By Uncle Beng
The first ancestor originated from Gansiu in the Hwang Ho Basin. He was believed to be a blacksmith. Owing to the civil wars, the north-eastern people moved southwards and ended as “Hakka” or guests. From southern China some even settled overseas like Korea and Taiwan. Our own ancestors settled in Yongdin in Fujian province whilst others stayed in Guanzhou whose dialects were Cantonese Hakka and Teochiu Hakka. These migrants brought their architecture of the famous round house (please see Keong’s painting of the Round House) whereby the walls were built using the same technique as the Great Wall of China to withstand attacks from local forces. They also had to occupy the higher land which was more difficult to cultivate and this made them to be tough, especially the women who did not bind their feet in order to do rough work. On the other hand the men practiced martial arts to fight intruders and at the same time to stay home to look after the children. Now in the village of Jie Chuan, only the graves of the 13th and 14th generation are there because Foo Jin Yu of the 15th generation came out to Sumatra as an indentured laborer. His youngest son Foo Kooi Sin came out to Penang with his parents and of his six sons Ah Soek/Father was the youngest.
Recollections of Father
Mr. Oh Soon Guan
Oh Soon Guan was born on Feb.8th 1911 in Telor Tumpuyak in Batu Maung and passed away in on April 22nd, 1977. Being the youngest, he had more opportunities to study whilst the other brothers did the job of clearing the jungle to grow spices like cloves and nutmegs. This motivated the East India Company to open up the spice trade in Penang. We can claim to be the pioneers to help in developing Penang. Early transport in Batu Maung area was entirely by boat to town near the Prangin area. There was “piracy” where their bags of coins were snatched from their boats but with reinforcement and using the tell-tail track they were able to follow them and grabbed back their property. The products sold in those days were spices, pigs, betel-nuts, coconuts and duck eggs.
His primary education was in Chung Shan School in Bayan Lepas and later to Chung Ling for his secondary education. He stayed in town with his grand-uncle (kiew kong). When rubber was introduced by the British and encouraged to be grown, the old house in Bayan Lepas used to be the shop for collecting rubber from the smoke-house in Batu Maung. Father’s job was to be in the shop to receive the collection whilst Fifth uncle did the transporting and overseeing the smoking of the rubber sheets.
During the Japanese occupation the old house was used for making cigarettes from growing tobacco leaves to rolling out cigarettes. We youngsters used to help with drying the leaves day and night. Speed was necessary on rainy days to bring in the huge bamboo trays. Once I was badly bitten by the red big ants that normally came out at night. Father’s job was to cycle round town to distribute the cigarettes named “Tiger” brand.
After a short spell at Sin Pin Jit Poh, he joined the uncles to work as a treasurer in a shop in town called “Long San” selling all kinds of animal fodder, like copra cake, corn, rice-bran, wheat-bran, & oats. Later in 1949 this company started its own pig and fish farm in Bayan Lepas. His job was also to collect money from his clients but most of the time his soft heart did not allow him to be successful. He almost always came away with empty hands. Even though we all followed as a Sunday outing, we could not help.
Father served in many committees and he was awarded a PPN by the Agong in 1967 for serving the community.
Madam Eng Lean Ong
Father was a quiet man and left all the disciplining to Mother. When we were very young he used to baby-sit us while Mother did all the house chores.
At least Father and Mother had a chance to travel round the world. Their timing was correct for them to be accompanied by some of us during the different laps of their trip. They started from Malaysia with Sek’s parents to attend Keong’s wedding in Scotland and later taken to New York where they stayed when K.Foong was born. Yaw & Shuli drove all the way from Riverside to introduce Shuli to them. We visited New York to take them back to Michigan for a short stay and to see Niagara Falls. Then Hong and Keong came from New York and Keong took them back via Hong Kong to see How & Sabrina before coming back.