Sunday, August 26, 2007

Stone Grinder Mill

From the time the Foochows landed in Sibu, each family would have a stone grinder. It could be operated by hand or pulled with the help of a long wrought iron lever fixed into the handle.

This particular domestic tool has indeed served the families very well right into these days. Most of us could still work on one if we have it. Many people though in recent years, have redesignated the role of this grinder to the garden, to spout water to bring in good luck!!

The stone grinder mill or " Siok Moh" has been in my family for a long time. According to my mother, this particular one is from our Great Grandmother, or Tui Mah. She had left it in the house in Hua Hong Ice Factory and my mother had brought it to the wooden house in Kung Ping Road, now known as Brooke Drive. My Grandfather, when he moved to his mansion in Sg. Merah, somehow acquired a new one for the new house.

In those days, we children saw our elders making every cake from scratch.

This stone mill, an invention of ancient China was a kitchen item or home appliance to help womenfolk grind grains by hand into fine flour. Almost all the women in the early days of Sibu right up to 1960's (before the arrival of the electrical appliances) used it to make dessert pastes of rice (glutinous and plain), beans, sesame or peanut flour. Usually the mill is some kind of granite and is very heavy. So it is usually put on a three legged or four legged belian stand. The stand would be ergonomically made so that it would suit the height of the lady of the house. (Any thing that was too tall would make grinding difficult. ) It has a grey-green stone cylinder and a base with grooved grinding surface, wooden hand-crank( or a long wrought iron pulling rod) and spout.

As kids we would happily take turns to pull the long wrought iron rod to move the mill round and round and my grandmother would patiently pour in the rice with a little bit of water into the spout. Soon we would see the nice white rice mixture flowing into the groove.

There would be a bucket lined with a white muslin bag to collect the milkish solution . When all the rice had been ground, grandmother would pick up the muslin bag and drain out the water by putting the top portion of mill on the bag. This pressure would squeeze out the water and eventually we will have a paste only. In Foochow this process is called "da" or press. It took some time, some times it was even an overnight process. And we could hear the comforting sound of tik,tik,tik...throughout the night, when the water dropped into the bucket below.

The use of the stone mill would be activated before Chinese New Year, and the four festivals. However, because my grandmother Tiong Lian Tie was a good kuih or cake maker, she could use it almost any time of the year. So with that appliance, she actually made a lot of things for us to eat . From her we had yam cake,the Chinese New year sticky cake, soya bean drink,mee tuiing kui, nine layer kuih,sii yang (or tong yuan) and even rice cakes (bah kuih).

Whenever I see a picture of the stone mill I would yearn for those days when we as a family would gather around grandmother, waiting expectantly for something good to come out of the mill. It would mean, the soonest, that we would have some dumplings for dinner that evening.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Tian Pian Hu

One of the best food in the world is the superdelicious Tian Pian Hu of Foochow Cuisine.

This is really a genuine part of Foochow Cuisine, out of this world. And indeed, it is "have wok and you will be in heaven" .

Simply this dish calls for a good wok and rice flour batter and a bit of pepper and salt and a simple but wonderful soup. This was the Fast Food of the fifties and sixties.

The one and only shop selling "Tian Pian Hu" in Sibu then was Tie Yang's shop,at the back lot of Chop Heng Ang which was an engineering firm selling spare parts , belonging to the richest Heng Hua Goh family of Sibu. All the Gohs were Methodists because Grandmother Goh was a leading deacon at that time. The Goh family later sold up their property and emigrated to Australia. Mssrs.Tie Yang's family stayed on to do their business.

Mssrs.Tie Yang had the original authentic Tian Pian Hu outside of China! (If you want to compare you will have to take the next Air Asia flight to China, and then proceed to Fuzhou City to verify my statement). His family has been keeping the business going from success to greater success in the last 40 years!! Every Chinese in Sibu since the beginning of their outlet must have eaten at least once there. Today, folks not only eat there, they take away too. The chief cook today was probably a teenager assistant when the outlet first started.

I believe that this kind of business and patronage is the very essence of Sibu Foochow business, without which no one can grow wealthy. There is trust by the customer, the service is simple and respectable, the raw materials fresh , and the product is exceptionally cheap but excellent. Foochow customers believe in low pricing,excellent service, quality goods and fast delivery. And if you wish to have a hot bowl of Tian Pian Hu, you can have it in less than ten minutes. Now I am talking about 1950....somewhere in the world quality service came about in 1990's! 40 years behind Mssrs.Tie Yang.

