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May 2017

Famous Names

By |2017-05-10T14:46:41+08:00May 10th, 2017|Categories: history, Identify Photographs, People|Tags: , , |



Our featured Celebrity was born in Wuhua, Guandong, China. He began as an apprentice in the Menglembu Tin Mines. His hard work eventually paid off when he could afford to run his own tin mines. He was also quite a philanthropist. Among his many good deeds include:

  • Treasurer of Yuk Choy High School, and also donated 2 classrooms
  • Treasurer of Perak Girls’ School
  • Vice Chairman of the Perak Ka Yin Association (from 1952-1953)
  • Hon. Chairman of the Ipoh Hakka (Khek) Association

In case you’re still wondering who this gentleman is, well let me put you out of your misery. He’s none other than Lee Kwee Foh!

November 2012

Episode 5 – by IpohBornKid

By |2012-11-20T17:24:13+08:00November 20th, 2012|Categories: childhood, Memories, People|Tags: , , , , |


The Grandchildren of Chong Soon Fan’s eldest daughter lived in the  “old house” at Main Road, Menglembu.  They were all studying in the English schools in Ipoh.  At the break of dawn, they all got up, brushed their teeth and started to walk towards the Chong Family bungalow opposite the Wan Hua Primary School.  There were two reasons for going to the bungalow, to have breakfast and getting a ride by car to school in Ipoh.

There were also 6th, 8th and 14th Aunties going to school in Ipoh,  Breakfast was served starting a 6:30 am.  Breakfast menu were usually, toast with Kayang and Coffee, porridge or simple rice meal.  Sometimes the late comers (usually getting out of bed late or spend too much time making up or some unexpected circumstances) would take their breakfast in the car.  Generally speaking, the aunties spent too much time making up their faces in the morning and they were causing the delayed departure to school   They were the elders and hence no comments or protest or you would get “hot tongue” for additional breakfast.

The Grandchildren living in the bungalow were spared these delays as they just walked from the front door of the house, cross the road and they were in school.  Lucky for them, but when they started to go to high school, they had to join the crowd.  By that time, most of the aunties have graduated from high schools.

The driver arrived at the bungalow at 7:00 am and his job was to take us to school.  Sometimes the car would not start because of flat battery and we had to push it to start.  Luckily there were plenty of people who can push.   We all piled up in a Red Vauxhall Cresta 1956 model  (AA9788) l with 3 forward gear, column shift and a bench seat in the front (seated 3 people including the driver).  Later in the early1960s, a Ford Galaxy (BH2131) was used to transport the kids to school in Ipoh.

The journey to school started usually at sunrise 6:45 am.  Turning out of the gateway to the right, it passed the Movie Theatre and at the junction of Lahat Road (Main Road), the car turned left and headed for Ipoh.  Passing through the Menglembu Police Station on the right, it continues north passing the saw mills and iron foundries before reaching Falim.  Passing Foo Nyit Sze bungalow on the right, it then crossed the Sungei Pari.  The road then became divided with lamp post in the centre.  Sometimes, the driver, on the urging of his passengers would overtake cars weaving pass the lamppost and crossed to the right hand side of the road and then weaved back between the lamp post into the left lane,  It was exciting start of the day to be thrilled.

In those days, there were plenty of bicycles and motor cycles competing for the road.  Bicycles were 2 to 3 abreast and sometimes they bunched together in a group of 12 cyclists.  Cyclists did not wear helmets in those days and it was amazing that accidents were quite rare with bicycles.

Prior to arriving at the railway crossing, the car would turn left into Maxwell Road.  After passing the road tunnel below, it turned left heading into the direction of the Kidd Bus Station.  Then it turned right into Ipoh Tutorial, dropped off an Aunty and returned into the main road and this time heading for Guru Nanak School.  From Guru Nanak, the next stop was the Convent and Rajah Perempuan, and it continued to Perak’s Girls High School in Kampar Road.  On returning from Kampar Road, it went to Jalan Datoh and headed in ACS Ipoh at Lahat Road.  In this route, the poor fellow who went to school in ACS was mostly late.  If the car is driven up into the main building, you are sure to be caught. by the Prefects.  The penalty at ACS Ipoh was one 220 yards round in the field for every 5 minutes late.

