September 6, 2013

Tales from Sungei Merah : Grandfather's Dustpan

My paternal grandfather Tiong Kung Ping was very handy with his tools. He made a lot of things for the home throughout his life time, being innovative, creative and frugal.

I was told that he ever worked as a contractor in his younger days, but being the entrepreneur he was, he only wished to earn money by providing services and good, so he had boats, rice mills and sawmills. He had some smoke houses for rubber. However, he was best with machines of all sorts.

He was a very careful and meticulous worker, and would spend hours in the workshop in the Ice Factory and the Mee Ang Sawmill. Later when he started Kiong Ang Brickyard, he was fond of every piece of machinery in Aup. In fact he was the one who decided to buy the best machinery for making bricks and he was already past 65. Indeed his brick making machinery was the first imported one in Sarawak before 1960.

One of the things he made for his house in Sungei Merah was the recycle tin dust pan, as shown in the photo below. Well in those days, every Wong, Tiong, and Ting made them for their home use. No good Foochow man would go to town to buy a dust pan for his wife. What he could make, he did not have to buy. I believe the only thing he did not make was a basket. But he did make wreath frames from bamboo. Someone told me that Rev James Hoover taught the Foochow pioneers this American skill. As a result most Foochow Christian funerals have been seeing lots of floral wreaths, American style.

Being a very frugal man, he treasured everything he had. He  also collected many useable, re-useable stuff and fashioned them into useful items.  I remember him sitting on a small stool and cutting away the cooking oil tin. He had a metal cutter which he used very deftly. He would draw a good line with a pencil and ruler. He also had a special tool to cut harder metals. I remember it was not easy for him to fold the edges over so that we kids would not cut ourselves when using the dust pan. He would hammer the edges with careful strokes, and of course, try to make as little noise as possible.

 When he finished his work, he would put everything back into his tool basket and then sweep the floor. And carefully, he would place two new dust pans against the wall. Today he would have been a great member of the local Recycle, Reuse, Reduce Committee!!

When I saw this dust pan in Taiwan (Chang Yung High School) I was moved to tears that people continue to use this idea from  mainland China, where my grandfather was born. I heard from many people that Taiwanese if possible do not plastic items if they have a choice. They prefer natural materials..

We should indeed be thinking of using less plastic in our lives and recycle more. Plastics are made from petroleum. The more we demand  plastics the higher the price of petroleum will be.

So let us start tinkering in our backyard!!


Anonymous said...

The dust bin like this one was seen inside the class rooms of my primary school. Once a week, we have to clean the classroom and this dust bin helped us.

jeremyngltd™ said...

Sadly in developed countries, everything they use is in plastic and they cannot live without one. Even their food are processed involving plastic material.

Ensurai said...

Yes, we had it in our primary schools and secondary schools The schools' gardener made them in those long ago days. School gardeners in those days were really treasures.

Ensurai said...

To a certain degree yes. But many people are getting to be more sensitive to conservational practices and better farming methods plus chefs like Jaime Oliver and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall are making waves.

Anonymous said...

My brother learnt the skill of making this kind of dustpan from my dad. He made one for me a few years back and it's still in good condition. I use it to sweep up the leaves from my front and back paved gardens. It's very effective in gathering dust and leaves, even picking up the flat eucalyptus leaves well. it's a "must have" garden tool for me.
Regards, Adelaide reader

Ensurai said...

This is a wonderful comment from so far away in Adelaid. Yesterday morning I saw a lorry full of empty cooking oil tins and I just thought, how wonderful if some one can make the tin dust pans!! Thank you for writing!!

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