All students who had extra classes then would pop by the shop (it is still in the same location at Blacksmith Road) to have a bowl between the morning and afternoon sessions. And what I liked was the students' fare of that time. The adults had their big bowl with normal ingredients.

A student's bowl of tian pian hu would be just the rice cakes and the "empty" soup with NO dried squid, NO fish balls, NO slices of pork. To add flavour to this plain soupy tian pian hu, we would happily add a lot of the pepper and salt from the bottles which were placed on the table. This delicious bowl would set us back by only 30 cents. But it was the getting together, the socialising and the "being seen" at the Tian Pian Hu shop that was important to us girls at that time. By today's standard, it would be like appearing in Tatlers'.

In those days, parents did not take their kids out for snacks, unlike today's KFC generation. I think because my father worked out of town then and my mother was a very good homemaker, we did not eat out or have take away. But the few occasions I went with my classmates remain in my mind, and it was such a nice warm feeling, remembering having Tian Pian Hu even though we had the "empty" or plain ones.

Children are so lucky today. Their parents would call for "special"+ for them all the time .

Recently I went back to Sibu and the first thing my dear dear ex-graduate teacher's trainee Serena Chou did was to bring me to have a bowl of "Special" tian pian hu in Tie Yang's Shop....I could hardly keep back my tears. I just cannot remember the last time I was in the shop!! The quality is still the same..superdelicious, original,fast service,and equal treatment to all the customers.....and most of the old chairs and the tables are still there. (Quality carpenters!)

Tears of gratitude, tears of memories. Blest be the ties that binds......

+" Special" in Sibu or any eatery in Malaysia would mean one can get extra goodies in the noodles or whatever when we order. It would definitely, as a result cost more. (Special = extra pieces of pork,fish balls, meat balls, prawns, fish,etc)

Fish Ball Soup and Lok Tian Yuan

There was a special meaning in having fish ball soup in Lok Tian Yuan when I was young.

I will let you into this social norm in the 50's and 60's Sibu.

Lok Tian Yuan was a well known food eating outlet in those days.Most foochow villagers from the riverine and coastal areas would take their early morning slow boat ride at dawn or even before then to reach Sibu to do any business (sell rubber sheets or domesticated animals) or do some shopping and catch a Lin Dai movie. All the riverine boats would be in Sibu by 9 o'clock.

The last boat to leave Siby was at 4 oclock in the afternoon if I remember correctly. So all movie fans must watch their films in the morning at 10 o'clock, have lunch and do whatever they had to do and leave by the 2 o'clock motor launch.

Upon arrival in Sibu, they would go straight to their shop which offered them their choice of breakfast. Mui Soon Coffee Shop, just next to the jetty served the best coffee and cruellers (Yiw Tiau or Yiw Char Kui) and sweet soya bean milk. Every coffee shop would serve kampua mien (Foochow Dry Noodles served with a clear soup sprrinkled with spring onions). By the five foot way oranges, bananas,limes, mangosteens would be sold by enterprising Foochow women.

My grandmother Tiong Lian Tie favoured Lok Tian Yuan which had a restaurant upstairs for feasts, weddings and birthdays.

I loved Lok Tian Yuan too. Because I could watch exciting moments created by match makers (who were very obviously dressed with a red handkerchief sneaking out of their side blouse pockets and an obvious tell tale fan). Match makers also had another character trait : they could talk non stop like a runaway train.

Match making during those days was a very lucrative business. A match well made would bring a very big angpow from the two happy families, sometimes even from the happy bridegroom.

After all the matching, wheeling and dealing, plying between the two families who may live far apart, the match maker would bring the two families together with their prospective bride and bride groom tagging very shyly along to Lok Tian Yuan for their first "look". Without actually telling the young man and the young woman, the match maker and the parents would make this special "Eating the Fish Ball Soup at Lok Tian Yuan " appointment . When both parties had arrived, the match maker would let the young man know which table to look at and which girl to view too. And in the same way, the young lady could have a good look of her prospective "husband". All these were done with great finesse and no communication would pass between the two tables.

The fish ball soup would have been ordered by the match maker for all. If the boy liked the girl, he would finish all the fish ball soup. And likewise, the girl would do the same. However if the girl did not like the boy, she would not attempt to eat. That was the first indication. After "Eating Fish Ball Soup at Lok Tian Yuan", the families would go home and have further discussion on the advantages of the marriage or the good traits of the prospects. And if the parents like the match, they would try their best to coerce their children to marry even though they were not so willing.