After much complaining and a change of circumstances, where there were two ACS students, the route was changed to ACS the first stop.  It then went ahead through St Michaels to Yuk Choy High School, then to Convent, Raja Perempuan and Perak Girls High School.  A few years later, the ACS boy got smarter and rode a bicycle to school.

There was no afternoon pickup service as the Grandfather used his car for business all day.   Most of us take the bus home.

There were no TV in those days and it was fortunate for the Grandchildren of Chong Soon Fan to have a picture theatre next door and the admission is complimentary.  I believe, the movie theatre leased the premises from Chong Soon Fan and he was given many complimentary tickets.  Coming home after school, one would throw the school bag into the dark corner, eat lunch and headed straight for the movies which started at 2.00 pm, school day or not.  It did not matter what language film was showing as long as we could sit there for one and a half hour entertained.  In a year, we can have seen at least 50 movies (twice a week) and sometimes seeing the same movie twice.

The favourite food for the movies were ice kachang or ice ball,  With the ice ball, you sit on the rattan seat (full of ticks) and you attempt to suck all the melted ice with the fan blowing hard under you.  Of course, your clothes were dripped with coloured ice water.  After the show, we cool our heads with the picture theatre tap located inside the cinema complex before returning home.

If we had seen a sword fighting movie, most of the boys would get some sticks and started to imitate the swordsman.  Yes that was fun until one of the younger boys got hit accidently with the stick and started to cry.  In a whiff, we all disappeared so no one can take responsibility for hurting the young brat.  We swore not to include him in our activities but he also managed to get in because he could invoke the elders to fix us.

By 6 pm, the local appointed time for evening meal.  Grandchildren can choose to eat at the bungalow or at the old house.  Most of the time, , the old house Grandchildren ate at the bungalow.

After dinner, we had a bath and changed into pyjamas.  We did our homework from 700 pm till 9:00 pm and were expected to go to bed by 9:30 pm.  .

July 2012

The Children of Chong Soon Fan – by IpohBornKid

By |2012-07-30T09:35:22+08:00July 30th, 2012|Categories: childhood, history, Memories, People|Tags: , |

Chapter 2:  The Children of Chong Soon Fan – by IpohBornKid

In a previous Ipoh World blog which I now called Chapter 1, (http://www.ipohworld.org/?p=3342), I wrote a short biography of the late Chong Soon Fan, JP, who was the Penghulu of Menglembu.  As a Menglembu village headman, he was well respected and despite his wealth, he stayed in Menglembu with his fellow villages instead of living in plush suburbs of Ipoh. 

In the picture above taken around 1939, was a family photograph of the patriarch with his children (Photo -courtesy of Mr Chong Yong Fook, a grandson of Chong Soon Fan).

Among his sons, the eldest was HC.  HC, an old boy of Ipoh St Michael’s Institution followed his father into business.  He served as a Councillor in the Ipoh Town Council in the late 1950s during the PPP era. Whilst a Councillor for MCA, his cousin in Belfield Street was a Councillor for PPP, He was honoured by the Sultan of Perak twice.

KC, the second son, was Chinese educated.  His father took some of the family members to Daipu, the Hakka ancestral village in Guangdong Province in the late 1940s.  For some reason, Kong Chew stayed behind when the family returned to Malaya.  During the KMT retreat to Taiwan, KC was conscripted into the KMT army and was on his way to Quemoy Island and Taiwan. He served in Quemoy Island for several years and he used to tell the story of how the artillery barrage started in the morning and before sunset, the loudspeaker from the mainland would broadcast some women pleading for his son to return to the mainland.  Of course, some villages made a living out of collecting the metal casings of the artillery shells.  KC later returned to Malaya in the late 1950s and married a Singaporean.  The couple and their children later moved to Singapore.

