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When was the last time you read a book, or an interesting storybook? Do your daily reading habits center around social media updates, such as tweets , Facebook or blog-sites?

If you don’t read you are missing out a lot. So start cultivating a habit for reading……

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My book “The Scissor Sharpener’s Daughter” is now available at sun@mag branches at e-curve, Sungai Wang Plaza, KL Sentral and Viva Home. Do drop by at these outlets to get your copy!

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D7 The Refinery is an awesome place to be at during the weekends- you can paint, you can buy books and you can meet new friends. Thanks to artists like Ben Toh, Yenny Ng and Maxinne Xie for organizing these fun-filled gatherings.

It was here too, that I got to tell people, “Hey, I wrote a book about growing up in the 1960s and 1970s in a tin-mining town called Ipoh. Get a copy and read how life used to be for some ordinary folks struggling to have a meaningful existence.”

I am glad I took my book straight to the readers. I was able to meet them face to face, tell them about my book, autographed it and even took photos with them for remembrance. All these gave me a great sense of pleasure and satisfaction as a writer because it gave me a chance to interact with them.

It was at D7 too that some of my readers became my good friends. They read my book and gave me feed-backs and after sometime, we became friends! And some even told me they are waiting for my second book which will be out soon.

Today, a very good friend who started off as my reader even gave me a surprise – a birthday cake. How many writers are so blessed?

Well, I am one of them. Thank you, everyone, for being there for me as I embark on a long and tough journey as a writer.

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Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

 

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Note:

IpohBornKid is a former Ipoh resident who now resides in Sydney, Australia.

Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

Kuan Hon was the eldest of 5 children of Teochew background whose family came to Menglembu (probably) from Sungei Siput, in the early 1950s. His father, a bus inspector with the Green omnibus that travelled from Ipoh to Pusing, Batu Gajah, Tualang, and Buas, opened up a shop in Main Road selling pots and pans, and earthen pots and water containers (used mainly in Chinese Bathrooms). His father also ran a radio repair business. I remembered seeing the family moved to Menglembu. Both parents worked very hard to make a living and bringing up 5 children.

Kuan Hon went to the Wan Hwa primary school in Menglembu. He was also a scout in the school and was very proud of his scout stick. He used to chant the local scout slogan and it sounded like “jit goo jit, lum pat” and we often taunt him with this chant. Kuan Hon was not serious in his studies and he followed his father’s foot step by learning how to repair radio (valve type) and some electrical wiring work. He was good at it. He used to read the radio repair manuals written in Chinese and these books were published in Singapore. He did well and soon became proficient enough to take over his father’s job in repairing radios. His mother did all the retailing of pots and pans, housework and looking after the children.

Kuan Hon did not mix with the Menglembu boys too often as he was busy running his father’s business in radio repair. The business grew and he began to sell Japanese, British and German brands radios, stereophonic amplifiers and turn tables. The business also expand in selling small refrigerators and sewing machines.

I often watched Kuan Hon repair radios and he was keen to teach me some basic work in repairing radios, not so much in diagnosing the problem, but was told solder this and that, changing knobs, fixing the broken string in the tuning mechanism and changing the electrical plug or faulty wires. I learned all that with great enthusiasm. Not every day do you get free lessons in the repair of radios, particularly the valve jobs. Then came the transistor radio and Kuan Hon was quick to learn how to repair those Japanese radios.

Somewhere in the expansion of the business, Kuan Hon branched into basic electrical work by selling the florescence lamp. They came in the kit form and you had to write them up before they work. Very soon, I also learned from him how to wire the internals together. He also taught me how to diagnose the fault and up to this day, I have never forgotten how they work and still able to repair them, whether it was the fault of the “starter” or the “choke”.

The skills I learned from Kuan Hon was invaluable and as a result I became proficient in electrical wiring, installation of florescence lamp, changing of electric plugs (all sorts), minor radio repair (valve type) and connecting turntables to stereos and speakers. I became skilled in using the soldering iron. He also taught me how to install a line antenna for medium and short wave radio sets. I often wondered why he had bothered to teach me all these things, but in retrospect, I believe I was an able assistant to him in many jobs inside his shop and outside the shop.

I used to follow Kuan Hon outside the shop to make minor electrical repairs, particularly florescence lamps. I was very good with the electrical “test pen” and agile with climbing ladders. I was a useful apprentice, obedient and quick learner. By following him, I learned all the tricks he had taught me. On this note, I became a proficient electrical handyman and this skill had served me well in my later years. I actually did wired my own house with the supervision of a licensed electrician.

I often accompanied Kuan Hon in delivery refrigerators, sewing machines and radio to customers in the villages. At that stage, the business was doing well and he business bought a Morris minivan for delivery and I enjoyed these trips with him to all the mining towns south of Menglembu. One day we delivered a fridge in the village where there was no electricity. Later, I found out that the people who bought the fridge had used it as a wardrobe whilst waiting for the electricity to become connected.

