The Years of “Growing Pain”

By Paul Chong                           Sat. 10 April 2010

Our children & grandchildren are so fortunate compared to the days when we were young. Growing up was definitely “growing pain” especially for a family of eleven (2 parents & 9 children). Except for the last three siblings, all used to pack into a one-room rented shop accommodation, sleeping on floor mats, before we had our own family home in Pokok Assam, Taiping, Malaysia. There was nothing for a long time we could call our own!

163 Kota Road, Taiping – My Father’s Rented Shop (Middle).

We had one room upstairs where 8 of us dwelled.

My father liked to be called a “mechanic”. He was more correctly a handyman who could fix anything without any formal training. You name it he repaired it . . . from restoring a bicycle motor dynamo, gaslight lamps, electrical appliances like kettles, bicycles, tyre puncture, motor vehicle battery charging, gas lights among a host of other items. His hands were always preoccupied with one item or another. He also repaired watches & clocks which he passed on to my late second uncle. I always admired his skills & wished that he would transfer & teach me some of it.

To my father no son of his was going to follow in his footsteps. He believed in the family’s progression & success and nothing good would come out of it by “holding the hammer”. His sons & daughters must learn to “hold the pen”. . . for the hand with the pen meant “might” to him.

Our Home at 749 Pokok Assam, Taiping – A Resettlement Village

My father regretfully had only two years of Chinese education in the traditional Confucius style of schooling. But if you were to see his calligraphy & his style of Chinese character script, you would think that he was a Chinese scholar, enhanced by the fact that he was often quoting Confucius & Chinese idioms in his normal conversation. Through his own personal lack of education, he was most passionate that his children had proper schooling & academic attainment.

Our dear mother, as with most olden days’ women, was unfortunate not to have gone to school. Nevertheless, she was wise & demonstrated in every way to be a woman of substance. While father fought hard in his economic survival especially during the Japanese Occupation period, she was equal to the task, pulled her weight, and helped keep the family together. Father always made sure of the basic needs – rice, sugar & salt.

I understand what it means to be austere & frugal. We went through several periods of hardship & struggle. My father always impressed upon me that he went to school with only two cents in his pocket. So when we were getting twenty cents in our school days, we couldn’t complain.

We were all English educated – eight of us except the younger sister next to me, she was in the Chinese school. She did not complete her education. By her own choice, she left school early and took up a practical course in dress-making. Bee delighted herself making clothing for our three young sisters – Susie, Alice & Annie. Her time was divided in helping mother in the household chores & making dresses professionally for others.

Susie is a retired school teacher in Taiping, Malaysia. Alice a retired business woman in Eastbourne, England and Annie, a secretary in one of the government departments in Perth, sadly passed on untimely with that dreadful cancer disease in January 2016).

Bee married early & became a mother & grandmother way ahead of us. Her children are all successful & she, recently widowed, now lives with her youngest married daughter in KL, Malaysia. She has more children & grandchildren than I have. (She also had cancer & passed on in the year 2011, April).

Mike, the youngest in the family, is by far the most successful of the siblings. Having trained as a medical technologist at the former W.A.I.T. (WA Institute of Technology),  the present Curtin University, he worked for some time in Malaysia in the discipline he was trained for before switching to the field of sales. He has held various managerial positions with Hewlett Packard & Dupoint. To keep track of his career movement is like tracking him globally – for one day he’d be in US, next Taiwan, China, Singapore or Malaysia.

He’s now stationed with his family in Melbourne & is responsible for the Pacific Rim business . . . still very much on the move . . . airports & hotels . . . in Shanghai or somewhere else and flying high. His three children, one girl & two boys, are all doing well in the field of real estate, journalism & dentistry.

Proudly, we have two nephews who are most successful in the field of import/retailing business and event/marriage planning enterprise.

Our parents are no longer with us, but I am sure they would only be too happy & proud that their offspring have climbed the social-economic ladder and attained that family progression according to their wish. It’s been a long & hard journey, when all of us were sleeping on floor mat, all cramped into one room.

To crown the Chong Family glory, our children have done us proud with their academic achievement: our daughter with a PhD, doctor son as a qualified anaesthetist & our youngest son as a civil engineer who also holds a second degree in computer science. It is foreseeable that others in the family will soon join in the academic rank, not that some have already done so.

Austerity & frugality are two preciously forgotten vocabulary in today’s society. Today, the flash of credit cards with free & easy spending rule the day. Unless you have gone through hard times, you’d never understand & appreciate good times.

Save to be safe

Austerity before prosperity.

To God Be The Glory!

Related Posts by Same Author:

  1. No pain No Gain . . . Suffering Builds Character
  2. The Importance of Knowing Why “Roots To Grow, Wings To Fly”


2 thoughts on “The Years of “Growing Pain”

  1. Tina Gibbs

    You still remember your roots Paul and the beautiful memories of all your siblings – your parents will be really proud of you all.

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