Once I heard my grandmother telling me that there was indeed a young man who told his father,"If you like the girl so much, why don't you marry her instead?" This created a family fight for the son had gone beyond his limits. I believe the father did not back down for a long time. So many families referred to this story whenever their sons were not agreeable, " Do not be like so and so....."

Sometimes the more stubborn men would reject the match. They could. And the girls could too. But usually by the time they came to eat the fish ball soup, it was almost the point of no return.

Girls with little education were often more agreeable to match making because they would not have any other channels or means of meeting young men , from any where. In those days, they hardly any opportunity to further their education and their occupation was mainly rubber tapping, pig rearing, orange picking and even rice planting. And the only way to get out of the system was to marry someone with property, with a town job, or a government job. A store clerk was very much favoured. A teacher was not such a catch because he could still be teaching in a village school and the salary was then 60 dollars. The best catch was a man who owned a shop!

Thus whether marriages were made in heaven or not, many young ladies were married off to total strangers and let fate reveal itself what they were in for.

Strangely there were few incidents of bad marriages, divorce was rare, and suicides even rarer. But I suppose behind all the seemingly good marriages there were a lot of hidden dissatisfaction and unpleasantries. Domestic violence though uncommon did occur but it was not blown up.Any way the media was not much around then. Only the usual whispered gossips behind closed doors and children did not get to hear them.

Of course there were stories of indiscretions but they were hidden by the rubber trees and perhaps a small hut here and there. I am not inclined to tell. Shall I????

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A Day in My Life with Grand Aunt in Sibu 1960

1960 was a remarkable year. I was in Primary Five and we had started having extra afternoon English classes in our preparation for our Primary Six Entrance Examination.

We had to pass our Entrance Examination in order to enter Secondary School. Failing that a girl would have to attend Ling Chu Ming Secondary School, or attend Night School or prepare to get married!

I loved going to the afternoon classes and being taught by Mr. Wong Kie Mee. He was a plump man, extremely strict and he had about 6 different rattan canes of different thicknesses to beat us if we made mistakes in English. He also had very heavy footsteps which were very distinctive.

That particular day, that particular morning I remember very clearly. It was Thursday. And the bell rang for the first lesson which was Hygiene, taught by Mr. Tiong, also a very strict teacher. It was then followed by Maths, taught by Mr. Huang Teck Nai. After that lesson was General Knowledge and we were told to memorise lots of facts, which I also enjoyed very much. Then we had recess and I flew up the staircase to be with Goo Poh, Grand Aunt, the half sister of my Grandfather.

Being the kindergarten teacher of the Methodist Kindergarten, my grandaunt or Goo Poh was given lodging in the Methodist Memorial Building which had flats for lady missionaries on the first floor. this building also had a small hall on the ground floor for women's meetings, craft work, choir practice and other activities. It was a square, functional white washed building with two staircases, one in the front and one at the back. To us it was a huge monument, steadfast and welcoming, like our Grand Aunt.

Every day Grand Aunt would have our snacks ready during our recess and hers as well: milk in a bowl and soda biscuits or marie biscuits. I always wondered how she managed to feed me and my siblings (Sing and Hsiung). There was never any talk of payment. Perhaps it was true Foochow manners of reciprocal love. (Yin Ching li yin ching kuo ). But nevertheless as a child I had a lot of comfort having a break there and felt very privileged to rub shoulders with a teacher, and my own relative at that. Then if we had bought something with our money which was all of twenty cents, we would take out our buns, or kuihs. Sometimes we would have a packet of fried noodles at twenty cents. And it was all a good meal together. Goo Poh would wait on us.

I never realised the significance of waiting at tables until very much later in life when I studied about how Chinese women waited at the tables of their families, to run for the bean sauce, the little bit of cut chilies, a little more of salt in a saucer and another glass of drinking water or beer without a "please"or a" dear". Then when I grew into quite a feminist I resented waiting at tables for our menfolks. Now whenever I remember how Goo Poh waited on us, my heart would just burst and tears well up.

On that particular recess time, I told Goo Poh that I would have afternoon class with Mr. Wong and that we would have a test. It was going to be Present Continuous Tense I remember as Mr. Wong had told us to revise. I was quite sure that I knew everything. So Goo Poh warned me to be careful. Mr. Wong would mark very carefully.

Soon the bell rang for the morning session to be over and we went home. In the morning, my father would send us with his Land Rover and we would walk home in the afternoon as he worked in Sg.Aup and would only be back in the evening. Our house was not very far you see from our school. By two I was back in school.

