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Archive for February 10th, 2014

Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

Kong Fu who lived in Main Road, Menglembu was 13 years old in 1958. He had about 6 or 7 brothers and sisters. Kong Fu, was also an ex-Ipoh ACS student and I remembered going to the Principal Mr Kesselring’s office with him and his mother. His mother was trying to get him enrol in the morning ACS class. Typically Chinese, his mother bought some fruits, usually 5 in a pyramid cone made of newspaper, properly tied up with a “vine” type string and with a square piece of red paper at the apex of the pyramid. He remained in ACS for a few years and was later transferred to MAS (Methodist Afternoon School) when Mr Wong Wai Lam was Principal. Transfer from ACS to MAS was quite common if you do not perform too well in the morning school.

Koon Fu was a physically strong young lad and had a zest for riding his father’s “Made in China” bicycle for men. This bicycle had larger wheel diameter than the normal Raleigh bicycle imported from UK. It has lever connected braking system different from the Raleigh with steel cable mechanism. It also came with a pillion rider seat cum “carry” table and the old fashioned parking apparatus which had two legs hinged to the axle of the back wheel and when the rest was put on, the bicycle would stand up with it back wheels off the ground. You can actually pedal and the back wheel was free to spin around. Interesting plaything for kids.

His younger brother Poom Poom was about 2 years younger than him and he always wanted to follow us wherever we went. We had to accommodate his wishes otherwise he would carry tales! The best solution was to take off without his knowledge. All 3 of us actually rode on one bicycle. Kong Fu, being the strongest, would pedal the bicycle sitting on the pillion, I sat on the seat in the middle controlling the steering bar and brakes; and Poom Poom sat on the horizontal iron bar. Of course, we were not supposed to have more than two people on the bicycle, let alone 3 people. We choose to ride the bicycle in Jalan Lee Ming Hin, a road that is parallel to Jalan Lahat. In the old days, this road ran from the current roundabout before reaching the Police Station coming from Ipoh, and ended near the entrance to “Bukit Merah New Village”. The red omnibus from Ipoh usually made the U turn from this junction and made its return journey to Ipoh. My mother told me that the Jalan Lee Ming Hin was once a railway track and prior to the Japanese occupation, and they rode the train to school in Ipoh and back. Tin mining activity moved the railway east of Menglembu (about 1 mile from the road) and after the mining activity stopped, they restored the road and the area along the road was called the East Regrouping Area of Menglembu.

The term “Regrouping’ has a special meaning during the Malayan Emergency of 1948. According to the British plan, all residential areas were grouped and fenced in with barb wires. Volunteers, called “Home Guard” were recruited from the local villages and their job was to patrol the fenced area to prevent “communist” insurgents from entering the villages for whatever reasons. Hundreds of young students fled to China via Singapore and Hong Kong to escape being “conscripted”. I have met a few Malayan born youths who went through China and onto Indochina. At the end of the Vietnam War, they went on to live in Western countries as refugees.

The bicycle for 3 took many trips to the country side of Menglembu particularly through the villages, vegetable farms and mining pools between the old railway road and the current railway line. Obviously, the area described had no “Mata2” or policeman on duty and we were free to roam the country side without attraction any attention from the constabulary.

Kong Fu and I played dangerous Russian roulette games with that old bicycle. The entrance to Bukit Merah New Village was a road off Jalan Lahat and it had a steep climb, at least a 30 degree inclination. One of us would push the bicycle uphill to top of the entry gates, climbed onto the bicycle and waited for a signal from the other person standing at the bottom of the road. After checking for traffic flow from either side of Jalan Lahat, a signal was given vocally that the traffic was clear. On that given signal, the rider would release the brake and glide downhill into the bottom of the road and cross the “not so busy” Jalan Lahat. It was a thrill seeker of our times. I do not recommend anybody trying that now. We took turns to ride the bicycle down the slope. In retrospect, I believe it was a dangerous sport and only fool hardy kids would try it. Being born in the era, some of us would foolhardy enough to be thrill seekers in the 1950s. I had never related this story to anybody until now as I write my childhood memoirs. If our parents had known about our dangerous activity, we would be canned and banned from riding any bicycle. Please don’t try it now!

Not long after that experience, I had grown bolder and actually tried to cross the Main Road at the Menglembu Post Office junction thinking I could outrun the cars. One later afternoon, I pedal hard and attempted to cross the main road but unfortunately, a black Ford 10 ran into me. Luckily, it hit the back wheel and I was thrown out of the bicycle and landed on the grassed area adjacent to the big tree. I had a few cuts, bruises, lacerations and a big lump on the head. I survived to tell the story!

Kong Fu and I also went swimming in the mining pools and in those days, this activity was “verboten” (forbidden) because of reported drowning of young children while taking a swim. As a child, I had seen the villagers recovering a body from the mining pool but that did not deter me from venturing into the mining pool for a swim. It was the poor man’s swimming pool.

