Blogging about “Falim House Exhibition: A Tin Mining Family @ Tin City Ipoh” and related issues…


The Collapse of the ITC: Why 10,000 Ipohites had to “jump aeroplane” (work illegally) in America

Read about
1 hawkers..
2 schools..
3 Places to go: Cold Storage, cinemas…
4 Whiteaways, Ipoh’s first shopping center..
5 F & N, Coca-Cola..
6 Dulang washer.
7 Opium smoking (and Simon Thong’s Chinaboy haircut!)
8 Tyres: need a new one? Buy Dunlop!
9 My father’s Koon Choy Cheh (hearse)!
10 The AAM.
11 BANGUNAN SZTOLEE, where George Town Dispensary used to be, is now Arlene House.

30 September 2017

11 BANGUNAN SZTOLEE, where George Town Dispensary used to be, is now Arlene House.






This is Falim House today, restored.


This was the old Falim House.

FALIM means beautiful forests.
The House of Kinta Valley Tin Tycoon Foo Nyit Tse (circa 1920)



This was built by Foo Nyit Tse in the 1920, and was his residence. He was a tin mining tycoon.

Save Falim House 

February 19, 2012

Originally born in China in 1865, Foo Nyit Tse arrived in Malaya in the 1880’s. After working for Foo Choo Choon (who later sold him the land at Falim) he established his own mines around Chemor-Tanjong Rambutan. His success made him into one of Ipoh’s most well known and respected miners of the era.  He had a workforce of around 24,000 and mining land of around 1250 acres.



Dunlop made tyres in those days for horse carts and, yes, rickshaws and trishaws!


Later, when cars were invented, Dunlop manufactured tyres for cars, motorcycles andlorries.

9 My father’s Koon Choy Cheh (hearse)!

My father bought a car, imported from England. He bought a used car (what we call second-hand).

It was a Triumph Mayflower. It looked so much like a hearse according to others that the neighbours called it exactly that, a hearse (in Cantonese, koon choy chey).

Triumph Mayflower.JPG

It was big enough at the back for all the children: 5 of us siblings and a cousin.

It was considered fast in those days. Top speed was claimed to be 62 mph (100kph). Father’s Mayflower could reach 57mph at times.

Here is an upmarket version.

From 1949 to 1953, 35,000 Mayflowers were made. Not bad for those days!



If you owned a car, and had money as well, and connections with some European guy, you could join the AAM, the Automobile Association of Malaya.

I am a member of today’s AAM, and I get a couple of plastic AAM badges to fix onto my car. In those days, you got the real thing!


For petrol in those days, it was Standard Oil of New York.


Standard Oil was an American oil producing, transporting, refining, and marketing company. Established in 1870 as a corporation in Ohio, it was the largest oil refiner in the world. Its controversial history as one of the world’s first and largest multinational corporations ended in 1911, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that Standard was an illegal monopoly.

John D. Rockefeller was a founder, chairman and major shareholder. With the dissolution of the Standard Oil trust into 33 smaller companies, Rockefeller became the richest man in the world.



My father said that he had smoked opium once, didn’t like it, and never took it up. Thank God!


Opium smoking was, of course, an addiction that had terrible consequences.




As a boy, until I was ten, I lived in a shophouse on Leech Street. Beside our row of three shophouses was a lane, Panglima Lane. It was also known as Yee Lai Hong, literally Mistress/Concubine Lane. It was said that the name came from the fact that a local tycoon housed his yee lai (mistress) in a house there on that lane.

The lane had a seedy reputation. Definitely, it was crowded. There was a barber’s and a Chinaman, newly arrived from China, was the barber. I remember the first time he cut my hair. My father wanted me bald. Completely bald. I had a scalp condition, what we now know to be Psoriasis, but known then as  a disease of some sort.

The barber shaved me bald except for a patch of hair in the front, just above the forehead.

Look at the photo: that is exactly my hairstyle then!

