February 7, 2014

Hua Hong Stories : Great Grandfather's time during the Japanese Occupation

Hua Hong Ice Factory was established in 1927, one of the earliest Foochow Ice factories in SArawak. It was even announced in the Sarawak Gazette (1927)

the factory was owned by Wong Heng Kwong, Wong Liing Kwong and Tiong Kung Ping. My great grandfather was still around to help my grandfather, Tiong Kung Ping.

Hua Hong Ice Factory was quite a big complex with a machinery unit, the actual production unit, coolies' quarters and living quarters for the owners. An administrative unit was also built towards to the river side. A railway track of more than 200 metres was built to transport huge ice blocks to the boats.

Three motor launches were owned by my grandfather, The Hook Ang, The Kwong Ang and the Tai Ang. One of them was double decker. Every day the three motor launches would bring ice to the various destinations, to Bintangor, Kanowit and to Sibu. The double decker went to Kanowit because it was a longer journey.

Besides producing ice blocks the Hua Hong also offered rice milling services and rubber scrap processing.

My Great Grandfather, Tiong King Kee


During the Japanese Occupation, the Japanese soldiers supervised the milling process, which was part of their taxation method. During their "office hours" the villagers would bring their dried padi for milling. A Japanese soldier would stand by to guard the milling. The machinist would be at the other side. When the milled rice came out from the huller, the rice would go straight into the waiting flour sack and the Japanese soldier would take his measure. In a conspiracy, any rice which fell out of the bag into the wooden floor, through a crack, which was carefully covered by a piece of wood. In this way, the farmer and the machinist would share the "spilled" rice, which amounted to quite a bit. This helped the farmers to retain most of their rice.

( This episode was related to me by an old uncle who used to paddle across the river Rajang to mill his rice in my great grand father's factory. He was then 16 years old and he said he would paddle his little boat about twice a month, each time bringing only enough dried padi for milling. He did not want the Japanese soldiers to learn that he has more. He is now residing in Brunei and is more than 88 over years old.)

According to him, this was how his parents and his family had enough rice to eat. His parents were good farmers and they also had chickens and pigs but they had to be very careful because the Japanese soldiers would come around to count their domestic animalsand even meticulously take down the numbers.  Every pig they slaughtered had to be accounted for. So whenever they could, they would keep some pigs in the rubber gardens away from the suspecting eyes of the Japanese. In this way, they managed to kill one or two pigs each year and shared with their extended family. Pigs slaughtered with the full knowledge of the Japanese soldiers had to be shared with them. And the soldiers roughly knew when to come to witness the slaughtering.

My father's family thus had rice to eat, and they occasionally had some sweet potatoes. Vegetables were plentiful for any one who could plant them, and especially behind the Ice Factory.

The ice produced was sold in the market in Sibu and much of it also went to the Japanese Headquarters.  How much was sent no one in my family can remember, but it was quite a bit.

Sibu was occupied by the Japanese for 3 years and 8 months.

During this period, first my second Grandmother (Madam Wong, at age 38) and then in 1944, my great grandfather passed away. Although it was difficult for many, the deaths in the family affected the bereaved survivors for years to come.

It was a traumatic period for my father's family.

6 comments:

Ann, Chen Jie Xue 陈洁雪 said...

I imagine my Dad recording the amount of rice the farmer had to give to the Japanese. Dad only told me he and Japanese soldiers went to the farmers and work out how much the farmer had to give. he didn't tell abt the collection part.
Another similar to yr family history, My Great Grand ma had a double decker boat. She went collecting the padi and she had a mill.
In our past life, we were sisters.

Ensurai said...

thanks for the verification. This will sort of authenticate my story. I wonder if your dad ever went to Hua Hong Ice Factory.

Anonymous said...

Did you hear about the comfort women? I heard from my father the other day that a local man (he mentioned about the man, but I forgot the name) went around with a Japanese soldier to the house, finding out about the girls who were more than 15(?) but not yet married. Then the girls will be taken away as comfort ladies. Because of that, girls at the age of 15 went into marriage at that time. I wonder if this local man was executed following the end of Japanese occupation.

Comfort women issue is an international political issue, in particular between Korea and Japan, because so many Korean women were abducted as comfort women during World War II. Japan never apologised for the evil doing.

Anonymous said...

i noticed that you have just posted a new article about comfort ladies

Ensurai said...

Thank you. My mother being in Sanba did not know of any real cases. She said a few women were "rumoured" to be girl friends of the Japanese but she refused to say anything about who, how and where!! I found out about the Happy Garden through my reading of Chinese books. If I cannot read Chinese, I would never know too. These women have to be given some kind of reprieve. Otherwise they will come back to haunt every man who caused them suffering.

Ensurai said...

Yes...the issues have come up again. As a woman, I feel that we must never forget the issues.

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