Sunday, August 28, 2011

Disappearing Sarikei: Repok Road Block 6 Right - The forgone joy of cinemas

Bai Sheng cinema. 1953.
At current location of Oriental Hotel block.
Repok Road

Let's go to the movies. In the early 1950s, it means hanging out at Bai Sheng 百勝 (Hundred Victories in Mandarin) where street vendors would peddle their snacks outside the cinema - kacang putih in newspaper cones, etc. This wooden structure was at the current location of the Block 6 Right Repok Road (a.k.a The Oriental Hotel block)

 L-R: Old Methodist Church, Bai Sheng cinema, Block 5 Right
Repok Road. Early 1950s

This rare picture shows how Repok Road Right looked like in the early 1950s with the old wooden Methodist Church, Bai Sheng cinema and the almost completed Block 5 Right (the recently burnt block).

 L-R: Block 6 Right and Block 5 Right
Repok Road. 1957
Find Chartered Bank, the Hotel sign and new lamp post.
Borneo Bus station.
Source: Ease Chen

Another previously published photo is put side by side with the old pictures here to show the development. There's a new type street lamp post to hold the overhead cables which were resting places for the swarms of swallows. They came to feast on the insects attracted by the bright lights of the first town up from the Rejang River mouth then. Borneo Bus (incorporated in 1956) located its station at this edge of the downtown then.

Block 6 Right was completed circa 1955. It was the pride of the town then with its early modern style of curved edges and its soaring height of 4 storeys - making it the tallest building in Sarikei. The Chartered Bank was located here (see photo). It was renamed Standard Chartered Bank in 1969 after a merger with Standard Bank. Above the bank was the Oriental Hotel signboard.

Block 6 Right, Repok Road, 2010
L-R:  No. 54, 52, 50, 48

No. 48:
The Chartered Bank was on the ground floor until it moved in 1972 to the Hung Kiew Kee (Ah Kow's restaurant) block at Berjaya Road. The owner (Kueh family; Hokkien) then opened Sin Kim Hin 新金興 apparels store. This is the same extended Kueh family that owned the current 新金興 Sin Kim Hin of No .12 Wharf Road. Lim's 林 Trading operated there in late 1970s.

The late Dr Joseph Yap Ah Ming was related to this Kueh family and opened his clinic at the back in the 1970s. Do you remember the patient cards that crowded the reception's shelves? Did you squirm when the receptionist called out your name?

The ground floor was a coffee shop in the early 1990s called Hin Hin 興興. It is now operating as Oriental 東方 restaurant.The Kueh family opened the Oriental 東方 Hotel which is still operating today. It was the best hotel in Sarikei during its hey days.

No. 50
Sing Chuong 沁泉 (Foochow) operated an air conditioned restaurant that competed against Hung Kiew Kee (Ah Kow's restaurant) in the mid 1970s to 1980s.

A mini mart, 新豐迷, operated in the early 1990s. In the early 2000s, electrical appliance store, Aifah 億發, started its business there. The towkay is the son of Hong Kong Studio's owner (No. 8 Wharf Road in the 1970s)

Ta Lu 大陸 photo studio operated from 1st floor in the early 1960s.

Block 6 Right, Repok Road, 2011
L-R No. 54, 52, 50, 48
Source: Sarikeians

No. 52
From 1st Jan 1962 to the mid 1990s, 農民 Agricultural Marketing Society operated at level 1 to help farmers trade in agricultural products. Now Ing Hing 榮興 Watch dealer keeps time there.

In the 1970s, Alice 愛麗Dress Making and Beauty Institute was on level 2.

No. 54
協順 Hiap Soon general store (clothes and apparels) operated here  in the 1970s. This Foochow owned store moved from No. 14 Wharf Road to No. 9 Wharf Road before settling here.
In the early 1980s, Foochow owned Ambassador 國寶 cafe opened on the ground floor and Ambassador 國寶 Hotel above it. The cafe is still operating but the hotel closed in late 2006.The neon sign of the hotel is still there but the name has been blanked out. 



Just like the forgone joy of cinemas in Sarikei.


Anonymous said...

it's about time, cinema coming back to Sarikei

Sarawakiana@2 said...

I love the old cinema days...weekends were what we looked forward to with great anticipation and we would talk about the movies for a week..until the next blockbuster...thanks.

I believe that's where most of my critical thinking skills came from....thanks to my friends who love to critique movies!!

sarikeikia said...

When I was reading this blog much earlier on it was reader lidasar who rightly pointed out where Bai Sheng cinema was located, notice the contribution from readers is a little dry this year or so.

Daniel Yiek said...

Cinemas can still attract audience if the experience can be a notch above the experience in front of the TV or PC. eg: 3D, hi quality sound, nice ambience and the fun of connecting with friends (not in the virtual world)

Yes, those were the nice days of going out to the movies.

Yes, reader Lidasar pointed out the location correctly. A government website even wrongly listed this as the former Rex and the first cinema in Repok Rd.

The shift to social networking media like Facebook and Twitter has crept into the time of many people. The era of instant gratification and nugget size information means that blogging is a dying media. Several regular bloggers I follow have stopped blogging. People like reading but not many like writing beyond a few words on facebook.

For this blog, the number of readers have increased but the average age has also decreased with more students and 20-somethings.

I still have about 8 months of content left but maybe I will get more inspiration and content from readers later.

sarikeikia said...

I totally agree with you, I believe majority of readers are too young to know enough of the Sarikei's history so it would be extremely difficult to contribute.

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