Father took a look and brought me back to the barber’s to have the patch shaved. This is NOT China, he raged at the poor Chinaman.


Coming back to opium smoking, Panglima Lane had an opium den. It was illegal, of course, but it was left alone by the authorities. One day, however, the police came, and so did an ambulance. The ambulancemen stretchered away a frail, old man, skin and bones, to the General Hospital. He was an opium addict, maybe about 50, but looked 70. What happened to him? Someone said that he was at death’s door.


What is Opium?

An opioid or narcotic, made from the white liquid in the poppy plant.

What does it look like?

A black or brown block of tar like substance.

How is it used?


What are its short-term effects?

Opium can cause euphoria, followed by a sense of well-being and a calm drowsiness or sedation. Breathing slows, potentially to the point of unconsciousness and death with large doses. Other effects can include nausea, confusion and constipation. Use of opium with other substances that depress the central nervous system, such as alcohol, antihistamines, barbiturates, benzodiazepines, or general anesthetics, increases the risk of life-threatening respiratory depression.

What are its long-term effects?

Long-term use can lead to drug tolerance, meaning the user needs more of the drug to get similar euphoric effects.  Opium use can also lead to physical dependence and addiction.  Withdrawal symptoms can occur if long term use is reduced or stopped.


6 The dulang washer in this photo is a woman, and women dulang washers were what we saw or met, even on the streets of Ipoh. Many were Hakka women.


They worked very hard, standing in a river, with the water sometimes hip high, sometimes waist high, from  morning till about 5pm.





The dulang was used to scoop up the earth, mixed with water and by careful swirling of the water, the mud was swept away and the heavier tin ore remained. Kids will have the opportunity to experience ‘dulang washing’— the art of using a dulang to extract tin from the earth and sand.

A group of women would walk from the bus station near Medan Kidd through town. They walked past our row of shophouses on Leech Street at about 8.30am, on their way to the Kinta River. There, in the river, they washed the doil from the river bed, to extract the tin ore. At about 5pm, they walked past again, in the opposite direction. I think that they came by bus from Menglembu daily, except on Sundays.

After the movie The Dirty Dozen was shown, some of my friends dubbed them the Dirty Dozen.

*Here is a comment by a very good friend.

Koo Fai Lan Such an interesting article and brings back memories. My maternal grandparents had lived in Leech Street for a long time. I was from Kampar and there were then a number of tin mines nearby. Those dulang washers used to frequent my dad’s shop and they were Hakka.


Here is a short video of dulang washing.

Dulang Washing by Elaine Tan


5 F & N, Coca-cola

F & N is, of course, Fraser & Neave.

It was famous for the Red Lion, an orange drink. Later on, F & N marketed Green Spot which my father liked. He often offered his customers a Green Spot. For that purpose, he had a case of Green Spot bottles.



Then came Coca-Cola!




F & N and Coca-Cola in Malaysia ended their agreement a couple of years ago.



In those days, there were many English, Irish, Scottish and Welsh people. They were planters and miners, as well as bankers, lawyers, architects, engineers and other professionals. Often, their wives and children lived here.

There were also the Chinese miners and businessmen, lumped together conveniently as Towkays.

They went shopping at Whiteaways, that is Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co. Ltd.

Here are two posters of Whiteaways. It was called an emporium, from the Greek word that means ‘house of trade’.



I was there twice, and each time, with Father, who was the tailor-on-call for Whiteaways. I remember taking the lift up and down each time. Those were the only times I ever went in a lift as a boy.

Whiteaways was housed in this building, which then became the Maybank building. It is now vacant. It’s in the Old Town.



From Singapore Infopedia

Whiteaway Laidlaw

Whiteaway Laidlaw was a premier department store in the early 20th century. Whiteaway brought in products that appealed to the Europeans and wealthy locals.  It started in D’Almeida Street before moving into its own building at Battery Road. Its premises was occupied by a Japanese retailer during the Japanese Occupation, thereafter Whiteaway continued its business until 1962 when Maybank took over the building.  The site that Whiteaway used to occupy is now home to Maybank Tower.

