Monday, September 12, 2011

Disappearing Sarikei: Repok Road Block 5 Right - Ashes to ashes

Sarikei Block 5 Right Repok Road, circa 1953
L-R: Old Methodist church, Bai Sheng cinema and Block 5R
L-R: No. 46, 44, 42, 40, 38, 36 Repok Road (under construction) 

This block was completed circa 1953. It was famous for delivering babies, providing school shoes for the babies when they grew up and feeding their hunger pangs in the kopitiam when they became teens. Let's roll back the curtains ...

No. 36 Repok Road
Wailing babies, wet home made cotton diapers and talcum powder? That's the private maternity ward on the first floor (Sin Ming 新民) in the 1960s-1970s. It's common for the stork to deliver half a dozen of kids or more per family in the 1940s-70s due to a lack of family planning. The ward also did ear piercing. There was no anaesthetic or antiseptic then so they would rub your ear lobes with ginger before and after piercing.

The ward was started by a lady, a sister of Joseph Wong, the medical officer stationed at the former Sarikei hospital at half mile, Repok Road in 1950s/1960s. She married Ting Sieng Meow, whose father was a tofu maker. Joseph and her sister are the children of Wong Chu Hua 黃萃華. He was not a qualified medical doctor but had a permit to be a medical practitioner (called "elasar") in Sibu.

Below it was the Sarikei Trading Company whose advertisement in 1956 stated importer, commission agents and general merchants. This means it's likely a trader in agricultural goods.

In the late 1970s-mid 1990s, a popular 24-hour coffeeshop (Ngee Hin ) shouted its orders there. This cafe served great kam pua noodles from a Mr Yii (nicknamed "tick dui" (hammer)) and also local favourites like laksa, chow mee and roti

Behind the coffee shop was an Indian Muslim who operated an aromatic spice store that sold all the things you needed to make delicious curry.

ABX courier, a Digi and later an Oricom handphone shop and Jun Cheng stationary shop were the last shops which did business there before the fire.

Sarikei Block 5 Right Repok Road, 2006
L-R: No. 46, 44, 42, 40, 38, 36 Repok Road 

No.38 Repok Road
In the 1970s-mid 1990s, half of the shop was Tung Hing 同 Furniture. The Foochow carpenter could customise furniture too. The standard size mattresses of today (single or queen) will not fit those bed he made because the Sarikeians were shorter then. His son was very active in the Boys Brigade.

The other half was Chip Cheong 集昌 which specialised in farming products like pesticides and fertilisers.

HoHim motorbike store did business here when it was burnt. The popular brand there was Honda. Rilek office operated above HoHim.

No. 40 Repok Road
In the 1970s, SweHon (Swee Hung) 瑞豐 sundry shop operated here before moving to start a supermarket at No. 23 Jalan Masjid Lama in the 1980s at a newer block behind.

大家 coffeeshop operated here in the late 2000s.

 Sarikei Block 5 Right Repok Road, 1st Oct 2010
L-R: No. 46, 44, 42, 40, 38, 36 Repok Road

No. 42 Repok Road
Before school reopened in the 1960s-1970s, you would set foot into this original Bata franchisee operated by a towkay who have two sons (one was a friendly mute guy). Do you recall those washable white cotton shoes? 

In the old days, if those rural kids didn't travel to town, their parent would cut out a cardboard of the foot to bring to Bata. Some simply brought along a raffia string of the foot's length. Exchanges were allowed with no questions asked.

The business moved next to SweHon at Jalan Masjid Lama at the newer block in the 1980s. The current Bata shop seems to be operated by a different franchisee (?). Bata has served Sarikei well as a sole provider.

Dong Dong bicycle repair shop 东东 operated at the other half in the 1960s-70s. The typical smell of rubber and engine oil will drift towards you as you walked past.

Lai Hin furniture shop (front) and Lik Huat 立發Joss Sticks (back) did business here before it was burnt.

  Sarikei Block 5 Right Repok Road, 1st Oct 2010
L-R: No. 46, 44, 42, 40, 38, 36 Repok Road

No. 44 Repok Road
An agency of Hock Hua Bank was started by the son-in-law of Wong Ngiong Hua 王仰华, the Foochow kapitan. The Chartered Bank took over the space when this agency shifted to the 1st floor of No. 7 Repok Road (above his father-in-law's shop but it's defunct). This is why there was no Hock Hua Bank from the 1960s onwards in Sarikei.

Yii Lee 裕利 general store did business here in the 1970s to mid 1990s. The other half was shared with Fu Jia 福嘉 (Type of store? Bicycle repair shop?)

Laser electrical appliance store was here before it was burnt.

No.46 Repok Road
In the 1970s-mid 1990s, this corner shop had a 遠成 watch shop. The same Cantonese family sold simple footwear too. It now operates at the first block of Jalan Masjid Lama.