It was easy to determine whether you had been in the mining pool by simply using a 10 sen coin and scratching the skin in your arm. If there was white powder coming out of it, you get the stick! Hence, you usually go to the bath room and wash yourself thoroughly without anybody noticing that you were there early than the appointed time. Now I know that the white powder was from the soluble salts (not NaCl) dissolved in the mining pool water and it is possible a form of carbonate or sulphate.

I met Kong Fu again in the early 1970s when I returned to Menglembu from overseas and he was working in the tin recycling business with this father at a shop named “Wu Lang”, next adjacent to the Menglembu Police Station. I did not see him again and I was informed by his nephew, who lives in Sydney that he has passed on. I was also told that Poom2 now resides in Perth and I was not able to contact him. Yes, Kong Fu collected Hollywood film star cards and we used to exchange cards together.

Although he has passed on, I still remember the fun and thrill seeking adventures we had together as children.

 

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Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

Fun Kee

Fun Kee, one of the natural leaders of the Menglembu Pack, still lives in Menglembu and he would be in his very early seventies. Fun Kee is Chinese educated and did his primary education in Wan Hwa Primary and secondary education at Yuk Choy High School. He was a skinny fellow, tall, fit and possess enormous talents for organizing any activities for the group. He could sing, dance, and play the guitar and a very keen sportsman (badminton being his forte) and a Chinese rock and roll fan.

Fun Kee was a good story-teller. Whilst all the kids were much younger, Fun Kee was the elder leader who can read Jin Yung’s and Wu Longsheng kung fu novels and had access to those novels. At the time, Radio Malaya Mr Lee Tai Soh, was broadcasting kungfu novels but there were no broadcast on the newer kungfu novels, viz. The Mythical Crane, Magic Needle” by Wu Long- Sheng (circa 1957-59), The Legend of the Condor Heroes (射鵰英雄傳 circa 1957-9, Jin Yung) and The Return of the Condor Heroes (神鵰俠侶 circa 1959–61, Jin Yung). Fun Kee had those novels in print and was willing to read to us a chapter at a time after school. Every day, between 3pm and 4 pm, we as little kids would sit round his house upstairs and listen to his readings on the kungfu novels. It was fun and exciting to hear as each chapter unfolded. Later these novels were made into movies and serialized; and the DVDs did the rest. But in 1950s, it was heaven-sent to be able to enjoy these stories read by a talented reader. However, my early childhood exposure to these kungfu novels made me an addict in later life to the DVDs produced by Hong Kong followed by more scenic ones from China. I used to sit up all night watching these devilish DVDs. My cousins who could read Chinese had to read the novels after lights out, and they use a torchlight under their blankets to avoid detection!

Fun Kee was also a great social organizer. All the Menglembu boys and girls trip to the Kledang Hill (Picnics and Dancing) were all coordinated by him. He was the greatest and was ever popular with the group as he took no payment in any of the organized events but gave his best to everyone. He was indeed the benevolent leader.

Fun Kee was also good at social dancing. He was a self-taught dancer. He brought Chinese dancing books with illustrated footsteps and taught everybody how to dance the cha cha, rumba and other Latin American dances. He could sing too and he was also self-taught with the guitar. Fun Kee also taught me how to play the guitar and he did not mind me using his guitar for afternoon practice. He was generous and kind, and was ready to teach anyone who wanted to learn.

Fu Kee was politically astute person as a teenage and his knowledge of politics, dedication and commitment for the welfare of the public. He was also a student activists. Fun Kee is a caring person and he cared about the radioactive waste in Bukit Merah caused by refining rare earths. I only learn recently that he was in jail for protesting against the rare earth people. He told me that when he was in jail, the leader of the pack there learned that he was put inside for protesting against the rare earth people and these commercial activities had led to a rise in cancer in that population. In jail, he was treated with respect and no one was to bully him or harass him. He was later released. For that, I would salute him for his courageous convictions and beliefs about a safe living environment for his fellow man.

Fun Kee, despite his age now (70s), is still active as a travel agent and often accompany tourist around Malaysia. With his talent in organization and networking, it would be a breeze for him and I am sure he would enjoy his work very much as he is very much a “people’s” person.

Fun Kee is a scholar and gentleman. He was the eldest and has 3 brothers and 2 sisters. Despite being a low income family then, Fun Kee excelled in what he did and if he had the opportunity to further his studies, he would make a good academic. I consider him “rich” in many ways, being an able leader, understands environmental safety, morally ethical and beyond reproach and a very talented organizer. He is indeed a good friend to have. Like Ah Piao in Chap 2 of this series, he was also very protective of the young ones.

Thank you Fun Kee for all you have taught us when were still very young then. Fun Kee’s contribution to the environment is his highest achievement of his life and people of Menglembu should acknowledge his contributions to the youth of Menglembu and to the villagers living in Bukit Merah.

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