Thursday, June 12, 2008

Scenes - Sarikei Wharf Road Customs House

At the location of the old Customs House was the first wet market in Sarikei in the 1930s. That wet market was a single storied building made of belian (iron wood). The wet market was moved to the current wet market at Bank Road in the 1950s and this building was converted into a recreation club. (source: Reader Lidasar).

Sarikei Customs House, circa 1948-1955Wharf Road in backgroundSource: Chun Fen 春風 Studio
Submitted by Ikan Sembilang

Cargo ships owned by the Sarawak Steamship Company, including M. V. ‘Bruas’, used to berth at the wharf to load cargo of rubber and pepper for shipment to Singapore. The collapsed concrete wharf (built before World War II by a Singapore company) can be seen in the middle of the picture. Check out Hedda Morrison’s photo taken in 1947/1948 (click label below) to see the other half of the collapsed wharf. (Source: Reader Ikan Sembilang)
After the wharf collapsed, the authorities built a wooden floating wharf that resembled the one in front of the clock tower. During low tide, the wharf would be more inclined. Later this was replaced by two concrete platformsjoined togegether. In the early 1970s, this was replaced with the concrete pontoon at Wharf Terminal 1. (Source: Reader Lidasar)

Sarikei Customs House, circa 1948-1955
View from Market Road.
No 22 Wharf Road, Kwong Lee Bank (left)
Source: Chun Fen 春風 StudioSubmitted by Ikan Sembilang

On the left was No 22 Wharf Road (Block 4 Wharf Road) where Kwong Lee Bank started in 1937. The two coconut trees on the right marked the location where the present Sarikei Police Station would be built in the 1950s.
On the right, in front of the godown, was a concrete water tank where Sarikei folks used to obtain their water. In the early days, shops weren't fitted with pipes and taps. The Brooke authority built a big water tank with water drawn from upper Rajang River and transported by boat to the wharf. Folks had to buy water from this source and some hired coolies to carry water to their shops on a daily basis using a bamboo pole with two buckets in front and two behind.

This went on until 1950s when piped water were installed. In the beginning the water were drawn from Jakar and during dry spells, tap water became very salty and water had to be brought in by truck to the location where JKR is. Town folks collected water from there using a container fasten to a bicycle or 3-wheeler or 4-wheeler push cart. This happened even in the 1960s until the water board changed the location to draw water from Penghulu Eman's home base at Sungai Payong. (Source: Reader Lidasar)

Sarikei Chun Fen StudioNo. 8 Wharf Road1956 advertisementSource: Ease Chen

Chun Fen 春風 photo studio (on the 1st floor of No. 8 Wharf Road) was started by Chua Wei Ming 蔡伟明, son of the Hokkien owner of Kim Seng Ang (No. 3 Wharf Road). He was a photo enthusiast. He passed away early and his wife (sister of Chen Ko Ming) took over the business for a while before a Foochow took over and converted the name to 香港 Hong Kong studio which still exists today in a newer shop. (source: Reader Lidasar)

Sarikei Customs 2006View from Wharf Road

If you import goods from foreign countries like dried persimmons via Singapore, you have to clear customs here. In the 1970s, some ships bypass this process via Tanjung Manis. The new customs building (completed in 1974) has a front entrance that seemed to be inspired by those machinery that hoist giant containers in ports around the world. How many of you like this new building's entrance?


lidasar said...

Chen Ko Ming's contemporaries who studied in Singapore and probably know each other well were the adopted son of Cantonese Kapitan Chan Wei 陳偉 and also one Foochow Kapitan son from Binatang by the name 林理化 born 1921. When the Japanese attack Singapore Ko Ming manage to find his way back to Sarikei by the help of smaller boat. It was heard that Chan Wei's son joined a resistance movement that fight against the Japanese and he was lost without any trace, a hero from Sarikei. Of course Chan Wei got another adopted daughter who was a teacher and married to the late Temanggung Chou Pak Ming of the 1980s. 林理化did not return to Binatang either where his dad was the owner of a prominent 五金 business. He sold rojak by the road side to survive the war and left a remarkable career setting up business that help to network his family business in Sarawak that almost monopolize marine engineering and parts. 林理化 is not only successful in business but the most prominent Foochow community leader in Singapore Foochow Association. If you could catch up with him in Singapore I am sure he could recall the days in Binatang and also his friendship with Ko Ming.

Kanga said...

This custom house and the associated wharf had served Sarikei very well for many years. I rememberd in the early years, there were times when goods moved in both direction at a fantastic pace through this house. I also remembered when the coolies worked late into the night to get the sacks of pepper ready to be loaded for export. And of course I also heard stories of "submarine" activities associated with this place. It was all part of Sarikei life in those days.

Daniel Yiek said...

Interesting WW II story. If anyone has any more WW II story, pls email as I would like to do another post on WW II.

I recall that Tanjung Manis or Tanjung Money (the local dialect pronounciation..not related to the English word "$Money$") was rumored in kopitiam talk to have "jau sai" (smuggled in Hokkien) goods in the 1970s. There was no Tanjung Manis wharf/town/airport then..just Rajang village and a deep river mouth where ships parked.

Rajang village was more developed than Sarikei in the very old days.

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