October 4, 2013

Sungei Merah Tales : Grandfather's Five Cents

Growing up in Sibu in the 1950's I learned a lot from my elders and especially from my grandfather, Tiong Kung Ping even though we did not live in the same house as most Foochow families did in those days. Most Foochow families had three or even four generations under one roof.

Grandfather came visiting us fairly often from Sungei Merah when we lived in Brooke Drive. I cannot ever remember him visitng us in Hua Hong Ice Factory though. I lived with my parents and aunts in Hua Hong until I was six and my brother was about one year old. (We lived in the Brooke Drive house until 1978 when it was demolished to make way for shophouses. Life was never quite the same after 1978 for most people in Sibu because the economic situation started to change rapidly.)

Five cents coin of the British colonial days.

My sisters,my brother and I loved seeing him in the house in Brooke Drive. His gift was often a small packet of Kong Biang or kompia. He was already in his 70's by then. He had rather stiff legs I remember and he was tall for a Foochow man.
The square one cent copper coin. We had a whole box of it for years. Later when we moved house, we could not find the box any more. Now it would worth slightly more, at last for its copper.

We actually dd not know that Grandfather often had tiffs with grandmother Siew and he would come to our house to "hide" for a few days, usually two nights. It was only much later when we were all grown up tht we were told that our grandparents were very strong minded people. Grandfather was much older than grandma but grandma was very enterprising and really had a mind of her own. She was very modern amongst the women of her time and she was very far sighted. According to our family legends, once grandma Siew cooled down, her little car would appear at our gates and she would come in to take grandpa home. It was a kind of interesting patching up for them, but we kids knew no better. It as time for grandpa to go home to Sungei Merah. One thing good about our grandparents : they never quarrelled in public. They only had cold wars and that really tickled us.

On occasions like this or his personal cold war, Grandpa would be teaching us kids about life.

He once told us about saving. He placed a few five cents on the table for us and instructed us very slowly to allow the five cents to grow into ten cents and then 10 ten cents would become a dollar. Ten one dollar would become ten dollars And so on...He told us to look forward to One Hundred Dollars.

He also told us never to flash the red notes around, especially in front of people. That kind of arrogance he said would make many enemies out of people around us. We must not show our open wallet because it would make people jealous of us. If possible, he said, we must always have a secret pocket in our skirt.

Grandpa had a small rubber coin purse. He would slowly dig out a little coin to give us, whenever he saw us. Five cents from him was a great gift.

That was exactly what my maternal grandmother said. It was no wonder that all our dresses and Chinese pants had side pockets in those days. We also tied our coins or dollar notes in our handkerchiefs. We did not ever have a purse.

Not long after that he passed away before any one of us made it to his target of 100 dollars. It was not easy at all to save 10 red notes in those days. It was very rare indeed for children even to get red packets or ang pows with 10 dollars in them. Today, it is just so normal t receive ten dollar notes from relatives especially during Chinese New Year.

Many years later, my pocket money in the university was 75 dollars a month which was meant for books and other essentials. I could not save a lot of money then and I actually never did save coins until I had 100 dollars because I had a weakness for movies. It had been very  very hard.

But it was a good lesson from Grandfather. He was our first Maths teacher teaching us TENs. And he was our first wealth advisor.

And definitely, we learned from him that Money Talks louder than anything in this world.


Anonymous said...

Your posting of old Sarawak reminds me of the video on Kuching, Sibu and Sarawak in 1959/1960:

It is really down memory lane. Do you recognise any pf the places, espcially Sibu and Sarikei?

Anonymous said...

Those day when camera can only take silent video before the advent of camcorder which can record sound as well.

Ensurai said...

Thanks. Will look at them in a while.

Ensurai said...

Yes indeed. Thanks

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