January 26, 2014

Nang Chong stories : Hostel for young children in Chung Cheng School

When my cousins were ready to go to school in Chung Cheng and 24 Acres were too far away, my uncle put them in the hostel.

In those days, many Foochows from all over the Rajang Valley, actually sent their children to Chung Cheng Primary and Secondary School, since it was already a premier school with a good reputation. Mr. Lau Hieng Ying's name was well known and his wife, Mrs. Lau, was a good hostel manageress.

According to a cousin, even children in Kanowit and Kapit were sent to be his hostel mates in the 1960's.Photo

The smaller primary school boys brought their mat and pillow, and a think blanket in a roll. All the little boys would sleep on the platform in the common room or dormitory. The older boys had beds upstairs. When the term ended they would roll up their mat and bedding and off they went in the motor launches to go back to their villages. My cousin Lau, said that it was a very happy moment to collect the bed roll (niek), tie it up and carry it on his shoulder and board the motor launch at the end of the year. He would miss his hostel mates but he knew that he must study hard during the holidays too. Home was in 24 acres and further from the river.

And to enjoy the river scenario, he would have to walk for almost half an hour to the river side. But then walking half a hour was nothing in those days.

Food was arranged by Mrs. Lau and the cook, the mother of  Lau Nai Mung.  Every one affectionately called her Nai Mung Moo, or Mother of Nai Mung. She was a very good cook.

Food on the table for the boys for lunch  and dinner would consist of two vegetables, usually bean sprouts and long beans, stir fried squids or a meat or fish and a soup. Rice would be steaming hot. One of my cousins said that the most memorable dish was squid in soy sauce, a specialty today. It was really common in those days when squids were imported from China. My mother remembered that the dried squids cost only a few cents a kati and families would rehydrate the dried squids themselves. Today dried squids cost up to 100 ringgit per kilo.

The children would wash their own bowls, chopsticks and spoons to help Nai Mung Moo. The bigger boys would enjoy pumping water into the tank.

Nai Mung Moo would do all the cooking, while Mrs. Lau would budget for every day food (likened to today Purchasing Officer) and disciplined the kids during meals. All meals were well timed and the children developed good table manners.

Nai Mung Moo also planted vegetables, especially long beans, which she would preserve in Ang Chow. Fried, preserved long beans continue to be a favourite dish for many Foochows. It is very tasty and a good "food chaser".

Water was pumped from the river Rajang, which was very clear and clean in those days. It was a blessing to have a good water pump in the hostel. The river was about 200 m from the hostel and the school management board had equipped the hostel and school with good piped "river" water. So life was pretty good.

The toilets were always washed, the rooms clean, and kids did not really have to swim in the river if they were too small, and without supervision. They all lived together like a big happy family.

My cousins who lived in the hostel enjoyed their school life until they left Chung Cheng to study in the Methodist Secondary School in Sibu, where they had to be more independent and where they had to meet town folks. They also stayed in the Methodist School Hostel in Queensway (Now Jalan Tun Haji Open).

In retrospect, my cousins said that the Chung Cheng School was a kind of mid way house for them. Three years in the school gave them a good understanding of personal discipline, social behaviour and study skills. Hostel life also prepared them how to look after themselves well, especially when they went for their further studies in Taiwan.

A tribute to Mrs. Lau Hieng Ying here too for helping them to look at life positively and with discipline.

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