Archive for the ‘the Boys of Menglembu’ Category

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.


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

Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

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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.


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

Written and contributed
by IpohBornKid

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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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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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by IpohBornKid

(A special feature for Chinese New Year Gamblers as seen through the eyes of a 10 year old kid)

A. The Gambling Kids
Menglembu boys collect things like empty cigarette boxes, the cigarettes wrapping metal foil (the glossy silver one), used bus tickets. Hollywood Film Star cards from the rectangular red chewing gum, and postage stamps. With the exception of metal foils and used postage stamps, all these collectables could be used as gambling chips. At each gambling session, only one collectable item was used and no interchange was allowed.

Film star cards have the usual Hollywood stars of the 40s and 50s, such as Esther Williams, John Wayne, Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, etc. Each card was of equal value. With bus tickets, the value was the numerical value printed on the ticket. Cigarette boxes were valued depending on their circulation. The more popular the brand, the less value it had.

Despite many “free” field games were available to Menglembu boys, there was always a deviation away from physical games to card games. Some of the card games have been described by the author (ref: the Card game of bluff by IpohBornKid at 188hughlowstreetwordpress.com).

Gambling with money was taboo for children except for Chinese New Year where a group of boys and girls would sit around a sheltered veranda of a terrace shop house in Main Road (Jalan Lahat). The usual stake was about 5c or 10c with high rollers going at 20c. Gambling with money was illegal in Malaya then (and now). However, such activities would ceased after the Chinese New Year celebration was over.

The gambling with cards (called Hor Lan Pye in Cantonese – literally Holland Cards). The word “Holland” meant European. In the absence of money, the legitimate “gaming chip” were substituted by empty cigarette packets or used bus tickets.

Used bus tickets with values of 5c, 10c and 15c were common. The higher value 20c – 50c were rare items considering the average fare is 15c. The Red omnibus tickets were low in value (under 20c) but the Green omnibus tickets had a higher value because its route include other mining towns, i.e. from Ipoh to Batu Gajah, Pusing, Tanjong Tualang or Bruas. The Green bus tickets were made of thicker paper than the thin Red bus tickets. Most kids collected the Green bus tickets. The higher value tickets could be found in the Kidd Road Bus Station terminal in Ipoh or on the bus itself. In the 1950s, many ACS boys go home via the Kidd Road Bus Station exiting from the west gate near Horley Hall, through a metal net door and into the open field towards Kidd Road. Hence, any collector would have a keen eye for a used ticket lying on the floor of the bus station or inside the bus. Motor oil stained tickets were worthless.

Prior to the use of flip top box for cigarette (held 20 cigarettes), the rectangular box with a sleeve enclosing 10 cigarettes in a metal foil was common. The common place to collect these valuable rectangular packs were under the coffee tables of the coffee shops. In Menglembu, there were 6 coffee shops, 4 in Pike Street (Jalan Kledang), 1 in Theatre Street and 1 in Main Road (Jalan Lahat). Most of the coffee shops were run by Hainanese. Recently, a Hainanese friend Dr Jim Tan told me that the coffee shops owners were dominated by his clan simply because many of his clansmen used to work as cook with British families or establishment in Malaya. Hence, they could cook both Asian and Western meals. I can only recall two famous shops in Pike Street, the Choy Onn Yuen and Yim Keat Fong; and Yuet Nam in Theatre Street. My old friend Mun Kit who use to live in Pike Street may be able name the two shops on his side. If you are not shy about these activities, you could collect quite a number of these cigarette packs on the floor of the coffee shop. The coffee shop owners never “shoo” any kids away from their premises.

