Post-war Kampung Jawa was known for its cheap household goods and textiles. School uniforms and shoes were amongst items sold in an area where rickety wooden buildings stood, some with cement floors, others with floors of earth and dirt. In the 70s and 80s there were military surplus stores. The crowd was overwhelming in the daytime. Retailers would call out to customers announcing cheap sales.
Near the riverside there were fishermen’s dwellings.These fishermen were mostly Hainanese and Hock Chias who spoke so loudly in their daily conversations that people might think there was a big argument going on. Fishing would begin early morning, and by the hot sunny afternoons, their blue tongkangs rested on jetties.
On horse racing days (Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays) enterprising young boys would sell 4D gaming results slips on the streets, shouting “Ma Piew Poh! Ma Piew Poh!” Come evening, Kampung Jawa would transform from a family oriented shopping zone to a seedier place. Transvestites and women of the night would appear out of nowhere soliciting customers. Soldiers from nearby Terendak Camp would patronise the services offered, but the appearance of the Military Police patrol in the distance would cause much panic. Often young boys acted as scouts for them, to sound an alarm. Those who caught sexually transmitted diseases could seek treatment at a clinic nearby, which also provided hormone treatments to transvestites. In Kampung Jawa, many things were possible.
“When I was a young schoolboy at Bunga Raya, I used to hang around [Kampung Jawa] playing tops. In the early 40s at the corner there was the Cantonese Opera, but by the 50s it had become an opium den, where all these people of the lower levels of society ah, labourers, coolies, they would go there and smoke. The roads were alleys, narrow and difficult. There was a papier-mache merchant selling Chinese joss sticks, I think the son operates the business until now”
Chong Chan Heng, 78
former English teacher
13 November 2018
Rumah Pangsa 9 Tingkat
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