WC, the youngest son, attended Ipoh MAS (ACS Afternoon) school in the early 1950s.  Of course, the Japanese occupation disrupted many youth from going to school and getting an education, hence there were a lot of matured student enrolments in the old days.  WC also worked in his father’s business.

Chong’s daughters, MY2, MO3, MS4, MY5, MH6, and MN8 married into the Pun, Wong, Khoo, Lee, Bush, and Chew families respectively. The youngest daughter MC9 was not in the photograph since it was taken before she was born.  She later married to the Poon Family.

Chong’s first son-in-law, a Pun, was an Ipoh ACS old boy (class of 1932) and his occupation was an electrician working in the tin mines.  Wong was a school teacher in Yuk Choy High School Ipoh.  Khoo was in the Police force and retired as a Superintendent.    Lee was a former Ipoh Council worker and later became a successful businessman.  Bush was an UK engineer and he worked in Malaya for a few years before returning to UK.  Chew was a university graduate from Taiwan when he met MN8, a fellow graduate.  He was a school teacher in Yuk Choy High School and later became Acting Principal in Sam Jai High School, Ipoh.  Poon was an Industrial Executive working in the Tasek industry area for many years in Ipoh.

This article has two purposes.  Firstly, it is intended to put into history the children of Chong Soon Fan and secondly, to allow the third generation to identify their father or mother in the picture and share their history with the people of Ipoh and beyond.  The latter will remove any bias by the author. Chapter 3 will feature a short story on the first 12 grandchildren of Chong Soon Fan.  The global Chinese diaspora is well known and who would have guessed that the grand children of Chong Soon Fan are now part of this global phenomena.  Other Chapters will follow.

January 2012

The Grace Lutheran Church Menglembu (GLCM) By Ipohbornkid

By |2012-01-27T08:54:55+08:00January 27th, 2012|Categories: childhood, Memories, People|Tags: , |

What is so special about the GLCM that it deserves a write up?  Well, among the Christian churches in Ipoh, the Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and other denominations all have Anglo-Celtic influence but the Lutheran has German influence.  Secondly, GLCM carried out its missionary work in the tin mining villages south of Ipoh.  Thirdly, they provided an essential medical service to the people.  There was only one GP in Menglembu doing private practice and he could see up to 80 patients a day.  Hence, in 1957, the congregation, medical and missionary work of GLCM (herein the “Church”) began in earnest.

I came to be aware of the Church when I was in Std 6 in ACS Ipoh and I was familiar with the Christian teachings given by the Methodist Church in the school.  The year 1957 has a special significance that Malaya was granted independence from British rule.  It was a birth of a new nation and era.

The Church bought the premises where Lahat Road bends to the left and directly opposite a saw mill.  The building was a former school house for Man Hua primary school which moved to the new “Regrouping Area (North)” opposite the house of Chong Soon Fan.

My elder sister became part of the Church youth group in the late 1950s and I can remember some of the youths at that time.  Notable membership of the youth group came from the Leong family, namely Seng Yap, Seng Kee, Seng Mee, Wan Yoong and included the eldest Leong daughter who was a school teacher at Man Hua Primary School in Menglembu.  Their mother, Mrs Leong, a giant pillar in the Church elder group, and was  also the driving force behind the activities of the Church.  Other names like Eva & her younger brothers, Esat & his brothers, Ng Tong Seng, Soong San, the Wongs (Ah See, Ah Look & her pretty sister, Wu Yan Poh, Ah Siew etc.  Eva, a very pretty girl, was the organ player.  Most of the youth group were in their senior high years.  Seng Yap and Seng Kee graduated as Dentists whilst Seng Mee and my sister graduate with medical degrees.  All these people were went through Form VI in ACS Ipoh.

There were, among the Church leaders, very interesting personalities.  Pastor Koch, was the first Pastor of the Church that I remembered well.  Sunday morning service was conducted in English and the evening service was conducted in a Chinese dialect “Hakka”.  It was a curiosity then to observe a European reading the Chinese language bible and preaching in Hakka dialect.  Pastor Koch lived in the bungalow constructed at back of the Church and opposite the Wong’s residence (whose son is now an elder of the Church).  Of course, Koch is a German name.  It was no coincidence that Hakka was the chosen dialect because most villages in Menglembu and south were predominantly Hakka villages. 

