December 21, 2016

Sibu Tales : Cigarettes Made in Sibu

The Ireland Tobacco Company was owned by a Chiew family in Sibu and their factory was located in Lanang Road. Many of my friends lived along Lanang Road, especially No. 72 Lanang Road, which was by the river side. We had a few swimming events in the Rajang River there. The Lanang Road then being the longest road in Sibu was a good adventure for us cyclists.

The Ireland Tobacco Company was established in the 60's. In fact most youngsters knew about the numerous brands which were produced like Sky Scrapper, Tripod, Winter, Dragon, Gold Dragon and many more.

It was only later at university we realized that the company had practised good branding and  viable marketing strategies. Perhaps the Board of Management had good knowledge of consumer psychology. The cigarettes were affordable and they were sold all over Sarawak especially in Kapit and beyond, or what most people would call "the ULU". Ulu consumers or upriver people were very partial to smoking and they found the cigarettes attractive and convenient. According to some salesmen in those days, their best sales records were made in Kapit and further up.

Perhaps in a way, these cheap cigarettes eased the rolled cheeroot and sigob out of the cultural scene. Besides,the cigarettes made in Sibu appeared on the tables of wedding banquets as part of the celebration. Some "generous" adults would take a few packets of these free cigarettes to give to the shy younger boys. Perhaps cigarette smoking among the teens started in this way among some of my school mates.

I remember many girls and women who enjoyed working in the factory and  theywere a chatty group. They would cycle from the town up the Lanang Road. We would regale with interesting stories by many of them, who shared with us their life stories : many of them were "chased" by some labourers who liked them. Usually these romances would end up in marriages, for better or for worse.

However a few of them later joined the CCO and went underground and I was told they never came out of the jungles alive. It was a pity because I remember them well for whenever they cycled along the road to the factory they were such a happy chatty lot. Many of them were my peers, but they left school early because they failed their primary six entrance exams.Image result for cigarettes made in Sibu Sarawakiana

Another memory about the Ireland Tobacco Company was the owner's wife who drove a very big car, and probably often at a great speed. It was pale blue in colour and was most probably American made. In the days when bicycles were kings of the road, Mrs. Chiew was feared by the road users. Whenever she drove along Oya Road,for example, most pedestrians would jump to the grass verge, in fear of their life!!No automatic alt text available.
Those were the good old days when there were very few cars in Sibu, and roads were small, narrow and pretty bad.
The cigarettes made in the factory were fairly prettily packed. They were very affordable at 15 cents and above. Many school boys not only smoked them but sold them at the wharf of Sibu when the boats came in. The boys did quick business when the boats were waiting to go and many people would spend some precious cents to buy a packet or two of cigarettes to bring home, until their next trip to Sibu.

Those were the days when cigarettes were 15 cents for a packet of 10's. Today Dunhill is 17 ringgit per pack.

To beat world inflation may be smokers should start smoking  sigob, with their own tobacco from the back yard and rolled with wild banana leaves which are free from the jungle.


Robert Hii said...

Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. Great of you to write down what happened in yesteryears

Anonymous said...

Those must be from the 50'sor 60's, betond my time. I dont have memory of that even though I grew up in Sibu in the 1970s.

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Blogger said...

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