Sunday, November 27, 2011

Disappearing Sarikei: Repok Road Block 4 Left - Mishmash of trades

Sarikei Block 4L, 2007.
L-R: No. 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33


Searching for a tailor for your festive clothes? Looking for a family photo session? Doing your weekly marketing of groceries? Buying your herbal fix? Look no further than this block which was completed circa 1953. The facade of this block had been altered significantly. The wooden windows of level 2 and the open air balcony of level 3 had been replaced by dark tinted windows in a coordinated renovation with no conservation of its heritage. 

Let's trace the early operators of this block and its myriad of trades.


Sarikei No. 23 Repok Road,
1960 school magazine ad,
Source: Ease Chen.


No 23.
Seng Hong was a trader of local produce and a grocery store. It was later replaced by Seng Kit 成吉 which was shifted from 14 Wharf Road by its towkay, 張武祥, or Ah Bu (阿武 in Hokkien) in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

Ah Bu followed an early Chinese migrant 林昭边 to Sarikei in 1927 when the latter came back to Sarikei after his trip to China. Ah Bu started as an assistant at 林恒德 (4 Wharf Road) where he learned bookkeeping and the abacus. He later worked for 成吉, a Hokkien shop owned by Mr Yap 葉忠賢, a relative of Dr. Joseph Yap’s father, 葉生財. Ah Bu married 葉忠賢's daughter in the 1930s. When his father-in-law passed away, he took over the business of Seng Kit as 葉忠賢 only had an adopted son. (Source: Ikan Sembilang).

Seng Kit was a sleek modern shop in its hey days in the 1970s as a distributor of cigarettes like Benson and Hedges and 555. Ah Bu was a ardent badminton player and he had a badminton court drawn in the open space (at the back) between Block3L and Block 4L. The goods trolleys were parked at the front of the open space. In the evening stray soccer balls from the padang would rocket into this area. At night this open space was populated by buskers and snake oil salesmen.

As this was a corner shop, the real estate behind was also rented out to an apparels store called 榮華 Yong Hua and a Far East book store that didn't survive long.



Sarikei Block 4L, 2007.
L-R: No. 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33



Sarikei No. 25 Repok Road,
1960 school magazine ad,
Source: Ease Chen.


No. 25
Half the shop was operated by a Foochow trader, Hock Lee 福利, which traded in local produce. The back of the shop was filled with gunny sacks. Kids used to sneak through the unlocked back door to hide among the sacks during games. The front portion did a simple tidbit business.


The other half was a goldsmith, Pak Hing 伯, with its glass cabinets of gold accessories and a messy workbench with its traditional tools like a magnifying eye piece and a high temperature flamer.


Sarikei No. 27 Repok Road,
1960 school magazine ad,
Source: Ease Chen.



No. 27
On the left was Shin Lee 新利 electrical appliance store operated by a Foochow. Mr Wong had a big family of 5 girls and 2 boys and they lived on the 3rd level with his parents then. This shop was the first to bring black and white TV to Sarikei in the mid 1970s (1976?), a status symbol in those days. The shop's five-foot way would be crowded with eager kids outside when the TV was turned on for the cartoons. Mr Wong also owns Dragon Inn at Jalan Masjid Lama.

On the right was a very well stocked Foochow grocery store Hua Tong 華通 with the usual canned food and daily needs. The towkay, Mr Wong, has a son who's now a professor at Singapore's NTU.



 Sarikei Block 4L, 2010.
L-R: No. 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33.
Source: Sarikeians


No. 29
The left side had a row of sewing machines with the towkay neo hanging a measuring tape around her shoulders and peering through her horn rimmed glasses. This was Asia Tailors 亞洲 which was run by the Chia family. (Update: Hakka)

The right side was a Cantonese apparels store Weng Yik 永益 (later replaced by Culture Bookstore 文化 from 15 Repok Road in the 1980s)

They have one of the cleanest shared shophouse kitchen in Sarikei where the kids of Asia Tailors did their tuition before they were allowed into the padang at the back for games.

Sarikei No. 31 Repok Road,
1960 school magazine ad,
Source: Ease Chen.

No. 31
Ho Seng 和成 grocery store was on the left of the shop. It was run by towkay Ting (Foochow?)

A typical grocery shop (not talking about Ho Seng here) in those days would have the usual floor to ceiling shelves to maximise display and a big Milo tin hanging from the ceiling on a pulley system (sometimes just rubber bands) where they kept small change.



Sarikei No. 31 Repok Road,
1956 school magazine ad,
Source: Ease Chen.


Hong San Tong 雲山堂 (Foochow) was a traditional Chinese medicine store with a dark brown chest of drawers filled with herbs. Herbs were weighed with a traditional balancing scale and packed with white paper and followed by an outer pink paper. Mr Yii was a sinseh that could listen to your pulse via his fingers without a stethoscope.


Sarikei No. 33 Repok Road,
1975 school magazine ad,
Source: Ease Chen


No.33
The first level was a popular photo studio called Peking Studio operated by Mr Lau Kiing Ing 刘恭仁 (separate post here).

On the ground floor before the current Hiek Lik 協力 kopitiam was 即桃園 Chee Toh Hong kopitiam. Nocturnal beings thronged this corner shop for its popular kampua noodles and drinks.
 

 Sarikei Block 4L, 2010.
L-R: No. 23, 25, 27, 29, 31, 33.
Source: Sarikeians


Now this block has another hodgepodge of trades and a new generation of retailers that go on its daily rat race. Old Sarikei is disappearing with its heritage and roots. Lest we forget.

3 comments:

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Excellent work!! The Peking Studio belonged to my late cousin....now his son (almost my age) calls me Biu Goo....very funny to westerners!! But that is how we Foochows are culturally...

阿炳 (Ah Bing) said...

Asia Tailors 亞洲 family is Hakka.

The Cantonese apparels store Weng Yik 永益 that sold items such as shoe, undergarment. If you can remember the tragedy that sunk Pulau Kijiang, both the Towkay & the eldest daughter were killed and their bodies were never found. Imagine the agony the Towkay Neo gone through during that festive year end when the waves took Pulau Kijiang.

Daniel Yiek said...

Ah Bing,
Thanks for the info.

United Daily News published a series of articles & interviews with the affected families in mid June 2009 of this black chapter in Sarawak's maritime history.

If anyone has the articles, please email me at dyiek@hotmail.com

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