From the 50's to the 90's the Sibu Airport was at the end of the Airport Road. And beyond that was Sg. Teku and Sg. Aup. When I was young, the highlight of my social life was going to the airport to send relatives off or to welcome them. At moments like this the whole airport was just filled up with my extended family. Every one was a Tiong. The Tiong Family. It made me so proud of my grandfather who was a real partriarch to all of us. Every breath he had was important to us. All the uncles and aunties were very cultured and educated people in the eyes of all of us little ones.
About ten taxis served the airport and the airport was literally only 60ft by 60 ft, a measure not many people can believe in. The MAS officers actually could be seen working in the non air conditioned office. All luggage was moved manually, and even the trolley was pushed by one man.
Apart from family memories, on particular memory associated with the Old Sibu Airport was Ah Bee, the coffee shop operator of the airport. His coffee was excellent and he sold a few Malay cakes, especially Pulut Pangang. And on each of his coffee tables were a few hardboiled eggs, some bottles of ground pepper, soy sauce and tomato sauce.
Ah Bee was a very cheerful kind of guy. He was a Heng Hua, and superbly friendly. I used to watch him chat with any one, important and unimportant people alike. And generally speaking, there were not many VIPs in those days. He had a great deal of respect for people like my father and I believed that he used to get some counselling from my father who was a good listener and a big brother to most of the Heng Huas in Sungei Merah where he grew up. the two would lower their tones and I knew that I was not supposed to eavesdrop. So I would just wander away from them.
Those were the days when queuing was not mandatory. So a foreigner or a local person who was used to more orderly system elsewhere would have been fazed and frazzled by the disorderliness at the Sibu airport. Quite often I heard that some one did not bother about being on the waiting list. And he got priority treatment because "he knew someone". However, that was just part of the colourful life of Sibu at that time.
And then characteristically I remember, below each of the coffee table was a China made, enamel, floral spittoon. This spittoon was rather useful I suppose at that time - for cigarette butts, spitum, and even for people who suffer from airsickness to empty themselves.
Another interesting feature of the airport then was the presence once in a while of some shapely small waisted ladies who wore sun shades and sporting very bright red lipsticks. Characteristically, they would be having beer at a special coffee table nearest the viewing windows of the airport. Sometimes they did make a racket. And mothers would warn their children not to look at them.
And I remember some of the nightclub managers would hang out waiting for their Taiwan singers to arrive.
Any important person coming? You would know immediately because the local journalist, Ngu Ne Soon and his friends would be there. The airport was so small that you would know the story of the day within minutres from the mouths of the taxi drivers and even Ah Bee. We used to say that the latest news often can be obtained at the Sibu Airport.
As for me, the old airport evokes good feelings of family members going overseas to study, going away for their honey moon, or our uncles and aunties coming come for a visit. Then the whole airport would be filled with just our family members.
Happiness was welcoming a loved one home. Happiness was also bidding farewell to a dear one embarking on a journey of learning.
Saturday, April 05, 2008
Memoir by I Am Sarawakiana at 8:47 AM