Sunday, July 26, 2015

1965 - journey south - lion city

The Journey
On the first travel to Singapore, it was in standard two.
As it was a big event for a boy of eight, after 50 years has gone by, glimpses of the events on trip were still vivid.
The date written at the back of the photographs helped pinpoint the trip to the month of May. 
Though it would be 3 months before Singapore separated from the Federation of Malaysia, when we reached the Johor-Singapore causeway that morning, I remember Dad and Uncle Hia talking and if they needed documents to enter the island state.  As I recalled this conversation of the adults, I had thought that the trip was made post August 1965.  However, the date at the back of the photo, help to clear the doubt and point to May. 
The journey started the evening before by car from our hometown in Menglembu. We travelled in a Toyota owned by 5th uncle. 
The event for the trip was that 5th uncle’s second child, a son of a few months old was found to have medical problem and was recommended for treatment at the Singapore General Hospital.  He married in May27, 1962, and the first child was a baby girl. The mother would be flying from Ipoh to Singapore in a day or two.  Our contingent would travel down early so asto meet mother with baby when they arrived in the city state.
As dad was familiar with Singapore  as he had visited the city a number of times, 5th uncle had probably asked him to help on the trip. 
The members travelling by car were Dad and Uncle Hia, mum and 1st aunt, 4th brother and myself – 4 adults and two young boys.
As dad was managing the Shell petrol station business then, the car was checked and filled full tank at the petrol station early that evening.  We left after dinner and the journey took us 12 hours or so.
I slept most of the journey as we were travelling by night.  As we headed south, we had to cross the Muar river on a car ferry, as there was no bridge then. 
We are travelling in the dark most thro the night, and I recall on reaching Ayer Itam we came to a lighted multistory building, a sort of a land mark of sort at a turning where we turn right on our south bound ourney.
We arrived in Johor Bharu at dawn, and headed to the causeway to clear the checkpoint.  It was there where the conversation if a pass or paperwork was need to enter the city state.
Lion city
Among the places -
  1. Hotel at Tanjong Pagar
    We stayed at the 4 storey Tian Yi Jing Hotel 景酒at Peck Seah Street. The escalator had the double layer fence type gate.  The rooms had ceiling fans, and windows with half-curtain.
    I remember we left  piece of clothing behind at the hotel. It was my home made jacket by mum (冷衫).
  2. Kereta Ayer
    Recall that we had dinner at the open air food center at the  busy Peal Center area –珍珠坊.  A vagabond unkempt beggar with long hair was grabbing the leftover food in the next table with his bare hands.
  3. Haw Par Villa
    Among the many legendary and mythical figures from Chinese history and folklore that dad narrated.    I learnt of  Sumu tending to flock of sheep while in exile in Siberia, 蘇武牧, of Jiang Taigong fishing with the bait above water, 姜太公钓鱼。There was the infamous 18 levels of hell, punishment meted out according to the degree of severity of sins and immorality committed while in mortal life.
    The visit to Haw Par Villa perhaps planted the latent interest in Chinese history and culture in this young mind.
  4. Singapore General Hospital
    While the elders we at the medical center, we wandered outside the building.  I recall next to the ward was a steep grassy slope.  This was probably the next facing the sid of Outram-Tiong Baru.
Well, that was the first trip to Singapore 50 years ago in 1965. The next trip to the Lion City was eight years later in 1973.  It was a vacation trip organized by the school. This time around we needed a passport.
i) - Dad’s early travel to/thro Singapore
In June 1940, as a member of the Ipoh Yuke Choy School high school graduation class he visited Singapore and stayed at the YinWo Hakka Association.
In Oct 1948, on his journey with grandmother to Meixian, Songkou in 1948  to attend to grandfather’s late estate he would have transited in Singapore. A few years later and probably in 1951-52, he accompanied 6th uncle in transit at Singapore on his way to New China.
Perhaps his first trip was around 1928, when he was 4 years old.  He probably transited in Singapore while on his journey to the home village in China, with 2nd grandaunt. 
ii) Hotels in Tanjong Pagar
The Chinese hotels in Tanjong Pagar - 新亚旅店and were  trusted hotels the  family  stayed when they transit in Singapore on their way to China home village before the War. 
A record in granddad’s accounting booklet noted -
EuYanSang Ipoh,  Oct 1946 wired $750 Straits dollars Mr Huang Zhaomin of Xin Ya hotel in Peck Seah Street, Kerea Ayer, Selat for preparation of boat fare and other use.
Singapore was written as Selat 石叻 in Chinese then.
This was probably for the final journey of grandpa to China, after a sojourn of close to 50 years in Nanyang. Among the members of this trip were  sons, 4th uncle, 5th uncle , and  grandson – Brother Pang 鑫权.


