Don’t Miss “The Battle of the River Plate”.
Ruth Rollitt was so incensed by the multicoloured Cathay that we featured, she sent us this photograph of how the Theatre looked when it first opened in those days of Movies and Mercedes. She included a newspaper article from 1958, the first part of which is inserted below. The whole article will appear on or database archive before too long. Unfortunately we received it to late to catch the movie! Did anyone out there see it?
“Special Cathay Supplement
A Milestone in Cinema Entertainment
Ipoh’s New Cathay Theatre
To build a luxury theatre in Ipoh has long been a wish of the Cathay Organisation. This is in keeping with their policy to provide the best that there is available in cinema comfort and entertainment.
Costing over $600,000 their new Cathay, Ipoh will be officially declared open by His Highness the Sultan of Perak, Raja Sir Izzudin Shah ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Jalil, KCMG, OBE, before a distinguished and cosmopolitan gathering at 8 pm tonight, the eve of Chinese New Year.
Out of a piece of rubber estate land there has risen a handsome steel and concrete structure housing one of the best equipped theatres in the state of Perak.
Among the guests who will attend tonight’s opening ceremony will be State and Town Councillors, community leader, heads of Government and other personalities.
Cathay Organisation personalities include Mr Loke Wan Tho, Head of the Organisation, whose inspired leadership and farsightedness has provided Ipoh town with the handsome and imposing entertainment landmark.
Mrs Loke will accompany her husband and Mr John Ede, Director and General manager of the Cathay Organisation will also be present.
This new theatre – a worthy acquisition to the large number of theatres already controlled by the Organisation – was designed by Mr B M Iversen, the well-known Ipoh architect.”
More about the Cathay can be found here.
” Mo Gao Jin, Sharpening Scissors, Mo Gao Jin …….”
Suddenly one day last week we could hardly believe our ears. Was that really a scissor sharpener’s call just outside our gate? As we rushed outside there he was, riding away on his battered bicycle with his, just as battered, hat on his head. Of course my wife and I ran after him and caught up with him at a neighbour’s house. “Quick, the camera!” my wife shouted after me as I was running home to get it.
So here he is, Ah Tuck, possibly the last mobile knife and scissor sharpener that Ipoh will ever see. He was born in Ipoh in 1935 and learnt the skill from his father. There was no sophistication about his technique, just a range of sharpening stones, from course to fine, a couple of wooden blocks, a hammer and pliers. But he soon got down to work.
He spent quite some time on this one knife which had a kink in the blade, but when he had finished it was as straight and as sharp as new.
My wife could not resist employing him as well – 3 knives sharpened for RM10, including a repair to one handle and so he settled down to work in our driveway.
Finally, before he left, he gave us three tips for keeping knives sharp:
1. Never use hot water to clean your knives. 2. Always wash a knife with the sharp side upwards. 3. Never scrape your chopping board with the sharpened side of the knife.
Now Ah Tuck is a far cry from the old travelling scissor sharpeners who used pedal power to rotate a grindstone on their bicycles, but the job was done, the knives were sharp. What more could you want for RM10?
Apparently, at age 75, he will also paint your house or mend your leaking roof, but quite how we would find him again I don’t know. Has anyone else seen him?
The forgotten skillful scissors sharpener of Ipoh….
Dad has only a primary education. Without a stable job, it is difficult to feed a large family. We have already pawned whatever that can be pawned. We were close to living in poverty.
Finally, Grandma let out the front portion of #188 to a couple who turned it into a mahjong parlor. Many whores, massage ladies, bargirls, pimps, hawkers, taxi drivers and housewives came in for several rounds. It became a very noisy place, sometimes extending into the wee small hours. Many times fights broke out and the police were called in to break them up. What was once a home to us suddenly became a vice den filled with cigarette smoke and vulgar languages. Sometimes we could not even hear our own voice with all the noises around us.
We kept to ourselves, spending our time mostly upstairs but it was already filled to the brim with tenants. There is hardly any space left for us to study in. This was the last straw for Dad. In a fit, he kicked all the mahjong players out and took back the shop for us to study in peace.
In his early days, Dad was trained in a mechanical work shop in Batu Gajah before the Japanese invasion interrupted his apprenticeship.
He quickly got hold of some motor parts and assembled them into something you see in these pictures. I really do not know what to call it. There is no name for it. We simply called it “the motor”. It was this device that gave our family hopes again. More importantly, it put food on our table and saw all of us through school.
You see, with this device, Dad started another business. He cycled to all the tailor shops, hair salons and garment factories in Ipoh town, offering to sharpen their scissors. In the beginning, business was quite scarce. Nobody would trust him with their cutting tools. After all, he was just a new kid on the block in this trade.
There were some established ones in town. There is one at Cockman Street, next to the shop that sells joss sticks and paper offerings. Others operated along back alleys in the old town area, doing their business long before my Dad appeared in the picture.
However, with patience and skill, he soon won them over. Before long, they discovered that the sharpness lasts longer compared to those done by others. Moreover, Dad charged the same like the rest, RM1 for a pair. Within 2 years, he managed to build a base of regular customers.
He even painted his own signboard and put it in front of the shop every morning before he started work. I remembered it was a big scissors with a light blue background. The blades were painted in silver while the handles were in black. It was just a picture, without words.
Dad used sharpening stones or whetstones to sharpen the scissors. Some came in the shape of a small circular wheel which was fixed to the motor. Others were simply blocks of rough or smooth stones.
They were used separately or in combination, depending on the size, length and quality of the scissors. Normally the bigger, longer and superior blades were sharpened using the motor while the smaller, shorter and inferior ones were done by hand only, to prevent them from breaking.