In the early 1990s, this corner shop had three additional tenants: 時代 hair salon, 順利 electronics and 安.

In the 2000s, a blood test centre (My Lab diagnostics centre) operated on 1st floor and Jia Guo 嘉国 hand phone shop and 婷婷watch shop operated on the ground.

 Sarikei Block 5 Right Repok Road, 2010

On 1st October 2010, an inferno razed this block to the ground. It was shocking day for Sarikei. The remaining debris had been cleared. The whole block is now an empty plot waiting for redevelopment into yet another meaningless monolithic block of shops.

Disappearing Sarikei. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust...


Sarawakiana@2 said...

Very good detailed description...Should be archived...any are already putting it into your time capsule...thanks.

阿炳 said...

Before Ngee Hin coffeeshop the boss was selling watches, he converted it to selling coffee in the 1970s.
Pre-1970s last shop right behind was a coffin shop, making coffin and selling them and right on top was an opium den, illegal of course.

Daniel Yiek said...

Pasted an old comment from reader Lidasar on the wooden block of shops:

同利華 Tong Li Hua silent movie cinema was before Sin Hua 新華. It was located at the 5th block of Repok Road Right. It was on the upper level of the middle shop and right behind was the house of Low Ah Kiew. 同利華 Tong Li Hua was the business of the Chan, related to early kapitan Chan Wei 陳偉. 同利華 was involved in sawmill in lower Rajang in the early days before the wooden shop blocks were built along Repok Road.

Kanga said...

Was it No.42 or was it No.44.... In the 60's, you would wake up in the morning greeted by the loud music from a big speaker in front this shop. I forgot the shop's name. It was an electrical goods shop. You didn't need alarm clock and the music was good.....

阿炳 said...

just to continue the coffin story.... The coffin maker at No.46 Repok Rd was a Shanghainese and a bachelor, Shanghai is popular for carpentry work so you can trust his workmanship is top class. He return to China for his retirement after old age. Where else could one buy a coffin in Sarikei in those early days (1950s - 1970s)? The coffin trader in those days was the shop called Soon Chiong 順昌 at No 1 Repok Road. The shop owner Mr Wong has a piece of land that Repok Rd cut through at 1st mile and the coffin was kept at that location. They don't make the coffin, they are buying them from coffin maker in Sibu and selling them in Sarikei. Don't ask me where to buy one now, I won't have the answer.

Daniel Yiek said...

Thanks for the interesting comments, folks. I have delayed writing about these shop blocks because it's so difficult to trace the 1st few batches of shops because these are the people that built downtown. The later batches built on their foundation. I relied on

a) readers' comments
b) old telephone directory
c) school magazine ads (thanks to Ease Chen!)
d)asking Sarikeians

I have updated the blog with some other info on the last batch of shops that occupied this block before the inferno.

Daniel Yiek said...

Got an email from someone that used to stay at that block:

The bicycle repair shop at No. 42 Repok Road is called Dong Dong. (updated in the blog)

阿炳 said...

Let 阿炳 tell you the story of bicycle.... The boss of the Bata shop Mr Koh is a Henghua whose father operated one of the bicycle repair shop at the block 7 (wooden) Repok Right in the very early days, the father sold the business and returned to China for retirement.

Mr Koh and his classmate Mr Chiew (Cantonese) both Sarikei High student started a bicycle repair shop at No 42 Repok Rd. They were bicycle shop partners in the early days and later Bata agency was added to the business. So in the early days the shop at No 42 Repok Rd was a bicycle shop and also selling Bata. Later both partner decided to split and Mr Koh took on the Bata business and stay on at No 42 Repok whereas Mr Chiew brought the bicycle business across the road to No 39 Repok Rd Left. Mr Chiew operated a successful bicycle shop at No 39 Repok Rd for many years until retirement.

Daniel Yiek said...

Good story!

The Cantonese owned bicycle shop at No.39 is Kwong Hock Lee 廣福利 ("Cantonese welfare" for direct translation).

There was a traditional barber at the front corner of the same shop or was in No. 37 or No.41.

Kanga said...

Very good re-collection of the bicycle shops on both sides of this area of Repok Road.

I recall it costed me 30 cents to repair a bicycle tube puncture in those days. Tools required were; a file, sand paper, glue, a hammer,a bucket of water, a big screw driver to lever off the tyre to reach the bicycle tube...

阿炳 said...

Yes the traditional barber at the front corner was at the same shop as the bicycle shop No.39 Repok Rd. He was a Malay barber, a big build encik. Kanga should recall, was on the same raw as your dad's shop.

Daniel mentioned the Bata franchisee towkay have two sons, is good to know that a son of Sarikei is now a captain of the corporate world, check this out and if you do know the director & CEO.

Daniel Yiek said...

Wow. Couldn't recognise Mr Koh. Can only remember him as a tall left handed guy who played basketball

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