For those who were in the gang around early 1950s, the value of the cigarette packs was determined by its rarity. For example, the Rough Rider brand which was very common had a street value of one. Navy Cut has a value of 2. The rare Craven “A” Black Spade and Torch brands had a value of 10-50 depending on the locality in town. Readers may want to share their memories for other brands of cigarette packs and their market value in this blog.
The author’s family had a number of chain smoking persons in the family and the home provided a source of these cigarette packs. At one time, the author did some cigarette retailing within the house. If one bought a cartoon of cigarette (10 packs) on wholesale price from the sundry shops in Menglembu, you could make 10% profit after selling all the packs. Your net profit was $1.00 per cartoon. All you need is capital.

B. The Gambling Adults
Adults had their gambling haunts in Menglembu. The most common gambling was a game of mah-jong in a “private” home casino! A common game involved a starting chip of 2,000 with the operator getting 10% after each game finished. The stakes were commonly $2 or $4 with higher stakes at $10 per game. For that commission, players were offered food and drinks and a continuous electric fan. One haunt in Menglembu for business people was located near the pirate taxi stand and upstairs of a fruit and confectionery shop. In this haunt, I saw mah-jong players using sticks and a special skilled table allowed the players to play the game relying completely by their sense of touch by their fingers. They could “game’ without even looking at their cards, wow!

A common adult gambling habit was the illegal number lottery. It is interesting to remember that doing the rounds on Saturday morning for “Pak Chi Phew” (Cantonese for 3 numbers lottery) on behalf of crazy friends and relatives punting on the 3 or 4 number digit lottery, one could make some pocket money out of that. The illegal number racketeers paid low returns. The payout for 3 number was about $300-400 per $1 bet (the odds was 1 in 1,000) and for 4 numbers $1,000 per $1 bet (the odds was 1 in 10,000). Since it was illegal, the child couriers were used to collect the money and a scripts (containing the betting numbers and the betting amount) and delivered them to the illegal operator. The Police did not stop children on bicycle in their search for illegal betting slips. Common betting value was 10-20c. The commission for the courier was 10% pf the amount betted and one could make $1 after several bicycle runs into the secret haunts of Menglembu Regrouping Areas where the illegal operators were located. They did not stay in one place for long and the change of location was by word of mouth. Some operators were known to the family and they would be in a family home doing their business. All betting slips were copied using a carbon paper, the courier took the top copy and the operator retain the carbon copy. Of course, the betting tickets were placed inside the bicycle head lamp and not on the person. The couriers were told that you can only get arrested if the betting slip was on your person. Wrong! You get busted if it is on your bicycle! (This realization is retrospective).

The winner number came from legal horse racing numbers. Many stories about an illegal racketeer leaving town after some gambler striking it rich, was very common. It was called “Chou Lo” or flee the place. This usually occurred when the sole operator kept the bets to himself and not re-purchase their numbers with headquarter, called the “Chong” or “factory”. This practice is similar to small insurance company selling their risks to bigger insurance company like Lloyds of London. When the government set up the legal betting shop on numbers, the old time racketeers went out of business completely. Big time gamblers with money, would then use their telephones to call a friend in other major towns to “buy” up certain numbers. I believe each number had only 50 or 100 tickets printed at $1 per ticket. In those days, they sold tickets over the counters even to children!

If some readers may remember or seen a publication in Chinese (Numerology Book), an A6 size white or pink paper publication showing picture drawings and the corresponding numbers from 000 to 999. My gambling relatives used to ask me on Saturday morning what did I dreamt last night. By looking at the Numerology book, they chose the image which matched the dream and used the number below the image as the betting number. It was also common using digits from a passport, or any document with a number. Car accidents registration numbers were commonly used. When the newspaper carried a photograph of a car involved in an accident, the car number plate was blacked out (censored). I had a false impression then that it was a means to prevent people from punting with the number. A friend who grew up in Penang asked me recently “what is the corresponding image for 584?” I can only say I can’t remember! A dog killed in a car accident became “649”. I am sure readers can give more examples of these fascinating numbers. There were more extreme examples of trying to get a winning number. For example, someone will drive to the outskirt of Ipoh, find a big tree where joss sticks were used. They would ask the spirits there to give them the winning numbers! Actually, a big stone or structure with joss stick burning is a good site. It was eerie to accompany adults to such places particularly when nature called and there was no place to do it, else we offend the spirit. There were even more frightening stories about people venturing into grave sites for the sake of a few numbers!