Early History
The founder of Whiteaway was Robert Laidlaw (b. 10 January 1856) whose early career was in wholesale textile trade in London.  In 1877, Laidlaw went to India and began a long residence in Calcutta (about 20 years), having travelled extensively in Asia, Africa and America.  He was also made a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.  In 1882, in Calcutta, Laidlaw started what was later to be a great business house, Whiteaway, Laidlaw & Co.  Soon, Whiteaway opened branches in about 20 cities, in India and the Straits Settlements, including Singapore, Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, Taiping, Seremban, Klang, Malacca and Telok Anson. Whiteaway was as much into tailoring and as they were into importing and selling household goods.  Robert Laidlaw was also a proprietor of tea estates in Darjeeling and of rubber estates in the Federated Malay States.

Whiteaway Laidlaw | Infopedia





However, the hawkers came to your door step with their wares.

Most of the photos you will see are of life way before my time; they were of my grandmother’s era.

An ice cream seller!


Chee cheong fun seller.


Even in 1963, a mamak sold laksa and kueh in town, and a couple of times, he came by our housei in Harmony Park, next to Silibin. The laksa was delicious!




I never saw anyone walking around like this.



This was quite modern for those days.


Almost everyone cooked with firewood, and someone came around and chopped it up for you. For a small payment.





There was the Anglo-Chinese School, ACS…

You got an English-medium langauge education.

Tin mining 31 May 2013 011

Chinese Independent Schools were popular. This was Yuk Choy High School, and when the private school shifted to Jelapang, the government school, SMK Yuk Choy, stayed on.


Yuk Choy High School is in Jelapang today.



Poi Lam High School moved away from Old Town, to a piece of land donated by Tan Sri Lee Loy Seng.


It’s still there at Pengkalen.


Shen Jai High School back then. That is now the Shen Jai School of Commerce.


This is Shen Jai High School today.



I was quite keen to visit Falim House, especially when I got a message on Facebook from Ian Anderson, reminding me that the Exhibition was about to begin. We had met again at the 10th Anniversary Dinner of the Perak Women for Women Society, or rather, I had gone up to him and re-introduced myself to that wonderfully unique gentleman…

Here is Ian Anderson and Chin Meng Wai, his beautiful wife.


My visit to Falim House was to turn out to be a short trip down Memory Lane. No, I had never visited the place before and I know nobody personally who had. I did have an aunt, affectionately called Falim Aunt because she lived in a shophouse across the road from Falim House. I’m told that she worked there at Falim House. She had only good things to say about the generosity of the rich man and his family who lived there.

My nostalgia comes from the photos of old places that I saw. That is my interest in writing this Post.


Let me take you through that nostalgic journey.


THERE WAS THE COLD STORAGE MILK BAR, A GREAT PLACE TO BE IF YOU HAD THE MONEY. I was there no more than 5 times, and each time, I had an ice-cream, usually a banana split.


The place where the Cold Storage Milk Bar was located is now where you will find McDonald’s. That would be across the road from the UTC Perak is.



This is a photograph of an old newspaper (March 8, 1946). I noticed the words Preceded by The Three Stooges in the advertisement for the Cathay cinema. My father loved watching The Three Stooges, and so did the rest of us.


I went to the cinema a lot, sometimes with friends, sometimes with family, but mostly alone. When Father bought me a bicycle, I could ride to the Lido or Cathay, park my bicycle for 10 cents (which eventually became 20 cents), and watch a movie. I usually bought a $1 ticket.The 3.15pm show was just right. It ended at 5.00pm and I cycled home.

This was the Ruby cinema. I didn’t go there much as it showed Chinese movies.


Today, the Ruby is a furniture shop.