I also enjoyed the lunch somewhere in Batu Gajah, at a road side shop where they make the “what tan hor fen” combination fried noodles with egg. Kuan Hon was a generous man and he was happy to buy me lunch. Whilst driving to this mining towns, Kuan Hon was a dare devil driver and use to overtake cars with me assisting him by sticking my head out of the door window and making sure there were no oncoming traffic as he was attempting to overtake a vehicles as the road curved to the left. Crazy thrill seekers again!

Kuan Hon was much matured for his age. He went after a local girls who ran a hair dressing salon down the Main Road and before long he got married. By that time, I was living overseas as a student and had not been in contact with Kuan Hon for decades. It was sad to learn from his family that he had passed away at an early age. Although Kuan Hon did not play too many games with the boys of Menglembu, he was busy running the business He worked hard and was a very good teacher. I owed my electrical handyman skills from him and I would never forget his kindness in imparting his skills to me. Kuan Hon was indeed one of my treasured Menglembu friends.

Note:

IpohBornKid is a former Ipoh resident who now resides in Sydney, Australia.

Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

As we were growing up in the tin rich Kinta Valley towns, the opportunity available to kids to be involved in gaming was abundant. Each town, each district of Ipoh, and Menglembu, had its own tale to tell. The chance to take a bet on anything including food, was unbelievable and abundant.

The Ice Cream Man & his “Chocolate Wheel”
In Menglembu, we had a famous ice-cream man who sold cylindrical block ice cream with vanilla, durian and red bean flavour. He rode a bicycle with his metal square container about 2 cubic foot in size, securely fastened on the pillion tray. At one edge of this box was a tube which drained the water from melted ice block. These ice blocks, with the addition of salt, were coolant for the ice-cream. Dry ice would be too expensive to use. His trade name was Wong Soon Kee. At the back of the metal container was mounted a wooden circular wheel with nails spaced at regular intervals at the perimeter of the wheel. As you spin the wheel, it ratcheted against a piece of bamboo. Each interval on the wheel was clearly labelled 1, 2 or 3 serves of the ice cream. If you do not wish to spin the wheel, you were sold a slightly longer ice block of your selected favour. If you gamble, your unit block size shrank by 20% for each serve worn. If your number spun was 1, you lost 20% to the ice-cream man. If your number is more than 1, you unit block size was still 20% shorter. What a way to encourage young kids to gamble on his “ice-cream” wheel.

The Pickled Fruit Man with his gaming metal rods
Another Menglembu hawker sold pickled fruits, particularly specializing in pickled papaya and mangoes. He was a stout person with a tanned skin and wears a silly hat. He was called the “Tee Ta Lo” because he played the Chinese mini-trumpet as an audio signature of his arrival.
This man carried his pickled fruits in 6-compartment wooden box with glass covers on top of each compartment for hygienic purposes. The box was secured on the pillion tray at the back of his bicycle. When he stopped, he opened his wooden cover to reveal his wares.
He too was a gaming food peddler. His gaming tool was made of thin metal rods and each rod had a number of filed cuts (notches) at one end. There were more than 20 rods in a metal cylinder and the rods were placed with the notches at the bottom of the cylinder so you could not see the number of notches. You pay your money and you choose whether you want to a chance on the metal rods.
The opened large wooden cover stood at 90 degrees from the food containers, and there was a notice/rules about the points scored and the numbers of serves paid. If you want to gamble, he allowed you to pick 3 rods out of the cylinder. He then counted the total numbers of notches on the rods. Although I cannot totally recalled the prize chart, I believe that the minimum score was 3 and the maximum is 12 (3x4notches). The next serve up is 6 points, 3 serves for 9 points and 4 serves for 12 point. I did not remember anybody scoring 9—12 points but 3-5 points was very common and scoring 6-9 points was a 20% chance. The principle of serves was similar to the ice-cream man.

The Ice Kachang Man with his Lucky Draw Prize
It was a popular attraction to kids with little money in their pockets to play the lucky draw prize. In the Menglembu market, the ice-kachang man was first to introduce this lucky draw prize in his ice stall. A large cardboard had a 10×10 square and each square had a number. Some numbers carried a prize the form of small toys, plastic rings etc. Most prizes were worthless. It would cost more than 5 sen to buy the good prize. You have a chance to win a good prize that was displaced on the large cardboard and the prize was attached via a string to a number in the cardboard. Below the prize section, was the lucky draw paper envelopes which were glued also to the card board. There were 5 sen or 10 sen lucky draws. You picked your ticket and opened to reveal the number. If your number corresponded to a prize on the board, then you won that prize. Every envelope wins a prize. I did not have much money in my pocket and can only buy one envelope at a time. Other kids bought about 3 or 4 tickets at on time.
The Manual Pin Ball Machine Man in front of the Primary School
The worst form of child gaming devices was the mini pin ball machine. These infamous machine was about 6 inches x 1 ft in size. It was designed like a pin ball machine with a spring loaded launcher to propel a metal ball (probably a small metal bearing) from right bottom part. By pulling the spring loaded device you propel the ball into the main board. The Board has circular holes in them and would allow the metal ball to be trapped. Each hole was labelled with the prize and most of the time, money was involve. A certain hole could pay 2x or 3x your bet.
Unfortunately, these peddlers chose to introduce gaming activities in front of the Wan Hwa Primary School. Out of curiosity and the thrill of winning (Tai Lum Tao – literally in Cantonese big thinking head or just “fat hopes”) I ventured forward to gamble my pocket money away! At one stage, the teachers were attempting to ask these peddles to move on but these people were adamant and did not move. Months later, the Police took action and close their business down.

