Background : In the 1950’s/60’s, triad and gangland clashes were common occurrences especially in Chinatown. . Members from different gangs were always “on curfew”. Should a member from a rival gang be found in the territory of the “resident” gang, the former will be attacked savagely either physically or with weapons such as knives, bearer scrapers or daggers.
At that time, Pagoda Street, Mosque Street, Trengganu Street, Smith Street etc were the territory of the 08 Xiao San Hong gang. Close by , Chin Chew Street, Nankin Street, Hokkien Street, Amoy Street etc were controlled by the 24 gang.
Members of the two gangs guarded their respective territory jealously and were always on the look out for “intruders” from the rival gang. There many instances where “intruders” were badly beaten up or even killed. Such instances led to even more clashes as the aggrieved gang tried to take revenge for their injured/killed “brother”).
1958. One fine afternoon at around 12 noon.
I had my bath and changed into my Pearl’s Hill School uniform. Lunch was ready. I sat at the dining table at the rear of the shop to take my lunch. My school bag and water bottle were ready. I dug into my bowl of rice. It was hot and sweltering. Air conditioning was unheard of at that time. Just got to bear with the heat . And the discomfort. I still had to walk a good kilometer or so through the old People’s Park and climb up the slope of Pearl’s Hill where my school was. A daunting thought. But, it can’t be help. I didn’t have the luxury of a family car or a private school transport vehicle to ferry me to school.
Suddenly, I heard the sound of some one running past me. Once past me, he slipped on the wet kitchen floor which my mother was then washing with soapy water that she had used for washing clothes. He immediately picked himself up and ran into the toilet. Bang! The toilet door was slammed shut. My mother looked up in surprised. . Who was that ? Where’s he from ? “ What’s he doing inside our house?”
I was equally puzzled. I went to knock on the toilet door. “Hei, who are you ? What are you doing inside?” A head stuck out from above the toilet door. “ Please let me hide here for a short while or I will be killed”. “I am from Chin Chew Street. I belong to the 24 gang. Unintentionally, I wondered into 08 territory here. A 08 gang member chased after me with a bearing scrapper.. He wants to kill me.”.
“Let me check”. Slowly I opened the back door. Standing right infront with a shiny bearing scraper in hand was a man. I recognised him. He was Ah Chew. He was one of the 08 gang member, the son of the mahjong shop owner . I slammed the door shut .
“Hei, don’t go out. Ah Chew is waiting for you.” “ He has a bearing scrapper “.
In the excitement, time passed very quickly. Before I realised, it was already 12.55 pm. I opened the back door again. Took a peek. Ah Chew had left. . I asked the neighbours if they saw Ah Chew. They said he left after waiting for about 30 mins. The coast was now clear. “ Hei, you better run off now. Ah Chew left already”. “” Sure, thank you for letting me hide here”. “ I owe my life to your mother and you”.
By the time I reached school it was already 130pm. “Kok Wing, why were you late for school today?” “Teacher I was helping to save a gangster and erh… erh “. “ Don’t tell me stories. . Write a 100 lines. I must not be late for school.”. “ No Teacher, I was.. Erh erh It’s …..” “ Now, get back to you seat or another 100 lines – I must not tell lies. ” “ Yes, Teacher.”