Another unforgettable person was Dr Helmut Difenthal, a German trained physician.  He was accompanied by his wife and young children.  They spoke German in their residence but he was able to communicate in English and Hakka.  We once went to a Kledang Hill hike with the Church group and, with his tall stature and military training he literally marched up the hill leaving us behind.  Dr Difenthal later confessed that he was a conscript in the German Army near the end of the WWII, and if it had continued, he would have joined the “Panzer” division (tank brigade).

Dr Difenthal was a very dedicated medico who was ever engrossed with his work with hook worm infestation.  Most of his free time was spent on the microscope looking at specimen collected in his village run for hook work infestation.  Sometimes, he got in trouble with his wife for immersing himself in his work.  I believe some of the youths were influence by him to do medicine and medical related work.  He was a good role model for unselfish dedication in improving the health and hygiene of the local population.  It is sad that he had to depart from Menglembu when his research work conflicted with the findings of the Health Department, in terms of the locality and degree of infestation of hook worm in the local population.  He was sadly missed by all who had been in contact with this “saint”.

In my days with the Church, I was regarded as the naughty one (kuai chai) and was hell bent in the game of disruption.  For example, I would fall asleep during Thursday night bible class and that had created some embarrassment for my elder sibling.  I remember that the bible study class was conducted by an elder called Mr Chong, a no nonsense and strict personality, and obviously incompatible with me at that time.  Maybe I was too young to be in the youth group because I believe they were too serious, studious and matured for me.  However, I did have my usefulness in volunteering to go on missionary work in the southern mining towns from Lahat, Pusing, Jelapang, etc.   I would accompany the driver on the small truck where the piano was loaded at the back.  On arrival at the site, the Church people would start handing out milk powder to the villages followed by a sermon.  I had no idea then why they were handling out milk powder and now, I believe it had two purposes, one to improve the nutrition of the babies in the villages and second to attract an audience to hear the gospel. There was also the travelling medical team to provide much needed medical services to the villagers.  The outdoor evangelistic activities suited me more than serious bible study.

In my younger days, I was almost incontrollable.  In desperation, my family decided to farm me out to live with the Leong family hoping they will influence my determination to perform better in school.  I stayed with Seng Mee for 3 months prior to doing the Senior Cambridge and I managed to pass the exam.  I did not have the opportunity to thank her in person but in my heart I am very much indebted to the Leong matriarch for her kindness and care. There was also a brighter side to my association with the Church that I was allowed to assist in the teaching of Sunday school for the young children.

The most unforgettable incident was a Church outing to Kampar swimming pool. Everybody enjoyed themselves except me. Barefooted, I managed to step on a bee and got stung.  It was excruciating pain. The nurse, a kind European lady gave me a shot of anti-histamine in the Church clinic 

The Church did played an important role in the development of the community in Menglembu.  Besides a spiritual role, it has kept a steady influence on its youth group, encouraged academic excellence and kept some of the “gangster” influence out of the group during a period of gangster activities in Menglembu.  I write this piece of history so future generations of youth and congregation would not forget the pioneers and particularly, the significant contributions made by Mrs Leong, a kind and gentle lady with a strong commitment to the Church.

Note: The photograph of the Church Women’s Group belonged to the author’s mother who was a member of the group. It dates from the mid 1960s.

July 2011

The Penghulu of Menglembu – by IpohBornKid

By |2011-07-04T09:14:38+08:00July 4th, 2011|Categories: Identify Photographs, Memories, People|Tags: , , , |

We thank IpohBornKid for this story of Chong Soon Fan, who was the Penghulu of Menglembu during the Japanese Occupation in Malaya.


