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I caught criminals in a cheongsam

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INTERNET SENSATION: Sultry police officer Blossom Wong was a real-life version of a 1960s spy. An old photograph of her escorting American politician Robert F. Kennedy and his wife, Ethel, when they were in Malaysia, went viral on Facebook recently with many on the social networking site bedazzled by her glamorous looks. Arman Ahmad managed to track down Wong, now 74, to talk about her time in the force. Starting her career in the Special Branch, she retired as a superintendent of police after 36 years of service

YOU may wonder where I got the name Blossom from. My real name is Wong Kooi Fong.

I have always loved plants and gardening. When I was still a child living in Sungei Besi, Kuala Lumpur, I used to plant flowers. My father reared chickens, so I had a lot of chicken droppings for the plants. They grew very well.

There was a Caucasian district officer who lived near my house. His wife called me Blossom because I loved flowers and everything I planted grew well. That nickname stuck. In fact, in my police retirement card, the name is Blossom. It became almost like an official name.

When I finished my Senior Cambridge in the 1950s, I honestly didn't know what I wanted to do.

In those days, there were only two options available for girls. I could become a teacher or a secretary. Both were not my cup of tea. I was a tomboy in school and played hockey and badminton, and was in the debating and geographical societies. To me, teaching is boring, and to become a secretary, well you have to please your boss, and you cannot go out of the office. I'm an outdoor person.

After school, I worked with my dad in his poultry farm in Sungai Buloh. One day, there was a recruitment advertisement for the police force. They wanted people who were active and played games, and I thought why not give it a try.

I applied quietly without telling my father, who wanted me to be a teacher. I'd rather not because I was quite naughty in school and was afraid of getting balasan (retribution) from my students for all my misdeeds in school.

One day, I was walking in town (near the current Pavilion shopping mall) and saw a police patrol car. In the front seat was a lady officer and she had a cap on. She looked so smart. She looked at me and smiled and from that moment, I was sold. I would be a policewoman.

In my heart, I knew I wasn't prepared to be a teacher. Besides, if I became a police officer, I would get to ronda around Kuala Lumpur in a police car every day.

As fate would have it, I got a letter asking me to report for training on Aug 1, 1957. I went for six months of basic training. I learned all sorts of interesting things, including marching, musketry and the law. I remember we had a good law instructor. His name was Barcharan Singh.

Marching three times a week in boots under the hot sun was the hardest part. All the orders were given in Bahasa Malaysia and at that time, my Bahasa was not up to par.

We woke up before 6am every day. By 6.10am, we were already marching from the barracks to the administration block. There were 15 women and an equal number of men in my batch. After graduation, we became probationary inspectors. I was chosen to join the Special Branch and given a posting in Penang. In those days, Sungai Besi was one of the communist hot spots and I wanted to be as far from my family as possible lest someone learned that I was a police officer. I had never been to Penang. Unfortunately, when I joined the Special Branch, I didn't get to wear the uniform, which had been my intention all along.

I would travel incognito all over Penang as a decoy or undercover. Working with the Special Branch took a toll on my social life. I was very unhappy socially. I was not supposed to mix with the other uniformed girls. When I met one of them on the street, I had to ignore them because it might give my position away. Despite this, I found it all very exciting. After four years, I requested for a transfer to Ipoh to become the assistant area inspector. I was the second in command, and there were five police stations to take care of.

In 1962, I was transferred to Kuala Lumpur after I got married. I was posted to the courts there. I became a prosecuting officer in the magistrate's and juvenile courts.

In January 1964, Robert F. Kennedy and his wife Ethel came to Malaysia. I was assigned to escort his wife and I was asked by my superior officer to guard Ethel with my life.

Wherever they went, I followed. I even followed them swimming in Selangor Club. I couldn't swim so I just sat and watched them. They stayed at a penthouse in Merlin. That was the only swanky hotel at the time.

When Ethel was in the penthouse, I stayed in the outer section. She was warm and friendly and I remember her inviting me to have tea with her. We had conversations about her children.

At that time, she already had a big family. When she went back home, she wrote to me in jest: "The TV had more pictures of you than me. If you ever come over, we would need a contingent to protect you."

During my career in the police force, I escorted numerous public figures, including Madam Park, wife of South Korean president Park Chung-hee, and Japanese prime minister Eisaku Sato and his wife, as well as the governer-general of New Zealand, among others. The Japanese prime minister gave me a Seiko watch that I wear until today.

In 1966, Albert Mah, an OCPD at the time, told me that we were setting up an anti-vice unit and I would be in it. He said: "Your fellow officers will show you the black cats."

I wondered what he meant. Then we went to Jalan Ampang, near Federal Bakery. On top of a Chinese coffee shop were numerous rooms. One of the men and I went up undercover and peeked into the rooms. Some of the girls were sitting on beds. I used this visit to plan my operation. It was the first anti-vice operation and we caught a van full of girls. Some of them were underaged. One of them was pregnant. In those days, they were all local girls. There were no foreigners. After the first operation, it dawned on me how widespread it was. From Jalan Walter Grenier to Jalan Khoo Teik Ee to Jalan Hicks and Jalan Alor, there were many of them. The mama-sans became afraid of me. Later in my career, I would be called up to head another unit. This time, inspector-general of police Tun Hanif Omar asked me to set up the rape investigation section. We received training and a kit from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We pioneered the use of DNA as evidence.

I retired in 1993. Now, besides spending time with my daughter and helping with her veterinary practice, I also do some gardening. I'm still quite good at planting flowers. I was with the police force for 361/2 years. I never regretted it. If I could do it all again, I would.

Wong escorting Robert F. Kennedy during his visit to Malaysia.

Wong walking alongside Robert F. Kennedy during his visit to Malaysia. This photo went viral on Facebook recently.

Wong (left) with the wife of South Korean president Park Chung-hee.

Wong still leads an active life.


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