Yes, the blades can break under intense pressure! I have seen this before and in the end, Dad has to compensate his customer with a new pair of scissors.
To sharpen a pair of scissors, Dad unscrewed the bolt and nut to separate the two blades. Dipping the scissors and sharpening stone into a pail of water to make them wet, he would slide the beveled edge on one side of each blade against the stone. He has to slide the entire length of the blade many times before the scissors is sharp enough to be oiled and screwed back.
Sometimes it took 2 or 3 hours to sharpen one and sometimes, in less than half an hour, depending on the scissors. He also sharpened kitchen knives and all kinds of cutting tools.
It was hard work. It was a one man show. With so many scissors to be sharpen and everyone wanted it done quickly, Dad has to work from morning till night, standing on his feet. He could not get the work done sitting down because, to slide the blade, he needed to use force.
Therefore, his feet would get swollen by the end of the day. His hands numbed and his back pained by the many hours of bending over the work table. Sometimes he accidentally cut his fingers and bled. With a bandaged hand, he continued with the work because he has datelines to meet and many mouths to feed.
Many customers told Dad he was the best scissors sharpener in town. They wanted him to sharpen their scissors in the quickest possible time. Of course Dad could not meet their demands because he has so many scissors waiting for him to sharpen. It is piling up by the day.
“If you wanted it to be sharpen quickly, then please go to other scissors sharpener. Here, you have to wait longer as you can see the pile of scissors and I am doing the work alone!” he could AFFORD TO SCOLD his customers. Many were fearful of him but they loved his skill.
In the end, they meekly gave in and left their cutting tools with Dad. Many bought extra scissors to use while waiting for Dad to sharpen theirs. They preferred to wait for several days rather than go elsewhere. They knew they left their tools in good hands. Throughout all the years, no customers complained about Dad’s work, except that he was rather fierce when pressured!
When I was in Std 6, some foreign tourists past by Dad’s work place which was at the back portion of the shop. They were fascinated to see such a trade done in a traditional manner and decided to video and photograph him as he goes about doing his work.
Many people in the neighborhood called Dad “Scissors Sharpener Uncle” and Mom “Scissors Sharpener Aunty”. When I took taxis in front of Rex Cinema, many taxi drivers who knew Mom and Dad even called me “Scissors Sharpener Daughter”!! LOL.
Dad toiled on until all his children finished school and were able to stand on their own. By then he was old and haggard, having slogged most of his life. As a result of working too hard, it put a toll on his health. His heart became weak, his hands stiff with arthritis and his legs from rheumatism.
Dad retired in 1996 after 25 years in this business. He spent the remaining years nursing his health and staying home resting after working hard most of his life.
This article is a tribute to Dad, a very determined man who believed in nothing and no one, except his own pair of hands and who overcame all odds that life threw into his path, without any help from anyone. I am very proud of him.
I am still keeping this motor with me as a remembrance of Dad who was once a very skillful scissors sharpener in Ipoh. It is a waste that his hand painted signboard became rusty after 25 years and he threw it away when he finally called it a day. But he gave me a pair of scissors and a few whetstones to keep as well.
My Dad Forever.
Dad, as I kept a lonely vigil beside your hospital bed
Stroking your soft white hair, caressing your fatigued face
Holding your wrinkled hands, never wanting to let you go
I could hear your pale lips murmuring my name softly
My heart bled to see your body so weak and frail
Tears rolling down as I watched you slowly fading away
And memories of us together just came rushing back
When I was just a boisterous little girl of five or six
You took me to ride on the carousel at Jubilee Park
And you cheered me on as I got onto the giant wheel
We went for white man movies together all over town
I ate peanuts on your laps in front of Rex Cinema
Rain or shine you took me to school on your old bicycle
You taught me how to read, write, draw and color
At times you and Mom ate little so that I can eat more
You toiled from day till night without a whimper
Your feet swollen from many hours of standing
Your hands numbed from working without a rest
And back ached from bending over the work table
It was like this all the years until I grew up
By then it put a severe toll on your health
When I finally blossomed into a pretty young lady
We fought over my choices of boyfriends and suitors
Even the best in my eyes is not good enough for you
They were given the boot and shown the door
At last you gave your blessing but very reluctantly
However your heart melted when you held my babies
I saw you embracing them so tenderly, so lovingly
Every morning I brew your favorite thick Chinese tea
I loved the smell of your cheroot and green color hair gel
I watched you put on your white hat and dark glasses
Humming softly your favorite tunes in the bathroom
But roaring in a thunderous voice whenever you speaks
You are a very strict disciplinarian with a heart of gold
Many people feared and avoided you but I knew better
Our endless trips to the hospital together all the years
I am exhausted from arguing with the doctors and nurses
Whether I should let you know about the prostate cancer
They said nothing can be done to stop the metastasis
That you are actually just buying time in this world
I really wanted to spare you from the painful truth
In the end I chose not to tell you, please do forgive me
When Mom suddenly left us without a word years ago
We comforted each other in those sad and lonely days
You only trusted me, and no one else, to take care of you
It is a privilege I valued and cherished very much
On this Father’s Day, I wanted to let you know again
That I am very grateful and proud to be your daughter
I loved you with all my heart and I still missed you badly
Note: Dad in his vintage dark glasses. Can you spot his white cowboy hat? He was flanked by my two kids whom he adored. Later, Dad passed on from pneumonia when the cancer metastasized to his lung. He was 87.
Happy Father’s Day to all the guys who played a part in bringing us into the world, then slogged to bring us up and finally released us to spread our wings!