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

the menglembu football team

This photograph of the  Menglembu football team was taken on 12September 1967. 

As to the venue, it was most probably in an out-of-town match at the Coronation Park padang in Ipoh  -the current Taman Dr Seenivasagam.

Standing  - left to right: Sei-ngang-chai, Bat Zee, Ah Fai, For-che-tau, Ku-li (eldest), Fei-lou Zhong (the 2nd  brother), Ah-Boot (the 3rd brother), Fei-lou Keong, Ah Ket (cousin of Ah Fei) , Lau Zhong, Samy

Squatting  – left to right :Dai-gor Seng, Ah Chow, Hon-da-sport, Dai-nan Choy (younger brother of Dai-gor-Seng), Ah Hoi, Yee Chai, Ah Bai. 

In the 1960’s and 70’s, the padang in Menglembu, adjacent to the  Wan Hua Primary School, would be a hive of activities in the early evening from 5 pm.  Youngsters from around town, the re-grouping area and as far away as Bukit Merah would gather there for evening of soccer. 

Among this cohort, there were three brothers, namely   Ku Li, Fei Lou Zhong, Ah Boot. The eldest Ku-li was 20 years old, the 2nd brother Fei-lou Zhong was 18 and the 3rd, Ah-Boot was 16 years old then. The soccer kaki's would visit the home of the brothers and they were good buddies. 

Ku-Li and Ah-Boot went on to play for the Perak team. Both of them were in the Perak team that won the FAM cup in 1970, beating Kelantan 2-0. 

Ah-Boot made it to the national team.  In 1969, he played for the Malaysian team in the Asian Youth Football Tournament in Bangkok.  The AYFT was the beginning of the many travels that his football career would bring him to.  It was Tokyo in 1970 and Manila in 1971. 

In 1972 he was a member of the Malaysian football team to the Munich Olympic.  On his return from the Olympics, he proceeded to Hong Kong and started his professional soccer, first with the Caroline Hill Football Club .

Fast forward, 2015 –

The afternoon heat has mellowed. The padang is as verdant. The single story assembly hall is still there in the same location at the far end of the padang beside the road. 

Many of the garden houses 菜园屋 , next to the padang, ( wooden house with zinc roof surrounded with a small garden ) are still there.  They have stood there for 60 years and more, witnessing many a generation of youngsters playing soccer.

The goal posts are no longer around.  Where have all the youngsters gone?  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

- 萬華百年校慶 - Wan Hua School Centennial -

萬里望 - Menglembu-1958年


照片后面有铅笔留下的日期 22.8.58


剧台上打着布条‘ 第十四届高小毕业典礼’,那位穿着白色长袖衬衫女扮男生是大姐。和她同年一起在万华小学读书有位表姐。她站在舞台剧照片下面张照片的左二,咱们叫她丽姐,是三姑母的第二女儿。在这张照片大姐是站在左三,笑嘻嘻的面向着右边。

念小学一年级时有一天家人急着来到学校带大姐和丽姐赶回家去, 因为二伯婆去世了。那个年头因该是一九五三年。




万华校园内在初建有教师们的宿舍。宿舍建在校园的后院,向着咱们家的后门进去就是校宿了。宿舍是排屋式单位,租给教师家庭居住,约有十五六间,分成两行四排。 记得玉玲表姐庆文哥和他们两个小孩六十年代后期在宿舍住过一短暂时间。过后不久宿舍就拆了。