I sat for the test and soon Mr. Wong had the test papers all marked as we did our exercises.

He lined the papers very properly, those who failed at the bottom. More than half failed the test.

Those who passed got their paper first. And I did not get mine in that pile! I had failed! But how badly? I could not believe it. I had been so careful.

He called the first boy to collect his paper. They counted the mistakes together and he was beaten six times across the palm of his left hand.

Then it was my turn. I was red in the face and my palms started to sweat and then went cold. I could not have made so many mistakes!! I went up and faced the class and then faced him. He asked me very sternly and slowly as if I was hard of hearing, "Count, how many mistakes have you made?"

He had underlined FOUR words in red. I had forgotten to write ING after the verbs!

So he said, "Now I am going to beat you! GO-ING to beat you FOUR times!"
He said again,"Say after me,I am GOING to beat you"

So I said, "I am going to beat you."

After the beating, my hand was extremely painful, but my face was red as a tomato. I could not concentrate on the lesson any more. I could not remember any thing.

When the bell rang, I ran up to Goo Poh and cried .... I never seemed to be able to reach her, the stair case was like a stair case going up to heaven. It was so high! And I believe I was only about four cats tall at that time.

All she said was "Never mind, mo yu kin, mo yu kin, you will do well next time. It is just a small thing...."

She gave me some of her beautiful tissue paper to wipe my tears and the pain away. But my heart heavy bearing the pain of embarrassment. How could a Tiong girl fail her English? All her aunts were educated! All her uncles were well established business men! And all were English speaking!

She then walked me to the main road, and squeezed the hand that did not bear the brunt of the rattan cane.

Softly she continued to say, "Never mind, it is just only an ant's bite. All students get beaten."

Because of my Grand aunt and the comfort she gave me, I never failed my English again. Grand Aunt was like tissue paper - soft and gentle and loving.

Everyone has a grandaunt, but mine is a special one.

My Great Grandmother, the Only Bound Feet Lady I know

When I was young I loved to visit Grandfather and Great Grand Mother who provided the love and warmth of a large extended family of four generations.

Great Grandmother lived in a huge house built by Grandfather on a hill in Sg. Merah,Sibu. Grandfather loved bouganvilleas ,alamandas and hibiscus. I remember the ever blooming purple bouganvillea at the top of the road just before it turned into the house. I can never get that colour right whenever I buy a new bouganvillea for my own garden. Somehow the beauty of that colour sticks in my mind. Grandfather also kept an emaculate garden. I always remember he was one of the earliest man in Sibu to buy a lawn mower and he would be the one to keep it spotlessly clean after our Ah Yong Koo (Aunt Yong) cut the grass.

Whenever I visited my grandfather it was the lovely aroma of cooking that welcomed me, as Grandmother Siew was an excellent cook. I also loved the nice fragrance of ylang ylang (bai yu lang) that floated in the house. Grandfather planted a huge ylang ylang in front of the house. And what fresh air we had at that time in the 50's and 60's.

One of my regrets in life is that when Great grandmother was alive I was too young to ask her very good questions about her life in China and what it was like to be brought out to Sarawak.

However later, I did manage to do a bit of research on bound feet culture of Chinese women.

Great Grandmother,Wong Nee Mui, was very soft spoken and she did things very , very slowly. I believe now that it was not because she was old, but because it was her style and because of her bound feet. This was also confirmed by Fifth Uncle who said that anyone who took their bath for a long time was like GGM!!

She ate very slowly and carefully, using her chopsticks very skillfully. Even though her eyes were not very good she loved to sew. She handsewed all her nice white cotton samfoo and black brocade trousers.

She loved her beautiful grand daughters, especially Aunty Pick and Aunty Chiew. Goo Poh Yuk Ging was her only daughter. Goo Poh was very close to her and absolutely filial and obedient to her and her elder brother.

Grandfather was a good son because he saw to it that he educated Goo Poh well (she was the first batch of Yuk Ing School, taught by Mrs. Hoover) and later on, he went on to educate all his daughters (e.g. If I am not mistaken Fifth Aunt was the first Sibu Foochow girl to be a graduate. She went to Kansas University in the US.)

I still remember her last days. She would sit by the window on the first floor and look out to watch the road to Grandfather's house. And she could see people riding their bicycles from the main road to our road. These folks would be going to Au Sang (hill behind). Two families lived below us. They were Mr. Huang Cheng Ang (who later disappeared as a Communist Leader), and a Ling Family (whose grand daughter was my trainee recently).

