Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Scenes - Sarikei Wharf Road Block 4. Part 2

Block 4 at the T-junction of Wharf Road and Market Road is the oldest cement block of shop house left standing in the old downtown of Sarikei. Block 4 was built in 1931-1932. Block 1 was built in 1935.

Sarikei Wharf Road (R) & Market Road (L); late 1940s, post war.
Block 4. L-R: No. 22, No. 21, No. 20
Find the unpaved Market Road & electricity poles along the
Find the 1937 District Office in the background.

What were the soldiers doing???

Before World War II, No. 22 & No. 21 was occupied by the shop Kwong Hup Hin 廣合興 (Cantonese) and was operated by the descendants of Chen Mong (1879-1939). The most famous son was Chen Ko Ming. No.21 was used for their storage and accommodation. After the war, No. 22 was occupied by the Borneo Company Limited (see signboard in the picture).

Kwong Hup Hin moved to No. 5 Wharf Road after the war and shared No. 5 with Kwong Lee Bank which had opened in 1937 under the manager Chan Soo Kwong 陳樹廣. Bank Road was named because of this bank facing the Rejang River. The bank later moved to No. 22.

Sarikei Wharf Road, 2007
Block 4. L-R: No. 22 (not shown), 21, 20 (Aik Seng), 19, 18, 17)

The bank's manager at No. 22 then was Leong Ming Tak 梁明德 (from Singapore). He was very active in organising the 1st Kwong Lee Bank Cup (Sarawak inter-district basketball tournament) in Sarikei. Mr. Leong, a Cantonese, was educated in Szechuan and Canton. He spoke Mandarin with a Szechuan cum Cantonese accent. In the early 1970s, he was transferred to Golden Castle Finance Company 金獅金融公司 in Singapore as its manager.

Sarikei has continued its banking tradition. If you walk around town today, there are a bewildering number of banks. The question is which bank can you bank on? The one that gives you a free umbrella for opening a savings account?


Daniel Yiek said...

Received this email comment:

the oldest block of Wharf Road used galvanised corrugated sheets for roofing and the structure is not as solid as the other blocks.

The policemen wore Australian Rangers' hats,baggy shorts with leggings as large as pyjamas and carried .303 WWI rifles.I was told that one couldn't fire more than 20 shots without cooling the barrels with his warm urine. Water is too cold n would cause the barrels to shrink so much that the next bullet could not be loaded. How could they fight with the Japs in WWII?

sarikeikia said...

This is very old history of Sarikei, not many can relate to such old record. This block is indeed the oldest shophouse standing till today. Chen Mong was one of those 1st generation Cantonese towkay, the other prominent Cantonese towkay was Chan Loke. Those who know them must be in their 80s now and even they are vague except that Chan Mong among other thing smokes opium, keeps beard and had two wives. Smoking opium was common in those days or have you seen smoking from a big bamboo water pipe?

There wasn’t any Kwang Lee Bank in Sarikei until around 1953 when they 1st open a branch at No 22 Wharf Rd. The Bank had a branch in Sibu and Chan Soo Kwong 陳樹廣 was the manager for Sibu branch. Mr Chan also tried his luck in starting a chicken farm in Sarikei but failed, later he started another chicken farm in Sibu.

The bank only provide service to the few big towkays in Sarikei who does export, every once or twice a week two employees from the Sibu branch will carry cash and take the motor boat from Sibu to Sarikei and the journey would take half a day. Those who export their products can receive their cash this way and the bank make use of Kwong Hup Hin at No. 5 Wharf Road to issue out the cash. You can’t open a saving account or current account in Sarikei, you need to do it at their Sibu branch. In the late 1940s pepper price was at it peak and there was this Cantonese farmer from Sarikei who carry a gunny sack of cash outside Kwang Lee Bank Sibu aimlessly as he never entered a bank before, the bank manager was suspicious and when he questioned the man replied asking if he can bank his cash, the bank manager was only too happy to receive this new customer. Who knows this was what prompted the bank to start a branch in Sarikei? For the record this conservative bank was started by a Cantonese family in Kuching, the bank manager Mr Lim who was the Sarikei branch manager from 1970s - 1980s was a relative.