回想起来万华校学和咱们家族是在万里望开埠一起成长的。妈妈的小学,如果没记错是民德学堂 (或明德),地址位于街场未,堂姑母树料棚的对面。后来那里办了教会。民德学堂应该是万华小学的前身。





‘草原之夜’, 那‘来来来  -- ’的歌声像似昨夜刚从耳边飘过。





祝愿 万华学校万里常青 ,学业前进,未来的下个百年继续培育万里望年轻一代。

Wan Hua Primary School in Menglembu celebrated the centennial in October 2014. The Chinese medium school is an integral part of the memory of the residents of Menglembu.  This article recorded the events connected with the school in the 1960's and 70's.  As it's a Chinese medium school, the article is written in Chinese, however broken it is.

The photographs were taken in 1958. They were of my sister and her classmates. 

Sister acted in the stage drama  in the 14th primary graduating class that year。She was in a long white sleeve shirt, make-up as a young guy.

In the photographs taken at the school garden, was cousin Li, the 2nd daughter of 3rd aunt. She is of same age as sister, and they were together in same class.  

Many of our cousins, and my siblings had their primary education in this school.

The hubby of a cousin Yoke Lin was a teacher in the school, and they stayed at the school quarters for a while with their two young kids in the late sixties.

There were talent time contests, weekend cinemas and wedding dinners at the school hall. There were remedial Malay lessons in the evening which I attended, and these were some of the memories of the school.

Our old house was located close to the school.  There was a side gate at the backyard. Many of the school children who lived in the south Regrouping Area would pass by our house on their way to and from school, using this back gate...



Sunday, May 04, 2014

- shell petrol filling station - 1965

1. Shell petrol station   - first lesson in Chinese


Soon Fatt Hupkee hambiao tiamyouzham xinzhongzikin (in Hakka dialect)
(Congratulations on the opening of the Soon Fatt Hup Kee, Shell Petrol Filling Station )

Other than my name in Chinese, these were some of the earliest Chinese words that I learnt.   These two photographs were taken in Menglembu in 1965. 
The Shell petrol station was newly into operation.  It was located next to our house in Menglembu and build on the northern third of an original big piece of land planted with many coconut trees. A plot of the land consisting of the fish pond was later sold to the Shell Petrol Company to start the retail business.  
I recall these photographs were taken on a very basic plastic box shaped camera (approximately 5x3x2.5in).  It was a retail gift to customers who purchased above a certain amount of petrol.  
The Chinese characters were written on a big granite stone bench.  There was a pair of these benches.  They were present from relatives and friends with the congratulatory message and their names casted forever in stone.
 It was quite an in thing for a group of person to send their congratulations in these stone granite, be they benches, table set with stools, flower pots, etc then.  They symbolized the business would prosper and grow as solid as stone. Nonetheless,  they were very practical and useful presents.
I was in Standard 2, a skinny eight years old, which was the standard physique of kids of that age.  Then, Japanese slippers were the footwear de rigueur, before it became the fashionista flip-flop decades later.
 Dinner was early at about 5pm.  After which we would walked over to the station to play on the cool granite benches.
 Some elder folks taught me to read those words in the Hakka dialect.  I also learnt a thing a or two what a joint venture business.  It was explained to me that  Hupkee - 合記 – was specific for a joint venture company.   
Dad invested in the franchise petrol filling station business,, with a joint venture stake from his cousin.  The cousin aunt was a relatively well-off matriarch who inherited her wealth from her late husband.  Her family lived in Menglembu town center.  Her dad was the elder brother of grandpa and they migrated together to Malaya in the early 1900’s.
This cousin aunt was quite a well-know personality in the small town of Menglembu.  Her generously spendthrift &  charitable trait , but with a fearsome character had earned her the nickname : Orr-Dell-Por  (in dialect).
(Orr-Dell : someone who is generous, willing and with the capacity to splurge; Por : address a female elder, grandma)  
Due to poor cash flow management, the petrol station business went into a batch patch after three to four years. Dad had to gave up his stake in the joint venture in 1968. His cousin sister took over the company, and it was re-named Shin Soon Fatt. 
The petrol station  is still in business after 50 years.

