Monday, August 15, 2011

Disappearing Sarikei: Repok Road Block 7 Right - The Mechanics

  Sarikei Repok Road Block 7 Right, mid-late 1970s
Next to Methodist Church
Find the Dunlop and shop signs
Source: Aloysius Ling

In the 1960s, when you came into town on a bumpy Borneo bus or a rickety "re-cond" (re-conditioned) car with a miniature fan swirling nosily inside, you would inevitably smell a drift of grease just after Methodist Church. You had just entered the edge of downtown where three wooden single-storey mechanic buildings gave you a silent welcome.The interiors often looked very dark and there were mechanics working right next to the road.

Sarikei Repok Road Block 7 Right
No. 60 Repok Road
1960 advertisement in school magazine
Source: Ease Chen

The Henghua dialect group ruled the bicycle shops in old Sarikei with 3 Henghua families operating bicycle business at these three single-storey wooden shops. Two of the owners returned to China after the war.(Source: reader Lidasar)

The first two mechanic shops belonged to Mr Lau Tien Guan 劉天源 in the 1960s. This 1960 advertisement revealed interesting aspects of Sarikeian life. It reads 天源 bicycle shop with a Repok Road address with no number. Sarikei was small enough then so he did not bother listing the shop number (No. 60 Repok Road). Advertisements in school magazines were and are still meant to heavily subsidise the cost of printing annual school magazines.

The double digit telephone number was not a typo. Telephone lines were more than enough since not everyone could afford it. Telephone line fees did not count the duration of your local calls then because local calls came free with the monthly fee.

This mechanic is a Henghua, a dialect group that is known for their mechanic skills and transport industry. The ad also showed that he and his apprentices were  jacks of all trades (car servicing, water and land machines repairs, sales of bicycles and machine spare parts).

The other corner mechanic (No. 55 Repok Road) was 新生利機械公司 Sing Seng Lee Engineering. Is this owner Henghua too?

Sarikei Repok Road Block 7 Right, 2007
Find Oriental Hotel (Block 6 Right)
View towards Rejang River

The mechanic blocks were demolished around 1987-1989. A monolithic block of 4-storey shops replaced it. There's RHB Bank at one corner. In the middle are Greatown Travel agency (which can organise local tours. No.58 Repok Road, Tel +6 084 65233 ) and JJ Watch which shares half of the shop. In the other corner is Laser, an electrical appliance store, which took over (in 2011) from Leno, a franchise shop of fashion and accessories, leather wares, personal healthcare items, household and car care. Laser was located in the burnt Block 5 Right before

Sarikei Repok Road Block 7 Right, 2011
Methodist church (L) and Oriental Hotel block (R)
Source: Sarikeians facebook

Today as you drive past the Methodist Church towards town in your air conditioned car, your brain may still be wired to prepare for the whiff of mechanic oil drifting in from your disappearing Sarikei.

1 comment:

Sarawakiana@2 said...

love your photos of Disappearing Sarikei...

We can combine effort..I have Disappearing Miri!!

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