Thursday, July 9, 2009

Old, Old Kuching - Part 3

Here's another offering in the ongoing series of old Kuching scenes. Most of the shots were probably from the 50s and 60s.

The first photo shows Sylvia Cinema, one of the early Kuching cinemas. It was built in 1939 by the Third White Rajah, Charles Vyner Brooke, and named after his wife, Sylvia Brett. She came from a relatively well-to-do family and became something of a socialite. She loved to organise dances, parties and amateur dramas, largely for the European community in Sarawak. Sylvia Cinema was located in front of the Central Padang, at the site on which was later built the State Secretariat building (see second picture).

The next picture shows the State Secretariat building, which later became the offices of Yayasan Sarawak. My only memory of the inside of this building was as a child watching the annual parade on the Padang from the office of an aunt who worked at the Secretariat many years ago. As the building directly faced the Padang, we had an excellent view of all the festivities on the field.

Do you remember the Council Negri fountain, which was constructed in 1967 to commemorate the centenial of the first Council Negri meeting, at a site near to the present Tun Razak building (opposite the Sarawak Museum)? I recall visiting it when I was very young. It had flickering, colour lights that made the water flows look quite pretty (well, at least it was great in the eyes of a little boy).

The next one is the little pavilion at the Museum grounds, which was well known for delicious desserts like Ang Tau Peng. I vagiuely remember that it was also the scene of a horrible burglary-cum-murder in the 60s. Real CSI stuff. Anyone recall the details?

Finally here's a shot of the Khoo Hun Yeang / Gartak Street area. You can clearly see the old "Corner Shops". This one's especially for you, John !

All the photos in this selection came via Robert. Many thanks, my friend. Keep them coming.


  1. i remember seeing photos of the Museum garden murders in the S'wak Tribune when i was very young. I think two or three people were slashed to death by intruders with parangs. Lots of blood. Very gruesome.

  2. Thanks, Robert for the photos. Fond memories, my friends and I can even imagine myself in those places now. I lived above the shops when I was very young before we moved to Rubber Road West but still had the shop until the late 80s. I used to walk past on my way to and back from school each morning/afternoon, played and had lots of fun at the museum grounds, around the fountain and the central padang. I even remembered when the Sylvia cinema was in rubbles, my dad brought me to see it. To those who remembered, we were the regular patrons to the "little" pavillion and got to know the family very well until the gruesome murder of their aged parents who lived there. At the museum grounds, there were swings, see saws, the metal pipe frames that we used to climb. Police bands on sundays......hey those were the days before all these shopping malls, KFC, Sugar Buns, Coffee bars or cafes. Where's Dr Who's telephone box, so that I can transport back to those good old innocent days!!!!!. Great memories, keep them coming. Thanks

  3. The intruders came in through the panels near the roof.The event were reported in all major newspapers then, all front pages.I remembered i avoided going there for a long time.

    During our school days, after extra circular activities we would either go to St Mike or The "Koh Tong Choo" to have air kachang.Later we girls acquired the taste of belachan bee hoon.

    Yes, i remembered the marching bands.My parents used to bring us to the Museum grounds on Sundays.Those were the Sundays we kids looked forward to.

    They still sell belachan beehoon & ais kachang at the Pavillion.


    I took a picture of the "Corner Shop" on one of my recent trip to Kuching (before i knew you stayed there).Please e-mail your address to and i will send you a copy.


    If you have time please e-mail to John from the DU recovery site a copy of the "Corner Shop".I will still send a copy of the photo to lure him into coming home!!

  4. John,

    I mean your home address. I had already printed out the picture for you.Some kind friends bought me a new toy to print photos (Canon Selphy)


  5. Hi..Lee Kien

    Thanks for that..but the Corner shop of present is never like The Corner Shop of the past but still good memories nevertheless.

    My email is:
    My address here is: 7 Basil Street, Crosland Moor, Huddersfield, HD4 5DP

    Btw, I got a surprise email from Cheng Yi yesterday, only just to say Hello. I did tell her to visit this web site.

    Best wishes

  6. John,

    Expect your picture in a few days time.I want to see how efficient the mail is nowadays.

    Met up with Lucy and Jenny yesterday.They say Hi!! They have been visiting the more girls are reconnecting.

    Do you know Phillip Hii is in Ireland?

    Has he been re-connected? I will get the contacts,etc if you don't already have.

  7. LeeKien,
    phillip hii in ireland or iceland.

  8. WJ,

    Are you trying to be funny?

  9. kho tong chu has the best ice kachang then. st mike was the place to go for kolong mee: usual haunt for those who frequent the sch library at night n on weekends.
    kho tong chu had the most gruesome murder n the funeral procession downtown was news. after this incident, seldom went back to k t c for ice kachang: sort of more spooky as the museum ground had other tomb stones scattered around. however, we did go back to the vicinity at night to check the place out after filling up at st mike. ahhhh... memories.

  10. is the council negri fountain still there?

  11. the fountain is long gone. progress?

  12. Nice to see picture of old cinema. Not many left in Kuching. Only the cineplex where Rex was, and the one at Riverside. Ah, miss pergi tengok wayang ...

  13. I'm reading a book called "Rice Wine & Dancing Girls" by Wong Seng Chow. It's based on the notes left by his father Wong Kee Hung, who was one of the early cinema managers for Cathay organisation. He was posted to Kuching in 1949, and for the next 5-6 years he managed Sylvia and Lilian cinemas.

    Some details I learnt ... Sylvia cinema had a seating capacity of 450 with chairs that were fixed to the floor. There were also 2 specially constructed throne-like chairs at the back, which were once used by the Rajah and Ranee when they dropped in to watch a show. Lilian cinema was larger with a capacity of 750 but it used moveable wooden benches with armrests delinieating the individual seats.