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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Sibu Post Office Telegrams and Postmen

When we were small the Post Office looked so big and the trees around it were so tall. Today the cars in front of the building make it look so insignificant and forlorn.

We also thought the verandahs were huge places for us to rollerskate. Now they are too small even for four people to move about.

But there are lots of memories there.




This morning when I woke up and still groggy from interrupted sleep and terrible dreams I thought of riding a bicycle down to the Post Office as I really needed to send a telegram which says STOP GRIEVED TO HEAR AUNT'S PASSING STOP SHE MEANT A LOT OF ALL OF US STOP GOD BLESS STOP... When I came downstairs and saw my living room furniture I realised that I was in another town and Sibu Post Office of the old was twenty years ago. I had slipped from one era to another in just seconds.

When I shook my dream like feelings off I regained my composure and came to my old faithful laptop and wrote this posting.




Photo : Sibu Post Office by Tony Hii

My Third Aunt was a special lady who saved many keepsakes to be taken out to see and feel and to go over sweet memories: her son's first pair of glasses; her husband's beautiful photo album ; her children and grand children's photos and even a cheongsam or two. Her keepsakes dazzled me and my siblings when we were young. She was a beautiful and inspiring relative. And we found her stories wonderful to listen too. My thoughts have been of hers since I received a mobile phone call to tell me of her passing.

I would always associate the Post Office with her because she was the first relative to show me a real personal letter written in beautiful handwriting in English from Aunt Grace her best friend. She and her family lived in Hose Lane in the 1950's and 60's before they moved to Hin Yu Park and one day when I was visiting her the postman came to deliver letters. Somehow that scenario was exceptionally memorable. She put a strong inprint of what a best friend was like in my mind.

The Post Office of Sibu would also remind me of three other important things even though today we have very efficient and "cannot live without" email system. I do almost all my mails at the tip of my fingers but some things from the past are still dear to my heart.

Take for example sending a post card or the annual family "report" to friends in the traditional way. I still send Christmas cards and Chinese New Year Cards via the normal mail!! Especially to older friends and relatives,even those I can reach via email. Sending a whole stack of cards before Christmas is almost like an annual trip for me in the last forty years or so. And perhaps the stack becomes increasingly smaller over the years. And last year I sent out a card to a friend who passed away just before the end of the year. Perhaps he never received my card and I hope his family did. For as usual very often the mail is slow. I once received a Christmas card in May with a post chop of 22 Dec 2....!!!

The Post Office is often remembered by me as a place where my father and I received parcels from his Singapore sisters. My father and his sisters were very close and all of us would get the beautiful hand-me-downs from our second Aunty whose husband held a very high position in the Singapore government. So we got to wear really beautiful frilly party dresses from our cousin June and read her children's books. Papa was always very touched when we get these parcels. Because he was a frugal man we knew that his sister's care and concern touched him very deeply. Today when someone receives a parcel from home or from a friend I know and understand the hidden feelings.

When a dearly beloved relative died in the olden days the family would receive telegrams of condolences. Sibu was small enough then for us to know our own Postman who would send letters and telegrams to the house address.

An example of these condolence telegrams would read like this one:

DEEPEST CONDOLENCES STOP MAY GOD BLESS HER SOUL STOP LOVE FROM FAMILY STOP

And these telegrams would be lovingly and respectfully read out during the funeral service in the church. Very important people would have more telegrams. So such telegrams could even be perceived as a status symbol during a funeral of some big shots... . I believe in many parts of the world telegrams are still being sent.

In a lighter mood MANY WILL never HAVE a chance to send these out nowadays...

STOP LOVE YOU ALWAYS STOP

OR

STOP YES YES STOP WILL MARRY YOU STOP ANYTIME ANYWHERE STOP

OR

STOP YES TO YOUR PROPOSAL STOP

because sending telegrams today in Sarawak is "out of fashion now"......and I do not have to teach people to write telegrams any more be they happy or sad ones......

8 memories:

Gaharuman said...

Sarawakiana,

I have a story to tell about telegram though I have never used it before(about someone at Long bridge). This friend's sister went to New Zealand to further her studies. The family wasn't that rich as both father and mother were selling 'kueh" in Sibu back then. Not long after she left, there was a offer letter from one of the teachers' training colleges. So the family at first did not know what to do. Later, they decided to send a telegram with a message something like this: "Please come back quickly". the sister upon receiving the telegram was panic and thought one of her parents passed away. The message was not clear. So, she packed her bag and headed for home. When she reached home, she was disappointed because it was not her parent demise. She have to give up studying for a uni degree and take up a teacher certificate course in sarawak. To this day, she is still a teacher. The moral of the story is "message must be made clear".

Gaharuman said...

By the way, visit my blog www.blueandgreenspots.blogspot.com to read something on coconut candy which was mentioned by u somewhere in ur earlier post.

sarawakiana said...

Dear Gaharuman

Thanks for the touching story and yes I do agree with the moral - Message must be clear.

Many wars were started because the messages sent were not clear.

I will certainly read your post.

Thnks for visiting and hope you are fine and not overworked.

Gaharuman said...

Sarawakiana,

Do u by any chance know Dr Rita, a botanist who used to study at MSS (if I am not mistaken)?

sarawakiana said...

Oh yes of course..my classmate. Do you know her? You are in the same line and in Kuching too. Small world.

Gaharuman said...

Ya, I know her. It is a small world indeed. Make smaller by the internet.

sarawakiana said...

hehehe

we can hang out when I next come but she can be quite busy....especially towards the end of the year.

But who knows?

Gaharuman said...

That's a good idea! Do call me up or email me in advance as I might sometimes be away.

 

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