2.  Hia Bak – Uncle Hia
The man in the picture who was in his early forties, with curly hairs and sleeves rolled was Hia Bak or Uncle Hia ( Bak – uncle in dialect).
Uncle Hia was a family friend.  His mother was a close friend of grandma. Her name was Zhu-Bak-Por, Granda Zhu.  They were the first generation of migrant to Menglembu.
Unlce Hia family name is Wong, name Shao Kim ( dialect pronunciation).  He was intimately addressed by us as Uncle Hia.  This pet name given him was derived from his facial feature, as his thick upper lips seemed slightly protruding, which in the Hakka dialect is hia zhoi – a slight protruding mouth. Uncle Hia closely resembled her mum.
Uncle Hia was an electrician.  The car AB950 – an Austin of England was his. In the  1950’s and 60’s, he was one of the hunting buddies with dad and the uncles.  They would hunt for wild boars, squirrels, flying foxes in the out skirt of Batu Gajah, Tronoh area.
In our first trip to Singapore in 1965, Uncle Hia came along with us.
His shop was in Ipoh Old town – Ma Fa electrical,  which has since been managed by his son.  The wiring work of the old house 1A, was done by his company in the 1950. 
Uncle Hia passed away a few years back in his eighties.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

- the maternal grandpa grandma - 外公外婆家

These old photographs were salvaged from the old house – 1A.  They were left in the drawer of the main cupboard when moving house in 1983.  This by then the photographs had been left in the cupboard for close to 37 years odd.
These photographs are probably close to 90years old now.
These photographs were probably some of the few mementos that mum brought along with her from her maiden home when she married into the Koo Family on 09 Feb 1945.  These photographs were not kept in a proper album. They were in individual envelops and stacked in a corner of the drawer, together with our birth certificates, and other official documents. 
 As the curious kid, I would spend many a time rummaging thru these old photographs.  Though I had browsed thru them many times, there was never a time where I would take these photographs to mum and ask her who those in the pictures were. 
Looking at these old photographs now inadvertently brings back those childhood memories. 
Although mum never had a chance to share the memories of those photographs directly with us and pointing out who they were, she would nevertheless during dinner time told to us stories from the maternal family.
Maternal Grandpa Lim Fook @ 阉鸡 -
Mum used to tell us that her dad’s trade was to caponize chicken, and he was probably very skillful and much sought after then.  It was a trade that he learn in his youth, and he probably caponized domestic animals too.
Grandpa Lim Fook would practice his skills in the Menglembu market, and traveled to markets in the surrounding township.  It was common for families to rear their own fowls in the old days.   Caponized chicken was a special treat during festive season.
The folks would time when the chicken would be caponized such that it would grow to the right maturity and size came the big festivals such as Chinese New Year, Mid-Autumn or Winter solstice. The young chicken 生鸡 – young rooster - would be caponized at a tender age and would be ready for the table after 6 months or more.  
In the pre-war years cost one cent or so to caponize a chicken, and Grandpa Lim could make a decent living. 
He supported the family with his trade, and able to sent her two elder daughters to school.  Mum was always grateful to mention that hat she had a few years of primary education and  could read and write in Chinese.  She would sign my report card in Chinese, when I had poor results from school &  dad would refused to sign the card.
She also said that her dad used to own a shop in Menglembu. The shop had a signboard in bold characters hanging above the entrance -  福林-Fook Lim -and coined from Grandpa Lim’s name.  This single storey wooden building right in the middle of town used to be a bicycle repair cum barber shop as early as from the 1960’s. It was gutted by fire in the mid-2000.