Mr. Huang operated a toucheo (bean sauce) factory and I used to dislike the smell of the fermenting beans. I swore I would never use touyew (kicap) but later I forgot about the factory and the urns.

Great Grandmother would spin a lot of tales, many of which I have forgotten (because I was too young then) and I remember our Grandmother Siew Nguk Lan was very patient with her and told her not to "spin so many tales". I enjoyed watching her comb her long hair ever so slowly. And she would look into her mirror in the room above the stairs on the left. She kept her room very very tidy. She also used a little bit of powder and if I am not mistaken, she used Florida water (hua look chui) to smell nice. She also used one kind of hair oil which kept her hair very tidy. After she had tied up her hair up in a bun, she would stick one or two blossoms of ylang ylang in the bun. And as she walked slowly, the beautiful scent of the flowers would follow her.

And of course we all remember that she made her own cloth shoes, with the shoe stand that she had. Her cloth shoes were just the size of my palm and sometimes we children would put them on our hand as if to measure how big they were. At that time we were too naive to know how much pain a woman must suffer to break the bones of their feet in order to be a beautiful woman of the upper class.

GGM was a frail lady but God bless her because she was not bed ridden at the end of her days and did not cause a lot of trouble to any body. We have to thank Ah Yong Koo in particular for looking after her so well in her last days. Ah Yong Koo Koo is one of the adopted daughters of Grandmother Siew Nguk Lan.

My grandmother Siew Nguk Lan was another exceptional lady of the Tiong Family. She was a marvellous cook and dress maker,very proactive and creative. She was also the first woman driver in Sibu in the fifties. She was a good manager in every respect of the word as she kept Grandfather's large family together peacefully. This included her great respect for Great Grandmother and Goo Poh. It is still every important today that this kind of respect for elders is practised. It generates a lot of love and good memories.

Memories are often said to be our second chance for happiness.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

1972 March 25 RASCOM

On March 25 1972 the whole of the Third Division of Sarawak was declared a special security area administered by Rajang Security Command (RASCOM) with its CEO or Director of Operations who is the Chief Minister of Sarawak.

What was not known to the people at that time was that Third Division was no longer just an administrative division adminstered by a Divisional Resident who has "normal" powers. Sibu or
Third Division was under special powers.

The main reason was because the Communist threat was still there and the government feared the brutal acts of terrorism on innocent citizens.

Growing up in such a political environment with a lot of fear and threats was not easy at all.

Most of my relatives who had been living innocently along the riverine villages of the Rejang were very affected: education of the children was interrupted, suddenly some of the adults were arrested by the police, and so many were accused of betraying their friends. Fear spread amongst us and my relatives started to abandon their farms, their rubber estates, and even their lovely homes. The older people were at first quite reluctant to move but the younger ones had to move for the sake of their own life and their own future. Hence, many of the housing estates in Sibu were greatly in demand. Some who could not afford buying their new homes, had to become almost squatters on some more derelict housing.

Thus Sibu saw a spate of in migration of rural folks and schools were bursting at their seams. This was not planned at all by the government as it was a decision made to address an immediate need or it could even be called an emergency. In my youthful mind at that time, it was so convenient for any leader to call an emergency and suddenly civilians were put into a new mode of modern house arrest and curbed movements. This was all in the good name of public security. Some appreciated it, while many found the new measures inconvenient.

Perhaps this also catapulted the youth and the older ones into a new political attitude. New opportunities have arisen, new positions had to be filled and if man was to think for himself, the whole community would be affected. How many of us thought of the common good? How many apart from true missionaries would sacrifice their lives for their belief in God,for a common political aspiration,etc?

Jobs were suddenly scarce as well as food and there was a lot of control for fear that the ordinary citizens might be supplying the Communists with food supplies. Perhaps this was also the beginning of the cold storage business in Sibu too.

In later years we discovered that the self made millionaire Datuk Tiong Su Kuok actually became rich because he decided not only to sell fresh fish but also frozen fish. He also made in roads into school supplies as the 70's saw a large increase in government secondary schools in the Third Division and a huge demand for good fish like Ikan Duai from Singapore and Hong Kong.

I often wonder what my grandfather Tiong kung Ping would think about this if he were alive today. He was the earlest Foochow immigrant to help Rev Hoover assemble the first refrigeration unit with the help of my Grandmother Chong who had sat down with him and read the manual in English and translated into Foochow for Grandfather to slowly assemble the unit which arrived by sea from America in the early 30's!! The first ice factory then was the Hua Hong Ice Factory built on the small island opposite Sibu. My great grandmother lived there with her family (my grandfather, grandmother, children and children in law) all four generations until we , the great grandchildren were born and then later moved to Sibu, thus ending our connection with ice making. Sometimes we mused about it would be like if we had carried on with refrigeration.

