Grandpa passed away on 4.12.2011 at the age of 103. Towards the end of his life, he wasn’t best of health. I visited him in the hospital before his passing.
At such an old age, Grandpa’s mind is no longer there thus making conversation impossible with him. It is unfortunate that I never had a proper conversation with him. Everything I knew about him was through my parents or relatives.
This grand old man came from China at a very young age before the Second World War. He worked at a security guard in the beginning of his life in Malaya. But soon he realised that being the first in the workplace and last to leave wasn’t worth it. He then embraced entrepreneurship and started a noodles stall by the name Foong Kwong Kee (馮廣記) – which exists till to date. His first stall was in the old Bidor market. The market has now been demolished and so was the original store.
He would sell fish ball noodles in the morning and subsequently beef noodles (soup based) in the afternoon. The latter was a success as he was the only one in Bidor town selling beef noodles. He learn how to make beef noodles by observing traders in Ipoh and trying it at home. Dad used to run to the market to get beef for him.
Eventually he found that noodles making is time consuming. He then invented a machine to make the noodles. It was after the war and there were many abandoned vehicles around. He found an used lorry engine to work his machine. It was a huge breakthrough back then.
I was told that when the Japanese came during the war, his life didn’t change much. In fact, he continued selling noodles. Food shortage during the war wasn’t a problem for him because of his profession. I guess he didn’t even realise that the war ended. During the last few days of the war, he suddenly had a surge of customers. He later realise that he had a surge of customers because people were trying to dispose the “banana money” (Japanese currencies) – which became worthless after the war.
Grandpa had two wives and eight children – a norm during those days. Dad was the oldest of all the siblings.
From selling noodles at the stall, his business pivoted into wholesale noodles business. It became a thriving business for many years. It expanded into other small towns. They engaged bus drivers to deliver the noodles and collect payment for them. However, it became a problem when customers said they paid the driver and the driver denied receiving the payment.
Unfortunately (or rather fortunately otherwise I won’t be here), Dad and his siblings were not interested in taking over the business and subsequently the wholesale noodles business closed but the stall remained. My fourth uncle runs the shop now and one of my aunt still sells the fish balls noodles. Her fish ball noodles is known to be one of the best in Bidor. Unfortunately, no one took over the beef noodles business.
Interestingly, fourth uncle’s son started a retail outlet selling biscuits and snacks in Ipoh using the same trade name “馮廣記”.
We buried Grandpa, in his western suit which he requested, on a hill in Bidor. Being 103 years old, there is nothing to be sad about but rather a celebration of his life.
May he rest in peace.