Good old days in Section 10 Petaling Jaya

A&W was the first fast food outlet across Taman Jaya and families from Section 10 could be seen having root beers and Coney dogs on Sundays.AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

A&W was the first fast food outlet across Taman Jaya and families from Section 10 could be seen having root beers and Coney dogs on Sundays.AZHAR MAHFOF/The Star

Good morning, yesterday

You wake up and time has slipped away,

And suddenly it’s hard to find,

The memories you left behind

Remember, do you remember

– singer and songwriter, Paul Anka.

Some of my earliest childhood memories living in Section 10 are of hearing the shouts from the street hawkers.

As a child born and bred in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, I recall the weekends were filled with shouts of hawkers moving in the back lanes and a man with dark complexion carrying a two-meter-long bamboo stick on his shoulder with several round aluminium trays hung on both ends.

Din, as he was called, sold all kinds of Malay kuih that came in different shapes, colours and designs with various flavours. He was in the neighbourhood at 7am.

I loved the kuih kochi, a glutinous rice dumpling filled with coconut cooked in gula Melaka and wrapped with banana leaves.

Most of Din’s kuih were steamed, with some boiled, like the onde-onde that was filled with palm sugar syrup, and the grilled ones, like the pulut panggang that was filled with spiced pulverised dried shrimps.

Hawkers who came into Section 10 had their own sing-song shouts and it was distinct in their pitch and tune. From the living room or kitchen, we could make out what was being sold.

We had a Chinese woman with a large straw hat who sold chee cheong fun and lived in the neighbourhood. Her shouts would bring children and housewives with plate in hand for the rice noodle rolls with dark coloured sauce drizzled with chilli. I loved the homemade fish balls dipped in the dark sauce. Each was five sen.

Other traders who walked into the neighbourhood was a wrinkle-faced Cantonese man who used to sharpen knives as well as an Indian-Muslim man who sold window panes and offered his expertise in chiselling the batu giling or grinding stone.

Once a month, housewives waited eagerly for an old Indian man shouting guni-botol, who came on a tricycle to buy old newspapers and bottles. Children called him botol man.

Afternoons saw the ting ting thong man with a huge tray of white rock candy sprinkled with sesame seeds that were chipped away with a chisel and a small hammer, making the “ting ting” sound that is so familiar to all who grew up in the neighbourhood.

We waited for the roti bai in the mid-afternoons — the breadman brought cone-shaped pastry filled with cream, sugee biscuits and huge loaves of bread that was sliced and sold.

I would wait for the tau foo fah hawker who sold the velvety soft tofu pudding between 4.30pm and 6pm and later, return at 9pm to sell koay teow. It was interesting as housewives would come out with plates and eggs. It was only $1 in 1979.

Sadly, in the mid-’80s, the then Petaling Jaya Municipal Council decided to remove mobile hawkers from the streets. Most of them were placed in hawkers centres. With that, our streets lost its flavour and soul.

Section 10 was part of Effingham Estate. Double and single-storey terrace houses were built in 1965 and senior officers with the National Electricity Board were offered houses with a loan from Borneo Mortgage and Housing Finance.

Offered a double-storey house, my grandfather V. H. Kandiah moved from Kuala Lumpur to Section 10 as my grandmother Suzan Bartholomew, a staunch Catholic, was in love with the idea as the entrance to the neighbourhood had the beautiful St. Francis Xavier Church. A Catholic Irish priest ran the church.

Our neighbourhood was made up of Chinese, Ceylonese, Eurasians, Goanese, Malayalees, one Malay and two Punjabi families. It was a quiet neighbourhood where crime was unheard of.

Once, our neighbour the Yap family had their bicycle stolen – it was the hottest news and the police later found it in PJ Old Town.

On weekends, families would take a stroll through Taman Jaya, which we used to call the Gardens.

Children would run around to their hearts’ content and later, the families would enjoy root beer at the A&W restaurant across Taman Jaya.

Most of the children in the neighbourhood went to the Methodist Primary School in Section 5 and for secondary level, the Catholic High School.

Change swept through the neighbourhood in the mid-’80s when the Eurasian families began migrating to Australia, the Chinese families moved to other parts of Petaling Jaya and some others moved to Switzerland and Canada.

All of them moved as they wanted the best for their children’s education. Most of us as children were inculcated with the habit of saving. Three months once, our parents would take us to the Standard Chartered Bank in PJ State, which was walking distance from Taman Jaya, to deposit our coins that we kept in a Donald Duck or Mickey Mouse savings box.

I remember at times as a teen, I used to take out $1.80 from the coin box to indulge in Chinese noodles and a bottle of Coca-Cola at the Satellite Restaurant together with the neighbourhood boys Ah Loy and Ah Meng whose grandfather ran a grocery shop facing Jalan Gasing. The shop became a Bank Simpanan Nasional branch in the early 1990s.