Daniel Yiek said...

Sarikeikia, Thanks for the very insightful comment.

Question: Are you saying that the "bank" at No. 5 Wharf Road was not officially called Kwong Lee bank until it moved to No. 22 in 1953? Pls see below which I referenced.


Kwong Lee Mortgage & Remittance Company was started by Mr. Lam Ting Yeu in 1905 in Kuching. It granted loans against the security of export commodities such as pepper, rubber and other indigenous products. It provided the services of remitting money of migrant Chinese to their families in South East China. It opened branches in Sibu (1923) and Singapore (1926). After the Depression on 26 Oct 1934, the company was converted into a public company under the name Kwong Lee Bank. It then opened in Sarikei (1937) and Binatang (1973). It was acquired by MUI group in 1982 and then it was acquired by Hong Leong Group Malaysia in 1994.

sarikeikia said...

Banks could apply for license to operate branches but they might not open the branch right away, especially when it is difficult to get approval for new license. Sometime they would close down a particular branch and move the license elsewhere.
They do not have a full time staff station in Kwong Hup Hin, you can’t open a bank account with them or keep your saving with them. Their staff would carry money by the shoulder load from Sibu each week and If you check out those old shops who does export business they all have huge and heavy safe to store them. A few shops was mortgaged to Kwang Lee bank and after the war the bank would occasionally held auction in front of the shop to sale it off.

This is a Cantonese bank and that is why they employ cantonese as manager like Mr Chan Soo Kwong 陳樹廣, Leong Ming Tak 梁明德 and also the manager in the 1970s - 1980s Mr Lim is a Cantonese. Any reason why they choose Kwong Hup Hin as their service point? For the record Hock Hua bank which is a Foochow bank from Sibu started with a service office at No 7 Repok Rd above the shop that was operated by Foochow Kapitan Wong Yong Hua but it was ill-fated.

To answer your question, the "bank" at Kwong Hup Hin No 5 Wharf Rd is Kwong Lee Bank but that is not officially a bank or the Sarikei branch until they started one at No 22 Wharf Rd.

The Borneo Co Ltd moved to their new office plus warehouse further down the road and Kwang Lee Bank moved in. When Kwang Lee Bank moved out it was then occupied by an ex-employee of The Borneo Co Ltd who started the Kim San Agency, a reclusive tall gentleman.

Daniel Yiek said...

Got another email comment below:

The family of Chan Soo Kwong 陳樹廣lived on Level 2 of No. 5 Wharf Road and the ground floor was the office. His only son, Chen Ching Yen 陳慶源, and Lo Fu Seng 羅福勝,a son of one of his staff Mr. Lo Ah Kui 羅亞貴, attended kindergarten of Kwang Chien School 廣建學校 under Mdm.Ong Poh Ai 王保愛.

I remember how little chicken were hatched by incubation heated with electricity at the bank's office at No.5. It was a sensation in those days. Nobody believed that could be done. I think the chicken hatching story fits Mr Chan's move into chicken farming.

sarikeikia said...

Chen Ching Yen 陳慶源 work as a career salesman for The Borneo Co., Ltd.

Lo Fu Seng 羅福勝 hold a senior position in The Borneo Co., Ltd when the most senior position was held by one called Lo Pak Man. Both were kicked out from The Borneo Co., Ltd when the company accused them of mismanagement. Later Lo Pak Man joined SUPP and enter the race for a district office where he defeated Chen Ko Meng. The eldest brother of Chen Ko Meng was also defeated in another district (Bulat) to Chong Chon Qua.

The wife of Mr. Lo Ah Kui 羅亞貴 opened the 1st hair saloon in the town and also his house was right behind 4th block Repok right. Lo Ah Kui died early before the war and he was the 1st one to be buried in the then new graveyard at 2.5 mile Repok Rd. Actually there was a debate to wait for an elderly instead of allowing Mr Lo who died young to be the 1st to use the new graveyard.

Anonymous said...

Chen Mong did not have 2 wives. He only remarried after his 1st wife died.

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