Ginny’s mother ran a provision shop, and her family lived from hand to mouth. A young Ginny had always dreamt of becoming a lawyer. “Those days, women facing domestic abuse were many, and I wanted to fight for their justice and put the bad guys in jail,” said the sixty-five-year-old. Her dreams were derailed, however, as her father — who Ginny says was a chauvinist who disallowed the women around him to become superior in any way — insisted on putting her through a Chinese school. Ginny had zero proclivity for learning Mandarin, and hence her interest in studying waned. Playing hooky became a norm.
Like any teenager, the sixteen-year-old Ginny yearned to extricate herself from her circumstances and achieve a better, faraway life. Her aunt’s lavish lifestyle, where weekends were spent partying away, gained her envy. She began attending the parties with a goal of snatching a rich kid. “I was such a head-turner back then, and I had many suitors,” said Ginny, the contours of a smile forming at the returned memory. Three bachelors courted her when she was in her prime, and one of whom would be her future husband: Peter Holstad, a Norwegian who founded Viking Engineering in Singapore. “He was the gentlest soul. Peter was the kind of boss who would only have his meal after his employees had eaten. To me, he was my best friend, father and teacher.”
Peter’s work required him to be away for months on end, a sacrifice in trade for the swift success of his company. The rise of the company brought the couple much wealth, and they soon ascended to the upper echelons of society. To fit in with her peers, Ginny began crafting a persona that apes Elizabeth Taylor’s, emulating her idol’s feminine poise and style of low-cut dresses and shimmering pearls. A newly minted debutante, Ginny whiled her mornings away at the now defunct Jurong Country Club’s tennis court; weekends were chockfull with exquisite high tea sessions and riveting piano recitals at hotel lounges.
The glamour, the spoils. Ginny had everything she coveted when she was sixteen.