Friday, April 24, 2009

Formal Sibu Foochow Welcome at Airport @ 1958

Not many people can remember that photos were printed in special dimensions in the 1950's - 3.5" x 3.5" or a slightly bigger sized called "postcard" size (6"x 4") Do correct me here. the two well established studios at that time were Anna Studio and Heng Kwong all along Blacksmith Road and Island Road. Interestingly the photo labs were upstairs. It was quite a tight squeeze for a bridal group to go right up the narrow wooden staircases.

This photo from my family album shows my three married aunts coming home to Sibu for a rare visit. They had married Singaporean men and were all working in Singapore. Aunt Phyllis (my second aunt ) brought back her son Michael. I was standing fourth from the left in the front row of "grandchildren". Notice the little handbag I was carrying. And very significantly we were either wearing Bata leather shoes. My aunt Laura standing next to me turned up wearing pretty socks and shoes. Our frocks usually had "smocking" fronts made by Aunt Pick. Yes indeed we did wear "smocking" dresses then!!

The whole extended family were all formally attired in their Sunday Best. Young girls were in frocks and the older married women in fashionable western frocks and eastern Cheongsams. My grandmother Siew as usual wore her nice samfoo. All the men wore their best tie. My grandfather Tiong Kung Ping stood in the centre looking every inch a commanding patriarch and social leader.

Our family was very tight knit and gave a great deal of moral support to Grandfather especially. And we loved "returning relatives". Thus the whole extended family came to the airport to give our aunts Lily; Phyllis and Ngiin Sieng a rousing welcome. This was followed by a few welcoming and memorable dinners - very Sibu and Foochow style. As a child I always looked forward to going to the airport to welcome or send off relatives. It was a big deal then. Grandfather had adopted a very American attitude towards proper dressing or "wearing Sunday Best" perhaps a heritage of the influence of Rev. James Hoover and the China born missionaries.

When did wearing our Sunday Best disappear? As the twentieth century ended we became less formal in our dressing. We used to remind each other that we were entering the house of God and we had to be "proper and decent". But today t-shirts seem to a kind of social uniform.

With travels becoming easier these days and new forms of communication developing family get together become less significant moments and less formal. The nuclear family has also become more prominent and the extended family is weakened to a very great extent.

But whenever I see three generations of a family getting together for a wedding or just a birthday I just become so nostalgic for the old slow days. I am glad some family traditions are still maintained by many people all over the world.

In comparison our Malay brethrens seem to continue with the social habit of wearing their best for their communal events. The returning of the Hajis/Hajjahs for example nessitate a blessing and kenduri today. The forward journey of the pilgrims at one time in Sibu caused the whole kampong to come out in full force for a grand send off. I remember fairly well those were signficant days for many of my mates.

Old photos capture so much of our social norms of the past. A "revisit" conjures up lots of fond memories.

No wonder we used to write at the back of photos which we give to our relatives or friends "Keep this photo for remembrance of our good time together. Fond memories." We used a fine fountain pen and the best of our cursive writing! We usually ended with the date and some xxxx. Perhaps inadvertently we were documenting our own historical development!

2 memories:

Free Bird said...

Who's the lady standing on the far left(our left) of the picture?

These are picture with cut outs "lacy" sort around the edges, aren't they?

Very pretty when arranged in a photo album.

sarawakiana said...

The lady in skirt and blouse standing on first on the left is Aunt Pearl - Aunty Judy Lau's Mother. Aunty Pick is on the right.

No my father did not ask for the lacy edges. He had them all cut in straight edges . Just the simple black and white photos and they have lasted for so long!!


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