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Written and contributed

by IpohBornKid

In this article I wish to write about 2 of my childhood friends who have passed away recently and they were Kam Chi and Ah Piao. Both of them had good physique and were natural sportsmen.
1950s Photo – Ah Piao (left) and Kam Chi (right)

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Ah Piao, probably born in 1944, lived in terrace houses along Main Road and opposite the Menglembu Post Office. His family ran a tin ore receiving business servicing the Chinese women dulang washers of the time. Most of these dulang washers were Hakkas. Another most notable fact was his Uncle used to own a “Skoda” car in Menglembu and these Eastern European were almost extinct in those days.
Ah Piao went to a Chinese school but we mixed together irrespective of the schools we went to. Ah Piao, a born athlete was tall for his age. He excels in the games he played, particularly, marbles, tops, bat and ball, pen knife and konki games. Ah Piao was good with his penknife and he could make bats from rubber fire wood and konki sticks. He also showed tremendous courage and feared nothing.
As an athlete, he was most impressed when he learned that Mt. Everest had been conquered in the 1950s. He would relate this story to us but we were too young to appreciate the great feat.
One day, a big lizard was discovered on one of the trees (Yong Sui – Cantonese, a tree with aerial roots) that located in the vacant lot across from the Post Office. As little boys, we used to climb that tree and now with the big lizard on it, we dare not approach the tree. The presence of the lizard gave rise to excitement and commotion and all of us were trying to pelt it with little stones. Ah Piao then took it on himself to get rid of the lizard by pelting it pelting it with a long stick. We were too afraid to go near it. He went so close to the lizard and at one stage, we though the lizard would have bitten him. He lived to brag about his exploits and he was our hero then. Ah Piao was not an academic but a sportsman and he too belonged our soccer team organised by Fun Kee and Kam Chi. Ah Piao later joined the Malaysian Army and I was told that he rose to the rank of Sargent. Another member of our group, Ah Aun, also joined the Army but was enlisted as an officer (retired as a Major). Ah Piao can be remembered as one of our leaders who would protect us (little ones) from harm and despite his strong physique, he was a polite and mild manner person. His memory will be etched in our minds for ever.

Kam Chi, was younger than Ah Piao by one year. He lived at Hay Yuen Kai, Cantonese for Theatre Street. He lived upstairs with his family and had 4 other brothers and sisters. . Kam Chi was also an athlete. He was boy of strong physique but shorter than Ah Piao. Personality wise, Kam Chi’s temperament was more like a little fire-cracker.
Kam Chi was an ex-Ipoh ACS boy and his passion was soccer. At one time, he lived in Kampar with his father, a local dentist and they return home to Menglembu every weekend. I remembered the Peugeot 403 driven by his father and they would pass through our house before making a right turn at the Post Office to their home. I have been to Kam Chi’s house many times and noticed that Kam Chi’s younger sister was one of the pretty girls in Menglembu.
Kam Chi brought from Kampar his trained soccer skills. I remember being trained by Kam Chi, our soccer coach. The running, the stationary exercise, the ball passing practice, and even the “fouling’ tactics (elbowing, tripping and body slamming if you are big in size). Soccer practice was fun as you really learn the ropes from an experience soccer player who had been in competition. With Fun Kee’s network skills and Kam Chi’s coaching, the Menglembu team was ready to take on local teams from other areas of Menglembu and Bukit Merah. Kam Chi and the bigger boys were forwards whilst I was given a position as a left half-back. It was fun and later in life, I became a better soccer player because of Kam Chi. Recently, I met up with Kam Chi’s elder brother who lived in Sydney ad he told me that his brother Kam Chi had passed away.
Although Ah Piao and Kam Cho did not play a role in my adult life, I did really appreciate their friendship and the imparting of their sporting skills among the younger children in Menglembu. I considered both of them as natural leaders. They may be gone, but the memories of our childhood encounters and happy moments of our playing together, will never be forgotten, not only be me but my all our surviving childhood friends in Menglembu.