Road blocks were every where and curfew was imposed. The Field Forces were commonly seen in public, keeping the peace. Young girls were terrified of men in uniforms, espeically army camouflage. I remember I went out only for the Methodist Youth Fellowship ona Friday night and teachers made sure that all of us went home by 9.

Whispers, rumours, and small talks in undertones were the order of the day. Suspicion was rife.
But we Chinese being resilient wherever we were continued to maintain our demeanour and carried on educating those who needed to be educated.

Life went on. My sisters played cards when the curfew was on and my mother went shopping with the little money we had. We were lucky to have an education. In those years then we became closer as a family.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Rev James Hoover

The Rev. James Hoover (1872 – 1935), the first missionary serving the Methodist Church in Sarawak was a very exceptional man. Hoo Sing Nang, or Teacher Hoo was revered by all the Foochows during the days he spent in Sibu as a Methodist Missionary. In fact he was more than a missionary to all the early Foochows .

He was a true pioneer and for that my family led by Tiong King Kee and Tiong Kung Ping also owed him a great deal.

Today, Sibu remembers him through a memorial park which occupies a two-acre land. which was officially dedicated on 27th July, 2007 by YB Dato Sri Wong Soon Koh, the Finance Minister(ll) and Minister of Urban Development And Tourism Sarawak and Rev. Dr. Su Chii Ann, the President of the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference, the Methodist Church in Malaysia.

How did Rev. Hoover come into the history of New Foochow or Sibu? In 1901, Wong Nai Siong led a group of Foochow Chinese leaving China for Sibu to open up the swampland after negotiating with the then Rajah Charles Vyner Brooke for an agricultural project to be set up. The two first met in Singapore.

Wong Nai Siong was a Chinese businessman and a middleman and I believe that he never wanted to settle down in Sibu as his heart was in China. So he was quite happy to find a very dedicated replacement in the person of Rev. Hoover.

It was through Rev Hoover that Sibu benefitted from the stringent project management of an American man who had the foresight to be innovative,financially sound,proactive and sensitive to the needs of proper development. His basic instincts also called for the building of schools and churches which provided the basic impetus for proper human and social development. Thus Rev Hoover hit the nail onthe head when he started the settlement in such a manner. Being a Foochow speaking church minister he was truly highly regarded by all. that he was able to stay for so long in the settlement was also because he was an honest man.

A leader who was honest and sincere could provide the kind of leadership that the Foochows needed then. And it was the only way to go.

Rev. Hoover lived as a Foochow leader for thirty-two years along the Rejang River and died in Sibu. In his rich and endearing life time, he helped build 41 churches and 40 schools, all along the Rejang River. His heart was that of a true disciple.

His work was recognised by the then government and the third Rajah of Sarawak Vyner Brooke erected a copper tablet (monument) in remembrance of him:“The Rev J.M.Hoover arrived at Sibu in March, 1903 and was responsible for settling the first Foochow colony in the Rejang River. In 1904, His Highness Sir Charles Anthony Brooke G.C.M.G. Second Rajah of Sarawak, officially appointed him the head of all the Sarawak Foochows, entrusted him with their welfare and made him their official represantative in all their dealings with Government. From then until the day of his death on 11 Feb 1935 Mr Hoover loyally fulfilled this trust.”

The Rev. James Hoover was a pioneer in many fields:he brought to Sibu the first batch of rubber seeds;he imported the first steamboat;he set up the first rice mill;he organized the first girl's school;he installed the first electricity generator;he set up the first agricultural school;he imported the first ice maker;he was the first to use the chain-saw;he introduced the use of wireless telegraph machine.

It is timely and only honorable that Sibu commemorates his contribution with a memorial park. This park is located at the estuary of Sungai Merah(which is now commissioned by the local government as a historical and cultural river.)where Rev. Hoover first set his feet on when he first arrived in Sarawak

A black marble wall recorded Rev. James Matthew Hoover’s life history in Chinese, English and Bahasa Malaysia.

Throughout the 50's,60's and 70's the people of Sibu were blessed by the education initiated by Rev Hoover through the Methodist Primary School which was erected with the help of finance from Americans who sponsored the project. The Hoover Building, The Masland Methodist Church and the Hoover House, now all gone physically, will forever remain in our minds.


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