Grandpa Lim Fook’s house was in the north-western area of Menglembu-北区.  Mum used to say that her maiden home was before the railway gate in the direction of a Chinese temple.
To folks of mum’s generation – the railway gate was a landmark of Menglembu in the pre-war years.  It was located at where the round-about with the groundnut monument is now.
(A railway line used to run from Ipoh to Tronoh, passing thro Menglembu town – which is now Jalan Lee Man Hin.  However during the Japanese occupation, it was dismantled by the Japanese military and the rail removed to build the Burma – Thai rail link.  This railway was made into the popular movie - Bridge over River Kwai - in 1957).
Grandpa Lim Fook was the eldest son & he had at least two other younger brothers and a younger sister. The 2nd younger brother who lived to the 1970’s & whom we called sookgong  叔公– moved to the western part of Menglembu   - choo kai pang,  probably during the resettlement of the rural household during the emergency period in the early part of 1950’s.
It was not clear which year Grandpa Lim Fook passed away- probably in the pre-war years.  However what we heard from mum was that he passed away on the eve of Chinese New Year.  As it was a festive occasion, there was minimum ceremony, and was sent for burial on an on an ox-drawn carriage.
Maternal Grandma Lim-Chong –
As to the photograph of this lady of good stature, who looked relatively tall, the fashion and era of the photograph pointed to one taken in the 1920’s. 
My only guess now was that she could be maternal grandmother whose family name was Chong -. In the 1960’, mum would visit her maternal grandmother who lived in Pasir Pinji, 兵如港怡保Ipoh. She would bring me along.
I remember this grand old lady – whom we called maternal great grandmother. 姐婆太 jia po tai – in Hakka.  She was of a tall stature, which this lady in this photograph reminded me of.  
Attired in traditional sam-foo, she looked resplendent in her finery's.
She had a gold chain with a jade pendant around the neck, dangling gold ear rings and wearing bracelets and a gold ring on her left hand. These pieces of gems were painted in gold and the jade pendant in green.  This type of decorative photography was in vogue from the early 1900’s/
She had on her left hand a watch, and was holding a handbag on her right.   She wore a pair of matching medium heeled cover strap shoes. 
Her hair was neatly combed back into a bun with a decorative gold hair pin.  She complemented her dressing with pieces of western fashion article. This blend of east and west was the fashion of that period.
She was probably in her early 30’s then.
If I recall well,  Grandma Lim-Chong  together with her mum was probably a dulang washer in her maiden years.  They lived in the Pasir Pinji village.
They would venture out to the tin mines early in the morning together will the village women folks to  wash the tin tailing's from the open cast mines or palong,  for tin ore.
 On a good day their labor could fetch a good return. By early evening they would troop home with a small tin of tin ore and dulang (wooden pan for panning tin ore) in hand.
Grandma Lim-Chong first two eldest children were girls.  In order to wish for a boy, mum told us that she, the 2nd girl was given the name - 锦娣 Kim Thye .  The character means -   younger brother - in Chinese.   True to the word – Grandma Lim-Chong next two surviving children were males.
Mum told us that the year her mother  passed away, the family broke a porcelain bowl during the Chinese New Year festive period. This  was supposed to portend bad luck for the coming year. 
As such it was a custom to wrap the broken pieces in red papers and to dispose them off after the auspicious day - so as to ward off bad luck.
From the family structure, it seemed that the relations from the maternal side settled in Malaya a generation earlier than from the paternal side.   Had Grandpa Koo came to Malaya in the 1900’s then, Grandpa Lim and Grandma Lim-Chong who were born in Malaya, their parents would have migrated to Malaya in the 1890’s or earlier.