Written and contributed

by IpohBornKid

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Written and contributed

by IpohBornKid

This article is dedicated in memory of the Boys of Menglembu who have passed on in recent years.

A picture of Mengelembu boy

The X generation children (born after WWII) in Menglembu did benefited much from the tin mining boom in the 1950s. It was a period of unprecedented economic growth in the Kinta Valley. At that time, dulang washers can earn $3 a day, a maid doing domestic duties earned $10 a month, and a temporary school teacher can earn $80 a month. A bowl of friend noodles, wonton noodles, or hor-hee costs 10-20 cents. Getting a bus from Menglembu to Ipoh costs 10-15 cents and the “pirate” taxi costs 30 cents.

Against this economic background, many children were sent to schools for at least 6 years and the school fees started at $2.50 per month in primary and $5.00 per month in secondary (Ipoh ACS rates). The schools were mushrooming with English language schools being Anglo Chinese School, St Michael’s Institute, Anderson School, Guru Nanak, Convent School, Methodist Girl School and Raja Perempuan. Chinese language schools include Man Wah, Yuk Choy, Perak Girls, Sam Tet, Poi Lam and Sam Jai. Class sizes averaged 40 per class room and most schools have enrolments up to 1,000 students. Schools were split into morning and afternoon sessions and most over aged students went to the afternoon session. There was also night schools in Man Wah that teaches matured aged students at night. This was the golden era for public education and many benefited from getting an education, particularly the X generation.

In those days, there were no computers or TVs and the only entertaining is via the radio and picture theaters. Children have no access to exotic toys and they rely on their initiatives and innovation to invent games to pass the time. Such games include marbles, spinning tops, “konki”, bat and ball etc. Later they went into basketball or soccer teams. The boys had a soccer team organized by Kam Chi and Fun Kee and we used to compete with the Bukit Merah soccer team. Hence, there was a lot of bonding between the children living in Menglembu and in particular, this story will emphasize the activities of the “Boys of Menglembu”.

In this part of the story, the author wish to introduce some personalities, by giving their nick names when they were kids. As the series unfold, more information will be written about their personalities and what they do best at that age.

A large group of boys who congregate around the Menglembu Post Office / Eastern Photograph Shop and they include Ah Aun (Army Officer), Tong Chai (Medical Practioner), Ah Piao (Army), Kam Chi (Army), Sunny, Ah Ho, Fun Kee, Bat Ya Kung, Kuan Hon, Kuan Leong , Fay Lo Kit, Wai Chai and Leong Ku, etc. Another group that congregates in near the Menglembu Police Station area includes Kai Sak, Ah Ng, Ah Chan, and Ox Head. These kids from these groups comes from diverse education background, but the major schools they went to were Ipoh ACS, Anderson and Man Wah and Yuk Choy. Sometimes the groups combined together including the girls of Menglembu, and would organize a picnic in the famous Kledang Hills where the Radio antenna was located on top of one of the hills. Those were the “Happy Days”. If time permits, I would venture to relate a tale or two of the most sought after Menglembu girls.

As they grew up, they went about their separate ways, some in KL and Singapore and others overseas. Now they are all in the retirement age and most of them has not seen each other for 20,30, 40 or 50 years. Some of them have met up in the recent 10 years and learned that some of their friends have passed on. Nevertheless, the nostalgic memories of their childhood remained in their mind as long as they live. Those were happy memories.

The first friend I wish to talk about is Kai Sak (KS). KS was an ACS boy and his father owns the photographic shop in next to the tailor shop in the first block of business houses along Main Road after passing the Police Station (traveling south) at the left hand side of the road. I was impressed by his possession of a bottle of Silver Nitrate (AgNO3) and how it would stain the skin black if you touched it!