The Electric Pin Ball Gaming machine – inside Menglembu Markets
There were two very popular pin ball gaming machines in the Menglembu markets. Although the prizes were not money, they were packets of Navy Cut cigarettes worth about 40sen a packet. One was a horse racing games where you bet the number of the horse, usually numbered 1-7. Each game can produce a single number win, triple number win (2,4,6 or 1,3,5; 3,5,7) or all 7 numbers win. The prize for each win was a packet of Navy Cut cigarettes.
The other pin ball machine game was cross number game. Numbers on the panel displayed winning combinations. You were allowed to launch 5 balls and each ball would eventually land on a hole with a number after rotating in the round bowl (just like a game of roulette). If the total number of holes in the bowl was 25, the board would display a 5×5 grid of 25 numbers. Each ball landing on a numbered hole in the bowl was lit up. To win a prize, you must have the 3 numbers that formed a straight line, vertical, horizontal or diagonal. Of course the value of the prize went up if you had 4 or 5 numbers on a straight line. The eventual prize was a packet of cigarettes
I have gambled on both these machines and walked away with 5 packets of cigarettes. The only way I could convert them to cash was to sell it back to the owner for 30sen/packet (ripping me off by 25%) or wait till one of my relatives want me to buy a packet of Navy Cut. I could not understand now why would they allow a ten year old kid on the gaming machine!
The other pin ball machine was located in my neighbour’s shop. He had an old type pin ball machine with “coiled bumpers” and each time the ball hits the bumper it scored 10 points. After exhausting 5 balls, you only win a prize if your score was 250, 350 and 450 exactly. I was not allow to play this machine because the owner knew my mother.

The first Poker Machine at the Kinta Swimming Club
My first encounter with a poker machine was a table model which was parked in the dinner room of Kinta Swimming Club. This machine had 3 wheels and each well were numbered 0 to 9. The winning combination was well displayed on the machine. It played for money. I remember that the numbers 222 was a winning combination. As a frequent visitor to the swimming club for competition training, I was very much tempted to play with the machine. Since there was always a presence of a teacher, I did not get close to the machine.
Despite my passion for gaming, I did not became a problem gambler. In my youth as a University student, I often played mah-jong. In my adult life, there were other temptations like the casino. Although I could play all the casino games and spend time watching my friends lose lots of money, I seldom gamble. My greatest saviour was that fact that I hate losing money and I do not believe in get rich quick! In retrospect, I was lucky that I was able to maintained a distant from gaming activities (only been to the race course twice in 50 years), whilst some children grew up to be problem gamblers. In my opinion, such gaming devices should be off limits to children.

Note:

IpohBornKid is a former Ipoh resident who now resides in Sydney, Australia.

Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

Last Saturday (29th March), Victor Chin, an accomplished Malaysian artist and heritage enthusiast, held a talk on heritage buildings found in Penang, Malacca, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore at D7 to a group of heritage buffs.

Also on sale were printed copies from his original collection of water-color drawings of these buildings done many decades ago when they were still around. Victor’s drawings were so beautiful and nostalgic. It was truly a one man’s labor of love for these architectural wonders. Sadly, many such buildings were either torn down or were abandoned. After years and years of exposure to the elements, they were stripped of their former glory. Thanks to Victor, today, we could still marvel at these heritage buildings through his art.

I was also allowed to sell my book at this event and I managed to meet many interesting people. Among them were Hissein from Sudan and Tobias Petersen from Germany. Also present were Debbie Teoh, the celebrity Peranakan chef from Malacca who graciously treated us to a few dishes of Nyonya kuih. It was an interesting evening.

Thanks everyone!

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Readings @ Seksan’s

Today was my turn to read at Readings @ Seksan’s. Thank you Sharon Bakar, for inviting me to read.

It was a truly enriching experience, reading in front of so many who were passionate readers. Besides reading some chapters from my book, I got the opportunity to meet other writers from Malaysia and Singapore and exchanged information with them. I also managed to sell my book at this event. It was a very memorable evening indeed for a new writer like myself.


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