Mr Chong Soon Fan, JP, The Penghulu of Menglembu


The “Kapitan Chinas” in the Kinta Valley or Tin Mining Towkays, in Ipoh, have been well described by Dr Ho Tak Ming, the author of “Ipoh, when Tin was King”.  For example, Foo Nyit See, Foo Choo Chong, Foo Choong Yit, Yau Tet Shin, Chung Keng Kwee etc. were well known philanthropist in the late nineteen century. 

Some Ipoh streets were named after them.


The next generation of successful tin miners and philanthropists in Ipoh include Lee Loy Sang, Lau Pak Kuan, Fung Seong, Foo Yet Kai, Chong Soon Fan etc.  This article only focuses on the late Chong Soon Fan, JP, for the simple reason that Mr Chong was personally known to the author.  The author also recognized other Towkays in Ipoh who have contributed significantly and substantially to the community.


There are many stories about education in Ipoh and most of them which appeared in the English language media involving English language schools rather than Chinese Language Schools.  In this article, I wish to present a visionary person who is also a philanthropists, educationist and social worker in his times.  He was the late Mr Chong Soon Fan, JP, and in his heydays, was Chairman of the Board on several Chinese language schools in the Ipoh municipality viz Man Wah Primary, Yuk Choy High School, Perak Girls Primary and High School, Sam Chai High School etc. Before Menglembu became part of the Municipality of Ipoh in the 1960s, he was also the “penghulu” or village headman of Menglembu.  He was also a Director in the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Hong Kong Association.


Prior to Merdeka, the township of Ipoh was run by an Englishman Mr Lee, who was the colonial administrator of Ipoh.  After independence, the Seenivasagam brothers DR and SP later controlled the Ipoh Municipality.  It is interesting to note that DR (a well-known Ipoh lawyer) was also famous for owing an American convertible with a golden ignition key.


According to published record, Mr Chong Soon Fan, born in China in the 1890s, migrated to Nanyang (Malaya) from Xihe (West River) region in Guangdong Province, China.  The current location would be north east of MeiXian City, 8 hours drive from Shenzhen via the highway.  He was a “Tai Poo” Hakka and was determined to seek his fortune in “Nanyang”.  At the age of 17, Mr Chong came to Perak state with minimal clothes and cash.  He had a humble beginning and he started to work in Soon Foh Wu Lang, a Menglembu tin ore extraction establishment which collected tin ore from the dulang washers as well as extracting tin ore from the sandy resides which settled in the tail end of the palongs.   (Note: in an open cut mine, the alluvial sand containing the ore is washed down by strong jet of water and the slurry is pumped to the top of the long wooden“slip-dip” structure.  As it flows down, the tin stayed at the top of the palong and the smaller tin granules flow to the bottom.  This bottom residue is rewashed for more tin).  Dulang washes can earn up to $3 a day selling their tin to the collector.


At the Soon Foh, he was intelligent, literate and a hard worker.    As the story goes, the late Mr Foo Choon Yit, OBE, the owner of the establishment, was so impressed by this young man’s talent  that he allowed his eldest daughter to marry him.  From then onwards, the young Mr Chong learned about the tin mining business in Ipoh and prospered.  He later became the Manager of the establishment.


The two storey bungalow family home of the late Mr Foo Choon Yit, a Fujian Hakka, is in Kuala Kangsar Road and is now a museum for tin mining. There is an air raid shelter built in the compound.  One of Mr Foo’s nephew is the late Mr Foo Yet Kai, another famous tin miner in Ipoh.


As a Hakka, Mr Chong was very traditional in his thinking about education and has a high degree of empathy for his fellow clansman. He was the President of the Perak Hakka Association in Jalan Datoh (Sam Chai school is located in the land owned by the Hakka Association) and a Director of a prominent Chamber of Commerce in Ipoh. His contemporaries were famous tin miners in Ipoh.  Mr Chong’s passion for education was the driving force behind the fund raising and building of Chinese schools in Ipoh.  Together with his peers, they managed to raise funds totaling $2M to build schools in Ipoh.  He was recorded to have donated at least $200,000 himself. 


