August 11, 2013

Hua Hong Ice Factory : Seven years of gentle living

These are snippets from my mother's memories of Hua Hong period of her life .

Kitchen and Cook of the Factory .King Luk the Nan Nern (Ming Nan or Ar Muong Nern) was the chief cook for the employees of the Hua Hong Ice Factory. According to my mother he was a very good cook. Usually in those days, the employees would all eat together, the food being part of their terms of contract. Some had families, although most were bachelors.

The Kind Clerk of the Factory . Lee Ting Huong, the father of Lee Kuok Leong, and the father in law of my cousin Betty Lau, was the chief clerk or Chai Koo (Chai Fu) of the company. He was the man who held the petty cash and would cross the river (Rajang) to buy the supplies every day for every one.

Every day family life. My mother was thus saved from having to go to the town market for which she had to cross the Rajang River in either a speed boat or a small sampan. The Ice Boat ( a fairly big boat powered by an engine) would also take her and others across but it would very early. My great grandmother who was staying with us was a very caring person. She was not fussy about the food my mother and Yew Ping placed on the table. She did not have those special personal dishes the Foochow partriach would have. Mum having three small children was already quite run down in health. Mum was glad that the kind clerk was good as a "purchasing officer". In later years she was glad that the Lee family remained close friends.

Cousin Yew Ping was already a very good cook by then.

Food at home however was simple and my dad would sometimes introduce a new dish to the delight of every one. In the evenings our father would often go fishing with either his net (jala) or his spear. He was quite good in trapping fish, a method he learned from the Malays who lived around Kerto. I can remember one pail of huge prawns he brought back at night, and he shone his torch light on their eyes . He told us to look at them, and those red eyes stared back at us. We shrieked with fear but we innocently also looked forward to eating the big claws. Dad told us that the prawns would turn from blue to red when cooked and that we would learn about it in school. That night the family had an extra meal.
Sing, my brother Hsiung and myself. Mum made all our clothes using her Singer sewing machine.

Mother was glad that GGM and Yew Ping  lived with us for seven years and life was good for the three generations. There were three of us young children, my brother Hsiung was just new born when Cousin Yew Ping was promised to a Mr. Lau Kung Keng as a bride. She was hardly out of childhood herself. Mum said she was probably only 16 or 17. Great grandma was quite heart broken to part with her. But this match making was good because the Lau family was known to Grandfather Tiong Kung Ping and they had property in Mang Kwong in Bintangor.

Visitors and Relatives. Life was fairly normal for every one in Hua Hong Ice Factory.  besides the aunties coming home for their school holidays, my Mother and Great Grandmother looked forward to Goo Poh's weekly visits.

My Goo Poh with her nieces and nephew -from left to right, Goo Poh, Aunt Greta and Aunt Pick . Uncle Pan King on the right. Uncle Pan King went to visit Uncle Siew King in Bintangor more often.Those were the days.
Goo Poh, who was by then a widow (Her beloved husband died in China during the WW11) would come over from Sibu town by the "morning Ice Boat", the boat which sent ice blocks to Sibu as the factory was the chief supplier of ice blocks in Sibu then . She and my father were about the same age and they were best of friends. She would stay for the whole day and return in the evening. Sometimes my father would send her back with the family's speed boat. Sometimes, she would take the sampan, rowed by a Malay man across the river. Each parting was very painful for her and for Great Grandmother as she was the only child, the only daughter.

Trip to Sibu. Sometimes we would cross the river and visit Goo Poh but there was another reason for a town visit. My mum suffering from thyroid problems and bad dental problems needed medical attention fairly often. Besides my brother and sister needed all the triple antigen injections called Yu Huong Jeng in Foochow. Goo Poh would look after me while my mum saw a doctor, or brought my siblings for innoculations in the Maternity and Child Care clinic, which the Foochows call Wo Lek Hui.
Left to the care of my two Goo Poh's  in the Maria Hoover Kindergarten. I also joined their graduation photo. No one today would be able to have such a photo taken. This is called Stealing the limelight in Chinese. That's me in the front with my two cheong sam clad Grand Aunts.

According to my mother, the seven years in the compound of the Hua Hong Ice Factory passed very quickly. Those were really peaceful and memorable family days. She was glad that great grandmother was such a refined gentlewoman, with good values and a certain quiet discipline. Goo Poh was a very quiet and soft spoken lady, just like Great GRandmother.

My mother remembers their gentle character most of all. "No fuss. No temper, no quick words. Just so gentle and so soft spoken."

(N.b. It must be part of our genes. I am glad I am soft spoken too, and not loud by nature. However by training I often do not need to microphone.)

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