I know KS family very well which include all his brothers and sisters. KS has 2 sisters and 1 brother living in Australia whilst he went abroad to New York (USA for 20 years) to seek his fortune. I did not heard of KS until 2 years ago when we made contact through the ACS Alumni website. He has now returned to KL, retired but started a fish and shrimp farm somewhere in the KL jungle area.

I often have regular meetings in KS house with Ah Ng, Ah Chan and Ox Head. Ah Ng joined the public service while Ah Chan went into his father’s rubber manufacturing business. Ah Chan also distinguished himself in Menglembu as the former Chairman of the Board of the Man Wah Primary School. Ah Ng is a scholar of Chinese classics and he used to recite the Chinese idioms to us, the English educated kids. I had not heard of Ox Head for nearly 50 years.

Ox Head used to own a Honda Cub 50cc and all 3 of us, Ox Head, KS and me would ride in the Honda Cub at night (where there is little chance of meeting up with a Traffic Police or the local constabulary) from Menglembu to Pengalan tin mining area in the south , and east of Lahat. I sat in the front, Ox Head in the middle driving the motorbike and KS at the back. There were a lot of mining pools in the area and people also reared fish in the ponds. Ox Head was fantastic with the fishing net and when he casted the net in the pond, he would catch some fish. We just took (stole?) the fish and went back to KS house and made fish porridge out of it.

We also went up the edge of the Kledang Hill as the 50cc motorbike was unable to climb the steep slopes. Coming down the gentle slope of the Kledang Hill Road, the Honda Cub managed to speed up to 40 mph. For some unknown reasons, we moved off the road and ran on the patches of grass. By the time we realized what happened, the motorbike was heading straight into a small stream which was running across in front of us. In a mad moment, the motorbike managed to cross the stream only with the front wheel landing on the hard ground and the back wheel in the stream. All three of us were catapulted off the motorbike but we landed on soft ground. No one was injured and we continued our journey back to town. Since only two can ride on the motorbike legally, I was dropped off before hitting the town area.

KS was also a very adventurous boy and we used to climb up Kledang Hill unconventionally, by going upstream starting from a major mountain stream. After traveling about 1 mile, we would reach the first water fall created by elevated rock bed to about 12 feet up. This was where the water flowed off the rock into a stream that ran across Menglembu. As we climbed that rock, we saw the water flowing in the middle of the bed rock which 10-12 feet wide. Parts of it were slippery with green fungus growth and with a heavy pack on the back, it was quite dangerous if you slipped and fall. As the rock bed was slopping downwards, a slip and fall would be like riding the slippery dip along the rock surface and at the end of it, one would crashed down to a rock pool 12 feet below. I had the unfortunate experience of making a slip and started to slide down the rock bed. After a few seconds, KS, who was behind me, was quick in action by grasping a vine that grew across the rock surface with one hand, and with his other hand, grasped me as I slipped towards him. If it is not for his quick action, I could have been seriously injured or killed. I have never forgotten what KS did and I will be forever grateful to him for saving my butt.

My friend KS had taught me how to develop and print photographs in his father’s photograph shop. He also taught me how to use a camera (a German Leica , held by Ox Head I the photograph). He is a man of many talents and it is my privilege and honor to have a friend like him.

Last year, I went to KL to see KS and although he has grown older, he was still the same KS I left behind 50 years ago.

Although KS did not do too well at school, he did well in the business world. A lot of people thought he would not do well in life but I remembered well that after working only 2 years in KL as a cosmetic salesman, he drove back to Menglembu in a black Merceds Benz, parked it in front of the photograph shop to show his mother and her neighbors what he was capable of. It was a good rebuttal to people who “saw him no up”. Although he did not say so, I gathered he was generous enough to put his younger brothers through university. He is an example of a good Menglembu boy who did well and I am proud of him.

Story Ends….

Written and contributed

by IpohBornKid

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