WHEN Janice Walker found old photos of her late father, British soldier Sergeant Mac Claude Pratt and her mother Marie Pratt taken in Malaya, she found one of him at a big farewell party at Coliseum. Pratt who was born on Sept 24, 1920 passed away on April 7, 2003.
She wondered where Malaya was and Googled and read about Malaysia.
This year, Janice came to Malaysia, asked for directions to Coliseum and was overcome with emotion to find that the old restaurant was still around, largely unchanged.
"She was overjoyed when she walked in through the doors. She gave us a few items including old photos of her father and the family during their stay in Malaya, a menu of what her dad and his friends ate during their big farewell dinner and other items," said Peter Heng, administrative manager of Coliseum.
Today, a group photo of Pratt and his soldier friends taken at the last official farewell party held in Coliseum on June 1, 1946, before they left Malaya for good to return to England hangs proudly on the restaurant's wall.
"Janice was delighted that her father would be remembered here and that she had fulfilled one of her dad's wishes," said Heng.
You can still see some old, familiar faces here, as loyal staff members have been retained by the new management.
Mohan Narayanan, 54, alias Captain Morgan became the longest serving staff of the restaurant after nanogenarian Captain Ho, who had trouble hearing, retired in 2010.
"I'm a third generation worker here. My grandfather, Ramasamy, worked here from the time this restaurant opened its doors till the 1940s and my father Narayanan Ramasamy worked here from 1940 to 1994.
"When I was in Standard 6, I used to come here and help my father chop firewood which was used for cooking then. I started out as a bartender before I turned waiter and later, Captain in 2004," Morgan said.
Talking about earlier times, he said, "Planters used to come in for their 'Setengah' which meant that they wanted an equal amount of whisky and water mixed together.
"I remember a glass of Anchor Draft beer used to cost RM2.30 in the 1970s. Hard liquor like whisky was about RM3.50 per shot. We serve almost everything from Jim Bean, Jack Daniels, Vodka, Chivas Regal, Gordon's Gin and more.
"Food like nasi goreng was only RM2.80 those days while fish and chips was only RM6.30 and steak was RM9.50. Today, our popular Chicken Maryland, for example, costs RM26.90 while it was only about RM6.20 in the 1970s.
"Coliseum was the first restaurant in town to offer good western fare and everyone who was somebody used to dine here. I've served people from all walks of life including our third prime minister, Tun Hussein Onn. He sat at table number 14 here and we served him fish and chips just a year before he stepped down as prime minister.
"I've served Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's children, Kollywood superstars Vijay, Srikanth and legendary comedian 'Senthil' among others."
Heng, who started working in Coliseum at the age of 17 after finishing his Form 3 in 1978, said, "I started off in the kitchen, peeling potatoes and onions. I jumped at the first opportunity to become a waiter when the restaurant was short of staff as I couldn't stand peeling onions with tears in my eyes any longer.
"Some of our customers who used to dine here when they were single come back to remember the good old days. They enjoy bringing their wives and kids here and regaling them with their nostalgic memories," Heng said.
A 76-year-old diner at the restaurant who didn't want to be named said, "I started eating at Coliseum in the 1960s. At that time, Coliseum was 'The' place to dine in. It was the favourite watering hole and restaurant for many people then.
"Sizzling steaks, chicken chops, baked crab with cheese and chicken curry in tiffins were among the popular dishes here and 'mamak' outlets weren't all the rage.
"The reason people like me come here is that Coliseum is an old brand and the food is tasty and quite unique."
"The interior looks more or less the same as it did earlier. Air-conditioners are a new addition as are the ventilation fans which were installed later for clients' comfort.