August 3, 2013

Hua Hong Ice Factory : Serving a Bound Feet Grandmother

My cousin Yew Ping was adopted by my grandfather with the objective of "serving his bound feet mother". Yew Ping was probably only 4 years old when her parents came to the Ice Factory offering the child to the towkay for a "mouthful of rice". That was the way the old Foochows exclaimed when they were destitute and willing to part with their daughters because they hardly had enough to eat. If a kindly rich man could give the child just one mouthful of rice, they were satisfied to give away the child. Usually an angpow was also given to the parents "confinement expenses". In those days, $500 or even $800, was a big sum of money to be given as ang pow.

Thus during the Japanese period (1941-1944), Yew Ping was taken care of by my Great Grandmother and she was able to run some errands and did small tasks at home.

She remembered having to hide from dangers of being raped by the Japanese soldiers. She remembers with fear the motor engine sounds of the military boats. And she remembers my grandfather moving his elderly mother to Sungei Merah and Bintangor, just to be away from the Japanese for a while....

When they were in Bintangor Yew Ping was responsible for bringing the food from the main house as she and Great Grandmother lived in the smaller house away from the main rice mill house. She was a little clumsy she said and took small portions of the food for Great Grandmother. Yew Ping said that my grandfather was always very concerned that his mother should have enough to eat and that the small house was safe from an danger. Rice was never an issue with my grandfather's family because they owned the Mee Ang Rice Mill in Bintangor. Even though the war was raging, people did plant rice and needed hulling and milling services from my grandfather.

After the Japanese left Sarawak the family  moved back home to Hua Hong Ice Factory, and they had more food from the town. The Ice Factory was in production of ice. The "Ice Boat" would cross the Rajang River to send the ice blocks over and fresh food like meat would be brought home by the chief cook, the Nang Nern (Ming Nan Ah Pek) called King Luk Ah Pek. When it was too early, Yew Ping remembers that the fresh food supplies were left on top of the diesel oil tank for her to collect. Great Grandmother would always task her to be careful when bringing up the food supplies.

Yew Ping loved the cats in the house and she would give away her own rice to the cats. Great GRandmother would scold her for being so generous with the cats. Yew Ping said that if the cats were well fed they would catch the rats which actually frightened her at night.

She also remembers helping Mrs. Wong, the wife of Wong Hung Kwong, whenever Mrs. Wong asked her to pluck chicken feathers. Mrs. Wong was a pretty wife but Mr. Wong was quite a rough man who had a loud voice and a hot temper to match. Any way Mr. Wong was a close relative of the family and every one would think that many towkays behaved in that way . Perhaps it was very acceptable. There were three big bungalows owned by the Foochow towkays here. Mr. Wong owned the last one on the road, ours was the first one.

Because she was a very innocent girl, Great Grandmother would always call out for her, the moment she was out of sight. Great Grandmother did not like Yew Ping to wonder out of the house for more than a few minutes. This was the way she disciplined the young maid and to keep her safe from outsiders.

Yew Ping remembers that she had to immediately run to Great Grandma the moment her name was called out. When she was busy with a task, all she had to do was answer, "Yes!! I am here doing something." But it was better to run to Great Grandma.

My great grand mother's feet looked like this. When going upstairs, I remember Aunty Ah Hiong having to lead her up stairs. She need a walking stick to help her walk when she was very very old.

This picture from Goggle shows how her bones were damaged by the binding of her feet.

My great grandmother owned a shoe stand like this to make her own cloth shoes for her tiny feet. She was quite good with a hammer. I had seen her repairing her shoes with a big needle and thread.

Yew Ping said that she would never dare to think about hiding from Great Grandma or play hide and seek with her as all small children would be only too happy to do. She realised how difficult it was to walk when one's feet were so small.

My great grandmother would have worn clothes like these if she had stayed on in China and did not "come out to Nangyang to marry my Great grandfather.

Yew Ping was given a nice wedding in Bintangor by the family. She wore a white gown and carried crepe paper flowers for her bouquet. She continues to be very much a part of our family and is closest to Second Uncle's family.

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