August 14, 2012

Chinese Clogs

click clock click clock
goes the young girl in her Chinese Clogs
click clock click clock
it's not the clock
It's  the click clocking of the Chinese girl
Who brings the pork
to make our chook
It's the Chinese girl wearing a pink frock
with a pony tail flying in the air....
click clock click clock
the sounds and memories  fading away

Women wear the "waisted clogs" while men wear the clogs without the waist.
Men's clogs. Photo courtesy of Dr. Madeleine Berma

Growing up in Sibu town (as a town girl) I had plenty of opportunities to observe the trades and crafts of the bustling town.

One of the crafts shops was the Char Kiak shop or the clog shop which was situated behind Hock Liong Hin just opposite the Standard Chartered Bank. In the 1950's and 1960's this little outlet owned by a non-Foochow who made chak kiak to order. He would sit on his low stool and fashion out the proper sizes of the clogs and nail the rubber top onto the wooden soles carefully. The nails I remember were very small and he would line or reinforce the top with two pieces of recycled bicycle inner tube pieces..Thus every clog would have a black strip of rubber on both sides. This would ensure the the nail would stay in place and for a long time. Repairs could be done too for when the nails fell off he would gladly get some more pieces of the rubber tubing and just nail back the top flap!! In this way a pair of clogs could last until the wood sole wore thin!!

What I liked was the sound of the click clock coming nearer and nearer. Some mothers wore them all the time and they wore them when bringing their children to school. I remember one of the most famous Ah Sams of Sibu (Mr.Chew Geok Lin's) would bring her wards to the Methodist Primary School. She was also very famous for having a dog which would carry her vegetable basket.

My Cantonese Ah Moo next door  (Brooke Drive Sibu)  wore clogs because she had to stand for long hours in a wet kitchen. Her children were very humourous about her. They would listen to her click clocks...If the steps were heavy stomp stomp tok tok tok.... clock clock...she was angry...if her steps were gentle...slish slish and gentler clocks..she was happy ...and if the click clocks were fast..she had a cane in her hand and the children would pretend to be good before the cane landed on their legs.....Dinner would be miserable with just thin porridge and a few pieces of kang kong and no meat because they had been naughty. Two of her kids never completed Primary Six. One became a carpenter and the other a mechanic. But they did well as business picked up. Her daughter married a clog wearing butcher.

Many coffee shop owners and "drink makers" wore chak kiak in their shops and would click clock their way home too in olden days Sibu..I think they were very skilful when they rode their bicycles wearing those char kiaks...

I have a good memory of a few town boys who wore char kiaks when they went to watch basketball games.
There was once when a game became very rowdy and one of them threw a char kiak at a referee. We were rather frightened by that. But then there was no bleeding and then things cooled down a bit. He later became quite wealthy because he turned out to be a good business man. I also remember many of the boys who lived in the Sibu Boys' Club (Home for problem boys) also wore char kiak. May be this was because the supervisor believed that he could hear every movement of the boys!!!!

But those were the days before the Japanese slippers made their invasion in the world!!

Today char kiaks are made in Melaka for tourists to buy for film makers who want to make period films like "Little Nyonya". Sibu my hometown no longer has any shop making char kiaks or ae kok (Foochow).

And the Ah Pek who wore  white Pagoda shirt and blue cotton pants sitting on his little stool had long disappeared from our town scene. But he did play an important role in our lives. He was budget conscious and he would always say.."Can repair...don't throw away...wear until the wood is all gone..."

How many of  business people like him are around now? Nokia parts become obsolete after perhaps only two years!! Even our national cars have parts which cannot be found after a few short years.

We have arrived at an era of " discard " times.


wenn said...

we still sell the clogs..

wenn said...

pls check this
And the Ah Pek who wore white Pagoda..

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Wenn...You mean in IPoh and KL? I know Melaka makes good clogs...

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hahahah eyed...I have changed it..thanks....

Daniel Yiek said...

Clogs were used in Singapore in the old days due to poor infrastructure. When it rained, clogs helped in slippery conditions.

Learned this at a museum last weekend.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Daniel...My best memory of clog wearing people is my Kwong Foo Moo...(as written)..and her son in law...He could put 30 kg of pork on his bike..pedal hard ..while wearing his clogs...and the pork martket can be very slippery...

Ann said...

once in 1974, some of us crazies went to BLTC, we bought the CHAK GIAKs , It was meant to use in the ablution block. But crazy us, we were taken to a city tour, we wore of Chak Chak Chak Giaks. We didn't care, 2 of us left BLTC.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Hahahahah Did they look at you like you were SANBA??? Last night we laughed at our own Sakai-ness...stories from our never seen a traffic light in Sibu..and brought our stools to watch the lights changing!!

Ann said...

I really can't remember why we did it. So funny.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

May be you did not have time to change??