 years. To God be the glory; great things He has done.