1) Maternal grandpa and grandma
Maternal grandfather was the eldest son of the Lim family.  He married a maiden from the Chong family, and had four surviving children to adulthood – two daughters and two younger sons.  Mum was the 2nd daughter.  The two sons though born and bred in Malaya, left for New China in the early 1950’s. 
As such,  each year in early April during  Qing Ming, 清明- tomb-sweeping festival, it was left to mum who dutifully performed the ceremony at her dad and mum’s graves, until she passed away in the 1980’s.
Grandpa Lim’s ancestral roots was supposed to be : 溪,广东省
Maternal Grandma Lim-Chong was the eldest daughter of the Chong family.  She had a younger sister whom we called – yee-por - 姨婆.  I heard that she lived to 100years old. She had a brother who died early and survived by his wife who we called –kiu por - 舅婆. There often were visits by Mum to her relations in the 1960’s, during the Chinese New Year festive season..
2) The maternal great grandma’s  
Maternal Great grandmother Chong . 姐婆太 jia po tai was in her nineties, then.  She was mentally alert and clear, and when mum would chit chat with her and she would reply with a soft gentle voice.  I remember her calling us young boys – ah moi阿妹  - which is a term for girls.
It was a perhaps a tradition of her generation to call young boys – in the female term. It was a belief that, addressing a male child as the female gender,   would avoid unwarranted calamity to the child.  The female gender was considered a lesser treasure that would not attract undue envy in the greater realm.
Mum often narrated that maternal great grandmother Chong was a kind lady and  that  - Zhu bak por 朱伯婆 - a dear family friend  of paternal grandmother – remembered this kind neighbor giving her food when she went hunger in the young days.
Maternal Great grandma Lim, Grandpa Lim Fook’s mother, whom we called- AhTai 阿太-survived their elder children and lived into the 1960’s.  Great grandma Lim however was inflicted with eye problem in her later years and she became blind.
These hardy great-grand mothers probably came to Malaya in the 1890’s or even earlier, and they would probably be the early wave of female migrants that left their villages to venture to Nanyang. Their children were born in Malaya.
From the maternal lineage, ours would be the 4th generation in this land. 
3) Mother’s marriage 
Mum married in to the Koo Family in the Feb of 1945, six months before the end of the Japanese occupation of Malaya and Singapore. 
Over dinner, mum used to tell us that during the war years, she was working in paternal grandpa’s timber yard - soo liao chong - 树料厂 - making cigarettes. 
Probably cos of the deteriorating situation of  the economy in the later part of the war years, Grandpa Koo diversified from supplying timber to the mining industry to making cigarettes – the end process of rolling the tobacco into cigarettes, and most probably they were making cigars -  or chee-root yan, as they use to call locally.  Mum was one of the young girls working there.
Paternal grandmother was seeking a marriageable partner for her eldest son. Dad was then 21 years old and mum was 22. And, as they said the rest was history .. 
4) Photograph cum post card
The back of the photograph were printed the following words:  Post card, Carte postale (French), Cartolina postale (Italian), Tarjeta postal (Spanish)
5) Menglembu -   Choo kai pang – (in Hakka dialect) 
A notorious area in the 1960's -
To the local residents this regrouping area to the western part of the town had seldom been called Sai-khoi, 西区but always as Chowgai pang – in Cantonese dialect.   The other three areas to the eastern,  southern  and northern sectors of the town  are known as:  Doong-khoi,  东区,
Lam-khoi, 南区and Buk-Khoi -北区
How did the term chou-gai pang came about?  A possibility was that it came from a combination of Chinese and Malay word.
 Chou-gai – meaning to extract taxation. Chukai is the Malay word for taxation, and chou – is the Chinese word for extract –
 Pang – meaning  a shed 

Bordering Chou-kaipang – is Bukit Merah new Village – 红泥山新村.



This is the grave of maternal grandp and grandma in Menglembu, old hill.

It’s stated that the grave was erected  in 1946, 30th day of the 12 moon  (the 35year of the Republican Year).  That year of 1946 was most probably  the reburial date, a Hakka traditional of exhuming the bones and reburying them again in an urn.  This tradition came about from the migratory trend of the Hakka's over a thousand to escape war from northern to southern China.  In their migration, they brought along with them the remains of their ancestors.

Maternal grandpa’s name was : 林福养 and grandma’s name was 张鸿娇。Their ancestral district was 赤溪,广东.Chixi, Guangdong.