My father was born in Singapore in 1918. We don’t know much about his younger days, except that it was quite tough during the pre-war days. One thing I know is that my grandmother placed great importance on English education and so my father was sent to the Anglo Chinese School for his education. Thanks to her, my son as well as my nephew are now in ACS.
Altogether, my parents had 7 children; 5 sons and 2 daughters, but unfortunately, 2 of them passed away quite young, before I was born in fact. The oldest, a boy, died as an infant during the Japanese Occupation; what of, we do not know as my parents did not talk about it; but I recall some mention of Malaria. The fourth, a girl died of sickness shortly before I was born. My father was very fond of girls. I learned only recently that this was the reason why I was named Chun See. The character See (思) in Chinese meant to think or reflect. I guess he still missed her badly at the time I was born. Both my parents didn’t like to talk about these 2 departed children; but on one occasion, my father remarked that my youngest daughter, who was a toddler at that time, looked like my departed sister.
1950 Photo of my dad with his darling pet daughter, my elder sister Pat
My father got to know my mother through his good friends, the Ng brothers including my seventh uncle, the badminton champion. The Ngs were a huge family of 11 children, mostly boys and only 2 girls I believe; my mum being one of them. She was number 5.
During the war time, my parents must have stayed in Segamat for a while because their second son, my present eldest brother Chun Chew, was born in Segamat in 1945. (This part I am a bit confused because I also recall my father telling me about an incident with the Japanese soldiers in the Padang area. He was with one of my uncles. Apparently, they did not bow properly to the Japanese soldiers and got slapped and punished to run backwards until they fell.)
(Latest: My sister just told me a near disastrous brush my mother had with the Japanese soldiers in Segamat, which should be of interest to my young female readers. Apparently, she only narrated this to my sister and not to the rest of us. On one occasion, they received news that the Japanese soldiers were on their way looking for women. So my mother, and some of the other girls, including one of my aunts, went hiding in the woods. Whilst they were hiding in the bushes, they saw the Japanese soldiers go by. She remembered they wore yellow colour socks.)
After the war, they returned to Singapore and moved to Nelson Road near the Singapore harbour. Subsequently, they moved to Geylang Lorong 14, before finally settling down in Lorong Kinchir, also known as Chui Arm Lor in Hokkien where I was born. It was a mainly HoKKien kampong and my family was one of the few Cantonese families there.
My father was quite well-known in our kampong. The villagers called him Sam-Kor (三哥) because he was the third in his family. My uncles, the Ngs, called him Kou-Kow (or tall dog) – but actually he wasn’t extremely tall. He was also one of the few English-educated men in our kampong. As such, our neighbours often came to him for help in official correspondence with the authorities. We frequently saw him banging away at his Underwood type-writer. I taught myself to type in secondary three using that same type writer. We remember one case where he helped this widow by the name of Ba-li who had many children to apply for a license to operate a drinks stall in a school canteen. She got her stall and subsequently became quite well-off. Every year, we got a free crate of glasses of famous soft drinks brands.
My father was also quite strong physically. He often rode a bicycle and carried water from our well. He was quite a good swimmer too. The photo below is taken in 1948 at a place known as the Tiger Swimming Pool. I heard that it was located next to the sea near to the Haw Par Villa. The kid in the photo was my present eldest brother Chun Chew.
My father was also active in community service. He held the post of vice-president of the Naval Base’s trade union. He worked for many years at the Naval Base in Sembawang as a senior clerk and was retrenched at about age 50 when the British forces withdrew from Singapore. He was also involved in the early years of the NTUC (National Trade Union Congress) labour movement. He was also a member of the Serangoon Gardens Citizens Consultative Committee for a number of years. In fact, I recently met an 80 year old gentleman at the Lentor Residence who claimed to know my father from the days when he too was on the Serangoon Gardens CCC. He said my father was one of 2 representatives from our kampong in the SGCCC. I am confident that he remembered correctly because he was able to give the name of the other gentleman from our kampong. I will interview him one of these days for the full story.
Fortunately, after my father was retrenched in 1968, my eldest brother Chun Chew and my elder sister Pat had already completed their secondary four education and started to work and contribute to the family income.Thanks to their sacrifice, my elder brother David (no. 3) and I (no. 4) were able to get a university education.
I always felt that in addition to a Father's Day and a Mother's Day, we should have a Elder Sibling's Day. I suppose September 11 is as good a choice as any other.