WHEN the British rulers opened up land adjacent to Kuala Lumpur to ease the burden from an ever-burgeoning population, they could not have foreseen the importance that little new settlement would gain decades later.
In 1952, 480ha of the Petaling Garden Estate in Selangor was allocated for the settlement that was named Petaling Jaya. It was formed by the British to address the overcrowding in Kuala Lumpur.
Petaling Jaya was named after the estate combined with the Malay word jaya which meant success.
Petaling Jaya Old Town is the first settlement in Petaling Jaya. It consists of Sections 1, 2, 3 and 4.
On June 20, 2006, Petaling Jaya, fondly known as PJ, became a city.
In conjunction with PJ’s 11th City Day today, StarMetro spoke to the owner of the oldest restaurant in the city, the first principal of the oldest school and the first mayor as well as found out how Jalan Templer got its name.
Petaling Jaya Old Town Sections 1 and 2
The longest-surviving business in Petaling Jaya is the Pat Seong Chinese & Western liquor shop.
It was set up in 1954 by Chong Pat Seong, who was blind.
His son Chong Lai Ying, 67, is now managing the business.
“My dad became blind after he was hit by splinters from a hand grenade in Ampang in a case of mistaken identity.
“His plight came to the attention of then senior British army officer, who was also the field marshal, Sir Gerald Walter Robert Templer.
“Templer took pity on my dad because he was blind and had four young children to care for.
“He asked my dad where he would like to set up a business and my dad chose PJ because he heard of the new settlement,” said Lai Ying.
With Templer’s help, Pat Seong relocated to Section 1 and enjoyed good business especially in the 1960s.
Today, Lai Ying is uncertain if his children will be interested to continue with the family business.
“All my children are highly educated and are doing fine in their careers.
“I am not sure if they will want to sell liquor,” he said candidly.
In 1957, Templer returned to Malaya to witness the declaration of Independence and later visited Pat Seong’s shop.
“It was a big deal and it was all over the news,” said Lai Ying while pointing to a 1957 newspaper article on the visit.
To mark Templer’s visit that day, one of the main roads there was named after him.
The oldest surviving Chinese restaurant in PJ is the Heng Kee Bak Kut Teh in Section 1, which opened in 1973.
The family business is now managed by Teoh Chin Wong who took over the business from his brother.
Teoh came from Bukit Mertajam, Penang, in 1975 to help his brother in PJ Old Town.
“When I arrived in Old Town, I felt like I was in a modern town compared to my village.
“The houses here were half-brick and half-wood. We called it the three-feet brick house because the walls were three-feet high and the rest of the house was wooden,” said Teoh.
In the 1960s and 1970s, restaurants such as Yap Kim Kee and Tong Kee serving Chinese food such as char kuey teow, Hokkien mee, chee cheong fun and dim sum were famous in PJ Old Town.
“Our bak kut teh restaurant was popular because it was open until 2am and our customers were mostly people who caught the late-night movies at Majestic.
Section 1B Petaling Jaya KRT chairman Kok Kuan Yang said Old Town still had its charm and hoped the authorities would see its tourism prospect.
He hoped the town would be popularised and made into a tourist destination.
“In the 1960s and 1970s, PJ Old Town was the place to be.
“It was a happening spot, similar to what Bangsar is now in Kuala Lumpur. It is where the ‘Saturday night fever’ took place.
“We still have some good restaurants and heritage. We hope for a landmark to be built in Old Town to mark it as the first settlement in PJ,” said Kok.
This was known as the first urban modern settlement in Petaling Jaya for the Malay community.
Section 3 Residents Association chairman Salleh Othman, 63, said the first mosque in PJ and Universiti Teknologi Mara’s first campus were established in this area.
The Petaling Authority, which functioned like the local council in the old days, was also located in Section 3.
“A lot of the government servants and Malay elite lived in this neighbourhood.
“Some famous politicians and their parents lived here too,” he said.
Masjid Jamek Sultan Abdul Aziz was built in Section 3 in 1957 but had been renovated over the years.
Today, it can accommodate up to 5,000 people.
Resident Abdul Ghani Mohd said Malays from Perak and Johor with expertise in the rubber industry mostly moved to Section 3 when they came to work here.
For leisure, the residents and youths would fly kites and play sepak takraw.
The Section 3 residents also echoed the idea to turn PJ Old Town into a tourism attraction.
Section 4 owes its glory to housing the first school and hospital in PJ.
In 1954, the then-Chief Justice of Malaya Michael Hogan brought a nun to Petaling Jaya to set up the Assunta primary school.
Datin Paduka Sister Enda Ryan was 26 when she arrived in Malaysia and made PJ her home.
The 88-year-old still lives in Section 4 and is the pillar behind the formation of Assunta primary and secondary schools in PJ.
The school changed the landscape of education for girls in PJ and produced a long list of successful and outstanding women in the country.
Among them are former Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Zeti Akhtar Aziz as well as Mercy Malaysia founder and former president Tan Sri Dr Jemilah Mahmood.
“I went house to house to ask parents to send their daughters to school.
“They were actually happy to have a school to go to in PJ,” she said.
She added that there were many orang putih or British living in PJ in the 1950s.
“Jalan Tinggi had three bungalows occupied by orang putih who were managing the Petaling Town Board which was the local council then,” she said.
Among her first batch of primary school pupils was Cheong Ah Kiew, the daughter of Pat Seong.
“Two of the wine shop seller’s daughters studied in Assunta and one of them is now a doctor.
“I am proud of all my students,” she said.
Sister Enda said Petaling Jaya felt warmer these days and hoped the trees would be preserved and the city would not be overdeveloped.
The city’s hot seat then and now