Friday, 20 June 2014

Wong Chun Wai's version of Penang's history

Wong Chun Wai, the group managing director and chief executive officer of Star Publications (M) Sdn Bhd, and I both go back a long way although I was never in the employment of this newspaper. But we knew each other, all right. Somehow, our paths had crossed way back since the 1980s or so, although I really can't remember how we first got to know one another. Most probably from the newspaper's office in Pitt Street then.

But then also, there is another thread that links the two of us together: his wife, Florence Teh, who was once my ex-colleague at Ban Hin Lee Bank.

At the beginning of January 2013, Chun Wai began writing a series of stories on the history of Penang as seen through his eyes. When I saw the first article that came out, I was thinking to myself: yup, it was about time that someone wrote about the rich cultural, historical and heritage background of the place which I endearingly call home. I followed his weekly columns diligently and collected them every week before consigning the rest of the newspaper to be sold off.

When he decided to end his column one year later, I was actually feeling rather morose that I couldn't be re-living my past through his reminiscences any more. This series of his, more than any other opinion column that Chun Wai had written for The Star newspaper, had united present and former Penangites like never before. I am certain that it struck the nostalgic chord in many of us. But in truth, despite Penang having had so much history, my beloved land still has so much to offer for the future.

I am very glad now that his stories have been compiled into a book. Plus, there is a bonus as well. As mentioned on the book's cover, several of his colleagues in The Star - many of them whom I've known for countless years too - have penned their contributions for inclusion here. So it is not only Chun Wai's memories that I am enjoying here but fond recollections by people like Joe Chin, Tommy Lee, Lim Cheng Hoe and Soo Ewe Jin.

P.S. I shouldn't be saying this but I have to. On page 232 of Penang's History, My Story, my name has a small honorary mention. It's good enough for me. :-)

Note: The book should be out on the bookshelves of the major bookstores by now, costing RM38 per copy. However, I bought my copy from the Penang Heritage Trust office in Church Street, George Town. I understand that all proceeds from the sale of this book will eventually go to the PHT, which isn't a bad thing at all. Now, my immediate task at hand is to see how I can get Chun Wai to autograph it, seeing that he's there in Kuala Lumpur and I'm here in Penang....

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