Thursday, April 12, 2007

Scenes - Bank Road's Barber

Sarikei Bank Road's barber, 2007
Find the wheel for adjusting height.
Find the man in the mirror, the barber.

popped by this barber at the back of Eastern Cafe kopitiam at Bank Road for a chat. Repok Road splits the road along Rejang River into Wharf Road (the portion from Shell to the police station) and Bank Road (the portion facing Wharf terminal 1 and the bus terminal).

This barber moved out to Central Road and then moved back to this same shop again. When I was a kid, I used to cut my hair for 50 sen at this shop in the early 1970s. Now it's a few ringgit. This same barber would put a wooden stool on the chair for kids so that he could cut their hair at a comfy height. Kids often wailed because getting a hair cut was a traumatic experience with a stranger with scary gadgets. That's way before the dark movie Edward Scissorshand.

Sarikei Bank Road's barber, 2007
Tools of the Trade on an old desk.

This barber still used the same antiquated barber chairs that he imported from a Singapore distributor. "Just a little bit off the top, please." "Oops, too short!" It's not easy for barbers to quantify subjective instructions like "shorter" and "thinner" if you were not specific. Check out his tools: 2 pairs of scissors, a shaving cream brush, blade shaver and hydrogen peroxide (as disinfectant), 2 combs, 2 brushes and the favourite baby powder to brush off hair.

Nowadays you can go for a quick cut at such barbers in the shops or home based barbers in the residential areas. At the high end segment of the market is the Hong Kong trained stylist, Keny (a former band rocker) and his wife, Agnes Siaw, who will pamper you with her imported cosmestics and towkay neo (lady boss) chit chat.

Such old styled barber shops have dwindled in numbers. Hair today, gone tomorrow.

The original barber shop, Nem Sim barber shop was operated by two Foochow - Ling Kwong Yew and Ling Kek Sui. The shop clients included Father Rotinghuis, Father Ahern, and many government officials and dignitaries. Ling Kwong Yew operated the shop until 1975, when he migrated to Canada. Kek Sui and his son, Kok Pan continued the operation until the new owner took over.


Kanga said...

There seens to be one tool missing? You know that manual(modern ones are electric)hair shearer!The manual ones can jam your hair if it is not well maintained.
Remember that hair gel called 'Tanjo' which can make your hair stood up like curry puffs. You have to pay extra for that!
In the village we had barber on wheels(on bicycles and later on motor bikes).No baby powder treatment. 50 cents per cut. Go for quick shower after hair cut.

Lidasar said...

Oh yes I remember this barber, he is the 2nd generation. The shop use to occupy a bigger area before giving up half the space to a goldsmith. I had my hair cut by his father or the other partner whom is shorter, fatter and fairer and once a while will ditch out classical Hock Chiew songs after high on alcohol.

Kanga, are you sure it is not the classic red or green container Brylcreem? Mind you this Brylcreem was created in 1928 Birmingham, England. The only know hair cream in my generation, no hair gel then.

Daniel Yiek said...

I know which hair shearer gadget you looks like a small lawnmower for the hair!

I remember the wet Brylcreem. ha!! It was not as good for managing floppy Asian hair vs gel or mousse. There was another brand later called Code 10 or something like that.

I think there was ear digging and shaving service as well.

Daniel Yiek said...

I found the prices:
Haircut = RM$6.50
Haircut with ear wax cleaning = RM$8

Anonymous said...

Great, I like your blogger. I am from Sarikei but now have been settled in Sabah. Have been following your bloggers very frequently! Keep up your good works.

KongJL said...

Miss the shop very much... Now hardly can find such barber. Quite enjoy the time when having hair cut at this old barber shop, during secondary school age.

Anonymous said...


My dad used to bring me to this barber shop behind the Eastern cafe during the 1960-s.

it was 0.50 cts per hair cut then.

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