Several important schools that come to mind were and they were the Yuk Choy High School, Perak Girls Primary and High Schools, Man Wah Primary (Menglembu).  Mr Chong and his contemporaries have left a great legacy behind for the future descendants of the people of Ipoh.  Many parents who have migrated from China were determined to send their children to schools in Ipoh.  Some parents insist that their children learn their mother language first before English.  Hence, the Chinese schools satisfied the cultural needs of the Chinese immigrant. They endured the hardship and sacrifice in order that their children will be better off than them.  Together with the other generous philanthropists who built the schools, a great opportunity was created by these visionaries.  Today, many Ipoh people have benefited from a good education.  Hence, we should remember our pioneers who brought us the great gift of education.


In erecting the Chinese schools in Ipoh, the generosity of the Hakka clan played an important role since Hakka tradition is strong in education.  Hakka people originate in Henan Province in China over 2,000 years ago.  In a particular Hakka clan, their history dates back to the Zhou dynasty, having 92 generations in Henan, 17 generations in Guangzhou (as Hakka =guest people) and 7 generation overseas.  Most Hakka occupations in Henan Province (China) were either military or government officials.  They excel in literature and military tactics.  They were Sung Dynasty’s refugees (Mongol invasion) and most groups migrated south to Guangzhou.


It is interesting to note that recently, a second Chinese Primary School (Man Wah No 2) was built at the foot of Kledang Hill in Menglembu.  I was informed that one of the grandsons of Mr Chong was involved.  It is good to see a continuation of commitment in education by a third generation Chong.


As Headman of Menglembu during the Japanese occupation, Mr Chong walked a tight rope in saving a lot of people from the Japanese.  He had to deal with the Japanese authorities and at the same time, not to offend the communist hiding the jungle.  In those days immediately after the Japanese left, there were a lot of revenge taken against “Han jian” or Han traitors.  Mr Chong stood tall and his trustworthiness, courage and fairness earned him respect from all sides. 


There was another aspect of Mr Chong’s work in Menglembu which is not well documented.  In the 1950s, his family home in Menglembu (the bungalow opposite the Man Wah Primary School) was open to his constituents on Saturday mornings.  Many villagers would bring their family problems to him.  He was a peace maker & conciliator; and many benefited from his wisdom to get the family back together.  In the gangster era, he was instrumental in bailing out many young mis-guided youth and kept them out of jail.  The Police would release these youths under the guardianship of Mr Chong. 


If one sat on the front door of Mr Chong’s house, you will see the 3 famous mountain peaks which were framed under the archway of the Man Wah Primary School.  Those mountains peaks represent good fungsui.  Mr Chong had good reason to build his bungalow opposite the school.  Reliable sources said that Mr Chong told her eldest grand daughter that he wanted to keep an eye on the school and watch it grow.   He wanted his grand children to go to that school.


Most of the villagers have no proficiency in English and filling a form is a difficult task.  Mr Chong provided Menglembu villagers with form filling assistance for citizenship & IC card applications as well as other government correspondence. .  These clerical services were an enormous task and required a good typist with a good command of English.  His eldest son filled this position well with dedication and efficiency.  According to reliable sources, his teenage grandson, an accomplished ACS trained typist also assisted his uncle in preparing the forms and typing letters.


Mr Chong was treated with utmost respect in Menglembu.  When he walked the streets in Menglembu, the villagers often greeted him with respect.   Mr Chong received wedding invitation from the villagers at least once every fortnight.  Sometimes, he would send his eldest grandson to represent him in these events when he was unable to attend.


In writing this article, I want to create awareness among later generations of Ipoh people about a pioneer, a visionary person who has given so much to the community.  He should be remembered for his role in saving people during the Japanese occupation, building schools in Ipoh municipality for future generations, and providing much needed community services to his constituents.


For his exemplary community work above and beyond the call of duty, the Sultan of Perak made him a Justice of the Peace and a member of the Privy Council. 


Mr Chong passed away in 1969 and today, more than 40 years passed, I wish commemorate his passing and acknowledge his exemplary dedication and commitment to public education.  He was indeed a pioneer and a humble servant of the people.  Lest we forget.


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