October 17, 2013

Sungei Merah Tales: Heng Hua Middle man for Jelutong Balls and Rubber Sheets

My grandfather owned a smoke house in Sungei Merah and several good acres of rubber garden. He employed  two families to tap his rubber trees. However as I was too young to know then, I would not know whether these employees were profit sharing with him or wage earners only He was well known as a man who drove a hard bargain though. And then as the rubber prices dropped, the families moved out of the free quarters to look for a living elsewhere. I have lost touch with these two families. May be one day I can still link up with them.

The smoke house remained closed after my grandfather passed away. But there were lots of stories associated with rubber tapping and jelutong collection as told by him and our uncles.

According to an uncle my grandfather sold his smoked rubber sheets to the middlemen in Sibu. And it was also part of the duties of the two families to send the rubber sheets after the smoking process to the middlemen.


Besides, Sibu, Sungei Merah was a rubber and jelutomg collection centre in the 1950's . It collected rubber and jelutong from the Ibans and Melanaus of the Seduan and Igan agreas. A favourite middle man was a Heng Hua Towkay who was much favoured by the Ibans of Aup and Teku.
Hill species of jelutong (Google)

Towkay Heng Hua was a kindly man who treated his Indigenous  suppliers  and customersvery well.

Nursery growing jelutong in Indonesia. http://archive.kaskus.co.id/thread/5679403/120

Each time the Iban families came with their collection of rubber sheets and jelutong balls, Towkay Heng Hua would give the children a bottle or two of the old style lemonade which the Iban kids enjoyed. Sometimes he would call out to one of the servants to cook some noodles for the children as the adults discussed daily business and waited for the rubber and jelutong to be weighed and paid for. So on "market day" Towkay Heng Hua's shop was full of Ibans and Melanaus. The kids grew up remembering for the rest of their lives how good this Heng Hua towkay was.

The Iban kids also remember that they would return the lemonade bottles in exchange for some cents. If they had enough empty lemonade bottles, they would go home with three or four bottles of lemonade. According to one of my friends, this recycling deal was a joy in their life!! A dozen empty bottles gave them back one bottle of lemonade in those days.

A Land Rover ride was 50 cents per person from Sg. Aup to Sg. Merah and her father could probably get 50 to 70 dollars from the sale of their rubber sheets and jelutong.

There were lots of jelutong trees in the Igan area and in those days jelutong still fetched quite a good sum of money.

She commented that when she and her brothers were young, they would follow their parents to the forest to look for jelutong. "Tap the trees like rubber and these trees were wild for any one of us to tap/ Our rubber trees were planted and we were glad that we had a few acres of those latex producing trees/ White gold!! But these days we are too old to tap rubber already and anyway our rubber trees are too old also. May be one day, some scientist will find that jelutong can have a new use..."

Towkay Heng Hua passed away a long time ago, his mini bus is now a part of our faded history, Ah Mee's Airport coffee shop is no longer there and Sungei Merah has a great face lift recently after many decades of backwater lifestyle.

But great memories remain in our hearts.

May God bless the good people of this earth!!


Small Kucing said...

Lovely remembrance. At times we do something that we feel normal and forgot about it. But others will remember. Like the thing about giving lemonade. .the giver might thought nothing much aboutbit but the kids will sure remember the fond memories forever.

Ensurai said...

Indeed Small Kucing. Good deeds are always remembered, no matter how small they are. But then, there are people who don't remember. It does not mean that we should stop doing good deeds. We just do the best we can, as often as humanly possible. Some people will remember us. Some people remember more, others do not remember at all. This is the human world. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

I think the jelutong photo you showed is that of the hill species. There is another swamp species Dyera lowii which is the one tapped by your friend as it occurs in ouir peat swamp forest.

Ya, indeed small deeds done in kindness are well remembered
;As they say...
Memories are made of little things,
of small act done in kindess;
like the eagle they have wings,
like the musician they create happiness.

Ensurai said...

thank you for your comment. I will check more photos available in the Internet.
Memories are great. The good help us have a second chance in happiness, the bad teach us how to live.

God bless.

Anonymous said...

I believe jelutong latex was used in the past for the manufactiring of chewing gum. That was later replaced by chickle, latex from a species related to ciku.

Ensurai said...

Thanks .yes interesting to find this info.

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