Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Tailor Who Won the Hearts of Native Boys

Tan Chi Kim and David Chin (Photo from David Chin)

It seemed there was only one tailor in town (Miri) and we the native boys who were in dire straits but in desperate need of attire would flock to his shop for some tailoring whether it was to cut a pair of badly needed trousers or to make a drain pipe pair out of a cheap shop bought trousers.

He owned the Nam Kong Tailor Shop on River Road situated opposite the Ban Hup Coffee shop where politicians and government officers sat down for happy hours after they knocked off from work.

Mr.Tam was very friendly and he won our young and innocent hearts. Each trousers he made for us then was just @7.50(material included). And we would be asking him all sorts of questions about tailoring. Aloysius Lisu was a student by our standard a towkay who would always suggest that we went to see him. This was a chance for us to admire the materials and the already tailored trousers. We would also fantasize about our future attire in the shop.

Besides Towkay as we called him was always ready to call us to do a bit of grass cutting and other odd jobs. One day I did a full day's job for him and earned a handsome figure of $5.00. I was rich like a king and felt like one too.

And then there was one incident I would never forget. The kindly Towday offered to send us back to Tanjong in his car instead of us having to walk all the 6 kilometres. When we were at the steep Tanjong hill the car engine suddenly choked and stopped. It was a blue Hillman Hunter by the way. He asked me to step on a pedal and not release it until he said so. I was seated next to him.

He asked" Can you reach the pedal?" I was small and short but my foot just managed to touch the pedal.

I did not know anything about driving at that tender age. But I did as I was told. He then struggled with the other pedals and managed to start the engine. He then told me to let go of the pedal which I did. I felt so proud of myself!! The car then went up the hill like a very ill and arthritic buffalo which had to finish its ploughing.

I can still remember him clearly as if it was only yesterday.

I feel sad that a good and caring man who was an icon to all the native boys of Tanjong has left us. He had touched our hearts and we will remember him fondly. In many ways he was an adult who had played a very important role in our lives when we as boarding students needed that fatherly touch and mentoring very much.

May his soul rest in peace.