Tin mining 31 May 2013 097

This was the Star. It is now a restaurant. It is right across the road from MGS (Methodist Girls’ School).


This was the Odeon back then. It started out all right. There was some story later on about it being haunted. Anyway, it soon became a cinema that showed only Indian movies.


The Cathay Cinema back then was glamorous, being the newest.


I watched many movies there, sometimes with classmates or friends, but mostly on my own. The Cathay had a Sunday matinee, at 10.30am. Tickets were cheaper than at normal shows. Sunday matinee featured older films but we hadn’t watched them before, so it was affordable to pak-toh (go on a date).

This is what the Cathay has become, a shopping place.


There was no photo of the Lido, which I went to a great deal but here is the Lido today. For some years, it was the Florex Restaurant. It is now the GQ Snooker Center.



There wasn’t much to do for entertainment except watch movies. There was no TV yet when I was a young boy. What shall we do? “Go see show!”

My mother loved movies. She had 5 children, and later, a sixth but she took us to the movies often. She preferred Chinese shows, so those were what we watched with her.

I remember those week nights when Father fell asleep after dinner, at about 7pm, worn out by his long hours of work as a tailor. He was the original Robert Tailor!

Mother got into the car, which was parked beside their bedroom, and we kids pushed the car silently out of the compound and onto the road, so as not to wake Father up. She started the car, and off we went to the cinema. When we got back, at about 9.15pm, Father would still be asleep. Inevitably, he woke up at about 9.45pm, watched TV and read the newspaper, and then went back to sleep. Mother timed everything just right.

Those were nights of movie delights!



Thursday May 16, 2013

Tin City Ipoh project set to become a business hub


Interested buyers: Visitors looking at the miniature model of Tin City Ipoh that was displayed in Falim House. Interested buyers: Visitors looking at the miniature model of Tin City Ipoh that was displayed in Falim House.

FALIM town is to be turned into a vibrant commercial centre in Ipoh in the next five years.

Modern shopping complexes and high-rise apartments under the ‘Tin City Ipoh’ development project are expected to dot the skyline of the quaint town.

Amber Synergy Sdn Bhd chairman Datuk Yong Chai Seng said the RM220mil project would be carried out on a 10.12ha land, near the iconic Falim House.

He said Amber Synergy would preserve the Falim House as the company acknowledged the structure as a valuable heritage.

“The building has historical significance and is a part of the tin mining history of Ipoh,” he said in his speech during the launch of the ‘Tin City Ipoh’ development project on Sunday.

Tin City Ipoh project set to become a business hub – The Star Online



2 February 2013| last updated at 11:18PM

Ipoh’s historic Falim House to be revamped

IPOH: Falim House off Jalan Lahat here will not demolished. Instead, it will be revamped.

Amber Synergy managing director Datuk Poo Tak Kiau, who acquired the 8ha premises early this year, said he was looking at transforming the 1920s structure into a heritage hotel or food and beverage outlet.

He denied speculation that the former residence of mining tycoon Foo Nyit Tse and his successors (until the late 1990s) had been slotted for demolition.

“At the moment, we are maintaining Falim House and hope to restore it , like what was done to Macalister Mansion in Penang.”

He said thiswhen met at Falim House for the launching of the Tin City commercial hub project yesterday.

The land around Falim House is marked for a commercial development involving 116 units of three- and four-storey shoplots to be completed in a year.

There are also plans to build high-rise serviced apartments in the project’s second phase.


Exhibition: A Tin Mining Family @ Tin City Ipoh


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2 Responses to Blogging about “Falim House Exhibition: A Tin Mining Family @ Tin City Ipoh” and related issues…

  1. Sandra Lee says:

    I am a descendant of Foo Nyit Tse on my maternal side. My Mom(in her 90s) is a niece of Foo Nyit Tse. It would be exciting to reconnect with any member of the Foo family, paternal or maternal. y family and I now reside in Canada.

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