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Providing A Public Service

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Subject :Providing A Public Service
Published By :  
Location : Ipoh, Perak
Estimated Year : 1977
Media Type : Article
Source : The Chan Family
Remark :

The pictures show Chan Sam Choy - who used to type and fill forms for the public. This was a much sort after service at one time; sadly, it gradually faded with time.

The first picture is a photo of Chan Sam Choy, similar to the fifth picture (which was taken when Chan was older). The last picture is most likely Chan and his wife, on holiday.

The second and third pictures are articles about Chan Sam Choy and his public service. The second article, taken from a Chinese newspaper, translates as follows:

Living Under The Eaves
Typing and filling up forms in the street
Under big trees near government departments, you can often see many "professional" looking men seated at tables help the public type and fill in all kinds of documents at anytime and anywhere.
Just like the white-haired old man in the picture, Chan Sam Choy has been serving the public for decades. Although this is the way he makes a living, it is undeniable that he indirectly facilitated the public to fill out all kinds of documents and typing for them. Moreover, the fees are cheap and affordable, it can be said that his spirit of service is indeed commendable.
However, with education becoming more accessible and number of intellectuals are increasing, it is believed that this industry will gradually disappear in the near future.

We also have the following write-up about Chan Sam Choy, given to us by the Chan Family.

CHAN Sam Choy (AKA “Marng Koong” or Blind Man) was born in Ipoh in 1913 to first generation Chinese migrants from South China. He came from a family of nine & he was the fourth. He got his nickname because of the thick glasses he was wearing.

How did he become a Petition Writer? When Dad finished his Junior Cambridge Examination in ACS in the early 1930s at aged 17, he was highly educated in English in those days. He could easily get a comfortable Civil Service clerical job but he was adventurous & easy going. He got his first job as a Page Boy in a local hotel. Then World War II came & he laid low. He lost his third brother in the War.

After the War in 1945 with the British administration back in place, he would frequently be called upon by his friends & colleagues to fill up governmental forms which were all in English. Not many could read or write English in those days. Dad was in such great demand doing it for free; he decided to make a living out of it.
Dad recced an ideal spot between the Clock Tower (which chimes to the exact beat as Big Ben) and The General Post Office. He even found an ideal spot underneath a poisonous shady tree called The Ipoh Tree which the town is named after.

He bought a Raleigh bicycle, a Remington manual portable typewriter, had a wooden desk made with his Chinese name written boldly in red at the front, a few wooden chairs for customers, two propped up umbrellas for shade and he was in business.  Dad would leave home at 7.30am to his 'office'. He leaves his office at 5.30pm or anytime he wishes as it was his own business. He works five & a half days a week resting only on Sundays & public holidays. His daily lunch was those Indian curries prepared by the Mamaks. Maybe that’s his secret for longevity?

When he first started, business was so good that his pockets were filled with cash that comes to an average of $30 a day. Those days people could live & support a family on a salary of $100+ a month. His service was in great demand as many people could not correspond with Government Departments or fill out forms in English or Malay. He became so good with his typing that he could carry on a conversation and type accurately with two fingers at lightning speed at the same time. He made enough to buy a decent 2-bedroom house in the suburbs, got married and started a family.

When Dad retired after 40 years of Petition writing, the industry was still striving despite speculations that this wouldn’t last. Perhaps these Petition Writers were more than just filling up forms? Dad’s clients would consult him about purchasing properties, doing up their wills & even divorce settlements. He made the most money at end of Calendar Year helping small businessmen & individuals prepare & submit tax returns. In later years, Dad was like a letter writer to his now aging clients who have children abroad. They would dictate what to write and Dad would type it in English.

When Dad retired in late 80s, he went with my mum to Sydney to live with his daughter and then to Singapore to live with his son. Like most children of that era, both his children left Ipoh to pursue their careers. His son went to Singapore to be a Police Officer. He later married and had 3 boys. His daughter married and moved to Sydney. She has 2 children. Both children are now retired in their respective new countries that call Rumah (Home).
“Marng Koong” passed away peacefully in his sleep in 2004 at a ripe young age of 91. 
A tribute to our Loving Dearest Dad.

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