Sarikei Padang 1970 - firewood (used in old stove and the smoke went up the chimney at the back of the shophouse)
In the 1920s, the first football field in Sarikei was proposed by Siaw Ah Khoon and was situated behind the old Sarikei District Office (just before Kwang Chien School). Mr Siaw also donated the goal posts.
In 1953, the football field was moved to the current location of the Civic Centre (picture above) and was named King George padang. The padang (field in Malay) was surrounded by longkang's (drains in Hokkien) that were not paved with cement until the late 1970's. You could catch frogs, toads, fishes and snakes in the longkang. In the picture, find the plank kids used to cross the longkang. The shophouses' back lane was unpaved then. Spot the army quarters, the Sarikei Chamber of Commerce and the basketball stadium.
On the side of the padang facing the Sarikei District Council, there was a row of trees that produced red beans in pods (name of tree?). The beans were play things for the kids who had to be creative as they didn't have many toys then. In 1974, it was Sarikei's turn to celebrate the Governor's birthday. A grand stage was built amongst the red bean trees. It was not dismantled until many years later. It was used for concerts and sports ceremonies. Kids played games & roller skated on it.
In the photo, observe the Southern Hotel expansion in block 3 of Repok Road, the back of shophouse block 4 and the close up of the blades of grass. Sarikei downtown life revolved around the padang till 1988 when the Civic Centre opened. The padang's activities then moved to the modern sports stadium near Nyelong Park. Just about every key activity would be held in the old padang including school sports days, soccer matches, parades, concerts, celebrations and helicopter landings. The helicopter departures often had a bunch of kids running barefooted (with slippers held by hands) against the air turbulence. Every kid waited with adrenalin rush for the rarer gigantic army helicopters to start their double rotor blades.
Sarikei Padang 1981 - St Anthony's Secondary School Sports Day
Note that Southern Hotel had finished expanding and the back of shophouse block 3 has a balcony for each shop.The padang used to be my playground. Kids played pyramid games built with 3 slippers. The person who threw the tennis ball to tumble the pyramid could then use the ball to throw at the dispersing kids. If he missed hitting the kids, the kids could run back to build the pyramid and win. The kid that got hit would be the next one to throw at the pyramid. Other games inlcude marbles, police & thief, high jump with homemade props, rope games, saboot (kids' baseball using tennis ball & hand), etc. These kids' games were played on the side while the adults (both Malays & Chinese) played soccer and an old man roasted aromatic coffee beans (on the side of the padang) in a drum that he rotated over charcoal. Every now & then, a kid would be stunned by a booming soccer ball on the head and the soccer players would be stunned by the wailing of the kid & cursing from the mum. But as they say, the games must go on.